Friday, December 03, 2010

The perfect Christmas card

What a goofball!

Every year, as the holiday season approaches, one of the things that adds stress to my to-do list is creating the perfect Christmas card to send out to our family and friends.

All the disdain a 6 year old can muster.

Confession - last year, I finally got pictures I was happy with, and my sister designed a beautiful card, and then I never sent it out. Whoops.

For me, one of the biggest struggles is getting the perfect pictures to capture what the kids are like. One of these years I'm going to have no choice but to make a card entirely of "outtakes" from the photo shoot, but not this year. With a little bribery, I was able to get pictures that made me happy, but I also got plenty of not so great ones - can you tell who was the more uncooperative one this year?

Then once you have pictures that you are satisfied with, you need to choose from what is now a myriad of options for creating a card. Now I have to say, that in the past I dismissed Shutterfly cards as being pretty simple with not a lot of options. Well, boy has that changed! They now have an astonishing array of holiday cards to choose from.

As I browsed through their Christmas cards, I was quite impressed with the selection. I was expecting to see a lot of the standard 4 by 8 photo cards with room for a photo or two. They do have those, but they now have them in a variety of styles. Here is one of my favorites, that is not quite so traditional.

They also have a variety of 5 by 7 cards printed on high-quality card stock. This one gives plenty of space to let people know what you've been up to over the course of the year. What a great, way to capture the epic holiday letter!

What surprised me the most were the 5 by 7 folded cards. Every one that I looked at had space inside where you could add a personalized message, and often, more pictures. They look very classy. I love the simplicity of the message on this one.

In addition to cards, Shutterfly offers a wide array of photo gifts, like these desk calendars, that are great options for those hard to shop for people on your list, who adore your children as much as you do!

This year, I'm using Shutterfly to create and print my holiday cards. I can't wait to see them in person, because I love how they look on the computer!

Disclosure Statement:

This post is part of a series sponsored by Shutterfly. Participating bloggers are reviewing the new Shutterfly cards and sharing their faves, and have been compensated with coupon codes for 50 free cards. However, that hasn't changed the opinions that I've expressed in this post.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Grace in Small Things - Day 7

1. Getting to sleep in (at least at my house, sleeping until 7:30 is sleeping in).

2. Watching my mom teach Claire how to set the table with the silver, china, and crystal.

3. Kids dancing around the room to Christmas music.

4. My mom and dad getting up to dance to Christmas music.

5. Spending time with family.

There are so many little things in every day to be thankful for. Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Grace in Small Things - Day 6

1. Waking up to a breakfast of eggs, bacon, and hashbrowns cooked by my awesome husband.

2. A reasonable drive on the day before Thanksgiving - only about a half hour longer than usual.

3. Amusing car conversations with the kids. (Claire, after reading a billboard: Why would your house be upside down? That's crazy!")

4. Laying on the floor at my parents' house reading Christmas stories to my kids.

5. Surprise doggy kisses in the middle of number 4.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Grace in Small Things - Day 5

1. A two day work week!

2. Listening to Claire read a story to her doll.

3. Enthusiastic puppy greetings when I walk in the door.

4. Being almost done with my Christmas shopping - only person left on my list!

5. Snuggling in front of the fire with a good book. (Yep, another fire tonight.)

Monday, November 22, 2010

Grace in Small Things - Day 4

1. A hot cup of coffee in the morning. Starting my day without one just isn't right.

2. Seeing pink striped sunsets while I watch my kids ride bikes and jump over leaf piles.

3. Being able to see when a student makes the connection that they need to understand what you're teaching.

4. Fudge tracks ice cream.

5. Sandpapery kitty kisses.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Grace in Small Things - Day 3

1. One of the best feelings in the world is snuggling a baby. I got the chance to get some time with my adorable niece, Adele, this morning, and it made my day.

2. Grocery shopping without the kids is so much quicker and easier.

3. Old friends. Tonight we had one of Brian's friends from middle school and his family over for dinner. It is always nice to get to hang out with them.

