Thursday, December 31, 2009

Oh, what a year!

On this, the last day of 2009, I would love to write something meaningful to celebrate such an eventful year in our lives. Our family celebrated milestones, said good-bye to loved ones, welcomed a new life, faced challenges and made it through big changes.

But I'm a little too sleep-deprived to come up with the words to properly pay tribute to such an amazing year. So, instead, I'm joining other bloggers in wrapping up the year bloggy-style.

Here, I give you, the first line of every post of every month from 2009. I was surprised at how well this really did re-cap the whole year.


True confession. I'm waking up this morning on Jan. 1 with no New Year's Resolution. This is actually often the case with me.

I would learn later that there was a reason I didn't set any goals for 2009. I would find out in a few months that all things "Emily" would be set aside, and I would be called upon to take on some roles I would not have considered on my own.


Oh my, oh my... We are having the most incredible vacation in the history of our family. I wanted to give a quick update and share some photos.

The highlight of February was our vacation to Acapulco for the Discovery Toys incentive trip. It was beautiful. It was perfect. It was a trip we won't soon forget. It also was significant for me because this would be the first time in the last five years I made the choice not to set a goal to earn the incentive trip, making our past trip that much more special.

While we were in Mexico, we also lost my Grandma Dot, who had been a very special influence in my life.


You might be wondering why I've been writing posts lately about opossums. Then again, maybe it didn't even seem odd to you, which is a really scary thought.

March marked one of my hilarious encounters with wildlife when THE opossum moved into our garage. Oh, what fun I had blogging about that guy. It even brought out the poet in me.

I also kicked off my own 40 Days of 40 countdown to my milestone birthday and unleashed my inner rock star.


OK. I think I'm starting to understand. Seriously. It's all starting to make sense.

How could I recap the year without mentioning all of my posts about my favorite TV show, Lost? This was one in which I had reached the height of confusion about what was actually happening last season.


About five weeks ago, my friend, Julie, invited our family over for a cook-out. Julie is a busy woman, so I really didn't think anything of the fact that we had to make our dinner plans so far in advance.

I celebrated my 40th birthday in April with more celebrations than any one person should be allowed to have for herself. And then my girlfriends topped it all off by surprising me with this one the first weekend in May. I am blessed!

I also got serious in May, blogging about the topics of autism and allergies.


Have you ever had a time in your life during which everything seemed to be falling apart?

And then there was June, the month in which I revealed what had really been on my mind the past few months. I was pregnant. We were going to home school. And I started blogging about my advanced maternal age.


A few days ago, I mentioned that my husband and I were planning to get away for a few days without our kids.

July was the month of vacations. CapableDad and I visited the Smokies without kids. We camped. And we joined four generations of family for a get-away that I wrote about in August.

Oh, and we also found out we were having a GIRL!


We are home from our little get-away with family.

Our high-flying family really got into the swing of things on that trip.


Monday was our first day of school at home! The day went better than I expected...

And then we got down to business in September. We started our journey of doing school at home.


Despite the fact I woke up at 5 a.m. this morning, I still found myself running around like a crazy woman at 9:15, shouting, "Has ANYONE seen my Hannah Montana wig?!?"

By October, the third trimester of pregnancy was taking a toll on my body... and my brain. In this post, I wrote about how I was starting to go a little crazy trying to keep everything straight.


Judging from all of the cards and letters I have been receiving, you all have been dying to know what ever happened to my UNBELIEVABLE
Seven Day Meal Plan That Never Changes.

We celebrated a Golden Birthday in November, and our anniversary. But the first post of the month happened to be one about my never-ending quest to answer that age-old question: "What's for dinner?"


Introducing... The one... the only... the cutie pie, the perfectly sweet baby...
Jayda Grace
7 lbs, 2 ounces
20 inches
Born TUESDAY, Dec. 1 at 8:40 p.m.

Awww... And of course, the highlight of our year happened on Dec. 1 when we welcomed this sweet gift to our family.

I'm a little exhausted just reading about all of the events of 2009. I'm ready for a fresh start and optimistic about all that 2010 will bring.

Happy New Year, everyone!

** Head over to Musings of a Housewife to find out what 2009 was like for other bloggers. **

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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

It hit me

I woke up Monday morning after only a few hours of sleep strung together between feedings, rocking, crying and more feedings, when it hit me.

