Oh, Christmas Tree

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Saturday was the day. We were going to get our tree, come hell or high water. I love Christmas Tree Day. While we don’t cut ours down (we know our limits), we go to a lovely tree lot, and carefully look around until we find the The One.  The One must be a concolor fir- not a very common type of tree- so it can be a pain, but it’s always worth it. We were going to get adorable selfies and a great tree and a great time will be had by all, damn it.

So, Saturday morning the kids and I set off to meet the Hubs at the tree lot. I had an inkling my plans for a perfect day were doomed when the Bean refused to wear her boots. When forced into doing so, she borrowed my phone while I was driving and texted the Hubs to come get her because she needed to be rescued from me. Nothing says family love like a stalemate over footwear and SOS text messages. When we got to the lot, the Bean refused to get out of the car because of said boots. Upon hearing that, Scorch then informed me that if she wasn’t getting out, he wasn’t getting out either- the adults could pick out the tree on their own.

Hell.No.

This is FAMILY FUN, DAMN IT and they would participate and like it even if it killed them! To prove that, I yelled/hissed at the Bean to get her shoes on and for both of them get out of the car before I counted to 10 or so help me God…

See, fun?

The Hubs still wasn’t there yet, so when the children finally emerged from the car and started to run around like feral animals playing hide and seek between the trees, I found the man in charge and asked him to please point out all the concolor firs to me. And then….I saw it. All 9 feet of it in all its glory and I knew, I knew, it was our tree.  I mean, who cares that the diameter is so large that I couldn’t see around it and that it was 9 feet tall. We could work with that, right?

When the Hubs got there, he initially told me I was crazy but I knew his inner Clark Griswold was going to come out. I gave him a minute and sure enough, I saw him circle the tree a few times. I knew he was hooked. Only the Hubs asked the man in charge to take 1.5 feet off the base of the tree, so it wasn’t quite as majestic when we loaded it on the truck, but common sense does have to come into play at some point.

While the Hubs and the man in charge loaded the tree on the truck, I had the fun of running around yelling for my kids who didn’t want to get out of the car to stop hiding on me and to get back in the car. I’m pretty sure they would have paid us to take the tree had we let the kids run around much longer.

~*~*~

Our tree goes in our living room. There are only so many ways to arrange our living room furniture, so for the past 14 years, our tree has stood in the same spot… it’s proper spot, right in front of our picture window. But that doesn’t mean the Hubs doesn’t have to spend a good hour trying all sorts of other configurations of our furniture before giving up and moving things to the same spot they go in every year. This year included the extra added bonus of muttering under his breath when he realized that our kids actually *gasp* stored things in the drawers of our coffee table. Doing so evidently made us into “pack rats”. Who knew?

But, the tree is up. It’s gorgeous. The kids are happy and we’re happy. Nothing about getting our tree or putting it up may be picture perfect- but neither are we.

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Thankfulness: This Crazy Life

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One of my favorite rituals is changing over our monthly white board calendar. I wipe last month’s craziness away, carefully pick the colored markers I want to use for the month’s name and days, the colors for each kid’s activities, the color we use for special events and I slowly fill it all in. I try to be neat and clean- I replace my markers often to keep the tips somewhat pointed.  But no matter what I do, it’s a batshit crazy mess when I’m done. And it only gets worse as the month goes on when all the dates that didn’t have anything on it get filled in with rescheduled practices, PTA meetings, sleepovers and birthdays.

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As I was thinking earlier today about all the things I was thankful for this month- all the things I hadn’t had the time to write about yet- I realized that THIS, this is what I’m thankful for. I’m thankful for that monthly calendar and all the batshit crazy things that fill it. The minutia of every day life in this family the Hubs and I created.

I’m thankful for the two healthy, happy, oh-so-active kids that keep us running to basketball, flag football, lacrosse and concerts. I’m thankful that I married a man who cares enough to be on the school board. I’m thankful for holiday parties at jobs that we both value and enjoy 90% of the time. I’m thankful for the family commitments near and far that keep us connected with those we love the most.

I’m thankful for this wickedly crazy awesome life- because it’s AMAZING.

