Thursday, December 26, 2013

New York, New York

 

After a fairly short (but longer than normal) road trip, the fam is in NYC. Mother Nature made for gnarly traffic at times, but this bunch was not to be deterred. Road warriors are we.

Every time we step foot in city limits, Mario and I begin contemplating life in The Big Apple. The hustle and bustle of it all does carry a certain appeal...

P.S. This loveliest of cities has also led me to believe that the beanie is a perfectly suitable piece of headwear. After a lifetime of avoidance, I am officially a convert. An earth shattering revelation, I know.

 

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

I heard the bells on Christmas Day

Their old, familiar carols play,

And wild and sweet

The words repeat

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Merry Christmas!

 

Monday, December 23, 2013

Frosty meets Potter in a fit of craftiness.

Each year Kiddo and I (well, me mostly) scour the internet and magazines for ornament ideas, settle on one, and put our own twist on it. Last year I made vintage-inspired snow globe ornaments; this year's idea came courtesy of Pinterest (shocking, I know). 

I love this tradition. I look at each ornament and think back to where I was and what life was like over the six years we've been doing this. Close friends and relatives each get one, and I like to think these handmade treasures mean so much more than a store bought gift. (And hang around longer.)











The first step was finding the right book. And because the thought of cutting up a readable book was rather unbearable, we started at our local Salvation Army. As luck would have it, they had a tattered paperback copy of The Sorcerer's Stone. The yellowed, torn pages called out for reinvention. The Christmas holiday is prominent in the book and one of my favorite Dumbledore quotes was perfect for the tag... it was all so serendipitous. I printed the quote on card stock and used a tag-shaped paper punch to cut them out. We even used the illustrations from the chapter headings on the reverse (Kiddo's idea). I tucked away the remainder of the book for future craft projects.

It took a little finagling to get them into the globe and opened up again, but with the aid of two chopsticks I developed a fairly good system. I'm really happy with how they turned out!



Sunday, December 22, 2013

The world is quiet here.

 Lemony Snicket




Today is a lovely, foggy day. And although the fog is stealing away our Christmas snow, it is lovely nonetheless.

Earlier in the week I spoke of my excitement over the upcoming holiday. I was a little late in regard to my Christmas spirit, but I've been trying to make up for lost time. This week, despite being my first post-semester, felt a little rushed. There were ornaments to quickly finish, goodies to make for various school functions, Kiddo's holiday concert, CrossFit sessions, a few more gifts to buy... It was hectic, but not in the way it was during finals. Thank goodness. Mario and I had a cupcake frosting/gift packaging party Thursday night in order to get it all done. It was a late night, but we hit the pillow knowing all those loose ends were tied up. That man and I can sure rally when the need strikes.

Still, I felt stretched a little thin. Until today. Oh yes, today is my first obligation-free day. We are staying at home. There is cookie dough, french toast coffee cake, and coffee-rubbed bacon in the fridge awaiting their turn in the oven. Oh, and homemade mint chocolate chip marshmallows. On occasion I'll select a cookbook from the shelf and wind up trying several recipes. This would be such an occasion and the cookbook is Joy the Baker. I'm pretty smitten with her. 











Last night I resolved to wake up early and enjoy the quiet before the boys rise. Sure enough, my internal alarm clock had me up by 7a. I stood in the snow, barefoot, and photographed the fog. I savored my cup of joe. (Uh, how have I not tried the Starbucks caramel coffee K-cups before? Good stuff.)

Yesterday Mario took Jared to a ski swap and ran some errands with him. Meanwhile, I wrapped with abandon and watched as many episodes of Orange is the New Black as I could fit in. I was unsure what I thought of it at first, but now I'm hooked. I have a feeling season 2 can't come soon enough.





Kiddo is done with school and officially on break. So am I, actually. We've been baking and bonding. I'm pretty fond of that dude. The holiday show at his school was sweet and, I realized midway through it, probably his last. (Most high schools don't have holiday programs, I think.) It's rather bittersweet. It's one of those moments when I realize time is too quickly passing where Jared is concerned. While I often find school programs to be a bit tedious, I enjoy the ritual of going. The music teacher at the charter school is pretty great in terms of song selection... they did a fantastic rendition of "Seasons of Love" from Rent. Because they are a small school lacking a gymnasium, concerts are held at the sleepy old church in the town square. It's all rather charming and idealistic.

Well, that's that.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The man who thinks he can and the man who thinks he can't are both right.

Which one are you?