It could be years before I go back to getting regular nights of uninterrupted sleep.

It hit me.

I have only left the house four times during the entire month of December.

It hit me.

While everyone else seemed to be buzzing about from one Christmas gathering to the next, we had spent the holiday at home with only our little family.

It hit me.

I have spent the last three days in bed because the incision from my C-section, which should be almost completely healed after four weeks, was looking a little scary.

It all hit me at once, and I felt like I was going to lose my mind. I started crying, and I couldn't stop. My crazy hormones were finally pouring out of me like a flood. My head was spinning. And I was overcome by the need to get in the car and drive and find some people and have a conversation and laugh and eat food and just. leave. my. bedroom.

And then it hit me.

Some people live like this all of the time. They are slaves to their own physical restrictions. I started thinking about a talented musician we know who has been confined at home for years by a debilitating illness. I even started thinking about people held hostage, missionaries taken captive, people wrongfully imprisoned. (I warned you that the crazy hormones had taken over.)

And then it hit me.

Whatever situation someone is in, it's up to that person to choose to go on living. To make the most of it. That life isn't just about fun activities and what we are doing on the outside. But about how we are growing and where we are going on the inside.

We had made it to a pretty comfortable place in our family. Our three kids were old enough to get up in the morning and make themselves a bowl of cereal and play happily together without disturbing my sleep. We were done with diapers and feedings every three hours. We had just reached a point that it was getting easy.

And then it hit me.

I wouldn't trade any of that for this.

When I look at this face, I wonder who she is and what she will be like. And at the same time, I feel like I've known her forever.

It's been an adjustment. But it feels like she has always been part of our family.

Why would I wish away this quiet Christmas? It's been a rare treat to have a new baby in the house at Christmastime. It's the kind of Christmas at home we've always thought about when we've been on the road traveling dark highways through snowstorms.

And haven't I always dreamed of spending three days in bed while someone else took care of the kids and the dishes and the laundry and the cooking?

And when will I have another chance to spend a month inside? Not aloud to run errands. Not able to go anywhere. Just spending time with my family.

And then it hit me.

For now, for this time, it couldn't get much better than this.

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Sunday, December 27, 2009

Getting movies

It's time for Part 2 of my highly-anticipated three-part series on Christmas Gifts I Love.

Gift #2 is something I purchased for my husband. But it has turned out to be a great gift for me, as well, after I caused myself some post-surgery damage using Gift #1 and ended up on a CapableDad-imposed bedrest/complete lockdown for two days in a row.

First, for the background.

Last year at this time, we decided we would show the cable companies of the world who is boss. We were tired of sending money each month to Comcast and the Dish Network just so we could watch TV.

So, we canceled it all and put a good ol' fashioned antenna on top of our house. Now, it's not as bad as it sounds. We still get 32 channels, including the major networks.

But once in a while, I could see that CapableDad was longing for a few more options in TV viewing. And when I heard some friends talking about their Roku player, I decided that might be the perfect surprise for him for Christmas.

First, I got a subscription to Netflix. For the same subscription price, the Roku box allows us to immediately watch hundreds of other TV shows and movies through Netflix.

We also can watch all of these same movies on demand on our computers. But the Roku player is nice because it streams them quickly, without any glitches that sometimes occur when streaming through a computer to the TV. We also don't have to set it up each time we want to use it, as we would with a laptop.

I have heard a few people complain that Netflix doesn't have a lot to offer for on-demand movies. Perhaps we are very sheltered and just haven't watched many movies or TV shows in the past, um, decade??

We have actually been overwhelmed by the vast number of choices available. In addition to movies and TV shows, we have also found some cool educational videos that complement some of the subjects we are studying in school this year.

So, are you excited to find out what #3 is on my list of favorite gifts?

Have any of you tried Roku, Netflix or another alternative to renting movies? I would love to know what you think.

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Saturday, December 26, 2009

Getting Active

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas! Now I know that Christmas is NOT all about the gifts. But I'm such a kid inside that I still love the thrill of unwrapping the packages under the tree.

I received (and gave) a few gifts that I love so much I just have to blog about them.

