Monday, November 28, 2011

Multitudes on Mondays...#181-190

Thankful (for):

181.  The wisdom of this quote, which is now written out in large letters and taped to my fridge:  "You have a lifetime to work, but children are only young once."  (~Polish proverb)  Keeping this in mind has changed my attitude so much.  Just today, I was busy doing something when Will came to me with his "Go, Dog, Go!" book, and even though I was tempted to say "Hang on" or "Maybe later", I grabbed his hand and we sat down in an armchair and I read it through with all the fun inflections like I had all day.  Because for my son, I do.  He's growing so fast...
182.  Creative gift-giving.  Marty and I can't afford to do a whole lot for each other this Christmas, but right now he's at Buffalo Wild Wings, settled at the bar with a beer and wings, watching his beloved Saints play Monday Night Football.  Time off from our delightful-but-demanding home life is always a treat, and I'm thrilled that I came up with the idea!
183.  The fact that Marty did a voluntary Starbucks run for me before his game.
184.  For a successful Thanksgiving dinner (my sister and I *rocked* the kitchen, y'all!).
185.  For a lovely visit with Katie and Chris.
186.  For the new kids' winter coats and homemade bread that arrived with my sister from my parents.
187.  That I've finally embarked on a lifelong dream -- to write a book.  I have a whopping 100 words or so written, but I have characters and dialogue and settings and scenes and a PLOT in my head and I'm so excited!
188.  For God's provision.  I just read an article today about the growing use of food stamps among young professionals who are out of work in this terrible economy, and it was a sobering reminder to be so grateful for Marty's job, regardless of its geographical location!
189.  For the upcoming, just-before-Christmas visit from my parents.
190.  For the merriment of planning a fun Christmas Day with my Marty -- we are going to live it up!  Right now, mimosas and French toast are on the breakfast menu, and the dinner menu is featuring a surf-and-turf theme (prime rib and sea scallops, woot!!!).  And we've barely even begun to plan!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Multitudes on Mondays...#171-180

Even though I have *no* spare time today, I'm still making myself sit down to do this because it's like taking a soul vitamin to stop and just be grateful for a few minutes.

Thankful (for):

171.  That a wedding is not the culmination of a love story (or at least, it shouldn't be).  The better, more interesting, most beautiful stuff happens long after the "I do's" have been said. 
172.  That my husband knows just exactly what to say when I need his encouragement.  Last night I was bemoaning the notion that perhaps when they are older, our kids won't want to spend Thanksgiving with us (or will have obligations elsewhere, to their own families or spouses' families).  Marty just looked at me and said, "If that happens, we'll fly to New York.  I'll take you to a Thanksgiving dinner at The Four Seasons and we'll go see The Nutcracker at The Met.  And Love, that's *worst case scenario*."  (How did I get this man???)
173.  My mom's homemade strawberry jam (and having several jars of it in the freezer). 
174.  Long email discussions with my dearest friends.  I have tears in my eyes thinking of you guys.
175.  Handbell choir performances at church.
176.  Buy one, get one half-off sales at Shoe Carnival.  Now both of my kids have new tennishoes and we saved $20!
177.  That my son simply adores his father.  If Will happens to be awake when Marty leaves for work, I have to console a weeping little boy who says, "Daddy -- car!  Daddy -- car!" over and over again, trying to make me understand that he *needs* to go to work with his Daddy.  It breaks our hearts...but in a good way.  :)
178.  That when I lay Lucy down for the night, I can count on the fact that she will sleep a solid 12 hours and will wake up refreshed and happy.  Her first year wasn't the easiest, and memories of it make me even more thankful for her sleeping habits now!
179.  Toys that hand down well from kid to kid. (Lucy is currently banging on a toy piano that was given to Will.)
180.  For a girl's night out tonight to see "Breaking Dawn" with Jessie!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Thursday Daybook

Outside:  It is spitting snow!  Or it was, briefly.  Come back, snow!  I may curse you in late winter/early spring, but I welcome you at the *appropriate* times! 

