Saturday, December 29, 2012

Had Ourselves a Merry Little Christmas

I just re-read my post recapping last year's Christmas, and I guess nothing ever truly changes. Christmas is always sneaking up on me, there is never enough time, and I took even fewer pictures this year than I did last year. And I didn't take many pictures last year!

But, no matter how sneaky and busy Christmas can be, we always have a lovely time when it comes right down to it.

We begin our traditions on Christmas Adam, and this year, we ended up spending about five hours that day making and handing out treats to neighbors and friends because I procrastinated it until the very last second.

Sophia ran upstairs before we left and came down decked out as a holiday elf. She was loved everywhere we went, though she kept asking me why everyone kept saying she looked just like an elf. Since that was her original plan, I'm not sure why she was so surprised, but she was certainly adorable.

Christmas elf

After we finished delivering fudge and peppermint brittle, we put on our jammies and our new silly Christmas socks to watch George C. Scott's A Christmas Carol. That is our Christmas Adam tradition, and I love how important these little traditions we have gradually started are so important to the girls every year.

Christmas silly socks

On Christmas Eve, we had our friends over for dinner and dessert. They brought over their Christmas jammies to open, and then we all listened to Amahl and the Night Visitors together. I'm thankful they were willing to share that part of our Christmas Eve tradition with us. I love listening to this little opera every year, and I love how much the girls are beginning to love it, too.

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We all slept upstairs together in the playroom, 'cause that's tradition too! I'm so thankful for children who value their sleep and sleep until 9:30, even on Christmas morning! We saw what Santa brought, ate a lovely (gluten-free!) breakfast of pannu kakku (just use rice flour instead of all-purpose), sausage, and eggs, and settled down for gift opening.

Puccini wasn't quite sure what all the fuss was about, though she did enjoy her own gifts of bully sticks and new squeaky toys. She also found all of the wrapping mess to be a comfortable place to take a Christmas nap.

IMG_5729 Puccini Christmas morning web

After gift opening, we started food preparations for our annual Christmas dinner with friends. We didn't host this year, but we had a lovely time with wonderful company.

And now I am treating Christmas break with as much laziness as is humanly possible. I was one worn-out woman before the semester ended!

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday and are being just as lazy as I am during your vacation.

Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

To My Six-Year-Olds

Last week's Newtown Tragedy has upset me more than almost anything I can think of in my life.  I was happily doing some Christmas shopping on Friday when my mother texted me and asked if I had seen the news.  She gave some brief statistics and I sat in my car in the parking lot, absolutely horrified.  And then I began to sob uncontrollably as I thought of all of those sweet, innocent children whose lives had been taken.  I thought of their parents and the absolute and indescribable grief they were surely feeling.  Today, I think of the children and teachers who survived.  The first responders (I don't even want to imagine).  Nobody will ever be the same.  I, who doesn't know a soul affected by the tragedy, will never be the same.  I have shed tears over it on a daily basis, as I know many of you have.  It has affected all of us.

I have a six-year-old.  Sophia, my first-grader, is bright and happy and amazing.  I love watching her learn to read and write.  I love hearing her stories about her friends at school.  I love her indomitable will, even though it is often exhausting.  I love her pout.

I love how she won't let me take her picture, even though I also hate that she won't let me take her picture.  I love her passion.  I love the way her smile lights up her little face.  I love how she heard her first grade teacher mention it was her birthday, and she insisted upon taking a present for her the next day.  And I love how she asked before she gave it to her, just to make sure, and found out her teacher's birthday was actually in July and brought the present back home because she was embarrassed.

IMG_1055 Sophia web

I love how she can navigate the iPad and the computer and the iPhone with an expertise that I will never have.  I love how she still sneaks down in the middle of the night to climb into bed with me.  I love how she puts together crazy outfits for the next day at school and sleeps in them to save time in the morning.  I cannot get her to wear PJs anymore except on the weekend (remember her indomitable will?), but whatever, it saves me laundry I suppose.

IMG_1063 Sophia web

I love watching her play her violin, even though getting her to practice is nearly as difficult as getting her to wear her pajamas.  I love the questions she asks me every fifteen minutes, always wanting to learn something new, and showing just how deeply she thinks.  I love how she gives me a hug and kiss in front of all of her classmates whenever I show up to volunteer in her classroom.

