Saturday, December 29, 2012

christmas smorgasbord!

i am not someone who prays.  i am reflective, meditative, questioning... a wonderer, but as i have alluded to on this blog before, i am not necessarily in a place where i have a particular tie to a particular religion, and i don't really pray in the traditional sense.  i can, however, get behind the idea of putting my thoughts into words, a plea or a request.  maybe someone is listening.  maybe no one is.  maybe just putting it out there, like in a diary, is helpful in that it allows for an expression of thought and emotion.

today is not a good day.  i think i have the flu.  or had the flu and am trying to fight it.  either way, it was a long and sleepless night on the floor of the bathroom.  i had certain work commitments today that could not be canceled or postponed, so 8:00 a.m. saw me at my desk wearing a red blazer, trying to put on a good face.  i received a decision in a case i recently tried that was not what i or my client wanted.  i feel defeated.  i feel emotionally drained.  i had a doctor's appointment today, and i was instructed to rest and relax to avoid labor progression.  i agree - but R & R is made considerably more difficult when you are a trial lawyer.  a trial lawyer who tried to pack a lot of litigating into the last few months before maternity leave. 

i don't like whining.  i don't like admitting i need to sit down.  i don't like admitting i can't do something, that i lost, or that i am dependent on others.  why is that so hard?  why does it make me feel so out of control and vulnerable to admit that i am not a mountain and that i need others to HELP ME?  i am more than happy to lend an ear or a baked good or baby-sitting services to friends.  i am happy to take care of my husband and pamper him when he's sick (even when i know he's milking it), so why does it seem so incomprehensible that i am just like everyone else

oh god, grant me the serenity to accept the things i cannot change
the courage to change the things i can
and the wisdom to know the difference

like i said, i'm not a prayerful person - but i can get behind the foregoing.  and i'm going to.  i'm going to stop this pity party/whiny rant and reflect on the holidays and advent.  join me, will you?

advent adventures: THE FINAL COUNTDOWN

day 23 was kicking off the holiday with family.  we had my sister and my mom over for a little brunch.  i didn't get pictures, but we did try a new french toast casserole that knocked our socks off and was, in my opinion, THE BEST BREAKFAST CASSEROLE RECIPE EVER.  i am not joking.  it was sooo light and fluffy and delicious.  try it!  you won't be sorry!

day 24 required us to do something kind for a stranger.  a little backstory.  last year, in addition to our regular christmas eve festivities, we started a tradition of giving back to others in the community.  everyone was really eager to do that again this year and besides, it was an advent calendar requirement!  this year, my family gathered at our house christmas eve afternoon.  we shared drinks and appetizers, and then everyone wrote down ideas of what they'd like to do for the giving tradition.  when everyone had contributed several options, we read them aloud and decided on the ones we wanted to accomplish.  then, at the bequest of the male members of the family, we had a mini-"draft" to decide who would go with whom to execute the activities.  my mom, sister jess, brother chris, jack and i made up one team, and my dad, john and brothers marty and chris made up the other. 

we spent the next few hours as teams of christmas elves ("ELBES!" as jack would say, after watching disney's prep & landing nearly EVERY DAY for the past month...) spreading a little holiday magic throughout our fair city.  we surprised some waitresses with envelopes full of extra tips, anonymously paid for  pizza orders at dominoes, paid for patron's gas, handed out christmas cheer (the financial kind) to employees laboring away on christmas eve, and paid for the meals of some people at IHOP.  as we continued on our giving adventure that night, it was touching to see my poor college student brothers and sisters adding to the pot with their own hard-earned cash because of the genuine joy they took from giving to others.  i think this tradition is one of the best ways to highlight the whole you get more by giving idea.  everyone was already plotting for next year, or maybe a "christmas in july" edition. 

i don't have pictures of the actual giving, but the warm & fuzzy feelings you get last the whole year, i'll tell you that.  and hearing my big burly hockey player brothers discuss it later is also pretty heartwarming.  my sister remarked that she can't wait until jack can really start participating in the giving... and i feel the same way.  

day 25 - CHRISTMAS - required us to partake in a fueger family favorite - chinese food on christmas day! my mother-in-law (or the father in a christmas story) is the genius behind this little family favorite.  when her boys were little, she decided to cut out the need to make a fancy meal.  afterall, you miss some of those magical christmas moments with your little ones if you're trying to whip up complicated delicacies... so the family always got chinese food (served on christmas china, of course!) to enjoy.  we spent christmas home, just the three of us in our pajama's, and we got chinese take-out for dinner.  it was lovely.  what's better than new toys, crabmeat rangoons and time spent snuggling with your favorite people?  it was blissful.  