 

Thankfulness: Snow Days

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When Scorch was a baby, I’d stare at him and wonder how in the world I’d ever love another child. I’d wonder why we’d want to try for another child when the one we had was so utterly perfect. When he was 18 months old, I was rolling around the idea of keeping him an only child semi-seriously in my brain. Then I started to notice my body do some odd things, so on a whim I bought a pregnancy test- never expecting it to be positive. I mean- it had taken us almost 3 years to have Scorch- what were the chances?

When that test came back positive, I remember the sheer panic I felt. What were we going to do? I hadn’t been taking my blood thinners, the secret ingredient needed for me to carry a healthy pregnancy to term! Was I going to love that child as much as I loved my son? I sat on the toilet and cried.

~*~*

Clearly the Bean joining our family was the missing the piece- the one that completed our family. I couldn’t even list all the reasons she’s amazing.

But the best part? It’s these two together:

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Especially on a snow day when we’re all stuck home together due to a travel ban.

 

Thankfulness: The Green Genie & Butt-hole

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We had the kid’s parent-teacher conferences today. I admit that I geek out over these. We’re super lucky that my kid’s teachers are always accessible but I love having a set time twice a year to sit down and talk about how my child is doing. I talk to the kids at length ahead of time to see if they have any thoughts or worries that I should discuss, we review their report cards, talk about what they like and don’t like about class so I go in prepared.

Scorch is one of the lucky ones- school, both academically and socially, comes easy for him. He pulls in stellar grades, gets along with everyone and is generally a delight (his teacher’s words, not mine- although I agree).  His conferences tend to be quick and easy.

It’s not secret here that the Bean tends to be the more spirited of my kids, so you never quite know what you’re walking into. Her report card was amazing and she’s loving 3rd grade, so I wasn’t expecting anything of note. The only question mark on her report card was her writing- her grades weren’t as high as I would have thought they would be. I mean- girlfriend can write.  For example, here’s a gem from a few week back:

thelostgirl

You have to hear her read it to get the full experience- but this makes me laugh each and every time I read it. She wrote Part 2 and it’s even more disturbing/funny/demented.

So, her writing grade didn’t make much sense to me until her teacher pulled out a recent in-class assignment. The class was asked to write about finding a genie in a bottle- what would the genie look like? What wishes would he grant? Would he be successful? Her story- word for word:

“I found a genie in a bottle. He was green. He let me wish to be rich. It worked.”

*snort*

Ah, the joys of raising/teaching a child who, when she’s game, is 100% committed, but when she’s not? Well, you get a green genie who makes you rich.

Thankfulness: Finding the Good

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So, today was a day, huh? I had a coworker leave the office in tears because she was so upset over the results of the election, as she wondered how Trump and his ideologies will impact her family. I have friends who are thrilled that the old establishment is out and someone new is in power. I had to reassure my kids that Trump won’t kick their Indian friends out of the country.

Tonight I found out that two young people from my hometown died tragically this past weekend.  I did some digging around on Facebook and news sites to find out more about these children and their families. I found GoFundMe sites. I found meal trains. I found people – strangers- reaching out to give comfort and help. None of that can replace these gorgeous children who were lost, but it helped prove to me that most people are good. Most people are kind and generous and loving.

That is what I’m thankful for today. I know a lot of people won’t agree with me on that point, but believing that most people are good is what I’m clinging to right now. For my sanity. For my children’s future.

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It’s easy to get caught up in the rhetoric and to lose all hope, but don’t. Please, don’t. Regardless of who won and who you voted for, we can all agree there is a lot of work to be done so that both sides feel heard and represented. So remember that core of goodness, and work towards that.

 

 

Thankfulness: The 19th Amendment

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You guys, this election season has SUCKED. I mean, it’s been bad. The hate, vitriol, name-calling and fear-mongering on both sides has been mind blowing. If aliens came down today and decided to judge humans based on what’s in my Facebook feed, they’d just turn around and leave because no one needs the amount of hate and negativity in their lives.