IMG_1071 Sophia web

I love that I could keep writing this list for another hour and come up with a million more things I love about Sophia.  I love HER.

Having all of that ripped away from me is unthinkable, unimaginable, unfathomable.  And yet, twenty sets of parents are having to think the unthinkable now.

I have two other daughters who were first-graders not so long ago. I have thought a lot about their little first grade selves this week, too. How blessed I am to have also known their 2nd, 3rd, and 4th grade selves.  And Bria's 5th, 6th, and 7th grade self. 

Bria's first grade self, (just before graduating) circa May 2007.  It's the only time she's ever had such short hair, and she asked for the haircut because her cousins had had theirs bobbed and she wanted to be just like them.  She never liked it much, and has had long hair ever since.
IMG_4140 Chloe Halloween web
Chloe dressed as a witch for Halloween in the first grade.  And she told me that everyone knew she would be a witch that year because she was "a little bit evil."  But, in reality, she was the sweetest thing on earth and didn't (doesn't!) have an ounce of evil in her body.
So, to my six-year-olds, past and present:

I promise to love you more than ever.  To listen to you when you have something important to say, no matter how much work I have in front of me.  To teach you everything I know about the Gospel.  To pray with you and for you.  To hug and kiss you daily.  To read to you often.  To forget about all of my commitments and spend time with you--the dishes will get done eventually.  To help you with your homework without frustration.  To answer your questions truthfully.  To be patient with you.  To teach you how to do the laundry.  To teach you how to balance your checking account.  To teach you how to clean your room "Mommy clean," but to do it for you sometimes just because.  To make you real dinners when Daddy isn't home instead of macaroni and cheese.  To send you off to school with kind words, a hug, and a kiss, no matter how difficult our morning was.  To take you on more Mommy/Daughter dates.  To make a huge deal over your successes and help you grow through your failures.  To teach you to treat others with kindness.  To be an example to you of all things I want you to become.  To be the best mother I can possibly be.  To forgive myself when I fall and to do better the next day.

I may not be able to change what happened in Connecticut last week, but I can change myself.  I can remember how I have been feeling and keep my children closer than ever.  If, heaven forbid, they are ever taken from me too soon, I want to be able to look back and know without a doubt that they knew I loved them and have no regrets.

And now, to give my girls the best Christmas ever--maybe not because of the amount of gifts they receive, but because of the amount of love that is in our home.

IMG_0911 Christmas 12 web

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

How I Know I Married a Musician: Part 8

Things are especially crazy for us around the holidays.  Concerts, concerts, and more concerts.

I was lamenting to the Maestro about all of the concerts, and several more still to come.  I somewhat wistfully pointed out that we would be so much less busy if our children did not take music lessons.

His answer?

True, but we also wouldn't make it to heaven.

I suppose he has a point.  Please forgive me my moment of weakness.  I will go to the Suzuki Christmas concert tomorrow with nary a complaint.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Would-be Snow Angels

We had a ton of snow this week!  It snowed for a week straight, after all.  I was hoping to do the Christmas photo shoot yesterday, but Sophia has had an awful case of strep throat since Thursday, and yesterday she was still feeling pretty icky.  I kept her home from church today, but then I decided we were going to have to do the shoot once everyone else got home, so I got her all prettied up and away we went. 

ANYWAY.  Wasn't I talking about snow?

All of the snow melted today!  Because the temperature was in the 40s and it rained.  On December 2!  What is the world coming to?

So no snow angels.  Just plain angels on the beach.  Beach angels.

(Bria was in fine form today!)

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Puccini didn't really want to cooperate, but I did get one good picture with her in it.  It's going on the Christmas card, though, so I can't post it yet.

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I love to see my girlies laughing and being silly together.

But then I asked Chloe and Sophia to kiss Bria on the cheeks, and this is what happened:

IMG_0955 Christmas 12 web

By far my favorite photo in a long time.  Love it.

And I love them.  Aren't they beautiful?  And isn't it astounding how much they have grown from last Christmas?  When will it ever stop?

