Monday, December 31, 2012

Life's Like an Hourglass, Man. Goodbye 2012.


I sit tonight on this last day of 2012 and am reflecting about this past year. Overall, it has been a good one for me. I have so much to be thankful for.

In this past year, I cradled an infant to my breast and watched her grow into a clever, spunky little toddler right before my eyes. Another child of mine graduated top of her class and headed off to college. Her brother shot up in height, looking like a seedling captured on time-lapse photography: one moment he was a child and in a beat he had the look of a young man. This hasn’t been an easy year for my middle daughter; it’s hard to hand the baby-of-the-family torch to a successor. But her baby sister follows her around the house with abject adoration, and that puts a band-aid on the middle child wound. We have settled into a comfortable family pattern.

I spent several days in Italy in 2012, with my daughter who was about to move away to start her college life. How precious it was to discover the neighborhoods of Central Rome and look at the clear blue sea with her. The memories we created will always be with us, and I do not forget how thankful I am to have been given the resources to go on such a trip. God has been so very good to me.

I got a new job in 2012. I was promoted to a position that fills me with a sense of purpose, for the work I’m doing is important and goes beyond earning money for “the man” of a huge corporation. My job is fulfilling to me because of the work I do, the recognition I get for a job well done, and also because I could not ask for a more family focused employer.

I said goodbye to another grandparent this year. While the death of a loved one is never a happy occasion, I was able to visit my grandpa in the hospital after his stroke, and again before his death a few weeks ago. My children drew him pictures and shared stories in the cramped hospital room. And although they didn’t know my grandpa very well, they saw the love that surrounded him, and were shown how important family is.

It was a good year. After all, to quote one of my favorite songs ("Breathe" by Anna Nalick):

 “Life’s like an hourglass glued to the table. No one can find the rewind button…”
And so, on to the next year.

What are my resolutions for 2013? I’d like to lose weight. Eat healthy. Exercise more. Spend less money. Clean out my closets. Organize my files. Boooo-ring.

I think I’m going to shake things up a bit this year. 2013 will bring about a big birthday, one with a “0” at the end of it. And although it doesn’t seem possible, 2013 will lead me (gently, I hope, like a husband guiding his wife into a room with a soft hand placed on her lower back) into middle age.  How can it be, that I am middle aged? I don’t know how it happened, but I’m not one to bury my head in the sand. I am middle aged. And so, I have decided to use the forty years of wisdom that I have accrued and work on realistic goals.

I came across a quote on Pinterest that I am adopting as my motto for 2013. If we can believe the Internet, Theodore Roosevelt once said:

“Comparison is the thief of joy.”

It is a profound concept. One that affects us all, I would expect. And so, with that motto in mind, these are my goals for 2013:

Home:
I am not a huge TV watcher, but when it is on, it’s almost always on HGTV. I love seeing home décor ideas, but for some reason the formulaic shows hypnotize me into sitting on my butt for an hour. At the end of the show, I end up with a vague feeling of dissatisfaction. My countertops are not granite, my cabinets are painted over. My carpet is shabby and stained in places. Pinterest has the same effect on me. Sure, there are loads of ideas on there, but for some reason, spending time perusing cool children’s princess lofts and amazing laundry rooms leaves me feeling unhappy about my own home.

My home is not new. There are a zillion updates that I would like to have done to it. But it’s a home. A relatively large one, in a fantastic neighborhood, sitting on a large and beautiful (albeit weedy) lot. It is a good house, and more importantly, it has been my home longer than any other house I have lived in. I have raised my children here, drank beers over a firepit with my neighbors, and decorated it in my own colorful style. My house is beautiful. I am going to try to remember that. And maybe watch Food Network instead of HGTV.

Marriage:
Sometimes when things get tough with my husband, those niggling, bitter thoughts creep in. “It’s not supposed to be this way.” “Other people don’t struggle with these issues.” “Some husbands don’t have to be told to [insert gripe here]” But again- comparison is the thief of joy, right? Focusing on what I have instead of pining for something that someone else has is the key. Probably those other people don’t have it as easy as it seems anyway.

