Practice, Practice

Tonight I had Christmas Cantata practice. For hours.

We have had these practices every Sunday night (normally only one hour) since back in September in preparation for the big events on December 13th and 14th.

Tonight was the first night that we put together the choir with the play. So, it was a long, drawn-out process.

Between tonight and the week I just had - I am exhausted.


The Sound of Silence

This afternoon was sent directly from heaven. All is quiet in the house. For the first time in a week, I can let the dogs out of their room to join my siesta on the sofa while we catch up on some of the television shows that we missed. (My dogs love to watch TV with me.)

Don't get me wrong - I have enjoyed the time with the family. But, I can miss them much better after they are gone.


The First Baby Shower & Our Pre-Christmas

Tonight we had our first baby shower at the fish place at a neighboring town. You read that right - the fish place. Every Friday night after Thanksgiving, the family goes to eat at the same place. We reserve a room a year in advance. This place was a favorite of my father-in-law's (who is now deceased) and his siblings. So, every year, we go there and then back home for our Pre-Christmas celebration.

For anyone who is expecting or just adopted a baby or other celebratory occasions, this meal is preceded by a shower.

J insisted I do all the unwrapping, although he did sit beside me. Our baby got a lot of lovely items, and the vast majority are pink. By around the fifth pink item, J's eyes began to cross. I got a really cute picture of this, but he would kill me if he ever ran across it. So, you will just have trust me. It is hilarious.

After our shower, we headed to my brother-in-law's for the Pre-Christmas celebration. We gather in a large circle, divide up the reading of the Christmas story and sing carols.

Next comes the gift-giving, gift-unwrapping free-for-all for the kids. We have tried to do this in an organized fashion, but that never works. We always end up with mass chaos.

The adults do a version of musical gifts. Much less chaos.

This year, the events proceeded as usual. After the adult gifts, something odd happened. There was Christmas music playing in the background during all the gift giving. Suddenly, the music got louder, and people began to dance.


J's family.

Including J.

(I guess I could mention that J avoids dancing at all costs, so that was a BIG deal!)

We danced!


Thanksgiving Memories

Today I will be out of town on our tour of the state to see both of our families in one day. For my post, I decided to share with you my contribution to the Thanksgiving book that my mother-in-law put together for the family last year.

Thornton Wilder once wrote “We can only said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.” I believe this to be true. No matter what is going on in my life, stopping to remember all that I have to be grateful for both lifts my spirits and humbles me at the same time.

In my childhood, Thanksgiving meant family dinners, opportunities to see relatives that I did not get to see often and of course - pumpkin pie, dressing and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. I remember watching that parade every Thanksgiving morning. I was entranced by the beautiful floats and large balloons.

When the parade was over, we would go to my Mom’s side of the family for lunch. My Grandmother worked so hard to prepare a feast. The table would be beautifully laid out with her best china, the best turkey she could find, her famous dressing and the best pumpkin pie ever made. My Grandfather would ask for blessing on the food. Then, we would go around the table and list out what we were thankful for, eat, and have a wonderful time of fellowship.

Afterwards, we would head over to my Dad’s side of the family for dinner. This Grandmother also worked very hard to prepare a feast. My parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and I would all gather in the kitchen as my Grandfather asked for blessing on the food. After this feast, my cousins and I amused each other with the various games that we made up until it was time to go home for bed.

With J, I have had the privilege of celebrating Thanksgiving with this family. All of you mean so very much to me, and I cherish the time we spend together.

The best Thanksgiving I ever had took place while I was in college. J came to my house that afternoon. In my living room, he asked me if I would marry him. I was so surprised that my hand was shaking like a leaf as he slid the ring on my finger.

My family’s Thanksgiving is different now. Alzheimer’s disease has forever changed our traditions. With my Dad’s side of the family, our Thanksgiving meal now usually takes place in a restaurant. For my Mom’s side of the family, my cousin has tken over hosting duties – including the famous family dressing recipe. As for me, I attempt to recreate my Grandmother’s pie (even though I can never quite make one as beautiful as hers). But the most important thing about Thanksgiving has not changed. The love that we feel for each other still holds us together.

Through the years, I have learned to use every Thanksgiving Day as an opportunity to take note of the many blessings that God has provided for J and I. We are very blessed in the life that we have been given. For this reason, I want to hold on to this spirit of Thanksgiving not only on this special day, but throughout the year.


