Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Christmas Re-cap

The picture below was taken the morning after Christmas - notice the rain falling on the windows. It started raining on Christmas afternoon and rained for nearly 48 hours. And melted all 2 feet of snow. The only remaining evidence we have are a few snow banks that were piled in parking lots. So sad, but much easier to drive in. Also notice how everyone has their hands up by their mouths, the reason that I took the picture to begin with. (Harry Potter was playing) Photographic evidence that what Aunt Heather predicted did in fact happen. Hello Kitty wall decals being placed on the living room wall. Thankfully, Ashlee took all the decals and the little sister into her bedroom and helped her hang them up all around the crib. Much better, but no picture.

In this picture, Paige is playing with: Little People gifts from Santa and a tiny doll, blanket, and pillow that came in a little box from my mother. She loves this doll. We are on the fence. Several times a day, Paige will say something like: "Where's my doll, where's my box, where's my pillow....." She's not such a great looker for things, in fact she's pretty awful at it. We are learning that the first place to look is right around her - usually she has just set it down and forgotten that she did so.

Maggie woke up at 5 something on Christmas morning, she waited until 6 something to wake Ashlee and 7 something to wake Paige and us. We love her.
Finally, some notes to myself at Christmas time:
  • The Christmas holidays - especially Christmas day - are not the time to give up Diet Coke. Next year, go ahead and buy some when you are doing the big grocery trip (unless you have been living without it for several months). Because there is no possible excuse to leave the house and get one on Christmas day and you will REALLY want one, and it is Christmas after all. Consider a gift to yourself.
  • Maggie has fewer Christmases yet to spend living at home than the ones she has already spent with you - be with her and all three girls more.
  • Nobody but you will be excited about home-made marshmallows. Yes, everyone will be a year older, but they still won't think they are that great. And honestly, they aren't. Better than the grocery store? Yes. Enough better to make them at home? Not really.
  • If you want to make home-made gifts, have them planned and done by Thanksgiving - or at least planned and prepped by Thanksgiving, otherwise you will not get to it.
  • Ditto with any additional advent calendar activities you want to try.
  • Ditto with the Christmas cards.
  • Ditto with the advent wreath.
  • Sugar cookies and gingerbread houses are fun for the girls. Don't take all the fun out of them by freaking out about the mess or the sloppiness of it all. Let it go.
  • Remember how much better things are when the Mom decides to be happy and have fun - try to have a little more fun be a little more silly. Also remember how much more festive you FELT when you were dressed, with your hair and make-up done.
  • Having Chris take the girls somewhere for a few hours on Christmas Eve or the day before Christmas Eve is a great idea and should be a tradition. Having the house to yourself is kind-of heavenly for a few hours.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas! For the first time since we have lived here, we will have a white Christmas! The big Nor'easter came through and we got about 20 inches. Church was cancelled, school on Monday was cancelled and we spent our 3 days playing in the snow and spending time together. It was so nice! Here are some pics - sledding in the driving snow. Paige lasted 2 trips down the mountain and then waited in the car.

Building a snowman the next day - she doesn't look happy, but she was having fun - she even sang the Frosty song to her snowman.

The girls made some sledding "runs" from the snow mounds in the front yard. They named them: Long Lecture, Partly Painful, Deadly Dangerous and one other one I can't remember.
More sledding in the blizzard. It has been really fun and has made our last Christmas in New Jersey extra special!

Thursday, December 17, 2009


My dad used to sing a little ditty when he was doing work around the house - "It's so nice to have a man around the house...." I didn't always appreciate the truth behind those words, but it is really nice to have a man around the house.
They do things like: hang the Christmas lights, get all the Christmas boxes out and then put them all away again, eat the food you cook, help with the dishes, give two year olds a bath, play with the kids, clean out the garage, and make you laugh. It is nice - extraordinarily nice.
We made gingerbread houses again this year - here is our engineer putting the braces in the houses before we decorated. See? Nice.
Decorating the houses. . . they are all still standing - I hope they hang on 'till Christmas.I forgot to edit out the red eyes, but I LOVE this picture of Paige. She is such a character.
Anyway, probably the next 5o posts or so will be about how great it is to have Christopher home. It's just so great.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


Anticipation as we load up the car - Watching for his plane to land...The plane that carried him safely home to us...Reunion.

