I am home with four kids - two girls, two boys - ages 14, 6, 5 and 3 (and when I started this blog, just a little over two years ago, I had an infant, a 2yr old, 3yr old and 12yr old - feels like a lifetime ago, but it wasn't ;-). Until about four or five years ago, I worked in marketing. I have been and done many things - dancer, magazine "multi-tasker", advertising copywriter, gymnastics coach, resort town waitress, grad student, etc. Now my areas of expertise are different and diverse. I am savvy, efficient, patient and earthy (like it or not). I am a better cook, an Ok herb gardener, an impressive artist to my kids, an active and prolific photographer, a childrens' clothing stylist (in my head), a manager of all things "household" and a news enthusiast (from politics to celebrity). I am more cynical though less of a worrier / hypochondriac than I used to be. I am increasingly proud of what I do with kids, family and home, but I do still present myself as a "freelance writer".
So ... today, I snuggle buggled with my Milo on the couch all morning (Mommeee - are you done with your work? Are you ready to snuggle buggle with me, your Milo? sing song-y and funny today - fuming tomorrow .... he is such a study in extremes :-) - watched the rain (while Lil napped and the other two were at school) - discussed what type of icing we should put on the cupcakes we planned to bake for school tomorrow (vanilla - no, chocolate!) - covered up with a blanket - drank juice and coffee, respectively (though we always sample the other's bevie)... just had a nice start to our day. On these days, I often think about how kindergarten next year will change this dynamic, and... this week, I am thinking that I won't do a weekly donut outing with Milo after gymnastics because, well... he's not doing the morning class that he's done for the past few years - he's taking a class with big bro, Enzo, AND.... he's turning 5!!! this week, so... he's too old for that class anyway. I could cry - both with joy and with regret (WHY don't I cherish EVERY minute with him. Why? Because he is that kind of kid; he is like me. He is volatile, and... I really wouldn't change him, but he does test me some days).
So ... yeah - I'm up baking cupcakes because, even though Milo and I planned to do it together, my editing, getting dinner, picking teens up from a lacrosse meeting, heading out late evening to buy dance shoes and a "sticky" bra and more (including his request for blue and green plates and napkins for his school b-day) kept me from giving the project appropriate attention earlier today. And, truthfully, when there was a moment, I chose to send he and Enzo upstairs to play because they had Transformers in hand ready to start some pretend play, AND he had waited all day to play with big bro, E, so.... I opted for that instead of baking with Mommy. Worked out well - probably the better decision.
As is always the case with Milo, I am full of worry. Poor boy - with his kidney specialists and blood tests and special vitamins and hospital stays. Tough guy with his temper, his tantrums, and his stroooooong personality :-). Lonely middle child who is left out by his older brother when the big boys come to play or overshadowed by his comical, pretty little sister on occasion, even ignored by big sis and her friends, who he so likes to visit in her room. BUT, he is the one with whom I spend a lot of one on one time. This is a good thing. He needs that attention. He is just so sweet... and feisty. He is my affectionate boy - my super special helper - my sensitive, deep feeling companion - my cuddler who dances to the beat of his own drummer.
This year, he has already opened a big box of gifts from Grandma (and told her, gleefully, on the phone today how much he liked the bowling stuff and the light up toy among other things - I told her how, under his long bangs, he looked up with big, brown eyes and said in his raspy voice, "Can I open more presents? Where are they?" Soon, sweet boy :-), he will take birthday cupcakes to school tomorrow (last year he was sick on his treat day), he will go to Chick Fil-A and eat all the waffle fries and vanilla ice cream he can handle on his b-day (his choice), blow out a sparkly "5" candle, and open gifts from us, and.... we will fill out party invitations for the gymnastics party he has been REALLY wanting for a while ... though it will be after the New Year (which is fine with him), but it will be full of friends. It will be great.
Photos: Milo, the artist, and his Halloween witch - Milo "taking tea" - Milo on a cherished donut outing - and playing, hanging with Mommy and just being Milo :-).
