Thursday, December 31, 2009

Surprise and Wonder

I was getting all ready to make my bah humbug post this morning. I had it all formulated in my head, ready to stumble downstairs, turn on the computer and start typing. In fact, yesterday, I posted "Actually am excited to kiss 2009 goodbye" as my status on Facebook. (2009 has been a tough year for us. Some stuff I have shared with you on this blog, and some stuff has been too personal to share. But suffice to say, 2009 will not be missed.)

I did the stumbling down the stairs, and the turning on of the computer, but I didn't type. I started reading all of the blogs I normally read, in the order that I normally read them (yes, I am that anal retentive). In the meantime, I called Stein and left a message at his office to see what we were going to do for New Years Eve tonight.

We had haphazardly invited friends over, very last minute, for a get-together. Stein and I have never been New Year's Eve fans. We prefer to just hang out with friends, have some champagne, and give each other a midnight kiss when the ball drops. So when I invited people over, I just told everyone it would be casual, that we may make breakfast, or paella, or chili. Yeah, we had no clue what we were going to do, and still don't. But by the non-responses we've received, it may be Stein and I, the couch, and some take-out. Fine with me.

I was wavering back and forth between being excited that we didn't get any responses, to being a bit grumbly about the whole thing. I wanted to see friends, wanted to kiss 2009 goodbye, and ring in the New Year with hopes for good health, happiness, and new beginnings.

When Stein called me back, we talked briefly about the possibilities for food tonight and tomorrow, made a short shopping list, and then moved on to other things. "The gym was closed this morning," he said. Sometimes he says this even if the gym isn't closed as an excuse to get out of his early morning workout, so I thought he was joking. He went on to tell me that it opened later this morning because it was New Year's Eve. "So what did you do?" I asked. "Well," he went on, "It's perfect snow outside, perfect for packing. So I went over and made a snowman for Eric and Mia. I'm waiting for them to get up and call me about it."

I have to say, dear reader(s), that my heart melted a little, or grew ten sizes as the Grinch's heart did. My bah humbug post went right out the window.

Who thinks of doing this at 6-something in the morning? To give the kids a surprise when they open the shades, to show them that someone thought of them, to get excited at their response. And that ladies and gentlemen, is reason #532 why I married that man.

Happy New Year to you and your loved ones. May it be filled with good health, happiness, love, laughter, and surprise and wonder. I know that it's going to be a good year. It's starting out just fine already.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Savoring Sleep

I have to admit, I love to sleep. I come from a family of sleepers, and we treasure our sleep. As I've said before, when I was a little girl, my parents never had to tell me when to go to bed. I would tell them. Often times, I would go and get ready for bed, and yell downstairs, "Okay, I'm in bed! You can tuck me in now!" Sometimes when someone would come up to tuck me in, I would already be asleep. I still have a pretty strict bedtime that I follow, especially on school nights. And on those nights, I am asleep within a short amount of time.

I know I'm lucky. I don't have much trouble falling asleep or sleeping through the night. There has to be something monumental rattling around in my brain to keep me up at night. But fortunately this rarely happens. I can probably count the number of times I've been up at night by thinking back to huge or stressful moments in my life. And I typically don't have trouble sleeping in different places. All those years of countless hotels I stayed in, most of them with hard mattresses, polyester sheets and rock hard pillows, didn't affect my sleep. I slept like a road warrior baby.

Being on vacation has been wonderful for my sleep. Even if I stay up later than my usual bedtime, I have the luxury of sleeping in to make up the time. I have to admit, though, even though I have visions of sleeping in like a hormonal high schooler, I am up every morning at about the time my alarm would normally go off. Lately I've been getting up and doing things to prepare for the upcoming holiday, or actually getting my butt to the gym.

I hate to admit it, but I think I may be a morning person. I guess I always have been, but have been reluctant to admit it. The grass is always greener, I suppose, but I have some sort of late-night envy for those people who can stay up late, getting things done in a manic sort of way. I've tried, really I have, but without the right amount of sleep, I'm like a 3-year old who desperately needs a nap.

Luckily for me this break, I can take a nap if I need it.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Light in the Darkness

Yesterday, on the shortest day of the year, we went to Greenfield Village to see the Holiday Nights that they have there. I wrote about it last year here, when we went with our friends to experience it. This year, it was just Stein and me, and we also added a dinner at the tavern there.

