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It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

15 Dec

Thing I Love: The little things (Christmas style)

Today I have a laundry list of things I love. Laundry, shockingly enough, is not one of them. Here we go.

Walmart*: I’m pretty sure I’ve done this one before. If not, I should have. Judge if you will, but this place does our family such a service. It’s price-matching alone saves us billions of dollars every week. Yes, billions. The mere fact that I don’t have to cart my boys over the river and through the woods to every sale-touting grocery store is a brilliant gift. Today was a special day at our favorite bargain barn, as their staff was Out Of this Discount World helpful. The photo man rushed my one-hour service. My clerk ensured I price-matched items of which I had no prior knowledge. And today I got car side service. Yes, one of their employees donned winter apparel to assist me with my cart-ful of groceries and little boys. Thank you, thank you, and thank you.

Christmas Carols: Yeah, I know. Everyone loves these. But they are playing a unique role in my 3-year-old’s world these days. We are regularly regaled with completely original Carol Mash-ups like “Up on The Holly Jolly Housetop” and “Jesus is Coming to Town”. He’s also been fitting little lines from these songs into his daily communication. The other day he beguilingly asked me “Won’t you drive my sleigh tonight?”, and last night as he was saying good night to AJ and I he wished us “a merry Christmas and a happy new year”.  And often he gets confused by dated lyrics. He regularly sings of “the timings of Christmas”. Good timing.

House Guests: Because I rarely allow people exposure to our chaotic abode, hosting TWO get-togethers in the next week has me cleaning and organizing places I had forgotten existed. Today I was excited to find a savings bond gifted to my 3-year-old upon his birth 3-ish years ago. I was also super pumped to know that I had not one, but 4 bottles of Zyrtec. Oh, and opened dark chocolate doesn’t age well. Just an FYI.

Sweet Potatoes and These candied tubers are on sale a lot these days. In addition to making loads of Henry food I have found a muffin recipe that pleases each of my male minions (and some that aren’t mine). Try them.

Christmas Carols: What? I did this already? Ah, well. Bear with me. This time our incessant listening has created in our Eldest a love of The Jackson 5, because of this song. We’ll let the young Michael Jackson play a role in his life. Why not?

This blog and its readers (Hey! That’s YOU!): When my sister and I landed on the idea to do this blog I had no idea how much joy it would bring me. I find comfort in the wise, silly, and creative antics of my sister. I love collaborating with her. It’s almost as though she doesn’t live 11-ish hours away. I also love sharing my life with others who so respectfully and kindly take part. Thank you.

So, that’s it. My cup of cocoa runneth over.



8 Dec

Things I (We) Love:  Our Twins

Now, don’t get me wrong, outside of the clever Thing 1 and Thing 2 reference that can be made, I typically think of them as people not objects.  Also, while we’re making sure everything is crystal clear, regardless of what you are about to read, I do love them.  Very, very much.  That’s why they are allowed to stay.  Otherwise, they’d be off to boarding school faster than you can say “Cat in the Hat.”

For your reading enjoyment, with a heavy side of “Whew!  I’m sure glad I’m not her!,”  here is a brief rundown of what our 15-mo-old Twins were able to accomplish today.  Please keep in mind, that despite my propensity for exaggeration they did do each and every one of these things in the last 24 hours:

