Tuesday, November 30, 2010

November came and went...

...like a summer that I spent
with a no-name girl that walked in jelly shoes
-The Avett Brothers, "Denouncing November Blue"
(This is one of Jay's current fave songs, known as the Jelly Shoe song)

Thirty Days of Thanksgiving, Day #30. I'm thankful that November is over!

Back to my regularly scheduled (once a week-ish) blogging. Back to my whiny, un-thankful self. Just kidding. I'll try to stay positive for y'all. But if I feel the urge to complain, I just might.

I'd love to pontificate on what the 30 days of Thanksgiving has done for me. The momentous change in my outlook that I've had from approaching life with more gratitude. It *is*true that by forcing myself to think about all that I'm thankful for, I have spent more time counting my blessings. For that, I am certainly glad I participated in the exercise as I do think it's made me a happier person. But I think it will be nice to blog about a few other things, too!

Monday, November 29, 2010

You are the sunshine of my life...

...That's why I'll always be around
You are the apple of my eye
Forever you'll stay in my heart
-Stevie Wonder, "You Are the Sunshine of My Life"

Thirty Days of Thanksgiving, Day #29 - I am thankful for the sunshine that these adorable boys have brought me. In spite of the struggles and challenges that come with being a parent, my little guys bring me an incredible amount of laughter and joy.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

And you come crash...

...into me baby
-Dave Matthews Band, "Crash"

Thirty Days of Thanksgiving, Day #28 (the unintended reason for gratitude) - I'm thankful we're all okay.

To all you folks traveling west on I-40 just past I-95 this evening, we are the reason for the traffic jam. Well, not really us - more the guy behind us who didn't see traffic slowing down and crashed into the back of us. Going somewhere in the neighborhood of 70 mph.

I'm beyond thankful that the boys were not with us and were riding 30 minutes behind with LaLa and Popper. I'm thankful that everyone walked away from the crash. I'm thankful that our car was drivable and we made it home. I'm thankful we're not seriously injured, though my shoulder is really aching where I was flung forward. I'm thankful that "we're both pretty sore and shaken" is the worst of it. I'm thankful for seatbelts. I'm thankful the airbags didn't deploy. I'm thankful Derek's head hit the top of the roof just above the windshield, not the glass.

I ain't gonna lie - I am not thankful we were in a wreck. It sucks. Dealing with insurance sucks and driving a rental car is gonna suck and getting estimates and repairs and all the rest is gonna suck. I'm afraid the damage is pretty bad - the whole back of the car is about an inch wider than it used to be. The front seats don't move anymore. The steering wheel is in a different spot (not sure if it just moved because it's adjustable, or if that's something more serious). And it's in need of alignment, big time. Grumble, grumble.

But most of all, I'm thankful that the boys weren't in the backseat.

That's the other crumpled car back behind us on the median...

Here's ours...

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Take my hand...

...take my whole life too
For I can't help
Falling in love with you
-Elvis Presley, "I Can't Help Falling in Love"

Thirty Days of Thanksgiving, Day #27 - My husband.

When I think of the blessings in my life, Derek is consistently at the top of the list. Y'all can write me off as a hopeless romantic, but I can't imagine a more perfect match for me. I know there's no one I'd rather be with in a hospital waiting room. No one I'd rather take a walk with on the beach. No one I'd rather talk to at the end of a hard day. No one I'd rather celebrate my life's milestones with. He's not perfect, but he's perfect for me.

I can't understand why he puts up with some of my less-than-perfect qualities, but he seems to love me anyway. Actually, he doesn't just love me in spite of my faults, he loves me completely - including my faults.

I've come to love him even more since we became parents. He's a great dad, feeding the baby a bottle in one arm, making pancakes for breakfast with the other hand. He's far better at managing the chaos of the fix dinner/eat/playtime/bedtime routine far better than I do. He does the grocery shopping, for goodness' sake! He tells the boys funny stories and makes me smile every day.

But what I love and admire most is the way that he manages to stay calm and collected through everything. He has an amazing ability to take my anxieties & peel them away from me when the wheels fall off the wagon. He's calming and reassuring and never lets the little things get to him. That's why he's perfect for me, and I'm incredibly thankful to have him walking beside me.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Now thank we all our God...

