holiday magic

You would think that with some vacation days under my belt I would have posted photos, updated, written something, anything. There was a pesky little thing called Tuesday that interfered a bit in that. It's hard to get into that zen vacation, "I've got nothing but time" place when you have to work the day after the official observance of the holiday. It's whiney and annoying I know, but wah. I felt like I didn't actually recover from all the magic until I woke up to race to work Tuesday morning, leaving my entire family still sleeping snug in their beds. So, I've really only been on "vacation" since yesterday morning and I've already responded to one voicemail and four emails. Today is Thursday. Where exactly did my long looked forward to "vacation" go? I spent the better part of yesterday devoted to those gooey and sinful cinnamon rolls. Connor and I left to our own devices went and bought "gredient" and whipped through the first few steps. When the roll oozed butter, sugar, cinnamon all over the kitchen table, I excused the rest of the family to finish the job on my own. If this is the only thing I accomplish beyond spending great quality time with my amazing litte family, I think this "vacation" will have been a success.

Isn't it always the way? Weeks spent shopping, searching for free shipping coupons, writing lists, updating ridiculous holiday spreadsheets, planning perfect dinners, wrapping packages, moving an elf at 5:30 in the morning. Poof. Gone. Peter our Elf back to the North Pole with the big guy to rest up for the year. Paper ripped open. Exclamations of gratitude complete.

2011 was the year of McCashew Magic. Connor magically SLEPT. (Can I get an Amen on that one?) Caroline magically learned to skate and decided she is up for session II of Learn to Hockey in January! Steve magically disappeared before our very eyes. (Edited to read that Steve magically disappeared before our eyes with his magical weight loss. His interpretation was that it read as if he had walked away from us and well, he may be right. So three cheers for his hard work and ongoing efforts as there really isn't a magical way to lose weight!) We went to the most magical place on Earth and lived to tell the tale. (in truth, I cannot wait to go back) & this season, this magical mysterious joyful holiday season, was perhaps the very best one we will have. It will be hard to top. I mean, the kids even got their annual Christmas colds a full week early, paving the way for a fever-free Christmas. What better more magical gift could there be?

Caroline fully comprehended Santa and Baby Jesus and was just so stinking excited that I just about popped a blood vessel thinking of Christmas morning. On the Eve of the holday, we read traditional holiday stories, devoured an amazing gingerbread house together, and sat by a fire while we tracked Santa on NORAD's iPhone app. (Can you imagine the stories these kids will tell their own children one day? We all gathered round the family iPad to track santa's ride. really?) A sad, tearful girl who did not understand time zones absolutely lost it Christmas Eve morning when I announced the big guy was delivering to Australia was racing around the room in near hysterical laughter when I showed her he was in the UK; the only thing between her and Santa was the great big Atlantic Ocean. We elfed the house, Steve voiced uneasiness that there were not a lot of things to open. We have gotten burned in the past, so many little things to open that the kids distracted by new shiny things they cannot move onto anything else. I knew we would be fine with fewer things to actually open, especially when the big things were so perfectly wonderful. Balls for the king of sports. A dollhouse for the girl who loves to organize. We haven't actually seen her "play" with the house yet, she is enjoying rearranging the rooms in an endless cycle. Our kids are incredibly lucky, but we are the lucky ones, watching them grown up, watching the magic.

Here is our magical Christmas morning 2011. The real magic may be that she did not lose it when she did not immediately see the dollhouse.

Nutcracker Sweet

Is it me or are the holidays really flying up on us? The house is decorated, the tree is lit, the advent calendar chocolates are being consumed, Peter Chippey the Elf is currently sitting in the front window, and I am plotting out our attack plan for my family's Christmas Dinner this Saturday. The kids both know that the Hershey Kiss bell commercial is my all time favorite and we spend 30 minutes each evening watching Prep and Landing and/or Chippey/The Elf on The Shelf movie. Last night the kids sat side by side on the couch, arms behind one another, rubbing each other's backs. For the entire show. It was so cute it almost made me cry, to see my kids love each other so much. (We will just pretend that the fight over the Melissa and Doug cutting veggies that happened later didn't happen, k?) Boston Ballet's commercials get screams of excitement from Caroline, rivaled only by Connor's "BUUINS!" It wouldn't be the Christmas season with the Nutcracker would it?

I wanted to take her. I dragged my feet getting tickets because I knew my mother really wanted to accompany her and that it probably wasn't going to be possible this year because of extenuating circumstances. I knew this would make all of us sad. My mother spent most of her fall/winter Saturdays driving me to rehearsals, watching rehearsals, driving me back from rehearsals, setting my hair into Victorian style curls. I lived and breathed Nutcracker, even doing two seperate productions in one season. My daughter does not yet "get" that Clara is not a real person, that a performer is the Sugar Plum Fairy. She doesn't "get" yet that I did that, that I wore those costumes, did those dances. She will someday and I wanted to take her.

We invited my cousin Kristen to come along and I got a sweet deal in my inbox offering could not pass up tickets for Sunday night's show, third row stage right of the dress circle. All prettied up, curls in place, headband on, tights and adorable flats, we traveled into the city together. She was a perfectly behaved princess at our early dinner, eating nearly every piece of buttered pasta on her plate. She could not WAIT to get to her seat and pouted that she had to wait for the curtain. Kristen and I did our best to get her to "read" the program, sit nicely on her cinema seat. We could not pass up tiaras in the lobby on our way in and all three of us were "princesses" for the entire show, after battling the packaging, dear lord the plastic! It's now a "tiara tradition." Don't lose your crown Kris!

"Where is Clara!?" "Why did the mice go away?" "Is she a princess now?" "I really like that Drosselmeyer." I was prepared for her to lose interest towards the end and those cheddar bunnies I packed saved the day. She cried when we left, make a total SCENE tears, "I don't want to leave!" She spent intermission spinning and arabesque-ing and people asked me if she took lessons somewhere. "She doesn't, but I guess she should." Was The Nutcracker a success? YES!

We dropped Kristen off at her apartment, "I don't want her to leave!" "I miss Kristen." "Does she have TV in her apartment?"  We talked about her favorite part, "Clara." Her least favorite part, "The King Mouse." She bubbled over with excitement and energy all the way home, ohhing and ahhing at lights, jabbering on and on about the show and "Can we go again!?"

I tucked her into bed and thanked her for such a wonderful day. "Mommy, you make me so happy." No, YOU make me so happy baby girl. I will hold the memories of our Sunday night show from Linner to bedtime, and every detail between for the rest of my days.

I can't wait to watch the DVD copy of the show that will be hidden in her stocking with her.

Winter Wonderland

Why have we not been to this event at BC before?!? Santa, balloons, gingerbread houses, santa hats, a touch a truck. We had a blast and I cannot tell you how amazing it was to watch our previously Santa leary Caroline practically leap onto his lap. Of course, this followed a pee pee dance in the line that made me wonder for real if we would be THAT family whose kid peed on Santa. She was too excited to leave the line, "no Mommy, I just like doing this (pee pee dance)."

I highly suggest you BC Alumni go next year!







and then he showed me the picture of him and Jack Parker

Work is blowing up in my face. Again. Yesterday I was so worked up that I sent Steve a text, "I really need to talk to you." I knew he had a meeting at 10:00, but didn't expect it to still be going on at 1:30. He had to excuse himself, "my wife isn't very needy, so this must be important." I'm being TOLD, not asked, to make yet another concession, to stretch myself even more, and I am putting my foot down. The line in the sand is drawn and I'm calmer about it today, but still seething away below the surface. My attitude about my work was piss poor yesterday and that makes me sad because I care about my patients and their families and they deserve my best. They don't deserve a bitter, pissed off grump.