The first one is the only thing that was on my Christmas wish list for myself. I really wanted some type of workout program to help me get back in shape... I'm tempted to say "post-pregnancy", but let's face it: I wasn't really in shape before I got pregnant!

I decided I would be more motivated to workout with the Wii than I would a DVD. So, I researched a few of the top sellers and asked for EA Sports Active.

I have only played it one time so far, but here are the things I already like about it:

  • The game lets you choose your level of intensity and creates a workout right for you.
  • You can choose a 30-day challenge, which keeps you on track with a different workout each day.
  • The workout is only 20 minutes and rotates between a variety of activities. I have done Wii Fit in the past, but didn't ever feel like I was getting a lot of exercise because of all of the set-up time between each activity. Active keeps moving from one exercise to the next. For example, my first day included walking, jogging, boxing, lunges and arm curls, among the exercises.
  • The workout then changes each day, rotating activities to work on different muscles. The 30-day challenge also includes days to rest.
  • The set includes resistance bands to increase your strength exercises.
  • It also allows you to workout with a friend, which you can't do with Wii Fit.

I do miss a few things that are part of Wii Fit.

  • I love how Fit keeps track of anyone who uses it so you can compare your progress to others in your family.
  • I also like the fact that Wii Fit tracks your weight, BMI and gives you the completely inaccurate "Wii Fit age". My age swings from 29 to 82 within a matter of days on that game! And yet, I still love finding out my Wii Fit age.

I also have a word of warning about EA Sports Active:

IF you have recently had surgery and IF your incision has not completely healed and IF until now you consider walking from your car into Target a major workout, then you might not want to start the 30-Day Challenge...

BECAUSE you will attempt to tell your "personal trainer" that it's not a good idea for you to jog or kick box or do lunges due to your physical limitations BUT she won't listen to you and will continue to encourage you to "give it your all" and "try harder"...

and IF you are a people pleaser and driven by goals, you won't want to let her down and you won't want to quit mid-way through and you MIGHT end up injuring your incision to the point you have to spend the entire next day trying not to move...

and THEN you will worry about what your personal trainer will say when you skip the next two weeks and you will even consider asking your husband to pose as you so she doesn't get mad at you.

But if none of this applies to you, then give it a try!

Um, me?? If you happen to bump into my digital personal trainer on the Wii, could you let her know I'll be back sometime AFTER the New Year?

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Friday, December 25, 2009

A tale of two babies

It was a calm Christmas morning.

Our five-year-old daughter received two babies for Christmas. First, she got a baby sister.

And today, she received Kit, the American Girl doll. She thinks Kit's name should be "Lilly".

Baby #1: Wow, Lilly. You look sweet in that outfit. All they give me to wear are these sleepers with the footies.
Lilly: Thanks. This outfit was $54 at the American Girl store, plus $13.95 for shipping.

Baby #1: You know, Lil, I think we're about the same size. What size shoes do you wear?
Lilly: I'm a size 0, of course.
Baby #1: Me, too!

Baby #1: You don't mind if I just borrow this for a few hours, do you? I have a big party later this weekend.

Lilly: I don't think so. I'm going to need my cardigan back.
Baby #1: Whaaaaa!!!!

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Merry Christmas!

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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Brighter days ahead

I have been so busy taking naps, eating the wonderful desserts that friends have been bringing us and trying to protect the baby from six little hands that constantly want to touch her nose and ears that I almost forgot to recognize that this is one of my favorite days of the year!

It's the first day after the Winter Solstice. Starting today, we will be getting a little extra sunlight each day until June 22. After Christmas Day and the summer solstice -- the longest day of the year -- this has to be one of my favorite days.

Oh, I can be realistic and face the fact that spring doesn't come to this part of the planet until late May. But at least the promise of more sunlight gives one hope, doesn't it?

I can't believe we still have two full days before Christmas. The reason I can't believe it is because I have barely done any shopping (I actually only left the house one time and only ventured in to two stores), and yet I feel like I'm ready for Christmas. Online shopping has been my friend.

I'm excited to be at home this year snuggled together with a new baby and our family. I'm looking forward to seeing our kids unwrap their gifts. And although I wish we could be with our extended family, I'm excited to be here, doing things at our own pace.