Not a lot of words - this homecoming has been very similar to the arrival of a new baby, I have been wanting to bottle it all up to pull out some future day. We are so so so so happy to have him home!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Too Much

Ashlee and I went to the Post Office today to mail Christopher his final package (mostly for the phone charger - because in about 2 weeks he will be calling me to say he is coming home!!!!!!!!!!). We happened to arrive at the same time many soldiers were mailing stuff to their new home in Iraq. I know it was Iraq, because the guy behind me in line was talking about their imminent departure. I started to cry a little bit right there in line, soldiers in front of me, soldiers behind me. There is a lot I don't know about the soldiers in line today, but some of the things that I do know are: They were most likely from a National Guard unit, so they are leaving jobs, maybe taking a significant pay cut while they serve, and their families won't have the same access to support that active duty families have. It's very likely that they are headed to at least a second tour in a war zone. They were upbeat, probably glad to be done with training here and moving on to the mission. And I know that I don't think of them often enough, and am not thankful enough for them. So, I shed a few tears and hoped no-one noticed. I really wanted to tell them I was thankful for them, to be careful, to come home safely, but I was too big a coward.

We are at the end of a long six months in our family, six months of separation and worry. This is Christopher's 4th deployment in support of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan - and the total time he has spent away from us in direct support of the war effort has been about 14 months. That is about one month shy of one average Army deployment. And, he is much less likely to be wounded/injured than Soldiers and Marines. My guess is that most active duty Army/Marine personnel have completed at least 2 deployments (but more likely 3 ) of 12 - 18 months, and the average American citizen doesn't really notice or think much about it. The military community carries much of the United States foreign policy on their backs, the Army and Marines have shouldered the biggest part of the weight in the "War on Terror" and the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan. Less than 1% of our citizenship serves in it's Armed Forces (including National Guard and Reserve members), all volunteers. Every single one voluntarily signed over many of their Constitutional rights - including freedom of speech and their right to live in order to protect and defend the Constitutional rights of the other 99% of our country. (Taken from While They're At War) What the history books say about this particular time is unknown - but right now, to me - waiting in line with soldiers at the Post Office, thinking about where they are coming from and where they are going and how long they will be there - it feels like a heavy burden that a very, very small percentage of the population carries, and it feels like too much.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Not here yet

Look at that cute girl - she makes me crazy (happy crazy and crazy crazy.) Tonight I went to the grocery store without her - Maggie is old enough to stay alone with them for short stretches - and I made it in and out in 20 minutes, and what's more, I didn't forget one single thing on my list. Not one. It was nice.
Anyway, so as to distract myself from the fact that Christopher isn't home yet, I'm going to do a few posts about lessons learned (really learning, because he isn't home yet) and things that I think will be an adjustment for us once he gets here.
Lesson #1 The last weeks are/will be the l o n g e s t. At just about every turn I think "When Christopher gets here, we will....see that movie, clean the car out(actually on the schedule for the day before he arrives so it is sparkly clean) , fix that thing, etc. I didn't do this when we had longer, but now that it's almost over, we are basically sitting on our hands, saving our money and activities till he gets home. It's making the time go by really fast, let me tell you.
Next up: the return of real food and a decent dinner start time.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Ash Bones

Halloween pictures - post trick or treat.

On Sunday morning, Maggie and Ashlee spent about 15 minutes trading candy. Ashlee especially relished shouting "No Deal" (Is that show still on?) when the trade wasn't good enough. This picture is just for you, Daniel!

This post is coming to you from the beginning of the end of swine flu (maybe, maybe not - our Doctor's not testing) week (I hope -so far no symptoms from Maggie.) I'm going to put a few more pics of Halloween up with this post, but first a story about my Ash.

Christopher called on Friday morning and the girls were out of school so that means that everyone got to talk with him. They put him on speaker phone in the living room and I stayed in the back and listened on the extension. They are always happy to talk to him (of course) and it is fun for me to listen to them talk back and forth. In the middle of the call, Ashlee asked "Are you dating anyone?" What? For a second, I didn't think that Christopher heard her because everybody was talking at once. But, he did. "Never mind" she said when he asked her what she said, trying to pretend like she didn't mean it, or that she was just teasing. But, it wasn't a throw away question and he could tell. His answer: "Your mother." "Just wondering" she said and they moved on to other things. I have been thinking about this alot. After he had been gone about 2 months, she wrote him a letter that went something like this - Dear Dad, Are you still alive? Just checking. I love you, love Ashlee. I laugh a little bit at exchanges like this, but they also break my heart alot. So, as she is dancing around the living room, laughing it up with her friends at a soccer game, playing something silly with Paige, making up a song, etc...I have thought a little bit about those questions and what they mean.
I talk/communicate with their dad 2-4 times a week, mostly through quick e-mails. But the time difference is enough that the only real chance they have to talk with him is on Saturdays/Sundays and sometimes things don't work out that he can call. So once in a while they go 2- 3 weeks without hearing his voice. I relay messages, reassure them that he loves them and misses them, but it's not the same. And sometimes I forget that they worry too. They don't express it often, especially Ashlee, and they are so happy that it's easy to make the mistake of thinking that they aren't worried/concerned. When Ashlee asked if her dad was dating anyone, she was seeking reassurance that he would come home, that her family would be back together - and he gave it to her in 2 little words. And for yesterday, that was all she needed. I am so thankful for both of them. The best part is - we are almost done 3-4 more weeks!!!!!!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


