Saturday, December 27, 2014

Dear Firstborn Son,

Fourteen years ago to the hour, Dad and I were on our way to the hospital in the midst of a snowstorm excited and a little scared to welcome you.  Excited because we already loved you so.  Scared for the very same reason.  Parenting is a colossal responsibility and an even bigger privilege.  Being a mom is both the most difficult and most rewarding thing I have ever done.  Difficult because I never want to make a mistake.  Rewarding because you love me even when I do.

We'd read all the books and prepared the nursery in the months before your arrival.  Family members stocked our fridge with Christmas leftovers in the days before, and Dad just finished installing our satellite dish a few hours before my water broke on the 26th.  We called Dr. Trebian because that's what they told us to do in birthing class. She told us she'd see us at the hospital and to drive safely.  We did.

We arrived a little after midnight.  Nanny beat us to the hospital and was waiting for us when we arrived.  I didn't quite understand exactly how eager she was at the time, but now I apologize in advance to you that I may do the same thing one day.  My labor was textbook and easy just like my pregnancy.  I got my epidural, relaxed for a few hours and then pushed when the doctor told me to. 

And then you were born on the cold, snowy December morning.  I loved you more than I could fathom in the very moment that I held you and looked into your eyes.  You stopped crying and looked back at me.  It was but an instant, but time stood still.  You were mine.  I was yours.  In that moment, I realized what no doctor, book or grandparent could convey.  I realized what an incredible gift it is to be a be your mother.  Teddy you were the last and best gift of Christmas 2000.  I have cherished being your mom every day since that first.

It seems like yesterday that you were born and now here you are fourteen and in your last year of middle school.  There are so many firsts in your bright future.  Growing up is exciting and hard, but you sure make it look easy for the moment.  You're a natural at life and we are so proud of you. You are an exceptional young man.  Just know that the promise I made to you in the moments after your birth December 27, 2000...the promise to love, protect and celebrate you always...well, that promise will always be true.

I love you T. Bone.  Happy Birthday!


Friday, December 26, 2014

Grateful Friday

Today I give thanks for...

The abundant blessings of Christmas.  It has been a festive few days filled with so much goodness.   I love it all: the traditions and rituals, the time with family and friends, the giving and receiving, the carols and cookies and the church service that always puts me in the best spirit.  Here are just a handful of the brightest joy moments.

1. We had to wake them on Christmas morning.  It wasn't easy as Christmas Eve was long and lingering in the way that all the best nights of the year ought to be. Despite the fulfilled wish lists from the night before, they had more presents to receive and were made even happier as if that were possible.

2. Christmas is for cats too.  The boys loved everything, but especially the ribbons, boxes and sleds.

3. Miss Bit patiently waiting to open presents (if you can call that expression and stance patient).  You should have seen her after presents when she wanted to get home before Santa.

4. Cookies for Santa.  Even T. Bone helped do a little decorating again this year.  Lily is my side kick in the kitchen, but it is nice when he too joins in on the fun.

5. We fancied up a half batch of gingerbread because we are working with a small interim oven.  Still we ended up with dozens of Rudolphs, doves and candy canes.  A few red squirrels too...don't judge.  It's one of our unique traditions.  I pared down the cookie list this year, but we still made about ten batches and 5 different varieties. 

6. I wasn't sure Fred would be back this year.  The kids are growing up, but then Lily reminded me with a twinkle in her eye that he usually arrives with St. Nick.  Lo and behold she was right.

7. My Nanny tree.  I love having this bright shining reminder of my mom.  I managed to not feel too sorry for myself until late on Christmas night when Coach and I watched The Family Stone.  I laughed and I cried and then I slept the sleep of the dead.

8. Another tradition: the annual Li Bien ornaments.  My mom started buying them for Teddy and Lily when they were born, and I carry it on as I know she would want me to.

9. Christmas morning with just my four.  My six really.  We get coffee or cocoa with lots of whipped cream,  turn up the carols and take our time opening our gifts.  It doesn't have to be much.  It just has to be right. 

