the boys

the boys

Sunday, November 27, 2011

What am I thankful for?

Of all the Thanksgiving stories and good times with family, there is one that sticks out in my mind.  Sticks out.  Ha!  That will be funny to you in about 4 minutes.

Justin and his 6 year old cousin, Brett, are buddies.  Justin thinks Brett pretty much walks on water.  It's all "Brett said this" and "Brett said that" and "Brett has one of those" or "that's what Brett told me." 

They pretty much stick together anytime we are at Mimi and Pappaw's house.  Playing, wrestling, coloring, and building tinker toys.  They have so much fun, it really shouldn't (and can't) be interrupted. Not even to take a crap. 

That's right.  They even have to be together in the bathroom.  Thanksgiving day is no different.  I asked where they were and Claire's report is that they are in the bathroom together.  I take it in stride.  I checked on them briefly.  Justin was doing his thing.  Brett was walking around the bathroom just shootin' the bull with him. 

But then.....well, the first clue that something was amiss was that young Reid comes walking out of the bathroom with a look of horror on his face.  I guess Reid felt the need to be in on the bathroom action.  His hand was covering his mouth.  His eyes were wide.  I asked him what was wrong but he would only shake his head and glance over his shoulder towards the bathroom. 

So I venture into the bathroom.  Brett is hovering in one corner, squatted down, hand over his mouth a la Reid.  His eyes are equally as wide.  He silently points to Justin. 

Justin, my brave child, fesses up for the group. 

"It was an accident!!  Brett threw the Tinker Toy stick and it landed in the potty.  SORRY MOM!" 

The looks on their faces were priceless. 

So I ask myself:  Self, what are you thankful for this Thanksgiving?  And the answer is:  I am thankful for my dad who fished the tinker toy out of the potty.  Good ol' Pappaw!

....and let it begin with me

After a particularly difficult week intermixed with some really wonderful family time, I was reading through some of my old blog posts.  I really love the way this one made me feel and decided to re-post it today.

I had someone ask me recently why "this whole religion thing" is so important [to our family]. For me, it centers me. I spend all week rushing around managing, over-managing, and micro-managing everything around me. There isn't much about my job or my home life that is centered in faith. I try to set a good example for the kids, but certainly not as much as I would like. So this "whole religion thing" centers me. Each Sunday I spend time being reminded of where I want to be and who I want to be as a woman, a wife, a mother, a daughter, a sister, and a friend. I want to grow in Christ and be a symbol to others.

I went to church by myself this morning, which is an unusual occurrence for me. I usually spend the majority of Mass dealing with the boys. Don't get me wrong. I really, really love taking the boys to church. It's such a wonderful feeling to have them at church with me. Watching them listen and learn. I've never been a fan of sending them to the nursery during church. How will they learn to listen, participate, and appreciate church if they aren't there? Justin already knows a good bit of the prayers and songs. Even Leo, at just 18 months, knows how to kneel and fold his hands in prayer. Pretty darn cute, really!!

Anyway, I absolutely loved church this morning. Being by myself allowed me time to really pay attention and soak it in. And did I ever!! The music was particularly good today. Songs that I know by heart and that I love. They remind me of my childhood. My mother has played the organ for the church since before I was born so I have a particular fondness for the hymns she has played over the years. Our closing hymn was Let There Be Peace on Earth. The second line to the song is "...and let it begin with me."

So, yes, Let peace begin with me. Let this be the moment now. With every step I take, let this be my solemn vow. To take each moment and live each moment in peace eternally. Let their be peace on Earth and let it begin with me.

It was the perfect ending to what I found to be a very moving service. Father Mike's homily was great and right on target with what I needed to hear this morning. His overall message, from what I gathered, was to be a good example of God. We all have persons in our lives that have turned away from Christ or who make other choices in their relationship, or lack thereof, with God. The message today was to love those people. Pray for them. Hope that they open their hearts to God and all of His goodness. Hope that they place their lives in God's hands so that He may guide them and see what is important. It's not preachy or at least to me, it's not. It's just simple. Love all and want what is best for those that you love.