Editing tonight and dealing with a very sore wrist - very preoccupied with both. Saw Tangled today, which was good. Did lunch out and take-out dinner. Too much going on for cooking (thank you to Olivia for emptying the dishwasher for me tonight AND for suggesting my homemade hot choc - AND thank you to hubby for rubbing my head, back and wrist last night when I woke with aaaaalllll sorts of muscle aches... tis the season, isn't it? ;-).
Saw this story and feel strongly that it warrants prayers and good thoughts. A suicidal man has concocted some strange story about what he did with his kids, and now they are missing. Three sweet boys. It is terrible that I have a bad feeling about this situation simply because too many times, in this life, people do such atrocious things, and... these behaviors become predictable. Just awful. Let's really hope for the best on this one.
Photo: The Olivias and Lil in a massage chair at Ross Park Mall (yep - caved and did a mall outing ... really looking for shoes for the Shadyside Academy Snow Ball, but... ended up doing Food Court, treat shopping at Williams Sonoma, watching Lil ride the train around and around and around - photos to come, btw :-), and bargain hunting in stores like American Eagle or Nordstrom - giant scores in both, btw - half off sweaters - Michael Kors bags for under $100.... my tip of the day for locals - that and the fact that BrGr over in East Liberty is becoming a good food and drink hang-out for us adults cuz I keep running into people there, AND I don't seem like the "burger" type at all :-). Any shopping trips from the rest of you out there? And.... hubby is trying to get me to go see Girltalk with him on Friday.... and.... I'm on the fence. I mean, there is good mashup and there is bad. What'd'ya think I should do?
See ya ... BUT... before you go.... you should check out the Kitchen Witch on my blog list... she is always funny and always full of good recipes..... a real memory-inducer in a Christmas fudge recipe posted today.....
Trying to get kids, all sugared up on cupcakes from yet another b-day party, down to bed then meet hubby and a friend out .... for just a little while. Olivia home from babysitting - having played her "Turkey Bowl" (flag football with girls from OC and boys from CC) earlier in the day (wait till she finds out I may have just committed myself to my own flag football game :-).
We actually did a lot and nothing, all at the same time today. Organized some more - files, music, photos, finances this morning (videoed the kids screaming at the first SNOW!!!! - light flakes that flew early today). Watched some of the Turkey Bowl and took some embarrassing photos (any photo taken of a teen in front of her friends is mortifying) - took little ones to lunch (I did play area at Chick Fil-A while hubby picked up our newly stripped and stained bedroom door then met us) - more reorganization, blind and door hanging...... then... party at neighbors... a brisk walk in the cold.... bath, bedtime, etc., which brings me to now... and my half zen / half agitated state of mind. Anyway.... bowling, Snow Ball shoe shopping, possible meeting with old friends, etc. tomorrow..... Busy, busy. Hope you're all enjoying the season!
Photos: Turkey Bowl - or, rather, the milling and fooling around before it started, and.... our beautiful door - check out that doorknob and hardware - beautiful!!!
What did you guys do this day after Thanksgiving? This retail "Black Friday"?
We were, as I say earlier, pretty predictable - hung Christmas lights, cleaned the house, ate leftovers, listened to Christmas music in the car (I can't help it - Jose Feliciano's Feliz Navidad does take me back to nights driving back from my Grandma's house with my parents in the '70s :-). We did go to a family birthday party, so it felt like a continuation of Thanksgiving... Not sure what's on deck tomorrow - possibly breakfast with friends and / or bowling with friends, another b-day party, Olivia and friends playing football with the Central boys for a fundraiser in "The Turkey Bowl", drinks with friends late evening... All fun.
REALLY enjoyed my boys today. After a trying week of fighting, telling me I'm a "bad Mommy" for punishing them or sending them to bed, keeping this aura of general crankiness going for what seemed like forever..... we really bonded today - played outside, drew pictures, cuddled on the couch and watched movies (even the predictable day after Thanksgiving "Wizard of Oz") - so nice. They were even sad to see me head out on a pull-ups and breakfast food run to the store tonight. I always enjoy my girls too, but... the boys have been rough lately, and... this felt good today. All my angels :-).