We have started a few traditions with our immediate family, but I would really love to start a few more. Would you take a minute and tell me in the comments section about your favorite family tradition at Christmas?

Here are a few things that we try to do:

We add handprints to our Christmas tree skirt. I'm having a dilemma though, because our skirt is almost full. I could squeeze this year's handprints on, but I'm thinking I should start a new tree skirt now that we have a new family member.

On Christmas Eve, we get out our Playmobil nativity set, and the kids act out the Christmas story. We also read through all of the pages of our Advent book.

We don't make a big deal about Santa at our house, but we do put out a cookie and cup of milk for him. I love seeing the reaction on the kids' faces when they see the half-eaten cookie on Christmas morning.

We open gifts first thing in the morning. When I was a kid, my parents would let us get up at 4 a.m. to open gifts. We usually wait until 6:30 or 7 a.m., but we definitely do it first thing.

I also like to have cinnamon rolls for breakfast. I need to find a good recipe to make them from scratch.

Since it's just our family here on Christmas Day, I'm trying to decide what type of meal I should make. I'm also starting to think about what we should do on Christmas Eve.

What are your family traditions? I would love some creative ideas!

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Saturday, December 19, 2009

You haven't seen Christmas cookies like this before

The past 19 days have been a blur. A comfy, cozy, cuddly, sleep-deprived blur.

The days and nights are a never-ending cycle of naps, feeding baby, changing diapers and staring into deep dark baby eyes, sprinkled with home school, taking turns holding baby and trying to sneak in a shower sometime before bed.

On Friday, I looked at the calendar and realized Christmas was a week away. I have only left the house twice since coming home from the hospital to attend the Christmas programs of the kids.

I haven't wrapped a gift. Or purchased a gift. Or baked a cookie. Or read the Advent book. Or purchased Christmas cards. Or even located the Christmas music.

So, I went online and made a few purchases. I found the Charlie Brown Christmas CD. And I sent my husband to the store to get some ingredients for cookies.

While I was holding and feeding baby, I asked CapableDad to make some cookies with the kids. I gave him a simple recipe: Holiday Wreath Cookies.

They are basically Rice Krispie Treats, but made with corn flakes and green food coloring.

I couldn't believe how they turned out!

The recipe said it would make 18 cookies. They managed to make 10. Have you ever seen Holiday Wreath Cookies that looked quite so... so... um... so... gloppy?

They were soooo gooey. And green! And wow! That was a lot of red hots!

They were definitely the best wreath cookies I have ever tasted. The bright green marshmallows were stuck to our fingers and hair afterward. Really? How can you go wrong with a recipe involving marshmallows, cereal and butter?

I immediately ate three, which would have been six cookies of the normal size. I'm saving the rest for breakfast.

I just showed my husband the cookies in the photo.

"Ohhhhhhh," he said. "So, THAT is what they were supposed to look like?!"

Um. Maybe I should have let him see the picture in advance.

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Friday, December 18, 2009

A star is born...

For five of the past six years, one of our three older children has attended the same preschool.

Every December, they put on the same Christmas program. It's a sweet little re-telling of the Christmas story with the 3- to 5-year-olds singing songs like, "Bells are Ringing", "Happy Birthday, Jesus", and "What Did the Cow at the Manger Say?". (OK, that's not really the title of the song, but anyway...)

Each year, the classes are divided up into two groups: half are angels and the other half are shepherds. A few select students are chosen to play the roles of the angel Gabriel, Mary and Joseph and the three wisemen.

Our oldest son was an angel two years in a row. Our second son was an angel one year and then a shepherd.

Oh, but this year? THIS YEAR?!?!

Oh, yeah. Guess who was Mary?

Could I possibly have been more proud of my preschooler?

And Joseph was played by none other than her buddy from church. OK. I know it's hard to imagine that two little actors who have zero lines could actually put on more than the same average performance of every Mary and Joseph from year's past.

But I must tell you that these two were fabulous.

They took their job very seriously. They rang their bells right on cue.

They hopped on their broom horse when they were supposed to.

They pulled out the doll baby Jesus and placed him in the manger without any reminders.

They remembered all of their sign language motions for the songs. They sang loud and clear. Very loud. And very clear.

And they even added a few of their own motions to jazz up some of the songs.