10. After opening gifts, T. Bone confessed that he couldn't think of one more thing he wants or needs for his birthday.  His birthday is in a few hours.  He is fortunate.  He both knows and appreciates this.

11. It was a tacky Christmas Eve.  The guys all got into the theme.  I'm pretty sure I gave my dad the ugly sweater he's wearing.  I'm pretty sure I gave it to him in the 80s.

12. The girls.  Lily is actually wearing the vest my mom wore every Christmas Eve.  That made me smile with my heart.  I knew I saved it for good reason and although it wasn't tacky, she donned plenty of accessories to ensure she fit the theme.

13. Christmas Eve mass is not the most convenient, but it is the most beautiful.  I love it more than any other and especially when Father Tim is presiding.  The take away from his homily this year was stand up, make peace and give love.  When he rhetorically asked the congregation if we didn't agree that the world would be a much better place if we reacted with love and hugs instead of anger, the three year old in the front pew loudly answered, NO!  The whole church cut up as Father went straight to the alter and got down on his knees to pray.  He's part comedian part spiritual leader and we all love him for the lightness he brings to the levity.

14.  A horsey Christmas for my equine loving little lady.

15.  A sporty Christmas for our resident all American.  His bases were covered: baseball, football, golf and skiing.

16. This guy headed back to the North Pole with Santa on Christmas night.  I was ready.

17. Ugly sweater selfwies.  I regretted not buying the selfie stick for someone.

18. Tigger should have enough cat nip to last until 2016.

19. Coach made the Christmas morning cinnamon buns, and they were the best!  He made the traditional Polish sausage too.  I am so passing the baton on this one.

20.  Christmas treats like candied cranberries and other seasonal goodies not pictured but also often consumed like Tom and Jerrys, homemade Irish cream, peppermint bark and fairy food.

21. These gingerbread cakes were not easy, but they were worth it.  They tasted as good as they looked.  I went to put them in the oven at midnight on Christmas Eve Eve only to realize that my muffin pan didn't fit in my new Easy Bake oven. I don't know what I was thinking to take on dessert this year.  At least I didn't have to bake the panna cotta.

22. The most longed for gift of Christmas 2014, and the very last one she opened.  She handled it well though and resigned herself to asking for it for her birthday if need be, but Grandma and Grandpa Wags came through.  Her birthday is in August btw!

23. Cousin GiGi put together a touching video that we laughed and cried through after Christmas Eve dinner.  It was such a thoughtful gift and one we all needed.  Ugly sweater snark and holiday cheer aside, it's good to get a little touchy feely during the holidays.

24. Tigger is counting the days until the Epiphany.  That's when the tree can come down and the bench he sits on 12 hours a day gets moved back.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

two day pass

it was a weekend of finishing touches, firsts and lasts.
the kids had their last day of school and are now on vacation for 2 weeks.
they are off for 14 whole days!
miss bit had her last riding lesson friday night.
she cantered without a lead for the first time.
she was first nervous and last elated.
we bought the last gift and i wrapped the first one.
i made the first batch of irish cream and mixed the last batch of gingerbread.
although if i'm to be completely honest, i'm pretty sure more cookies will be coming.
and a few last minute gifts as well.
we watched the christmas story for the first time and celebrated the last sunday of advent, which fell humbly on the winter solstice...the first day of winter and the shortest day of the year.
we hummed silent night for the first time this season, or rather we wooo woooed it.
there is a beautiful difference between hmmmm hmmming and wooo wooing.
i got chills and a tear or two in the middle of the song.
we surprised the kids with tickets to see varakei.
at first only lily was over the moon, but in the end even our resident teenager was impressed.
it was quite an amazing and beautiful show.
funny too and not as dark as so many of the stories.
of the five cirques i have seen, this one ranks second only to mystere.
after the show we made our way up brewers hill to have dinner at the jackson blue ribbon.
it was t. bone's choice and a good one.
coach says they have the best wings in the city, and ted is rather fond of their pizza and shuffle board.
i regretted splitting the grilled pork chop sandwich with mike only because i wanted the other half for lunch the next day.
after holiday lights tour around the neighborhood, lily and i curled up in bed and started the sound of music.
i drifted off in the middle of my favorite things, which is to say not long after the show started.
this last weekend before Christmas was a good one.