Hubby has hijacked my computer lately, btw. Transferring all our old CDs to our computer - and... in the meantime, we are really walking down memory lane. Sitting next to me is a big pile of Smashing Pumpkins, REM, The Replacements, Weezer, Beastie Boys, 10,00 Maniacs and even like stuff we didn't know we had like Sade or Lloyd Cole and the Commotions, Sisters of Mercy, The Church, The Cranberries (yeah - you heard me right - remember all that?!?!). This week has been a total musical walk down memory lane (thanks to Chaos Theory and both a Dead Milkmen VINYL thread, AND an Erasure!!! thread - again, you heard me right) - even the soundtrack to the movie Singles (remember THAT, grundge fans???). Anyway... I may be absent off and on .... and, then again, maybe not. We'll see.
Photo: Milo helping with those aforementioned lights (through Daddy's legs - on a ladder....what were we thinking?).
Kids have been up a while, now drawing something for which they are thankful at the dining room table (Enzo's idea when he got up this morning with me at 6am :-). We are doing quiche, bacon and cinnamon rolls while we watch the parade, having watched Madagascar and Kungfu Panda holiday specials all morning.
We cooked yesterday and will do so some more today - then will head off to see family. Yesterday, we picked our two boys up early - one in an "Indian head band" - one who had drawn "Indians" (one teacher remarked that it was hard to find anything "PC" on that, and I told her that my mother, who is part Native American - nearly half, called herself "Indian" - old school, I guess). We had taken our Lil to coffee earlier in the day then she helped me on my quest for pecans and whipping cream (both of which had sold out at Whole Foods when we were there). Our Olivia got home early too, AND, actually spent the day with us, baking and decorating some sugar cookies (Lil had picked out a "sugar cookie workshop" at Trader Joe's, and it worked really well... nice taste and consistency to the batter - easy to roll out - did not need to chill long - sugar in cool silvery colors - not quite enough icing - though, of course, I have both sugar cookie and icing recipes in my repertoire so all good...) - and the loveliness next to it is Haagen Daz new simple, 5 ingredient ice cream - this lemon is heaven - real lemon rind - cream - sugar - find something to put it on this holiday - pie - whatever - yum. It was a nice day - Enzo taught Milo how to trace his hand and make a turkey (like we all did as kids - and, see the photo on this page of Enzo's "bird" - not to be bested by lil bro yesterday, he did his own detailed bird drawing) - Olivia did shopping and dinner with friends (and one of the friends put this sweet little tidbit on her Facebook page - "so i had a dream last night.. it was about me and lilliana traveling the world and having conversations about cookies and imaginary friends. i woke up so happy" :-) in the evening while we cooked and watched movies at home.
Yesterday, I did see a photo of Olivia scroll by on our computer - it was her 10th birthday - we had a spa day planned for she and her friends (home spa). She was putting out treats on our dining room table, dressed in one of my Dad's old Goodyear sweatshirts. He had literally just died about a week before - we were just back from the funeral - but... Olivia had so looked forward to her birthday this year - double digits (10) so we went forward with our plans (knowing he would have wanted it that way - and, by the way, she wore that sweatshirt around the house everyday for weeks, keeping him close in her own way)! We were so sad, but so trying to move forward. It both hurt and felt very sweet to see that photo. Of course, we miss him today. I talked to my Mom yesterday - tried to approach the issue of the hostility we're having with my one brother - but I sensed she was thinking of my Dad and how it would be different with him here too, so.... tabled that discussion for another day.
I am thankful for my happy, healthy family. I am glad that my Mom is spending time where she is comfortable today. I am thankful that my hubby's family is being nice to me lately. It will be a good day. So... paper turkeys on the sill - food smells throughout the house - crayons, paper and markers already strewn about the table.... we begin our holiday.
A rainy one today (and sleet-y last night), so be careful on your respective paths to friends and family.