I get that this election is a Big Deal and there is a lot of stake here. I’m intelligent, well-read and as informed as I can be. I try to talk to my kiddos fairly and to present to them an accurate picture of each candidate because what they hear is the worst of the worst- Hillary killed men, Trump hates anyone who isn’t white. And just like every thing out there, the truth about both candidates is found somewhere between the absolute worst and the rosy optimism.

So, here we are on Election Day. And I’m so thankful for that. This election has shown the ugly underbelly of a lot of America on both sides and I’m hoping (praying/wishing) that regardless of who wins, we all walk away from this election season knowing that we have a lot of work to do on so many fronts to knit our country back together.

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I’m also damn thankful I have this *right* to vote. Women have only been allowed to vote for the past 94 years- before that, I wouldn’t have had a voice. That is mind boggling to me. The number of smart, passionate, well-informed women I know is staggering and the thought that there was a time when we were kept silent is sobering. There is still so much to be done for woman’s rights even in an amazing country like the US, but this -this right to have our voice heard – is so very fundamental and will help propel the rest of these changes forward. So here’s to the bad-ass women who fought hard to for the right to vote, to the bad-ass women that are working for a change today and the bad-ass women to come who will keep propelling positive changes forward so we can all benefit.

 

Thankfulness: School Moms (and Dads)

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This weekend the Hubs and I watched Bad Moms- the comedy from the summer about mom’s who are tired of doing it all, juggling it all and being expected to be good at it all. I wanted to like this movie- hell, I wanted to LOVE this movie because I, like 99% of the moms I know, do do it all as best we can and sometimes we all need a break. But I wasn’t a fan.

The stereotypes were too broad, the women too shrill and the marriages depicted too damn depressing. There were some great laughs in the movie, but mainly I walked away from that movie disappointed and VERY thankful that I didn’t recognize any of horrible, judgey, rude, condescending Queen Bee moms shown in the movie.

Tonight I’m thankful for the school mom’s who don’t care that on snack day, my kid’s contribution is store bought. Always. Who don’t give me the side eye when my son’s Saint costume for All Saint’s Day is a borrowed ninja costume complete with a fake 6-pack of abs. I’m thankful for the mom’s that wonder out loud with me why our kids fight so much about changing their underwear daily and who nod knowingly when my kids and I are running as fast as we can into school on a rainy day because there isn’t a freaking umbrella to be found anywhere.* Here’s to school parent’s who are kind, compassionate, and just as willing to laugh at the absurdity of raising kids today as I am.

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*All of those things happened in the past week.

 

Thankfulness: Princesses & Proximity

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Up until a month ago, I was the proud, lucky aunt to 6 nephews and 1 niece. 5 of my  nephews live in the mid-west, 14 hours away and my niece and other nephew live 7 hours south of here.  We try to see our mid-western family at least once a year and the southern family every 2-3 months, but I’ve never had a niece or nephew that lived by.

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Now I’m the proud, lucky aunt to 6 nephews and 2 nieces since my sister-in-law gave birth to the most perfect baby girl in October. She, my brother and the new baby live 45 minutes away which is like heaven and makes last minute get together’s a breeze.

I’m extraordinarily thankful for all my nieces and nephews and the technology that allows us to be a part of each other’s lives even when we’re hours and hours away. But after a fantastic dinner with my favorite 3 week old, I’m extra thankful for the blessing of having one of those nieces live near by so I can watch her grow up in person. Is it too soon to ask my brother and his wife when they are going to have baby #2?!

Thankfulness: Handy People

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The Hub’s Grandfather was an incredibly handy man. He could fix just about anything – if we had issue with anything around the house, he was our go-to man. Despite him diligently trying to teach the Hubs his skills, it never took. I have great memories of Grandpa driving up to our house to tune up our mower or install the molding in Scorch’s nursery.  My Father-in-Law is also a really handy man to have around- he’s installed flooring and doors in my house. He knew enough to try to teach the Hubs or myself- it just wasn’t going to take.

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So, neither of us are handy people. And that’s fine- we have other skill sets. But what we have been lucky enough to do is to create great relationships with people who know what the hell they are doing. And these are the people who I’m so very thankful for today.