Some people probably wouldn't categorize me as a particularly faithful person. That's OK. I certainly do and say my fair share of sinful things. So, I must remind myself. Let peace begin with me. As Father said this morning: Live out the values of our faith in ALL times. Not just the hard times in which I am struggling or ill or down. But also in the good times. God's message, peace, hope, and love is enough. I will try to be faithful in following God. I will follow the values of my faith.

Let peace begin with me.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Deep Thoughts by Justin O'Brien

These deep thoughts by Justin have been said all within the last 24 hours. 

Hey, God?  How do you make it rain?  (pause and cocks his ear to listen for the answer).  Umm-hmmm.  (pause).  Ok.  Thanks.  (turns to me) I'm ready to say my prayers now. 

OH.  I need to make my bed.

Did you know that squirrels don't have very many teeth?  They have 3.  One on the bottom and 2 on the top.

I can't wait to fly in Heaven.

I want to be a scientist to investigate stuff. 

(after I told Jeremy that Rock Center is my new favorite news show and Justin asked what it was about I told him that it's a news show about what is going on in the world).  Oh, I should probably watch that.  I really want to know what's going on in this world.  We should record it so I can watch it too. 

(after the boys were playing and wrestling and Leo starts screaming)  MOM!!!! Leo lost a tooth.  Hurry!!!!  (and so I rush in there and yank Leo's mouth open).  I'm just kidding!!!!  He just has a fruit snack stuck in his tooth! (and they both crack up laughing at my expense!) 

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Just One More Chapter...

I don't know which I love more.  Reading or writing.  I guess no one is forcing me to choose so I can be content with liking both equally.  I guess it just depends on my mood.  Reading is mindless for me.  A get away.  I don't read anything heavy.  I don't read to learn.  Anymore.  If I ever did in the first place.  More on that later.

I read for pure and simple pleasure.  I read fiction almost exclusively. Not science fiction (gag!) or trashy romance novels...although I've read my fair share of those.  Just good ol' fashioned fiction novels.  People and their lives.  Their stories.  Not all that different from what I do every day at work.  Listen to people's stories of their lives.  

But unlike work I don't have to retain the information I read when I read for pleasure.  In fact I often forget most of it after I read it.  I can't, and quite frankly don't want to, remember the details. I have enough to think about.  

Last year for Mother's Day the boys gave me a Kindle.  When the Kindle first came out I shunned it.  I thought I would miss the feel of a book.  Of turning pages.  Not unlike most new technology (cell phones, laptops, texting....just to name a few) I assume it's unnecessary and I won't like it.  It's the Spidle in me.  We are too good for new technology until it's been around for a few years.  Then we come to the dark side and become dependent on it just like everyone else while somehow feeling superior that we held out longer than others.  A ridiculous way of thinking.  Of this I am keenly aware! 

Anyway, I got a Kindle.  And I LOVE IT!!!  The best present I have received in as long as I can remember.  I have to limit myself lest I read at all hours of the day and night.  Skipping sleep, work, and parenting.  It could happen.  It's my drug. 

Last night I let myself just read to my little heart's content,  which ended up being 1 am and that's only because I finished my book.  I could have gone on for a few more hours.  This morning I woke up with what I call a book hangover.  I'm a big fan of books that make me cry.  I think it might be the one emotional outlet I allow myself in my otherwise "Ice Queen" world, as my husband lovingly calls it. 

I just let it flow.  Allowing the ugly cry every once in a while.  Connecting with or at least sympathizing with the main characters. Feeling their pain.  Riding the highs and lows with them.  Then wrapping it up.  Reading the last page.  Closing the book or rather now switching the book off and coming back to my own reality, which in comparison to what most characters are doing is pretty uneventful.  Fine by me.

Last night wasn't one of the ugly cries but I did have a nice chance to let go of some of the feelings I work so hard to keep in check the rest of week.  And oh it felt so good.  It was the kind where at first I start to tear up while trying to stay strong.  Then the realization that for all intensive purposes I am alone.  Jeremy is in a deep sleep beside me.  I am only occasionally reminded of his presence when he has a conversation with himself in his sleep.  The boys were sound asleep too.  So, I stopped trying to prevent the tears and just let them roll.  Occasionally wiping my eyes with the corner of my pillow case.  Then sniffing a little bit.  Then throwing caution to the wind and wiping my nose on my sheets.  It's OK.  Don't panic.  I knew today is laundry day.  It did finally get to the point that I had to get up for some toilet paper to blow my nose quietly.  Then I remember that Jeremy is in a dead sleep so I go for the ol' foghorn blow. 