I visited a family in Brighton who I've only just met. It's another family who has connections to Steve's grandfather. One of my patient's son took some trips about 20 years ago with Dr. Grand McCashew and it was fun to establish a connection between them, sending word through Papa and getting word back. The patient had taken a turn, had taken to bed, the Nurse was questioning if she was transitioning, and she had not been comfortable having a conversation with the sons that this might actually be transition. I talked in hypotheticals, what ifs, reinforcing taking it day by day, reminding them that if their goal was to keep her home we would do all we can to make that happen, encouraging them to keep an open dialogue with us. We were in the dining room amid walls of photos from decades gone by - she is 104 after all, born in 1907, a century before my daughter. A century.

Photos faded from time and touch, and then the OTHER son showed me the picture of him and Jack Parker playing High School hockey together. "Great guy." I snorted. I couldn't help it. I reminded him, I was a McCashew, by marriage a Jerry York fan, by college education a Husky, and not exactly Parker's biggest fan. He pulled out his ticket to the BC/BU Hockey game tonight and said, "Did the Huskies or Jerry York send you a ticket, cause Jack sent me one." Well played. well played indeed.

There is no crying in hockey

We hit a crossroads two weeks ago at hockey. It was painful and dramatic and slightly embarassing for Steve. As is typical of most working parents with young children, our Saturday mornings are no longer lazy and pajama filled. We get more done by noon than most people and then we flop in sort of a stunned overwhelmed heap by 2pm. I had Connor at soccer (9:30), so Steve had Caroline at hockey (10:00). As I raced out of the building to head to hockey to see that last few moments of ice time, I got a frantic call from Steve and a tearful hockey player was whining in the background. It was only 10:35 and she was crying to get off the ice.

The dilemma.

All week long a little girl with curls tells us that Connor might like taking shots on his goal in the playroom, but SHE is a real hockey player. She practices her "hockey face" and tells us she is excited about playing and how many days until she gets to go again??? Saturday rolls in and that excitement turns into anxiety and even as I am racing to soccer with Connor, I can see that Steve has his work ahead of him to get her revved up, confident and dressed in $150 worth of equipment. He reports that she is excited until the very last moment when she is about to step on the ice, but she does great once she is out there. She skates well for a beginner, back and forth, shuffle gliding with her arms to the side. 10:35, WHAM! Complete and total breakdown, tears, begging to get off the ice. So what is a parent to do?

After this particular breakdown, which resulted in an early departure and a forgotten pink stick, we weren't sure what to do next? It's a fine line between forcing and encouraging at this age.

I talked with her about it later and the comment that stuck with me was "I just don't know what else to do." This I could work with. she was bored. A girl can only skate back and forth for so long before she is done and a four year old girl can only do it for about 30 minutes apparently before her dam of tolerance breaks and a flood of tears follows. We talked about it, that if she wanted to play we want to support her, but if it isn't fun, she should tell us. We reinforced this was her decision and no one would be mad if she changed her mind. We let her know that the expectation is for her to skate as long as she can each week and that if there were any future explosive cry fests she would be done for good. Tell us you want to come off, talk to us, basically we don't want anymore scenes that makes us and every other parent there uncomfortable. We considered talking to the organizer about moving her up a level, but Steve was hesitant about being "that Dad." We decided to watch the older group this past Saturday and see if she could handle it (we are not sure she is ready, but maybe if she chooses to do the next session she could start there?)

Last week there was no soccer so Connor and I were able to go watch and cheerlead. She got right out there, she skated great, she came over to bang on the glass and say hi to Connor. I watched her fall intentionally in front of instructors for attention, and get up and skate away as soon as she got their eye (smartie). She passed the 35 minute mark, 40 minutes, and at 45 she came off. The only tears were because she had lost sight of Steve in the crowd. This was a major win. We noticed other parents having the same discussion with their kids, even the amazing 3 year-old phenom nicknamed "hot dog" who could skate circles around the 6 year-olds. This week she and another girl got their sticks for the first time and she had a chance to play with a puck, but she chose not to.

I'm still not sure she is ready to sign on for session 2 in January, but we are incredibly proud of her for sticking with it, trying her best, and not losing her mind at minute 35. I think we weathered this ok. I never imagined things could be harder than trying to get Conner to Sleep for the love of god, but this is way harder. Steve and I had that awful discussion about how we can totally mess this up. You cannot help but think about the consequences of the way you handle things like this, the lessons it teaches, the not so nice message it might send. I'm proud of us for talking it through with her, reinforcing her power to make a decision and our support no matter which route she goes. Special kudos to Steve for not mentioning the hefty investment in equipment. I think he is counting on Connor to use it too. Our message was positive and supportive, with a dash of "you need to handle this like a big girl" thrown in for good measure. We may not have a hockey player on our hands, but this is teaching her important life skills we couldn't possibly teach her at home. So Caroline, when you read this in 10 or 20 years, I love you no matter what you do, how good you are at it, so long as yand try your best and are having fun, I will always be your biggest fan.

on being thankful

It's been a busy week; lots of running around, last minute holiday errands, a feverish pressure to get things done in my professional life before the holiday. I know I'm not alone in my pre-holiday fervor. The rest of the world is right there with me. They are packing shopping carts full of the makings of holiday meals, snatching up holiday decor (ALREADY?!!), searching the aisles of the liquor store for a lovely wine to accompany a turkey feast, buttoning up hard you wish you never met this woman cases! It's hard to keep our minds and hearts on the important part of this week; the being thankful part. If nothing else, my professional life reminds me daily that the most important things are family and health. If I have my family and we all have our health, the rest of it is gravy (har!).

Sadly, not all families are as fortunate. Some are coping with an incomprehensible illness I have trouble even imagining. I can't think of many things more devastating than a sick child, except not being able to afford the care your child needs. I see those the ads for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital ® , they make me tear up, and though I haven't needed them myself, I'm grateful they are there. I'm supporting St. Jude Thanks and Giving® Campaign this holiday season. The amazing Ruckus Media Group has partnered to support this campaign and you can make a difference for families coping with immeasurable challenges this holiday season.

If your kids are like my kids, they are already big Ruckus Media Group fans. Spot the Dot, huge hit in the McCashew household. The Velveteen Rabbit, beloved by all. I could listen to Meryl Streep read that book all day. I might like it even more than Caroline.



During the St. Jude Thanks and Giving® Campaign, all Ruckus Media Group apps are being offered at the incredible sale price of just 1.99. All proceeds from the sales of any Rabbit Ears classic interactive storybook app will be donated to the St. Jude Thanks and Giving campaign from now until December 31st. There are some great titles, all read by names you know. Caroline is into memorizing the plots of books and "reading" the books herself. This format is perfect for that and she enjoys the stunning illustrations. Here's some Black Friday shopping I can get behind. It's a deal and it makes a difference.


I'm downloading 'Twas the Night Before Christmas. It's a perfect holiday addition to our iPad and destined to be a favorite all year round. I can't wait to record myself reading it aloud for the kids and maybe later this season a certain pre-reader will record a bit herself!  I'll be donating the difference in the sale price to St. Jude's and then some. If you want to do the same, you can make a donation directly to the St. Jude Thanks and Giving® campaign or by calling 1-800-4STJUDE.