A new baby is hard on a marriage, and I believe it’s even more difficult when the parents are of, shall we say, a more “advanced” age. Lack of sleep, busy schedules, and being enchanted by a baby’s every move shift the focus of the relationship for a time. I can see why some people don’t recover from that shift. It takes a conscious effort and one of my goals for the New Year is to do more to renew the focus on my marriage. One of my Facebook friends is divorced and recently posted a melancholic status update. She was lamenting the fact that it’s unlikely that she’ll ever have a fifty year anniversary with someone. I spent a long time thinking about that. My marriage has its challenges (as every partnership does) but it is worth the effort to stay in it for the long haul. I cannot imagine starting over with someone, when the person I am legally and spiritually bound to has fathered my four beautiful children and is so much a part of who I am. And so, my goals for my marriage are simple: to laugh more with my husband. To show him the respect that he deserves for all that he does. To focus on the good that outweighs the bad in our relationship.

Being a Daughter:
My relationship with my parents is not what I would like it to be. I could focus on that, stew about how some people I know chat for hours with their parents on a regular basis. That is not how things are for me, though.

Without going into details, I will say that this is the year that I aim to let go of my bitterness over how one parent has acted in the past and move forward with the boundaries I have established for our relationship. I can be the daughter that I want to be without focusing on how I wish that parent was different. This parent is lonely and at the end of the day, needs to know that he/she is not alone. And really, isn't that a basic need of us all?

It has occurred to me that I don’t know as much about my other parent as I would like. I want to reconnect, even though we have seen each other plenty this year. My goal is to learn more about this parent. Laugh together. Call this parent more. Visit when I can. Make the effort to reach out a hand and make the relationship what I would like it to be. Because I won't have my parents with me forever.

I could add more categories to my goals for 2013, but these are the three that I am feeling a need to work on. They are vague goals, so perhaps they’re more attainable because a definitive success metric isn’t attached to them.  And hey – if I lose a couple of pounds and organize a closet or two in 2013, that’ll be an added bonus.

Happy New Year, my friends. May 2013 bring your happiness, warmth, and peace.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Christmas 2012 - Traditions Old and New

We had a wonderful Christmas this year. My grandpa passed away on December 16th, and his funeral was the Wednesday before Christmas. It's a sad time to say goodbye to a loved one, but my grandpa hung on for as long as he could to be with those he loved. I am blessed to have had him in my life for almost 40 years, his quiet strength and unwavering loyalty are virtues that I hope to demonstrate to my own grandchildren someday.

I have about a thousand photos of our extended family gatherings, but here is a small taste of what they look like:

Hugs from my mamma:

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My brother managed to get The Husband a football that was autographed by Antonio Freeman. He even addressed it to TH!

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Mimosas with my mother-in-law:

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I love this picture of The Husband and his brothers just hanging out:

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My favorite traditions are the ones we share in our own home. 

This year The Boy sang in the choir at Christmas Eve mass. They sounded beautiful. Christmas Eve mass is my favorite because of the music. Belting out "O Come, All Ye Faithful" with a trumpet and a choir in the loft? Awesome. Even if you can't carry a tune, you can sing loud and proud because the trumpet blasts loud enough that your voice can only be heard by those seated next to you. And they're presumably your loved ones, so who cares!

Reading stories on Christmas Eve:

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Opening Christmas Eve pajamas:

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(Poor Goblin was ready for bed!)

Making Christmas cookies for Santa:

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Bumblebee made these herself:

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And of course, you can't forget food for the reindeer!

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Our recipe for reindeer food:

1/3 cup oatmeal
A whole lotta sprinkles

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Put in a container and mix, then sprinkle on the ground for Santa's reindeer.

Look how snowy our house is!

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Our family has to watch two Christmas movies together each year. We watched "Christmas Vacation" a few days ago. That movie never fails to make us giggle.

We saved "It's a Wonderful Life" for Christmas Eve this year. That movie is just so special. I had never seen it before I met The Husband. We watched it together when Hollywood was a very small baby and I was amazed to see TH get teary-eyed at the end. I think it chokes him up even more now that he can relate to how George Bailey's riches compare to his own.