4. Having friends over is a good excuse to cook a meal that is more indulgent than our typical fare.

5. At the end of the day, nothing beats a purring kitty curled up in your lap.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Grace in Small Things - Day 2

1. A productive day around the house - we got lots of small tasks that have been put off taken care of this morning.

2. A Hokie win - this made for a much more cheerful evening than it might have been!

3. More lovely fall weather. We have been lucky that all fall the weekends have been gorgeous - all of our rain has occurred during the week.

4. Generous family. Brian's aunt and grandmother were nice enough to come and babysit the kids so that we could go out to an art show and dinner.

5. Good friends. Getting to spend grownup time with some of our favorite people doesn't happen very often, but it is great when it does!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Grace in Small Things

It has been far too long since I've done this exercise of posting five things I'm grateful for. My plan is, in this week leading to Thanksgiving, to do it every day.

1. Health. After having both kids on antibiotics for different ailments over the last two weeks we have been blessed with a week where there has been nothing bigger than the occasional sneeze.

2. Fires on a cold night. Brian built one tonight as soon as we made it home, and it feels wonderful.

3. My job this year is so much better, and so much less stressful than what I was going through at this time last year.

4. Flexibility. Part of what makes this job wonderful is having much more free time. I was able to take all of Wednesday off to go see Claire in a Thanksgiving play (she was Narrator #1!), have Thanksgiving lunch with her at school, and then volunteer at the school's book fair. It was a great day.

5. Fall colors. Though many leaves have fallen, there are still a few trees showing off their beautiful colors, and the fall decorations that are scattered around the house make me happy.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Claire's first school report

On Friday Claire told me that she needed to learn some facts about Christopher Columbus to share in class on Tuesday. I looked up some stuff online, and we talked about it a lot. Eventually she was able to share all of it orally, but was nervous that she would forget, so wanted to write it down. Here is what she wrote (this actually turned out longer and more detailed than the oral version).

Cristufr Clumbis wuz born in Itly and his fodr seld cheese and wen he wus oldr he wontid to sail to indeu. So the Spanish king gave muny so cristfr clunbis cud sail and have suplis and sailrs and he wontid to sail too indeu. and wen he landid he thot he wus in indeu but he wus in the bhamus and he stept of the boat and he saw unarukins and so he cold them indens and peple htot wen he got sik and he did he got rele sik he did.

Christopher Columbus was born in Italy and his father sold cheese and when he was older he wanted to sail to India. So the Spanish king gave money so Christopher Columbus could sail and have supplies and sailors and he wanted to sail to India. And when he landed he thought he was in India but he was in the Bahamas and he stepped off the boat and he saw americans and he called them Indians. And people that when he got sick and he died he got really sick he died.

(The end was supposed to be that they thought he was 55 when he died, but I think it took her so long to sound out the words that she forgot what she was saying.)

Overall, I think she did a great job. And I commend her teacher for being able to translate first grade spelling to English!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

My Crazy Son

Three times a week I drive Ben to school in the morning after we drop Claire off, and those car rides seem to produce the craziest of conversations. Here are three of my recent favorites.


Ben: Tomorrow you're picking me up in car line, so I don't need lunch.
Me: Can you remind me in the morning so I don't forget?
Ben: I'll try, but you have a bigger brain than I do, so you'll probably remember first because your brain is bigger.
Me: OK
Ben: Can we stop talking about brains now? They're kind of disgusting.


Ben: Are we late today? Can we stop at the gas station because I'm really hungry, and I need a snack.
Me: Nope.
Ben: But Daddy used to stop there every day and buy us something.
Me: No, Daddy stopped there once.
Ben: How do you know that?
Me: Because Daddy and I talk to each other.
Ben: I'm not going to talk to you any more unless you stop talking to Daddy!


Ben told me something he'd learned the previous day in school about a platypus.
Me: So you read a book about platypi?
Ben: No, platypuses.
Me: Nope, one is a platypus, but more than one we call platypi. Just like one octopus is an octopus, but more than one is octopi.
Ben: Like one car is a car, but many are carpi!
Me: No, but that would be pretty funny, right?
Ben: Yeah, but really it's a traffic jam.

