Feb 292016
 

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February was the month I felt my legs being swept out from underneath me over and over again. Just as I thought I had regained my footing, something else came along to counteract my best intentions.

When I last left you, we were in the eye of Snowstorm Jonas which dumped about 14 inches of snow at our house. My daughter tried skiing in the front yard. Fortunately, we didn’t lose power but we spent an awful lot of time shoveling our long driveway. A friend who lives at the top of a hill hosted a snow playdate at her house complete with hot chocolate, s’mores and a snow cave! After this, my kids insisted that we buy sleds so we are prepared for any sledding opportunities that may come our way.

Digging out took almost two days!

Digging out took almost two days!

"Skiing" our front yard.

“Skiing” our front yard.

Just as we recovered from this, my husband left on a week-long business trip to the west coast which took away an important source of help as well as a lack of sleep from trying to stay in touch via midnight phone calls due to the time change.

Just as he came home, we received the very sad news that our dear “Grammy” was unwell and then passed away. It was back out to the west coast for my husband, along with our daughter, while we toughed it out here. I set to work finally taking down our Christmas decorations (while I felt bad about being this far behind, I know of at least one other busy person who still had a tree up and I was still receiving Christmas cards in the mail from a few people. For some of us, Christmas is a long season.) My kids and I camped out in our sunroom to ease the hurt feelings of those who wanted to travel with big sister. We celebrated Valentine’s Day and did one of my favorite photo shoots of the year.

One night in January, I was cleaning up our Christmas boxes, cut some hearts out of one, covered a table in packing material and set out paints.

One night in January, I was cleaning up our Christmas boxes, cut some hearts out of one, covered a table in packing material and set out paints.

The next day, I found this!  The kids were hard at work painting.  My son liked to mix all the colors together to make "mud" valentines.

The next day, I found this! The kids were hard at work painting. My son liked to mix all the colors together to make “mud” valentines.

My daughter, displaying supreme organizational skills created this valentine's box with one section for cards, another door for candy and a flap on the back to open to get it all out!  I was impressed.

My daughter, displaying supreme organizational skills created this valentine’s box with one section for cards, another door for candy and a flap on the back to open to get it all out! I was impressed.

I loved the plea on my other daughter's box "Please give candy."  And another "mud" creation from my son.

I loved the plea on my other daughter’s box “Please give candy.” And another “mud” creation from my son.

We hung up all the creations on our mantel and I just loved looking at it.

We hung up all the creations on our mantel and I just loved looking at it.

Since we were in mourning for Grammy, I found black outfits for all of us to wear.  They ended up working out great for our photo shoot and symbolized both great heartache and great love.

Since we were in mourning for Grammy, I found black outfits for all of us to wear. They ended up working out great for our photo shoot and symbolized both great heartache and great love.

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The next day, we received another 5 inches of snow in a surprise storm! My children were so excited to use their sleds. Our driveway does not have that much of a slope to it but I served as the “horse” pulling them down the driveway over and over. By the end, we had a pretty good ice track set up. Fortunately, there was no shoveling to be done as the next day it all melted away.

Add another 5 inches to our snow totals.

Add another 5 inches to our snow totals.

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There is not a single picture of the baby enjoying snow.  He cries every time we put him down.

There is not a single picture of the baby enjoying snow. He cries every time we put him down.

Not even the sled was enticing!

Not even the sled was enticing!

My husband and daughter arrived safely home . . . . but then all the children came down with the flu! It passed irritatingly from one child to the next in the most drawn out fashion. I got tired of cleaning up vomit in the middle of the night. Fortunately, I avoided most of the illness, having already been hit hard with the flu last fall. I ended up with a small chest cough and made sure to rest as much as possible so I didn’t end up with pneumonia again. It seemed to work but it did nothing for my productivity.

And then to top it all off, at the end of the month, we had a tornado alert! We hid out in the basement for an hour or so. The wind and rain were not so bad for us but our neighbors to the south were not so lucky.

From snow to tornadoes!

From snow to tornadoes!

In the midst of all this February turmoil, however, Grammy’s death gave me pause to think about life in general and I realized that while it is wonderful to be organized and maximize your time and do great things, in the end all that is really asked of us is that we wake up every morning, breathe in, breathe out and just exist. That is enough. That is valuable. We do service to those around us just by being here. Anything else we do is a bonus. We would do well to remember that about ourselves and about others as well.

