I am grateful to have two children who, for the most part, get along and play together. This morning, it was a joy to watch them play in the snow - they even worked together to build a snowman.
I watched them create "Frosty" from the upstairs window - Each child rolled up a substantially sized snowball. They had to lift the middle piece together, as it was too heavy for Erica alone. Brian rolled up the head piece while Erica fetched a hat a scarf. I donated a carrot and they picked out stones from the pond area for the eyes and mouth.
The result - a very nice looking snowman, created by 8:45am!
Sunday, November 30, 2008
I am grateful to have two children who, for the most part, get along and play together. This morning, it was a joy to watch them play in the snow - they even worked together to build a snowman.
We have a block window in the master bath that lets the light in, but doesn't allow for a distinct view of the outside. It is positioned so the rising sun hits it, and gives us a small clue of the weather - sunny, cloudy, rainy. This morning I looked at it, and it was all white, which I thought was odd.
I thought it was odd because that usually signifies snow. I hadn't heard any prediction of snow from the weather experts. Plus the grocery stores were unusually empty yesterday - any prediction of snow would have sent everyone out in force to clear the shelves of milk and bread.
I walked down the hall, peaked out the first available window and gasped - our first snowfall - a pure surprise that made me smile.
A beautiful, wet snow, and no wind, so that it is sticking to everything and creating a wonderland. So very peaceful, which will end quickly as the kids are now up and getting ready to play out in the fresh snow.
Thursday, November 27, 2008
On Thanksgiving day, I am thankful for so much, especially our Family Traditions. You know, those things we do every year that make the Holidays, well, "the Holidays". You know something is a "tradition" if the kids expect it every year.
Our Thanksgiving traditions include hanging out at home, turkey and stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, cranberries and other goodies. We always eat the Thanksgiving meal between 11am and noon. This is a tradition from Scott's upbringing, but it does make sense - eat a small breakfast, have the Thanksgiving feast around lunchtime and have turkey sandwiches for dinner. This schedule also allows Scott to enjoy the afternoon football, and allows for an afternoon nap.
Some other traditions:
Black and White cookies, made by Scott:
The past several Thanksgivings have been beautiful sunny fall days, and we were fortunate to have another beautiful day. We eat in the formal dining room, where the sunlight streams in.
I force the family into some pictures. This is our 2nd Thanksgiving with Hannah, and I suspect taking pictures with Hannah is now officially "tradition"
Finally, the kids love sparkling grape juice I allow them to consume for special occaissions - in wine glasses, they constantly call for "dinging of the glasses". Today was no exception.
Happy Thanksgiving to all. May your Traditions bring you comfort and joy today!
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Clear fall days like today result in beautiful sunrises and sunsets and today was no exception. I was able to take in and enjoy a lovely sunset this evening while driving Erica out to her horse riding lessons (the stables are located out in the country, flat as a pancake with nary a tree around). I didn't get to take a picture, but the above image I found on google images evokes the same peace and serenity I witnessed.
Scenes like the above sunset remind me how beautiful the world is and reminds me of the power of God and his Creation. I am grateful for all of this, on the eve Thanksgiving.
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Hmmmm..... I guess Scott bought the kids a pinball machine.
In all honesty, I vaguely recall him mentioning the pinball machine, but I thought it was for Christmas. Oh well, not anymore!
Scott's goal is to transform the basement into a "Fun Zone" and he continues to make progress - this purchase being the latest in Fun toys. We also have air hockey, fooseball, a dart board and a basketball hoop that tallies up the number of baskets made while a timer counts down. So add Pin ball machine to the list.
Scott's theory is if we have a fun basement, the kids will want to hang out at home. I think it is a good strategy, so I am thankful for all of the Fun and Games we have in our home. I am even more thankful that it is all contained in the basement, because I wouldn't want all that stuff in the Living Room!
I got tagged by my friend Sherry...read to the end to see if you've been tagged by me!
1. Wrapping paper or gift bags? Wrapping paper… but I go for the cheap kind.
2. Real tree or Artificial? Growing up, we had an artificial tree until High school, when we switched (probably at the suggestion of my littlest sister, Michele). I have been a die hard Real tree person ever since. The kids each have their own little artificial trees for their rooms, but the main tree is real. I love the smell.