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Getting the stockings ready for Santa- The Husband's great grandma made him a beautiful quilted stocking when he was a child. I decided that I wanted to make quilted stockings for the rest of us as well. I started this project last year, by purchasing cutter quilts for each of the kids. For my own stocking, I used a small baby doll quilt that my grandma made for me when I was about 4. I realized on Christmas Eve this year that the stockings weren't finished, so while the family was watching the movie, I worked on them. They still aren't complete (I am going to add a colored band on the top of them and embroider our names on them) but they were done enough for Santa to stuff them:

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I like how they turned out. The Husband's is still the very best one, but the rest of them have a homey, old time Christmas feel to them.

Our Christmas morning traditions are likely the same as many Americans. We have a 7 o'clock rule, which means that the kids can't come out of their rooms until it's after 7.  That one isn't always followed so well. This year, I stumbled upon an interesting way to make sure the 7 o'clock rule is followed. Bumblebee woke up coughing up a lung (we've all been sharing a Christmas cold with each other this season) so I gave her Nyquil at 2 a.m.  She was still asleep at 7:30!!

Time for the kids to check out what Santa brought them.

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This year Santa brought a dollhouse to Goblin and Bumblebee:

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Then it was time to open presents. Goblin's got the hang of it!

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More presents:

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The rest of the day was spent relaxing. 

Getting hugs from Daddy:

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Standing on chairs:

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And standing on boxes so she could reach the microwave:

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Doing makeovers:

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Bumblebee did Hollywood's makeup too:

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Snuggling in front of the fireplace:

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And playing "Nati Cake" with Grandma J:

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We finished up our evening by playing some Kinect Sports. I'm so thankful for my family - this time of year things can get crazy, and it can be stressful getting Christmas all set up. These small traditions, done in our own little home each year are my favorite moments of Christmas.

I hope each of you had a wonderful holiday as well.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Hollywood's first college birthday

Hollywood is nineteen, y'all.

Nineteen.

Isn't that crazy?

Yesterday was the start of Thanksgiving break for the three big universities in Iowa, so a lot of her friends are coming home for the week. She'll be home, but is working this weekend, so we decided to drive over to Iowa City and take her out to dinner to celebrate her big day.

We pulled the van up in front of her dorm and parked for a moment. She didn't realize we were parked right there, and came lightly bounding down the cement dorm stairs with a (cute, male) friend of hers and hopped up on a ledge to wait. The Husband called her name a couple of times before she heard him, and in those few moments, I glimpsed her life. The life that she's living away at college.

She was happy, smiling, swinging her leather boot-clad feet, as she sat waiting for us with her new friend.

Once she realized we were there, her face brightened even more and she brought her friend over to see the family. Actually, she showed off the baby. Everyone loves a baby!

She told her friend goodbye and hopped in the van and we went to dinner. Dinner with our family was fun and light hearted with laughter and eye rolling and the ever-popular game of 'let's annoy mom by asking banal questions like "Why are the pigs in Angry Birds green?" ' (That's a long story. Never mind.)

Hollywood liked seeing Goblin's new tricks (she gives kisses, high fives, claps on command, etc.) and remarked on how much The Boy has grown. "Your hands are HUGE!" she exclaimed at one point. (It's true, The Boy has grown a TON over the past few months.)

It was a lovely night. Throughout our time with Hollywood, I kept thinking back about my own college days. I think the memories were especially powerful last night because I was seeing Hollywood in her collegiate element while thinking of both my own college days, and the day she was born. She was born to us when we were not very much older than she is now, and when I think of her birth, it brings to mind some of the things I saw in Hollywood last night.

Happiness to be on her own. Pure enthusiasm as she told stories about her new friends who threw her a surprise pot luck birthday party the night before. Comfort in the surroundings of her new city that is very different from her tiny hometown. But she showed true delight in spending time with us. Her phone stayed in her pocket (honestly - I can't remember a time when she wasn't texting away during a gathering) she gave us her complete attention, but it was effortless and we could tell she wanted to be there with us. She had plans later in the evening, but for those couple of hours, she was ours and very glad to be.

Even though we didn't get her the iphone she wanted for her birthday.

What a nice feeling that is - to have an adult child (!!) who is blossoming in her first months of independence, but shows a genuine delight at spending a few hours with her parents and siblings.

It's very strange knowing that she has a life that extends beyond our family home. From the sounds of it, she is building herself a rich, faith and friend filled college experience. I couldn't be happier for her. (But yeah, I'll admit it here. It makes me nostalgic for days gone by when she was home every day.)

