Monday, January 31, 2011

whatta show off

And, here's Charlie's life-sized snow family.

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Although, unless I'm counting incorrectly, two critical people are missing. For without those two, the other four wouldn't be there. Am I right?!

Yeah, yeah, he's got a bad back ... my thumb.

I win!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

we are family...

.... I've got all my snow people with me!

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Is it obvious that each of these snowmen were created using snowballs that were no larger than an orange?

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When the kids told me that they wanted my help to build a snow family, I thought it sounded great. Until, I remembered how physically challenging it was to make one life-sized snowman and I recalled that the children don't really "help" as much as they lay on the ground and watch me work. All that rolling and squatting and rolling and pushing and lifting and bending is exhausting...

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So instead of suggesting that I don't have the stamina to create a life-sized family of snow people with my children, I'll instead highlight that this miniature snow family is not only the perfect decoration for a table top, but is also ideally sized for those who still require the ability to lift their arms and prepare dinner.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

winter wonderland

It seems that during the course of shoveling out our 200+ foot long driveway, Charlie threw his back out. We didn't realize the extent of the damage until yesterday, when he couldn't walk upright. On top of that, he picked up a coma-inducing virus from the children that has rendered him horizontal for the past 36 hours.

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All of this falls on the heels of me being busy at work - blah, that should just go without saying. But I stayed home yesterday to look after the children who were home from school again because it snowed again.

I absolutely love the snow and would be perfectly content if it snowed every single day. Lucky for us, the children love the snow, too. If I haven't said it before, I'll say now that we were so incredibly fortunate to find this house, because it's a fantastic house for our family. While the location and layout is fabulous and the creek is great ... now that winter is here, when you step out the back door, you're on top of the most epic sledding run.

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It's nothing short of a miracle that I was actually able to get a full day of work done yesterday, while watching the children. Because during the time that I was on the phone, fielding important calls ... the kids spent hours sledding. And the whole time, I could see them.

Hi Kids! I really wish I was out there sledding with you...

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But working from home while watching you have fun is the next best thing!

Never in the history of my parenting experience, have the children ever slept as well as they've slept the past few nights. They have been in bed by no later than 7:00 and all four are blissfully asleep by 7:01. Walking up and down a hill 200 times a day can really take it out of you.

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I wish I could bottle this stuff up and sell it.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

just what the doctor ordered

So, yesterday, I'm sitting at work and although I'd heard news that a winter storm was a brewin', I was certain we'd be missed again. But then, at some point around 1 PM, a voice comes on over the intercom and announces that our offices will be closing at 3 PM.

Always the cynic when it comes to snow, I was sure this was just part of the big tease.

At 3:00 PM, I escorted out some people who had been visiting me and I walked to my car. I open the door and it starts to sleet. I get in to the car, pull out of the parking lot with a few hundred other people and by the time I actually get on the road and start driving, 30 minutes have passed. As I'm driving, I notice that the sleet has turned to the most gargantuan snow flakes I've ever seen. And that's right about the time traffic came to an almost screeching halt. The accumulation of snow was unreal, it was falling so hard and so fast that within minutes, the ground was coated.

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It was so beautiful, so awesome ... so perfectly peaceful and quiet. Despite the hundreds of cars on the road, every time I rolled down my window to clear off my side mirrors, there was absolutely no sound. It was like the snow had blocked out every and all noise.

When I went sideways through an intersection, I opted to use that convenient four-wheel-drive feature on our vehicle, and was able to gain enough traction that I didn't spin out like more than half the cars around me. It took me almost two solid hours to drive eight miles. And while I thought that was bad, my neighbor who works in Washington, D.C., approximately 25 miles away, told me that it took him nine hours to get home, yesterday.

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Once I arrived home, the excitement in our house was electrifying. Not only were the kids jumping up and down and shouting, "YAY!" I was jumping up and down and shouting "YAY!" Although we had blizzard conditions, with snow coming down sideways, all six of us got quickly suited up in our snow attire and spent the next two hours outside.