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PS  Yes, I've made it another Christmas with matching dresses.  I guess I won't say it will be the last year anymore, because I might surprise myself next year!

Monday, November 26, 2012

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

So, Thanksgiving is fabulous, but I sort of feel like I skipped it this year.  We did have a lovely day spent with friends and the turkey feast was amazing and I was very thankful, but I didn't really feel like I made much of a big deal with the prep and stuff.  In fact, I have felt a little bit like I'm running through my life so fast lately (lately?) that I am missing everything in my effort to get on to the next thing!

I resolve not to do that during the Christmas season, which, of course, started the day after Thanksgiving.

I won't lie, this Thanksgiving break has been WON. DER. FUL.  I have been allowed to sleep in, I only had to teach one make-up lesson, I lazed around until I was good and tired of lazing around, and I still accomplished lots of stuff.  It feels so good to have the time to just be still sometimes.  I want to somehow enjoy the next month just like I have enjoyed the past week, while still going back to work and the busy busy crazy crazy frenzy.

So, while I'm still figuring out how to do that, here are some pictures of the beginning of this most wonderful time...

Black Friday!  Every year, I complain that nobody is willing to go with me, but this year I had people to be insane with.  (It did help that stores are opening at decent hours on Thanksgiving Day, but Trisha and I still went in the morning, too!)

black friday
Just call me the Queen of Black Friday.
We had a lot of fun.  I have seriously never done Black Friday with anyone besides my mom, so when I'm not with her during the Thanksgiving holiday (which is, unfortunately, most of the time) I have just gone alone.  And I really don't mind going alone, but it was much more fun with friends. Thanks, friends!

While shopping is fun, and I got a lot done, my favorite part of Black Friday is turning on the Christmas tunes and decorating the house.  We tackle the tree first, (after a pumpkin pie breakfast and a turkey sandwich lunch) and for the past couple years, the girls have taken over putting it together while I wrap up all of my loot to put under it when it is finished.  I love how much they love doing this--I've taught them well.  But then again, it is the most wonderful time of the year, who doesn't love putting up the Christmas tree?

IMG_5687 Tree decorating 2012 web
Pretend like you don't see the five loads of unfolded laundry on my bed, ok?
IMG_5688 Tree decorating 2012 web

The Christmas tree alone pretty much takes all day (have you checked out my Christmas Tree tutorial from last year?), but I love it.  I also love how Sophia seems to always be wearing some kooky outfit on the day after Thanksgiving.  What's up with that?

Chloe says I have to put up this picture that she took of all the gifts waiting for the decorated tree.  No, I did not get all of them this weekend, but mostly. 

And, aside from a few more gifts for the Maestro and stocking stuffers, I am finito with the Christmas shopping.  So if you see me whipping out my credit card for a big gift DO NOT LET ME DO IT.  We don't need more stuff and the Epic Vacation was our main Christmas gift this year anyway.

By bedtime, we had the tree all prettified. 

IMG_5694 Christmas Tree 2012 web
The rest of the living room/dining room was looking pretty awful, but that was for Saturday.

On Saturday, after a lovely lazy morning, I dug into the decorations.  Puccini isn't quite sure what to think of what is going on, but I did catch her with my credit card trying to buy more!

Puccini and credit card

Silly puppy!  We already have more than I know what to do with.  I think we need to have a talk with the Maestro about leaving credit cards lying around, even if he was buying me Christmas gifts.  And I think we also need to have a chat with Pucci about napping on the table.

The girls helped me decorate a little, but mostly they were glued to electronics.  Sigh.

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I think Puccini was either jealous she doesn't have her own iDevice, or just jealous that the iDevices were being played with and not her.  Darn that Steve Jobs anyway.

The weather is certainly cooperating with the whole most wonderful time of the year theme.  On Thanksgiving Day it was a balmy 50 degrees and beautiful.  All the snow from a couple weeks ago had completely gone. The guys all played football and I didn't even wear a coat.  I don't think anyone did!  But on Friday morning, when I got up at 5:30, there was already a ton of snow, and it hasn't stopped.


And it doesn't show  signs of stopping!  (But I brought some corn for popping...) Winter has officially arrived.