...with hearts and hands and voices
Who wondrous things has done, in whom this world rejoices
Who from our mothers' arms has blessed us on our way
With countless gifts of love, and still is ours today
-Now Thank We All Our God, traditional hymn

Thirty Days of Thanksgiving, Day #24-26 - My parents.

I hate that I've missed not one but two days on the thirty days of Thanksgiving. That's particularly bad when one of those was, well, Thanksgiving Day. But the truth is that blogging daily had begun to feel like a burden, something that was taking away precious time from my family. As hard as it is to believe (!!!), I usually put a fair amount of thought and time into writing. So I decided to take a break from merely talking about what I'm thankful for -- and actually spend that time enjoying the blessings I have. But I'm back at it today!

Part of the problem is that I've come down to the last few days, and I still haven't properly expressed thanks for the most important people in my life. My friend, Sush, at First Do No Harm, regularly uses her blog to talk about those she loves, dedicating posts to individual family members on their birthdays or anniversaries. That's a lot of pressure! The idea of summing up a person in a few words (or even a few pages!) is incredibly intimidating to me. I think that's why the idea of writing obituaries seems so hard. So, I'm not going to attempt to cover every reason I appreciate some of these special folks. I'm going to dive in, share some thoughts of gratitude, and not feel such pressure to write the perfect post.

I'll start with my Mom and Dad, the first people on this earth to love me and to teach me what it means to know love. So many who try to describe the love and care of God use parental imagery, and I connect well with that. I get it because my parents love me unconditionally. They give me guidance and help me find my way, but they've given me space to make my own choices as well.

But I'm not just thankful for the love they've shown me - I'm thankful that they have taught me by example what a good marriage looks like. I appreciate the material things they have given me to make my life easier. I am thankful that I've grown into an adult relationship where I genuinely view them as friends. I appreciate the parenting lessons they have shared in recent years. I'm glad I have my perfect shopping buddy in my mom. I'm grateful that my dad taught me an appreciation for good music and cheeseburgers in paradise. I am thankful they've instilled their super-corny, goofy-dorky sense of humor. ("Put ... the candle ... back." - Can you name the movie?!)

They've made me who I am, and I am thankful that I have them in my life. Love you guys!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

I see a red door and I want it painted black...

...No colors anymore I want to turn them black
-Rolling Stone, Paint it Black

Thirty days of Thanksgiving, Day #23 (only a few hours late!) - Black Friday sales.

Ahh, shopping. One of my favorite hobbies. Searching out a bargain & discovering the good deals is like a little adrenaline rush for me. And planning out my shopping adventures is almost as much fun. So, to whoever leaked the Black Friday ads, I thank you.

(No, I will NOT be out at 4 a.m. on Black Friday! That's not fun shopping - that's cold and miserable. But I do hope that I can finish up my Christmas shopping over the course of the weekend...)

Monday, November 22, 2010

You can go the distance...

...we'll find out
in the long run
in the long run
-The Eagles, The Long Run

Thirty Days of Thanksgiving, Day #22. I'm thankful that I was able to nurse Luke exclusively for 9 months.

This post is *exactly* the reason I've been doing the Thirty Days of Thanksgiving. Had I not been thinking thankfully, I would have made this a whiny, woe-is-me, I-have-to-feed-my-kid-formula kind of post. But I am turning it around to say how grateful I am to have made it a full 9 months.

You see, with Jay, I had more milk than I knew what to do with. He never got the hang of nursing, so I pumped exclusively and had a huge supply. The land of milk and honey? I was livin' it. Bought an extra freezer to store it all in. Lost close to 100 oz in a freezer incident, and it didn't even bother me. He never nursed, but he got nothing but my milk for more than a year.

With Luke, it's been just the opposite. He figured out the nursing routine the very first time I held him. Breastfeeding has been an easy and wonderful thing. But it's been much more challenging to have enough pumped milk to feed him when we're apart. Stress this summer and fall didn't help my supply either, and my freezer stash slowly but surely dwindled away.

The last straw was last week when I spent a night away from him. There simply wasn't enough for that time apart, so he switched to formula. And I have been able to spend a little less time with the pump. Initially, I was pretty bummed about it. I felt guilty for not being able to give him the perfect baby food. I felt even more guilty because I managed to do it for Jay and couldn't for Luke. (Those poor second kids!) If only I'd pumped a little more early on to build up a freezer stash. If only I'd pumped more often while I sat in the ICU. If only I'd worked a little harder at it...