3. When do you put up the tree? The day after Thanksgiving.
4. When do you take the tree down? New Year’s day, or shortly after.
5. Do you like eggnog? Yum! It can be with or without alcohol. I just don’t like it to be super sweet. When I was a child, we made our own eggnog, before the recommendations around consuming raw eggs came out. [never got sick, ever!].
6. Favorite gift received as a child? Hmmm, I really don’t remember.
7. Hardest person to buy for? Usually my parents.
8. Easiest person to buy for? The kids – they start hinting at what they want early on.
9. Do you have a nativity scene? Yes, we stage it on the piano.
10. Mail or email Christmas cards? Mail, and this reminds me that I need to create our Christmas card like now!
11. Worst Christmas gift you ever received? Again, I really don’t remember.
12. Favorite Christmas Movie? I find myself more drawn to “It’s a Wonderful Life" these days. Scott would say "Jingle All the Way" because he loves those types of movies.
13. When do you start shopping for Christmas? Right after Thanksgiving. I take a day off from work early in December and get most of it done then.
14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present? Sure – sometimes we receive duplicates, which we can regift – easier than returning.
15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas? Lots – special cookies, treats from friends, Hickory Farms treats, homemade chex mix, etc. I am getting hungry thinking about it all.
16. Lights on the tree? We use small white and some colored lights. Some flash, some don’t – no fancy timed / strobe lights.
17. Favorite Christmas song? Traditional – O Holy Night. Non traditional – Breath of Heaven (Mary’s Song) by Amy Grant.
18. Travel at Christmas or stay at home? We stay at home now. Before we had kids, we would travel. Just not worth it.
19. Can you name all of Santa’s reindeers? Yes, but I have to sing through them to remember!
20. Angel on the tree top or a star? We have an Angel, she was a gift from my mother.
21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning? We choose a gift for the kids to open on Christmas Eve (it might be a family board game). The kids open their stockings the first thing Christmas morning (usually pre-7am), and then we hit the gifts under the tree.
22. Most annoying thing about this time of the year? The long lines at all of the stores. Probably why I do most of my shopping on-line now. I also don’t like the commercialization of Christmas, how the “Christ” part of “Christ”mas is being replaced.
23. What theme or color are you using? Pretty traditional red and green, although the hues might be considered more burgundy and evergreen.
24. Favorite for Christmas dinner? I purchase a honey glazed ham, but my personal favorite is the homemade macaroni and cheese – three types of cheeses, very creamy and fattening.
25. What do you want for Christmas this year? I always struggle with this, because I really don’t need anything and I don’t like for folks to spend lots of money on me. I have been eyeing a nice fountain pen and moleskine notebook. Yeah, I want more camera equipment, but I don’t expect that for Christmas.
Monday, November 24, 2008
Even though the beginning of November spoiled us with temperatures in the 70's, it is now "business as usual" - cold, sometimes damp, sometimes sunny, but always windy (that's what you get living on the edge of a cornfield). Now is the time I am grateful for all of those gloves / mittens / scarves to help keep us warm.
But more important is my cold weather running gear:
At a minimum, I wear my running pants, a base top layer under my windbreaker, an earband and gloves. The past Saturday, with the temperatures barely hitting 20 and a stiff southerly wind, I wore a 2nd layer of pants, and two long sleeved layers under the jacket. It's the wind around here that really makes it tough to stay motivated. But my winter gear makes it possible and keeps me warm. Once you get going, it's not too bad!
Sunday, November 23, 2008
On Friday, Brian experienced a special TaeKwonDo class with special guest Mr. VonSchmeling, a 4th degree Black Belt and XMA World Champion. XMA stands for Extreme Martial Arts, which melds gymnastics and dance with traditional martial arts. The forms contain high energy moves and high powered music (you know, the kind that really pumps you up). Mr. VonSchmeling taught the kids an XMA form while emphasizing the values of excellence, perseverance, attitude and leadership.
I love what Brian's TaeKwonDo training has done for him - he is more confident, has overcome fears and worked hard for his Black Belt rank. He can lead a class of beginners and introduce himself to adults (while I'm with him).
The family who runs the academy love TaeKwonDo and instill great encouragement in their students - we are so fortunate to have a great facility in our community.