Being there a second time made me notice different things. Last year, it was bitterly cold, so we went from bonfire to bonfire to try to warm up. We also went into a lot more of the houses to keep warm. This year, the temp wasn't too brutal, which allowed us to pick and choose where we wandered and what we saw. We stopped to get some hot cocoa to sip as we walked, and then saw some glass blowers making glass candy canes in their workshop. At one point, they turned off the overhead lights, so all the light that we saw was the blazing fires in their ovens, and the hot molten glass being twisted into candy canes. We also took a ride in a Ford "buggy" (a custom made "station wagon" made with a Ford motor and chassis) along streets lit with gas lanterns.

This year I also took notice of the light. Being the shortest day of the year, of course it was pitch black outside when we arrived. Yet, the gas lanterns, bonfires on every corner, and baskets of little fires near the houses were all glowing.

In the middle of dinner at the Eagle Tavern, Stein said, "Are there any lights in here besides the candles on the table?" I looked around and was amazed. The huge room with 20-30 tables of 8 - 10 people was only lit by 2 huge hurricane vases on each table which held a single tapered candle. The room was not brightly lit, but it didn't need to be. We could see what we were eating and could read the menu that had all of the food listed (butternut squash soup, pork and apple pie, beef, chicken, and ginger cake). It had such a warm, cozy feeling.

At the end of dinner, we wandered to the town square where the fireworks were to take place. Before the fireworks started, all of the people dressed in period costumes trudged across a field holding lanterns and ringing bells. They gathered at the town hall and started singing Christmas carols just as the fireworks started. Even if this light, like the bonfires or the candles at dinner, was man made, it was more light in the darkness.

More light. A reminder for us on the longest, darkest night, there is always light somewhere, created by us or nature. May your days be filled with light, made by you, by others, or nature.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Staying In and Taking in the Sights

Today I had to bring my car into the dealer, so I am without a car for most of the day. The feeling of being stranded quickly escaped me after I sat down with some peanut butter toast and some hot cocoa while I chatted with Mickey on the phone. I am now wrapped up in my favorite blanket in my favorite position on the couch.

The house has been decorated for a while now, and this weekend we actually had some time to slow down and enjoy it while getting into the spirit. Here are some pictures so you can enjoy it and get into the spirit too:

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Memories from Music

The one thing that helps me get into the spirit of the season is listening to Christmas music. I never rush the season so I listen to holiday tunes after Thanksgiving. There are a handful of Christmas CDs that have stayed with me through the years, and find a place in my car's CD player every year. Sure, there have been new ones that have made the collection bigger, but these five or six CDs are the ones I listen to over and over. Every time I listen to them, I not only sing along with the songs, but I have so many memories connected with them as well.
Here they are, in no particular order:
John Denver and the Muppets A Christmas Together

This was one of the first Christmas records I owned. I remember my sister Andy gave me this record (yes, those black vinyl discs that turned round and round while a needle sat on it) along with Alvin and the Chipmunks Christmas album. I replaced the John Denver album with a CD sometime in college, and I have had it ever since. I can't go through a Christmas season without listening to this CD, because it's this music that gets me in the spirit. It's a fun collection of favorites, and some lesser known tunes. John Denver's solo songs are some of my favorites.

White Christmas by Bing Crosby

I remember listening to this record as a kid, staring at Bing on the dusty record cover. For some reason, Silver Bells with it's "City Sidewalks, Busy Sidewalks" line reminds me of a field trip

I took when I was in first grade. We walked through the snow up to Lincoln Square, which wasn't far from our school. We looked at all of the stores that lined the streets, and then came back to school and drew huge murals of what we saw. What seems like such a simple field trip is still such a vivid memory for me.

The other songs that I love on this CD are It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas (which reminds me of the way my mom would sing this every year as we would decorate the house) and Mele Kalikimaka (which reminds me of Hawaii, of course).

Harry Connick, Jr. When My Heart Finds Christmas

This CD always brings memories of decorating both (yes, we had two) trees at my Mom and Rich's house. We would play this cassette and sing along while we decorated. I also remember a few years later at one of the Christmas parties that Chris and I had, our friend Brad couldn't get enough of the song It Must've Been 'Ol Santa Claus. He parked himself in front of one of the speakers in front of the stereo and sang along with the song over and over again.
A Charlie Brown Christmas

I don't have any specific memories that come up when I listen to this music, other than watching the show growing up and now when Eric and Mia come over to decorate the tree. This is probably my favorite Christmas CD.