But the truth is that making it this far is a huge accomplishment, and I am proud of what I've been able to do. Nine months is a long time. I'm still nursing him in the mornings and at night, and I'm grateful for the fact that I can do something for him that no one else can. But I'm also grateful that I can spend a little less time with my dear friend Medela.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

I like to eat, eat, eat...

...apples and bananas!

Thirty Days of Thanksgiving Day #21 - I'm thankful that we discovered the Produce Box.

Tonight's dinner (for 7 grownups and two hungry babies!) was courtesy of The Produce Box. Green beans & corn. Roasted potatoes. Sweet Potato bread. Yum. Delivered to my house, all summer and most of this fall. We've tried some awesome new produce that I never would have attempted otherwise, and made some delicious new recipes. (Of course, we also ended up with beets. Anyone know what to do with beets?!)

The best part is you can opt in or out on a weekly basis. Going on vacation? Just cancel it for that week. Stuck in Philadelphia for 6 weeks? Cancel it repeatedly. But best of all, I feel like by eating locally I'm supporting our local economy and reducing our impact on the environment by reducing the distance our food travels to us. The fact that we're making healthier choices and learning to cook new stuff is a great bonus.

I'm so thankful for the fact that we have food on our table and have been able to teach our children healthy eating habits.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

We're the red & white from State...

and we know we are the best
hands behind our backs we can take on all the rest
come over the hill Caroline
Devils & Deacs stand in line
We're the red & the white from NC State

Thirty Days of Thanksgiving # 20 - My beloved Wolfpack.

I'm grateful that I made the decision to attend NC State, in spite of the fact that it was too close to home, too familiar, and my mom worked there (and still does!). I've grown up a Wolfpack fan, and I'm proud to say that I've been a lifelong State fan through good times and bad. And I am just stoked over our football win today - fantastic game for both teams.

But more than loving NC State Athletics, I love what NC State is. I love the bricks. I love the bell tower. I love our agricultural roots. I love that we have cows with a hole in their sides(fistulated steers). I love the way high-tech, modern buildings sit beside historic, traditional halls. I love State people. I'm grateful that I became one of them when I moved into Sullivan Hall 15 years ago, and I'm grateful my job allows me to continue to be part of the Pack.

Friday, November 19, 2010

The heat is on...

...on the street
the heat is --- on
-Glenn Frey, "The Heat is On"

Thirty Days of Thanksgiving, Day #19 - Heat. Electricity. Running water.

So many of our modern conveniences are things we take for granted. But when you think about people in Haiti fighting cholera, homeless men standing on a street corner in our city, miners living underground for weeks on end ... you'd best remember the basics and appreciate what a gift it is to have these blessings.

I got a little chilly this afternoon, and turned up the heat in my house. It was freezing when I got into my car yesterday morning, so I turned on my seat heater. (I and am SERIOUSLY thankful for those!) Such simple things, I did them without thinking. Yet they are an extravagance for many people around the world.

Tonight as I shut down my computer and turn out the lights, I am thankful for the electricity that allows me to work past dark. As I brush my teeth, I'm thankful for clean running water. As I crawl under the covers and drift off, I'm thankful those quilts aren't my sole source of heat.

My cup runneth over.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

So fly me...

--Drivin' N Cryin', "Fly Me Courageous"

30 days of Thanksgiving #18--Jay is no longer scared to get his blood drawn.

Since Jen's passed out on the couch with an empty bottle of wine in her hand, I'm posting for her tonight. Jay is still getting blood drawn every 1-2 weeks to monitor his coumadin dose, and today it was my turn to take him to the lab. It has been several weeks since I had taken him, and at that time it was quite an ordeal--lots of crying and a good bit of wrestling too. At the time, that was an improvement because if you remember when we were in the hospital, he would get so upset over blood draws that he often lost his breakfast.

But today, he was excited to go. All the people there (all 3 of them) know him by name, and they are so happy to see him. Guess they get tired of just sticking old people. He sat patiently in the lobby until it was his turn, and then Tim the phlebotomist came to get him. Jay happily walked back to the chair, sat down on my lap, and held out his arm. No screaming, no crying, no wrestling. He did let out a big sigh when it was over, but otherwise, you couldn't even tell he was worried in the least.

