And giving...

I must have memorialized the hurl-fest prematurely. It is in fact, not over. Poor Sheridan. I should have known better than to give the girl the food she begged for. Next time I will take a stand and “just say no” to cheese. And all other forms of dairy, for that matter.

Let’s hope tomorrow brings about new material. Because let’s face it, nobody likes it when you blog on and on about barf. Not even the grandparents.


The gift that kept on giving

Twas the night before Christmas, and what I wouldn’t give to say “not a creature was stirring”. In Dani’s short medical history, she has managed to create a strong correlation between special occasions and sickness. A couple of days before her birthday this year, she produced a raging ear infection (and reproduced her food a couple of times). We spent her birthday the year prior in the ER. And so it was not altogether surprising when at 11:00 p.m on Christmas Eve, Dani kicked off Hurlapalooza 2008.
We stayed up all night--mother and daughter--doing laundry, changing sheets, changing PJs, washing hair, and cuddling in between baths and the next “episode”. The festivities finally wound down by 5:00 a.m.
But it wasn’t over, folks. By Christmas evening, it was clear that Dani had been very generous with her germs. And the fun to be had was now mine all mine. Thank goodness MY mom was here. (Larry had to work from Christmas morning until the following day and couldn’t be around to bail me out.) While I spent the entire night in very close proximity to the great white throne, Nana held down the fort with the kiddos, kept the kitchen clean and the laundry going. When Caed woke up on Boxing Day at 5:30 a.m., rearing to go and determined to play with his new (and loud) Geotrax Airport, Nana quickly came to my rescue and sent me back to bed. Do you hear that? Yes, that is me, rising up and calling my mom blessed, a million times over.
So far, I have managed to be more miserly with my germs--the one situation when it is entirely acceptable to play the role of Scrooge. Knock on wood, Caed and Larry have not yet participated in the festivities, and let’s hope it stays that way!


Let's Look on the Bright Side

Do you see what I see? Is this really a photo of two beautifully behaved, perfectly dressed, delightfully happy children? Oh my friends, how looks can be deceiving. The reality is that Sheridan screamed, cried and clung to me for the first 18 minutes of our 20 minute photo shoot. Her cheeks are rosy only because she was still recovering from a red-faced temper tantrum. Caed’s pants were soaked up to the knees, thanks to the pouring rain and a huge puddle outside of Sears--which we went through twice because the first entrance we tried was locked. And to top it all off, after braving the elements and temperaments, I discovered that I could not use this photo in my Christmas card, as the CD advertised for $9.99 was really $119.99 unless you bought a bajillion other poses. And since this was the only decent picture that came out of our 20 minutes of posing misery, let’s just say Dani was not the only one devoid of holiday cheer that morning.

This year I was half tempted to send out the picture below as a statement of revolt against the holiday tradition of feigning perfection in the name of Christmas cheer.

You all know what I’m talking about, right? We dress up the kids in their best holiday clothes, and try to capture a blink-free snapshot of happiness--a photo that we can mass produce and mail as evidence that “it’s a wonderful life”. But the reality is that life is varying degrees of difficult. Not altogether different from a photo shoot with two unruly preschoolers.
Sometimes we lose the job we love, or keep the job we hate. Sometimes our spouse moves out, and sometimes our grown children move back in. Our children aren’t always healthy, and our marriages aren’t always happy. We might lose sleep because our teenager is giving us the silent treatment, or because our newborn is doing the opposite. And the last thing we all want to do is read a holiday card from our college buddy that brags on and on about how perfect life is.
So for those of you who have read enough about Sally, the third grader who just finished AP algebra, or Billy, the 5 year old MVP of the world pre-K soccer traveling team, this post is for you.

This is for those of us who know that life is more like a tangled string of not-yet-blinking holiday lights than a box of Peppermint Bark. Namely, it’s hard work, and not something you can polish off in one sitting.

It’s spending most of the night trying to get your baby back to sleep, which finally happens 20 minutes before your toddler wakes up for the day. It’s working long hours at the office, the factory or the hospital to make ends meet. It’s battling a chronic illness. It’s spending months deployed in Iraq, and missing your family in every moment. It’s not having a family to miss. It’s reading this inappropriately depressing post and wondering when I’ll ever get to the point.

