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.