  • Peter tackled the cat.
  • Cecilia took Pete’s cup at breakfast and then acted as if she was giving it back to him, only to pull quickly away everytime he reached to regain his milk.  A delighted “No!” and guilty smile shaped her mouth.
  • Pete pulled our good serving platter, bowls and several other large, breakable items out of the china cabinet.
  • Cecilia fell off the desk.
  • Peter stood on the dining room table.
  • They emptied a bag of 72 individual teeth flossers on the bathroom floor.
  • Peter unplugged the TV, DVR, computer and Christmas tree.  Numerous times.
  • They pulled out the entire contents of a newly opened Kleenex box.  They must have meant them as gifts to me, because I found the pile under the Christmas tree.
  • Peter tried to clean the toilet with the back scrubber.  Then he threw in some bath toys for good measure.
  • Cecilia threw the nativity scene down their changing table.
  • They stole butter knives out of the dishwasher and toddled around the kitchen wielding them.
  • Cecilia nabbed a yam from the potato bin and gave it a tour of the house.
  • They removed the few remaining ornaments from the bottom of  our already top-heavy Christmas tree.  Despite what I said earlier, I fear it could topple.
  • Peter sharpened pencils.
  • Cecilia ran interference.
  • Peter sharpened scissors.  In the pencil sharpener.
  • Cecilia squealed in delight, or warning.  It’s unclear.
  • Peter tried to help Thomas with his math manipulatives.  They were both working on subtraction.

You’ll have to forgive the lack of pictures.  I was a little busy.  No!  Wait!  I have this one from exactly a year ago.

I think I’ll just stare at that for awhile.


Slow and Steady Wins By A Neck

1 Dec

The other day I was reassembling the newspaper after our oldest scavenged the comic pages when I ran across a fashion article that piqued my interest.  You see, I am really interested in fashion, especially when it coincides with a particular style that has been a staple in my life for, well, all my life.

So when the Grand Rapids Press runs a syndicated article stating that turtlenecks are the “Must Have” wardrobe piece for Winter 2012 I say, “Have.”  Plus, I’m pretty sure all the hip young kids take their fashion cues from newspapers these days.

Turtlenecks are definitely a Thing I Love (I’ll leave it up to my sister to decide if she would like parenthetical inclusion on this subject.)  My closet is organized by color and there are very few sections of the spectrum that go without one of these cozy tops.  Although I do wonder if clothing manufacturers have an aversion to warm colors for cold weather gear, because I lack shirts in the yellow/orange family.  Oh!  And purple.  I have no purple!

Note to self:  update Amazon Wish List.

As with most of my questionable quirks this one has a strong genetic component.  Our Mom’s neck can only be viewed from May through September.  One might be concerned that she has just one look, but this is untrue.  As both mom and the article attest, the sturdy turtleneck can sport its fashion weight in many arenas.

Just look at the possibilities:  turtlenecks with sweatshirts, turtlenecks with sweaters, turtlenecks with blazers, and we’ve recently introduced Mom to turtlenecks with scarves.  She isn’t so risque as to attempt to wear a turtleneck by itself, but the fashionista who reported on the versatile top claims even that can be done.

At our house we have found that they are also good for newborns, Halloween costumes, and an all-day hug-around-the-neck feeling.  Although I wouldn’t recommend them if you are planning to visit the Henry Doorly Zoo’s Desert Dome.

This is where I should wrap this up by saying, “Don’t just take it from me . . .”  and provide you with a handy link to the trend-setting written proof;  but since the paper has long been recycled, I took no photographic evidence of the article, and a google search left me questioning my memory, you’ll have to settle instead for, “Take it from me and my great recollection of this very reliable source:  Turtlenecks are cool (and also warm.)”

I wouldn’t have dreamed up something that is so obviously  logical, likely, and important, right?



Hey, Lovebucket. Happy Birthday.

17 Nov

November is a birthday heavy month in these parts. Today’s? My super spectacular husband, A.J. And, lucky for me that his birthday falls on Things I(we) Love Thursday, because GUESS WHAT! I love that guy.


Okay, there are many things about my husband I love. He’s a generous, helpful spouse, an energetic, silly, and loving father. He’s cool & handsome & interesting & weird & and never takes himself too seriously. I love those characteristics. But, today, as I drive to Lincoln to see his choir perform at Nebraska’s Music Educator’s convention I’d like to talk about his talent.