Friday, December 19, 2014

Grateful Friday

Today I give thanks for...

My buddy.  It's a vanilla almond cappuccino number that I am happy to be friendly with.
Lily's and packed with a decade's worth of St. Nick and Aunt Jess ornaments. 
The 18 year balsamic we picked up last weekend.  It's so good that even Lily switched from her beloved ranch to oil and vinegar.

Holiday classics like The Family Stone and A Christmas Story all lined up for the weekend ahead.

A weekend that will mostly be devoted to wrapping and relaxing before the festivities begin.  And perhaps the consumption of a hot toddy or two.

Cake for breakfast.  Cake for breakfast with lots of whipped cream and a few berries.  Smiles from happy kids.

Miss Bit reading all my favorite children's Christmas books out loud to me before I tuck her in at night.  That we are never too old to enjoy these classics from childhood.

I made a few batches of cookies this week.  It just doesn't feel like Christmas until I bring out my tattered Electric Company cookbook and get busy with dough.  It's the same cookbook my brother and I used when we first started baking  probably when I was my daughter's age.  It's so special to me that now she and I bake together.

A meeting tomorrow with a kitchen designer.  It's the first scary and exciting step in what I know will be a long remodeling road.

Harney and Sons cinnamon tea.

I don't have to make lunches or shag kids off to bed for the next two weeks.  Coach doesn't have to rouse sleepy heads, supervise homework or go to work for that matter.

A change in routine.  It is a good thing and we are all ready for it.

Monday, December 15, 2014

On My Mind Monday

  It contained some of my personal favorites such as:

 And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.
-John Steinbeck, East of Eden 
How wild it was, to let it be.
-Cheryl Strayed, Wild 

I wondered if that was how forgiveness budded; not with the fanfare of epiphany, but with pain gathering its things, packing up, and slipping away unannounced in the middle of the night.
-Khaled Hosseini, The Kite Runner

I would also add: 

Ships at a distance have every man’s wish on board. For some they come in with the tide. For others they sail forever on the horizon, never out of sight, never landing until the Watcher turns his eyes away in resignation, his dreams mocked to death by Time. That is the life of men. Now, women forget all those things they don’t want to remember and remember everything they don’t want to forget. The dream is the truth. Then they act and do things accordingly.
-Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God 
I think there's just one kind of folks. Folks.
-Harper Lee, To Kill A Mockingbird 
Grief does not change reveals you.
-John Green, The Fault in our Stars 
So this is reality, I thought.  It's hot and bare and permanent, it's broken and chipped and huge, it will last forever, even if it ruins, it will make you speechless.
-Susanna Kaysen, Cambridge 

Listen. To live is to be marked. To live is to change, to acquire the words of a story, and that is the only celebration we mortals really know. In perfect stillness, frankly, I've only found sorrow.
-Barbara Kingsolver, The Poisonwood Bible

 A single person is missing for you and the whole world is empty.
-Joan Didion, The Year of Magical Thinking

And I could go on and on because I love words and the feelings they convey when they are soulfully strung together, but I won't.


