Monday, December 19, 2011

Leap of Faith

There are two things I don't discuss: politics and religion.  I don't know enough about either to sound intelligent; you can't trust politics anyway; and religion makes me sink into my seat with sweaty palms. It seems without fail you're bound to offend someone at the mention of either.

For me this is big, so I'm going out on a limb (or should I say 'leap of faith') and talking about this as best I can...

I've memorized one bible verse in my whole life (John 3:16) and that's because I went to church camp once with a childhood friend.  My grandmother used to sprinkle the wheels of our car with holy water and my aunt, who's also my Godmother, was a nun in the Sisters of St. Joseph's community for 33 years.  Then you have my dad whose church is on the golf course.  There's also my brother who went to service one Sunday in his pjs.  I'll be honest, I hated going to religious ed. classes as a kid; all I remember about my first communion is that I wore my mom's dress from her first communion; and what stands out most from getting confirmed is that I had to carry the cross and my slip almost fell to my feet as I walked down the center aisle at the start of mass.  But when I turned 16 I started driving myself to church.  It felt like the right thing to do, though I didn't know why, and even as a lifelong Catholic the formalities of mass are still sometimes confusing.

Just last year I purchased my first bible thanks to the urging of my dear friend, Cherie.  And it's also because of Cherie that I go to BSF Bible Study every week.  Yes, bible study. Or as I affectionately call it to my friends and family who are leery of the concept: church group.  I started going last fall because I needed to get out of the house, it gave me an excuse to see my friend, and yes, I wanted to learn more about the bible.  After all, I do enjoy history.  I also liked the fellowship and the exposure to outside care it afforded my boys.  We studied the book of Isaiah and it was eye opening and hard.  It was a lot of effort to go and some weeks I stomped my feet to the car, but I persisted.  This year in class we're studying the book of Acts and have gotten into Hebrews too, both of which are much more uplifting and encouraging. 

I now find myself reflecting on things throughout the week and it also 'keeps me in check' as I navigate the curvy road of being a mom.  I've grown more comfortable in sharing answers (this year's group makes that easy...they're a lively group of women of various ages from all walks of life), but gain the most from hearing others' thoughts because it makes the bible's teachings relevant to life today.  Some week's lessons hit home more than others and to be totally honest there are aspects of Christian beliefs that I'm not 100% sure of.  But I'm usually able to take away a word to keep in mind each week that generally sums up the theme from the assigned chapters.  Words like pride, judgement, gratitude, faith, goodwill, and most often patience.  These and many others are the types of morals I want to instill in my kids and using the church as a moral foundation from which to grow is where Joe and I do indeed see eye to eye on in terms of how church will play a role in our family's life.  

I still have a lot of growing and learning to do and I still can't talk God things without getting pretty squirmy.  But I just wrote this and I've made some dear friends along the way that I've shared more than I ever thought I would and I'm definitely no worse for the wear.  When I say I'm blessed I have a deeper understanding of the word and it's not just luck.  When I pray I'm specific and don't just ask for things, but give thanks too.

So where is all of this coming from? Since I stopped teaching I miss using my brain, feeling productive, and being part of something bigger.  Church group has afforded the boys and me a sense of community; provided me with volunteer opportunities to help in the children's program; and compelled me to DO something to give back, give more of myself, and share with others what I've learned.  I am in awe of so many of my friends who juggle family, friends, service, and careers and never seem to let anything fall.  I think of the countless times I go to Target to swipe my card to pay for more stuff even though I was just complaining of all the clutter around our house.  It's time I give instead of always take, because despite how busy I say I am; how tight I say money is; or how much I might need a new pair of shoes...I'm not, it isn't, and I don't.  So when my neighbor down the street brought a cause to my attention that hit close to home I paid attention.  This isn't just a 'do-a-good-holiday-deed', it's an effort I hope I can help with for a long time.