Fall - October is such a great month!
Some pictures of our fall: Once again, blogger won't let me change the order of the pics - so these are not in the order I intended. Picture Below taken at Kykuit - the Rockefeller's Country Estate - this is their view of the Hudson from the back of the Property. It was amazing. Learned some stuff about the Rockefeller's on the tour - seemed like a good family who did good with all that money. Our guide's Father worked on the estate for many years, so she had some personal stories that made them seem a little more real. We went to our favorite farm to get pumpkins - and pet the dogs. Before Chris left we told the girls we would think about getting a dog when he got back. Ashlee has been mentally shopping for one for months. I'm trying to think up a new excuse about why it's a good idea to wait a while longer.

While in the Hudson Valley, we went to "Blaze" on one of the estates - over 4,000 carved pumpkins. Here is Heather with the girls in front of the sunflower fields. They had a few real pumpkins, but the rest were plastic - I wondered before we went how they kept them from rotting. It was pretty cool. Heather came to see us last week - we really enjoyed her visit and hope she wasn't too bored.

Taken at the working farm - Phillipsburg Manor - in Sleepy Hollow, NY. We toured this during the day and went back the next night for "Legends Night" At night, the farm transforms into a story-telling, song singing, headless horseman riding party that is really fun. Except the night we went, it was POURING rain - flash flood warning for the area, so, we might have stayed longer and enjoyed it more had we been dry.

Pickin out the perfect pumpkin at the farm - not in order.

Beehive and bees at the "Blaze"

Taken as we approached Phillipsburg Manor for the "Legends" night.

Last but not least, Paigie loves "belts" - headbands that Ashlee usually wears in lieu of a real belt to keep her pants up. Paigie has adopted that fashion style and I think pulls it off rather nicely! There are 5-6 headbands around her waist in this picture, plus on in her hair.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

I guess summer is really over - we've had a string of cold/cooler days, so it's time to pack up the flip flops and get ready for winter. Everyone keeps saying we are going to have a rough winter. I'm waiting for our local weather guy - Glen "Hurricane" Schwarz to make his winter prediction. There is a good chance he already has, I haven't watched the news in weeks. Anyway, here are some random thoughts from me tonight:

Glee - could someone please explain this show's popularity with people my age to me. I know several people who love it, David Bianculli from NPR loves it. . . so I've watched it a couple of times to see what the deal is. I don't get it - the kids are lip-synching (fine for some scenes, but when they are supposed to be performing?) and doing it poorly, many times not even moving their mouths at the right time. Plus, the girl sounds a little bit too much like Britney Spears you know that sound tunnel, electric voice? The camera work (I'm sure it's on purpose) is jerky and bouncy and gives me a headache. I'm pretty sure they are aiming at a younger demographic, but why do adults love it so? I did hear really great music this week from Pomplamoose, new to me, but soo good!

NPR is helping me be a grumpy mother. I hate to say it, but it's true. Their shows are just so good and it makes me feel like I'm informed and can be a little bit educated about current issues. Plus there are just so many stories that you would never hear on regular TV/news. I have their schedule memorized and I'm sad when I miss a favorite show. For instance "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me" comes on at 4:00pm on Saturdays, which is a bad time and I miss it more than I hear it and "This American Life" comes on Sundays at 12:00, we don't get in the car after church until 12:20/12:30 so I usually miss most of that. And, I probably shouldn't be listening to it on the Sabbath anyway. Sad - but the really sad thing is that if I am listening to it (when I'm cooking, cleaning, driving etc...) I tune the kids out, want them to be quiet and get mad if I miss something. I'm thinking I'm going to have to give it up a little bit. So, don't ask me about current events, interesting stories etc... because I won't know.