My Thankful List

  1. God's Presence in My Life
  2. My Husband
  3. Our Unborn Child
  4. Finally, finally becoming pregnant after seven years and a ton of heartache
  5. My Completely Awesome Family
  6. J's Family
  7. My Three Fabulous Dogs
  8. Our House
  9. Music
  10. The Beach
  11. Books
  12. Friends I Can Count On
  13. Lemonade (My caffeine-free replacement addiction)
  14. Prenatal Vitamins
  15. My Cell Phone (sometimes, anyway)
  16. Facebook
  17. Pumpkin Pie
  18. "The Office"
  19. Laughter
  20. My Camera
  21. My Jeep
  22. My GPS
  23. Christmas Ornaments
  24. DVR
  25. Spending the holidays with the ones I love

Note: This list is just 25 things off the top of my head. I chose 25 because it is a nice number for a list. It is not necessarily in the order of thankfulness, although the top few could be.

I chose 25 because it is a nice number for a list. While I was brainstorming, I found that I could keep going and going and going. I am really, really thankful that I have so much to be thankful for.


Pie Maker

In the big family Thanksgiving celebration, we all have our individual roles that fit together to produce a meal for 50 people. My role is the pie maker.

My grandmother made the best pumpkin pies ever. They were perfect in every way. Beautiful appearance, smooth texture, golden crust and fabulous taste. Her pies were always my favorite part of the Thanksgiving meal. She never measured an ingredient and never looked at a recipe.

Unfortunately, Alzheimer's took its ugly toll on her, and the precious pie resource in our family is lost forever. (No, not just the pies. I miss many, many things about my grandmother even though she is still right there.)

A few years ago, my second cousin once removed took over the family meals and pies. She did not have the exact family recipe, but she had watched my grandmother's sister make her pumpkin pies and written down her interpretation of the instructions.

The results were astounding similar to my grandmother's! The taste was slightly more spicy and the presentation slightly less perfect, but wonderful nonetheless.

Now the instructions are in my possession. I have put my own little spin on things, but I felt my pie was good enough to submit to my in-laws.

Sure enough, they loved it. I became the pie maker, and every year since the pies have been solely my responsibility.

My pies are not quite as beautiful as my grandmother's. Mine always turn out a little darker or a little less smooth on top. I have gotten the taste of her pies back (or come extremely close) by playing with the spices.

Each year when I start processing these pies I feel close to my grandmother. I'll never be the pie maker she was, but I'm honored to try.


The Bestest Husband Ever

My husband is a genius. I owe him big time.

Today is the only day I had to work this week. I requested the rest of the week off. Today was horrible. The project that I am managing is running late due to circumstances beyond my control, and my stress level keeps going higher and higher every day.

Today I told the developer that I would help him out by adding a link to a page on our application. A link. Just one. One page. Nothing is ever as easy as it should be. To make a long, personally painfully story short, it turned out to be much more than just adding a link. Our network kept going down and I could not test my work. Then the link turned out to be buried in a mound of spaghetti code. Blah.

So, I resolved myself that I would have to work tomorrow. Over a stupid link.

In steps my genius husband. He took one look and found the little, tiny extra character in the mound of spaghetti that was causing it to skip my stupid link. Now, I do not have to work tomorrow. Hallelujah! Hear those trumpets sounding and angels singing? I do!


Drywall & Mud

In order to get the baby's room ready, we have to finish a room downstairs in our basement. When that room has been completed, we can move our office down there and then the current office will become the nursery.

This week J realized how little time we actually have to complete this project since we are doing it ourselves. So, he stepped things up about five notches.

The electric work? Done.

Drywall? In progress.

J cut all the pieces and hung them up by himself. I get to help with the mudding. It's actually kind of fun. In small doses.


Shopping Days

My sister-in-law & I went to do our last minute Thanksgiving shopping. We drove to an actual town, one with actual stores. Stores that are not named Wal-Mart.

The extended family is coming down this week, and on Friday we have a pre-Christmas gift-giving celebration. While this is wonderful fun for all the kids, it becomes pretty torturous on the adults.

I love to shop. I am good at it, too! But sometime during November, when all the stores begin to boast of their incredible Christmas bargains, you can count me OUT. I would rather hide at home under my bed than fight the crowds of holiday shoppers.

Now you might say "Why didn't you do your shopping much earlier when you could have done it online and avoid the stores?"

That would have been great, right? Pity I did not think of it before. I knew Thanksgiving was coming fast, but I did not realize it was coming quite so fast.

Anyway, I was determined to make this trip count. I finished all the Thanksgiving shopping, and all niece & nephew Christmas gifts in the first store. That's right, baby. The first store.