So we're thankful that Jay has gotten used to getting his blood drawn. Now if we can just get him to start chewing up his coumadin...

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Who needs sleep?

W ell, you're never gonna get it
Who needs sleep?
Tell me what's that for
-Barenaked Ladies, "Who Needs Sleep"

Thirty Days of Thanksgiving, Day #17 - Sleep. Blissful, peaceful restful sleep.

I am grateful for a night of uninterrupted sleep. No snoring over the baby monitor. No little feet coming into our room at 5 a.m. Big soft fluffy pillows. A whole bed to myself. Dark curtains that block the early morning sun. A warm, clean-smelling duvet.

I stayed at a hotel last night. Hampton Inn, I love you. As much as I missed my boys (all 3 of them!), I must admit that a restful night helped to ease the loneliness.

Come along and ride...

on a fantastic voyage
slide slide, slippity-slide
-Coolio, Fantastic Voyage

Thirty Days of Thanksgiving, Day #16 (only a day late!). Yesterday, I was thankful for road trips.

I must preface this with the reminder that I hate road trips. Okay, I don't hate road trips. I'd put a pen in my eye before joining my hubby on his different-baseball-stadium-every-day-for-a-summer dream trip, but I don't hate them. I just don't love long trips.

I am thankful, however, for the opportunity that car trips provide to talk. Yesterday, I took a road trip with a girl that I liked a lot but I didn't know that well. Something about being stuck together in a car for 3 hours opens up conversations and gives you a chance to really talk. We found that we had a lot in common beyond the mutual friend we were going to see. Another 3 hour trip today (listening to the 90's channel on XMRadio - thus the song lyric inspiration!), and she's a friend.

Mom and I used to enjoy trips to swim meets for that same reason. It was probably the only way she could my pre-teen self to slow down and talk to her. Derek and I have enjoyed many an hour talking politics & religion - issues that sometimes get pushed to the back burner when we're busy talking about who's gonna take the kids to school tomorrow.

So, anybody wanna drive me somewhere?

Monday, November 15, 2010

Cuz' the Rocky Mountain way...

...is better than the way we had
-Joe Walsh, Rocky Mountain Way

Thirty days of Thanksgiving - Day # 15. I'm thankful that I had the opportunity to live in a different part of the country, if only for a year.

We spent the 2004-05 school year living in beautiful Ft. Collins, Colorado. I hear it's snowing in Denver today - I must admit that I don't miss snow in November! But it was a fantastic place to spend a year, and truly wasn't nearly as snowy as I expected. We saw some of the most gorgeous scenery in the world. And they don't brag about their 300 days of sunshine per year for nothin'! It really is a dream come true for those who love the outdoors.

I met some awesome people, some of which I still consider dear friends. While I dragged my dear hubby kicking and screaming back to the east coast after only one year, I will always be glad I got to see a different slice of the world.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

But get a cellular phone...

...and then you won't have to worry!
-Collin Raye, "That's My Story"

Thirty Days of Thanksgiving - Day #14: Today I'm thankful for my cell phone.

It keeps me connected with friends who are far away. It allows me to check email anytime I feel so inclined. It can be a guitar which provides endless entertainment to little fingers who get lucky enough to hold it. It let me call a friend during Sunday School (which felt like a big ol' No-No this morning, but was for a legit reason - really). It takes pictures when I don't have a camera nearby. It gets me to friends' houses when I can't remember the address. It helped me find a costume shop yesterday. It keeps phone numbers handy. It's red, it's cute, and it's become a significant part of my daily routine. That's an understatement. Really, I'd be lost without it.

Okay, I gotta admit, thankfulness for my cell phone seems a little weak. To be honest, I'm not feeling all that thankful today. I still haven't written my "big ones" posts about those closest to me - and I promise that you'll get appreciation for the hubs, the kids, the folks. But I'm not feeling like writing those right now, so today it's just a little shout-out to a piece of technology that makes my life easier.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Oh! I just died in your arms tonight...

it must have been something you said
I just died in your arms tonight
-Cutting Crew, (I Just) Died in Your Arms

Thirty Days of Thanksgiving - Day #13 Today I am thankful to have such a great group of friends on my Journey.