Capital Childcare provides daily care to some of Richmond's neediest kids.  Capital Diaper Bank started...(info taken from their website) after the childcare staff witnessed children arriving on Monday mornings, after a weekend at home, with raw bottoms, infections or other infirmities. Further investigation revealed that these children were not being changed regularly at home due to an inadequate supply of diapers.  A shortage of diapers can have a severe adverse impact on a child's well being. Parents without sufficient resources often allow children to wear diapers too long or try to clean and reuse disposable diapers, putting children at risk for rashes, staph and other infections and further serious health issues. The likelihood of abuse increases when a child is in a household facing the stresses of poverty and increases even more when that child cries due to a soiled diaper and resultant health issues.  Low-income families cannot take advantage of free or subsidized childcare if they cannot afford enough diapers for their children while there. Without childcare, these parents are less able to attend work or school on a consistent basis, which in turn leads to increased economic instability and a continuation of the poverty cycle.  In addition, funding was drastically cut at the center recently and they've had to reduce their staff and can no longer provide "weekend bags of food."  For some children the only meals they eat are when they're at the childcare center, which of course is only Monday thru Friday.
Want to help?  Email me ( and I'd be happy to pick up your contributions if you're nearby.   
There are four options:

1) donate diapers (any size is appreciated, but sizes 4, 5, and 6 are often needed most)


2) donate non-perishable snack food, which will help with daily afternoon snack time (i.e. granola bars, crackers, pop tarts, pretzels, juice boxes, fruit cups, etc.)


3) donate a bag of dry food items items to provide 6 meals over the course of a weekend (i.e. a box of pasta and sauce, cereal, oatmeal, easy mac, soup, peanut butter, bread, jelly, canned goods, pop tarts, etc.)


4) make a check payable to Capital Diaper Bank and mail to
P.O. Box 4255
Richmond, VA 23220 or visit their website, click on 'How You Can Help,' and donate online through PayPal
So in the spirit of goodwill, taking a leap of faith, and giving more of myself, God bless:) (yep, typed with sweaty palms, nervous heart, and all)

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

It's the Little Things...

It's the littlest things that make me smile.  Ok, gush and get tears in my eyes because I'm that grateful.  I'm sure that sounds cheesy, cliche, and trite, but it's true.  Damn mommy hormones that never subside.  Even Hallmark and Pampers commercials and hearing Louis Armstrong sing What a Wonderful World make me tear up.

Anyway, here are my favorite little things lately that I find myself enjoying when I slow down just a little to take it all in...

1) Watching sleeping babies.

2) Throwing rocks in the pond on a 70 degree December day.

3) The nice lady in the food court who helped me as I was carrying a cup of water, pushing a double stroller, looking for a vacant table, and dragging two high chairs behind me.

4) Walking to Starbucks.

This was taken on a grumpy Monday morning in April.  Fresh air made the boys happy and a coffee fix made Mommy happy.  A win win!

5) Listening to the boys' giggles before bedtime.

6) Content shopping buddies in Old Navy and finding clearance items that fit.

7) Quiet mornings before anyone is up to clean the kitchen, address cards, and start the coffee.

8) Little boy kisses...slobber, snot, and all.  Lately the boys have left their mark on our front door as they watch the giant excavators and diggers on our street...I told you they were obsessed.


I'm also quite enjoying the feeling of Christmas. 

The decorations feel cozy.  Some are homemade and some have sentimental value.  See that Nutcracker?  It was a gift from Joe on December 17, 2005 when he popped the question and tied inside was the ring:)  The peppermint wreath was no idea of my friend Amy shared it on her blog so I attempted it.  The boys and I gave into my our chocolate peanut butter craving the other day and made 'reindeer food,' aka Chex Mix Muddy Buddy Mix for a quick late morning snack.  And our field trip to Bass Pro Shop was an experience unto itself, but the biggest hit was the remote control race track!  What's that?  There's a realistic looking Santa and mailboxes in which you can send him your letter!??!  Alas I have 200% boys and race cars, laser shooting ranges, and the camo four-wheeler were waaaaay more interesting:)

I enjoy admiring the ornaments we've collected during travel journeys...NYC, Vegas, Greece, Australia, Hawaii, Seattle, San Francisco, etc.  There's also ornaments commemorating where we got married, our alma maters, the plaster tree I painted in third grade, and of course, our boys.  