But like that tangled string of lights, it’s not all bad. Because if you work at it long enough, you discover little flashes of light, even moments of outrageous joy. Your baby’s first smile. A safe return home from Iraq. A hug and a home-made card from your daughter. A year of remission. A love renewed.

And it is these little bursts of brightness that make the tedious untangling more than worthwhile.

So I’ve made a list--or a string, if you will--of some of the lighted moments in our lives this year, from the blinding bright blessings to little flickers of fun. Here’s a sampling from our string of lights:
1) Snowflakes from the first snow of the season, resting on Dani’s eyelashes.
2) Caed & Dani’s sand-speckled toes and sun-kissed cheeks, evidence of a morning at the beach.
3) A bike ride with the kids during a golden weekend.
4) Post-call sleep in a room with new black-out shades (ironic that this is a “lighted moment”, right?)
5) Riding the log-flume ride at Funtown-Splashtown
6) Building a fort that spanned an entire room (this one is going on now, as I’m letting the kids play unsupervised in an attempt to finish writing).
7) Lots of great visits with friends and family from afar, like this one, this one, this one and this one.
8) Playing “tickle monster” with Dad.
9) Hearing Caed pray, “Thank you Jesus for all the great t’ings I have. Thank you for Funtown Splashtown. Thank you for my family.” (I’m going to have to assume that the thank you list was not in order of priority.)
10) Dance parties.

So don’t leave me one bulb shy of a full string....Please add a comment to continue the list of lighted moments with one (or several) of your own bright spots of 2008!


Happy Birthday Sheridan!

My darling Dani is two years old today. And I'm happy to report that we broke tradition and spent this birthday at home rather than at the hospital, thankfully with a bit less drama than last year.

After dinner, we presented her with a cupcake, complete with two burning candles. To put it mildly, she was not pleased about the open flames blocking the path to her sugar fix. She shot me a look which I quickly interpreted to mean, "My birthday would be a whole lot happier if you'd quit singing about it and get that blasted fire away from my frosting!"

And it wouldn't be a real two-year-old birthday celebration without a demonstration of toddler property law. As you'll see in the clip above, she couldn't contain her paranoia that someone was going to take her milk. Lucky for her, she was finally able to move beyond the crippling fear of losing her dairy drink, for at least long enough to indulge in a bit of dessert.

And while I've been known to give Dani a bad rap about the rough start we had in year one (on account of her being an excellent screamer and a poor sleeper), I have to go on record that in year two she has transcended from difficult to delightful, and from inconsolable to adorable. It's amazing her pinky hasn't run out of room, what, with both her mom and dad wrapped around it!


The Trick is to Bust a Move without Breaking a Leg

This little video provides further support for the generally accepted principle that it is never a good idea to dance on a raised surface, be it a table or a toy box lid. It's all fun and games until everybody falls over.

And if ever proof was needed that these are indeed Larry's children, this clip should suffice. If you've spent more than five minutes with Larry in a social setting, then you know what I'm talking about. While most of us would shy away from an empty dance floor, not wanting to be the center of attention, Larry sees it as an opportunity to do all his space-intensive dance moves (most of which have their roots in the 80s-inspired Running Man). That said, I should clarify that while the kids share Larry's unabashed enjoyment of dancing, they have their mother to blame for the intermittent awkwardness.

Oh, and just for kicks (pun intended), I couldn't help but throw in this link to another dancing clip--this one of Caed when he was "tree years old". He's definitely expanded his repertoire in the past year, don't you think?


The Things You Learn in an Ice Storm

1) Electricity is NOT overrated.
2) It doesn’t matter if the power has been out for over 12 hours, I will still keep trying to turn the lights on.
3) I’m no Ma Ingalls. Sure, I built a fire, err, turned on the gas fireplace. And yes, I hunkered down with the kids in an old fashioned electricity-free way for an entire day. Except that we were at the mall by 9:30 a.m. in search of Starbucks and warmth, in that order.
4) When your internet isn’t working, you can just call your mom and ask her to read you the news and weather and power company updates. And she will do it, because she loves you for who you are, even if you don’t have a prairie woman’s bone in your body.
5) Being forced to relax in a stimulant free environment (no coffee, no TV, no treadmill, no internet) is a wonderful thing. It makes you stop and “just be” with your kids. But it is just as wonderful when the mandatory olden-days simulation comes to an end.
6) Whether it is glistening over a thousand blades of grass or crackling in a tumbler underneath a splash of Baileys, ice is a beautiful, beautiful thing.
7) Power outages will make you do crazy things. Like letting the kids skip a nap to do crafty Christmas projects. Especially when you are as crafty as you are pioneer woman. That is, not at all.
8) The minute the power comes back on, so does Blues Clues. Because, really, we hadn’t watched any TV all day!
9) I love this family o’ mine. I actually knew that before two inches of ice coated the trees, but getting back to the electricity-free basics reminded me afresh of how precious they are to me!