Our Sunday School class, known as the Journey Class, is an awesome group of people. Tonight's social activity will certainly be one for the record books - we hosted a Murder Mystery Dinner. The theme was an 80's class reunion, where guests at the party were members of the class and we were all trying to figure out what happened to "David," a classmate who'd been murdered 2 days before the reunion.

Before the party, we were emailed our character assignments. Derek and I were "Lenny" and "Linda," the social outcasts in high school who'd gone on to become rockstars. Derek/Lenny is the lead singer in our band and Linda/I am the drummer. We went to the reunion to rub our fame in the faces of those who were so mean to us in high school.

(Please note the accessories for both of us - my genuine 80's vintage slap bracelet, Lenny's necklaces, the drumsticks in the top of my boot , the Wii guitar... we went all out!)

What fun!! Everyone really got into character and it was quite an evening of intrigue. There was even another murder during the event. All in all, it was a great time and I'm thankful for friends who are willing to plan such a unique activity. And I'm grateful that they won't kick Derek out of church tomorrow for showing up with a skull and crossbones tattoo on his neck.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Tell her about it...

...tell her everything you feel
give her every reason to accept
that you're for real
-Billy Joel, Tell Her About It

Thirty days of Thanksgiving, Day #12 - Today I'm thankful for the blogging community and the e-friends I've made.

Blogging is a fascinating phenomenon to me. People (me included!) use these spaces to share a great deal of personal information to complete strangers. I have gained so much from my fellow bloggers - everything from yummy recipes to how much laundry 6 kids generate to how to survive the waiting room to what it feels like to lose a child. I am thankful for the advice and support my blog friends have shared. I'm thankful for the genuine honesty people share in this public forum.

While I'm at it, I'm thankful for blogging friends who turn into real friends. Tonight, Joye and I enjoyed a great ladies night at a grown up restaurant, complete with wine and desserts. Our conversation flowed smoothly from the worst days of our lives and our worst fears for our children's hearts to laughing about funny similarities we discovered we had in common. Fun times!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

O, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave...

...o're the land of the free
and the home of the brave
-The Star-Spangled Banner, Frances Scott Key

Thirty Days of Thanksgiving, Day #11 - On this Veteran's Day, I am thankful to the men and women who have defended our freedom and work toward peace across the globe.

To the members of our armed services, thank you for the sacrifices you make each day in doing extraordinarily difficult jobs.

To the veterans who have served in times of war and in times of peace, thank you for your leadership and for the countless contributions you have made to our nation.

To the families of our servicemen and women, thank you for the all too often underappreciated sacrifices you have made.

I'm grateful to the many public servants who have made the US such a wonderful place to live.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

You've got a friend in me...

You've got a friend in me
When the road looks rough ahead
And you're miles and miles
from your nice warm bed
just remember what your old pal said
Boy, you've got a friend in me
-Randy Newman, You've got a friend in me (from Toy Story)

Thirty Days of Thanksgiving, Day #10 - Yesterday, old friends. Today I'm thankful for new friends.

When you get past college age, it can be kinda tough to make new friends. But I've been very blessed to have several new friendships develop recently.

For starters, there are quite a number of my blog followers that I've never met in person. But you've left kind comments and sent positive thoughts our way, and I am beyond grateful. It's a pretty amazing world when you can know so much about people, recognize them by their pictures, follow along in their lives and never actually see them in person.

But beyond those exclusively online connections, I've also developed some stronger in-person friendships lately, and I'm really grateful for it. Last weekend we spent some time with the family of one of Jay's bestest buds. We're already planning for them to be college roommates - at NC State, of course! (Bestest Bud's folks might not agree with that particular educational choice, but we've got 16 years or so to work that out.) We enjoyed a fantastic evening at their house, and the boys could hardly contain their excitement at spending time together. There was NOT ONE cross word, no unwillingness to share toys, no typical toddler wrestling matches. They enjoy a fabulous friendship, and I see lots more time together in our future.

Then, I had lunch yesterday with a colleague who has grown into a dear friend during Jay's illness and recovery. She and I weren't particularly close - more the "Hey, how was your weekend?" kind of co-workers. But when she found out about what we were going through, she started sending me messages of encouragement. Praying for my lil' heart warrior. Praying for me to stay strong. Not a week went by when I didn't get an uplifting message from her, and those messages were like tiny rays of light in a very dark tunnel. It was great to share lunch with her, talking about our kids and pets and laughing.