I don't do sponsored posts. I was not given any compensation, nor anything free for this message. It is simply the right thing to do. Buy an app for the kids in your life. Comment below and let me know which app you downloaded and I will match your donation to St. Jude Thanks and Giving® Campaign. (Steve's blood pressure just skyrocketed reading that.) It's a season of hustle and bustle and overwhleming stress at times. It's a season to be thankful for the important things and to make a difference however we can.

justification

It's no secret that I work full-time. With that comes a mortgage size child care payment each month. With two kids in day care/preschool, I was more concerned with making more than the cost of school than what my take home pay would be. I simply refuse to work to have the kids in school. If I am going to do this, there better be some fun involved. I shouldn't think twice about buying a sweater, picking up a new supply of tinted moisurizer, buying stamps. We should plan amazing trips to Disney World and summers on the Vineyard.

It wasn't long ago that I panicked over every penny. I worked a very flexible job three days a week and made enough to cover child care, enough to help out, but not enough to live panic-free. We were fine. We were always fine, I mean my lord, we got hosed on our house and we were still fine. We were fine because my penny pincher spouse had rubbed off on me. When we needed that safety net we had carefully saved, it was there, and that was all Steve. It was a big challenge for our family, but a storm we weathered with a relatively small amount of lost sleep. He was onto something.

My thoughts on finances have evolved, but I still hate denying myself.  I struggle with it more now than ever because I justify. "If I can't really consider buying this sweater, why do I work?!" "If I can't treat myself to a pumpkin muffie in the morning, what is the point, really?" Part of that is selfish, and part of it is true. I'm not just talking about things for me. That justification extends to groceries, housewares, things the kids need, and on and on. I still love a good deal, don't get me wrong. The highlight of my grocery shopping this week was a 75 cent coupon on Fruitables juice right there in the aisle next to the juice, no forward thinking, no planning necessary. My kind of coupon. Pre-full-time job, I would have bought one. I bought two. Justification. When I went to BJs this week for our monthly snack replenishment. Marc is onto something, I only buy Nutri Grains, Granola bars, pb crackers etc once a month. This has vastly improved my overall quality of living, it has saved us money too, but the initial investment is more and sometimes a bit overwhelming, especially if it includes diapers. Justification.

No one in our house puts everyone else's needs ahead of their own more than Steve. That throne is his alone to sit in. I tend to put the kids before myself, but I try to balance it with little perks for myself now and again and I don't think there is anything wrong with that, but I struggle with it. My heat resistant spoonula somehow got a piece broken off, bingo, flashy new purple one. I justify this because I use that heat resistant spoonula more than any other item in my kitchen. Justification. Steve would never do that. He would keep using the broken spoonula. It wouldn't bother him. He has two pairs of jeans that he likes, I suggest he get a new pair, "I have two pairs, I don't need a new pair of jeans!" complete with arm motions and emotion in voice. Thing is, he has gotten a lot better about coping with my unbridled justification lately, he just doesn't extend it to himself. I'm still calling it a win. I doubt his views on justification will ever change, it keeps life interesting, it keeps me honest. It keeps me realistic.

We recently completed the final steps to getting our Mass Saves Heat Loan and are now the happy and comfortably toasty owners of a Lockinvar system with tankless water heater. We have been ticking off items for our house improvement google doc at the fastest speed we have ever tackled a google doc spreadsheet. Overgrown bushes in the front of the house, GONE. New Heater, INSTALLED. Firewood, ARRIVED. Powerwash the house, UNMILDEWED. (It looks amazing! I think it is actually a different COLOR) Interior panting estimate to rid the house of her PINK walls, completed, awaiting discussion on coughing up the money to neutralize the crap out of the upstairs; ie awaiting justification. I'm happy ticking things off, justification never felt so good. Steve wrings his hands wondering if we have done too much at once. I've learned a thing or two in ten years, including inviting the powerwash/painter in to give an estimate on some challenging walls in the interior and "hey, could you just do an estimate for the whole upstairs so we can see how much it would be?"

Enter holidays. I am trying to improve in this area. I am an over zealous organizing fiend, complete with you guessed it, a google doc spreadsheet. I tackle each person, tracking ideas, costs, shipment details. This isn't where I try to improve, I'm all over the organization piece. It's the justifying. It's the inner battle of a sensible holiday vs. a smidge of over the top magic. Christmas morning is going to be pretty amazing this year. Dollhouse, some felt food for the kitchen, Basket full of BALLS. It's not about quantity or cost, it's that our kids acutally have likes and dislikes, things they are into, and we have an attack plan. A sensible attack plan. We're planning on mostly shared items (less fighting), a few things of their own to open, and stockings. I stood in Toys R Us this week, another perk of my job, the ability to snag some time at Toys R Us to debate the differences between dollhouses. I splurged on the snazzier dollhouse. I justified, the same way I do for those occasional treats to myself.

More than improvements to the house, I'm working on improvements to myself, laying off the justification a bit. That being said, I pretty much love this little $30 justified splurge.

Improvements, mostly small, but exponetially improving quality of life. Justification can sometimes make it warmer, more of a home, a place where roots are tended with care and life's moments of perfect simple daily love are showcased. They are reminders that justification cannot recreate any one of these moments. The only thing I will continue to fiecely defend and justify is the temperature on the thermostat. I'm not willing to budge on this one.


what it is about

We recently caught some moments with a pile of leaves. It may have been the first time Caroline took a running start at the leaf pile. Connor dipped a toe in, but refused to jump. He did not take too kindly to getting tossed in, though he was quite partial to the kid sized rakes I picked up earlier this season. I'm on the hunt for the kid sized shovel. I also wish these had been taken post amazing "Operation Power Wash."












 Caroline took this one of connor.

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I played with the Disney videos some more, mostly because I had never edited any video prior to this. There are still two highlight reels (if you will), but they more accurately depict our trip than the chronological strung together first attempts. Highlights I alone could be the only video of what we DID, Highlihts II is more of the characters and the details.

I'm posting here as more of a placeholder to myself, a public place other than you tube to post them. I'm also probably posting them today because I had a dream last night we were taking the kids for a getaway weekend... to Disney World. Everyone's response, "already?!?!"



challenging

We are mid week of week 2 in the 30 Day Vegan Challenge, almost halfway through. I have to say, I don't really miss the meat portion of this challenge all that much. My appetite has been more than met. I am far from starving, but I miss cheese. A lot.

I forgot how much I liked smoothies. Connor has been particularly helpful is blending up frozen fruit, soy milk, orange juice and peanut butter. We made one for Steve at the end of last week and he liked it so much he didn't need the "to go cup" we had prepared it in for him. Connor is good for a small cup himself, which is far better than the breakfast he typically has. Caroline has not fully accepted this new breakfast idea. With  a smoothie under my belt, I am good until lunch and they are so yummy. I made a cup of coffee last week with soy milk and it was only ehhh, but I think I could learn to drink my coffee a bit darker, or skip it all together.

I'm struggling a bit sometimes with lunch. Hummus wraps with fresh veggies during the week, some fruit, maybe some nuts. I'm on the go in the car and I loathe spending money on lunch, so this has been a bit of a challenge. Fluffernutters have been a welcome treat. I'm planning to use the handy chart the author provides for making a grain salad to bring next week a few days. Weekends have been easier because I can make a bigger, more exciting sandwich and I have just been to the grocery store, so the ingredients are fresher and fancier. You would have thought I was eating gold on Saturday with my hummus, sprout, cucumber, tomato and avocado flat bread.