Never mind that, I, queen of Christmas tradition, resorted to an artificial, three foot, pre-lit tree and stuck it on a nightstand in front of a window.  Sometimes something's just gotta give.

But if you really want to keep the season magical, take a look at it through the eyes of a child.  This is my friend Vicky's daughter Mallory and the look in her eyes just about sums up the wonderment of the holiday season. 

And so, this Christmas season
may our hearts with gladness glow,
As we read the blessed story
That took place so long ago.
-Alpha L. Buntain ("The First Christmas")

Monday, December 12, 2011

Let Me Tell You 'Bout the Birds and the Bees

I actually have a couple other posts ready to publish, but the boys are napping unusually long today (a RARE occurrence....yippee!!!) and since I got all of my chores done I sat down to waste time on my iPad and came across a link my friend posted on Facebook.   

image from
 Maybe I've missed this memo or need to stay up later on Saturdays, but thank you, Joanne for introducing me to Julia Sweeney - an actress, author, and comedian whose work has appeared on Saturday Night Live(namely It's Pat), and various movies and TV shows, such as Pulp Fiction, Stuart Little, Mad About You, According to Jim, etc.  She's also well known for her monologues.  Save a few minutes for yourself, get comfy, pour a drink, whatever, but you must watch  

You'll laugh out loud and certainly conjure up nightmarish images of having this talk with your own parents or preparing yourself to have this talk in the future with your own kids.  God help us all.

Now I've had worries about being a parent.  When I was pregnant I worried myself to sobs numerous times thinking about all the things that could go wrong.  Then when the boys arrived and I knew they were healthy I started worrying about how I was going to raise respectful, motivated, honest, caring boys.  And of course all the usual stuff like pooping, weight gain, eating, sleeping, and schedules.  But this.  I haven't even come close to this.  SEX.  Clearly, I've got years to come up with something profound, but surely they'll hit me like a ton of bricks with their questions.  But I'll be ready.  I'll try my hardest to be ready.

My parents and I never sat down and had the 'birds and the bees' talk.  That's because MY MOM taught my entire religious ed. class about the 'birds and the bees' AND an entire class the year after me about it too.  Poor lady - she just volunteered on a whim to help out for the year or so.  She didn't know THIS was the curriculum.  So there I sat in my Monday night 4th grade Catholic religious education class as my mom laid out the facts...properly named parts and all.  Family Life classes in public schools don't get into this stuff.  They just talk about bodily changes and they don't let you ask many questions anyway.  Maybe it was a good thing I didn't have to have this talk one-on-one.  It spared us some awkward moments or time for questions.  I didn't come out any worse for the wear, but we didn't carry our classroom conversations to the dinner table either.  Nope, having my mom get sixteen 9 year olds through the lessons was sufficient.  And did I mention my crush sat just a few seats away?

At a 'mommy boot camp' class on Saturday one of the participants announced she was having a boy.  She already has a 3 year old little girl and she was expressing her nervousness about handling a boy and what to do with all the parts.  "I don't know about all that!" she exclaimed.  Another participant chimed in and said, "Sure you do.  It's what got you to this point in the first place!"  Just some food for thought:)

Friday, December 9, 2011

In the Kitchen - Madame Quiche's Quiche au Fromage

Yea, don't let the title fool you.  This is no gourmet recipe.
But it IS super easy, fast, and delicious.  Also great for get togethers, a typical night at home, or sharing with a family who might need a meal or two.