And Friday, I'm super duper excited about girls' night out with a fellow heart mama. This girl knows what I've been through in a way that few other people can fathom. She's caring and funny and a fantastic blog-writer. I found her through her blog, and e-stalked her for a while. We've only met in person twice, but we understand each other in a pretty unique way through having read each other's blogs for a while. A glass of wine, some chocolate, and some girl talk is just what the doctor ordered for us.

There's always more room in the circle of friends, and I'm thankful to watch mine grow.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Oh, I get by with a little help from my friends

Mmmm, I get high with a little help from my friends
Mmmm, gonna try with a little help from my friends

What would you think if I sang out of tune
would you stand up and walk out on me
lend me your ears and I'll sing you a song
and I'll try not to sing out of key
-The Beatles, With a Little Help from my Friends

Thirty Days of Thanksgiving, Day #9 - I am thankful for old friends.

In the past few weeks, I've been lucky enough to reconnect with several folks that were close to me at earlier points in my life. A dear college friend came by while she was in town to show her beau some Wolfpack Football (Happy birthday, KLH!). A Colorado colleague that I greatly admire met me for lunch on her swing through the Raleigh area. A random email gave me a chance to talk with my high school sweetheart.

All three are people I've gone years without seeing. We all know that friendships grow and change, and that is okay. We lose touch with people who were at one point integral pieces of our day to day lives. But it's wonderful to see them again. To see where their paths have taken them. To see that they're still the same people even as our appearances change. In all three cases, the conversation flowed easily and I was reminded why I liked them so much.

Facebook and social networking have fundamentally changed the way old friends keep up with one another. I'm aware of old friends' life changes - I see when they have babies, get married, move to new places. But even better than just knowing what they're up to, it's pretty cool to talk to old friends face to face.

Monday, November 8, 2010

It won't be like this for long...

...one day soon that little girl is gonna be
all grown up and gone
yeah this phase is gonna fly by
so he's tryin' to hold on
'cause it won't be like this for long
-Darius Rucker, "It Won't Be Like This for Long"

Thirty Days of Thanksgiving, Day #8. I am thankful that the long sleepless nights don't really last that long. Even more, I'm glad that the memory of how hard those nights can be lasts even less.

It's teething time! Poor little Luke is getting his first tooth, and it has turned our sweet, smiley, good-sleeping boy into Captain Crankypants. Last night, I think he was awake more than he was asleep. And while Derek and I have certainly learned to function on less sleep than we think we need, morning came awfully early and awfully dark at 5:15 a.m. when the house had only been quiet for a couple of hours. We were taking turns sleeping, of course.

But in the spirit of "This too shall pass," I keep telling myself that it does get better. I don't remember Jay being up all night teething, though I know he was on more than one occasion. The pain of childbirth eventually fades (though the crazy moms who say you forget the instant you hold your child are lying!). The utter exhaustion of those first few weeks and months becomes hazy. The amount of work it takes to care for a baby slips to the recesses of our collective memory.

We remember instead the good moments. The adorable little grins. Our hysterical laughter when we've been sprinkled during yet another diaper change. The warm snuggles. The way their little hands hold your finger.

Those things are what I choose to remember. And I'm thankful that memories work that way.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

I'm hot, sticky sweet...

...from my head to my feet, yeah
-Def Leppard, Pour Some Sugar on Me

Ahhh, sugar. Thirty Days of Thanksgiving, Day # 7 - Today I'm thankful that Krispy Kreme is between my house and church.

It was a Sunday morning habit when I was younger (KK was between my folks' house and my growin' up church, too!). Given my dad's sweet tooth, it didn't take much begging from me & my little bro to convince them to stop on the way home. While Derek and I don't make it quite the habit that my parents did, it's still a Sunday indulgence that I allow myself now and again.

This morning, Luke enjoyed his first taste of the Hot & Now sign. Like you'd expect, he was all over it, quite literally. Or it was all over him. Sticky sugar in the hair, the clothes, the hands. Mmmm, goodness.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Beach baby, beach baby...

..Give me your hand
Give me something that I can remember
Just like before we can walk on the shore in the moonlight
Beach baby, beach baby there on the sand
From July til the end of September
-Beach Baby, The First Class

Thirty Days of Thanksgiving, Day #6 - I am grateful to live close to the beach.