Dinners have been amazing! I've been skeptical every single night. I brace myself for Steve's scoff or starving eyes. I chop and stir and hold my breath and every single night he has been not only a willing participant, but he tells me how good it is. Even if he doesn't always mean it, it helps to hear. I made a bean chili last night with peppers and onions and corn, for the boy who asks me if I can find a good recipe for a meat loves chili, sans beans. I planned to get two meals from it, but we enjoyed it so much that I think we will need to eat it over baked potatoes to get another dinner from it.

The kids have totally embraced dinner, though Connor's diapers say we need to start rationing his bean intake. Kid loves beans! We put together some amazing black bean burritos this week. I tweeted that they enjoyed them so much I was awestruck. We have a taco night occasionally and the kids usually get on board with making tacos with the various ingredients, but this was different. I lined up bowls of fresh toppings on the table; shredded Boston lettuce, fresh salsa, cheese for the kids and Steve, and fresh made guacamole. Caroline scrunched her nose up at the green spread, but asked for seconds and thirds. GUACAMOLE?? I had to practically fight her off to get the last spoonful. Last night while she ate some chicken and tots with corn she asked me if we can have "that dinner we had before" again. I saved the extra beans (seasoned with cumin, s/p, and chili powder) and I am going to whip up another batch of guacamole because are you kidding me, bean burritos Caroline?!?

So thoughts - this challenge is HARD yo. I miss cheese. I haven't been 100% faithful to the no dairy component of my challenge, especially with the Halloween candy. I'm trying not to deny myself something I really want because I don't want to become discouraged or resent that I am doing this. Good choices when possible. Steve has really surprised me with his enthusiasm and support, except for last Thursday when he brought home an entire 3 foot long Italian sub from the FSU/BC tailgate and asked me if I wanted a slice. I did. and it was amazing. The kids have been much more open to trying new things. Connor loves plain ol' seasoned beans so much. Caroline asking for a second round of bean burritos. Are these my kids? my picky Caroline and my meat lover Connor?

We're saving money too. Sure, I'm making a trip to Trader Joe's each week for some more wallet friendly vegan options (their frozen brown and jasmine rice, bean dip, multigrain tortillas, soy milk, spiced pecans, organge flavored cranberries). Even with that extra trip we are still spending about 30 dollars less each week.

Do I think it will stick? Honestly, no. I didn't expect it to, but I think I have my family's blessing to incorporate these new meals and options into our everyday. That's a win in my book.

a week

It's been a week. I am well aware that today is Monday and that line sounds confusing, but I'm talking about a long 7-day stretch.

We ended last weekend the same way most people around here did; without power. Thankfully only half our town was out and we were able to cross a main road and find power, heat, and a freezer at Kiki and Papa's. We shacked up with not only Steve's parents, but also our delightfully adorable nephew. His sweetness would literally break your teeth; that cute. Naturally Caroline was working the deep Phoebe voice all day and she was enjoying the new husky tone until the sun set and we heard the beginnings of croup in her cough. We put her to bed, said a quick prayer, and got woken up at 11:45 to a sobbing barking girl. To Auntie Colleen's credit, she beat me to the bedroom, Mom ear in full effect. It was a long night. Lots of trips down the steps with a blanket to sit on the steps in the night air. She was having a really hard time breathing and the air helped, but I hardly slept a wink I was so worried. I googled, I fretted about her symptoms and what it woud be like to venture out in the middle of the night during a massive outage. What would the hospital even be like under these ridiculous circumstances?

Nana and Granda were on day Day 2 without power, with a sump pump not functioning thanks to the outage, bailing huge buckets of water from their basement, every 10 minutes round the clock, by candlelight.

Monday. No power. No school. Thanks to Auntie C and Kiki I jetted to my morning meeting and then excused myself for the day. By noon it was clear that she needed to be seen by the pediatrician, who wait for it, had no power. They gave her some steroid at the office, where they were all wearing coats for warmth, and sent us on our way with best wishes for a better night. It was Halloween and while Steve was annoyed, I was so relieved when our town delayed Halloween Trick or Treat until Friday. Poor girl would not have made it. Power was restored, we slept at home.

Nana and Granda endured Day 3 without power and continued their round the clock bailing.

Tuesday. Fever-free (with ibuprofen - don't hate) and having a full and restful sleep behind her off to school both children went. Coughs from both children. Drippy noses. We held our breath.

Nana and Granda fought through Day 4 without power, bailing somehow still kept up with.


Wednesday. Fever-free (again with ibuprophen - again don't hate). It seemed our girl was free of croup, but fighting one nasty cold. She was up most of the night coughing, spent most of the night in bed with us. She looked awful.

Nana and Granda labored through Day 5 without power, bailing effecting their ability to think clearly. I convinced them to order a generator with overnite delivery. Moods vastly improved knowing end of bailing in sight.


Thursday. We played out our school options out and made the executive decision to keep her home so we could decide for ourselves if she was able to manage Friday. Ain't no Director gonna dictate my day! Steve worked from home with the little miss at his side, coughing. He asked me about cough medicine, I made call to pedi because I thought cough medicines were ill-advised. Nurse asked about symptoms, hears that 102 fever has been pretty consistent and we bring her back for re-eval. Pneumonia and strep ruled out. We held onto hope that a nice restful night's sleep thanks to Delsym, abuterol, and ibuprofen would make a world of difference.

Nana and Granda enter Day 6 without power, but welcomed the arrival of their generator! No more bailing!

Friday. Caroline not ready to go back to school. Kiki saves the day. I plan to be home before her afternoon appointment, but patient in Revere changes time from 10 to 2pm. My day erupts and poops all over me. Auntie C saves the day and braves a Lyle and Caro trip to Marshalls while Kiki goes to her appointment. Caro is still sick, but getting better. Connor coughing and drippy. Trick or Treating. Cowgirl Jessie ran screaming from first house deemed "too spooky." Connor holds out bucket "tick o teet."

Nana and Granda somehow get through Day 7, generator working hard, they wonder how they kept up with bailing?

Saturday. Connor kicks it at soccer. Caroline not sure about hockey. The buzzer at soccer sounds and I literally screech from the parking lot to make it to the very end of her session at the rink. She looks great out there, skating better than I've ever seen here, but she wants to get off before the end. She tells me later she wants to go back, but she doesn't know what else to do on the ice. She's 4, her attention is limited, she gets tired easily. She's still positive, but we're not so sure. We'll see. Coughing and dripping continues. There is no end in sight.

Nana and Granda begin the day without power on Day 8, but get it back finally! Unsure of light switch locations from lack of use, not clear on directions for turning on oven, blinded by the evidence of power in the house.

Sunday. All seems better. Kids still sick, but look and sound less like death. I attend Annual Memorial Service for work. We cook our day 5 Vegan Challenge dinner (Veggie Stir Fry with Jasmine Rice!) and settle in for the night. We are thankful, oh so thankful that this week that kicked us repeatedly while we were down was over.

Nana and Granda delighting in having an oven. They make Asparagus Quiche for dinner. I drool over the thought of light fluffy eggs. (More on Vegan Challenge later)

Monday. Connor wakes up and cannot open his eyes. They are swollen shut and crusted over. We suspect conjuctivitis, but cannot open his eyes to look. I give him ibuprofen (wheee!) and we attempt to pry open his poor lids which are literally turned under they are so swollen to drop medicine into them. Yay for sick hour at the pedi. We are third in line and out of there (huge crowd!) by 8:30. No school for 24 hours. It's my turn to stay home. We stop at Kiki's on the way home for assistance with more drops since I'm pretty sure nothing got into his eyes earlier in the day. We play with play dough, we color, yougurt smoothie (for Connor) and strawberries (for us both) at snack time. Connor takes advantage of Caroline's absence and commandiers Baby Katie. He feeds her ketchup and surrounds her with his favorite thing, balls. Eyes looking better. We reorganize the entire play area of the downstairs to make first steps towards plans for magnetized chalkboard wall.