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The only reason we came back in to the house is because limbs, which were heavily weighted down with snow were falling off the trees. All around us, we could hear "CRRRRR... CRAACK!"

"BOOM!"

We retreated to the house, and as we were cooking dinner, I could just imagine the power going out. It seems Charlie and I had the same idea, because simultaneously, we looked at each other and said, "We better get our candles and flashlights ready."

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The kids were giddy to think of us losing electricity, and were running around the house with flashlights while Charlie gathered some wood and started a fire. The kindling had just barely ignited, when the lights in the house flickered once ... twice ... three times ... and then went out.

When you take a group of people who are easily entertained, have a love for adventure, an equally great love of camping, and have never experienced true misery from an extended loss of electricity, the scene that unfolds is pure jubilation.

We brushed the children's teeth by candlelight. We pulled out our down comforters. We dressed everyone warmly with flannel pajamas and wool socks and we tucked them in to bed. At one point, we heard the children stirring and realized that they were all climbing in to bed, together, so that they could cuddle up and keep each other warm.

Charlie and I popped open a bottle of wine, stoked our fire, and watched a movie on our portable DVD player while the snow continued to fall outside.

It was absolutely, positively perfect.

We went to bed and woke up to a cold house, but we dressed warmly and reignited our fire. At one point, as I was skipping around the house, merrily, I caught sight of Charlie with a panicked look on his face. It seems he was almost completely out of coffee and seeing as we have an electric stove, he had no way to heat up water.

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So he ran outside, with a shovel, and spent the next 15 minutes trying to dig out our cars. Realizing that it would take more time than he had before going in to coffee-withdrawal-shock, he decided that he was going to attempt driving the truck OVER the huge snow bank at the end of our driveway.

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That's when I stepped in and told him that he was a nut, I was not going to let him break an axle and even if he got out of the driveway, the roads were slick with ice.

He came back in to the house, remembered our boxes of camping gear and then shouted, "We're not pansies! We're Geologists! WE KNOW HOW TO COOK WITH FIRE!"

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He filled up our camping coffee pot with water and stuck it smack dab on top of a flaming log. Less than five minutes later, he was sipping his java and feeling like he was invincible.

Since we had no power and were unable to safely get out of our driveway, we had no where to go. So we went sledding. And we made snowmen.

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Neighbors dropped by to say hello and ask if we needed anything. We dropped by other neighbor's homes and asked if they needed anything. When our wood supply was beginning to dwindle, I ran outside with an ax and chopped up the big limbs that had fallen off our trees and I felt invincible.

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It was such a great feeling to know that even though we are so accustomed to the comforts of electricity ... we can survive WITHOUT it. Our food was moved from the refrigerator to coolers that we had put outside. Children cuddled up next to each other, and napped on the floor in front of the fire.

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We had a dinner of hot dogs, roasted on the fire, with S'mores for dessert.

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I was preparing to put a pot in the fire to heat up water so I could give everyone a sponge bath. But just then, the power came back on and the music that had been playing last night when the power went out - was blaring once again from the stereo. It felt like we were immediately ejected out of a simple, primitive survival mode time ... and back in to now.

Our surprise reprieve from the "real world" was over.

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Since the beginning of the New Year, I've been nonstop busy with work. Every single day, weekends included, I've been putting in time to get projects started - or finished - or kept on track. This storm was so magnificent for me. It not only blanketed our entire world in beautiful white ... it made all of us stop and do absolutely nothing except frolic in nature and think about the best way to keep each other warm. In my book, there is no day more perfect than that.

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Hopefully, we'll have another big snowstorm and the power will go out again.

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Because we're stocked up on Jiffy Pop and totally ready.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

howdy, howdy, hey

Tonight, as I was walking to my car through teen-degree temperatures and thinking how much fun this bitter cold devoid-of-snow weather is, but Spring is starting to sound pretty exciting too ... I made the decision that after I arrived home and was swarmed with hugs from my children and we sat down and ate dinner and then cleared off the table and got ready for bed and read bedtime stories and were tucked in, I was going to sit down and update my blog.