Party at My House

Tonight, my sister-in-law & I threw a "Ladies Night Out" with a group of ladies from our church.

I have been a little nervous about this, because I do not really know this group very well, and none of them have ever been to my house. I spent most of the day cleaning frantically until my house was completely SPOTLESS.

The group began to arrive, starting with my mother-in-law and another sister-in-law, Mel. I felt immediate relief. My family had told me that they may be late, so I was afraid I would be stuck entertaining people that I do not know without their comforting presence. I began to relax.

We chowed down on Christmas goodies and made crafts. Crafts! My sister-in-law-fellow-host found directions for these cute Martha Stewart button ornaments. She has been making them for a while, and taught the group.

Mel & I set in the back cracking up. Neither of us catch on quickly to this kind of thing. We made the reindeer (see the green tissue paper in the picture) and the snowman (blue tissue paper). Mel's reindeer was super-super long because she kept picking out buttons. My reindeer's butt was red. I wanted to use the pretty red button, and I did not realize until I had already tied it in what I was actually making. We all got a big kick out of Rudolph the Red Butt Reindeer.

Now he proudly sits hidden on the side of our tree.


Another Dose of Nephew Cuteness

This is another Facebook-snatched photo. This is Baby G with his very favorite thing in the world - his pacifier. This photo was taken a while back. Now he is getting big enough that I will have to find a new nickname for him.


What to Do if You Have Extra Time On Your Hands

I cannot resist animal videos. With the success of sites like cuteoverload.com, I know I am not the only one!

Wired Science recently posted a collection of the Top 10 Most Amazing Animal videos. Prepare to be amazed as you witness an epic battle, polar bears playing with dogs (see photo at left) and a spectacular octupus camouflage scene.

Looking for more? Many commenters have added links for their favorites as well.


Strange People Walking in the Dark

With the latest time change, it is completely dark by the time I leave work and head for home. The drive to my house has become a bit intimidating since I live way out in the woods and far, far away from any street lights or other signs of civilization.

Tonight, I found myself singing along with the radio as I turned on to our private road. I have trained myself to look for eyes in the woods as I drive along so that I do not have a nasty car-side encounter with a deer or other poor animal. No shiny spots appeared anywhere, so I began to relax.

Then, a man appeared on the other side of the road in full camouflage. He had a large weapon, which to my non-expert opinion looked like a rifle. His face was covered, and he wore an orange hat.

I have no idea who he was. I hit the gas and sped away, heart pounding.

As I frantically dialed J's number, I realized that he was probably just a hunter. But, he could have been a masked murderer or someone more sinister than a simple hunter - like a door-to-door vacuum cleaner salesman.


And Now For a Dose of Nephew Cuteness

This is Farmer C. My sister-in-law just joined Facebook, and I stole this picture from her. I could not resist the face he was making. See those blue eyes? They are a B family (my in-law's) trait.


Dear Mr. Door to Door Vacuum Cleaner Salesman

Dear Mr. Door to Door Vacuum Cleaner Salesman,

I am writing to tell you how you are my new work hero. Can you train me to have your job? Can you share with me all your trade secrets? I want to be just like you.

First, you located my mother-in-law. She warily let you in, and you began your amazing carpet cleaning demonstration. You did not know this at the time, but she has been looking for a new vacuum cleaner. She had no intentions of buying from you, though. However, your awesome skill swayed her. Ever the bargain driver, she talked you down a few hundred bunks (maybe I need to learn that skill too) and she became the new owner of this wonderful vacuum. She refused to let you take her old one, and she is really proud of her dealing with you - bragging, even.

Your next stop was my brother-in-law & sister-in-law's house. They had received the warning call from the mother-in-law that you were coming. They had no intentions of buying anything from you, but they wanted to be nice and listen to your presentation since you had come all the way out to the middle of no where in order to pitch your vacuums to our family. You left their home with their old vacuum cleaner and one more sale in your pocket.

I am so impressed. How did you do that?

Luckily for me and my wallet, you did not make it all the way down the road to my house today. I have no doubts that I would also be the proud new owner of one of your miracle vacuum cleaners.

Yours truly,



Cedar & the New Enemy

Cedar has identified a new enemy - the landscape lights that line up in front of our house. I am not sure why he firmly believes that these strange alien beings are out to get him, but 1 1/2 have been destroyed - 10 more to go.