Growing up, my favorite vacation memories are from our annual trips to Holden Beach. In college, Derek and I would go to the early service at church then hit the road for a day trip. Recently, our extended family has created a new Thanksgiving tradition and we've spent the long weekend there. Even if it's cold, there's just something about watching the waves that is incredibly relaxing. Because it's a south-facing beach, it's one of the few places on the east coast where you can see the sunset over the ocean. A few years ago my parents bought a house there, and now beach trips are our default weekend getaway. When we need a mini vacation, relaxation is only a couple of hours down I-40.

Some of my favorite beach pics:

Luke, July 2010

Jay, October 2008

Friday, November 5, 2010

Here we've only got one rule...

...never ever let it cool
keep it cooking in the pot
then you've got
hot choc-o-lat
-Hot Chocolate, The Polar Express movie

Thirty Days of Thanksgiving, Day #5
Today, I'm thankful for hot chocolate on a cold night. I'm sitting on my couch, curled up in my PJ pants, enjoying a hot cuppa decaf coffee mixed with hot chocolate mix. It's no Starbucks mocha, but it's just as good to me.

We all need a little quiet time to ourselves, and tonite I've got it. Time to recharge my batteries. Derek's at a dinner for work, the boys are snug in their beds, and I'm curled up under an afghan on the couch with my warm mini-mocha. Life is good.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

I've read a lot of books...

...Wrote a few songs
Looked at my life where it's goin, where it's gone
I've seen the world through a bus windshield, but nothing compares
To the way that I see it,
to the way that I see it,
to the way that I see it when I sit in that old blue chair
-Old Blue Chair, Kenny Chesney

Thirty days of Thanksgiving, Day #4 - I am thankful for my rocking chair, aka the "magic chair."

First, I must give credit to my dear friend Bethany, my volunteer photog friend who snapped this shot less than 24 hours before Luke was born. Heck, I was in labor with Jay longer than that! But I love this picture and the way the light streams in through the window onto my belly. It's like Luke has his own special ray of sunshine.

This chair (purchased from the wonderful folks at Beanie + Cecil baby) is the perfect baby rocking chair. I've spent hours snuggled into the corner - feeding Luke, reading books to Jay, escaping the chaos of the rest of the house. It's my comfort zone, literally and figuratively.

Thanks, mom, for the best baby gift I could have possibly received.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Oh ye'll take the high road...

...and I'll take the low road
And I'll get to Scotland afore ye
But me and my true love
will never meet again
on the bonnie bonnie banks
of Loch Lomond
-Loch Lomond, Scottish folk song

Thirty Days of Thanksgiving Day #3 - I am thankful for the once-in-a-lifetime trip my family took to Scotland a few years ago. It was before the word "cancer" entered our vocabulary. It was before kids, so traveling required no diapers, no bottles, no pack & play, no extra changes of clothes *just in case*. That trip provided me with some of the most fun moments of my life, and I love reliving it through pictures. (We seriously took somewhere in the neighborhood of 2000 pictures. Here are a few of my faves.

Doesn't that image of the lone bagpiper just scream "Scotland!!" to you?! It looks like a postcard, but it's the real deal. Dude stands on the side of a mountain and plays the bagpipe all day. Every day. The lake behind him (let's call it a loch, we are in Scotland after all) is supposed to be the shape of the country.

That's my folks. Yes, my mom appears to be drinking a beer. I'm sure she just picked up someone else's for the photo op. Not pictured is the coronation chicken that she ate nearly every time it was on the menu. Yum!

Some of the folks in my dad's extended family have done some pretty extensive genealogy research. While the McLean name sounds (and is!) Scottish, they've actually traced back through the Shaw side to - you guessed it - Torquil and Annie Shaw. And a blog name was born, back before I even knew what blogging was.

A big part of our trip was visiting the Isle of Jura where Torquil & Annie were from. Let me tell you, it's not exactly a hot tourist destination - I think the person at the whisky distillery there said that fewer than 100 people live on the island. But it was one of the most beautiful places that we went, and if you're willing to take the long ferry ride, I'd highly encourage it.

Boy, we really appeared to enjoy the pub scene, huh? Actually, we didn't go to that many, but we certainly did like this one. Please note this picture has four pint glasses. Three people. Who's double fisting it?! And how in the world did my hair ever grow that long?