Saturday, November 22, 2008
Today's big outing - the much anticipated viewing of the "Twilight" Movie, which opened yesterday in theatres across the nation, to the screams of many teenage girls.
Over the past week, the Twilight fervor increased with nightly viewing of the Twilight Trailer, newspaper articles on Twilight, and the ever present Twilight wallpaper on the computer. I get to look at Kristen Stewart's face each time I boot up the computer or navigate to the desktop.
We attended the 11:00am showing this morning - I took Erica and her friends Kathleen and Melanie. Their mother, Sara decided to pass on the movie. I also met up with my friend, Jill, so that I would have another adult to make comments to.
I would give the movie 3 1/2 stars out of 5. It certainly wasn't the worst movie I have seen (that would be Street Fighter, starring Jean-Claude Van Damme), but it won't win any Academy Awards. Of course, I have read all of the books and formed my own perceptions of the characters, which did not match the characters casted in the movie. I liked how screenwriters wove the trio of bad vampires (James, Laurent and Victoria) into the storyline, but the dialog was a bit sparse. Even the other Cullen Vampires didn't get much screen time. I guess the directors were maximizing the smoldering looks between Bella and Edward. I expect the movie will generate enough cash to seed the sequels, and let's hope we get more Alice (she's my favorite) and less goofy Jasper.
With Thanksgiving right around the corner, I spent an hour in the grocery store today, weaving my way around the numerous food gatherers, holiday displays and stock boys. Yeah, the store was definitely crowded this afternoon.
Once I got all of the food back home, I realized how useful our 2nd refrigerator is during the holidays when an abundance of food is prepared. Our 2nd refrigerator sits in the garage and it now full with a big turkey, lots of drinks and other "overflow" from the main fridge. In fact, I don't know how my mother ever managed with a single fridge (they probably didn't keep cases of soda on hand!). All I know is the 2nd refrigerator will be pretty full these next two months. And that's why we hold on to it!
I am grateful for my daughter, Erica. She's special in many ways - smart, talented and (aside from the occaisional tween attitude) a really good kid.
One of her loves is reading. Since the first grade, Erica has been an avid reader, devouring book after book after book. Because of her, I have started to read more (she started me in on the Harry Potter and Twilight Series). Another one of her skills is writing - during a parent - teacher conference, her writing teacher provided me with her writing samples, one that I am sharing today. Erica's teacher indicated that she rarely grades a student with a perfect score for writing, but the following narrative did receive one.
Erica's Narrative, written 10/10/2008, as she describes riding on the Top Thrill Dragster Coaster at Cedar Point:
I reached upward for the seat-belt thing with shaking hands. The sound was ominous to me as it clicked into place, holding me firmly to the back seat. As if the loud beating of my excited / horrified heart wasn't fast enough, someone spoke into the microphone a little louder than necessary, making me jump. But then the roar of the engine blocked every other noise out. Slowly, we pulled out of the station-like garage. We stopped right in front of what looked like a traffic light, but it had four lights. I knew that when the last light turned green I would be on the ride of my life.. It flashed! And we were gone.
I think I left my stomach back there. But my heart was definitely still with me. Even with the heavy pressure of air weighing against my chest, my heart still managed to get through, and the sound of it was throbbing in my ear. Sure I could breathe, but the strong pressure against my tense body was getting to be too much to handle. I gasped wildly for air, gripping the sides of the seat. I let out a tiny shriek, but that was all I could manage.
That had been the longest seconds in my life. I felt like the pressure would crush me when it lifted. But I lifted with it. I was shooting straight into the air. Then it twisted, and I couldn't see anything. Now we had reached the top.
I made it! I actually conquered the worst! The rest couldn't be so bad. So I let my body relax. I knew that I would never, ever regret my choice. And as we pulled into the station-like garage, I wasn't scared anymore.
So, what do you think? I think it is pretty amazing, and I am so blessed to have Erica as my daughter.
Friday, November 21, 2008
We are fortunate to have a wonderful library system. In addition to a brand new library building, we are able to request books, magazine, DVDs, and CDs through the website that houses a database of all the local library systems. This means if our city library does not have a particular item, it searches the other libraries in the area.