It's been a week. I'm ready for the weekend already, but the week literally looms ahead. I have to find a way to get back into the scary monastery this week and my eyes are itchy (just knowing he has conjuctivitis makes me itch!), but at least we have power. It really was something reading about all those without who were reconnecting with family, supporting neighbors and families, binding together, a wonder of humanity really. In the grand scheme, we know we are incredibly lucky, but this past week reminds us that a long winter looms ahead of us. Try not to look, I dare you. People who live with (and are responsible for) short people, you cannot help but peek down the long, dark tunnel of doom that is winter at daycare. Can't wait to see how this plays out with our new Health Savings Account Medical Insurance.



It was not all Gregorian chants

I had a visit at a monastery this week to introduce the idea of a hospice transition to a monk and his caregivers. I did a quick check of my clothes to ensure I was appropriately dressed and noting that I was not wearing a shoulder baring tube top and had chosen sensible footwear in place of my slilettos, I picked up the phone to schedule my visit. That's hospice talk for "appointment." I asked for him by name and the man on the other line said, "oh, you mean father such and such." Did I? I had no idea, but I agreed. I scheduled the visit for later that afternoon, but noted that this other monk really would have preferred for me to hold off until the real caretaker Father Goerge returned from a pilgrimage to Israel on Sunday. Then he hit me with this one. "if there are other visitors here you will be required to cover your head with a scarf and change into a long skirt, unless you have already done so." nope. I had left my school marm skirt and scarf at home. Gulp. I had some concerns.

On the ride over I wondered what etiquette exists within a monastery that I don't know about? Eye contact? Could I touch his arm? Shake his hand? What language would be acceptable? Where would we meet?

When I arrived and drove up the winding drive to the staggering building I was worried about more than a parking spot. When I pushed open the heavy from centuries ago door, I was instantly relieved that I had told Steve I was going there and that my supervisor knew my plan because it was just that creepy.

Dark. Hushed voices. Hallways to nowhere. Candles. 

Father such and such was sweet, but I couldn't help but feel like it was 1611, English accents and all. Very little eye contact. I touched his arm before I left and he didn't pull away, but i still don't ow if that was ok. I'm not sure they will be allowing the whole team into the monastery on a regular basis. I felt intrusive and while I didn't have to pull on a skirt or cover my head, I felt totally out of place. I was professional, but inside my head was ticking down the seconds until I could race back out the door, except I knew I could never find it on my own. This made those seconds tick even louder. I thought about where my phone was. It was the same feeling I have had in some scary places downtown, places I don't even like to drive through let alone pull up a chair and chat. They always tell us if we aren't comfortable to go, but should I have felt this way in a big ol' monastery? Probably not.

I'm dramatic, but this place creeped me out.

the world's newest hockey player?

next Saturday.

No issue with the helmet. She walked around no problem on her skates, hit some balls, stopped a few passes.

She's ready.

7 is for wool & copper



I let our 7th anniversary pass by without my annual, insert year here is for insert traditional gift(s). That makes me sad.

Steve was gone for the weekend of our anniversary, watching BC lose to Clemson 34-16 in South Carolina. I was ok with it after I came home on Friday and saw these waiting for me.



He's smart. He's sweet. He's sweet and smart. I'm a lucky girl.

My parents came for the weekend and helped me entertain the kids. I'm sure they are still recovering from the non-stop of it all. Caroline treats my mother like "Nana, the toy." She had her in the play area pretending to be Miss Claire from school. scheduling conferences with students' parents for "not listening." Connor spent a lot of time kicking, throwing, and running us all ragged. We even had a visit with Uncle Bubba and Brigid. I had fun trying to explain to Caroline who Brigid was. Girlfriend to a 4 year old? "She's Uncle Bubba's best friend, they share a house together, they eat together, they even work together!" I think that covered it pretty well... for now.

My parents left to head back to Western MA just before Steve arrived home with Clemson shirts for the kids.



Thanks to his tailgating the day before, he wasn't all that interested in the cold beer I had planned to bring him in his gift, a copper Moscow Mule mug. I had considered making him a mule, but the drink looked a bit too intense for a Sunday night. (That is seriously his exact mug, by the way, because I am awesome.)

I cuddled up in my gift, an Irish wool sweater that I already know will be worn at least 3/4 of every weekend this fall and winter. I wore it to the grocery store Sunday and I fell head over heels when I came home and declared my body temp to be "too warm." That sweater must be magical.

Steve had organized a really fun day for us on Monday, our actual anniversary. We dropped the kids and booked it to the city to catch a 10AM duck tour. We got there just in time and there were no seats left together. We panicked, wasn't the point to do this together afterall?? The gentleman from Atlanta sitting next to me offered to switch with Steve to allow us to sit together. I offered him my photos as a thanks, but he declined. I think that was a piss poor decision.









Post Duck we shared a beer at the place where we had our first date, The Parish Cafe. It was barely 11 and the seats we had sat in no longer existed, but we knew they were there. I could almost see us, awkwardly watching tennis over Sam Adams.



It was a gorgeous day and we strolled down Newbury to Stephanie's. That's Steve there in the reflection of this storefront. Touching his head due to the heat? or because his wife stopped to take a photo?



He had reserved a table, but even I was up for sitting outside. No reservations outside, so we cancelled our table and headed to the bar to wait out the 30 minutes for a table. The beers were still pouring over their edges onto the coasters and we were called to the hostess stand.



Sweet potato corned beef hash... and an amazing bloody mary with an Old Bay rim.



Keeping track? It wasn't yet 1pm and I was two beers & a bloody mary in. I was very happy. I was also very loud.

We briefly considered skipping the movie at the Common, but we both really wanted to see Ides of March. We ate popcorn even though we were stuffed from lunch, because we COULD. In fact, we packed our day so full of fun just because we COULD. We joked (and I tweeted) that a couple might do one of the things we did, but a couple with young children, they do it ALL. and we did.

7 years married, dating for 10. Though the year could not compare on any level to all the tremendous ridiculous change of 2010, it was better in that we were here, we were settled, we were finally starting to plant solid roots. We spent the year nurturing those roots, teaching Caroline her address, exploring our town together, spending lazy Sundays in pajamas under piles and piles of snow instead of driving back to CT. I didn't spend time worrying about what was going to happen. I spent time dreaming of what will be. There is a comfort here in this house that we never had in CT, a feels right kind of feeling. I can look around and see things we should do, could do and I know that we have time to do them right, to save the money we need and do it exactly the way we want to do it. We have no plans to leave. We might not be here forever, but we have time and this is home. In our 7th year we celebrated Connor's first birthday and enjoyed SLEEPING. We watched Caroline's face as she met her favorite people in the whole make believe world. I'd say it was a good one. 7 years.

He makes me lunch each morning while I blow dry my hair. He calls me out of the blue just to ask what I am up to. He listens to me complain about the kookoo of my work life. He cleans up dinner while I finish eating. He tag teams "operation lunch boxes." He won't relinquish the clicker, but he's a good one, and I know how lucky I am to have met him. Best of all though, we have this, half mine, half Steve's, all ours.