And Puccini loves the snow.  I am glad of this because she is willing to go outside to go potty.  I am not so glad of this because I have to clean up snow inside the house ten times a day, even after toweling her off since the snow gets matted so completely into her fur.

IMG_5695 Puccini in the snow web

Do you see how the top of her nose is turning a pinkish/brown?  We've done a bit of research on why her black is disappearing and it can be a few things.  It could be caused by plastic food dishes, for one.  Or it could be a virus that causes depigmentation.  Or it could be something called "snow nose" and her black will return when the spring comes.

We changed her bowls to stainless steel in case that's what it is. There's nothing to be done in the case that it's the virus, and it isn't harmful to her if it is, anyway. We'll just have to mourn the loss of her perfectly black gumdrop nose.

IMG_5697 Puccini in the snow web

But, I don't know....something is telling me that it is probably snow nose after all.

Monday, November 19, 2012

November at Overstuffed

I guess this year I am dong the anti-NaBloPoMo!  For all of my thoughts about why I want to keep my blog going, I am having a very difficult time with the follow-through.  And here it is November 19!  Thanksgiving is in just 3 days and then I will be caught up in a whirlwind of Christmas.


So what have the Overstuffed clan been doing for the past 3 weeks?

Well, we voted.  As I am sure all of you did, too.

And yet, the political posts on Facebook just keep coming.  It makes me more tired than going to the gym at 5:45 in the morning does.  (Ok, so it's more like 6:15, but it still makes me exhausted!)

We had to replace our water main.  Our entire front lawn had to be dug up to put shiny new copper pipes in from the street to the house.


So now that we have no front lawn, guess what our spring home improvement project will be?

A skunk decided to visit our backyard one night after dark.   I let Puccini out and shortly thereafter heard her freaking out and I was sure she was being attacked by a wolf.  Luckily it was just a skunk who did not feel the need to spray the frantic little puppy one foot in front of it.  Joel managed to get her in the house before that need kicked in, anyway.


Can you even see the thing?  I learned something new about skunks that night, too: They can climb fences.  Just lovely.

It snowed quite a bit a week ago.  Enough that the girls had to wear snowpants to school, and violin lessons were cancelled that night due to treacherous road conditions.  And I have been remiss in getting the yard ready for winter.  Good thing it's all melted now, maybe I'll finally take those lanterns (and the grill, and the potted plants, and, and, and) down this week.  Since I'm on "vacation."


They are quite pretty in the snow, but I'm afraid once we have our three feet they will be destroyed.

Chloe wrote me one of her sweet notes.  I live for these notes.  They make mothering that particular child totally worth it.


Seriously.  Does that not make you melt into a puddle of cuteness?  And it also makes me want to be that kind of mom all the time, because I have guilt every day that I'm not.

All three of my girls are excelling in school, which thrills me no end.  Parent Teacher Conferences this year were lovely experiences (not that they're ever awful or anything) and it makes me happy to have such wonderful children.  And they are all around wonderful, except when they're not.

I am teaching a huge load at the university and trying to keep my own voice in shape (along with my body, the house, the children, my life...).  I have a couple upcoming engagements that I (should) be working on, but I admit that the music sits on my piano and is ignored for days.  I did perform in a casual recital last weekend, something I've been working on for several months at the assignment of my teacher (from whom I get a voice lesson about twice a year).  I was pleased with the end result--enough so that I will post video here--and you all know I hate doing that. 

Just please ignore my sharpness on the final note. I think I was so relieved to have the high A out of the way (NOT my favorite note to sing) that I forgot there was more. :)

I am happy to have a small respite this week.  I'm THANKFUL to have a small respite.  Today I still got up and went to the gym dark and early--that is another part of our November, 'tis pretty dark and dreary already--and got the girls off to school and then took Puccini walking for another hour with my friend.  But then I went back to bed, and it felt so good.  And then I hung around the house reading a little and puttering.  Which also felt good.  I did actually get my office (mostly) cleaned, too, so I wasn't entirely unproductive.