My helpmate is a terrific teacher. I’ve had the privilege to witness him at work innumerable times – a rare gift. Initially in our marriage I served as accompanist to his middle school choirs. What? Gasp. We worked together?!? Unheard of. Preposterous. Wonderful. I’d give anything to work with him again, but alas my piano skills reach only as far as middle school repertoire goes (and he already has a fantastic accompanist that is far less lazy than I). During those years at the middle school I witnessed Adolescent Mind Molding Magic. I honestly thought that AJ had found his niche. When one is able to get a group of fifty 13-year-olds to not only learn and understand, but enjoy the Mystery of Key Signatures, that person can teach. And that was AJ. Through character voices, common interests (he has MANY with middle schoolers), and an overabundance of crazy positive energy, he was able to reach those puberty-addled brains. Daily I was impressed.

Then he went to teach high school and I just wasn’t sure those more mature minds would be forgiving of his level of nutso. Well, they were. They glommed onto the geeky like gangsters to Glocks.

Once again, on a smaller scale, I have been privy to this wonderful tutelage. Through subbing, after school activities, and a propensity to loiter I have seen his instruction, watched his interactions, and heard the outcome, and I am here to tell you – he’s got it. He is a man who GETS teaching. He is there for the students. He has found a way to empathize with and relate to them that astounds me. And I couldn’t be prouder. Oh, wait – I could. Because here’s the cooler thing – he shares his devotion to his work with us. He lets us in to his teaching world. His students know our boys and me. We know them. He has found a way to not only teach music. He also teaches the importance of family and of giving all of one’s God-given vocations their full worth. He helps kids sing pretty, sure. But more importantly, he gives them a model of familial citizenship that I fear is lost these days. And that is what throws me over the edge of pride.

And so, AJ (if you’re reading this!), I wish you the best of birthdays and congratulations on creating an environment that gives your students opportunities like today’s. Love love love.

Listing the Love

10 Nov

It’s a good thing my birthday fell on a Wednesday so that today could be Things I (We) Love Thursday.  I plan to steal a page right out of my sister’s playbook and list for you some things about my square rootable birthday that made me incredibly happy.

1.  Starbucks.  A long, long time ago I was delighted to receive a Starbucks gift card.  In the corner was a teensy sticker encouraging me to register the card and thereby make myself eligible for a free birthday drink.  Starbucks was true to their promise and so yesterday I loaded up the youngins, explained that Mommy was going to get her birthday present from the Coffee Restaurant, and turned in my cute, little, postcard coupon for a luscious, creamy Eggnog Latte.  Venti.   And as if that weren’t enough to warm my heart and stomach, my receipt was one of the happy print-outs to get a survey option that gives me, yes, another free drink.  When this gift card is all spent and done  I will have scored at least eight beverages off it’s $10 generosity.  And that, my friends, is what I love.  Well, that and Eggnog Latte.

2.  A drama free trip to Walmart*.  A trip to the Big Blue Box was necessary to procure supplies necessary for our Hogwarts House Competition.  What?  You want to hear about how I am tricking my children into cleaning the house this week while we’re on fall break?  Sorry, that’s a post for another day.  This is strictly about the fact that my children were obedient, relatively quiet, and even helpful as we marched our stroller/cart parade all of the way around the store.  A mother of five could not ask for a better present from her offspring.

3.  New Socks.  While at WallyWorld I treated my feet to new socks.  They weren’t even on sale.  Can you say splurge?

4.  Jamma Dresses.  This has nothing to do with my birthday, except that I snapped a picture of it yesterday morning, and I thought this post would be boring without some photographic adornment.  I now present to you our one and only daughter in a nightgown, or as we will call them from now until forever thanks to Abraham, a Jamma Dress:

5.  YakTrax.  This handy-dandy gift from my parents will assure that every time I fall during my runs this winter it will be only as a result of my clumsiness, and not poor traction or slick surfaces.

6.  Stacy’s overkindness.  Did you read her crazy post?  I can’t even link it here it’s so over the top.  Yikes.  As I was reveling in the sap, her children called to remind me that I looked a bit like something one might spot at a zoo.  That dried those tears faster than a Kleenex-brand tissue.