so, there you have it - all 25 advent adventures.  i must admit... it's been sad to let go of the daily activities.  we had so much fun opening the envelopes and completing all of them.  maybe a maternity leave adventures calendar is on the horizon?!  

a few other holiday tidbits:

my favorite gift was one received by jack.  my dad gave him one of those books that you can record yourself reading.  it's curious george, and it is SO PRECIOUS.  i tear up everytime i hear it.  i just love the joy jack takes from books.  so heartwarming.

 see that exuberance?  he just realized it's a book!

 during our gift exchange.

 deciding whether to keep his gift or steal another...
lots of hockey hair on that couch!
while i'm bustling around with christmas preparations, my husband keeps things light upstairs.

and the stockings were hung by the tv with care... 
 waiting to go downstairs and see if santa came...
 jack, discovering PEZ for the first time!

 jack's new fire station.  worth the carpal tunnel from putting it together?  i suppose.  he loves it so!

 new robe from santa!

baby bump on christmas!  

so, that was our christmas!  i hope your holiday celebrations have been full of delicious food, precious moments with family and some good old fashioned rest and relaxation!  we're going to take advantage of all the snow today at grandma and grandpa's... have a great weekend!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

advent adventures: days 19 - 22.

playing catch up on our advent adventures.... it's been a busy week!  a little planning ahead and i knew that by the time we reached december 19th, i might be just a bit EXHAUSTED after being in trial all week, so our instructions were simple: a picnic by the christmas tree.  do you remember being a kid and sitting near the twinkling lights?  i do... i have fond memories of being a kid at christmas time.  i hope that jack will have those same sorts of memories when he looks back on holiday seasons of days gone by.

 auntie jess joined us for some R & R time under the twinkling lights

talking to his baby brother... which happens pretty much daily... probably because the belly is unavoidable at this point!

day 20 required us to break out our best smiles for a classic family picture in front of the christmas tree.

 LOVE this smiley peanut!

 gracie wouldn't cooperate, but it was a pretty good showing for the rest of us, no? 

i don't have pictures from day 21, but it was a great night spent with friends enjoying (or over indulging, as the case might have been) some mexican food and the company of good friends. it was a great start to the long holiday weekend!  our envelope said "spend time with friends celebrating the season," and so we did.  virgin margaritas and all!  

and finally day 22 - we made puppy chow!  who doesn't love puppy chow?!  i mean... SERIOUSLY!

 yes, you can make puppy chow without makeup on, thank you very much.
 who me?! i didn't steal any chocolate, mommy!
 "this is DELICIOUS, daddy!"

 puppy chow face.
 mad face - check out that fist!
 sad face.  kills me, haha.

can you believe there are 3 days left til christmas?!  i cannot.  i'm going to get a really good night of sleep tonight (i hope... please cooperate little baby in utero!) and then i'm going to enjoy the heck out of the next 72 hours with my family!  i suggest you whip up some puppy chow and do the same!  xo

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

advent adventures: day 18.

there is something about a contentious custody trial that makes me treasure spending precious moments with my son all the more.  one day left, one day left, one day left.  that's my mantra at this point.  anyway, today's advent agenda included coloring christmas pictures.  i love jack's intensity.  when he's concentrating on a project, he is all about accomplishing the mission.  i also love the dialogue as he's working on things.  "hi mom!  how are you doing?  good job, mom!  are you using blue?  i'm using a green marker!  i like green markers.  gracie can't color.  gracie doesn't have arms yet.  can we watch elves?  (prep & landing) i like elves, don't you, mom?"

can you believe we're one week away from christmas?!  where did the time go???  i can't believe how fast time is flying... how we're nearing the end of the advent calendar... the holiday season is upon us... and the end of this pregnancy looms.  not ready to think about that last one... yet.  i've got way too much to do before that happens.  i prefer to eat candy cane pie and stay in denial about it!

see you tomorrow.

