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Jun 28, 2011

Family Reunion

We headed up to Chardon last weekend and had such a wonderful visit with Rich's parents. I always enjoy our time with them and this time was no exception. And with the perfect weather, well, it was one of my favorite trips up north!

Lena was in constant motion.

We enjoyed a beautiful cool evening on Saturday night around the chimney.

Lena, still in constant motion as she slips off Papa's lap.

Sam helping Daddy find sticks for the fire.

Lena finally stopped long enough for a quick swing.

Sunday at the reunion, Rich was catching bass left and right, alongside his constant companions.

Sam wanted to hold his own...such a big boy.

Lena didn't want to touch it...such a little girl.

She did want to touch the baby, though. Who could blame her?

Sam wanted so badly to go on the slip and slide, but I was reluctant because I didn't bring his suit. When I finally decided just to let him go in his underoos, he looked up at me with those huge blue eyes wide and said, "Mommy, that makes me soooooo happy!" I've never seen him more excited.

Lena wanted nothing to do with the water, but she was obsessed with the trampoline. She jumped on that thing all day, alone and with her cousins.

Happiness is sitting on Grammy's lap. What's better than that?

Jun 24, 2011

Midnight in Paris

Work is very quiet today. My boss is elusive as to his whereabouts and I'm caught up on my other work. So I snuck out to see a movie at the theatre next door for a long lunch.

Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris.

It's as if Woody wrote it just for me, for all of us romantic nostalgics.

It’s wistful and witty and charming and beautiful. I’m a Woody Allen fan, but this movie is special.

Maybe because of its magical shots of Paris from dawn to dusk, dark streets and perfectly imagined alcoves and park benches and alleyways filmed in the rain and the soft glow of street lamps and morning light. Maybe because of the characters’ zest for life and unapologetic acknowledgement of their whimsies and neurotic creativities. Maybe because of story’s unabashed bend toward romance and melancholy. Maybe because of the pull the past has on me, the heartstrings nostalgia tugs in me.

And maybe because it was full of artistry. I’ve always wished I were creative, to be an artist of some kind. I’ve always wanted to move people by something I create, by words or painting or music. I don’t have those gifts, though. I’m a competent writer, but I’m not prolific. I’m not life-changing or paradigm-shifting or incredibly discerning or intelligent. In the same vein, I’m a competent singer, but again, nothing extraordinary. And God knows I have zero artistic talent for any medium, whether it be paints or sculpture or drawing.

Maybe that’s why this movie is so flawless to me. To listen to Kathy Bate’s character opine on Picasso’s painting or on Gil’s book – I’ve always wished those kinds of insights could come from me so organically, so openly. To express yourself in such a creative way, even just during the course of a conversation, must be so satisfying.

The perceptions and wisdom and gifts with which God blesses some people can take me over the edge of sincere appreciation and down into the dark green depths of envy at times. My friend Jen’s paintings or my friend Chip’s prose can do that to me. While they can both be self-deprecating, I assume every true artist is - nothing is ever good enough when you’re striving for the perfect brushstroke or sentiment. But whether they see it or not, the things they create are relevant and beautiful to us, to us seeing and touching Jen’s paintings or reading Chip’s words.

I appreciate that.

I sometimes envy that.

I always value that.

That is what Woody Allen stirred up in me today.

Jun 22, 2011

A Jack and Diane Epiphany

On the way to work one morning, I was listening to one of my favorite songs at a decibel that bordered on uncomfortable (one of the luxuries of driving without the children).

The song: John Mellencamp's Jack and Diane.

Love that song.

I was singing/screaming along, lost in the happy nostalgic revelry that usually accompanies songs from my childhood. Then I paid attention to the lyrics in the chorus:

"Oh yeah, life goes on, long after the thrill of living is gone..."

And I thought, that's kind of depressing.

Then the bridge:

"...hold onto 16 as long as you can, changes come around real soon, make us women and men."

That's kind of depressing too.

The gist of it is an adage as old as the hills:

Youth is squandered on the young.

George Bernard Shaw said something like that, as I'm sure a thousand others have. Because when we get to a certain age, we start pining for our youth. The carelessness and freedom of it. The spontaneity and passion it held. The endless opportunities it offered.

And a lot of us mourn that lost or squandered youth.

Sometimes I do.