Please note Ben's very stylish first day of school ensemble.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

My girl

When we got home from school today Claire brought me a craft project that has been sitting on a shelf since her birthday in June and asked if she could work on it. I opened the box, quickly browsed the directions, and gave her basic instructions. Then she sat down to work on it.

She had arranged a few felt shapes on the pink tote bag, but nearly every time she reached into the plastic bag she pulled out something new that she hadn't seen before. Then I heard her mutter, "let's get organized". She took everything back off the bag, and then started methodically laying out all of the felt shapes on the table, grouping them by shape, and then organizing by color.

"Now. Let's start over," she told herself, and started arranging the shapes into a pattern she found pleasing on the bag. She moved things around trying different color combinations, and moving them just a bit one way or the other.

Sometimes I see a side of her that strikes a chord in me. She loves to create - even her new teacher, after knowing her only a week recognized how much she loves to color and draw. However, sometimes her perfectionist tendencies impact her creativity. She wants - needs even - someone to validate her choice before she makes it final. She gets upset if something doesn't turn out the way she pictured it in her head.

Just like me.

This is why I don't scrapbook. There are so many details, and what if I take my photos and all of those amazing papers and stickers and photo borders and everything else, and then I don't like how it ends up? So I just don't do it. I have several drawers of scrapbooking materials down in the basement, and it continues to sit there - used only infrequently, and generally not for its intended purpose.

I work hard to encourage Claire's creativity, and praise the finished product, even if it is different than how I would have done it. I want her to be happy, and to see her successes even when it might initially not be how she intended it. I want her to not be afraid of the outcome, and to enjoy the process of creating, and of trying new things. Most of all, I want her not to stop because she is too worried that she might fail.

She hums quietly to herself as she works. Then turns with a smile, "I'm almost done, Mom!" "I can't wait to see it, sweetie - it's going to be great!"

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Summer wish list

1. Go to the zoo.

2. Go to a Rocknoceros concert.

3. Go camping.

4. Have a picnic.

5. Take a train ride in to the city to go to a museum.

6. Visit an aquarium.

7. Go fishing.

8. Eat frozen custard while we sit on the town green.

9. Attend an outdoor concert.

10. Go to the botanical gardens and feed the ducks and turtles.

What's on your to-do list this summer?

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Finding a new normal

So the end of the school year was last week. And for me, it was the end of this phase of my career. I had been unexpectedly put back in the classroom shortly before the school year started, and the workload proved to be too much for me and for our family right now, so I am not headed back in the fall.

Now I have to work on figuring out what my new "normal" is going to be. Although, with it being summer, the word normal is all relative. Every week of July means something different going on - a different schedule, different activities, or different location. Maybe I can find normal in August???

At any rate, right now I am looking forward to taking care of lots of neglected projects around the house, catching up on my "to read" pile, and spending lots of relaxed time with my family. Seems like a good enough plan to me.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Best Shot Monday - Summer is here!

Today is officially the first day of summer, though it has certainly felt (temperature wise) like summer for quite a long time. And this weekend was no exception! I took a few minutes to photograph some of my favorite signs of summer - my hydrangeas. I first fell in love with hydrangeas while honeymooning on Nantucket. It seemed that behind every garden gate, and around every doorway were gorgeous bunches of hydrangeas. This particular plant hasn't flowered before due to deer munching on it. It looks great this year, though, and the color is just phenomenal. The mature blooms are this amazing blueish-purple, but the ones that have just bloomed are that beautiful greeny-white with the purple tips. Perfectly lovely.