Monday, December 17, 2012

advent adventures: days 15, 16 and 17.

it's been a looooong 72 hours.... and i have a feeling the next 72 will bring more of the same exhaustion i feel right now.... BUT the amazing part is that come 5:00 p.m.-ish on friday, my holiday celebrating will begin and  it won't end for at least four days!  i cannot wait to wear pajamas all day, snuggle with my boys, feel the magic of last minute holiday preparations and watch jack's excitement as he experiences another christmas.

anyway, back to our regularly scheduled program.  our advent adventure for day 15 was some holiday baking!  when i married into my husband's family, i was given a copy of a cookbook my mother-in-law had made for family members years before (and saved for her sons' future wives).  included in this collection of amazing recipes we love and enjoy regularly was the famous holiday cookie recipe.  it is guarded under lock and key... we'll share a dozen cookies with you, but not the recipe.  :)

he does exist!  (our faithful photog hops in for a photo opp)

 cookie decorating with cousin sara

some of the DOZENS of cookies john decorated.  please note his breastfeeding support cookies, pictured top right.

on the agenda for day 16 was the classic christmas activity - gingerbread decorating.  to be honest, jack didn't totally grasp the concept of why we'd waste perfectly good candy on a house we weren't going to eat. the kid has a point.  he kept trying to steal the supplies, which had serious implications for the structural integrity of the gingerbread houses.  

 sneaking candy

and... finally, day 17 required us to embark on a little adventure for a christmas treat.  we chose the village inn for some pie, and jack and i shared some candy cane pie while john tried the pecan.  UMMMM... the candy cane pie is AMAZING.  go buy some right now.  go buy a whole pie!  as we were putting our coats on to leave, jack exclaimed, "i need more pie!"  took the words right out of my mouth, youngun!  i don't have any pictures of this particular adventure, but trust me - you'd rather see a piece of that delicious slice than my smiling face anyway.  heavenly!  also adorable - jack understands that cheers requires a clinking of glasses and no less than three times during our excursion, he insisted on "cheers-ing" with john and me.  i ate it right up.  (pun intended)

i don't know why you're still reading this anyway.  why aren't you at the village inn buying one of their candy cane pies?!  seriously - get there.  now.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

advent adventures: day 14

it seems wrong of me to share our advent adventure from yesterday as if yesterday was a normal day, and we just went about our christmas activities in that way.  yesterday was a day of grief and sadness, and i don't want to try to gloss over that with my words and pictures.

i spent most of yesterday in board rooms and court rooms, preparing for trial and helping my clients try to resolve issues.  by the time i got back to my office around 4 p.m. and started responding to the emails that had piled up all day, by the time i really learned about the tragedy in connecticut, i was already emotionally drained and exhausted.  the first thing i did was call john.  i just wanted to hear his voice and say "hi" to jack.

to my surprise, john was shaken.  it's not that i haven't watched him sympathize or empathize when there were tragedies in the past.  we've had countless conversations when talking through senseless acts of violence in the past, but i don't remember hearing the vulnerability i heard in john's voice yesterday.  i asked him how the day was going, and he said, "i'm just holding jack close and doing whatever he wants today," he said simply.  it made me cry and made my heart ache for all the parents in connecticut who won't get to hold their babies ever again.

unfortunately i had a few more hours of work ahead of me, and by the time i got home, i just felt this extreme sense of heart-brokenness and sadness.  i turned on the news for awhile, but john turned it off because i couldn't see anything anyway through my tears.  we cancelled our evening plans because i just didn't feel like leaving my son, and we sat on the couch and snuggled with jack.

one thing that i keep hearing in my mind is the summary from a newscaster, who reported that after the shooting, parents had gathered at some local spot - maybe a community hall or fire station - to retrieve their children.  at some point, the children were all reunited with their parents, and then the announcement was made that if you did not have your child, there were no more children left to retrieve.  i didn't sleep well last night because that scene kept playing in my mind.  i cannot imagine that.  i cannot fathom driving to a location to pick up my child and then, at some point, realizing that i would never see him again, that i would come home without him.  it's the worst thing i can imagine.  truly.

it was with a heavy heart that we embarked on our advent adventure last night.  of course, jack was exuberant because thankfully, as a gleeful two-year-old in the midst of christmas season, he is oblivious to pain and sorrow and loss and grief and heartache.  and for that i am glad.  he is far too young to know any of those emotions... and so were those precious babies in connecticut.

i am sharing the photos from last night, but regardless of what the envelope said, the envelope in my heart said, "don't ever take this for granted.  honor the memories of those sweet babies by holding him close."

i am thinking of all the families, teachers, first responders and community members today.  my heart aches for your loss, and i am so sorry for the unspeakable tragedy you are experiencing.