It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas (In My House)

Monday night, we put our Christmas tree up. Family traditions from my childhood dictate that this act should be done on the weekend before Thanksgiving, or on Thanksgiving weekend itself.

Over Thanksgiving week, J's extended family comes in for a big Thanksgiving/Pre-Christmas celebration. This is complete with full holiday meals and gifts for 30+ people. So, the Thanksgiving week is a little busy. (That was sarcasm, in case you might have missed it. Thanksgiving is INCREDIBLY busy.) So, after marrying J, our tradition became to put the decorations up as soon as possible in November.

Normally I take on the task of the tree by myself. Sometimes J will help with the lights. I collect ornaments, and each has its own story and special meaning. I have a particular order and location in mind for the placement of each on the tree. I know. I am difficult like that. This year, being pregnant prevents me from doing any lifting and climbing around on the ladder. Poor J.

This year, we hauled out the 9 foot tree that we have not been able to use for a few years. As we moved around during the house construction phase, we did not have the place for a large-size tree. This year, we are in the new house and our great room with vaulted ceiling and atrium windows has the perfect location for our big tree.

In addition, this year we have planter shelves to decorate. Our first shot at decorating these shelves Monday night left us both unsatisfied. Today, I did a little holiday decoration shopping. I bought prelit garland and poinsettias. It looks fabulous. Well, now it does.

As we unwrapped the garland tonight, we realized I bought one strand of colored lights, and all the rest were white. My OCD will not allow these lights to exist in the same room. So, we had extra strands of lights that were half-working, and some leftover garland from last year. My wonderful, terrific husband went through the strands and checked every bulb and replacing the duds until he had all the lights working. Then I got the job of winding the lights and the garland. We are so proud of our handiwork. I have not had a chance to photograph our efforts, but I will post them when I can. You know, next year sometime.



My Dad got to come home today.

The doctors confirmed that it was a minor stroke and that he (luckily) was displaying no permanent damage. They will probably treat this with aspirin.


They Didn't Call

Today my husband called me at work. "Everything's okay, but you are going to be mad."

I got up and closed the door to my office.

"Your Mom just called, and your Dad is in the hospital."

Here's the part where J knew I would be mad - "You mom had to take him to the ER yesterday."


Somehow, I got the message to my team that I would be leaving and drove home to meet J.

As we drove the hour and half drive to the hospital, I got more pieces of the story. Yesterday afternoon, my dad felt his hand go numb when he reached out to grab the car door handle. His face felt numb also. So, he and my mom decided to play it safe, and go to the ER. They both thought that he would get to go right back home.

The doctors immediately performed a slew of tests on my Dad. They determined he had experienced a minor stroke. That first night, he regained complete control of his hand and the senses in his face began to awaken as well.

But, they didn't tell me.

To make matters worse, I had called my Dad yesterday, and my Mom answered his cell phone. As she stood outside the hospital door to the ER, she acted like there was not a thing wrong in the world.

The doctors kept my Dad overnight for observation and spent much of the day running tests. So far - miraculously, I might add - they have found no signs of damage.

We sat in the hospital room with my Dad for the remainder of the evening. I called the rest of the family, and let them know what was going on.

"We didn't want to worry you. You have more important things to worry about."

This is a croc. A cop-out. They know I can handle situations like this. That if something goes wrong - I need to be there.

Now I guess I have to worry all the time.


A New Game

Cedar has invented a new game. The game is called "Jump Over Molly & Max". He takes off running from one end of the yard straight towards Molly. Right before he railroads into her, he jumps up and over her. Sometimes he jumps from Molly's left side to Molly's right side. More frequently (and more amusing) he jumps from Molly's head to Molly's tail. She's pretty good at this game. She just looks at Cedar like he is crazy.

Then it is Max's turn. He takes off as fast as he can, headed straight for Max. Max freezes in terror as Cedar makes the jump. Max's frozen state just encourages Cedar to repeat the jumping - over and over and over.


Benadryl Nights

The doctor told me to take Benadryl for my extreme itching. She said, "Even if the itching does not completely stop, at least you will be able to sleep."

Not a chance. Apparently, Benadryl has the opposite effect on me. While it does make me drowsy, it does not help me sleep at all.

So, now I am itchy and sleepless. Sigh. I'll survive, though. The baby is worth it.


Fun with Mulch

Today J & I worked on our landscaping. Okay, J worked on the landscaping and I watched. Hey! I cannot do lifting and I tire easily. Yes, that's right. I am pregnant and taking advantage of it when ever I can. I did rake some of the mulch around.