Go visit Tracey to see some other fabulous photos from Best Shot Monday.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

To Claire - Age Six

Dear Claire,

Last week you turned six. And what an event it was. Your school happened to schedule kindergarten graduation on your birthday, and so you hit two big milestones the same day. You were so excited about graduation - alternating with sadness at leaving the school and teacher that you've known for the last three years. I hope that over the course of your lifetime you have many other teachers that you love as much as you love Miss Pam. We couldn't have asked for a better person to help guide and shape you over the past 3 years. You have learned and done so much in her classroom. She even taught you to be a Steelers fan which is much appreciated by Aunt Renita and Uncle Paul.

Over the past year you have progressed from being what I like to call a "hunt and peck" reader (having to sound things out - sometimes forgetting the first word of the sentence by the time you get to the last) to being able to sight read chapter books. In fact Nonno and Nonni gave you a new chapter book at your birthday lunch (you chose lobster, of course), and you were so! Excited! Ten! Chapters! Which you had finished reading before rest time was over that afternoon. And had read again the next day. And you packed it to take down to their house this week, so I'm sure you'll get through it a few more times before the week is over. I love how much you love to read. When I was young I read at every opportunity, and I reread my favorite books over and over again. I hope that reading continues to introduce you to many friends and new worlds to explore.

In the fall you will start first grade at the public elementary school that is just a few streets away from our house. You seem quite excited at this prospect, and often ask as we're driving "have we passed my new school yet?" I love how you describe the others who will be in first grade with you - you list all of your friends from the neighborhood, and then you say, "and the friends I don't know yet." May you enter every stage of your life with such an optimistic attitude. I have no doubt, knowing the person that you are, that you will create many new friendships very quickly, while still remaining loyal to those who you already know. You have such a loving heart. So many people who meet you comment on that, and it fills my heart to watch you show them with just a few words or actions how caring you are.

While you readily give of yourself to others, this also means that you have a sensitive side, and sometimes something that might seem harmless to another causes you to become very upset. Usually all you need is a little time (and some cuddles) to right yourself. I wish I could guard you from those kinds of hurts, but the reality is that it will happen all your life, and as much as I wish to save you pain, all of these experiences will, in the end, make you stronger.

You love arts and crafts of all kinds. Clearly your friends recognize this because so many of them got you presents that will allow you to unleash that creative side. I'm glad, because that's not something that is natural for me, so while I try to provide you with lots of supplies, I'm not very good at thinking to pick something like that out to do on any given day.

You also love to be active. Another of your big accomplishments in the past year is the ability to pump your legs so that you no longer need to be pushed on the swings. I can still remember the day this fall when you ran up to me, "You were right, Mommy! You said one day I would just be able to pump and now I CAN!" You were so very proud of yourself. You love to run, ride your bike or scooter (though you think your scooter is too babyish for you now), and play football, soccer, or catch with Daddy in the backyard.

At the same time, a part of you needs quiet to recharge yourself. Saturday at your birthday luau you ran around excitedly with all of your friends. Upstairs, downstairs, outside - everything was done with high energy. However, before the evening was over - while a few guests still remained - you were found coloring by yourself on the floor of the family room. I think you just needed some time to yourself to regroup after the excitement of earlier. Mommy needs that, too, and if you recognize it already it will make your life much easier. Though let me tell you, when you have kids that quiet time to recharge becomes much harder to come by!

When you come downstairs in the morning you get sad if Ben is snuggled next to me on the couch and there is no room for you, so we wiggle around to try to accommodate everyone. At dinner you and Ben take turns setting the table, and whoever sets gets to pick where everyone sits. You typically alternate between choosing to sit next to me, or graciously saying, "Ben, I'll let you sit next to Mommy if you let me tomorrow." While sometimes it can be frustrating to have the two of you both clamoring for my attention, I know that in the blink of an eye it will be different, and I will regret not cherishing these moments more.

If 5 and three quarters is any indication, age 6 will be very dramatic. This year you had "the best birthday ever!" By contrast, though, when forced to run errands last month you told us, "this is the WORST Mother's Day in the whole world!" You tend to describe everything in extremes. I hope that the next year is full of far more "bests" than "worsts". And with time, that you will discover that sometimes those worsts are not really so bad after all.