Because it's been a while.

And it's not that I haven't wanted to update my blog. There have been so many things that I've wanted to write about I don't even know where to begin and the energy to get my thoughts in to a cohesive stream far exceeds my ability. Also, the whole process of bringing work home every night and staying up until at least 2 AM exerting vast amounts of mental effort on highly time-sensitive projects has severely impacted my blog time. But tonight, I intentionally left my computer at the office because what the heck ... I'll be there again in less than ten hours, anyway.

I'm really enjoying my work, although, I must admit, every so often I feel a wave of panic wash completely over me when I stop and look around and think about this career path that I'm on and my babies! They are growing up so fast! And I can't remember what they're wearing today? And I didn't make their breakfast or lunch and chances are, will have absolutely no involvement in the preparation of their dinner. And it's not ME who is with them for the bulk of their waking hours and ... and ... and...

How far will I go down this road, before I figure out what I'm doing?

When I think about the alternative of being home with the children full time, the dream is so cozy and so lovely. Because somehow, despite the fact I can be driven to the brink in less than 15 minutes on a typical day, when I'm home full-time, I'm miraculously immune to the insanity that often occurs in a house with four small children.

Is that even plausible?

Without medication?

By and large, our house is a very peaceful place. But there are four kids and sometimes, they lack volume control and the ability to successfully manage their emotions. Which, after a sustained period of time, can have an adverse effect on me - it would appear, even more so than my husband. He is so very good with them, it makes me question my ability. Even still, there's a primitive pull for me, as their mother, to be home with our children. If I close my eyes, I can actually see myself with them. We're running through a field of clover. But wait. Why are those people chasing me?

With a net?

Are they coming to take me away?

What with all these thoughts swirling in my head, I'm also trying to sort out a trip to Massachusetts. My father, who we just saw earlier this month, fell down a few days ago and has been in the hospital. Today, he was moved to a rehabilitation facility and while I'm optimistic he is on the mend, I'd still like to go see him. Life is so fragile and so fleeting. And sometimes, far too complicated and busy.

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Why, it makes me want to shrug off all my responsibilities, put on a pink tutu and get pushed around the house on a wooden pirate ship.

Monday, January 17, 2011

i have a dream (too)

I'm not sure if it's my desire to save a buck ... or my desire to save time ... or perhaps in some delusional way, I actually think I can do a decent job ... but for whatever the reason, or compilation of reasons, I continue to cut my children's hair.

Despite my history.

Have I ever mentioned that I've always wanted to be a cosmetologist and wield scissors and cut hair so it looks good? Tonight I continued to pursue that dream, as I gave my boys a haircut.

Not to brag or anything, but I actually think I'm getting better. I cut one of the boy's hair first, and then the second. And then Charlie came along and told me that he thought the second one definitely came out a lot better than the first. And I told him that since I was improving, maybe he could go third? But he'd have to pay me first. Snort.

Oh please. Is it terribly obvious who went first?

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As I was cutting William's hair, he told me that he hoped it came out really nice, because apparently, there is a girl in his class with whom he is quite smitten. I was so focused on not chopping off an ear, I didn't respond.

He continued, "She is so nice, Mom. Guess what? Luke L. fell down doing the jump rope and a lot of kids laughed at him, but she didn't laugh. She helped him up and showed him how to jump so he wouldn't trip again. Guess what? SHE IS A REALLY GOOD JUMP ROPER. And guess what else? One day Sophie forgot her snack but she shared her snack. Isn't that nice? And guess what else? She is really good in school because she knows all her numbers and she can read."

He stared off in space, with a love struck look across his face, before adding, "Did you know that I always like to sit next to her on the bus? But sometimes she is sitting with someone else and I don't get mad, I just say, "That's OK!" even though it hurts my heart?"

With his beautiful eyes, he gazed up at me and concluded, "Next to my sisters and you, Mom, I think she might be my favorite girl in the world."

Oh mercy, the sweetness of a six-year-old boy. It is unparalleled.