 

Henry Ford

source

Last week came and went in a blur of biochemistry and soaring cortisol levels. I made it through the final only to spend the following 36 hours straight composing my research paper. Nerves jangling, I walked out of the science building on Friday morning as a bonafide college grad. As in, my official degree is in the mail. But boy was it a long, arduous road. I still can't wrap my mind around it. At the ripe old age of 33, my dreams may actually be realized. I'm trying to simmer in that rather heady fact in these reflective post-semester days.

 

After 10 whole days spent across the continent, Mario is home. He arrived in the midst of a Tuesday afternoon blizzard, all ruggedly handsome and road-weary. I missed him. I also missed Kiddo. While I was physically there, taking him to and from school, fencing lessons and the like, I wasn't really there. My brain was buzzing with what ifs and how will I's and all the other things that occur to a person under duress. I want to be present in his life always, though I recognize this is not always possible. All in all the time. Body and soul. Certain moments in life are fleeting and I don't want to miss a single one. I want to hear about The Doctor's two hearts. To inspect each and every one of his Lego creations, even if I've seen 100 renderings of the Enterprise. To smooch his whole face when I tuck him in and again an hour later once sleep has taken him. As long as he lets me, I'm there. Which makes even the shortest periods of absence regrettable. But these last four years, and all the complications they have brought, have been worth it. I have something no one can ever take; something that is mine forever and ever.

 

It is Christmas next week, after all. And I suddenly feel like Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! Stop the clock! There are treats to be baked and ornaments to create and Christmas cards to mail and gifts to wrap, and, and, and. I haven't watched a single Christmas movie. This must be remedied immediately! I have half of my ornaments made, actually, and I'm pretty pleased. (Even with their imperfections. I am rejecting the crafting OCD tendencies of the past.) Over the last couple days I have been making my own wrapping paper out of recycled brown paper bags, glitter paint, and round sponge brushes. When I have a few minutes I dot away. My bah humbug attitude toward our yearly Christmas card was reconsidered upon seeing the designs on minted.com and completely abandoned once I rediscovered my graduation photo with the boys. It was an amazing moment that should be shared with the important people in our lives.

 

Instead of flapping in the breeze post-semester, and therefore subjecting myself to the inevitable what now slump, I've been approaching CrossFit as a necessity. A way to let it all out. For the first time in my life, perhaps, I have an outlet. I couldn't be more appreciative that I found this rather insane but addicting form of fitness.

 

Finally, yesterday afternoon I received a call from my amazing aunt. After looking over her schedule and talking with my uncle, they worked it out so Jared can stay with them for a week in February... which means I can go on my husband's work trip to Rio de Janeiro with him. I had long since written off my attendance, as it seemed neither practical nor possible. Mario proposed on our first company trip to Maui, we honeymooned in Athens on a trip, and now we will have another stamp in our passports. Where really doesn't matter so much; who is more important. My husband, our friends... a kiddo-free getaway is long overdue (it has been 5 years since the last one). With grad school goals in the near future, it may be my last chance to get away for a while and therefore the opportunity should simply not be passed up.

 

It is safe to say my cup runneth over this week. I'm taking deep breaths and looking at the bright side of life. My grade posted yesterday, and while it isn't necessarily what I wanted, it isn't terrible. My transcript will still say "with honors." That is more than enough. The professor who runs my research project took my offer to work in January with open arms. I also have a goal of writing one freelance piece for someone, somewhere in the first 6 weeks of the year. Although I realize the importance of taking a break, I don't want to go unchallenged. To forget what it feels like to venture out of my comfort zone, which has resulted in some pretty amazing feats.

 

// This kid. He's something. And those furry creatures. // The paper that nearly put me over the edge. Don't be fooled by its lighthearted title. This bad boy was complex and hard to write and exhausting. All 15 pages. // Kiddo and I celebrated by playing Scrabble over sushi. // That fateful morning, after plopping that paper in my professor's box, I sat in the corner of a coffee shop and just breathed. And caffeinated. //

 

// This is a snow-loving dog through and through. // Every year I beg Mother Nature to let me get through finals before dumping snow on us. I love a white Christmas, but the first half of the month Mario is always gone and adding another thing to my plate feels impossible. This year she relented and waited until Saturday night. But not to be made to look like a sissy by the rest of the country, she quickly caught us up on the white stuff. //

 


