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.

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