This weekend Daddy and I are going down to North Carolina to watch your Uncle Calvin graduate from high school. When I first met him he was the age you are now. I don't feel that different or that much older than I did back then, so I better be careful. If I glance away for too long you will be the one graduating from high school.

Claire, you are lovely in so many ways. Smart, thoughtful, funny, beautiful, and a little crazy (biased? Not possible!). I try to imagine the woman you are growing in to, and though in some ways I can't wait to meet her, for now, I will enjoy you just the way you are.

Love you always,

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Ten on Tuesday

1. Yes, I am not good at updating this lately. I feel like the world just keeps on spinning and I am hanging on desperately by my fingernails trying not to fall off. I keep thinking "oh next week will be better/calmer/easier." I've been thinking that since September. It doesn't seem to have happened yet.

2. My kids are totally unpredictable at the dinner table. Yesterday they ate all of their food and even had seconds of some things (actually Claire had 3 helpings of green beans). Today they ate all of their carrots and not much of anything else. Oh well, it means leftovers for Brian's lunch tomorrow.

3. I'm sure one thing that doesn't help with the dinner issue is that lately I usually don't get to pick the kids up until at least 5, which means we're not home until around 5:30, and they are starving. Finding them a snack that they're willing to eat that won't ruin their dinner is a constant challenge.

4. Two weekends ago we took the kids camping. Actually, due to my knee I came home to sleep and left Brian to sleep with the kids. It was a big success. The others with us raved about the food Brian prepared (though you could tell it was planned by men, there was a lot of meat and no side dishes for dinner). The kids had a blast playing at the playground, eating s'mores, and fishing. Everyone slept pretty well, though a few found themselves on the downhill slope of the tent making it a little more complicated. All in all a good trip. To be repeated.

5. Work has been stressful lately. It is time for the state standardized testing, and my students test in math on Tuesday and Wednesday next week. Sunday I woke up and immediately my head was full of sample test questions. It's even invading my weekends! So far the kids have been mostly cooperative during review activities, so I am hopeful that it will go well.

6. Today the kids wanted to go outside when we got home, so I went out front and did some weeding while they rode bikes and scooters up and down the sidewalk. None of our gardens have been weeded since my dad worked on them when I had my surgery, and boy can you tell. Part of this weekend needs to be dedicated to getting the front of the house under control and planting some annuals.

7. Some of the gardens are flourishing, though. Last week I went out and picked a vase full of peonies (photo above), and put them in the middle of the dining room table. Their sweet scent drifts across the house at unexpected moments and just makes me happy whenever I notice it.

8. I can't believe that in 8 days I will be the mother of a six year old. Where does the time go. I can still remember so vividly the day that she was born. That morning I sat on the floor of my kitchen - 2 days past my due date - talking on the phone with a friend while I scrubbed the fronts of my cabinets with Clorox wipes. After a very stressful afternoon and evening I held my first baby in my arms. But the rest of this is a story for next week.

9. Claire graduates from her Montessori school on her birthday next week, and she is beyond excited about it. However, she is upset about leaving behind her teacher of 3 years. She keeps telling me that she wishes Miss Pam could be her teacher forever, and why can't her school add more classes so she can stay there for first grade.

10. Friday night when going to get in her pajamas Claire told me that Miss Pam gave her some kisses to put in her pocket, so she was going to put them somewhere safe. The next day she was upset about something. Then she said, "I know!" and stuck her hand in her pocket. "I have my kisses from Miss Pam, I put them in here this morning." And just like that it was all better.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Ten on Tuesday - It's April!

1. The biggest news around here is that on March 24th I had surgery to reconstruct the ACL on my right knee. I've had this surgery twice on my left knee, and don't remember the road to recovery being so long, but the last time I was 9 years younger, and had no kids to keep up with. I was also on summer break, so had plenty of time to recuperate. I am headed back to work tomorrow, and am hoping that it goes ok.

2. The surgery was on my dad's birthday. We did manage
to have some yummy Thai food, and some sort of dessert (I can't remember what) for his birthday dinner, and then we celebrated again a few days later with my sister and brother-in-law. Of course Dad did cook his own birthday cake.