7.  Birthday Greetings.    This is where you come in:  thank you, thank you, thank you!  Whether in the form of phone calls, voice mails, e-mails, or facebook messages I was overwhelmed to receive your well wishes.  On a day when the only humans I encountered face to face that knew it was my birthday were those with whom I share a house, the 14,565 “Happy Birthday”s from the outside world brought joy and celebration into an otherwise solitary and ordinary routine.  To be fair, three of the individuals in my house did give me birthday greetings upon waking and sleeping by command and prodding from their father, two of them seemed to lay on the extra cute for my benefit, and my dear husband showered me with love and best of all, came home from work by 5:00.  I am truly blessed by them, and you.

*That asterisk was not directing you down here.  But thanks for looking.  It’s actually a throwback to the good ol’ days.  You know, when Walmart** used to be Wal*Mart.  Oh, how I miss that Interrupting Asterisk, but I’m thankful my sister developed this new way of typing it which gives us bonus footnotes.

**Gotcha again.


I’ve Been Waiting for This Day

3 Nov

Thing I Love: Milestones

Our nest is a flurry of newly discovered skills! Here’s my list:

  • Henry can sit up on his own without seconds later bashing his forehead into the shag. Huge. Plus, mobility still seems quite distant in the future. Even huger. I don’t need that kid discovering how inept his mother is at childproofing (and cleaning, in general). At this point he still respects me. I intend to keep it that way until he’s at least 10 1/2 months old.
  • Charlie can blow his nose. Big stuff. An endless nostril clearing future lies before him. Congrats, Chuck. We couldn’t be prouder.
  • Joe is learning to read words while simultaneously Owen is learning to read music. Magical. Maybe soon they can host a concert reading of set 1 of the BOB book series. (fingers crossed!)
  • A.J. can sew. (But he did it while watching Transformers 3. Machismo status: MAINTAINED)

   Thanks for allowing me this brag. Photographic proof of mentioned milestones below:

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Head over Heels

27 Oct

I’ll let you in on a little secret:  I’m not a huge fan of trees.  Individually, I find them quite nice, but all together, very intimidating.  The way they block the horizon messes with my need for wide open spaces.  I also blame them for sending my internal compass spinning.  The need to know north is crucial, and while one tree acts as a great reference point,  a whole bunch of them simply serve to confuse and confuddle.

Now I hear that there are some people who can live without knowing what direction they’re facing at all times.  I am not one of these people.  Never have been.  Never will be.  But that might be another post.  Today’s post is actually about trees.  Sort of.

You see, it’s Things I (We) Love Thursday and . . .

And it’s hard to love fall without loving trees.  Leaves in Michigan are so beautiful that I can even tolerate a handfull of trees all at once.  But I still prefer to take them in one at a time.  For instance, check out this great tree that has just one branch that’s turned.

I didn’t even know that was possible prior to my move to the Mitten State.  And here’s something else that took me by surprise:  One leaf is capable of being several colors at once.

Also, leaves make a very nice fall craft medium.

My children like them for their shock absorbing effects.

I’m a really big fan of 80-degree fall days that let you partake in color at the beach.

(I know.  You’re doubting that picture aren’t you?  You think I photoshopped it.  Guess what?  It’s legit.  We absolutely, truly, really went to lake Michigan in October.  And swam.  Swam.  Not kidding.  Well, the kids got wet, we adults just basked on the beach.)

All of this beauty brings me to the following concession.  The glowing branches overhead probably make up for any sunsets that have been hidden by masses of foliage.  And our van does have a built in compass to point me east when I feel like we’ve been driving north so long in the U.P. that we ought to be in the middle of Lake Superior.  But I am still confused by one thing.  I can’t seem to find the forest.

This one is caught by a fan from Grand Rapids.

13 Oct

Things I (We) Love:  Tiger’s Baseball (Pink just didn’t seem right this time.)