This Week in Quotes

(1) We’re driving in the car and Caed pipes in completely out of the blue, “Oh no, Mom, I think the market is low today. It is going down and down, and people are losing lots and lots of money. That’s the bad news. But the good news is that we are not in the market, because we are in Maine, right?” (What makes this even funnier is that I literally have not said a word about the market in a couple of months, and I’ve only talked to Caed about it once or twice in totality).
(2) Keep in mind, I say “we’ll keep that in mind” a lot, like in response to a request that I’m not ready to grant. So on our way home from school tonight, Caed says, “You didn’t keep your mind, Mom. You said we were gonna watch the ‘dascar (Madagascar) trailer sometime, but you didn’t do it for me yet.”
(3) Dani has taken to parroting everything. For example, we sometimes play a speech game called “gotcha” with Caed. We practice words like “fire” and if he hears me say it incorrectly, he will yell out “gotcha”. Dani thinks this game is da bomb. So tonight at dinner, after we finished playing “gotcha”, I went to the fridge to refill the kid’s milks. And I pulled out the wine to pour a little something for myself. Just as I tipped the bottle, Dani literally screamed, “GOTCHA”, followed by giggling and squealing. It startled me so much that I nearly dropped the bottle. Yeah, kid. You got me!


It's snoowww-time!

I woke up this morning to the sound of Caed’s voice (which is not entirely unusual), chirping, “Mom, you won’t believe it. It’s snow-time outside. Aren’t you so e’cited about dat???”

Well, truth be told, I AM a bit excited. I love the first snow of the season. It’s not until say, snow #8 that I start grumbling about the salt and sand on the soles of my shoes. (I mean, if I’m gonna have sand tracked all throughout the house, it better be because we just spent the day soaking up the sun and surf at the beach. Not because of the schlepping we did through the Target parking lot.)

Oh, and just to keep you all up to speed, you should know that Caed has his own taxonomy for the seasons in Maine. Winter= Snow time. So solstice be darned, today was the first day of winter. Spring is otherwise known as “Jinya-time”. As Maine has no spring to speak of (unless you count the daffodils that bloom just after Memorial Day), we always find a reason to visit our friends in Virginia to enjoy a normal spring, at a normal time.

Summer is dubbed as Beach & Funtown/Splashtown season. We have been to Funtown only once, but it was enough for Caed to construct a whole season around it. It is entirely possible that I loathe Funtown as much as Caed loves it. But it will always have a special place in my heart, as it was the ONE incentive that enticed him to part with his pull-ups forever.
And then there is Autumn, my favorite season. Caed saw fit to leave this one as is, and for that I thank him.

Which brings us full circle to winter. And with that, we announce, ittt’sss SNOOOOW-TIME!


Stop, drop & twirl

After dinner last night, the kids disappeared into Caed’s room. The peace tends to last only about two minutes, but on this particular evening, it was a solid ten minutes before I heard, “MOMMMM, YOU GOTTA COME SEE THIS!”

I never know what to expect when I hear those words. Will I find Sheridan with her face stuck in the doll house? Or a fort of destructive proportions, involving a full emptying of every last drawer, toy box and closet? Or perhaps a bit of human up-chuck and a dog who couldn’t resist?

Luckily, it was none of the above. I turned the corner to come up the stairs, and lo and behold, I saw two adorable cross-dressers. Caed had helped Dani put on his firefighter costume, and he had taken the liberty to model her butterfly apparel. Dani might have even pulled off the macho firefighter look, had it not been for the purple pacifier. Check out the video clip for the full demo on how to stop, drop and twirl.


Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree

This may very well be the only family outing in which it is entirely appropriate to hold a sharp object in one arm (such as a saw, say, for cutting down a tree), and a toddler in the other (such as a whiny little girl, say, who refuses to walk an inch on her own, that is, until she gets to the parking lot, at which time she is chock full of brazen independence).

Last week, we paid a visit to Beech Ridge Farm to participate in an 8-year old tradition of chopping down our Christmas tree. Caed helped us select the “bestest one” and yelled “timber!” at just the right time, as Daddy sawed it down at the stem.

Later that evening, after the kids finished baths and donned their PJs, they “helped” decorate the tree. I had intended on letting them do a few of their special ornaments (i.e. the ones they had made at school as craft projects, NOT the breakable ones). But they were so enthusiastic, they suckered me into letting them assist in putting up every last ornament.


Whether in Plymouth or Painesville...

We had a hundred reasons to be thankful. Last week, we gathered as an extended family at my sister Michelle’s house in Ohio. Between myself and my three siblings, we have 14 kids under the age of 12. Picture the movie “Cheaper by the Dozen” plus two, and younger. Virtually every moment of our visit included laughing, hugging, squealing, sharing, shouting, not sharing, screaming, whining, snacking, giggling, chasing, tripping, playing and pouting, usually all at once. And don’t forget drinking. Lots of drinking. Of milk that is. Although we grown-ups polished off a few bottles of wine, our drink of choice was actually coffee, without the Baileys. Because with adult-to-child ratios resembling a daycare, we needed to be twice as alert and at least as wired as the kiddos to keep up. Notice that I did not mention “sitting” in the list of how we spent each bustling moment. But it was oh so fun!

Auntie ‘Chelle hosted without skipping a beat, taking the chaos in stride, and managing to pull off a meal that would make Martha Stewart look like a slacker. Check out her table:
And Uncle Mark made a delicious turkey recipe that won over the taste buds of even the most poultry-resistant pilgrims.

My big sister was an elementary school teacher in her previous life (and if my predictions hold true, will find her next career as a Food Network show host). She put her teacher talents to use by helping each of the kids do a turkey place mat, using their hand prints. Shown below are Dani and Caed getting some craft time with their Auntie:

And another reason why Auntie ‘Chelle will go down as the coolest ever in Dani’s book--she literally spoon fed home-made cinnamon rolls into Dani’s mouth, while they cuddled and watched the Macy’s parade. Here’s the proof of Dani indulging in sugary goodness disguised as breakfast:
Not to be outdone, Mom & Dad Damiani made some headway on the hip-o-meter as well. They brought early Christmas presents in the form of a Wii console for each family. My brother Aaron was pretty jazzed, but you can’t really tell from the picture.
It didn’t take long before the Wii was set up and all the kids were playing. Or maybe just watching their Dads play. It was a hit with everyone young and old! Thanks Mom & Dad!
Now, not only was this a Thanksgiving get-together of legendary numbers, it was also our chance to celebrate my Dad’s 60th birthday in person. We performed a few oldies songs, customized the words for our dear father, and did a bit of a roast. Notice the ‘stache on my brother, grown specifically for the purpose of mimicking my father, which he did quite effectively, I might add. The muscle shirt Aaron is sporting is a bit harder to explain because I’m pretty sure Dad never wore those. I guess Aaron was going for a retro look, or maybe he just secretly likes wearing muscle shirts but never had a good cover excuse until now.

And last but not least, we celebrated Dani’s two-year birthday and cousin Glory’s three-year birthday a bit early. By then, I had run out of memory on my camera, but managed to capture this post-birthday-festivities, pre-nap look on Dani’s face:

And I know I already said “last but not least”, but I’m still not done. I apologize to those of you still reading. Anyway, Caed has decided that cousin Gus is his new BFF, right up there with Max. He made up a song about how Gus and Max are his best friends, and sang it all through breakfast the morning after we left. Over and over. Which wasn’t hard to do since there was only one line to the song. Here are the two best buds playing “construction site” together:
And I must give props to my dear sis Robin, who drove with her 7 week old, 3 year old and 4 year old all by herself, through freezing rain and snow, to complete our family reunion. Her daughter Molly is giving Sheridan a run for the money in the contest for the most “high maintenance” infant. Is it wrong that this Thanksgiving I was most thankful that the screaming baby in the house this year didn’t belong to me? I’m glad Dani is done with the inconsolable crying and has finally “progressed” into throwing tantrums with a generally traceable cause. And to my sleep-deprived sister I say, it really does get easier, especially when you drop them all off at Nana’s house for the week.