3. This is not the first time his birthday has been interrupted because of my knee. When I was in high school doing PT after some of my knee surgery I reinjured my knee (popped some scar tissue) at PT, and both of my parents had to drop what they were doing (Mom was cooking Dad's birthday dinner) to come and get me because I could not drive home.

4. Speaking of Dad's cake, we were discussing it a few days earlier, and someone brought up pineapple upside-down cake. Dad thought that that was a great idea for a birthday cake, when Claire piped up, "upside down cake? That's crazy! How will you have candles?" She didn't understand why this made all of the grown-ups erupt with laughter.

5. In other Claire news, she learned how to tie a bow today at school. She came in wearing a sticker that says, "I can tie!" and promptly ran to get one of her sneakers and show me how well she could tie a bow. It took her several minutes, but she did a great job!

6. Also, she continues to read everything she can get her hands on. While down at the lake she found an article on lemurs in my parents' Smithsonian magazine and read it (with some help). Then she read part of it again to me on the phone later that day.

7. Quite a while
I ordered Ben a shirt and tie from Children's Place for Easter and a wedding we are going to next weekend. Ever since he saw the tie he has been dying to wear it. Sometimes he would fasten it over his pajamas, and he would
often ask to wear it to school ("Mommy, can I look handsome today?"). I finally took it and hung it up in my closet to keep it safe. He finally got to wear it Sunday, and he was thrilled!

8. Easter was nice, we had a relaxed brunch at the home of my brother-in-law and sister-in-law, complete with an egg hunt for the kids. Everyone had a great time (except my leg which swelled up enormously in protest).

9. Spring has definitely sprung here in Virginia. The cherry trees are past peak, which means that we have drifts of cherry blossom petals covering our deck. Our dogwood is just about to bloom. Tulips, daffodils, and hyacinths brighten the garden. Even the bleeding hearts have started to bloom. I was thrilled last week to discover that the magnolia tree that Brian and I bought as an anniversary present two years ago. Last year it got leaves but never flowered, so I was a bit concerned, but this year it got quite a few beautiful large flowers.

10. Brian has also spent quite a bit of time readying the vegetable garden for planting. So far the only thing he's put in the ground are onions, but he has the rest tilled, raked into mounds, and ready to be filled with peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes, and squash. Summertime is coming!

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Ten on Tuesday - It's been a while!

1. We are really ready for some warmer weather around here. I would truly like to get rid of the giant dirty piles of snow that still line the roads and parking lots.

2. Had a nice dinner at Noodles & Co. with the kids tonight. We all get food that we really like, and they told me about lots of things that happened at school. They're growing up!

3. Of course, no conversation with Ben is complete without him totally making something up. At dinner tonight, after hearing that Claire did something so well that she got to make the class example, he told me that he did such a good job at taking grapes off of their stems for snack time that he got to teach that "lesson" to the other students.

4. Brian is off on a trip tonight. I never sleep well while he's gone. Hopefully Friday will come soon.

5. As I'm typing this I looked out the sliding glass door, and noticed snow drifting down. It's not supposed to amount to anything, but still - really? It's March.

6. The kids and I are really enjoying the adventures of Iggy and his Wiggy bed as our bedtime story the last few nights. Check it out. (Be prepared - it plays music!)

7. I celebrated my birthday last weekend. I got many lovely gifts, and birthday greetings from friends new and old - near and far (thanks to Facebook). The kids were probably more excited than I was, which is fun to watch. They probably sang to me about 7 times over the course of dinner Friday night - needless to say, the waitstaff also knew it was my birthday, so they sang to me, too.

8. Some parts of the Olympics have been very exciting to watch. Watching the kids try to act out the sports they see after the fact, is also very entertaining. Perhaps more so than the NBC commentary. ;)

9. It has been interesting at work trying to get back into routine after our extended snowcation. I believe that last week was the first full school week for students since the middle of January. I'm sure they'll be back up to speed just in time for spring break in a few weeks.