So, that was February. I was going to end this essay by saying that things are now on the right track for March as the weather is so balmy and spring-like and the increased sunshine does wonders for my energy level. After taking my minivan in for an expensive servicing, I cleaned it out and detailed it this weekend (a hateful task as only a minivan owner can sympathize). It was wonderful to sit in my “new” car today. . . . until I turned on the AC to hear a terrible noise. So tomorrow, we are back in recovery mode.

March is supposedly “in like a lion and out like a lamb.” So far, the lion part is right.

How was your February?

 Posted by on February 29, 2016 General Tagged with: , , , , ,
Feb 142014
 
Our Valentine snow-woman!

Our Valentine snow-woman!

After a blog server upgrade and 8+inches of snow, we are still getting back to normal around here! Wanted to wish all of my readers valentines a very Happy Valentine’s Day! Thank you for stopping in to be a part of my life!

This Valentine’s Day I have been thinking a lot about music and how love, the most powerful emotion, inspires nearly every song we hear. Below are some of the songs that struck me recently on the continuum of love.

First Crushes – Browsing YouTube recently I stumbled upon a video by the Greek teen heartthrob ƩTAN (or in English “Stan.”). I loved this video of his live performance. He has a wonderful voice and look but the reactions of the teen girls in the audience are just priceless. I have no idea what he is singing but I think I can hear the word “gala” which means “milk,” a poetic choice for a love song.

Angst – One of the greatest challenges of love is making sure two people are on the same page. So many love songs express the one-sided pining that can plague relationships. It’s hard to pick favorites from all the choices but there are two that stand out to me recently. The first is from Ed Sheeran (who I don’t claim to be cool enough to know without having heard of him on The Voice). His videos are great. He tends to hide from the camera and there is a bit of a Where’s Waldo effect trying to even find him in his videos. His song “Give Me Love” is amazing and the video is movie quality. The second is Colbie Caillat’s “Hold On” and for some reason, it feels to me like the female response to Ed Sheeran’s song.

One of the best all-time songs on one-sided love, however, has to be John Mayer’s “Half of my Heart.”

Heartbreak – Love gives us the highest highs but also, sadly, the lowest lows. It doesn’t always go right and it is pretty devastating when love falls apart. Fortunately, we have so many songs to help us cope with the pain and discover inner strength. The Band Perry’s “Lie” helps us use a little anger and humor to get through the pain. I also like September’s “Cry for You” that our local radio station played recently.

Joy – The latest song from Lady Antebellum is the best expression of how wonderful love feels when it all goes right and how worthy the search for a deep and meaningful love in your life is. Being fearless and bold always seems to pay off when it comes to love.

What love songs would you nominate for a Valentine’s Day playlist? Please share in the comments.

 Posted by on February 14, 2014 General Tagged with: , ,
Feb 142013
 

Sharing some valentines from this year’s celebration.

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I adore this paper flower bouquet my 7-year old designed and constructed all on her own. It looks gorgeous on our table and may be one of my all-time favorite gifts of “flowers.”

My 4-year old and I had a lot of fun working together on her valentine box for preschool. We went with a bubble bath theme and constructed the box from random craft supplies we already owned.

A bubble bath Valentine's Day box.

A bubble bath Valentine’s Day box.

2013-02-14-data-lovestoryThis Valentine’s season we have also been watching our friend Amy Webb’s overwhelming media success with her book Data: A Love Story, documenting her experience with online dating and how she met her wonderful husband Brian. You know you have dominated your marketing plan when The Washington Post writes that you have “been all over Web and print media in the past month.”

Seeing so much about dating tips and online dating made me reflect on my own marriage. My husband and I met in the dark ages before online dating really existed. Our “matchmaker” was an unruly dog.

We watched vicariously as the first form of internet dating, online chat rooms, arose during college. This was an interesting psychological study where two people would find they were complete soul mates when typing in a chat room or talking on the phone but once they exchanged pictures (by snail mail) would find there was no physical attraction and the relationships fizzled.