Another nice service is the Bookmobile - the Library on Wheels. The Bookmobile stops in several neighborhoods, including ours. We bring the kids and they browse and check out books. When I request an item, I have it sent to the Bookmobile where I pick it up. I don't have to drive out to the library (although it is a nice facility).
I am thankful for these services and resources that enrich our lives.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
And his awesome teacher.
I received the dreaded "I'm not feeling good, Mommy" around 9:30 this morning. By the time I reached the school, Brian was sitting in the front office, looking quite peaked. We went to collect his belongings from his class, but while doing so, Brian's tummy turned for the worst and, yep, he "urped" a bit of his breakfast up on the classroom floor.
His teacher, Mrs. O, was totally unfazed - she was so concerned and sympathetic for Brian's predicament. A total class act. Brian's little episode created only a little bit of excitement in the class, and Mrs. O maintained the students' focus on their classroom tasks.
Later on (after more puking, dry heaving, puking and finally a nice nap), Brian's friend George delivered a stack of "Get Well" cards made by each of the students in his class. This thoughtful gesture was initiated by the students themselves. The cards are really cute - I'll have to scan one or two in tomorrow. It speaks volumes for the kids in his class, that they are concerned about the well being of their fellow student.
Mrs. O also called us at home this evening to check on Brian. Again, what a nice gesture that made all of us feel good inside. It's now 8pm and I am happy to say that Brian is back to his normal self and we end today more appreciative of his little 3rd grade classmates and wonderful teacher.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Ah, it's time for the coffee gratitude post.
Just last night, Scott was accosting me about my vast collection of coffee flavoring syrups. I have 5 different flavors - Almond, Hazelnut, Chocolate, Pumpkin Spice and Mango (even though the Mango is strictly for iced tea).
To be honest, in the past year, I have developed into a bit of a coffee and tea snob.
For coffee, it has to be Starbucks coffee. Just recently I decided that whole bean is superior to the pre-ground stuff.
For tea, it has to be loose leaf, and I really enjoy Fortnum and Mason's teas.
Here is what I am currently drinking - Sumatra blend.
Decaf - because I weaned myself off caffeine when I was pregnant and decided to stay off caffeine as much as possible. If I have a regular cup of coffee, I am a total spaz.
I grind in the Magic Bullet just before brewing in my french press. Nice and strong. 1/2 and 1/2 and a shot of flavor. Perfect for cold November mornings.
Monday, November 17, 2008
I "just" received a call from my friend and co-worker, Sara (who happens to be the mom of Erica's BFF, Kathleen), informing me of an issue with a File Server at work.
This is the File Server that only had 4 gigs of disk space left on it this afternoon.
E-mails were sent and steps taken to free up disk space in order to prevent an issue.
When I received the phone call, I envisioned the worst (crashed server) and called my support team (all two of them).
Fortunately, one of them lives 2 minutes from the plant, and he was able to get there quickly. For whatever reason, the server had powered itself down. Phil pushed the power button, and it booted right up. A quick resolution. But I know that if he had to, he would stay all night to get things going again. One of my engineers did just that last Friday night.
So tonight's crisis was averted.
I work with a great team - and I am grateful for it.
Doesn't look bad, eh? That's because you can't see the plethora of cars!
Following on the heels of my Wicked, Chicago post (really, it was a post about the SUV, but it involved driving to Chicago), I am grateful for the little college community we live in, amongst the corn and the soybeans, the flat, windy prairie, but most of all, for the traffic (or lack there of) here.
The traffic in Chicago, is in a word, crazy. I don't know how people commute into the city every day. And it doesn't matter what time of day, night, weekday, weekend - the traffic is always crazy.
More like reality
Compare the above with our "rush hour":
Yeah, no comparison.
My commute is a 25 mile easy jaunt down the highway. The biggest thing we have to worry about is the combine and grain trucks during the fall harvest. And they are easy to pass.
That's why I am grateful for our own "windy city".
This would have been Saturday's post, if I had more time and access to the computer.
On Saturday, a group of us "double X chromosomes" traveled to Chicago to see the longest running Broadway Musical for the Windy City, "Wicked". I had seen the musical in 2007, and since the show is in its last 10 weeks of production at the Oriental Theatre, thought Erica would enjoy it. We took her friend Kathleen, Kathleen's sister and Kathleen's mother along.