The ‘we’ here belongs to my husband and children, as does the love.  You see, what I really love is my husband and children, and they love the Tigers, therefore I love the Tigers.  It’s a classic case of if A=B and B=C then A=C.

They have a combined 65 years worth of lifetime Tiger love.  My husband has seen them through three World Serieses (is there such thing as a double plural?), happily sat behind poles at Tiger Stadium, and stood by the team through the 2003 season.  You remember that one – the losingest record in ALC history?  Yeah, that’s true love.

That was also the summer that endeared me to Detroit.  I refuse to say whether I was rooting for them to win or lose.  Gimme a break – if you’re near a record shouldn’t you strive for it?  Even if it’s a losing one?  None the less, because of my husband’s steadfast fanhood they also became “my team.”

I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve had teams before.  Even (gasp!) the Texas Rangers.  After all, I did live in Texas for seven years.  The Ballpark in Arlington only proceeded me by four months, I attended countless games, and even directed a choir that sang the National Anthem.  On a sidenote:  if you are ever offered the opportunity to direct a group singing the Star Spangled Banner at a Major League game say something falsely modest like, “Who, me?  Direct the group?  No, no, you should direct them.  Really!  I’ll just stand on the end and sing.”  Why, you ask?  Because when you’re the director all the world sees your backside.  On a Jumbotron.  According to my friends in the stands it adds an extra 800 pounds.

I actually like all the teams in the Final Four this year.  And yes, even with my limited sports knowledge I understand that term belongs to something else.  The only thing that would make it better is the addition of the Minnesota Twins.  And yes, again, I know enough to I understand that it is impossible to have the Tigers, Rangers and Twins in the running for the World Series.  But while we’re at it, we could also throw in the Royals.  They’re nice.  I guess I’m kind of an American League girl.

But I also think the Cardinals and the Brewers are root-worthy teams.  Shoot, the Cardinals are practically the Official Team of the Lutheran Church Missouri-Synod, and the Brewers?  Well, they have giant Sausages that run around their bases.  How could you not root for that?  Also, I once took a portion of a Master’s class in Hymnody with the girl who was Stosh the Polish Sausage, although rumors have it that she was once seen dressed as Cinco the Chorizo.  I am not making this up.  She had to drop the class because she was losing too many races.  Okay, I might have made up that last part.

But right now, the Tigers are still in this thing.  They can do it.  And even if they don’t, we’ll still be cheering.  Because although I can’t remember which comes first, the top or bottom of an inning, I’m faithful to my team.  And my husband.

Hunk of Love

6 Oct

  Thing I Love: Lindt 90% Cocoa Supreme Dark Chocolate

It’s true. As cliche´or played out or stereotypical or mundane as it may be, I love chocolate. Chocolate. The good stuff (just like Grammar, Beer & Comedy). I don’t want a 50 cent grocery store check out lane candy bar. (Although those fed me happily for many a Sunday drive. I’ll tell you about that sometime.) I want something from the actual candy aisle. Specifically? Lindt 90% Cocoa. 90%? Isn’t that a bit extreme on the whole antioxidant side of things? What can I say? I hate free radicals. And I adore that hunk of chocolate.

Ah. My love.

I love the crack it makes when I snap off a morsel. I love that the heat of my skin causes trace amounts to linger on my digits. I love love love love the smoky richness that invades my mouth when I pair it with a sip of good strong coffee (which falls in that same ol’ grammar, beer, comedy, chocolate category). I love that it comes as close to tasting like nature as chocolate can. (Or so I pretend. I’ve never licked a cacao bean.) And I love that the rest of my household finds it repugnant.

Out of the Mouths of Babes

30 Sep

Abe! Quick! Quit posing and check your brother's mouth!

Things I (we) Love:  One-Year-Old Babies

And this is the way in which our love is demonstrated:  Finger Swipes.

We demonstrate our love often.

Sometimes love bites.

And sometimes, even if our hands are covered in raw pork, it is necessary to find ways to show our children that we love them.

No, Cele . . .

not the . . .