I can feel a headache coming on from the stuffy nose and crying.  So I'm reading faster and faster knowing the end is so near.  I started the evening at about 73% of my book completed.  That's a new thing to get used to with the Kindle.  No more page numbers.  Just percentage of completion.  I think you can change it to page numbers but I kind of like the task of getting to 100%.  As I read, I can see the scale at the bottom slowly creeping towards 100%.  At the end of every chapter I think I should just put the book down and get some sleep.  But I don't.  I push forward.  Telling myself repeatedly "Just one more chapter.  OK.  Just one MORE chapter."  I'm such a rebel. 

And as that thought crosses my mind I realize it is both sad (seriously?  THIS is my rebellion?) and hilarious.  Hilarious because many times in my life reading at night has been a rebellion.  As I finished my book I started thinking of all the times that I actually got in trouble for reading.  Sounds funny to me now.  I wonder if my boys will ever be "in trouble" for reading.  And as I think of one time another pops in my head.  Then another.  Then another. Then I got out of bed and came down to write this blog. 

Nancy Drew books were my first love.  The first books I really remember reading and not being able to put down.  I remember trying to read them by flashlight at night and hearing my parents yell from the other room to go to bed. 

The same was true when I moved to my Aunt and Uncle's house when I was in middle school.  I had one of those fancy-dancy lamps that clip onto my headboard.  It was pink.  I was so cool.  Well fancy-dancy almost burned the house down.  I would put a pillow over it to dim the light so Karol couldn't tell I was still up reading.  One time it burned a hole through my pillow case.  Hey, I was 12.  Or maybe 13, but still....

Then there was the time that someone gave me a Dean Koontz book to read in 7th grade.  Seriously, who gave me that?  Anyway the librarian told my mom that his books were totally inappropriate for my age and she forbid me to read them.  I got another one somewhere because she caught me reading one again a few months later.  Seriously, these are my teenage rebellion stories?  This is so sad.  But when you train 35 hours a week and go to school full time, you aren't left with much opportunity for actual teenage rebellion. 

Then in college, reading remained one of my vices.  Given at this point I had developed a few other age appropriate misbehaviors but those are for another blog.  In another lifetime.  All of my good friends and teammates from that time know this story well.  We still get a laugh out of it.  I actually got in trouble from our coaches for reading an "outside reading book" on a bus trip home from a gymnastics meet.  What???  I was like 20 years old and in trouble for reading a book.  Apparently my grades were suffering (which meant having anything below a B) which would reflect poorly on our team as a whole.  We can't have that happen.  We have a reputation to uphold and that reputation does not include having a vast knowledge of Mary Higgins Clark or Danielle Steel.  I am sure on some levels their intention was honorable and in my best interest as opposed to theirs.  They could likely see a bigger picture than I could at the time.  A picture that included graduate school admissions requirements.  I should be grateful.  But mostly I still just find amusement that I got called out for reading a book of my own choosing as opposed to completing my Algebra homework.

And now I'm all grown up.  And sooooo mature, I might add.  And rarely encountering anything close to Algebra.  And no one to tell me to go to bed except the voice in my head reminding me how dead tired I will be the next day if I read just one more chapter....just one more chapter....just one  more chapter.....just one more chapter....zzzzzzzzzzz. 

Thursday, November 10, 2011


Thank goodness for Ellan's Preschool!  I'm a better coach than teacher and quite frankly I'm not sure if I'm all that good of a coach.....and let's be coaching I mean just generally bossing people around.  But I'm certainly no teacher.  I was actually an education major in college until I realized that I lack the patience to teach a roomful of children the same thing over and over again.  It's not my cup of tea.  Ellan and Heather, on the other hand, are pro's at it!  Three days a week my kids come home with their handiwork.  Learning their letters and numbers.  Writing their name.  Matching. Cutting and pasting.  All of the usual preschool tasks.

I know I teach my boys.  Good, bad, and otherwise!  I only have to read past blog posts to see they learn from me whether I intend for them to or not.  I try to be a positive role model for them.  I hope and pray I am not failing them.  This parenting thing is tough and I know I am not alone in feeling like I can't ever get it quite right.  Tonight I tried to channel my inner Ellan/Heather and tackle the pack of site word cards Justin discovered on our game shelf earlier this week. 

