Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy Trails, 2012: A Year with Our Little Baby

The past three years have been big for our little family. First, we birthed a Maddie Bear, then we bought a house, and in true modern-era-family tradition, finally got married this past summer.  Eric and I joke that 2013 is going to seem pretty boring in comparison...

Just like last year, I though I'd bid adieu to 2012 in style...and so I transport your back in time.....


In January, I re-watched Season One of Felicity enough to make me realize that I'm old.  I vowed to get organized, (spoiler alert: still hasn't happened) and we showed off M's new vocabulary!  We made a leap into the work of grownups by buying our first dining room table.  Then we took an even larger leap when Eric decided he liked it enough to put a ring on it.   Toward the end of the month, M got to play in the snow for the first, and only, time that winter.  Meanwhile, Madeline amazed me with her incredible juice-box-drinking skills, and her incessant desire to knock over every block tower bigger than hers.


I failed at taking a self portrait before spending a night at Mohegan Sun to celebrate Amy's 30th.  I marveled for the 100th time at Eric's rad parenting skills.  Madeline got to play in a giant pit of plastic balls for the first time, and she quit the bottle for good.  Meanwhile, I shared plans for M's room, and we painted the dining room.  Madeline's room has not had any significant improvements since then...the dining room is coming along slowly.


In March, I shared embarrassing pictures of my youth to prove being a redhead isn't always easy.  I tried easing the boredom of playing indoors with some cloud dough and a bowl full of Pom-poms for M to play with.  We braved the cold wind with a day at the beach.  I laughed at the five-second rule due to M's constant practice of eating day-old Cheerios off the floor.  We took advantage of some early warm weather by eating Popsicles on the porch, and we tried to get a 1-year-six-month bunny picture update.  I shared the story of naming Ellis Jane, and the less endearing story of teaching Madeline to swear.


Eric and I found our wedding location, and I debated holding the ceremony at an amazing Vermont  rest area.  Meanwhile, Madeline enjoyed her second Easter with her cousin, Katie Belle.  We found the mysterious drawer from the basement, and M had a brief stint as the playground bully...a phase that thankfully did not last.  As the weather warmed, we cleaned up the yard and installed a raised vegetable garden.  We had a fantastic spring break sitting porch side and traveling to Montauk to visit with Nana and Pop.


In May, Madeline learned to climb on everything.  We visited playgrounds, picked dandelions, enjoyed a local farm,  and ran around the yard in squeaky shoes.  I shared some fears about raising a confident daughter.   We ended the month looking forward to summer vacation while lounging by the beach.


We celebrated the life of Madeline's great grandfather.  M and I took the train to New York, which had me nervous, but turned out fine.  We ate breakfast on the porch and watched our garden grow.  We celebrated father's day, and the last day of school.    Madeline learned how to avoid bedtime by crying pooh-pooh.  Wedding planning got serious with a trip to Vermont and an epic invitation-making marathon...complete with Dawson's Creek.


We rang in Madeline's second Fourth of July with a parade (which she slept through again), a messy red, white, and blue arts and crafts, and some sangria...for me, not her.  We listened to Dada's concerts on the common with Mimi and Bob.  We visited Montauk where we cruised around on Pop's boat.  We enjoyed the fruits of our garden, and tasted some cupcakes in Vermont. Meanwhile, in the midst of all this madness, I decided to stencil ALL the walls of our office, and I roped Eric into hacking an old set of bookshelves into a dollhouse for Madeline.  Best of all, at the end of the month I was surprised twice in the same weekend with a bachelorette party and bridal shower!  Phew...July was bus-say!


In August we finished up with baby gymnastics, but more importantly, we got MARRIED!!!  After the celebration, I shared some DIY projects...invitations, ribbon wands, pinwheels...oh my!  After the wedding madness, we relaxed by baking zucchini muffins.  Then I forever traumatized my daughter with her first haircut.


Back to reality!  I bemoaned going back to work and missing out on such precious moments as Madeline singing Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.  We celebrated Madeline's second birthday with visits by both grandparent sets.  I even created a cheesy video montage... A few weeks later, we commemorated Ellis Jane's fourth birthday.  Finally, we welcomed fall by apple's the American way!

In October Madeline welcomed us to the wonderful world of temper tantrums.  We ran through some hay mazes, watched football, and Maddie Bear gave her poor Mumma a heart attack by eating a poisonous red berry from the front yard.  We updated the bunny pictures, made some artwork for the office, and I carved Madeline's first jack-o-lantern for her since she was not at all interested in the pumpkins.  We braved Hurricane Sandy, and put Madeline's homemade Halloween costume on hold for the second year in a row due to unnatural weather.