I had an incredible childhood and a passionate and exciting young adulthood. I took chances and made many mistakes and learned and laughed and cried and loved and learned some more...I lived. Sometimes I daydream about those days, about that freedom.

But most days I just thank God for the here and now. My best days are not behind me. They are today and tomorrow.

I'm still living - really living. I'm just doing it a little less flashy now. I might not be traveling the world or working in some high-powered field. I might not be living in a mansion or wearing the trendiest fashions.

I might be average. Normal. Everything I was SO against becoming when I was younger. After all, I'm a wife and mother and secretary. If the then me would see that, she would cringe. She would think I settled.

Because she wouldn't see that, while I may be normal and average, I'm full of joy. Pure, sent down from heaven, gratitude oozing, joy. I haven't settled to be a wife, mother and secretary. I've triumphed to become them.

She wouldn't see that I am one of the few people who is in a truly healthy, happy and passionate marriage. She wouldn't see that my children fill me so full of life and love that it humbles me. She wouldn't see that though my job is just a job, a means to an end; I'm blessed by it and to be paid well and to work with people I love who are very good to me.

None of it is perfect. It's all very hard work. But it's rewarding work. And the reward is this wonderful joy.

I guess the definitions of success and living have changed somewhere along the line. I learned that success isn't built on money or status or notoriety. Success is built on relationships of every kind and honoring those relationships with trust and loyalty and faith.

And I learned that maybe living isn't as thrilling as an adult. But that if I'm grateful for what I have, learn from my mistakes, try my hardest, and do good; it can be so much more than thrilling. It can be meaningful and relevant.

So that's what I got from the great philosopher, John Mellencamp, and his song Jack and Diane. An epiphany about life. Go figure.

Jun 20, 2011

A New Look

I'm in the mood for change...

I moved our living room furniture all around.

I keep trying to wear my hair with bangs, but it's just not working.

And I changed my blog background. Doesn't it make you want to go outside and catch fireflies?

Jun 19, 2011

Relay for Life

We headed to Newcomerstown Friday for my parents' annual Relay for Life weekend. Their church has been involved in the overnight cancer fund-raising event for probably about 10 years now, and I always enjoying going to show my support for a cause that is close to my parents' hearts, even before my mom's diagnosis.

It starts on Friday with lots of walking around the high school track, music and events. When it gets dark, they turn all the lights off in the stadium and light the luminaries that have people's names on them - survivors as well as those who battled and lost.

My mom had a luminary bag this year. As a survivor. God is good.

As the survivors and care takers and those walking in memory of someone walk around the luminary-lined track in silence with glow sticks in their hands, the announcer reads off the names from survivors list and from the in-memory list.

They are both very long lists.

It is a powerful, sad, provoking moment.

Then members of each team continue to walk the track through the night and into Saturday. Closing ceremonies around noon on Saturday conclude the event by handing out prizes, energizing everyone for next year's event, and announcing the total raised.

This year, minus the proceeds from the auction (which I'm sure will be $1000 or more), this tiny little sleepy village of Newcomerstown (filled with very determined, awake and aware people) raised over $93,000 for cancer research and support for those battling cancers of all kinds.

That's amazing! And inspiring!

Amidst the event full of meaning and camaraderie, Sam and Lena had a great time running around and sweating. They had fun playing inside my high school's cafeteria (during a round of thunderstorms) and making new friends.

We stayed as long as we could, the kids snuggled in their jammies, cozy under our umbrella tent. When it became apparent that by midnight they were far from falling asleep, though, we packed them up and headed to my parents' house.

Lena slept hard until Rich had to wake her around 11:30. She takes after her mommy.

Sam's internal clock, on the other hand, woke him up the same time as always regardless of what time he goes to bed - 6:30 a.m. And since he slept with me, we both got up and headed back to the stadium to finish up the event with Mom and Dad and the St. Paul's Lutheran team.

Anyway, that's a long blog about a simple sentiment.

I love my parents.

I love the things they pour themselves into. They inspire me. And I'm so proud of how they've handled my mom's diagnosis. And how they, through that, have inspired others.

Jun 17, 2011

Sam the Fairy

Earlier this week we were up in Lena's room getting her dressed for the day. Sam saw her fairy wings and pink tutu from her birthday last year (Lena's 1) hanging on the hook and he wanted to put them on.