Tonight, just before bed, the children showed me a video that had been created of their entire kindergarten class singing a song about Dr. Martin Luther King.

I've volunteered in the children's classroom before but I couldn't place William's crush. So tonight, as we watched the video and the camera panned the room, it caught me by surprise when William excitedly pointed out his crush and I saw that she had dark brown skin.

Dr. King! Dr. King!
Dr. King was a civil rights leader!

Dr. King! Dr. King!
He had a dream!

He wanted everybody to love one another!
He wanted everybody to love one another!
He wanted everybody to love one another!
That was his dream!

Dr. King! Dr. King!
Dr. King was a civil rights leader!

Dr. King! Dr. King!
He had a dream!


In August of 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King said, "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character."

In January of 2011, I'd say that Dr. King's dream is very much alive.

Especially for my little boy.

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"Mom, I really hope that my haircut looks good so that she will stare at me all day, tomorrow."

Well, son, she very well might. But I'll tell you what... next time YOU can go SECOND.

Oops. My dream has yet to come to fruition.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

cows and ... ducks?

We used to live in the town of Maynard, Massachusetts. That big white house on the corner was where I spent the first seven years of my life.

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My grandfather, my mother's father, died in that house five days after his wife, my grandmother died. He was 96-years old when he died and he was the picture of good health. He just decided once my grandmother passed away that he didn't want to live anymore.

So he stopped.

This was my very first friend, Amy's house. She lived a few houses down the street from us. I'm still in touch with her family and love them. Very much.

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This is the old Corner Store directly down the hill from where we used to live. I remember going in to this store, all the time, when I was a child. I can still remember enjoying my Dip-N-Stick on the front steps. Or was it a Dip-N-Lick?

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All I remember is that my teeth would tingle when I'd eat it, probably because the sweet and sour sugar, smothered over a solid sugar stick, was rapidly decaying them.

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This is the Coolidge School which was a two-minute walk at the end of our street.

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Now it's an administration building, but years ago, all seven of us, attended at least some school at Coolidge. My mother has fond memories of sending the kids off to school in the morning, and then we'd be home for lunch, what seemed like 10 minutes later. She tells me the story of dropping my brother, Wally, off for the first day of Kindergarten and by the time she got home - he was already there. He'd beat her home and said, "I'M NOT GOING BACK AND YOU CAN'T MAKE ME."

Oh, but she did.

So he retaliated by shaving the identical neighbor twins totally bald. But only after he shaved the head of every single doll his five sisters had amassed.

Directly behind Coolidge School is the first hill that I ever sled upon in my entire lifetime.

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I remember that hill being SO HUGE when I was a child. It still is big, but when we took our children sledding at Coolidge during our recent trip to Massachusetts, they thought it paled in comparison to Jericho Hill in Marlborough, where Uncle Wally had taken them sledding earlier in the week.

(Bridget, that link is for you!)

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Speaking of school, and to respond to a question that Kelley posed to me, earlier today, our children are doing fantastic in kindergarten. While we didn't have much of a choice as to whether they'd be in one class, or separate classes (there are only two kindergarten classes at our school), we opted to keep them all together.

Despite the fact that they are all in the same room, our children are thriving.

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The all have their own *gasp!* friends and they very rarely interface with each other during school. I'm not sure, yet, what we'll do next year, but I might pursue keeping them in the same classroom. Not because I don't think that they wouldn't be perfectly fine in their own separate classes (they were in their own Montessori classrooms), but because it would make life considerably easier for us if we only had one teacher with the same curriculum and homework to deal with each day.

Also? I know that my children aren't ALWAYS going to be in the same class for their entire academic careers. Why I'm sure they'll each pursue their very own PhD tracks. But I don't think it hurts to keep them together for the first few years of elementary school. As time progresses and we can see that we need to make a change, we will. As for now, we subscribe to the philosophy of Keep It Simple.

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Three Children + One Class = SIMPLE.

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Speaking of Maynard, this picture, which my sister Beth has hanging in her dining room, used to hang in the kitchen at our house in Maynard.