Thinking: That it was high time I stopped fighting the way my kids want to play.  They have a play area upstairs but I don't often have enough chores to keep me up there for extended periods of time, nor do I have lots of spare time to just sit and play with them (although I do make that time periodically, and Marty spends lots of time up there with them while I clean the kitchen or what-have-you).  Anyway, having their toys in one corner of the main level of our house just wasn't working -- every day by the end of the day our house would resemble a daycare with toys strewn about and me feeling frustrated about it.  Somehow I got the uber-bright idea to establish play stations at strategic locations -- a bin of blocks and cars here, a shelf of books there, a box of Little People over there.  One of the boxes is in the kitchen and since my Lucy is a little duckling (who likes to follow me about and prefers to just be wherever her mama is), this is the one that she is drawn to most, and I love having her in sight while I do my dishes or plan my menus.  And when it's time to pick up for the day, the toys just go in the nearest bin/box/shelf/basket and all is well with my soul and in my house!  Hurrah!

From the kitchen:  Going to try a new recipe called "Beef and Brew Stew."  Doesn't just the sound of that make you feel cozier?

Going:  Nowhere really.  Which isn't a bad thing, considering that it's cold enough to snow and bundling up toddlers in all their various gear isn't exactly my idea of a good time.  Although I do hope it warms up enough to get back to the park one day this weekend, or we'll be headed to the mall so Will can run off some energy.

Reading: (still) Goodnight Nobody (Jennifer Weiner) and American Sphinx (John J. Ellis).  I vacillate between filling my head with the good nerdy stuff (latter) and indulging in a silly chick-lit mystery (former).  I never really read one book at a time, it seems.

Shopping: For the remaining 50% of the kids' Christmas presents.  I'm stuck on something for Lucy and we're also debating one of Will's.

Hoping:  To have a lovely time with Katie and Chris next week.  And that we don't ruin the turkey (Katie and I are both intimidated). 

Hearing: A chattering Lucy but a silent Will, who is in time-out for the second time this morning (for a tantrum and then throwing).  I *can't stand* to discipline him but I have to say, the time-out chair has saved my sanity because it's a non-aggressive form of punishment, really gets Will's attention, and WORKS 100% of the time.  Some days we don't need it; other days, like today, it sees a lot of action.  Oh well...

A favorite thing:  Moving furniture around.  The five little Thanksgiving/harvest trinkets I picked up at Hobby Lobby for a whopping $9 total.  Perrier.  York peppermint patties.  A brand-new Yankee candle Mom found in her garage that I'd somehow left there -- yay for found treasure!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Monticello: Reflections

(My apologies for the tardiness of this post...I'm really trying to blog everything that I've promised, even if I'm the only one who follows along or cares!)

My earlier post featured some of the best pix -- now here's some that didn't make the cut, but definitely tell a story all their own!
You try to pose your kids and this is the best they give you.  Whatevs.

You try to pose your kids for a shot with Mommy and this, again, is their best effort.  (My kids look deeply offended, don't they?)

Finally, after much coaxing, you get your daughter to smile, but you don't really get a sense of the PORCH she's sitting on.  After all that.  Sigh.

And it's a good thing this wasn't some precious historic handed-down-through-the-generations plant because my kid would have decimated it.

Then you tell your husband to adopt his most presidential, think on the rights of liberty for all mankind, kind-of pose, and he dorks it up completely with his faux JFK pose.  (We doubled over and hooted with laughter after taking this shot.)