Sunday, December 14, 2014

two day pass

this weekend was...

friday on the farm.
our second to last until spring.
she rode with confidence even though admiral was testy and a little uncooperative on the cold, dark night.

dinner out with my brother and sil after riding.
i finally quenched my months long burger craving.
it didn't matter that they no longer make milky way pie 'cuz lily had no room after fried cheese curds, wings and chicken tenders.

up early on saturday to see teddy off for a day of skiing.
(after a night of skiing.)
lily and i ventured reluctantly to the mall to do her christmas shopping.
we were surprised to find parking easy and check out quick.
she rocked it and managed to pick out presents for all but one person on her list of 12.
she also found several things for herself.
i told her my no buying anything for myself in december rule.
she wasn't impressed, but she adhered.
we celebrated her shopping success over lunch at the food court.
why do kids so love this experience?

a chill saturday night at home.
the four of us played a game, and enjoyed dinner that coach planned, shopped for and prepared for us.
he stood outside in the damp cold grilling us ribs in the dark.
now that is love.
he had the flavor down and plans to perfect the technique.
we will happily be his guinea pigs.
we all lived and there were no leftovers.
after dinner, we watched remember the titans.
even teddy who can usually give or take a night at the movies unless it's james bond or such.
we all enjoyed it very much.
it was uncannily timely.

up early again on sunday for church.
it was the third sunday of advent known as gaudete sunday.
gaudete is latin for rejoice.
father tim acknowledged that things are difficult in this world right now and rejoicing is not always our first or most comfortable response.
but he reminded us that it is natural to feel joy and sorrow simultaneously.
it is what makes us human.
we sang o come emmanuel and i was definitely rejoicing.
while the kids attended sunday school, coach and i visited the public market.
i wanted to see the gingerbread houses on display.
they were the handiwork of students in the culinary arts department of a local college.
our favorite was the church complete with stained glass windows and pews inside.
miss bit and i have to up our game next year!
we scooped up the kids and headed to gloriosos to get some lunch.
muffulettas and pizza pies and pizza breads before homework and chores and errands and workouts.

company pot roast for sunday dinner.
the gravy for which is made of leeks, onions, garlic, celery, carrots, tomatoes, cognac, stock, red wine, rosemary, thyme, and salt and pepper, and is so amazing that you want to eat it on everything especially if you are coach.
i had to take a nap after dinner and before finally finishing a secret history just in time for a new week.
(weeks start on monday in my world.)
i cannot say to you read this, but i'm not disappointed that i did so I cannot say don't.
i'll start something new tomorrow.
every day offers a fresh start.
isn't that the beauty of it all?

Friday, December 12, 2014

Grateful Friday

Today I give thanks for...

Keeping it real...This blog post.

Keeping it light...This Williams Sonoma snark!

Keeping it silly... this book.  Mike and I made a bit of a scene at Target laughing through it.

Wild is finally out.  I loved Strayed's novel for many reasons.  I'm hoping I love the movie just as much. I hope Reese does the part justice.

Children of character.  I am blessed because both of my kids are moral, honest and kind. I learned something this week that filled me with mama pride, but I've been sworn to secrecy and so I'll leave it at that.

Teachers who make a difference every day.

Stellar first semester report cards and the hard work that delivered them.

Gingerbread house decorating.  This was a first for me, but it was such fun that I see it becoming another annual holiday tradition.  Lily thought it was a blast too and I think we could have coerced Ted into joining us if we told him that was the only way he could sample the candy.

I took him out shopping this week to buy his gifts.  Shopping with him is an experience.  He really makes me laugh.  He so loves a good deal and will tell anyone and everyone when he gets one.  It's nice and rare to spend one on one with my busy teenager, but when I do, I am always happier for it.

Li Bien ornaments.  Each year my mom gave the kids one of these beauts and I have carried on the tradition so we have like 40.  No two are the same, and they all are special.  I buy myself the signature angel each year in memorium of her.  This year's angel is one of my favorites. My mom wasn't overly sentimental, but she definitely left her mark, and lives on in our hearts and on our tree.

T. Bone has two ski trips this weekend.  He has lots of energy so it's good for him (and us) to expel it.

Family night on the farm tonight,  My brother and sil are coming to watch Lily ride.  She's made much progress since they last saw her so I think they will be impressed.


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

December Inventory

Reading I'm just about finished with A Secret History, Tartt's first novel. I started it at the beginning of November proving that sadly there hasn't been much time devoted to reading this month.

Wondering what to buy my dad and my brother.  They are always the two people I have the most trouble coming up with gift ideas for.