3 eggs
1 can evaporated milk
1 Knorr/Lipton soup packet (vegetable)
frozen, chopped broccoli (a handful or two)
frozen, chopped cauliflower (a handful or two)
shredded cheddar cheese (a handful or two)
pie crust

Mix the first 6 ingredients. Pour into a prepared Pillsbury crust.  Bake at 375 for 45-60 min.

Want an onion quiche?  Use Swiss cheese instead of cheddar and  useonion or leek soup instead of the veggie.  Want something more Italian?  Throw in Italian sausage, sliced roasted red peppers, Mozarella cheese and some dashes of Italian seasoning or oregano instead of the soup.  Greek?  Feta, chopped artichokes, sun-dried tomatoes, and olives would work.

You get the idea - with a base of milk, eggs, and cheese you can adapt the recipe however you like.

YUM!  And that's even coming from my husband who enjoyed a slice...with a beer...while watching Swamp Monsters...after working in the garage tonight.  I know, he's a classy guy:)

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Teacher Teacher

At 6:29 this morning my dad texted me saying, "Good luck today!  Hope you enjoy being back in your 'other life.'"  I'll admit it...I was giddy.  I was going back into the classroom for the first time since January 12, 2010.  Almost two years ago I went into the hospital and you know the rest of the story....I never went back.

When I was a kid what I wanted to be when I grew up varied over the years: 
-vet...I adored cats.
-architect...I would design buildings on my Etcha-Sketch.
-archaeologist...After studying dinosaurs in 2nd grade I decided Stegosaurus was my favorite
-teacher...My stuffed animals made great students and making worksheets was fun.

Once I applied to colleges (6 to be exact) I considered
-occupational therapy...After volunteering at the Rainbow Games I landed a summer job for a couple years as a therapeutic recreational camp counselor working with kids with severe mental and physical disabilities.  Talk about putting things in perspective.
-nutrition...But then I found out how many science courses I had to successfully complete.
-teacher...Because I've always loved kids.

Once I got into Tech's (no longer existent) five year education program it was a done deal.  Teach it would be.  And to teach I would L.O.V.E.  There's something to be said for driving to work most days truly looking forward to your job.  Don't worry, there were the crummy days too with unruly kids, relentless parents, unrealistic demands from on high, and simply not enough hours in the day to get it done. But to actually get in there and teach and to watch kids grow and to get to know their quirks and personalities and to watch them apply strategies and tricks and concepts that I taught them...WOW. 

So yes, I dearly miss the classroom; I still find myself thinking of ways to break down concepts and creating fun ways to illustrate them; and I love it when a mommy friend calls asking for help on her kid's homework. I love the smell of crayons and glue and restocking school supplies.  Have I always been such a nerd?  

And then my friend mentioned that her school is always looking for substitutes, which is how I ended up in a little slice of utopia today.  I wasn't nervous about running reading groups or writing workshop...that came back like an old habit; I was more concerned with not knowing anyone and getting lost on campus!  Today gave me an itty bitty dose of the working world, and although I came home and paid the sitter exactly what I'd just earned for the day, it was money well spent.  It was a glimpse back into the old me that sometimes gets lost in gym pants and pullovers with snot on the shoulder.  It was lunch with adults and students calling me Mrs. Watson again and sharing stories and answering questions with little minds that just want to do right by those that care about them.  It's being a part of something and feeling like I had a purpose today.  

AND it made coming home to my happy boys that much sweeter.  Tomorrow I'll be back in gym pants and snot will certainly be on my shoulder(s) by 9:00am.  But I've put my eggs in more than one basket and hopefully another job will call sooner rather than later because it was quite nice to take a dip in my 'other life' just for a day so I can appreciate 'this life' that much more.  