Day 6 minus his trusty companion, the bink

Connor is 20 months old, old enough to be without "binkie." If he can name it by name and ask for it, he doesn't need it. That's what I believe anyway. His age caught up with us and over the summer I suddenly realized we had an 18 month old with a pacifier and that seemed too old. His first birthday came and went and he was so attached that I didn't give it a thought. After all, those awful sleepless nights of his babydom were not a distant memory yet. Whatever made him sleep, whatever made it possible for us all to sleep, well, whatever worked. I wasn't game for giving it up when I was finally blissfully sleeping long enough and deeply enough to dream again. Over the summer we decided to keep it for the flight to Florida and that helped me save face for a bit longer. At his age he won't chew gum, he swallows gummy bears whole, and he doesn't chew on mentos. That bink got us through takeoffs and landings and it was worth it. So worth it.

We are home now, no flights in sight, with a son creeping ever closer to two. The teachers at school have been working with us, keeping it in his cubbyhole during school. We kept it out of sight at home, reserved for bedtime and naps, or an occasional melt down.

He hasn't had it since Thursday. The first few nights were tough, lots of crying and whining, and some late late bedtimes. I was solo parenting and I didn't give in. Steve came home from Atlanta and while I admit it was disrupting our nighttime wind down, i refued to give in "just for bedtime." I wasn't having it, my executive decision stood. 5 nights in, we weren't going back. It would have to go away at some point and he just needed to learn how to fall asleep himself without being Maggie Simpson.

Last night I put him down to sleep, held his hefty body in my arms and shushed him gently. The boy who used to forcefully nuzzle my shoulder, cries at bedtime as soon as you hand him his blanket. I asked him abut his day and Connor was able to answer me. "did you have peanut butter at school today?" "no!" "did you kick the ball?" head nodding into my shoulder, "yesh!" It soothed him, this little review. He wouldn't have been able to do that with his bink in his mouth. In fact, more than bedtime has changed. The car rides are louder too. Day care drop is more challenging as he finds new coping strategies, but he is doing it. Trusty giraffe by his side.

I usually put him down, cover him, and retreat at bedtime. He has struggled with this since losing his friend, so last night I stood over him, rubbed his back, put on the sleep sheep from infanthood. I slowed my baby back massage to a simple hand on his back. Slowly removing the stimulus, feeling his back rise and fall into a restful pattern. I removed my hand, stood silently by his side, him peeking over at me from under the covers. I stepped back. I stood. I took a deep breath and retreated, ten minutes after I normally would have.

There were still some tears, but that boy fell asleep in under 20 minutes, just after 8pm, a vast improvement on 9:30 on day 1.

One thing I will miss, the extra 20 minutes that piece of plastic gave us in the morning. Connor wakes up LOUD and demanding. "mommmeee!" "up, up, up, up!" "Da-da!" He barely fits on his changing table these days. I pull a sock onto his foot, "other one" is his response. He is talking more and more and yelling loudly, and we'll take it, all of it. Another step into toddlerdom. The last relic of baby boy left behind, hidden away in a drawer.

and I think I know who it is, by the way.

It's a bit alarming how quickly you can become a "Mama Bear." I've been posting about my anger and frustration on Facebook and Twitter about Connor getting scratched at school. To clarify, he looked like this after the second incident, perpetrated by the same little girl who is half his size.


Looks more like he was attacked by a not so friendly housecat, but no, it was a little girl in his classroom who literally must have dug her nails into his face, not simply swatted at him as you might expect from someone her age.  I picked him up from school Thursday after getting a call early in the day that there had been an incident at school. Don't we all just love those calls? I was told he had somehow ended up with another child's shoe and had refused to give it back, laying his entire body on top of the shoe. This did not go over well with the little person who earlier in the week gave him the mark above his lip and a scratch on his neck for not getting out of her way as she tried to crawl through a tunnel. He pushes it a bit, I see it at home, but it is normal behavior for a toddler boy to test his world, to seek out reactions, to learn cause and effect. I have never heard of this scratching stuff before.

I ran into a Mom of one of his classmate's in the parking lot at drop off this morning and when she saw Connor, we got to talking. Her adorable petite little girl had also been scratched. On her her eyelid. I was fuming. I marched into Room 3 and told the teachers in the room that it was not ok, that I was very upset, that I needed to know the details of the behavior plan. The teachers just happened to be the same ones who were there when he had been scratched the day before and one of them, who has known Connor since he started at this school, shook her head, took him from my arms and gave me a look that showed me I had been a bit harsh. There are nine children between 15 and 24 months in this room and I know that even with shadowing, there will always be an opportunity for this to happen. It's not one to one care, it couldn't ever be. He will never be 100% safe from this happening again and I can't fault his wonderful caregivers who truly adore him.

I lingered over my morning coloring with Caroline and her classmates. Farms for everyone, complete with animals, fences, apples trees, silos. I was dreading the meeting, afraid I would over or under react, afraid of what it might be like to be on the other side of this unfortunate situation. How devastating as a parent to dread picking your child up because they had hurt a child, again.

We had a nice chat. I understand her perspective. I know they have plans in place. I know it isn't a one to one care situation. I know that without giving this family a chance to make this better, she will just go to another center where this will happen again and she will get passed along and it will never get better. I want to give the family this opportunity, as a parent, I want to be understanding. And yet, I cannot bear to think of this happening again.

Connor's petite friend got scratched again this afternoon on her neck. The family was to get a "final warning" this afternoon. Connor had spent the day in room 5, free from the risk of another scratch. Our hope is that they can break up the dynamic between the kids as often as space allows. He won't technically move up to Room 5 until he is 24 months, but he really does well in the classroom. I'm not asking them to move him...yet.

He spent the entire day in that room today without his bink. He didn't even ask for it. TOOK A NAP WITHOUT IT. So I looked at his teacher, the one who had been so upset that this is happening, the one who told me when no one else was around, "don't back down" and I told her, "I'm doing it. Tonight." FELL ASLEEP TONIGHT WITHOUT IT, much grousing, some whining, but he did NOT ASK FOR IT ONCE. I know that might be the source of his acting out, his pushing button behavior with little miss freak out. I get it, but I refuse to let her presence deter this process. I'm planning on phasing that bink out by the time Steve gets home on Sunday. HAPPY ANNIVERSARY. We are BINK FREE.


Lil' kicker

I just this moment signed Connor up to be a bunny at the national Lil' Kicker Academy program. We have one just down the road and they have sessions starting at 18 months. The photos online are adorable, little kids in matching Lil' Kicker jerseys racing around, climbing under things and kicking balls of course. I'll figure out a way to get Connor there for an hour this weekend for a free trial and if he seems to enjoy it, and I cannot imagine he wouldn't with all the running and kicking, we'll hop right into this session (har, har).

There have been lots of conversations about sports, kicking, using up some of this endless energy, getting him involved in a sport to further encourage his development, and on and on. Steve is charged with locating hockey equipment for Caroline's learn to hockey that starts at the end of the month. There have been many discussions about that too.

I worry. I know she is listening intently to every word and hearing all our "wow, Connor, he loves to kick. Look at him throw. Isn't he incredible????" We talked about it this weekend, Steve and I, about how she is hearing this and watching it, and we need to tread lightly.