Noticing the phenomenon by which time moves faster as I age.  Intellectually I know that a minute is still a minute...a day is still a day, but emotionally time passage defies any rational thought or logic.

Watching Master Chef Jr., Top Chef and The Taste.  I gave up on Californication.  I felt like I needed to go to detox after each episode. We have tickets to Varekei later this month.  I think the kids will really enjoy it.  They've seen one other Cirque, but Lily was only 5 and she has no memory of the show.

Listening to all Christmas all the time.  My favorites are Sarah McClalan's Wintersong, Jack Johnson's A Christmas Song, Grover Washington Jr.'s Breath of Heaven, Natalie Cole's The Holly and the Berry, and O Come Emanuel sung by the church choir.

Eating comfort food lately and a new old recipe last night.  I've had Swedish meatballs on my mind.  I finally found a recipe that I liked.  They were delicious.  Lily, our resident carnivore and meatball aficionado, gave them a 10 out of 10, and Ted gave them a high 7.

Drinking the usual suspects and thinking of making a batch of Irish cream for the holidays seeing as how I will be forgoing most holiday baking this year.

Dreaming about a year of Decembers. 

Feeling everything, which is both good and bad.

Wanting to keep the focus on Christ and also to think of and do for the less fortunate and lonely.   It's a serious challenge in a culture so consumed with stuff.  We are enticed by the latest and the greatest when what we have is perfectly fine and enough.  The Millennials have an insatiable appetite for more, which is not as disturbing to me as is their expectation that it is their right to be given what they want when they want it.  And equally as unsettling is the way their parents, my generation, stuffs them with stuff without thinking about the consequences.

Wearing a pretty new to me pink scarf I had to have when I spotted it at the consignment shop, and lots of black and grey.

Hoping that 2015 is a year of action for me.  A year of growth too.  2014 felt stifling and a little bit sad.  I don't want a repeat of that.

Thinking that a walk would feel great today.  It's only in the 20s, but the paths are clear of ice and snow and I have lots of warm layers.

Enjoying the cats enjoying the Christmas tree.  This is them right now:

Loving peppermint bark and fairy food, a Frasier fir scented candle, a house and world awash in twinkly lights, advent season at church, and the joy and wonder of the holidays especially as experienced through the eyes of my children.

Monday, December 8, 2014

2 day pass

we woke to find st. nick visited in the night filling stockings and then some.
i guess the kids and the cats have been real good this year.
the best gift for the whole family was the cats' nano bug.
the boys are stalking it right now as it roams around the living room disappearing behind couches and under armoires.
t. bone spent most of the weekend at one ski hill or another, and was perfectly happy to do so.
miss bit was happy to hang out with mike and i.
we cheered her on in a swim championship saturday.
she was, however,  less than excited to see the back stroke as one of her events again.
lily did fine with it as we knew she would, and she rocked the breast stroke and free style.
her team was in the lead for the entire meet and then ended up in second place.
she was just thrilled to get a real medal.
lily and i trimmed the tree after catching up on masterchef jr.
she is learning the significance of each and every ornament, and i think loving them more for their story.
the oral tradition lives on at casa wags.
ted returned home in time for carryout from our favorite tacqueria and we settled in to watch the badgers.
miss bit and i only lasted for the first half before retreating upstairs to watch its a wonderful life.
i had never seen it.
well, i still haven't seen much of it as it put me to sleep.
i guess i'm more of a christmas story girl.
is that blasphemy? it feels like it.
we slept in sunday morning and almost missed church, which certainly would have been blasphemous.
while t. bone was at sunday school, the three of us went for hot drinks and bagels, and then we all celebrated the second sunday of advent at late church.
and also said special prayers for my grandma who went to heaven 7 years ago that day.
it seems impossible that it's been 7 years and also that christmas is in less than 3 weeks.
i know the days aren't shorter and the years aren't faster, but it sure feels like it.
lily and i stopped at a friend's holiday craft fair to do a little shopping.
miss bit picked out a few gifts for herself and for others too.
ala one for me one for you.
and then she won a door prize because she's the luckiest person I know.
also purest of heart and most deserving.
and then the phone rang to say she and coach both won prizes in the church raffle, which just reinforced her lucky streak.
coach made my salsa and our favorite dough for pizza.
the salsa tasted better than when i make it and the pizzas were more cumbersome down an oven, but just as delicious.
my brother and sil stopped by for a little holiday cheer and we wrapped up the weekend beside the warm glow of the tree.
 and at that moment in time all was right and good and at peace in the day, weekend, world.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Grateful Friday