Monday, December 5, 2011

In the Kitchen - All Hail the Crock Pot

At Thanksgiving this year I prepared roasted root vegetables as a healthier alternative to mashed potatoes.  They were a hit!  I chopped and tossed with a head of garlic, olive oil, and rosemary the following: purple potatoes, butternut squash (I know it's not a root veggie but it just fit), sweet potatoes, parsnips, turnips, and carrots.  They roasted at 400 degrees for about an hour.  Easy and delicious!

Well I chopped way too much and was left with a tub of tupperware of seasoned, not-yet-cooked veggies.  Enter chicken and dumplings!  I've been craving them ever since I saw an ad for Panera's newest seasonal dish.  In 10 minutes I had a wholesome meal simmering in the crock pot allowing me to decorate and fold laundry for the afternoon, which then led to a night of football watching (ouch) and Christmas decoration admiring while chowing down on simple comfort food.  In the crock pot I dumped the chopped veggies, added a can of cream of mushroom and a can of cream of chicken soup, 2 cups of stock, and 3 large, uncooked chicken breasts (cut into cubes).  I seasoned with a little black pepper and cooked everything on high for about 5 hours.  20 minutes before we were ready to eat I added some frozen peas and dumplings (2/3 cup Bisquick mixed with 2 cups milk).  Seriously delicious and enough for quite a few meals.  



And in case you haven't visited my 'favorites' page and need one more recipe to try, here's Joe's mom's famous BBQ.  It's one of the few things Joe knew how to cook when I met him.  It's perfect for summer get togethers on the deck because it serves a crowd or cold winter days because it's hot and hearty. 

4-6lbs pork butt or shoulder
salt and pepper
2 garlic cloves, peeled
2 cups apple cider vinegar
2 T sugar
bottle of favorite bbq sauce

Trim meat of excess fat and silvery skin.  Place in crock pot; salt and pepper meat; and add garlic, vinegar, and sugar.  Cook on low for 12-14 hours or on high for 6-7 hours.  Remove bone if necessary (I use a pair of tongs and it slips right out), drain liquid (reserve some to toss with meat to prevent dryness), and shred meat with fork.  Serve with favorite sauce and coleslaw on buns.  ENJOY!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Launch of the USS G-Force

Are you ever stopped in your tracks wondering, "Is this my life?" for reasons good, bad, happy, sad, funny, mundane, insane...

-When I graduated from college and was living in an apartment with my girlfriends driving to work each day on the interstate I sometimes got that feeling...oh my gosh this is the rat race I've always heard about.  

-But I also got that feeling when I ran across the Sydney Harbor bridge at sunrise and hiked the Swiss Alps one summer.  Wow.  

-And when I got married and moved into a charming home with my handsome husband that feeling returned - this is mine, really?

-When I taught kindergarten and in one day I had a bleeder, puker, pooper, and masturbater all before noon.  No way did I learn how to handle this in my college classes.

-At each ultrasound during my pregnancy I always felt like I was watching someone else's story unfold.  How did I get here?  Life happens, sister.

So tonight that feeling returned with full force.  Let me digress a little so you get the picture.  Joe left bright and early this morning to head to Fed Ex Field with some grad school buddies to watch the Redskins and Jets play.  A full day with the boys on a Sunday is kind of like my Monday.  By 9:30am I got a call from Joe saying that his car was in a Target parking lot two hours from home and it was dead as a doornail.  But he already had it all figured out...after the game he and a buddy would install a new alternator and head home tonight.  Because everyone has a friend nearby with car tools and the good nature to run out and buy a new alternator, right?!?!  Anyway, good thing our day was chopped up with family to play with, trucks to look at, and neighbors to chat with.  And then this afternoon my mom called asking if I wanted some alone time.  Alone time?!?!  Ok, twist my arm.  I wasn't having a bad day, but she said I deserved it.  I didn't really think I did since I'd just lost my cool with the boys at lunchtime, but maybe her mom's intuition let her know I did indeed.  Turns out someone above must have had a plan because had Mom not come over this afternoon to let me enjoy my first ever hot yoga session I might have not remained so zen when

the. submarine. launched.      
Image from
The boys wanted bubbles in the bath tonight.  Happy to oblige.