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Even though I had taken four years of Latin in high school, I never stopped to really look at this picture and decipher it's meaning. I just thought that it was some ancient philosophical phrase. Or at least I did until Beth read it aloud to me, recently. And that's when I realized it was about a kid named Billy who confused 40 buses with a bunch of trucks loaded up with cows and ducks.

Oh see Billy, see her go!
Forty buses in a row.

No Billy! Them is trucks!
See what's in 'em?

Cows and ducks!

So much for my ancient philosophy theory.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

what's in you wednesday

So, I've mentioned that Charlie and I have been feeling frumpy and in need of getting back in to shape. Or at least, in need of doing something more health-oriented than what we've been doing lately = nothing except loaf around and create beautiful hot fudge sundaes in our spare time.

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Mmmm. Whipped cream.... hot fudge ..... chopped walnuts.

Charlie has been making good progress with his fitness goals. He carries the children back and forth down the hallway on his feet and recently joined a gym that he plans to attend at least three times a week. As for me, I've thought about how nice it would be to get in shape again but have done very little to progress that vision.

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Until yesterday morning at approximately 10:45 AM.

Because yesterday morning when I was at the office, I happened to see one of my co-workers who I hadn't seen in about seven years. The last time our paths crossed, he'd had one too many whiskeys and confided that he thought I was one of the most beautiful women he'd ever seen and would I marry him? The answer was no, because I was very happily married and pregnant with triplets at the time. Laugh all you want. Think what you may: I considered his compliment sincere and I was very flattered.

Much like I was very flattered when in 1993, a very handsome stranger followed me off the highway (101 North, in Santa Rosa), and in to a shopping center to ask me out for a date. He stammered, and I believed him, that he'd never done anything like that before and it was totally out of character for him, but when he saw me he almost crashed his car.

I turned down his invitation for a date because ... yikes. Who would accept a date from someone who followed you off the freeway? Even if they were cute?

But then, I reconsidered and that my friends, is how I met Charlie.

Just kidding. (About the meeting Charlie part, not about the guy following me off the freeway and asking me for a date, part. That is completely and freakishly true.)

Anyway, I digress.

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Yesterday, I saw my co-worker who I haven't seen in almost seven years and he doesn't recognize me. When I told him my name, he gasped and then looked at me a little more closely. "Wow, I would never have guessed it was YOU!" he said. "You've really, really changed." And then he pointed to my head and said, "Are you getting a little gray?"

NICE. YOU SWEET, SWEET MAN.

KICK BOOM BANG SMASH.

I'm not sure if it's worse to tell a woman that she looks OLD or to make someone pay before giving them a hair cut because you think they're HOMELESS?

Six of one, half dozen of another.

Sorry, I'm going to digress again...

In 2009 when we did the 3-Day Breast Cancer walk in San Diego, my two friends, Terrell and Cheryl, went in to a coffee shop. Now it's important to point out here that Terrell and Cheryl are approximately the SAME age. But as they are in the coffee shop, talking with fellow walkers, one of the walkers says to Cheryl, "I think it is so nice that you are walking with your DAUGHTER."

And Cheryl almost died right there on the spot.

Of course that story is so funny, because it didn't happen to ME. But the situation yesterday, when my co-worker couldn't even recognize me from just a few years prior was horrible. Although I believe it is important to grow old gently, gracefully surrendering the things of youth, I'm not ready to look old and haggard at 39.

I. Must. Take. Better. Care. Of. Myself.

So, I came home and took the exercise ball that I bought for myself over Christmas out of the box and ... OK, Charlie actually took it out of the box and blew it up ... lacking any form of grace or coordination, positioned myself to do 50 stomach crunches. I made it to 10. And today I sneezed and I kid you not, my entire abdominal section went in to the most severe cramp I thought for sure I was going to die. Honest truth: I fell out of my chair, directly on to the ground while moaning that Charlie needs to call an ambulance.