This is where the gratitude comes in - depending upon traffic, it can take 3 hours to get up to Chi-Town's Theatre. 5 people in a cramped car just doesn't cut it. So we were all thankful we had the Tahoe to take us safely there and back. The girls stayed entertained with "in-flight" movies which allowed the two moms to relax and chat.
An added bonus is that it didn't cost us $120 in gas to drive there - our gas prices are below $1.80/gallon now, a price point I don't recall seeing in the past 3 years.
Overall, we had a great time at the show - I enjoyed it more this second time around and the girls enjoyed their first professional theatre experience. We even got to see the Christmas decorations at the Macy's (former Marshall Fields).
Wicked only runs until January 25, 2009. If you can get to the beautiful Oriental Theatre, you have a short time before it flies out of the Windy City.
I have to play Gratitude Post catch up today, because I didn't get the chance to post over the weekend.
BUT - I'm not counting this as an official Gratitude post. I consider it more of a THANK-YOU Sherry shout out post.
Why? Because even though I was unable to post about what I was Thankful for this weekend, I was still THINKING about all the wonderful things in my life I should be grateful for and then acknowledging that I AM grateful for all these things.
That's how positive this Challenge has been, and for that, I am so thankful that Sherry initiated it all.
Friday, November 14, 2008
I had to get up early yesterday (5:00) and today (5:30), so I am glad today is Friday!
Even though we had a day off on Tuesday, it still feels like it has been a long week.
Hope your Friday has been a good one.
Thursday, November 13, 2008
The title sounds negative, but it really isn't meant to be - today I am thankful for my job at a company called Cabot Corporation, founded in 1882 by Godfrey Lowell Cabot. (no, it's not the cheese company, but I Love Cabot Cheese)
Scott and I came to Cabot 6 years ago, after 13 years with the behemoth known as General Electric. The sheer chance of both of us landing jobs at the same time for the same company made the decision to leave GE easy. (I have since come to realize the odds of this occurrence are really slim). I have the added bonus of working 30 hours a week, which allows me to be at home when the kids get out of school.
Our facility manufactures a product called Fumed Silica which is used in paints, caulks, cosmetics, printer toners, pharmaceuticals and computer chip polishing slurries. Working in a manufacturing facility is quite fascinating - making product every day, around the clock - one feels a concrete sense of accomplishment. The pictures at the top of the post represent the Fumed Silica and its various applications.
My job has afforded me numerous opportunities to work with people around the globe, and I have had the good fortune to travel to Germany, the UK, and China. Funny thing about my job vs Scott's job - I get to travel and he doesn't, but he doesn't want to travel! So I guess that works out well for us.
I chose today's gratitude after hearing about the news that Creative Memories has filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy protection. This is a scrapbooking company with ties to many people who, like me, preserve photographs and their stories through scrapbooks.
I know the various scrapbook bulletin boards are buzzing with this news - this news, plus the myriad of other bad economic news "du jour" (name your company - Circuit City, Ford, GM, even GE) adds anxiety in an already jittery atmosphere.
Yeah, Cabot is not 100% immune to the current economic landscape, but I have reason think positively. And for that, I am grateful.
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Things are a little "off" in our household today.
Even though it is Wednesday, it felt like a cross between Monday and Tuesday, due in part to yesterday's Holiday and day off. The grey landscape undoubtedly added to my confusion. So I totally forgot about the date until 4:30 while driving Erica to horse riding lessons. By then, it was dark, so all of today's pictures were taken with the flash, something I completely hate (probably because I'm not that good at it). I consider myself lucky enough to find 12 things to photograph.
Our day? I mentioned the grey skies already - here's the proof - the weather report from the evening paper:
Today's coffee flavor - the ever popular Pumpkin Spice. I buy these syrups from Taylor's Market, via Amazon.com. I've enjoyed this flavor for over a week now and I'm still not tired of it.
Wednesday means Chess Club after school - Brian and friend George attend. I was amused by how serious they are - discussing chess strategy on the way home. After finishing up his homework, Brian escaped to George's house to play more chess. Who knew?