Today I give thanks for...

Curling up in bed last night to watch Peter Pan with Lily.  I wasn't particularly wowed by the production, but anything I do with Miss Bit is worth doing.

A quiet house tonight as I write.  Coach has taken Miss Bit riding and T. Bone is at ski club.

We've already made a sizable dent in our Christmas shopping.  Choosing just the right gifts in the spirit of the season.

Someone asked me what I wanted for Christmas and I couldn't come up with anything off the cuff.  I'm grateful to have all of what I need and most of what I want. 

Coach found the boots Ted wants.  Needs too.  Last winter he wore a 10.  He's a 13 now.  Most stores are already sold out of his size.  I'm a little flummoxed by that given that it is not even officially winter yet.

A house strung in white twinkling lights inside and out.

I spent all day Wednesday cleaning the house and then cleaning my car.  When I crawled in bed, I felt like I endured a tough workout, which I, more or less, did.

Peace in my city.

My bed flannel sheeted and usually occupied by two snuggly cats.

An electric bill that was less than budgeted despite record cold temperatures this November.

Simple family rituals that define our little life here at Casa Wags.  The holidays are rich with so many meaningful traditions that bring us all closer together.

Books and people who love them as much as I do.  One of Ted's friends told him the other day that he is a voracious reader and then he quipped, "Most people live 100 years, but readers live 100 lives."  I wanted to reach into the back seat and give him a hug so tickled was I by his words.  I will give A. a ride home any day!

Friendly people.  Kind people too.

Authenticity.  It is a word that is a bit overused now, but I haven't found a less liberally used one that resonates quite as deeply with me.  It's what I admire most in others, and what I strive for too.

St. Nicholas comes tonight.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Goodbye November

The Day grew small, surrounded tight
By early, stooping Night --
The Afternoon in Evening deep
Its Yellow shortness dropt --
The Winds went out their martial ways
The Leaves obtained excuse --
November hung his Granite Hat
Upon a nail of Plush --
The Day grew small surrounded tight
Emily Dickinson

The smallest day is coming in December.  Like so many I am here wondering how it is already the last month of 2014.

Monday, December 1, 2014

2 day pass

i wasn't going to write this weekending wrap up today.
and then after i wrote it, i wasn't sure about posting it.
i write honestly, but i don't disclose everything.
some things are too private, or too painful, and some things are just mine, or not mine at all.
this long weekend was filled with high highs and low lows.
and that's all i can say because the lows are not my stories to tell.
in some ways it seems inauthentic to edit out the dark spots and share only the joy moments.
but in others, it seems like exactly the way to proceed...
to focus on the good, to extract the marrow, to shine the light on what i want to remember.
things like miss bit staking claim to not one, but two turkey legs and then bellying up to the poker table with the boys after dinner and walking away the big winner (with lots of help i am certain).
and realizing that t. bone is as tall as my tall aunt now, and he picks out the best christmas trees too.
and spending so much spontaneous time with my cousin visiting from colorado.
and in laws who understand that i need to be with her instead of them this time.
and connecting with my cousins spread out across the country if only by phone.
and a beautiful day for shopping in lake geneva.
and a brother in law who comes to help his brother hang lights, and a frister who comes to help me heal my heart.
loved ones hurt us and they help us.
families are complicated and forever.
holidays are bitter and sweet.
life is at times trying and at times rewarding.
we must take the good with the bad and live on.