He didn't. He just looked at me and laughed which made me wonder, "What if this had been an ACTUAL emergency?" I'd be dead right now and my friends on the internet would never even know because my husband has no idea how to update my blog.

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Ten minutes later I was fine and tonight I bravely squeezed out twenty crunches before my stomach went in to another fear of imminent death inducing spasm. But yes, we went from 10 to 20, so already I'm improving!

Now, let's see... what day is it? January 12?

So what if I'm two weeks late to start exercising in the New Year? I'm pulling my severely out-of-shape body in to the saddle again and my goal is to tighten up and shed 10 pounds by my birthday. That's three months away, so I believe it's entirely doable.

Perhaps I should take a picture of the scale and post it as an accountability measure?

Yeah. That sounds great. I'll do that tomorrow next week....

That reminds me, my next resolution surrounds the elimination of my procrastinating habits. As an FYI to our friends and family: it looks like our 2010 Christmas cards will be mailed out by the end of January. Valentine's Day at tops!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

what I really want is to live in a snow globe

I didn't fully realize just how much I've missed living in an environment with seasons, until now.

The summer in Virginia was hot and humid and there were mosquitoes.

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But we really didn't mind too much, because within a short span of time, the days were cooler and the trees were transformed in to the most beautiful palette of color.

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The days continued to get cool - cooler - colder - freezing - until the first snowfall that blanketed the entire landscape.

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In the six months that we've lived here, we've been able to wear short sleeve shirts and sandals, windbreakers, raincoats, wool sweaters and flannel lined pants. We've worn boots and mittens and hats and scarves. My knitting needles made a reappearance last week and this weekend, I'm planning to scout yarn stores.

I love the change of seasons so much.

My only complaint is now that we're in winter, we are being robbed of snow.

We've only had a few snow showers over the past month and quite frankly, I'm feeling rather frustrated that the measurable quantities are missing us, consistently. Every so often our hopes soar when the weather forecasters will predict snow!

It's coming!

Our way!

But then it doesn't.

The snow went around us on Christmas, around us this past weekend and around us again, tonight. It's teasing us.

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Driving around town today, there were plows scattered everywhere. I could see pickup trucks parked on the side of the roads ... just waiting ... and my heart swelled with anticipation. At some point, the accumulation levels were significantly downgraded and sure enough, we received only a light dusting while everywhere around us is hammered.

It falls heavily to the north of us and it falls heavily to the south of us. Even GEORGIA has received more snow than we've received and that's just climatologically wrong.

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Charlie and I have become addicted to The Weather Channel, but whenever they show the Doppler Radar over our area, the storms take a quick turn left, right, or dissipates and we are left clutching our sleds and weeping fat tears.

Yes, I know that Northern Virginia received almost four times the average last year and was buried for weeks. I know we missed that. We seriously want a repeat. We have boots and sleds and mittens and enough wood for daily fires until July.

The next chance for snow appears to be next week, but because the temperatures are expected to be in the high 30's to low 40's it will be a "wintry mix." I take that to mean rain mixed with snow which is not exactly something that you can sled upon.

We want for the weather forecasters to be wrong. We want for Mother Nature to surprise us all. We don't want for this to be predictable. We want to be hit with a severe blizzard. We want to wake up in the morning and have so much snow that we can't get out for a week.

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Tonight, we received another light dusting and as I sat at my desk, working on a project for work, I caught sight of a yellow flashing light coming down our street.

It was a plow.

They were driving up and down the streets surveying what little snow we had received and I felt like running out and hitting the truck with my shovel before they could drop the plow and scrape it all away. What a bunch of mood killers those guys are...

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Don't ruin the snow!

You're RUINING it!!

Saturday, January 08, 2011

snowed: to defeat by a very large margin

Santa brought the children snow shovels for Christmas.

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Since we received a light dusting of snow today, the kids were busy at work. They told me that they'd shovel the steps for a dollar. But what they meant is that each step would cost me a dollar, per child. And the reality is they never actually shoveled the steps at all.