Cedar, the whole reason we had to undertake this monumental task, watched patiently the entire time. He rotated between laying beside my chair to following one or both of us around the yard. What a well-behaved dog, right? Well, once he did snatch my glove, but he willingly gave it back after I scolded him.

Spreading our dump trailer full of mulch took the entire day. As evening set in, we finally finished. We wearily put away all the tools and sauntered in the house. Then both of us glued ourselves to the window.

After Cedar realized that we were gone, he got up from his bed and cautiously looked around. He went over to the mulch and sniffed it. Then he proceeded to look around again.

So far, so good.

Ever so carefully, he prodded a rather large piece with his nose. After looking around again, he grabbed it and ran back to his bed.

Well, I guess it is better than digging. That dog will chew on anything.


A Clean Jeep

I went to the Car Wash at lunch today to have the Jeep cleaned. While there is no doubt that layers of mud look cool on the Jeep, I was getting tired of sporting a mean dirt smudge on the back of my leg that no one would tell me about until the end of the day.

So, what does this mean for you, dear Internet? Well, if you live in my area, it means that tomorrow it will rain.


Now You Look Pregnant

Today J came home after his recurring overnight trip out of town for work. When he walked in the house, he looked at me.

"Now you look pregnant!"

Yes, now that we are halfway through our pregnancy, my wonderful husband can finally tell that I look pregnant.

In all fairness, he sees me every day. It is hard to tell just how much a person changes when you see them so frequently.


19 Weeks, 3 Days

Dear Baby Girl,

Today was our recurring 4 week doctor's visit. I did not get to see you this time, but I did get to hear your tiny heartbeat swishing away. I also got to hear some pretty loud kicks. When the doctor would push the monitor into my belly, you would give it a swift kick.

I cannot feel your kicks very much, yet. They still feel like tiny flutters. For the last few weeks it has been difficult to differentiate your kicking from my stomach rumbling!

We have reached a milestone - we are at the halfway point. The doctor says that everything looks good. I am so proud of you for that. I have been really worried since I came down with a pretty rough cold. I prayed hard that you would not be affected by it. I feel sure all my coughing makes you uncomfortable. Luckily, my coughing is beginning to subside now.

Today was the first day that we met this particular doctor - Dr. O. Since you have been doing so well, Dr. F put me on doctor rotation. They do this since any one of the doctors may be in the delivery room. They want to be sure I have met all of them and feel comfortable with all of them.

Dr. O noticed how much of a rash I have gotten around my belly. The itchiness keeps me up at night, but you are worth it. She told me I have to take Benadryl at night, so we will see how that goes. I have tried to avoid any medication that I can so that you will not be affected.

I have been working hard to figure out what I want your room to look like. It is so important that we design something that will make you feel peaceful, yet stimulated. So far, nothing has spoken to me. I always thought I would want you to have an ocean theme or something like that. Now that you are a reality, I cannot decide!

Love Always,

Your Mom


Grocery Store Blues

When I go to the grocery store, I buy several boxes of things that I know that J & I will go through quickly. This system normally works pretty well.

However, when you get home to find that instead of buying the Nature Valley Sweet & Salty Nut Peanut Bars that you love, you actually bought two boxes of Nature Valley Sweet & Salty Mixed Nut Bars (which you don't love so much)...you cannot help but be disappointed.

When you open the refrigerator to put up your orange juice and realize that you did not buy milk (and yours is, of course, expired) all in the same trip, further humiliation ensues.

All this means that I must return again to the grocery store tomorrow. Blah.


Molly's New Favorite Seat

Problems uploading bigger picture, will fill in soon.


Registry Shopping

Today we went shopping for our baby registry. I decided to invite my parents & J's mom to go along with us. I felt sure that they would be thrilled to participate in this momentous task.


J's Mom wanted to go, but had other plans. Okay. It's her 11th grandchild, so she's already experienced this many times.

My parents wanted to go. Then they were busy. Then they wanted to go. Then, maybe they should not because it would be such a drive. (Sigh. The store is 30 minutes away from them, 2 hours away from us.) Then they wanted to go. And all of that was within an hour before we left this morning.

By the time we headed to Babies R' Us, my parents made the final decision to go and J decided to sulk about all the back and forth.

After 8 years, I thought he had realized that this is just the way they are.

When we got to the store, we were all already worn out. But, tough. I insisted that we cover every last inch of the store and pick out every last item on the checklist. Finally, J & my parents decided to spend some time checking out the rocking chair selection. Big helpers. At least they agreed on something.