And finally, proof that even one of the greatest minds that ever lived *NEEDED AN EDITOR*.
Here, in no particular order, are some of my reflections, both historical and practical, from our Monticello visit:
  • You really expect the house to be bigger than it is.  But of course, it was probably a monster-sized house for the day and age in which it was built and dwelt in.  (And too, this place has probably skewed all my perspective on such things...)
  • I had read ahead of time that umbrella strollers were available for rent from the house, and as the only ones approved for use in the house, we planned on this and didn't take ours on the shuttle up to the house.  What the website *doesn't* tell you is that they don't allow the strollers to be used outside of the house, which would have been extremely helpful to know, because I would certainly have lugged our double stroller on that shuttle.  What happened was -- of course -- we ended up physically lugging children throughout all our time outdoors and in the other exhibits, and that's a good 75% of the visit. 
  • The other part of the story is that our kids sat quietly in their strollers for approximately 1.5 rooms, whereupon both began classic meltdowns.  Whereupon all other tourists in our group leveled me (I'm the mom, I should be able to prevent/stop these things, right?) with frustrated, even kinda ugly stares.  Whereupon our tour guide took me aside and "invited" us to take turns with my parents (so they could step outside with the children while we toured, and then we'd reciprocate).  I don't think you're supposed to say "no" to that kind of invitation, so we did as told, er, suggested.
  • And thus began an accidental jaunt through Monticello all alone with my beloved.  My parents continued to let us have alone time throughout our visit and I can't tell you how much fun that was.  The duties of parenthood (especially to two toddlers) are so pervasive, vigorous, insistent, persistent, and constant that you really do forget what it's like to just be alone, to enjoy walking hand-in-hand, to whisper questions and answers and reflections to each other during the tour guide's lecture.  We can't thank Mom and Dad enough for that opportunity.
  • My favorite room in Monticello is the breakfast room.  The gorgeous sunlight, the cozy table, the antique china -- lovely.
  • You know your husband is a bigger nerd than you when he can correctly identify a bust of John Adams from across a large room.
  • When in Thomas Jefferson's bedchamber, they don't tell you that he actually died in that bed.  For some reason, I think they were remiss not to share that factoid...I think I would have been more hushed or respectful or something.
  • The regular tour doesn't take you up to the famous octagon room on top of the house.  A much more expensive behind-the-scenes tour will, though.  Maybe next time!
  • We loved our tour guide for being so enthusiastic and yes, helpful in her practical suggestion, but we felt a tiny bit rushed through.  I found out later that October is their busiest month!  Probably because the mountain vistas are extraordinarily beautiful and the weather just right for strolling about the grounds.
  • I shared this in my original post, but I found the "support system" of Monticello to be just as fascinating as the house.  Tunnels and cellars and creaky old doors, oh my!
Well, that's all I can remember for now.  If I think of anything else, I'll just add it to my list here!  And if anyone who reads this is planning a trip to Charlottesville/Monticello, please let me know because after tooling about the city for a couple days, I learned a few helpful tidbits that can really save you some time/effort.  Happy Traveling!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Multitudes on Mondays...#161-170

(In the interest of brevity, since I'm usually long-winded on these and since I'm already burning through these precious moments of naptime peace and quiet...)

Thankful for:

161.  Bailey's.  Especially when my Marty plays bartender and brings me a Bailey's and cream on the rocks after a super-long day.
162.  Doors and toilet lids.  Laugh if you want, but given Lucy's new penchant for swirling various objects in toilet water, you'd be thankful, too.
163.  Real Simple magazine, especially the December issue (love all those gift ideas!).  (Dear Santa, my subscription is almost up...)
164.  A husband who requests that I write him a Christmas list. 
165.  The indulgent act of perusing various online stores for items to put on aforementioned Christmas list.
166.  My washer and dryer.  They are indisputably older than the hills but are still managing the daily onslaught of (sometimes nasty) baby clothes and other laundry I throw at them, er, in them.
167.  Planned shopping trips to Kohl's, TJ Maxx, and Target tomorrow, not only for needed supplies, but for Christmas presents for our babies.  Buying them surprises makes me rub my hands together in glee, I'm so happy!
168.  Mild 60-plus-degree weather in mid-November.  Dear the South, this Yankee loves you.
169.  My nightly date with Marty to watch 30 Rock.  We've always liked the show but didn't always get the jokes because we hadn't watched from the beginning, so we started watching them episodically a few weeks ago.  We have a blast watching them, and I swear Tina Fey might be the funniest person currently living!
170.  Lots of new words from Will this week, including when he patted his chest with both hands and said "Good boy!" in repitition of my praises.  Makes me feel successful as a mommy, at least in the moment.  :)

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Multitudes on Mondays...Catching Up Edition...#141-160

Thankful for:

141.  My Shark steam mop.  After Will was sick over the weekend, using a steam mop to clean (and destroy germs) was not just practical in de-germing my house, it was therapeutic.  There is nothing so clean-cozy as the smell of steam!
142.  A little pill called Zofran, that dissolves on the tongue and is safe for little ones to stop their nausea. 
143.  Extremely good news from the in-depth assessment Will had with the developmental therapist on Monday night.  (Sorry Toddler Mama friends, this is all going to be repeat info for you...) I could not be more pleased with Alicia's assessment, not because it's what I wanted to hear, but because it makes sense and rings true. She told me that language is both cognition and expression...she tested Will's cognition and she says he is at least at the 3 1/2-year-old level (her tests didn't go further), so not only is his cognition normal, but advanced! She says he does have a problem with expression but that she wouldn't call it a speech delay. She closely observed his physical act of speaking and noticed that he has underdeveloped oral motor skills/poor facial muscle tone (aggravated by a pacifier but not caused by it -- he was just born that way). She said that with some speech therapy and muscle exercises, his expression will catch up to his cognition and he will be *absolutely fine* and on track.  We are simply overjoyed at this news!
144.  The sound of my children laughing as they play together.
145.  The excitement of planning a Thanksgiving menu with my sister (she and her hubby are coming to Tennessee to celebrate the day with us and have a good long weekend of catching up).
146.  Growing ever closer to my husband and still experiencing heart palpitations when I see him.  :)
147.  Advice from friends, on matters great and small.  I love when people care enough to weigh in.
148.  Finding old friends on Facebook.  Although my relationship with the social network remains in the love/hate category, sometimes it really does prove its value to me.
149.  A good visit with my parents and having the chance to travel to Virginia together.  Even though it was a bit stressful at times (traveling with two toddlers is never easy), it was still loads of fun.
150.  My new slippers (purchased in Virginia from this lovely shop called London's, a "Bathecary").
151.  "Cottage Style" and "Country French" magazines.  Eye candy!
152.  The fact that my mom gave me one of the above when I really couldn't justify the cost added to my grocery budget ($10 a pop!).
153.  How well Will is responding to the new institution of the time-out chair (it's the bottom step of our staircase).  I hate to discipline him, but he really "gets" the punishment and is (almost) always ready for apology/reconciliation when his time is up.
154.  How much Lucy is developing lately.  Her walking has turned energetic and forceful, punctuated with periods of dancing and swaying and babbling with strong opinion (we've no idea what she's saying but let me tell you, she really means it!).  She is the funniest creature.
155.  That it's still warm/sunshiney enough to open a couple of windows during the day.  I hope this lasts well into December and is possible again early in the new year.  Fresh air does wonders for my soul!
156. Constant Comment tea.  I've tried probably in the hundreds of flavors of teas, but this is still my favorite.  A classic. 
157.  Clorox wipes. 
158.  Febreze with Gain scent.
159.  The Internet.  I found my husband (eHarmony), my nanny (wish I still had her!) (CitySitters), my current home (Craig's List) -- all online.  I even found a few dear friends through their blogs.  I planned our Monticello visit online, now Katie and I are working on our Thanksgiving menu from various recipe websites...what would we do without the Internet???
160.  This exercise in gratitude.  I love how it makes me stop and be thankful once a week. 

Friday, November 4, 2011

Monticello: Pictures

Here are some pictures from Monticello (we visited on October 31st).
Stay tuned for a follow-up post, Monticello:  Reflections.
My favorite picture of the house.

I hate how "flat" this looks because when you're standing on the terrace, the view of the mountains is just breathtaking. 

One of the most goose-bumpy factoids of history:  Thomas Jefferson died on the 50th anniversary of the signing of his Declaration, on July 4th, 1826.

TJ's monument.  The original, more simple stone was replaced by Congress and his gravesite surrounded by this wrought-iron barricade.  We like to protect our Presidents even centuries after they've passed, apparently.

BFFs.  (See?  We both wore our brown vests on this day.)

At the Welcome Center, gift shop, museum area.  SUPER easy/navigable for tourists and just a lovely area.

On the shuttle going up to the house; my mom and Will reading up on their history.

Me and Lucy, getting ready to join our tour group.  Please notice in this picture (and in others) my complete mom-on-the-go uniform of puffy vest, jeans, and WHITE tennishoes.  *rolling of eyes* (Dear Anthropologie:  one day...)

Two gentleman, strolling about the grounds...

On the famous porch with my Puppy.

One of my other favorite pix...  The house is flanked on both sides by two L-shaped terraces that end in small pavilions.  Underneath the house and both terraces is an enormous "behind the scenes" area (French kitchen, stables, ice house, pantries, wine cellars, etc.) that supported the elegance of the formal life at Monticello, and this is one of the neatest areas to explore. 

Examining a leaf that had just landed on the terrace...I imagine one of TJ's grandsons might have done this very thing.

The chimneys extend from the kitchens below.

The terraces are surrounded by gorgeous trees, and the day was superb for enjoying the dappled sunshine.

Looking all founding-fatherly.  :)

For her scrapbook.  My little traveler!

One of the breezeways under the house -- practically NOTHING has changed here in nearly 300 years.  The imagination really gets going walking through this tunnel!

The tunnels/breezeways are very well-lit by these magnificent windows that showcase some of TJ's flower beds.