Ok, I’ll wrap it up for now. But I reserve the right to start rambling uncontrollably again in future posts about the wonderful visit we had.


Trains, Trees & Traditions

I know, I know. The alliteration has to stop. I can’t help it. The keyboard made me do it. If it makes you think any better of me, I did delete several extremely corny puns before publishing this post. So it could have been a lot worse.

Anyway... we kicked off our holiday season a bit early this year with one of our newly instituted (and likely to be the long-time favorite) traditions---setting up the model train. We knew Caed would be the ever enthusiastic engineer, but didn’t realize how enthralled Dani would be. You can see from the video clip that she was eager to play the role of conductor. However, she might need to brush up a bit on her locomotive lingo, as she repeatedly insisted that the Caboose was a Boat.

The kids stayed up to the wee hours of the evening (past 8:00!) to help set up the train and play with Daddy, and they loved every minute. So the next morning Caed woke up, ran downstairs and into the family room, and then came screeching back into the office where Daddy was working. “Where’s the Christmas tree? I thought it would be here by now because it is Christmas time!” he shouted.

As nice as it would be for the tree to magically appear in the house, lighted and perfectly decorated, we explained that going to cut down our special Christmas tree is next on our list of holiday traditions. That is, after we celebrate Thanksgiving. We did get a little ahead of ourselves this year, didn’t we?

So I’ve been doing some pondering about holiday traditions, how to create meaningful memories, how to impart our beliefs about what Christmas is all about, and how to make it “magical” for our kids without getting lost in the materialistic mindset. I’d love ideas from all of you out there about what things you do to make the season special. So in the spirit of giving, how ‘bout you leave me a comment, and share some of your special holiday traditions?


I better post this straight away!

This evening, as we were driving home from school, Caed informed me, “I am so, so, so, so hungry, and that means you need to make me dinner STRAIGHT AWAY.” Not sure when my easy-going American preschooler morphed into a demanding British bloke. I suppose I mustn’t ever underestimate the influence of our imaginary friends in the U.K., namely, Thomas and Fireman Sam.
Also of note, Caed is proudly sporting a flight jacket that Will (the neighbor boy who lives across the street from our old house) gave him before we left Alexandria. He wanted me to get a picture of him in it so we could show Will what a big boy he is now that he lives in Maine. So here’s an internet shout out to Will (and the entire Bayliss Drive bunch)! We miss you guys!


And the caption reads...

“Hey Dani. Let’s conspire against Mom and refuse to look at the camera and smile at the same time.”
The pictures that follow are even further proof that there are some things better left to the professionals.

As luck would have it, a coupon for a free portrait sitting just arrived in the mail. I am taking it as a sign (in conjunction with the 53 not-so-happy holiday photos just downloaded from my camera) that I should get professional help at long last. I’m talking about the Christmas card photo. What did you think I meant?

And just for kicks, here’s the photo that turned out the best:
And this one would have been okay too, if not for the “props” (the blanket and her toy radio) that I couldn’t get Dani to put down:

Finally, to give you a taste of why the still-life shots were not so still, here’s a video clip from the photo shoot, in which Caed randomly obsesses about doing the crab walk and Dani staunchly refuses to put down her blanket.


Flying High

Nothing captures the father and daughter bond like a toss-up into the sky. Dani’s head is in the clouds and Daddy’s heart is in her hands. By comparison, the two of them could make a Hallmark commercial look like a downer C-SPAN hearing.


Happy Halloween!