As online dating has evolved, you can now put so much more information about yourself online, from extensive pictures to statistics about your body size, income, education, likes and dislikes, etc. You can specify in exact detail who you are looking for. So far, the online formula seems to work. We can count numerous wedded couples among our friends who met through online services.

But one aspect of online dating that is completely confusing to me is how you then translate a list of requirements into a soul mate. There is an aspect of luck and magic to love. You can’t plan it or organize it out completely. I don’t think a computer system would ever match me and my husband together or that we would pick each other out of a mix of random people. We are really quite different .

There is also the aspect of change over time. It has been scientifically proven that we become different people as the years go by. So even if you manage to match yourself up perfectly with someone today, there is no guarantee that as you both change over the years, you won’t change into an incompatible mix. If you are in a happy long-term relationship, you are fortunate to be changing in compatible ways continually as the years go by. When you think about all that has to go right given the amount of change, the high divorce rate doesn’t seem all that surprising.

I count myself lucky every day that I have a very happy marriage with my husband. Over the years, we knew we had something special from the comments we received from other people. When we were both working full time, people expressed surprised that we could stand sitting in the car together for hours each day on our long daily commute. When we drove cross-country and were in the car 24-7 for weeks at a time with our young children, people often said they “couldn’t do that” due to fears of starting an argument or divorcing en route.

The other day, I wondered how I would advise my own children to find a soul mate. I don’t think there is any magic checklist or formula but the one idea that kept coming back to me is that you are primarily looking for a life teacher—someone who will help you change into the best version of yourself, someone whose advice and perspective you value above all others, someone who you are willing to learn from and vice versa. I am a different and better person for having known my husband.

On this Valentine’s Day, wishing you all the love in the world!

I will close this deep thought with a few spontaneous hearts my 7-year-old keeps pointing out to me in random things. Love is truly all around us if we look for it.

A gravel heart in the parking lot.

A gravel heart in the parking lot.

A hot chocolate heart.

A hot chocolate heart.

Just to keep things real, the heart-shaped stain when said hot chocolate spills on the couch!

Just to keep things real, the heart-shaped stain when said hot chocolate spills on the couch!

P.S. Congratulations to my newly-engaged sister and brother-in-law-to-be!

 Posted by on February 14, 2013 General Tagged with: ,
Feb 142013
 

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This year, my daughter’s preschool class valentines were inspired by my own organizational challenge. We have buckets full of pencils. Some we bought ourselves but a large number were received as gifts for trick-or-treating or other holidays. Pencils are a pretty common gift for children and much needed. We use pencils all the time in our homeschool efforts and it seems we can never have too many.

The only problem with all these pencils? It was getting extremely frustrating reaching into the pencil bucket only to pull out an unsharpened pencil or one where the lead had broken. Also, a lot of our pencils have terrible erasers. They just smudge around the lead or leave an orange mess on the paper. The ones with decent erasers get used up quickly and pretty soon they become problems because of a lack of eraser.

One day I had enough with all these unsharpened pencils and went in search of a portable pencil sharpener. Coincidentally, I was looking through the Oriental Trading Company catalog and found my solution!

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It was a chocolate-bar shaped case that contained both a pencil sharpener and an eraser! Perfect!

We ordered up a bunch along with some heart-shaped doilies.

After a little fiddling around with some WordArt options in Microsoft Word . . .

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I came up with a heart-shaped template.

A little scissoring and a few stitches with some yarn later, we had some adorable homemade valentines.

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Our valentines showed our love and helped our friends get a little more organized too.

Did you send or receive any clever valentines today? Please share in the comments.

 Posted by on February 14, 2013 General Tagged with: ,
Feb 042013
 

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It’s the month of love! It’s also crafting heaven this month! Time to break out the paper, scissors, glue, glitter and all that other fun stuff to make valentine cards! Our first valentines this month were to thank the ski instructors.

We used odds and ends of stuff from around the house. A little spare red posterboard, some construction paper, toothpicks, glue and a black marker. The ski pole toothpicks were inspired by an idea I saw here. (It’s the only blog in Italian I “read.” I have no idea what it says but this woman is a crafting genius!)

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They were super fun to make and made the recipients smile!

 Posted by on February 4, 2013 General Tagged with: ,