Happy birthday to my college girl:

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Friday, November 9, 2012

Grandpa

grandpa

If you are the praying type, please say one for my Grandpa. He had a stroke in April and has been recovering, but has pneumonia now and the family is making some tough decisions.

Please say a prayer that he has a peaceful transition from this life to the next. And while you're at it, my grandma, mamma, and aunts and uncles could use the prayers too. He's truly the adored patriarch of a loving, close knit family and will be missed when he passes.

He is a gentle, loving man who has always brightened our family gatherings with his trademarked soft laughter. When I think of him I can hear him cracking a joke in his soft voice and laughing with the family. It makes me feel warm and happy.

I love you, Grandpa.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Insert cheerful post title here

So my last post was a bit, um, depressing. Sorry about that - I was having a bad day and doing a writing exercise together. I am not standing on top of a bridge contemplating a jump. I'm fairly cheerful, actually. Here's why:

Halloween was fun.

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We had a gumball machine:

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A piggy:

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And a group of Superheroes (The Avengers):

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Work has been chaotic, but I am hopeful that there is an end to the craziness in sight. Well, I hope so.

The election was interesting to me. I hate living in a swing state because we are bombarded with ads, many of which are just downright nasty. I was undecided up until just a week or so ago. I know that concept baffles people. "What the heck? How can you be undecided?!!" Here's my answer.

I have no freaking clue about why I seem to be the only person split between the two parties. For every belief I hold that falls in line with the Democrats (equal rights for all, be they gay or working immigrants), there is one of equal importance that fits in the Republican camp (fiscal spending, smaller government, etc.) My "list" has an equal amount of tally marks in both columns. At the end of the day, I had to pick someone, but I didn't feel as strongly this time around as I did in 2004.

What I think is astounding is the vitriol that I've seen on social media sites today from the anti-Obama camp. Their words are paradoxically shocking and boring. I suspect those same people are the ones who swear that the refs cost their favorite team the football game in a 3-28 loss.

It's kind of exhausting, really.

So what else is new? My brother and his wife from California are coming for a visit this weekend! I am so excited to see them. It's been a very long time - and I have a new baby nephew (well, he's seven months old by now!) to meet too. That will be fun.

The Boy is in the high school play this weekend too! He joined after they'd done the auditions, so he's a member of the chorus, and he gets to dress up in boots and a cowboy hat. I can't wait to see him!

Goblin is getting over a nasty cold. She's been pretty miserable and has been a trooper through it all. She's learned how to give kisses (you know - the big open mouthed slobbery kind that rival a dog's kiss) so she's been sharing her germs. But dang. It's hard to pass up a baby kiss.

On that note, I'll sign off. Later, 'gator!




Monday, October 29, 2012

The Struggle

Warning: This is a bit dark for a Monday morning, and is a complete departure from my typically lighthearted stories about babies and my ineptitude at parking. Rest assured that I AM FINE, just spending some time being introspective. I promise, ok?

You tell yourself that you’re too old to feel this way. Although forty years of Life’s experience fills you with wisdom and knowledge, Uncertainty and Self Doubt materialize as voices, swirling around in a swarm of anxiety outside the door that protects your soul.

Knowing that you shouldn't, you crack open the door to those voices. You know they don’t deserve your attention but the desire to listen to their slippery whispers is too powerful. You simply must know what they are saying today. Your moment of weakness is their opportunity. Like warriors storming a castle, they shove against the door, ramming rhythmically with their powerful forces. Realizing your mistake, you try to push back against their strength and slam the door shut. Sometimes you have the power to close them out, returning them to the elements of the outside world, where they can do no damage. You fervently pray for a storm of bold assurance that will send them running away from your soul.

But there are days when you don’t have the strength to close the door. This is when Uncertainty and Self-Doubt shove against your resistance, swinging the door open wide. Once inside the safe haven of your mind, their whispers transform into vicious snarls and they circle you greedily. Before you can call upon the soldiers of Confidence and Self Love to defend you, the enemies have shredded you and left you on the floor bleeding. They swirl around the room one last time before fleeing triumphantly out the door they so easily pushed in.