I must apologize in advance to the grandparents. We traveled up to Camden for trick-or-treating (so Dad could participate), and of all things, I forgot the camera. It was a double-whammy because that Friday was an unbelievably beautiful day in central coast Maine, with abundant autumn hues, clear blue skies, and about a hundred picturesque posing points. If I had a dime for every time I thought “that would be a great picture”, I’d have enough to buy a new camera.
The kids did seem to enjoy the trick-or-treat experience on what is purported to be the best street for trick-or-treat in the state of Maine. However, Larry and I would probably not endorse this location quite as enthusiastically. The street was so packed it was chaotic. At one point, I think I counted 5 spiderman impersonators in a 15 foot radius. I was relieved when Caed asked to take his mask off, so I could keep better track of my super hero.
So these pictures are admittedly post-Halloween, and you’ll note they refused to put down their toy phones for the photo shoot. Spiderman insisted he was manning the emergency dispatch. And the butterfly, well she was probably waiting for a text about the raging monarch party going down at the botanical gardens.


"NO" is just her filler word.

Sheridan has officially entered the Contrarian Era, commonly referred to as the Terrible Twos. Though still a couple months shy of the 24 month milestone, today she was crowned the Queen of Resistance, (You have to say it the French way “ree-zis-tawns” so it sounds like an enchanted kingdom vs. the tantrum-ridden power struggle that it really is).
Anyway, tonight she woke from her slumber with a cry at 10 p.m., and I went in to check on her. Below is a sampling of our dialogue:
M: “Oh, Dani, what’s wrong, do you need a hug?”
S: “NO HUG!”
M: “It’s time for night night. See it’s dark.”
M: “Do you want your blanket?”
M: “Well, what do you want?”
(I caved and gave her some milk).
M: “Ok, just one more sip of milk.”
M: “Dani, it’s time to lay down now and go back to sleep. I love you.”
S: “NO WUV YOU!” (I won’t take that personally).
M: “Night, night, darling.”
The funny thing is, during this whole discourse, I am not sure she was even fully awake. When it comes to saying “no”, she can apparently do it in her sleep.


Epiphany in the Corn Maize

It’s going to be one of those posts. The kind where I gush on and on about how much I love my kids, how blessed I am to be able to spend quality time with them, how wonderful it is to enjoy autumn in Maine, and how thankful I am for pumpkin spice lattes. I apologize in advance for the sappy sentiment.
Over the last few weeks, it appears the members of the media who cover the financial beat have been turning to their trusty thesaurus. It’s been two weeks straight of bad news, and they are running out of ways to say “down”. Dow tumbles! Market in free fall! Stocks plummet! Global panic spurs sell-off! I literally heard a news clip on MSNBC where the guy said “falling” about 100 times in 2 minutes. The only thing not mentioned as “falling” by this particular analyst was the sky. He deferred to Chicken Little on that one, but he was reluctant to rule it out as a possibility.
So with global panic as the backdrop on this lovely Friday morning, I packed up the kids and drove them out to Pumpkin Valley Farm. With peaking fall foliage, abundant sunshine, and a clear blue sky that wasn’t falling, it was just what we all needed. We met a bunch of our friends there, and tackled a corn maize together that had even the grown-ups a bit perplexed.
So somewhere in the rows and rows of corn, Sheridan just squatted down and started playing in the dirt. Then she looked up at me and cackled (pictured below).
And that’s when it all became clear. I have everything to be thankful for, and nothing to complain about. And while my 401(k) is most certainly down (falling, plummeting, potentially disappearing forever), my spirits are up (soaring, sky-rocketing, dancing in the heavens). Because what matters to me most cannot be lost during a bank run or a market crash. It can, however, be lost in a corn maize. So I cut my little epiphany short, hoisted Dani onto my hip, and hurried off to catch up with Caed!
We eventually made our way out of the maize, and tried out some of the other forms of farm fun--including a hay ride to the pumpkin patch. Dani and Caed each brought home a pumpkin, and I brought home a new perspective. You might say it is the kind of perspective that sees the pumpkin spice latte as half full, not half empty.
You probably know this is not an outlook I normally embrace. Larry would be the first to tell you that I’m no optimist. I am usually the first to complain, “I don’t think they put two shots in this!” or “This is skim milk...ughh, what’s the point of a PSL with SKIM milk?” But personality flaws aside, I don’t have to be an optimist to see the immeasurable blessings that surround me. And I saw ‘em bright and clear in the corn maize this morning.


With friends like this, who needs a personal trainer?