So - Enzo was up at 5 am this morning (very enthusiastic boy lately - photo of a "tiger cloud" on this post is from a Thanksgiving food shopping outing on which he cheerfully accompanied me - And, for the record, when we texted Daddy the cloud, he thought it looked like a scorpion.... What do you think? Seriously. Enzo will be interested) - while, by contrast, we had to prod Olivia a number of times to get her moving. Milo did NOT want to go to school (even for this short, half day) and made up excuses like his coat is not warm enough or his hair looked funny - even the dreaded "my stomach hurts", but.... kicking and screaming, he went to the car with Daddy (and both boys had their bags of crackers for the school's food drive) - Lil has decided she wants to only wear her princess pull-ups this morning and is having carrot sticks and green apple for breakfast (and has "poltergeisted" the tv room with legos). In the midst of all this - at literally 7:30 in the morning, Milo's beloved doctor called us to discuss those blood text results from a few weeks ago (and, truthfully, I'm glad he waited - TOO much chaos with dentists, and orthodontists, and well check-ups, and routine tests, and sick people...). Anyway - all good so far - one more text after the New Year and, hopefully, his red cells will be back to normal, and we'll be done with it for a while (at least the anemia and iron deficiency is better).
We have plans for tomorrow - not hosting but definitely cooking. I love Thanksgiving food so do not necessarily mind making a sage and marjoram stuffing, corn pudding, sweet potatoes with pecans and brown sugar, glazed carrots, a dessert, spiced bourbon cranberry sauce, and fresh basil and pesto bruschetta. We'll have a car full of stuff as we head to my sister-in-law's house. We have plans to skate around the tree downtown, see a movie, attend a few birthday parties, continue our home improvement, shop, etc. What are your plans this holiday weekend? And - what are you all cooking for tomorrow? Really - I so dig Thanksgiving ....memories of being home from college - family, the parade, football, food, laughter......Digressing....
So - a hodge podge of photos today - Everything from Olivia's "no braces" countdown and rejected "matchy - matchy" holiday outfits (for a photo - and speaking of outfits... while trying to buy online for her Shadyside Snow Ball dress and call stores for dress availability, we had some adorable dress sizes and colors just disappear before our eyes - from Nordstrom, J. Crew - the crazed shopping season is upon us) to the food lying about our kitchen, ready to be whipped into Thanksgiving submission today.... And, really, it will be a frenzy, I think.
Regardless, totally primed and ready for my run to the store today for last minute basil, whipping cream, corn, crusty bread, and pecans... Wish me luck ;-).
Did I forget to tell you that Crate and Barrel is open near the Ross Park Mall (hello, locals)? We went; it is nice. Big store - everything C & B - not like the smaller "we'll have to order it for you" types (like the Nordstrom in that area :-(. We got lamps, wrapping paper, a super cool covered cake plate.... for the holidays :-).
Also, check out Burgh Baby (my blog list) for a fantastic rant on how women (especially) are judged for their weight - too fat, too thin - despite how off-base (well and always inappropriate) these comments may be. Weigh in if you can; I sure did.
And... sad story in LA - don't know quite what to make of it (sad, sad, sad - really terrible - poor baby). Thoughts and prayers that direction..... And - reminders to cherish what you have - so many of us have a lot to be thankful for this season - would be nice to reach out to others.
And.. are you a royal watcher? Probably not. I am, however. So.... Kate and William have picked the day and place (29 April and Westminster Abbey).
Now - back to editing and iPhoto. I suppose I am truly back, but... I am not yet redesigned (all in the works) and only partially reconcepted. Input from all you guys has been so appreciated (keep it coming - email, text, Facebook - whatever).
I mean, there are days I still stand, mouth open, stunned to immobilization - that this is the PACE of my life. Again, this is the hardest year (I looooong for the days of sleepless infant nights and toddlers who nap - cuz I have one just beyond the toddler stage, but she is not a napper - piece of cake compared to this) BY FAR in my "parent of four children" saga.
Granted, things are easier in that I have modified my diet to create energy when I need it - a delicate balance of carbs and protein (and coffee - and Prilosec - thank God for that, truly - without it, I would have an ulcer for sure) - I have figured out how to get the house semi-clean and / or get loads of laundry at least started, folded or moved from one place to another by beginning such tasks before 6 am (and my kids are now in love with the early PBS shows, so... that works for me) - I do make it to the gym but I usually don't have time to shower and cut workouts short so that I can make it to the grocery store or other vital errands - I take editing / writing clients again but I work late at night or move deadlines (and take such projects that allow for that ;-). It is CRAZY!!!!