The last couple weeks we've been working on our 1 rep maxes in CrossFit. Essentially you keep adding weight during various weightlifting moves until you can't lift the bar more than once. Monday was deadlifts. I started at 85 pounds (my previous max was 105 pounds) and kept adding. When I finally got to the place where once was about it, I counted up all the plates. I amazed myself by topping off at 235 pounds, and garnered the attention of the whole studio when I not only earned a place on the leader board, but I came in at #2 (and got a shout out on the official FB page). After feeling like things were out of my hands for the past few weeks, finding that I could harness that kind of physical and mental strength meant everything. I had it in me all along. Self doubt really is quite silly. //

 

// The Christmas spirit has overtaken me. Cashing in some Birchbox points to splurge on their holiday box was so worth it. The socks are rocking my world, and the mini Scrabble set now lives in my glove box and at the ready should the mood strike (during a celebratory sushi dinner, for instance). // I'm pretty smitten with our cards. I'm so glad I got out of my own way on that one. Minted is my new go-to place for such things. (P.S. Minted has nary an idea who I am. I just really like the idea of supporting creative people. And their designs float my boat. And they saved me from lack-of-correspondence remorse.) // My hippie handicraft wrapping paper. There are also homemade gift tags involving my cat, a sweater he did not enjoy wearing, and a word bubble. Just wait. // This tea. Holy. Moly. Our new friends that came over for Thanksgiving brought a jar of their family's spiced tea mix. Thank goodness she included the recipe. We'd be going through withdrawals without the ability to replicate it. It has Tang, yo. (They took Tang to space, you know. Or so my husband informs me any and every time we come in close proximity with said magical orange powder.) One or all of us, including Kiddo, have a cup in hand at all times. I didn't ask permission to share her recipe, so I won't, but this Instant Spiced Tea recipe is nearly identical. Jamie, if you're reading this, you may have single-handedly rekindled my Christmas spirit. //

 

 

 

 

Monday, December 9, 2013

This day had officially punched every hole in her crazy ticket.

Kimberly Kincaid

source
Oh, Monday. 

Let's start with a kid who wouldn't budge from bed. Until 15 minutes prior to departure. We totally would have missed our flight had that been the case. The roads were icy, but, well, so much for a head start. As we made our way through our morning commute, my wipers began icing up. Big old chunks of frost and, let's be honest, what's more annoying than wipers that don't live up to their name and should therefore be called smearers.

I decided to reach my hand out the window and do the quick grab-and-snap of the wiper to release said ice. I'm handy like that. Well, hand reached, wiper swung, contact was made and wiper snapped off and flew  down the road behind us. Well, shoot. Kiddo asked if he could retell the story to his classmates "because it was just too good not to share."

After dropping Jared off, I bought new wipers. I turned down the nice gentleman's offer to install them for me. Then I went back in and got the guy to do it. (Who was I kidding?) Apparently it was just a broken off piece of the last wiper standing between me and the sort of independence that comes with do-it-yourself car maintenance. Oh, well. 

CrossFit happened. Coffee shop breakfast and study session happened. I put a lot of quarters in my meter... I was in it for the long haul. Only, the jeans I threw in my gym bag were a skosh snug thanks to takeout General Tao's chicken for dinner last night. For the most part I blame the General, and the Colonel, for the overall tightness of my pants. Well, all I could think about was those pants digging into mah belleh. Then, in a stroke of genius, I remembered the pair of yoga pants tucked away in the backup gym bag I keep in my trunk. At that point I didn't even care if I wound up looking homeless. 

I went out back to my car and started digging for freedom pants. I found them, but not before all the ice and snow on the back of my car slid into the trunk, filling my purse. 

I got in the backseat and began undressing. Halfway through the process I apparently sat on the panic button on my key fob and set off the alarm. A lovely passerby whipped around in time to see me in my underwear, pants half up (or down, depending on your perspective). 

And that, my friends, is a day in the life of yours truly. 
(And hopefully the end of the story.)

The moment you doubt whether you can fly,

you cease for ever to be able to do it.

J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan
source

Self doubt can be crippling, no doubt. 

Mario left on his money-making endeavors Friday evening. 
Which meant this weekend presented less study time than I would have liked. 
Late last week my nervousness shifted to I've got this
Yet here I am, the week of, and I'm doubting my ability to absorb enough information. 
Struggling to let the doubt roll off my back so that the hours I do have are effective. 
So I don't walk into the final with jangling nerves. 
It's so easy to go to that place
The one where the cost, the expectations, the pressure begin to block my chi in a big way. 
Where the fact that this class will be but a blip on my radar 5 years from now is forgotten.