10. Well, Mom and Dad arrived back in the country from France, shared a glass of wine with me, and now it is time to head to bed. I didn't have time to pull out my camera and look for recent pictures - maybe next time. Until then - Happy Tuesday!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Four Years Old!

Dear Ben,

A few weeks ago you turned four years old. You were anxiously waiting for the day to arrive. A few days earlier you told me, "I couldn't do this if I was only 3, but now I'm almost 4, and so I'm big enough." Turning 4 was quite the milestone in your eyes. When I asked you if I could still call you my baby even when you were 4
you thought about it very seriously, but finally agreed that it would be ok. I'm not sure how many more years that will last!

I can still remember so clearly the day that you were born. I had to wake up very early to get to the hospital at the right time. Now you wake me up early nearly every day. I guess I should have known what I was getting myself in to. Someday I will be yelling at you to get out of bed, I'm sure, but I don't anticipate it happening anytime soon!

Just a few days after your birthday I had my first parent-teacher conference for you. Your teacher had many wonderful things to say to you, including how smart you are. She was concerned that you tend to choose easier work than what you can do, because then you don't have to concentrate very hard. I talked to you about it that day, and only a couple of days later
she told me that you had gotten 2 lessons on newer more challenging work, and you told her that you had been wanting to try this work. She was very impressed with how well you did. I have a feeling that this is a conversation that we may be having for the next 14 years. Probably with varying levels of frustration on both of our parts. You made me proud, though, and I am sure that that will also happen over and over for the next 14 years.

Even though you think you are so big now, you still love to snuggle, and will often run up just to give me a kiss, and then go back to whatever you were doing. I cherish the moments I get to cuddle with you, because I know it won't always be this way. I hope, however, that you will always be as loving as you are now - even if you find new ways to show it.

You still have delicious toddler cheeks - they help remind me that as much as you think you are all grown up, that you are still my little boy, and no matter how big you get, that is never going to change. I love you, Ben - happy birthday to my very big little boy! I hope that being 4 is every bit as wonderful as you have imagined.


Friday, January 01, 2010

It's a new year

Looking back on 2009, it is amazing how quickly the year went by. For me it hasn't been an easy year. The beginning of the year was filled with anxiety wondering how the budget cuts would affect my position. Then I was relieved to find that my position would be renewed for the new school year. I spent the summer doing a lot of work, and not a lot of resting, only to discover, just a few short weeks before school began that my position had been cut and I would be back in the classroom. It made for a very stressful fall for me as I struggled to find the balance between an increased work load and my family, though thankfully, I feel like I'm finally starting to get my feet under me. The fall was made more stressful when I got a mystery illness. The doctors still haven't figured out what it is that is plaguing me, so I'm hoping that 2010 brings some answers. Ben also got hit by a case of the chicken pox that, partially due to his having been vaccinated, resulted in the longest slowest case of the chicken pox that I've heard of. He was contagious for nearly 3 weeks, and the spots are still fading.

We were, however, blessed in many ways. We were able to spend a lovely Easter on the outer banks due to the generosity of some of my mother-in-law's friends. It was a quick trip, but it marked good time spent with family. We also had a lovely trip to California with my family over the summer to celebrate an important family birthday. The kids have been flourishing in school. They are both learning so many new things, making great friends, and constantly astonishing us with the things that come out of their mouths. They love being at the same school this year, and I think it has been good for them (and much easier for us). We have spent lots of time with our many good friends, and although it sometimes seems that those times are few and far between it always wonderful and much appreciated when we do make the time for it.

In general, life was good. And when it wasn't I always had two, goofy, adorable, snuggly, all-around-wonderful kids to cheer me up and make me smile.

So here we are, with high hopes for 2010. I have several goals for this year. One is to post here more regularly. Another is to use my camera more - this past year I had a huge decline in the number of photos I took. Lastly, and most importantly, is to find a good balance between taking care of my family, dealing with work, and taking time to take care of myself.

Happy New Year!