Today is one of those days. Dinner was late (hubby working late to accommodate for vacation days later this week) - and the kids did not want to put down their drawings, so we ate pasta among crayons and markers and half-completed kindergarten homework. Olivia colored Lilliana's face so that she resembled a pink cat (Lil modified it later - see photo). Luckily, they requested pasta again, so I could fill their bellies easily - though.... Enzo wanted my homemade meat sauce, and Milo wanted freshly ground cheese (remember the pile earlier this week), so worked on all that while moving around the Thanksgiving stuff I bought today (100+ year old houses do not have big kitchens, as many of you know). The noise (and I was trying to contact a client regarding an important question) - the splattered sauce (and, yeah - I got up early to clean) - the singing (which is kinda cool) - the just plain nuttiness (alternately maddening and cool - but one is old enough for homework but not for entirely dressing or undressing himself - one is still getting the hang of the potty and won't eat anything until it is bedtime - one still messes her Princess pull-ups and needs sippy cups and bubble baths and jammies with feet in them - and one is doing Geometry, buying expensive dresses for school dances and signing up for MORE sports with carpools involved, so... I'm stretched a little thin).....
Anyway - photos of said nuttiness with one proud look at my 4 year old's art talent. Check out that detail!
Screaming, stomping kids in shower beckon (plus a teen whose flash drive is no longer working and who spends all sorts of prime time talking on her mobile instead of re-creating the Comm Skills presentation that she finished then accidentally deleted this afternoon - and I saw it almost done.... ouch) - whole house smells like Tea Tree Oil (damn lice still terrorizing our school - gotta keep them away -and it's Turkey Games at school tomorrow, so close quarters for all). Stories of how another K student punched Enzo (bloody nose) - Daddy going nuts on kids who talk over one another (I'm sure there will be tears as a result - even our tough boys have feelings - oh boy - do they have feelings....).... Uh oh - more kids on the bed (can hear the ceiling ready to come crashing down).... I'm dizzy, have dry mouth (hoarse from trying to talk - yell - whatever - over them), heart pounding (I can't tell you how many times today, I was cut off as I turned or walked or rounded a corner and almost fell or slammed into a wall - they move so fast!!!), and.... this is supposed to be my release.... May need something a little stronger....;-).
On Sundays, I find myself organizing all the school stuff for Monday. Sure - I should have this all done way before Sunday afternoon, but... I believe in giving my kids a break from homework and other "business week" detail. I believe in giving myself such a break as well. Doesn't always work out that way, but I aim high ;-).
Anyway, going through Milo's preschool bag, emptying Enzo's back pack (in which I find a number of treasures like leaves from his nature walk at school - his new library book - a show n tell item long stuffed in the bottom - the banana he did not eat in after school, etc.), and even checking Lilliana's "morning out" lunchbox to make sure sippy cups are washed, baby wipes refilled..... CERTAINLY, properly washing Olivia's OC uniform - sweater vests, thick, shrinky polos and carefully hemmed skirts - is daunting at times, but comfortingly "regular" - one of my weekly things.
So - will I ever get tired of this? I mean, some days, I do. I just organized a bunch of paperwork; do I want to add more to the pile? It is over 60 degrees outside in late Nov, do I want to drag everyone inside to handle homework? No. But... I do want to plow through all this prep, ya know? I want to file old homework, I want to clear off the dining room table to make it family dinner-friendly, I want to make sure gloves and coats and gym shoes, etc. are in their proper spots, but.... I don't always have time. And... it sometimes feels mundane. I suppose someday, when Olivia is at college, I'll miss bugging her to do her chores - I'll miss washing those annoying uniforms, and when Enzo is no longer enamored of fallen leaves - I'll miss the dry, crunchy mess I pull out of his back pack weekly, and when Milo no longer wants to make up with me by drawing something fun we've done that day - I will have his drawings filed away appropriately - to look at. For Lil, everything is magical right now, and that "grown up time" seems so far away, but.... it will come too. I'll be ready. Right now, I'm going to enjoy my Sunday "school prep" :-).
And that is all I know today. I told you I've be back sporadically - posting as such. That went for lucidity as well, and today is not one of my good days ;-).
OMG - the shoppers were out today (see Starbucks photo this page ;-).