This might seem like a strange request from a boy, but we recently watched Tinker Bell and the Great Fairy Rescue on Disney and now he's hooked. He and Lena both. They love those fairies. And I have to admit, I do too!

So of course I let him put them on. Isn't he the handsomest fairy you've ever seen?

Right after I took this picture, he looked up at me with a very serious expression and said "Can I fly now, Mommy?"

He thought since he was dressed up like one, he could fly like a fairy. I love that he thought that. What an amazing world this must be through the eyes of a kid who believes he can fly.

So I told him he just needed to find some pixie dust. Unfortunately, we were out...

Who am I to tell him he can't fly?

Jun 10, 2011

I'm in Love with a Plate

I found a website today through one of the blogs I follow (Little Willow).

And I'm in love with it, with Thomas Paul and his products.

Especially his line of melamine dishes - so beautiful. I've never been a big plate displayer, but I would hang these all over like art! So if you're just wracking your brain for a gift for me, these are all pretty affordable on Ebay! Just kidding, well, not really, but you know what I mean...

Jun 9, 2011


Sam has chickenpox.

Yes, he's had the vaccine. So has Lena.

But yes, he still has chickenpox.

It seems mild - only some itchy bumps on his back and head and a few on his legs and arms (probably no more than 20 total), no fever, a little runny nose. I read that you can still get it even with the vaccine, but it's usually very mild.

Please let that be true.

I gave him a little Benadryl and put some Cortizone on his bumps - he seems comfortable and hasn't itched for a while. Let's hope it stays that way.

Lena has a couple of little red marks on her face this morning, too. But I think chickenpox normally starts on the torso, so I'm hoping hers are just marks, not pox. She'll definitely get it if she's going to, though, because they share drinks and feed each other and kiss and spit and are in each others faces all the time.

They kind of sound like camels, don't they.

I'm praying for quick and easy recoveries for everyone. Won't you join me?

Take Me Out to the Ball Game...

My office has a box at the new Clippers stadium and, when the partners don't use the tickets, they hand them out to us, which I think is pretty cool. My friend Joan had four tickets left for last night's game that no one could use on such short notice, so I said we'd give it a shot.

Rich and I have been to one Clippers game courtesy of Casto at our box at the old stadium, but that was before the kids were born. So even though I knew the kids wouldn't last the whole 3 hour game, I just couldn't pass up free box tickets to the brand new stadium.

So we rushed home, shoveled a quick dinner down our throats, packed up some snacks, drinks and pj's, stocked up my diaper bag and off we went.

I love working downtown and having an awesome free parking space and access to our office for functions like this. That made a short walk from my building to the stadium, where we had a great time.

The only downside was that it was 100 degrees and the box wasn't closed up and air conditioned. It was open and hot.

Very hot.

But it's free, so even hot and sweaty, it was awesome!

The kids had fun climbing up and down the steps and clapping and dancing to the music. Ballparks are just a great place to be, and I'm not a huge fan of baseball as a sport. But I honestly love the American-ness and nostalgia and tradition of it and the sound of a nighttime baseball game on the radio or TV is one of my favorite things about summer.

Anyway, after about an hour and a half, the kids were melting down, so we took off. That's the beauty of free - no pressure to stay for the whole thing.

We walked back to my office so we could clean the kids up and put them in their pjs. Lena didn't want to hold my hand on the way back, but when Sam ran back to check on her, she held his hand. So it was hand in hand (and hot red cheeked) they walked down the street to the office.

What an unexpected fun night. Thanks, Casto!

A Hot Day at the Zoo

We went to the zoo on Saturday late in the afternoon. It was a blisteringly hot day, but by the time we got there around 5:00, the zoo was nearly vacant and the temperature was on its way down. It was like we had the whole zoo to ourselves. And that's just awesome.

We were alone at the polar bear exhibit for a long time.

Lena loved being under the water so much that she said her first "fishies" when she saw them floating over us. I captured the moment.

Obligatory zoo photo op.

Then we went on a train ride. The train didn't go quite fast enough to cool us, but it was fun and the kids loved the whistle.

Then onto the lions and the aquarium, eating a light dinner I packed along the way (meat and cheese, apples, grapes, crackers...quite refined for a couple of toddlers).

We made it to the car before the hail storm began. What a mess! We finally had to pull over under a gas station canopy to wait it out.

All in all, one of my favorite visits to the zoo!