We have never done site words so he was pretty clueless about the "game."  We started with an easy one.  Mom.  (Hey, I embrace my narcissism).  We start sounding it out, letter by letter.  Mmmmm.  Oooo.   Mmmmmm.  Repeat.  Repeat a little faster.  Then Justin says "I guess CAR."  What?  This isn't a guessing game.  And how do you guess car?  How the hell do you get car from MMMMM OOOOOOO MMMMMM? 

So we try this a few times trying to get the hang of it.  He can easily recognize all of the letters and gets the sound of each one of them right most of the time.  But the concept of sounding each one out to form a word is seemingly lost on him at this point.  He still thinks it's a guessing game.  Or a rhyming game.  Which makes sense because up to this point all of our games at home are in fact rhyming or guessing games. 

On to the second word.  Not.  Meanwhile, Leo is hovering nearby like he always does when Justin and I play card games.  He never wants to actually play but he wants to make sure he isn't missing anything. He is busy making Batman attack a Hot Wheel. 

So back to "not."  Justin recognizes the first letter as N and starts to sound it out.  From out of nowhere Leo yells "NOVEMBER!"  They are so proud of themselves. They are convinced that the card says November and they are congratulating themselves on getting it right.  I actually felt bad telling them it wasn't November and to sound out the whole word.  Nnnnnnnn.  Oooooooo.  Ttttttt.  Repeat.  Repeat.  Repeat a little faster.  Then Justin yells "BATH!"  And Leo yells "November!"  What???  How do you get Bath or November from Nnnnnnn Ooooooo Tttttttt? 

I am the worst teacher ever.  They are totally not pickin' up what I'm puttin' down here!  We continue on through "red" and "run."  It's a slow and painful (for me) process.  Everytime we got to the N in run Leo would yell "November!"  At least I know he's got that one down pat.  He learned it at Ellan's....of course!

We made it through a few more words before it was time for dinner.  I was amazed that neither of them showed any frustration with not getting the answers right the first time, or the second, or the fourteenth.  I guess that must be what it's like to be so open to learning.  I could probably learn a little bit from them.  Is there a mommy school?  I think I need to enroll!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Eating, Drinking, and Being Pretty Darn Merry!

So, I've been thinking all week about what kind of blog to write about my fabulous trip abroad.  What to share?  What to share?  What NOT to share (wink, wink)?
I guess I will go boring and do a top 10 list.  So here it is....excluding our Kosovo experiences since I already blogged about those:

10. Spending way more time at the awesome shopping mall on the bottom floor of the Louvre than we did looking at actual art.  I think we only pulled ourselves away from the stores out of sheer obligation to see the Mona Lisa.  You can't go to the Louvre and not see her.  But don't worry.  We shopped some more before we left :) 

9. Drinks at Experimental Cocktail Club that were super yummy.  It was located in our favorite shopping area and we tried 5 times over 2 days before it was actually open.  But no big deal really.  We spent so much time in this area.  It had cafes, cheese shops, pastry shops, wine stores, chocolate stores, high end clothing, consignment clothing, pubs, etc, etc.  We could have stayed right there for an entire week and never gotten bored. 

8.  Notre Dame- simply amazingly beautiful church.  We tried twice to get up early enough to attend a morning Mass but both mornings we slept in from the exhaustion of being a tourist. 

7.  Stick thin/bleach blond haired French waitress at the Cha Cha Lounge that screwed up our dessert order three times and I totally got the giggles when she kept bringing me the same one and I kept telling her I wanted the chocolate cake.  Below is a pic of Allison testing out my drink.

6.  the Eiffel Tower.  Really amazing just to see it in person and go up to the top.  My parents went almost 30 years ago so really cool to see it for myself.  We waited in some really long lines.  I was shocked at how many people were there on a random Thursday in October.  Can't imagine the lines in June! 