Last one - I took the girls to the park the other night, one that is far from our house, because we are collecting leaves to mail to Chris. It was a beautiful evening, the air was clear, the sky was blue, without its usual haze and the leaves have started to turn. I felt so grateful to be there. After a few minutes a couple of other families arrived - younger than me probably by a few years - and I got a little panicky. What if I am nearing the end of my playground years - not for a while, Paigie is only 2, but what if she is the last one? I wanted to freeze, pause, make time go slower, I mean really what if? We had a great walk through the woods, a happy chatty drive home (no radio!) and just a great rest of the night. But, then tonight, at about 8:00, all I could think was "go to bed, go to bed, go to bed, go to bed...." Part of the reason why motherhood is so difficult, I guess.

And, Heather comes in 2 days!!!!!!!!! We are very excited.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Conversations with My Sister

The picture above doesn't really have anything to do with this post, but she's just really cute. This is a Saturday night, after a bath, playing dress-up with her sisters. Both the earring stickers and dress were worn to church the next day, after she slept in both of them. I did manage to get a shirt on underneath the dress. There is just no time for arguing about clothes on a Sunday morning - whenever she gets dressed we go through every dress in her closet at least once, sometimes three times or more before a choice is made. In fact, that may be our new Sunday strategy - letting her sleep in the dress she is going to wear the next day.
About 2 weeks ago, I was talking to my sister about school etc... for her kids. Her oldest started early morning seminary this year. She gets up and eats breakfast with her every day - sometime in the 5 o'clock hour. So they can have one on one time together. She said "I'll bet I'm one of the only mom's who does this." and not to brag about it, but to say, "Why?" I told her it's because she is a good mom. Below is a picture of the sunrise Maggie took one day last week. She gets up at 6:30 and enjoys some alone time - alone. Because I sleep until about 6:55 and then get up and make her lunch and give her a kiss and send her out the door. And I don't have to go to work all day. I need to change this, because one day I'm going to want a do-over for these years.

Then, on Sunday night, I was on the phone with my sister again. She was cleaning up after Sunday dinner. (We had just eaten also, we are two hours ahead of her. It's our thing - eating dinner as close to bed time as possible) She made cheesy potatoes at the request of her oldest and was throwing the leftovers away. She doesn't keep leftovers. Why? Because she's smart - her kids don't eat them and neither does she. I have day's and day's worth of leftovers in my fridge. I eat them almost every day for lunch, and still they go bad and need to be thrown out. This is one of the reasons I miss C - (I know it's super romantic) he eats the food I make, he likes more than 5 things, and sometimes he helps eat the leftovers. Below is a picture of my fridge - 3 of those containers will pass the 7 day guideline and be thrown out this weekend. I even have left over Macaroni and Cheese - who's going back to that? Certainly not me, and I'm assuming none of the girls since I've offered it as an after-school snack and not had any takers. P.S. The salad in the deli container is the salmon bow-tie salad from Cost-Co - a mistake as most deli salads are.

So, to sum it up, my sister is smarter than me and a better mom. I feel like that about my siblings - I wish I were like them in more ways. I'm glad they still like me anyway.

Monday, September 21, 2009

For C.

Sometimes, the girls say funny things and I wish C were here so that I could tell him, or so we could laugh a little bit together. I almost never remember to tell him when we are on the phone or in an e-mail, so I am posting a couple here for him.
On Sunday, Maggie was on the phone with one of her friends from church, planning something for Activity Days and somehow the conversation turned to homework. Maggie - "When my dad is here, he helps me with math, but he helps me the old-fashioned way, not the way I learned it. Half the time I don't even know what he is talking about, I feel kind of bad."
I can't remember anything in particular that Ashlee said, except that she was making plans to turn the school into a haunted house, gets sick about talking about "fashion" with the "girly girls" at school and she spent 40 minutes on the couch with Paige, reading Junie B. Jones to her. So Paige went to bed with her "chaper book."

Paigie - sitting on a plastic bag (for about 2 minutes) during a soccer game on Saturday. On the way home, Maggie shared some of her Gatorade with her and Paigie said "That's refreshing." Things like that are particularly cute coming out of a two-year olds mouth.
Love you C!!!!! Be safe!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Back to School

We are back in school now - 2 days down, 178 (school days) to go! Here are the girls on their first day of school. Ashlee has 28 kids in her class this year, almost double what she's had every other year of school here. It must have something to do with budgets. But, her teacher seems very capable and very happy. She looks a little bit nervous because she doesn't want to be late (it's one of her goals this year). We went back to school shopping last week and they each got to choose 1 outfit - Ashlee chose a dress with leggings and new shoes. I asked several times in the dressing room "Is this what you love and can't wait to wear?" Anyway, the morning of school, she decided she wasn't "really comfortable" wearing dresses to school -and wore shorts instead. Thus continues our streak of buying first day of school clothes that are either worn only once or not at all to school - I think this is the 4th year. Oh well, the dress is dressy enough for church, so we will hopefully get some use out of it that way. This is Maggie after school - she hated that sign, I think it made her feel too young. Paigie is so happy to have her sister home. Look for that "Cinderella" dress again and again and again. It's one of 2 that she constantly wants to wear.