Prior to beginning my marathon cram session, I went to CrossFit. 
I was expecting to really work. it. out. 
Instead of the usual Workout of the Day, it was lifting only. 
The goal: find my 1 rep max weight for the back squat, strict press, and deadlift. 
I was a bit baffled. 
Would I get what I need from this? 

Then a great thing happened: I amazed myself. 
My last deadlift attempt was 115 pounds. 
Today I knocked out 170. 
I've never attempted anything heavier than a 65 pound press. 
Today I topped 95. 
(We ran out of time for the deadlift... perhaps another day.)

I walked into the gym today with no assumptions. 
No finite numbers in mind.  
No doubt
And with that frame of mind, I did something I'd never done before. 
Most importantly, I got out of my own way
Too often in life I have a number (or grade) in mind. 
A must have or everything will crumble down around me attitude. 
How exhausting!

So come Wednesday I'm going to do my best. 
In the meantime, I'm going to absorb all the information I can. 
And that will have to be good enough. 
I'm going to actively dispose of those what if...? worst case scenario thoughts. 
Because all they serve to do is place limits on my abilities. 

Who needs that?

source

Saturday, December 7, 2013

But kids don't stay with you if you do it right.

It's the one job where, the better you are, the more surely you won't be needed in the long run.

 

Barbara Kingsolver, Pigs In Heaven

 

Today was an errand day. Ski boot fitting. Christmas shopping on Main Street. Groceries. Just me and the boy.

 

As we entered the grocery store, volunteers were handing out a list of critical needs at the local food bank. Kiddo felt compelled to act. We shopped the list. At the bottom was "personal care items" followed by a short list of examples.

 

"People probably don't donate some of these things. Especially the ones that might be embarrassing to buy. Imagine being a lady and unable to afford those things. It would be terrible!" said he.

 

With not an ounce of self consciousness, this fine little creature grabbed a pack of lady products and threw it in with the rest of the donations. It wasn't something to shy away from. It was simply a need.

 

His blooming maturity. My open and honest conversations about what it's like to be human (man or woman). Frank discussions about biology. He has long since come to understand these processes. But to consider them and how they affect people, especially those in need, is a whole other thing, indeed.

 

Good things are happening here. This young man is becoming a sensitive, well-rounded individual. I'm so proud to call him my own.

 

Sometimes I wish back to the days he was a tiny tot. That he still fit in the crook of my neck. But I wouldn't exchange moments like this for anything.

 

I'll eat you up I love you so.

 

Friday, December 6, 2013

Oh my, it's Friday

...which means I'm a mere five days away from my very last final. Yahoo! I'm ready. No I'm not. I need more time! So much to do, so much to do. I can't wait to have an empty calendar. (Until eventual boredom sets in, of course. Having nothing to do long term always sounds better in theory, no?)

Even though the pressure climbs with each passing day, and this will be a weekend chock full of responsibilities, I'm celebrating the passing of another week. However, once I'm free as a bird I want things to slow down so I may properly enjoy them. Because I should be able to control the passage of time. Totally reasonable.

1// I've been practically living in my favorite coffee shop. I spent about 7 hours camped out there the other day. True story. I love the vibe, but also the fact that I can get good food (i.e. I don't have to leave to sate my hunger midday). Their breakfast and lunch sandwiches are off the hook. I simply don't feel the same way about Starbucks (though I wish that weren't true). 2// I've really been trying to avoid biting my nails. I've gnawed them into nubs since the age of six, so I have to be conscious about falling back into old habits... especially when I'm stressed or nervous (I nipped it in the bud a couple years ago). The answer: always keep my nails painted. I was short on time the other night and opted for this glittery topcoat. It's so festive. I feel like a Disney princess. 3// Every year the boys and I each find an ornament that represents the past year. Kiddo fell in love with Dr. Who, so he chose a dalek ornament. (It's a robot thingy.) I wanted to recognize my graduation, but nothing was striking my fancy. I wanted something unique... and finally found it in this vintage owl graduation ornament on Etsy. It's really charming and quirky. 4// Mario and I randomly stepped into the local camera shop and were introduced to this Nikon telephoto lens for my camera. Someone was upgrading to a more powerful lens, so I scored this barely used one for less than half the normal price. I can't wait to stretch its legs! 5// This guy. I'm going to miss him. Apparently he told me he was going to be gone for 10 days straight, but I mentally blocked that fact. I did, however, score a quick dinner date involving fish tacos last night while Kiddo was at fencing. It's the little moments, you know?