This is our friend, Hamish. Hamish the long horn, long hair cow. I'd have brought him back home if Derek would have let me. Something about mad cow disease and getting fired from his job if he brought mad cow back to the vet school ... whatever. I am in love with Hamish and someday I'll go back to visit him. Or get a pet who looks like him.

And this is the five of us at Dalmunzie, which will forever go down as the best lodging that we have ever enjoyed in all of our travels. The rooms were awesome, food at the inn was delicious, and they had a golf course. The guy let us borrow his own personal clubs so we could play. (By play, I mean the boys played golf while mom and I chased balls for them.) It was such a fun and relaxing day after constant sightseeing. We were able to completely experience the Scottish countryside and hanging out together.

I am so thankful for the chance I had to experience a different culture. I am thankful that my parents instilled in us an appreciation for learning about new places. But most of all, I'm thankful for the fact that we genuinely had fun together as a family.

'Cause we believed in our candidate...

... but even more it's the one we hate
I needed someone I could shake
On election day
-My Dear Country, Norah Jones

(Gotta give credit for my song lyric inspiration to my colleague KD ... I didn't know the song, but I do love me some Norah Jones. This song is apparently on the one Norah Jones album I don't already own. Perhaps I should own it as well!)

Thirty Days of Thanksgiving Day #2 - On this election day, I am thankful for the right to vote.

I am thankful for the brave women who came before me, insisting that women deserve a voice in the decision-making for our nation. I am thankful for those who protect that freedom. I am thankful for a President who is intelligent and is working diligently to improve an economic situation that is ugly and without simple solutions. I am thankful for health insurance reform that means my insurance company can't drop me solely because of a claim that has now passed the $1 million mark (No, I am not stretching. Yowza. Six figures for pharmacy charges alone.). I am thankful that people who disagree with me have the right to voice that opinion, though I am not allowing my blog to become a place for political debate, thankyouverymuch. I am thankful that I can show my children how democracy works by taking them along as I fulfill my civic duty.

But mostly, I am thankful that I have the right to voice my opinions through my actions at the polls today.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Up in the mornin' and out to school...

...the teacher was teaching the golden rule
American History and practical math
You studyin' hard and hoping to pass
-School Day, Chuck Berry

As you might imagine, as one who enjoys writing this blog, I am also an avid blog reader. A couple of blogs that I like are doing Thirty Days of Thanksgiving - posting about something they are thankful for each day in November. Every day?! Can I really do that? I know it's a lot of blogging, but heck, I was posting twice a day for several weeks, so it shouldn't be too hard. (Famous last words!) Some posts may be pretty brief, but I'll try to at least come up with a song and a brief paragraph to share something that I'm grateful for or something that makes me happy.

A number of people have commented that they don't know how I kept going through some of the really tough days we faced, how I managed to keep a positive outlook. Let me assure you that I didn't. Some days, I want to be a total grump. Some moments, I allow myself to be a total grump. But it's generally not a fun place to be, wallowing in self-pity. So I don't. I force myself (and sometimes it takes some serious forcing!) to think about the good things in my life, the million and one ways that I am so blessed. I think this Thirty Days thing is going to be good for my spirits, and maybe it will help you to think about some of the things you have to be thankful for, too.

So, to start things off --today I'm thankful that my kids are both so happy to go to school.

Today was Jay's first day at school on his own, and my first day at work. To quote the song lyric inspiration, we're "up in the morning" all right. The morning routine with 2 kids can be a little (ummmm, yeah) chaotic. Wild & woolly on a good day. Out of control chaos on others. But this morning went incredibly smoothly, thanks to some serious prep work the night before.

I was a little worried that Jay would be unhappy being left in his class, but he was completely content for us to leave him. He asked "You going to your class, Mommy?" I said, "Well kinda. I'm going to work." "Okay, go there." I guess there's no need to drag out the inevitable. I gave him a hug and a kiss and left, and there were no tears.

Similarly, Luke is all smiles when we leave him in his class just two doors down from Jay's. He loves the snuggles he gets from his teachers, and hasn't shown the least bit of separation anxiety. I'm grateful for good teachers who care about young kids, and I'm grateful for kids that enjoy the structure and routine of a daycare center environment. But most of all, I'm glad for a morning drop-off routine that is (at least for today!) tear-free.