Good-bye summer!!!! We are sad to see you go. Welcome fall - I am trying to embrace your return and the return of schedules, bed times, busier routines that you bring!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Jersey Shore

Today we went to the Jersey Shore for probably the last swim session of the summer. I've said it before and I'll say it again, I LOVE it there. I love getting out of the car and feeling the sticky air, I love hearing the waves before we see them. I love that first glimpse of the ocean, it's always exhilarating. I love people watching, I love jumping the waves, I love to attempt boogie boarding. Tonight we stayed late enough to watch the real boogie boarders and surfers. We don't usually stay that late, they have to wait for the lifeguards to leave at 5, and it seems like they don't really start showing up until close to six; it was really fun to watch them. I love all the beautiful houses in shore towns, and I also love the not so beautiful houses. I love the boardwalk (although if you stay too late, it's not so great to have young kids with you.) I just love it and if we ever move, I think the shore will be the one thing I will miss above everything else. In my dream life, we would own a Jersey Shore house and visit it often and stay for weeks in the summer . . . and then when we get old, we have grandma and grandpa camp at the shore. . . doesn't that sound wonderful? Although I'm fairly certain that the Jersey Shore doesn't really show up in Christopher's plans (real or imagined) for the future.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Lessons Learned

Well, we are home now and I have been trying to catch up with mail, weeds, back to school (4 days!) etc... Here are the last of my summer pictures - they're not in order.
Lessons Learned from our Summer Vacation
#1 Lagoon is fun, especially if you go with fun people. We were able to go twice and had a great time both times. It's also really nice to have someone bring dinner in to you while you are riding rides. (Thanks mom and dad!) This was taken while we were in line for the last ride of the day...the Ferris Wheel, which is almost as scary for me as any of the big roller coasters. Lesson #2 - Aunt Heather has lots of pretty things and is really generous with them. From shoes, to dresses, to jewelry, all three girls had great fun playing dress-up with her closet. She also gave Paigie her first pedicure, which she loved.

Lesson #3 Thirty....something is a long, long, long way from 20, 22, 24. That's me playing for a few minutes with my family's indoor soccer team. It was ugly, and the picture is blurry on purpose. It's a long way away....really long.

Lesson #4 Grandma's House is fun, and My Grandmother's backyard is still a magical place.

#5 Cousins are fun.

We had a really fun summer. It was great to spend time with family and establish stronger relationships, I'm really glad we went. Thanks to everyone who took time out to spend with us, and to my mom and dad for letting us stay so long and disrupt their lives.
School starts on Tuesday and we have everything just about ready...we are looking forward to a great year. And, we are at the halfway mark for the deployment - YAY!!!!!!!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Pictures for Dad

Summer seems to be winding up - it's August 13, just a few more weeks 'till school starts and 2 more until we fly home to the garden state. Here are some pictures for our Papa Bear who is far away.

This is Paige and Ashlee at the Demolition Derby. It took Ashlee 2-3 heats to really enjoy the whole thing, but by the time we were trying to leave before the final heat was over, she wanted to stay and see who won. It was pretty fun. . . really loud, but fun.

Paige loves to get into Grandma's china hutch to play tea party with the things inside - in this picture she has dragged Alexander and Ashlee into trouble with her. She is usually pretty careful and just gets smallish things, but it makes me nervous.
We also went to "This is the Place" Heritage Park - a pretty fun place. There have been lots of places here that I have thought "If we lived here, I would get a membership" and this is one. They were very kid friendly, and the activities were included in the cost of entry - everyone rode horses, even Paigie.

The highlight for Paige and Alexander was the train, I think Alexander cried every time we had to get off. Here is Maggie with Baby Eva (Daniel's youngest)

And here they all are on a mini train. Good Aunt Heather rode with kids while Miriam and I watched the strollers.
Thank-you to Aunt Heather who is letting us use her camera - we forgot ours!