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Filter me this.

This lighthearted glimpse into life lately through the eyes of my Instagram feed was intended for yesterday. Then I veered off in a whole other direction. It got deep, yo. Not today. There is a sweater-clad feline, a kid with turtle hands, and a man in hot water. Boy do I love Instagram. Now if only I could filter all of life's moments...


Shall we start with this dude? He puts up with my obsessions and emotional hangups and overall persnickety-ness. He hugs me when I need it (even if I don't know I need it) and (mostly) knows when to give me space. He introduces me to the Five Guys hot dog. With pickles, of course. Speaking of pickles, this stud can stew in the hot tub for hours. I'd pass out. He's a professional. 

This weekend he resumes his usual travel schedule. Having him home has been tremendous. We've been able to explore our relationship, experience a life where he's home for dinner almost every night, and overall feel normal. Whatever that is. As much as I'll miss his face, Kiddo and I have a rhythm when he's gone. I'm happy to let it go so I can soak up his manliness, but if I'm honest, I need a regular bedtime. Especially during finals. I want to stay up and watch crime dramas with him... at the expense of a reasonable bedtime. I've been running on fumes the last couple days and, if I'm honest (again), look forward to regaining that rhythm. With a husband that travels as much as he does, as long as he has, we have never really established a routine when he's home.

After my class is wrapped up and his year-end meetings come to a close, we can look forward to Christmas vacation. I can watch Breaking Bad with abandon and stop worrying about sleep like an old lady.


Every once in a while babes are everywhere and I start thinking about my status as the mother of an only child. Having had my son in my early twenties, I'm ready for life to be more about me. To worry less about childcare and homework. To gain the freedom to live on my own terms. But I have moments where I wonder if I'll regret not having another child. Baby Ben visited our house for Thanksgiving and a friend is fostering kittens. Bebes! Sweet bebes! In the end I'm going with my gut, which says I'm following the right path. But boy do I have doubts some days. Then I hear a child having a total and complete meltdown at Target and feel at peace with my decision.


My main man right here. For Thanksgiving he whipped up a duct tape bowtie and coasters for the whole table. A tie and a bowtie? Fancy pants. Did I mention he is currently in the throes of a bonafide Dr. Who obsession? When he gets infatuated with something, he becomes a walking encyclopedia on the subject. This is no exception.


Kiddo and I went to our first Farm Fest at Stonewall Farm, a nonprofit community farm. Local vendors and farmers sold their wares. We visited and fed the lovely animals. Such a fun night with a boy I can't get enough of. 


My furry boyfriend, Vista, has been a naughty little kitty lately. We put up the tree on Sunday night, and after being thrown out of our room at 4a because of his shenanigans, proceeded to remove a bell ornament and play soccer on the wood floors with it until we got up yet again to take it away. I swear he was a human in a past life. If I'm honest, we may be partially to blame for his temperament. Worried that he'd be cold wearing only Ugg boots, I bought him a sweater. See the stink-eye I got after putting it on him? Then there was the time Kiddo put glasses on him while I took pictures. (Note Kiddo's Ninja Turtle-looking fingers in the photo. This led to wild googling and the realization that the Ninja Turtles were Trachemys scripta elegans, the Red-eared slider turtle. He doesn't have Ninja Turtle fingers, is my point. I think.)


I've blogged two days in a row thanks to my saving grace: coffee. I really am trying to cut back, but as told above, I'm tired. I'm trying to write through my writer's block, which always seems to help.

Would you believe I bought two papers and spent eleven bones but didn't find even one article pertaining to biochemistry? Whaaat? I guess I'll have to look for extra credit material elsewhere. Still, I love reading the Sunday paper. There's a great ritual to it. 

I'm obsessed with leg warmers and long comfy socks. This was the day after Thanksgiving. We had just finished at CrossFit and it was cold and rainy. I wore my Bogs and the softest socks my toesies have ever experienced. I'm going back for more. One pair is simply not enough. Oh, and these legwarmers are on their way. I love throwing them on over my workout pants before I brave the cold. 

Nose back to the grindstone, my friends. It may be a little quiet again over the coming week, but I look forward to more free time once I get through finals. I have Christmas ornaments to make, baking to do, and of course, more CrossFit. I have a goal up on the board... I want to be able to do a strict pullup by the end of the month. I'm also going to aim for 4-5 workouts a week after next week. 

Happy day!