I've been encouraging them to kick together, to play catch, to make it less about something mom and dad do just with Connor, but something we can compliment them on doing together, "good teamwork, excellent sharing, nice kicks guys!" It's a challenging road ahead with this and all other things they will each do. Artistic and academic accomplishments, social skills, behavior, setting a good example, being responsible, not being lazy. They will each listen to our cheers and jeers and soak it all up. It's a lot of pressure. It's a lot of overwhelming pressure.

She is asking more about letters now. Last night she lay on me just before bed looking across the room and read the letters on a piece of art. She asked me to name the ones she does not yet know and I clapped for each correct letter and at the end she smiled so proudly. Now there is something her brother can't do yet and I breathed a sigh of relief. Something that is just hers. When she went to bed I plucked my contacts from my eyes and looked at my reflection. How is that I am a mother to a nearly 5 year old, who hears and sees everything, who understands things I never thought she would be old enough to grasp, who asks critical questions, who can compare and contrast? You think your role will be never-ending, lifelong responsibility, care, and concern. You know that you will not always be mom with omnipotent power. Sure there are less diapers to change over time, but my role seems to be increasing in importance as Caroline reaches school age (gulp). I feel a growing responsibility to them and that feels strange because in so many other ways the day to day is so much easier now than it was even 6 months ago. The day to day is more predictable, it's the other stuff, the stuff that seems more important that is growing and creeping up on us.

I know how we play this sport card is going to shape these kids in their perceptions of many things, not just sports. The kicking is just a metaphor for a pile of other stuff behind it, and that pile is a bit scary to look at, let alone try to fold up and put away in a drawer. I don't even know how to begin to organize it, break it down, stow it away.

blink

On a daily basis I am reminded of the "blink and it's over" of it all. Each day I spend time with someone who touches my soul, who says something poetic as if they are speaking directly to my heart. I hear warnings in their stories, memos to go home, and soak it all in. The time between my arrival home to complete paperwork and steve's with the kids is the calm before the storm, full of anxiety and anticipation. Finish that note. Make that phone call. Get dinner on the stove. Change the laundry. Get changed out of your work clothes if you value their cleanliness. And then they come racing in the house and it's almost as if the temperature changes. Sometimes there are tears, usually there are, and I am not sure why, but with one on each knee, heads on my shoulders, they calm and quiet and our evening begins. It's fast and chaotic and when we finally release them to the playroom after dinner is cleaned up and lunches are packed, they attack their playthings. They make messes I will have to clean up and I know from my patients that there will come a time all too soon that they will eat dinner and retreat to their bedrooms, behind closed doors. I will be forced to knock and interrupt their angsty teen evening to get a glimpse of them. I'll be left with just memories of this crazy time and when I think if that I think of my parents, their two person household, with two empty bedrooms, a well-worn family room left empty, with faint shadows of evenings spent with popcorn and the Olympic figure skating coverage.

I watch daughters care for parents and wonder what I would do if I was needed at home, 90 minutes away. I sit with lonely souls whose family they have lost connections with or cannot count on to help and I wonder what could possibly be more important that being here as this person's last bit of sand slowly runs through the glass. I try not to think about a time when I might need to be caregiver, but in this business it is hard not to. In my head I always reassure myself, we have a fourth bedroom, we have a bathroom on the lower level, it would be ok. Then I always think 90 minutes is not too far. There is no question in my mind that if I was needed, for anything, I would be there. The social worker that might be sitting across my own family would not have to ask, where is your daughter?

This work keeps me grounded in a way that would not be possible with another profession. Maybe it would be better to not consider the future so much, maybe it would be better left as something to deal with if and when it happens, but I like my daily reminders. I like hearing from patients that they are looking forward to being reunited with their spouse in heaven, that they know they are preparing a room for them, and that it will all be ok. I like hearing from patients that looking back, say they would not change a single thing, that they had a life well-lived. My heart breaks for those who have no faith, or who see only our staff, and especially for those who cannot accept the circumstances of their illness.

Each night I carry all of this home with me in my work bag, I gaze upon it as I finish my work, I breathe it in as I watch the kids play, Connor kicking a ball over and over again, and I glance at it over my shoulder when I carry Caroline upstairs for bed. It's presence in my life does not overshadow the present, but it's there, reminding me to soak it in, to not will it away, even the crazy, even the hard. It won't be long before it is all gone.

More texts from Disney

Again, I'm green, steve is white

Texts from Disney

I'm green, steve is white

and the videos continue

because WHY NOT?

I took the music out of Part II and made it a bit longer because the kids say some cute things and you couldn't hear it. I'm pretty much just putting it here so I have it in the blog, not to force it down your throat again... though a few seconds in Connor will SLAY you with his cuteness



Characters we met along the way. Steve had to do some fancy work solo with Tink and Rosetta over in the fairy area.



Special Time with Aurora and Cinderella



Chef Mickey's Breakfast



Saying Goodbye

allow me to make you smile on this depressing rainy afternoon

I dare you to watch this and not smile at least once! Double Dare, Triple Stamp it, no take backsies.

Sure, the camera work is shoddy, there are moments where we are sprinting along and you might get a wee bit sea sick, but it's magical. I tried extra hard to capture the kids' expressions, so there is some camera flippery that is annoying and I DON'T CARE.

Here is just a little taste of our trip.

My own personal favorite moments - Caroline dancing outside the gates to Magic Kingdom, Steve and Caroline on Dumbo, the shaky castle shot (we were cutting it close for breakfast with the princesses and didn't want to keep them waiting), Caroline during Fantasmic, and me needing to "Wow!" all the fireworks at Illuminations while Connor frantically Maggie Simpson'd his paci because the lights, the booms, it was all just too much.

I hemmed and hawed on the music. Not only will it get a big GOLD star from Uncle Marc, but I think it sums up how all parents feel taking their kids somewhere so magical, so full of excitement, you just don't want them to stop believing.



and because I was on a roll...







Fantasmic

Meeting Mickey

Steve is so sick of listening to my editing process with all the videos from our trip. I had hoped to have a really sweet montage prepared for the end of this week, but 168 videos is a tall order. It will happen, I just need more time. I've never put together a video montage before and my learning curve appears to be quite severe.

In the end, I'm making not one montage, but at least two or three. I cannot bring myself to edit the character's in character banter out.

For starters, here is the main event - the mouse and his lady friend.

revisiting

I recently revisited this and I want to try to attack this list with absolute gusto.

101 in 1001

I updated it with things that silently got checked off without note and I smiled thinking of accomplishing these things in the next year or so. There are some seriously amazing things on this list and I feel it is 100% doable. I'm making a committment to check on the list more often, as a way to be sure I finish it, but moreso to be sure that I keep family life as interesting and fulfilling as possible. Apple picking next week could potentially check off that "apple pie from scratch" item. Langham Chocolate Bar? um, YES PLEASE! Caroline will technically only qualify as free for a few more months and I refuse to let that one pass us by. We are more than halfway through teaching Caroline to spell her last name. Helping them raise money for something that is important to them. I think that would be a really amazing thing to tackle this holiday season and with that I already have a new holiday tradition to organize.

We knew he was tall

Connor had his 18 month physical this week and I was shocked to see he stayed right on his weight curve and scooted way up on his height, all the way to 90%. This we did not know. No wonder those 18 month pants fit his waist, but not his legs.

He was declared perfect, right down to those pesky ears. I was able to proudly share the skyrocketing vocabulary, his parroting of everything we say, and he was an eager participant in name that body part. He bravely took a shot to each arm and when I later told Steve about his bravery, he pointed to the sticker on his shirt, such comprehension, such a... Big boy.