Madeline FINALLY got to go trick-or-treating for the first time.  She was the cutest lawn gnome I've ever seen.  We visited Connecticut with Eric's family where we had to fish a googly eye out of Maddie Bear's ear.  We enjoyed some beautiful fall days by jumping in leaf piles before celebrating Thanksgiving with Mimi and Bob.  And we enjoyed one more crisp day at the beach before the cold really set in.


I got my act together and finished M's advent calendar after two years of procrastination.  We went to the premiere of Curious George where we got to meet the man monkey himself.  We got in the Christmas spirit by visiting Santa, attending the tree-lighting ceremony, and Christmas-fying Eric one strand of lights at a time.  Finally, our hearts were crushed along with the nation's after learning of the tragedy in Connecticut.  After that, I took a break from the blog to enjoy Christmas with my family....which I did...and will tell you more about soon.

And so, 2013?

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Tis the Season TUBA Voting!

Remember this awesome, not at all nerdy, tuba-themed Christmas card I entered in The Paper Mama's Holiday Photo Challenge?!?! 

Well, now the readers have a chance to vote on their favorite. 

I sure would appreciate a click or two or three.  Or...yeah. 

Just follow THIS link to vote.  Scroll down to find our photo, (#51) and click "Like" below the photo. 

Thank you so much for your time!  You are awesome. 

Sunday, December 16, 2012

For What It's Worth...

I vaguely remember being taught once that postmodernism began in response to World War II, and to the Holocaust in particular.  The challenge of creating any kind of fictional representations of life in the face of such real atrocities was unimaginable to some.  What can be said about such horrors?  How can one even attempt to create art to convey those emotions without somehow degrading those emotions?

I bring this random slice of literary theory up because in my own (very) small way, that's how I'm feeling tonight.

How can I even attempt to blog about the silly, unimportant trivialities of my life?  What good are posts about my new dishwasher, or the fact that Madeline has a cold, or the dinner I made my family tonight, when so much unimaginable pain has been coursing through the country the past few days?

To pretend like nothing happened; to continue typing away as if everything was normal, is not right.  But where does one even start trying to address the issue?  What can possibly be said that hasn't already been said?  How can I possibly put into words the feelings I'm having...that we're all having?

Throughout the weekend, packages have been arriving for Christmas.  Every time I opened one of those packages, I thought of the presents, ordered many weeks ago, being delivered to the shattered families in Connecticut, and I just cried.

Or course, the overwhelming question is "Why?"

I'm not sure if I believe in God.  The logical side of me says that it's impossible.  Still, whether it's a man with a long, white beard, or simply some inner light we all carry around inside of us...I like the thought of there being a God.  I want to believe it's possible.  Yet, when events like this happen, it just seems to be further proof that there is nothing but the random wickedness of man.  And that brings a whole different level of sad.

 It does not make any sense.  It will never make any sense.

As a teacher, I am amazed, but not surprised, by the heroic acts that took place within that school.  Some segments of the public often like to paint teachers as lazy, unionized hacks.  The truth is that most teachers are there because helping children is what they want to do most in life.  Taking care of children is instinct to them.  When those teachers were tested, they took care of their children.

As a parent, I'm horrified and shaken raw.  In past national tragedies, I've watched with empathy, horror, and outrage, but nothing like the feelings going through me now.  It's a nightmare brought to life.  That could so easily be us.

I'm also extremely grateful to have been able to cuddle with my sweet daughter all weekend.  This has been a great reminder of how blessed my life is as much as anything else.

Finally, although I usually avoid politics here, I hope we learn from this.  I hope we realize that our right to feel our children are safer, to not have to turn their schools into prisons, is greater than any right to fill our cabinets with a collection of fancy weaponry.  This is a basic human right.  I also hope we learn to take responsibility for the mental disorders that torment so many of our citizens.  Those personal torments ultimately affect us all.  There needs to be help for the families who need it.  Most of all, I hope we take a long look in a mirror over the upcoming weeks to discover exactly what our values as Americans are, and if we've somehow gotten off track.  Why are we a culture of violence?  How do we feed in to it?  How do we prevent it?

Hug your loved ones.  Hug them tight.  Fill the world with light and love the best you can.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Christmas Card

As a family, we're pretty quirky, weird, and nerdy.  Therefore, it only makes sense that we have a quirky, weird, and nerdy Christmas card.  Talk about awkward family photos...