I think Puccini enjoyed having me in a more relaxed mode.  As I was reading on the couch, she decided to join me and read over my shoulder.

omorrow, I might paint the upstairs hallway, but I might also sleep all day.  Only time will tell.  And on Wednesday I will make my Thanksgiving pies.  We aren't hosting this year, which I am a little sad about.  I do love getting my house ready and making the perfect table and everything, but at the same time, I appreciate that I don't have to stress myself out.  Just hoping the gluten-free pie crust I'm planning on making works and tastes  yummy.

I think I'll go read some more with Puccini now...hope you're all having a lovely November!


Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A Little Bit of Hallowe'en

IMG_5686 Halloween web
The Jack-o-Lantern that Joel and the girls carved about 15 minutes before they went trick-or-treating.  They totally win the contest for speed this year.

I did not have the wherewithal to do much with Halloween this year, much as I usually love it.  No homemade costumes.  No dressing up myself.  No pumpkin carving.  And practically no photos.

Joel was out of town last weekend, which is when a lot of Halloween happens in our town.  On Friday night, we had our annual Treat Street, where the downtown businesses hand out candy.  I went with friends Jane & Jared and their kiddos (and dog...that is not Puccini on steroids).  Funny anecdote: Jared is usually out of town for Treat Street and Jane goes with Joel and me.  This year, Jared was in town, but Joel was gone.  I wonder if they'll ever both be there?

Since I was dealing with the kids by myself, photos were pretty non-existent.  The kids actually requested this one at the wall, since we do it every year.  Nice to know I have trained them well.

Otherwise, most of my pictures looked like this:

IMG_5655 Treat STreet web

Though I did get one of each of the girls.  But just one!

Chloe was an 80s Valley Girl (she decided against John Lennon after all) who didn't believe me that ratted hair, especially bangs, was the thing in the 80s.  She also had some amazing fake eyelashes.

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Sophia was "Abby Bominable."  If you have daughters who are into Monster High, you'll recognize her as the daughter of the yeti.  She's pretty cute, and I got to repurpose the Ginormica wig from a few years ago instead of spending 30 bucks on the Monster High one.

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I also managed to get one photo of her in the fall leaves, but she closed her eyes for it and then ran off before I could get another one.  Candy called. 

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Bria was "Miss Mad Hatter" but she only wore the hat to Treat Street because she was going to the middle school dance right after and didn't want to wear her costume there.

IMG_5641 Treat Street web

After Treat Street, the rest of us had a party at our house (something that has become tradition as well--and it is so much fun!).  Soup and chili and lots of other yummy food.  I had about 35 people at my house, more than  half of them kids.  And I did it all without a husband! I'm guessing that all of my Halloween wherewithal this year went to the party.  Without Joel, I actually had to make his (very detailed) chicken noodle soup AND my chili.  And clean the house and make it look cute.  No pictures of any of it, unfortunately.  I am just not on much of a camera kick.  Next year.

On Saturday night we had Safe House.  This is where the university students decorate their dorms in really fun ways and the kids go trick-or-treating there.  This time we went with MaryFran, Jim, and their three girls.

 Here are the Number Threes with one of their friends from Girl Scouts.

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Here are the Number Ones.

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I never did manage to get a photo of the Number Twos.  Darn it.  But here is my Number Two without her match.  (She is saying Oh. My. Gosh! in this photo.)

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No eyelashes this time...we couldn't get them to stick anymore and I didn't actually think to buy eyelash glue.  And spirit gum doesn't work for eyelashes.  Trust me on this one.

Here's one last photo of Bria in her full costume, but I guess I don't have any photos in which you can actually see the whole costume.  Sigh.  She sure is a cutie pie, though.

IMG_5665 Safe House web

Today (October 31), it snowed most of the day.  I have been sick, so I cancelled all my lessons and stayed in bed until I had to get up to take Halloween treats in to the school for the parties and see the costume parade.  In true form, I forgot my camera, but at least I remembered the cupcakes!

All the snow meant it was cooooooold out there come Trick-or-Treat time.  I didn't have the wherewithal OR the fortitude, so I stayed home to pass out candy while The Maestro braved the elements and gathered candy with the girls.

And that, my friends, was Halloween 2012 in our neck of the woods.

Onward to November!