This is my friend Kate. This is Kate after running six miles. No, not before. I said AFTER. I didn’t make her pee in a cup, but I’m pretty sure she did this drug-free. Not even coffee. That’s downright superhuman, if you ask me. She may very well be the only mom I know that has more energy than her preschool-aged children. I have no doubt that when her kids head off to elementary school in a few years, she will have a career as a personal trainer waiting for her. In fact, I believe NBC is already in talks about having her replace Jillian on The Biggest Loser.
Pictured below, Kate & Ryan, Meredith and yours truly. Meet Portland’s newest marathon relay team.

You may be wondering what on earth I am doing in this picture. Yes, this is the same girl who got lapped (twice) when running the 2-miler in high school, only about 20 years older. Less than 9 months ago, I could barely finish a two mile jog in 20 minutes.
But there is something about being surrounded by people who push themselves to go farther and faster that makes me willing to do the same. So yesterday, I ran the 5.2 mile leg of the marathon relay. It was the shortest and final leg of the relay, and I began my run alongside people who were already on mile 21 of their “regular” marathon. I never imagined how exhilarating it could be to pass people like they are standing still. I am usually the one being passed, so it is a thrill I have never experienced firsthand, until yesterday. And yes, I do feel a bit guilty for being invigorated at the expense of the exhausted marathon martyrs.
But not so guilty that I didn’t imagine myself to be part of some kind of triumphant sports movie scene. And it only added to my delusional thoughts of grandeur that the Shuffle I borrowed from Ryan was perfectly choreographing my run, interspersing Eye of the Tiger as I hit the bridge toward Back Bay, and Going the Distance as I hit the last mile.
Anyway, we finished the race in 3 hours, 53 minutes. Not too shabby for first-timers, although I don’t think the Boston Marathon organizers will be imploring us to register anytime soon. The thing that has me so pumped is that this was a personal best for me--not just in terms of time and distance--but in the sense that I enjoyed the run itself more than any run I’ve ever done. I think I have crossed over into the crazytown of people who say they “love to run”. And when I finally arrived in this exercise-induced crazytown, Kate came bounding up and said, “What took you so long??”


A Plumbing Emergency

We were in the middle of breakfast when Caed announced he needed to “go poopy” and scurried off the chair and around the corner to the bathroom. Thirty seconds later he was back, shouting, “Emergency! There’s a ‘mergency! C’mon, mommy, I need to get my firefighter gear.”
Not knowing whether this was imaginary play or a legitimate cause for concern, I asked Caed if it was a real emergency, or just pretend. He emphatically communicated that this grave and imminent danger of which he spoke was REAL and lurking in the bathroom.
So I sent him off to grab his emergency gear while I checked out the scene. Sure enough, the toilet was on the verge of overflowing, threatening to flood the floor at any moment with a potentially toxic combination of sewage. A minute later, Caed came charging back into the bathroom, this time sporting his full fireman attire. “See, I told you it was a ‘mergency, Mom. You better get that stick thing so we can fix it.” (He was referring to the plunger.)
So, I grabbed a plunger, and we carefully made our way toward the toilet. As we moved in toward the fiery throne, Caed took off his fireman hat, reached for the plunger, and said, “Here, Mom, hold my hat.”
My brave, brave boy. A hero for sure. But today would not be the day that he would operate a plunger for the first time. Soon enough, my son. Soon enough.
So I told him to keep his hat on, and stand back. Waaaaay back. And I plunged our way to safety from the sewage.
After all the excitement, Caed only had one thing to say. “Can I actually go poopy now?”


How do ya like them apples?

This morning we joined friends from play group on a trip out to Snell’s Family Farm for some autumn apple picking. The weather was gorgeous, and the apples were easily harvested (and frequently sampled by Caed the fruit connoisseur). Below are some fun photos from this beautiful fall morning:


Oh Daddy Where Art Thou?

Every time Larry goes back to his “regular” schedule after having a month without call, the whole family goes into withdrawal. Larry has worked every day (yes, Saturday and Sunday included) and a few nights since he returned home from his Georgetown elective. And most of those days have been 15+ hour days, meaning the kids don’t see him in the morning or the evening. So this morning, right after he woke up, Caed told me he was going downstairs to see what Daddy was doing.
I relayed the bad news that Daddy was already at work, and Caed quickly replied, “But he was already at work all night, and all week, and he can’t keep working like this! Because he needs his rest, and I need to PLAY WITH HIM!”
I have no comprehension of how tough it must be for Larry to work day and night, in a high stress, high stakes environment, where there is always work hanging over his head, waiting to sabotage even his infrequent days off. But I have to go on record saying that if I was in his shoes, I doubt I would be able to do what he does when he walks in the door after a 30+ hour shift. He builds with legos. He plays hide and seek. He teems with excitement about the kids “surprises” (scribbled art work) and listens with rapt attention as they reveal big news of the day ( I got a lollipop today because I ate all my dinner!).
Caed and Dani are immeasurably blessed to have a Daddy who gives so much of himself even when he is completely spent. So thanks, Larry, and hang in there!