5.  Dessert sampler at a little cafe/bar place in Paris that we went to twice...yes, we went back just for the desserts one last time before we left!  We were starving the first  night we got there and Allison had scoped out a hot new place but it was booked through the end of October so we wandered the streets of Paris aimlessly at about 10 pm and finally stumbled upon the perfect shopping area I already mentioned.  Most places were already closed but this place was still serving.  After dinner we opted for a little dessert sampler and we were pleasantly surprised to say the least!!  The chocolate lava cake was SOOOO good.  I got the full sized one the last  night.  No need for sample size here!  I love these two pictures of the before and after.

4.  Wicked!  By sheer luck on our very first night in London we came upon the Broadway musical just 3 minutes before the curtain dropped.  And we got rock star seats that must have been saved for some VIP's that didn't show.  Loved every minute of it.  Acting and singing were awesome.  People watching during intermission was also worth the price of the seats!

3. Getting dressed up all fancy-dancy for our night on the town in Paris.  We started with drinks at the Ritz Carlton at the famous Hemingway's Bar.  Uber rich and fancy. We sat at the bar with a really fun and engaging bartender.  We had one drink a piece and paid way more than I would ever pay for a full meal here in good ol' USA :)  I begged Allison to let me take a picture but she wouldn't let me.  I was able to sneak a quick pick of a beautiful flower arrangement in one of the many sitting areas on the way through the enormous lobby area. 

2.  Harrods in London.  It was one of those experiences where you walk in and just fall in love.  It's super high end for the most part (Prada, Gucci, and Chanel....OH MY!) but one one of the main floors was several rooms of fresh food including cases and cases of cheese, shelves of spices/oils/coffees, etc, a whole room for chocolate, and then the seafood room.  We had the most delicious lunch in the seafood room.  Ahhhh, my mouth is watering just thinking about it.  I could have stayed there for 3 days straight.  I would have to take out a 2nd and 3rd mortgage out on our  house but it would have been fun for the time being!!

1. Little Palace Hotel.  Our initial joy that it was on the same block as our metro station was quickly enhanced by the absolute adorableness of the whole place.  When we made it to our room and realized we actually have an awesome view from our penthouse suite (ok, it wasn't a penthouse was just a tiny but adorable room on the top floor with a double window that opened!) I literally squealed with delight that we could see the Eiffel Tower from our room.  Kudos to Allison for finding this perfect little area of Paris!

LOVED, LOVED, LOVED every minute of my trip.....except the trip home.  An obvious blog choice would be to document the disaster that was my trip home.  I really hate to give it too much attention.  It was the only downside to my trip.  On the other hand, it is worth mentioning so this is as short as I can make it:

20 minute walk to Underground; 1 hour subway ride to the airport; 2 hour wait to board plane; 8 hours ride to Newark; got diverted to Maine; sat on tarmac in Maine for 2 hours and not allowed to get off the plane; 90 more minutes to fly to Newark; circled above Newark for a few minutes; another hour on the tarmac waiting for a gate to open; 30 minutes through customs; 30 minutes for my bag; 3 hour wait in line to rebook my flight to Kansas City (11:45 pm by this time!); 45 minutes in line for a taxi; shared a taxi with 2 women that didn't speak English; dropped them off at a hotel that didn't have electricity; drove to Lisa's (college roommate) house in a cab; barely avoiding downed power lines and tree limbs; arrived at 1:15 am; talked for 45 minutes ands slept for 2 1/2 hours; took a town car back to the airport at 5 am; got caught in a huge traffic jam but finally arrived back at Newark; 1 hour in line to find out my flight is cancelled and they can't get me home until Monday night (this was Sunday morning); break down in tears and beg for a flight anywhere close to Kansas City; get on 8 am flight for St. Louis; St. Louis flight cancelled; wait in line for 1 more hour to get put on standby for Kansas City; mini tram to a new terminal; wait in line for 10 minutes to get an actual seat on the 2 pm flight to Kansas City; wait in another line for 1 hour to get bag routed to Kansas City instead of St. Louis (even though that didn't actually happen!); 3 more hours waiting in the airport for my flight and FINALLY success!  Home sweet home just a mere 36 hours after my trip began.

Wow, that took longer to write than I expected.  What a friggin' nightmare end to my trip.  My memory is already fading of those miserable 36 hours.  I decide to only remember the good times from now on.....I guess if I ever want to recall that day and a half from hell I can read my own blog :)

All in all a great time.  Where to next????