Gap is doing 40% off on Wed & Th (I am fuzzy on details) from now till Christmas (you should SEE the little outfit I got for Lil)..... Mini Boden has issued $25 and more coupons to shoppers to use by 11/30 .... Starbucks is doing a "buy one holiday drink, get one free" (stumbled onto that happy promo today - on until tomorrow..... after that.... you may have to wait a week or so.....). The deals are out there.... go get'em (and I'm serious..... suddenly, I've caught the fever. And, no, I will not get up at 5 am to stand in line, get trampled and buy a $3 appliance, but.... I will hit all my fave retail spots and keep my eyes peeled, as should you..... Too much fun to pass up :-).
Oh ... and that other photo....It is the amount of Romano cheese that Milo dumped on his pasta literally minutes ago (oh well - at least he's eating :-). While Enzo eats a proper plate of pasta with sauce and homemade meatballs (homemade by his Italian mommy - that would be me, btw :-), and Lil has a tea party upstairs with her plate o'pasta (Daddy working on our sad closet doors in our bedroom - Olivia at Light Up Night - and, yeah, you heard me right - she goes tonight while we went last night - friend with newscaster father who has interesting assignment tonight trumps us ;-), THIS is what Milo chooses to do (again, at least he's eating!!! - and he was such a super special helper for Daddy at Home Depot today :-).
Light-up night in Pittsburgh. Equal parts disaster and fun. A baaaad band played inappropriate music up until Santa, obscured by the crowd, declared that it was time to light downtown. Market Square was ugly - odd lights that blinked in such intervals that it appeared it was not lit at all. Delectable food smells enticed us, but... alas - long lines kept us from partaking. The kids did see Santa, though - through his little hut - and he waved and gave them a "ho ho ho" - which was good enough for them (another line averted :-).
We headed to PPG Plaza where the BIG tree sits, and.... it WAS beautiful, AND there was Christmas music playing, which was exactly what we wanted to hear (not some horrible band butchering a Katy Perry song). We even ran into some people we knew (though missed a friend's daughter skating in the Grinch performance). Now.... there were too many skaters on the ice (not safe), AND another long line, but we did sit and watch and soak in Christmas a bit. We wandered back to our train station, finding decorations, sparkly dinosaurs, ice sculptures and people dressed as elves running about along the way (also a police altercation, sirens, people in the crowd complaining about our stroller or that their kids got to an exhibit first - God forbid we snap a picture first...).
The kids were laughing, enjoying their cousins, making a game of the walk back to the car - found the T ride exciting like an amusement park roller coaster. We had a late night dinner, a bit hurried and chaotic, but yummy and full of conversation, with family.... found a Santa (and Mrs. Claus) who did want to talk to our kids and give them a hug. AND.... glow sticks (one already broken), one pair of pee pee leggings, leftover Chinese food, and some jelly beans in hand, we headed home. Sigh.
It occurred to me last night, as I wrangled my excited kindergartner, my cranky preschooler and my high maintenance "just turned three year old" (all the while texting the teen at a Central play-off game), that these are the crazy (but wonderful) years. Earlier in the day, I was part of a conversation in which someone mentioned that my kids were so big, so my life must be getting easier. Truthfully? And you all know this. Give me an infant any day. They are easy. Because, what you don't hear is that some preschoolers get up all night long BUT don't nap, AND... when you do school pick up for that, still very needy preschooler or kindergartner, the toddlers will run into the street OR take an hour to get into the building OR have one of their tantrums, and.... with kids so close in age..... it becomes a snowball effect.... This, however, is when you hit your stride - when you figure out that you MUST get to the gym - you HAVE to take them all to the grocery store - you NEED to occupy them with age-appropriate activities, and... within all this, you find a zen - an "it is what it is" - a deep breath in the chaos. And remember when you thought that having to nurse an infant every three hours was a big deal? Come on.... your ride is JUST starting. It will not be easier... it will be different.... and trying ..... and fun..... You will lower your expectations, appreciate the little things and take a good, long, hard look at yourself. All good.
Happy, happy all - Thanksgiving is a'comin'. And.... it appears that I am "back", huh? I am still in crazed organizational mode, so.... sporadic postings will continue :-).