Instead, they flung the snow at each other and dragged their shovels all over the driveway (I think they're still out there, somewhere?) and when they were sufficiently chilled, they marched in to the house with snow covered boots and discarded their wet clothing from the front door all the way down the hall to their bedrooms while sweetly requesting hot chocolate.

I still paid them. After I picked up their wet clothes. And made them hot chocolate. And cleared off the steps, myself.

Because I am a loving mother.

(Who, it would appear, needs to improve her negotiation skills.)

Thursday, January 06, 2011

mr. and mrs. frumpy

Our New Year's resolution is to make a more conscious effort to take better care of ourselves. Charlie and I make the same resolution every year, but this year is a little different because never before have we felt like we've let ourselves slip as much as we have, this past year.

Moving, the adjustment of starting our children in school while adapting to a whole new work routine, has really flipped our lives upside down. It feels like we are constantly scrambling to find time for our children, time for ourselves, time for us as a couple, time to get things done around the house, and time to sleep.

For a while now, it seems like the balance has been way off. We are spending time with our children, we are spending time together, we are progressing home improvement activities and we are getting some sleep (although not nearly enough). But the time for ourselves, where we can focus on our general health and appearance has really taken a beating.

It's the ugly truth.

So as we embark upon this New Year, Charlie and I are really focused on improving our physical health. We are striving to eat better, get back in to the swing of a regular exercise routine, and take more pride in our appearance. While I have to get dressed up for work every day, on those days when I'm home, it's not uncommon that the both of us will wander around in the same pants and shirt we wore the day before. And maybe even the day before that.

A few days ago, Charlie went to get his haircut.

He stopped by to get his locks trimmed as he was driving from our house, to Home Depot, to pick up more painting supplies. Because even though it seems to us like we've purchased enough paint to cover the entire world, we still need more.

It had been a few months since Charlie last had his hair cut, so he was looking a little shaggy. Add to that, he was donning his painting attire (i.e., tattered sweatpants, an equally tattered and paint splattered sweatshirt) and he was in the process of trying to grow a full beard.

Or, maybe he'd just neglected to shave for a week or more.

Who really knows?

Anyway, Charlie told me that when he first walked in to the salon, the two stylists that were manning the shop eyed him nervously. One of the stylists came over and with raised eyebrows asked what she could do to help him. My husband pointed to his head and said that he'd like to get a haircut.

Obviously. Right? Isn't that why you go in to a hair salon?

The stylist said, "That's going to be sixteen dollars." According to Charlie, she really emphasized the sixteen dollars part, as if that was a lot of money that might be just beyond my husband's financial reach. He nodded and said, "Sure, sixteen dollars? That sounds fine."

The stylist looked at her counterpart before looking back at my husband and slowly continuing, "Great. Um. Do you think you can pay for that now?"

My husband ponied up the money and while it seemed a little odd to pay for a hair cut first, what he soon came to realize, is that she thought he was homeless and had just wandered in, off the street.

It is for that reason, Charlie came home and immediately signed up for a triathlon, this summer. He then shaved his face, trimmed his nails and entirely cleared out his closet of all tattered clothing. In doing all of these things, he inspired me to schedule an appointment to get my hair cut, break out our mini trampoline and also, shop for some undergarments that fit me, properly.

Yes indeed, we're on our way.

2011 is going to rock!

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

wally's world

I'm sure I've mentioned before that I'm the youngest of seven children.

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The first six children were born in seven years. My older brother, Wally, was the youngest in the family for five long years, before I joined the tribe. I recently read in "Positive Discipline" (which I promise to write about soon) that if a child is the youngest for more than four years, before any additional siblings are added, they effectively consider themself the youngest in a family.

Translation: Wally was the baby until I arrived and ruined his party. It is for that reason, he tried to pawn me off to whomever would take me, when we were growing up.

Despite the fact that I have MEMORIES of my brother telling people he'd pay them if they'd please take me off his hands, I love being around the guy. He is, without a doubt, the funniest human being I've ever met. And that's saying a lot, because I know some very funny people.