The Doc asked me if he could throw a ball, catch a ball, kick. Laugh with me will you? I told her that he would happily kick or throw a ball for 20+ minutes, I have kept track on the clock because it just seems like the game never ends and for a kid his age isn't that a ridiculous amount of attention to one single thing?? He just loves it. I know most boys do, but we can't help but think we have a little athlete brewing here, who holds his hockey stick the proper way without instruction, who instinctively holds a bat on his shoulder and turns to the side to hit a tossed ball. It's mind-blowing to me because I lack most athletic ability, have you seen me run?

We signed Caroline up for an instructional "learn to hockey" in town. She needs pads, a stick, a mouthguard and I can't help but gulp. The girl who vascillates between ballet and hockey. She expressed interest with gusto and having no experience with sports for my kids yet, I'm not sure what to expect. She is the my emotional one, the one more apt to get frustrated, but we know from her learn to skate last spring that this girl has tenacity and a desire to do and I have confidence that this will be a good experience for her. I'd be lying if I didn't say that I am pleased as punch that her little brother can't play yet.

Here is where I admit something publicly that I might not even say out loud to a friend. My brother, uncle bubba, was a natural athlete, heck he probably still is. He could play anything and everything and he was so good at it. I worked my little tush off to hit corner shots in field hockey for a few seasons. It didn't come as naturally to me, I was the dancer, the graceful one. I want to give Caroline the opportunity to do these sports before Connor. I want her to feel confident in her abilities before he has the chance to skate right past her. I might be wrong, she might be a natural herself, lord knows she proved me wrong with skating lessons. She fell and fell and fell and got right back up time and time again. I don't know. Does that make sense? I want them to both have the opportunities in their own time, with no comparisons, but is that possible? I haven't enrolled her in dance yet, I'm holding back, I want her to try sports first, make a long commitment to a year long dance program later if she still expresses an interest. There is just something about a team sport, the sum of individual efforts, that seems more important right now. I want her to have success in this arena before Connor cannot be held back for a moment more from charging the ice. I want her to be able to show him how to lift shots into the corner of the net, or if she follows in papa's footsteps, how to defend that goal to the death, fearless.

I'm excited for her, but keenly aware that the other one is not far behind.

and there were princessess

I've been itchy to write this up, but distracted by a sweet free 8x8 photo book coupon from Shutterfly, which seriously could not have been timed better. My mission the last few nights has been to somehow manage to fit 200 photos on 20 pages of Shutterfly layouts. Mission accomplished. Free photo book awaiting review by my other half.

I'm sure the interwebs have been waiting with baited breath for my review of our trip to Disney. The details can be found among several dozen facebook and twitter updates. It can be summed up as follows, "We flew, we chewed, we rode, we met, we signed, we ate some more, we smiled, we napped, we swam, we can't wait to do it again."

Going to Walt Disney World with two children under the age of 5 might sound like a very special kind of torture to some people. I assure you, it was not. There was plenty of challenge, oodles of altering "the plan," a shake here and there of "this is so not how I thought this would be," and a smattering of the most absolutely amazing thing you can do for two kids that truly believe that the four foot tall person they are meeting is really honest to God Mickey Mouse.

I've breezed through most of the Flip videos and so many of them make me laugh or tear up because the magic is so alive in so much of that tape. My daughter could meet Ariel on day 1 and not realize that she didn't look exactly the same that afternoon in the parade or a few days later as she looked over a railing with her to see if Flounder was swimming in the Adventureland river. The same characters signed her book time and again and it did not matter one single bit to her. The highlight of her entire trip was day one at the Magic Kingdom where she met Cindy, Aurora, Ariel, Snow White and Belle at Cinderella's Royal Table.

This trip was clearly a "character seek and find." Things at WDW were ranked as follows:

1. PRINCESSES
2. Characters
3. Shows (Voyage of Little Mermaid, Monster Laugh Floor, Mickey's Philharmagic)
4. Parades
5. Fireworks
6. Ice Cream
7. Rides and Attractions

This totally blew my mind. Granted I am quite certain that a great deal of this had to do with our serious mistep on day one when Steve convinced me one ride in that Snow White was a good idea. Do not make this error in judgement. Dark rides for the rest of the day, even Winnie the Pooh with his cute butt stuck in a hole trying to get honey were tough thanks to that one short dark "dream sequence." I'm almost positive she thought that mean ol' queen was hiding behind every corner. Peter Pan, long a favorite of mine, was also too dark and yeah, to say I was upset about Snow White is the biggest understatement ever to be uttered. Moving on (but clearly not because a week later I am still upset about it).

Caroline rode Thunder Mountain twice, fearless. She shrugged her shoulders, no big deal, at Test Track. Girl could have tackled Space Mountain had it not been, you know, dark! Maybe in a couple years she will be more into the thrills? Maybe not.

For Caroline this visit was all about the characters. She wanted their name in her book as soon as she caught sight of them... until it was her turn and she would instantly hide behind her hands and need a parent to help her approach Donald or Chip or even her beloved Ariel.

I'll say this, for what really was our first official family vacation, this was a total and utterly amazing experience. Our kids spend so much time at their beloved beach, where everything they need in their everyday life is at their fingertips and they are surrounded by people they know and the rules still seem to apply to daily living. They did not know what to do with this Florida thing. For one to have never flown before and one to have no memory of her first flight, they did alarmingly well and as far as getting used to their surroundings, well, that left a bit to be desired. I have never been sassed more, pffftttth'd more, or as shocked at surprisingly 'not my kids" behavior. It was comforting to see that every other parent of young children was also dealing with sass and frass and some weren't coping as well as we were. I don't want to make it out that Caroline and Connor were terrors, because they were far from it, they just weren't themselves. They have no reference point for travel and vacation. What to do with all.this.excited.energy.OMGisthatAurora!?!

I think Steve and I can agree that doing this, despite the kids being so young, was a great decision. Yes, these memories will be mostly ours to carry for Caro and Con, but I know that when I look back on our family life, maybe as we drop one of them off at college someday, I will forever picture us four on the teacups, spinning around together, smiling, laughing, being us. Us four. Our little team. I will never shake the image of my daughter's face, her hand waving, to the princesses during Fantasmic. or the way she looked when Ariel was announced into breakfast and she followed her with an adoring gaze across the room. (I have it on film, wait until you see THAT!) I can see her hands up on Dumbo, "I'm flying!" I still shake my head in disbelief that the boy who feared the Hoop de doo review with every fiber of his being, stood in absolute awe of the German Band the following night... dancing. With the help of two pretty awesome wonderful people in my cousin Vic and his spectacular lady Julie, this trip will be something our family will cherish forever. Nothing can replace it. There is no way to appropriately thank them for all that they did to make this trip so special. "Vic, Julie and our friend's Dad." I know to them this was no big deal, but it was. It really, really was.

It will never be as magical as it was this time. It will never be as challenging to recover from. We didn't ride everything. We didn't see everything. We did just enough, of exactly what the kids wanted to do, and if you have a boy or girl approaching 5, you better get there yourself. Remove all expectations. Let your kids lead you. Get a Dole Whip before the parade, eat a Mickey Bar for me, stand on the bridge while 2 people eat 4 popsicles watching the Splash Mountain cars go over the drop, stand in line for 40 minutes to meet Tinkerbell, GO TO PRINCESS BREAKFAST, and above all, hold your kids hand and watch it all through their eyes.

Tuesday

Chef Mickey's and Travel back to MA day. Mickey waffles.

The last day was the first day Connor was brave enough to face the characters, high fives all around.