It was the best. Christmas. pageant. EVER. OK... at least I thought so. And I could be a little biased. Just a little.

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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Christmas Tour of Homes

It's been fun looking at all of the beautifully-decorated houses that are part of the Christmas Tour of Homes this year. More than 1,000 bloggers have joined the carnival, hosted by The Nester, to show off their holiday decor.

I've been wishing I could participate, but, honestly, with our fourth child born on Dec. 1, I'm just happy we even put up our Christmas tree this year.

I didn't bother to get out the nativity set, the Christmas village, the outdoor lights or even the wreath for the front door.

When you walk in our home, you are greeted by this most days.

It's like we have a volcano in the center of our living room that spits out coats, boots and gloves.

But, that's OK. We're all snuggly and warm inside, especially when we get to cuddle up with this precious gift that came to our home this month.

I used to be very picky about how we decorated our Christmas tree. I would carefully hang glass balls and ornaments that looked like jewelry. This year, we gave the kids one small box of ornaments -- most of them made by their own little hands in preschool -- and let them hang them wherever they wanted.

It's not beautiful. But we don't care. We're all too preoccupied with this sweet bundle of joy.

In past years, I draped my dining room table with a pretty table cloth and set in the middle a glass bowl full of ornaments. This year, our dining room table is cluttered with books, paper and pencils we use to do home school.

And that's OK. Because we're all learning how to take care of a baby, enjoy the moments and live at a slower pace.

Our home is not decorated with pretty things this year. We don't have piles of gifts under our tree. But we couldn't be happier.

And really? What could be more beautiful?

** To see more homes taking part in the Christmas Tour of Homes, head over to The Nesting Place. **

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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

I'm a fan of...

If you are on Facebook, you probably know you can become a "fan" of lots of different things: stores, potato chips, restaurants, TV shows.

My teen-age nephew and niece always make me laugh because they become fans of the most hilarious things. Many of them you can only truly appreciate if you are in high school, I'm sure:

  • Having a 100% sarcastic conversation with someone who thinks you're serious.
  • Why learn algebra? Finding X is only useful if you're a pirate!
  • When teachers get off track and tell you stories about their life
  • Teacher's call it copying?? we call it TEAMWORK

Well, I've been finding myself becoming a "fan" of a lot of things lately, too.

First, there are the things that I took for granted before I was pregnant.

I'm now a huge fan of:

  • Sleeping on my stomach
  • Tying my own shoes
  • Painting my toe nails
  • Walking in high-heeled shoes without feeling off balance
  • Walking, period

And since we brought Miss Baby home from the hospital, I've really become a fan of a lot of things:

  • Sleeping more than two hours in a row
  • Taking a shower before Noon
  • I just changed your diaper, did you seriously poop again?
  • Accomplishing anything in a 24-hour period
  • Getting my sense of humor back
  • Awesome friends who bring us dinner
  • Driving myself where I want to go (I'm not supposed to drive for two weeks after leaving the hospital)
  • Giving my husband a list and being pleasantly surprised when he comes home with everything I wanted

And mostly...

I'm a fan of cute little bald babies who wear a pink hat when they sleep.

What about you? What are you a fan of right now? Do you ever stop to become a fan of something you once took for granted?

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Friday, December 11, 2009

Love sick

I have a confession to make.

Everyone in this house has gone a little crazy. We're all love sick.

Our big excitement of the day revolves around this little person and her nap schedule. When she wakes up, it's a mad dash to look at her.

The kids keep one ear on her "walkie talkie" (the baby monitor), waiting for it to light up with the sounds of being awake.

They are starting to learn how long she typically sleeps and that she rarely stays awake more than an hour. It's fun to hear my oldest son do the math, "Let's see... She woke up at 1, and it's 2 now. She's probably ready for her nap."

They wait for her to sleep, eat, and get her diaper changed. Then, we start passing her from one person's arms to the next.

I'm the lucky one. When she gets fussy or tired of being held by little arms, I can use my magical mommy touch to quiet her. I feel so blessed that she just knows she is with mama again.

Our second born probably has it the worst.

"Oooooohhhhhh, she's soooooo cute!" he says. "I just love her soooooo much!"

Oh, yeah. She's got us. We can't get enough of her.

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