But just after I'd finished mopping up the XL cup of water Garrett spilled over the edge of the tub onto the floor it happened.  We don't have brown bath toys.  We have brightly colored squirt animals, red blocks, and a few old cups from the Greek Food Festival.  But not brown bath toys.  Yep he (I don't know which boy) pooped.  This has happened twice, but Joe's been home and through fits of laughter and "What do we do?!?!" the two of us always manage - one cleans up and the other tends to the boys.  But solo...what the heck?!?!  So it was like lightening that I scooped up both naked, soaked boys and ran into my bathroom to fill the tub and re-clean everyone.  They shivered and asked for more bubbles as their second bath filled, but this time Mommy was on a misson.  And once everyone was dry, warm, and in bed clean-up ensued and all was right with the world again.  

So I ask you, "Is this really my life?" 

I guess it all could've been worse...Joe could've been stranded overnight and we could only have one full bathroom in the house:)  I'm thinking my aunt's Salted Caramel Martini sounds pretty damn good right now. 

Friday, December 2, 2011

In the Air There's a Feeling of Christmas...

Last Monday we were in shorts and by Friday we wore layers and our winter coats.  The holiday wreath dons the front door; our "Merry Christmas" sign is in the front yard (never mind that I stuck it in a pot with the dying pansies...the pic below with the snow is from last year); the giant stuffed snowman is perched by the fireplace (ironic spot, eh?); Advent calendars arrived from Oma; and the singing/dancing Gingerbread Man and Frosty have made their annual debuts.  The decorations stop there for now, but Christmas momentum is building.

We received our first holiday card of the season on the 1st of the month (leave it to Cherie to be so on the ball), which got me thinking that I need to find a new way to display them all this year.  No longer will my twine and sparkly garland work around the doorway with two toddlers running around destroying most of what's in their path.  So we're going with a homemade memo board, courtesy of yours truly.

We visited the magical Garden Fest of Lights at the botanical gardens the other night, met up with friends, and enjoyed hot chocolate while exploring the light maze, walking through tunnels of twinkling lights, listening to Christmas music performed by a local youth orchestra, watching trains zoom around their lifelike displays, and admiring candy cane trees.  I admit that I was giddy with excitement to finally do this, as we've seen workers getting ready for their annual display since the end of summer.

taken by Lisa Stnons

Christmas music is now playing around the clock.  My top 5 picks are...
1) Faith Hill's Little Drummer Boy
2) Mariah Carey's All I Want for Christmas (Dare I admit that Molly and I used to blast this year round?)
3) Kenny Loggins' Celebrate Me Home
4) Silver Bells
5) Imagine (I'm well aware this isn't a holiday song, per se, but 'imagine' what the world would be like if the Christmas spirit shined so strong in people's hearts all year round?!)

Friday was a day of shopping at our local Bizarre Bazaar, which means an insane amount of women in their finest bedazzled holiday sweaters spending gobs of money on monogrammed gifts and sampling countless dips with pretzel sticks.  But I found a few good things too and managed to survive all four buildings.  The company was fun and Mexican dinner that night quickly cured my sore feet and back.  And thanks to Uncle Brandon and Pops for watching the boys, changing three massive diaper bombs to boot:)

Last year we took the boys to Santa Brunch (yes, also at Lewis Ginter) and couldn't resist going back again this year!  It was a smashing success (kid friendly food, scrumptious gourmet treats for the adults, and um, a chocolate fondue fountain, yes please!) and it now FEELS like the holidays.  The boys wore the sweaters that Oma knitted and their 'dress' shoes (a lucky consignment find), ate their weight in cookies with sprinkles, and liked watching Santa from afar but weren't quite sure what to make of him up close. 


Time to go hang the mistletoe.  Merry, merry!

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