Madeline has been very interested in Eric's instruments lately.  She asks to play his tuba and trumpet all the time.  When we asked her what Santa should bring her, she said a saxophone and a trumpet.  

Obviously, Eric is thrilled.  

This is totally his kind of Christmas card.  I don't actually play an instrument.  Although he joked that next year's card should be a picture of us sitting around reading Shakespeare instead.  Yup.  We're totally awesome.   

So awesome, in fact, that I've entered our card into The Paper Mama's Holiday Photo Challenge!!!  

There's some pretty amazing photographers entering beautiful, professional-looking photos, so I'm not sure that my little card will get much notice...but it's fun to play along anyhow.  

I also entered this challenge back in 2010 when Madeline looked like this:  

I did not make a Christmas Card last year....cause I was lazy.  This year, I'm still lazy, but my priorities are out of whack.  Hmmm.  Housework? Photoshop?  Housework?  Photoshop? So much for laundry...

While you're at it, be sure to check out all the awesome photos over at The Paper Mama.  

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Finding a Christmas Tree

As told in the style of one our favorite children's books...Duck and Goose.  

Christmas is almost here, Madeline.  We better find a tree if we want Santa to leave us presents on Christmas Eve.    

How about this tree, Mumma?  
No.  That tree is too tall.  

How about this tree, Madeline?  

 No.  That tree is too wide.  

How about this tree, Mumma?  

No.  That is not a tree.  

 How about this tree, Madeline?  
That tree is too wet!  

Let's go see that tree, Mumma!
But it's too far!  

How about this tree, Madeline?  

No.  It's missing its point.    

I know!  How about this tree, Madeline and Mumma?  


Wait.  I think we found the perfect tree!  

Merry Christmas!!!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Christmas-fying My Man

Someday, in the not so distant future, when the zombie apocalypse finally hits, here's what will happen in our house.  I will freak the eff out, but possibly take out a few zombies as I screech madly to my death.  After all, I've been reading up on this.  Eric, on the other hand, will barley raise an eyebrow as he glances up from his crossword puzzle in time to watch me roundhouse kick our former neighbors in the face.

"Meh, guess I'll be a zombie now," he'll shrug as the undead start gnawing on his head.

Such is our relationship.  I am over emotional and prone to worrying.  Eric is under emotional and sees no need to get upset unless the roof starts falling on our heads.

As always, our opposite temperaments seep into every aspect of our life...including the holiest of days...the birth of the Baby Jesus.

I get pumped for Christmas.  I become giddy at the thought of decorating cookies.  I get a tingle up my leg when I see the aisles of Christmas crap decor at Target.  I make decorating the Christmas tree a holy ritual.  I even watched The Mistletones on ABC Family last night.  What?!  (In other news, seriously...what happened to Donna Martin's face?  Is it cause they wouldn't let her graduate?)

Eric, on the other hand, pretty much says, "Bah Humbug!" to the whole Christmas season.  He hates carols.  He views Black Friday goers with contempt, and he'd rather avoid the hassle of decorating the house.  In fact, I think if I weren't around, he'd probably just pull a paper bag over his head and wait for it all to be over.  Except, of course, for Tuba Christmas.  Man won't let anything get in the way of him and his Tuba.  

Luckily for Eric, however, I AM around to fill his life with the kind of merriment and joy he only thinks he wants to avoid.  I know deep down inside, there's a Clark Griswold just longing to break free.

For example, every year he tries to convince me to buy a fake tree instead of searching for the perfect real evergreen.  Every year, I cry, "FROM MY COLD, DEAD HANDS!" and mean it.

Take away the joy of searching in the cold for a real tree?  Take away the joy of lugging it in the house like a lumberjack man?  Take away the joy of finding pine needles still wedged in our sofa in April?  Seriously, Eric, consider how much fuller I make your life.

This year, I further enriched Eric's holiday experiences by adding the pleasure of hanging up lights on our house.

He resisted the idea for a long time.  Last year, he simply couldn't be convinced.   Yet, I am nothing if not tenacious.  The final tipping point came last week when a lady from down the street unknowingly came to my rescue.  After commenting on how nice her house looked for the holidays, she suggested that we put up lights too.  "Aw, it's so fun with kids," she said.

Bam.  Got 'em.  This weekend...up the lights went.  Madeline helped.

 Like most of my harebrained schemes, Eric ended up doing most of the work.  Maybe that's why he never seems as enthusiastic as I am.  Hmmmm.  I offered to climb the ladder and do it myself.  Seriously, I would have.  Yet, Eric did not trust me with a ladder and/or staple gun.  Wise.