You lay there, listening to the gleeful cackles of the voices as they depart, licking your wounds. You call hoarsely for help. Confidence and Self Love rush into the room, bewildered that you allowed such wickedness into your home. Shaking their heads, they gently pull you up from the floor and place your arms around them for support. Then they carry you to safety and lock the door.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

How to embarrass yourself in front of your new boss.

I don't think I've mentioned on the blog that I just took a new position within Giant Ass Bank. I'll be building out a program and doing some cool and important stuff with it. How's that for intentionally vague? You don't care about the details, I promise.

I'm excited about the opportunity and am looking forward to the challenge. There's nothing I like better than building something from the ground up into a fully grown, robust machine. I'm good at it, and as cliche/corporate cheeseball as it sounds, I'm up for the challenge.

We had a huge team meeting here in Des Moines this week. Over 240 people from across the country were in town to do a meet and greet. After the meetings on Tuesday, GAB reserved a restaurant downtown for the group. My boss isn't located here in the Des Moines area, so after the meetings, I drove him and another coworker downtown.

I don't know if I've mentioned that TH and I recently got a new van. (It's a Honda Odyssey. It's awesome.) For five years now, I have driven a little car. I'm not used to driving a big old van. And unfortunately, the only place to park nearby was a spot in which I would have to parallel park.

(STOP laughing, TH. I can hear you from here.)

So, I pulled up to the car in front of the space, put the van in reverse, and blah blah. I would've been fine, except that I turned too sharply and ended up smushing the rear tire against the curb in such a way that it became impossible to move. I couldn't just overcorrect and go up on the curb for a moment (that would've been embarrassing, but not too horrible) and I couldn't even pull back out and try again. Instead, I had to put the van in drive and inch forward, put it in reverse and inch back, etc., etc., over and over again at least ten times. I'm not even kidding.

At one point, my boss asked, "Do you want me to get out and park for you?"

Oh yes he did.

Thud.

Despite my stern announcement that 'what happens in the van stays in the van', he and my coworker were were shaking their heads and laughing at me. It was humiliating. But hey - I can laugh at myself, so I suppose that's good.

My boss is traveling back home today and I had to text him to ask him a work question. He replied back with this youtube link:



Smartass.

Sigh.

Oh well, I suppose it doesn't hurt to show him that I have one TEENSY imperfection. And I'm going to look on the bright side of things. Now I have the perfect answer to that dreaded interview question: "What is your greatest weakness?"

Monday, October 15, 2012

Happy birthday, Goblin!

I don't have it in me to write up a long sentimental post about Goblin's birthday, so I'll just share photos from her party this weekend. You know me, though, I'm feeling pretty sappy about it all. I just can't believe she's already a year old.

We had a fun weekend, in which Goblin was the star of the show. Hollywood was home and she helped me take some fun "baby boudoir" photos:

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Saturday was rainy and cold, so we stayed inside and got ready for Sunday's party. It was a fun party. I always look around at events like these and thank God for the family He blessed me with. It's always a pleasure getting together for birthdays and events.

I didn't go all out for Goblin's party because, hey. She's one. I'll conserve my energy for when she's big enough to remember. But I got her dressed up in a fun outfit:

(Got the shirt on Etsy)

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And I made her some fun cupcakes:

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They're monsters:

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I had fun making them. Although I tried to make the cakes purple and they turned out kind of gray and weird looking. Note to self: don't try that again.

The party was fun. The birthday girl got lots of hugs:

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Goblin got a ridiculous amount of presents:

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Bumblebee was happy to help her open them all.

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Yes, she was clutching that water bottle and carrying it everywhere. Weird kid.

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Sock monkey hug! (And baby needs a kleenex.)

This car was a big hit:

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Cousin Simon is helping Goblin drive:

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Goblin wasn't so sure about the singing of "Happy Birthday" by everyone:

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This is why I need to open up the wall between my kitchen and living room. We have a big family!

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But she loved the ice cream!

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The party was fun, and despite being on stimulation overload all day long, and eating nothing but sugar all day, Goblin was pretty well behaved. After the party, my brothers and our families went to the apple orchard/pumpkin farm. I've got tons of great shots of that adventure (the kids had a blast, even The Boy!) but I'll share them another day.

I took today off, and not much is on the agenda, but I'm happy to be able to snuggle with the birthday girl all day long.

Happy birthday to our Baby Bug.