May your season be filled with music and memories!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

What Did I Say About Enjoying The Season?

Yeah, ignore that. It has happened. I am desperately trying to get into the spirit of the season, trying to slow down and enjoy the lights, and music and giving, and everything else that goes along with the season. On my way to and from Mickey's this past weekend, I listened to a Christmas book on CD. But I even felt distracted by that.

I don't know what it is. It may have something to do with all of the expectations that I've put on myself. Decorating the house, making and giving gifts, getting together with friends. It's all stuff I think should be getting done, rather than things that need to be done. I do believe that 2 weeks off will help alleviate this feeling tremendously. It will give me time to actually get stuff done.

As I was in my car not listening to the book on CD, I was thinking about past Christmas mornings and what some of my favorite gifts were. While I can only think of a few, what really comes to mind are Christmas traditions and memories I have.

So the next few blog posts (I'm not going to promise dates for these posts) will be about holiday memories. Things that remain with me, and help me to remember the spirit of the season. That's what I need right now.

And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled 'till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more. -Dr. Seuss

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Christmas Scenes

These past few weeks have been filled with some Christmas activities. Parties, decorations, and baking. Here are a few pictures:

Trimming the Tree
This is an annual tradition of ours that has evolved over the years. Eric and Mia help us put on the ornaments. The finishing touch is the angel, which is a bit tricky on a tall tree.

Polar Express Day
At Mickey's school, they have Polar Express Day in the 2nd grade. The kids are told to come to school with their pj's on, but they didn't know why. (All the teachers also wore pj's, so I did too!)When the kids got to school, there was a Polar Express ticket on their desks. They still didn't really know what was going on. Then the principal, dressed like a conductor, bounded into the room, and shouted, "All aboard!" It was great to see the looks on their faces. The conductor punched their tickets and then all the classes went to the cafeteria where donuts and hot cocoa were waiting. When they got back to the classroom, there was a bell in every desk. It was a great day!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Mama Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Watch Wrestling

I don't mind wrestling. I do think that it's sort of a silly sport, but I won't get into that now. I also think that the stuff that surrounds the sport is equally silly. But I also won't get into that now.

For a while, while I had that 5th grade long term sub gig, I occasionally watched wrestling to be able to have conversations with my students. It seemed that half the class was into wrestling. (Did I write about this once before? I'm having a case of deja-vu.) Anyway, the kids in my class LOVED wrestling. At recess the next day they attempted to show the latest moves they saw the night before. They also wore t-shirts, printed out pictures from the internet, and talked incessantly about wrestling. I became familiar with all of the wrestler's names, and all of the days and times that wrestling was shown on TV. I even had some kids absent the day after a wrestling event was held in Detroit. It was way past their bedtimes by the time the event ended. Alright, I guess I can understand this one-time thing. Special occasion?

But bedtimes are bedtimes, and I'm a true believer that bedtimes should be followed every night if possible. (This is coming from a girl who put herself to bed each night without being asked, but kids do need their sleep.)

Yesterday I was helping two kids with their writing (Final drafts! Amen!) and one of them started complaining that he felt sick. I asked the usual questions: "Do you feel like you're going to throw up?" "Does your head hurt?" and also felt his forehead for a fever. Nothing seemed to be wrong. He did manage to tell me that he was up the night before for his favorite show which started at 9:00 and lasted 2 hours. When I asked him what the show was, he said, "Wrestling." He is 8 years old. I'm sure that he needs to get up by 7:30 am at the latest. I know you can do the math, but he only slept 7-8 hours! Of course he didn't feel well. He ended up going home shortly after I was with him.

Today when he was well rested after an afternoon of sleeping yesterday, he told me that his dad went on the wrestling website and downloaded one of the wrestler's theme songs as a ring tone on his cell phone. His teacher also told me that he will be missing a couple days in March when he and his dad fly to Arizona to see a wrestling event.

Wait. What? Here is a student who is reading at a low level. Here is a child who has a hard time concentrating on his writing, or math, or reading, because he is too tired. Do you see a connection here? It doesn't take a teacher to know what's good or bad for a child's learning. So much of it starts at home. There are such things as DVRs, or VCRs to tape shows and watch at another time. There are such things as bedtimes to follow. And there are such things as books which should be read instead of staying up late and watching wrestling.

Okay, I'm off my soap box now. Ahem.