After I dropped off Erica, I made a quick stop at the grocery store to buy mushrooms that were needed for dinner. I picked up an added treat - our favorite, Honeycrisp Apples:
Even though we finished this up last night, the Snoopy Great Pumpkin puzzle beckoned me to take its picture. It was a gift from Grandma (NaiNai). Scott worked on it extensively over the weekend. He has way more patience than me in this area.
I enrolled in Jessica Sprague's Stories in Hand Class, which is on day 3. I printed out the materials from the first three days, but haven't gotten any further. I am also working on a layout for the Sketchapolooza Class at Feeling Scrappy:
I made dinner (a beef burgundy with bacon - I'm always taking pictures of bacon, it seems).
Hannah hung out in the kitchen:
While Scott was waiting for Erica's riding lesson to let out, he stopped into the WalMart and bought Moon Pies and the KungFu Panda movie. I was glad, because I could photograph these purchases, shown here with extra adornments courtesy of Erica and Brian:
We watched the movie after dinner. Scott and Brian enjoyed the moon pies. I had one bite and that was enough. Erica wanted me to take another picture of the penguin, perched on a bird sculpture:
Tonight's final picture, which has a little story attached to it. Scott was nominated to serve as Church Elder. The nomination came from several members of our Sunday school class. After lots of consideration, interviews and discussion, his nomination was accepted and he will be on the "slate" and voted on by the church body in 3 weeks. The church publishes a brouchure with all of the Elder candidates, which includes a picture (with spouse) and a brief bio. That's where tonight's last picture comes in - a picture of the two of us for the publication. I hope it's not too cheesy - most of the other candidates have used studio pictures. I guess it could be worse....
"The better part of one's life consists of his friendships."
- Abraham Lincoln
Today I am thankful for the friends in my life - they are there to support me, help me and tell me the truth (even if the truth hurts).
I wish I could write something more profound, but the profound has escaped me today. I just know that I can call on my friends and know why they are my friends.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Thank You - without you, we wouldn't enjoy the freedoms we have today.
Monday, November 10, 2008
“Music speaks what cannot be expressed, soothes the mind and gives it rest, heals the heart and makes it whole, flows from heaven to the soul.” - anonymous
12 pitches, 8 notes - I find it amazing such simplicity serves as the building blocks for countless symphonies, arrangements and songs spanning from the beginning of time.
A day doesn't go by that isn't touched by music - it has always been a major facet of who I am. I remember singing to the radio as a young child (The Carpenters - I still know all the words to their songs), I started playing violin in 3rd grade and piano in the 4th grade. There is nothing more immersing than creating music through an instrument or one's voice. I am fortunate to have had such wonderful musical experiences.
Music has the ability to lift my spirits, sooth my mind or calm my nerves. It can make me laugh, make me cry, pump me up and make me dance. A song can bring me back in time, flooding me with memories, both good and bad.
Yes, I am one of "those folks" who drives down the highway, singing to the radio. Actually, I sing to the songs on my iPod, but you get the picture. Sometimes I'll sing a song over and over again, just so I get the words right with the music. It's good for you - I believe lots of endorphins are released while I belt out the lyrics to my favorite artists.
Today I am grateful for music - for what it has given me and what it will continue to provide.
Sunday, November 09, 2008
Forget Cable TV, the Radio and the Newspaper. I could live without all of three. But there is one medium I couldn't live without and that is the Internet (and my high speed connection...). Today I am grateful for my access to the World Wide Web, as it has changed the way I do things. Without the Internet, I wouldn't be writing this post. I wouldn't be connected to all the wonderful people I have come to know as my friends, even though I have yet to meet one in real life (I hope someday I will meet them). I have reconnected with several friends from college and high school, while keeping tabs on new friends in town.
Scott and I often compete over computer time with the kids. They can't believe "we grew up without computers". The kids don't realize how easy they have it - from Club Penguin, WebKinz, Disney.com, etc, they can't envision a life without the Internet. Even their school research is heavily enabled by information found on-line. They don't have to schlep to the library to look things up in an encyclopedia (Do they even keep those in the libraries anymore? I doubt it!).
What do we use it for?
Research and Book travel - done on-line.
Christmas shopping - done on-line.
Download songs, video, software - all available on-line.
Play games - done on-line.
Lots of other stuff - doable on-line.
So don't tell my husband, but I could cancel the Cable TV one day, but not our Internet Connection.