~*~*~

Yesterday while I was working from home, I kept hearing banging outside. It’s windy, so I assumed our garbage cans tipped over or one of the kid’s throwbacks was being tossed around. What I did not expect when I went outside to investigate was to see part of my roof flapping in the wind.

My. Roof. Flapping. (sometimes I loathe being an adult).

I called the first handy person I could think of – a licensed contractor who has saved our butts more times than I could think of. The best time was a few years back when we were leaving for Fl. We had to leave at a certain time to make our train in VA and as we were literally walking through our house one more time before leaving, the light fixture in our hallway caught on fire. We put it out super quick, took off the fixture, looked around and saw that nothing was smoldering. Then we called our contractor because I was convinced our house was going to burn down while we were gone. He came over immediately, shoo’d us out the door so we didn’t miss our train, and allowed us to enjoy vacation not fearing the worst.

Yesterday, this saint of a man and his coworker were at my house within the hour and determined it was a very quick, easy fix as it was just a rain vent (guard? something?) that was loose. Which was the BIGGEST relief of the day because I was trying to figure out how in the hell a new roof was going to fit in our budget.

So, Jon & Bob- this is dedicated to you. Thank you for always coming when I call since the Hubs and I have no idea what we’re doing 99.9% of the time.

 

Thankfulness: Halloween Soup

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November is the time I take every year to write about what I’m thankful for. Somethings are serious, some funny and some completely irrelevant, but they all are things that make my life better.

Do you guys have a food that’s special because it’s something you only get once in a while? For example, when I’m in the office, one of my coworkers hands out one chocolate covered coffee bean to each person around 3 pm. I *love* that bean- I live for that bean some afternoons. Sure, I could easily get my own beans, but then they aren’t as special, they don’t mean as much.

~*~*~*~

Not to brag or anything, but we have the best Halloween traditions. One of our favorite friends live in the city and they let all us country folks to come their house, have dinner, ransack their neighborhood for candy and then come back for more fun at their house. It’s truly one of my favorite nights of the year thanks to this incredible group of people, our parents and our kids, all 13 of them.

soup

The pumpkin soup we have on Halloween is like that for me. Sure, I could make it- but if I did, then I wouldn’t look forward to it as much as I do every year.  I don’t even like pumpkin, but this soup? This soup is to die for. And on a cold, windy Halloween there is nothing else I’m as thankful for. Without further ado…

Pumpkin Rosemary Soup

For the Soup                                                                         For the Croutons

  • olive oil (2 tablespoons)                                                ·    sourdough bread (4 cups cubed)
  • bacon (12 slices)                                                            ·    olive oil (1/4 cup)
  • fresh rosemary (4 sprigs)                                               ·    parmesan (1/2 cup grated)
  • butter (2 tablespoons)                                                    ·    ground black pepper
  • minced garlic (3 cloves)
  • white onion (1 medium)
  • salt & pepper
  • pumpkin puree (29 oz can)
  • chicken broth (5 cups)
  • heavy cream (1 cup)

Directions for Bacon/Rosemary

  1. Add olive oil to large skillet or griddle
  2. Add bacon and cook for 5-6 minutes on first side
  3. Turn bacon and add rosemary sprigs; cook for 4-5 minutes more until crispy
  4. Set bacon and rosemary aside on paper towel until cooled
  5. Remove rosemary leaves from stem; chop leaves and bacon

 

 

Directions for Soup

  1. Add two tablespoons of the bacon grease to a large pot
  2. Add butter, garlic, and onion; sweat until translucent
  3. Season lightly with salt and pepper
  4. Add pumpkin puree and chicken broth
  5. Stir well and bring to a simmer; cook for 15 minutes over low heat
  6. Puree in a blender until smooth
  7. Add heavy cream and stir to combine

Directions for Croutons

  1. Preheat oven to 400° F
  2. Spread cubes of sourdough bread out on a cookie sheet
  3. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with parmesan cheese
  4. Season with ground black pepper
  5. Bake for 5-6 minutes until golden brown

 

* Serve soup topped with parmesan croutons, crumbled bacon and rosemary