She's the poster child for slap happy

And just for the record, this was filmed a couple hours after she would normally be in bed. Gotta love that “I wore a dress to the beach, played in the sand, almost fell in the water, ate some cake, smeared it all over my face, and I’m still wearing the same outfit” look she’s got going!


We're Baaaack!

We’re finally back home, and I’ve downloaded an obnoxious amount of pictures and video from our three weeks of semi-southern living, enough to severely jam up traffic on the information highway. Over this prolonged blogging hiatus, you’ll be happy to know that I thought of more than a hundred clever, funny, heartfelt and riveting things to share, all of which were wiped clean from memory on the 11 hour drive home. I experienced the human equivalent of the dreaded “blue screen”, where the lights are on behind the LCD panel, but that mother board is as good as fried. I blame the mind-numbing combination of Thomas movie “dialogue” (those stinky steamies!!), a dangerous three hour gap between when we left (5 a.m.) and when I finally got coffee, the not-so-friendly banter going on between the two car-seat-ridden kiddos in the back seat, and the New Jersey traffic.
I think it is safe to say that Robert Frost was not referring to the Garden State Parkway when he penned a rhyme about the road less traveled.
So until my memory is restored (it may be gone forever), you can browse the endless photos and see the story of the last three weeks through the twinkly eyes and darling smiles of my offspring (who, for the record, are every bit as annoying on a road trip as they are cute in the pictures!).


130 Million Heartbeats

It felt no longer than a heartbeat. But exactly four years and over 130 million heartbeats ago, an eight pound bundle forever changed our lives. When did those floppy little frog legs morph into the limbs of a daredevil on the rock wall? How did he go from being lighter than a gallon of milk to guzzling a pint in two minutes flat? Yesterday I held my firstborn son in my arms, completely speechless at the miracle of new life. Today he sits beside me schooling me in how to build a dump truck out of legos. And I'm still speechless, only not because I'm lost in amazement. More so because I'm being patronized by a four year old.
So today Caed is a whopping big four year old. A full-fledged monkey-bar-swinging, ledge-jumping, lego-building, why-asking, chronically-whining, ever-loving four year old boy.

And I am immensely grateful for every moment, every smile, every hug, every milestone, every heartbeat.


Blueberry Fields Forever

I finally understand how little Sal and her mother could get “all mixed up on Blueberry Hill”. I took the kids blueberry picking this week, and it was delightful. Except for the part where Sheridan kept running off down the hill and to the right. Or was it to the left? Whatever the direction, in two seconds flat, she was down the hill, around the bend, behind multiple rows of berries and out of sight, apparently with the sole intention of getting lost. Thank goodness for Caed, who had matured since the last season of picking when he only tasted “tremendous mouthfuls”, and was now actually making a contribution to the produce in our basket. But even with Caed’s help, we brought home only enough blueberries to make a batch of muffins, and to freeze an extra pint.

So for those of you waiting breathlessly for your Martha-esque taste of Maine gift to arrive, complete with scrumptious hand-picked, home-canned blueberry jelly, you might want to take a breath now. Because let’s be honest. Even if the girl had cooperated and we brought home buckets of berries, there is a higher probability of Dani sitting perfectly still and staying blissfully quiet for 10 minutes straight than of me bringing a complicated domestic project to a successful completion. And if you must have a blueberry jam fix, now that I’ve put the idea in your head and gone nowhere with it, don’t despair. There is always Stonewall Kitchen.
As for our afternoon among the berries, I will say only for purposes of having a nice play on words that we could have stayed in the blueberry fields forever. But staying for just an hour was good too. Plenty of time to pick a handful of berries, and play multiple rounds of hide and seek!

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