In the end, just as I suspected, our house looks pretty cute.  It instantly puts me in a good mood when I pull in our driveway to see our twinkling lights.  Next year, perhaps, we'll add even more lights.

 Eric seems on board now that he's accepted his fate.  Which is why I love him.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Letter to Santa

Madeline "wrote" her first letter to Santa this afternoon.  I wrote "Dear Santa" at the top of the page, and signed "Love, Madeline" at the bottom.  Madeline filled in the rest.

She told me she drew a picture of Santa, a circle, and some bananas.  It must be abstract art.

When she was done, we sealed it up in an envelope and addressed it to the North Pole.  That should give those magical mail elves plenty of time to get it to Santa.

 Random thought:  Do you think little children will write letters to Santa forever?  The whole process seems kinda outdated.  What about emails to Santa?  Texts?  FaceTime?  Does Santa have an Instagram?  

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Tree Lighting

Our second advent activity was to visit my home town's tree-lighting ceremony on Sunday afternoon.  This was convenient because Eric also had a concert at the event.  (See how I did that.)

In the past, I've always been a little nervous about bringing Madeline to his concerts.  Maddie Bears are unpredictable.  She may start off by listening pleasantly to some John Philip Sousa march.  Then next minute she may decide to take her shirt off in the middle of Handel's Messiah.  It's not that kind of concert, Madeline.  
Just a man and his trombone...
Yet, as she gets older, she really looks forward to watching her daddy's shows, so I try to take her as often as I can.  On Sunday, she was so excited that she couldn't settle down for her nap.  Instead she spent two hours jumping up and down in her crib, calling out, "We see Dada's concert!" from time to time.  We've got a future band geek on our hands.

As an added bonus, my parents and sister's family were able to make it to the ceremony too, which allowed Madeline to visit with her cousin.  Not only are they the closest cousins in age, but they are also the only two girl cousins.  

At first, they sat side by side like demure little angels.  They kept their ankles crossed and their hands clasped in their laps.  Every now and again, they'd cast shy little smiles and sideways glances at one another.  

By the end of the concert, they were dancing like maniacs in the aisles.  Well, my niece danced.  Madeline still mostly hops to express herself.  

After the concert, we watched the tree light up on the town common before walking around a bit to see the local landmarks.  Even though I grew up in town, and Eric has been playing this gig for several years now, this was the first time I'd actually been to the tree lighting.  

When Katie Belle got her face painted, Madeline watched curiously from the sidelines.  As soon as Katie was done, Maddie strode right up there for her turn.  Monkey see.  Monkey do.  

We've been using this admiration to our advantage the last couple of days. 

"Madeline, you don't want to put on your coat?  But this was Katie Belle's coat.  She gave it to you!" On goes the jacket.  

"Madeline, you don't want to use the potty?  All big girls use the potty.  I bet Katie Belle does!"  Off to the potty she goes.  

Thanks, Katie Belle.  You're helping out big!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Visiting Santa

Our first advent calendar activity was to visit Santa Claus.  As an added bonus, the sky was filled with big, beautiful, fluffy white snowflakes on Saturday morning.  It was the perfect backdrop to visit the jolly man from the North Pole.   

We went to the same garden center we visited last year.  It's awesome.  No lines and no ridiculous fees.  They accept donations to charity instead.  Plus, the Santa is awesome.   

Madeline is just starting to understand the concept of Santa Claus.  She likes seeing him on TV...even in car commercials...and she pretends to talk to him on the phone.  

On the way to visit him on Saturday, we practiced what he'd ask her, and what she should tell him.  During our run-through, she told me she'd ask him for some people, a trumpet, and a saxophone.  (She's her father's daughter.)  

Once Maddie Bear saw the big guy in person, however, all that practicing went right out the window.  

 She was definitely unsure about the whole process, but she wasn't completely freaked out either.  I'm pleased to report we've now had three Santa visits without shedding a tear.  

Showing us Madeline's name written on his "nice" list.  
 The only way we could get her up to see him was to go up there with her.  She sat on my lap uneasily for about one whole minute before she retreated to the safety of Dada's arms.

I love the similarities in Madeline's body language between this year's pictures and last year's.   The only real difference is that she's bigger.

 After pictures were finished, Madeline asked the elf for a candy cane, and we wandered around looking at all the Christmas plants and decorations.  There's also a pretty cool train set that Madeline enjoyed watching while she nom-ed on her candy.
 After this trip, I am totally in the Christmas spirit.  I can't wait to see Madeline's face on Christmas morning after Santa pays a visit to our house.

 P.S.  Thanks for the pictures, Mimi and Bob!