But Wally has a wit about him that is unparalleled. He doesn't tell jokes - he makes observations and relays stories that will have everyone around him laughing in stitches, with the very rare few who will roll their eyes and walk in the opposite direction.

As great as Wally is ... his better half is Donna. Simply put, Donna is an angel walking on earth. She honestly has to be, considering she has been with my brother for the past 25+ years.

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Now who's ready for a little trivia about our family?

Wally and I are the youngest in our clan.

Before the two of us had any children of our own, there were 13 grandchildren.

On October 14, 2004 - I gave birth to triplets.

On July 14, 2005 - exactly nine months later - Donna gave birth to twins.

On May 30, 2007 - Donna gave birth to a singleton.

On July 4, 2007 - exactly five weeks later - I gave birth to a singleton.

Grab a calculator, because we're going to do some math...

Triplets = 3. Twins = 2. Singleton = 1.

Triplets + Twins + Singleton + Singleton = 7.

13+7 = 20.

October 2004- July 2007 = 33 months.

In less than three years, two women added 7 grandchildren to our family, bringing the total from 13 to 20. Pictured below are grandchildren 13 through 20.

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We met up with Wally and Donna while we were in Massachusetts.

This was the first time we had seen Wally and Donna in more than two years, and the first time we'd seen them in their new house. "New" is a relative term because this house is actually a 200-year old farmhouse. But much like the old lake house that Wally and Donna lived in, this place is packed full of fun. There are dogs, snowmobiles, four-wheelers and an RV ... in the summer there are boats, jet skis and wave runners.

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When we arrived, the children were hungry, so Uncle Wally gave them a big jar of candy to snack upon. They loved him, instantly.

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Figuring the kids needed some protein too, he loaded sticks up with hot dogs and put them in front of the open fire. As if it was even possible, they loved him a little bit more.

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Charlie was hungry - and the roaring kitchen fireplace was taken - so Wally set him up on the 1,000,000,000 degree wood burning stove with a stick and dog of his own. He also gave my husband a warning that if he got too close, his eyebrows, lashes and goatee would singe off.

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Once the kids were sufficiently in a food coma, Wally gave us a tour of the place. He is a jack of all trades, but unlike most, he masters them ALL. He cuts down trees, removes stumps, welds, plows snow, and a host of other things of which I have no idea. But I do wish he lived closer to us, because I'd be calling on him all.the.time.

He also rents out space within one of his many barns for people to store their cars and boats.

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Here's his work space and just like his father, he loves Budweiser. He has a sign hanging in his kitchen that reads, "Beer: It's so much more than a breakfast food."

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When in Rome: Here's Charlie with a beer in his hand, touring the grounds, with snowballs splattered across his back.

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After spending a few hours at Wally (& Donna) World, he took us sledding at Suicide Hill. I'm not sure if that's what that place is actually called, or a name that Wally made up on the fly, while we were driving there. But considering our children had NEVER been sledding before, I thought for sure they'd be terrified.

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Turns out, they weren't.

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Our children, who immediately bonded with their cousins, hoofed right to the very top, or as close to the top as their little legs would carry them, over mounds of snow splattered with blood, before they nearly collapsed.

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When they could walk no more, they threw their sleds down and went tummy first, screeching all the way to the bottom.

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Cousin Michael.

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The two Williams.

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Carolyn and Wally.

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Henry, the Kamikaze.

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Look out below!

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Henry did great, until he reached the bottom and would fall off his sled, unable to move and lay on the snow asking that we carry him to the top of the hill and let him slide down, again.

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(Yes. We put him in mittens. No. He would not keep them on.)

My brother is very outgoing and has lived his whole life in Massachusetts. So it shouldn't have come as any surprise that nearly half the people on the hill knew him. As soon as we showed up, crowds of people congregated around him and stood talking, or rather, just listening to him talk and then, laughing until they could hardly breathe.

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It's good to be back on the east coast.

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I'm really so glad that we're here.

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Best yet, the kids are glad, too.

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Even when they're exhausted to their very core.