Joseph, When I Think of 6…

I’ll think that this year went by too fast.

Maybe it’s that you’ve hit so many big moments, like losing your first tooth and learning to read.  The reading still amazes me because, unlike your sister, who sort of decoded over time, you just one day seemed to flip a switch and BAM!, started reading anything and everything you laid your eyes on.

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Mostly, you lay your eyes on every book that Mo Willems has ever written.

Maybe – – OK, most likely – – it’s that your brother is in the last throes of the terrible twos, ordering us all around all day long, yelling and tantrumming until our heads spin.  That sure makes time go by fast!

About a year ago you broke my nose at the playground.  Remember that?  You swung your head back as I was looking at your brother and when you hit me, you knocked me back over 15 feet!

And you still flip around the house dancing and jumping and landing, telling me, “See, I didn’t hurt myself!”

But now there is a stillness to you when you play with Legos, or hatch a plan with Molly to have dessert for breakfast.  A lot has changed.

What hasn’t changed is your big heart.  And your sweet disposition.  No matter what, whenever anyone asks how something is, your answer is always, “It’s the best!” I hope you never lose that.  And although I worry it might end up a little worse for wear, I am so happy to have a kid that wears his heart on his sleeve.

Happy 7th, you sweet little man.

 

 

 

 

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On Making Meaning: My Favorite Post From This Last Year

Happy Thanksgiving!  As I sit here in my kitchen, waiting for my family to arrive from New York to start a new holiday season, I can’t help feeling a bit nostalgic.  Things are changing this year.  The Thanksgiving celebration on my side of the family has gotten smaller.  The location of the Christmas Eve gala on my husband’s side is moving to the next generation.  All of the grandchildren are out of diapers this year (thanks, JohnJohn)!  And the first of the grandkids is getting married in May.  Time marches on and torches are passed.

I wrote this piece about a year ago and still come back to it when I need a reminder of what is important.  I hope you have a great Thanksgiving and that you make lots of meaning this year!

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These are not stuffed mushrooms.  Well, they are.  And so good that I ate almost ½ a tray by myself.  But they are way more than bread, onions, mushrooms, garlic and spices.  For, you see, I helped make them with my sister-in-law for our Christmas Eve feast just as she has been making them to bring to Christmas Eve for over a decade.

She’s been making them so long that I don’t really remember Christmas Eve without them.  Just as my husband doesn’t remember Christmas Eve without at least seven fishes and dozens of family members of every age and sometimes friends coming together for the day.  Like so many other families, my husband’s big Italian family holds Christmas Eve as the most hallowed of days.  It is not just about the birth of Christ, although we are primarily a Catholic family.  And it is not because of the presents even if the presents are pretty fun.  And it is not really about seeing each other.  Most of us see each other pretty regularly.   It’s not even about food, although, admittedly, we do all love to eat.

OK.  It is about all those things.  But it is so much more than that.   I have learned since joining my husband’s family over 15 years ago, and especially since having my three children,  that it is really about the extra special effort that every single member of the family makes every single year to prioritize that time together and to hold it sacred above all else.  No matter what.

They make that day and that time mean something special because of all of the effort that goes into it. It’s  Nana and Grandpop, who start shopping for stocking stuffers for all 13 grandchildren in October, review and prepare menus in November, and set tables weeks ahead of time (OK, Mom, if you’re reading this, I know it is probably only a day or two ahead of time ;)).  It’s the aunts, who cull Christmas lists to get their “something special” for each child, one of whom manages to find matching pajamas in every size from 24-months up to men’s medium.  It’s the kids, who give up time on their “idevices” and really do try to look and behave their best for their elders, even if it means wearing a skirt instead of jeans.  It’s the fact that every person there is there on purpose to be together and they prepare for it and look forward to it all the year through.

Sometimes I worry that Christmas is too commercialized and that as a parent I am a puppet of the major kids companies targeting my children.  And sometimes I fret that I spoil my kids when we perpetuate the myth of Santa Claus even a little bit (we don’t really do it full tilt).  And then I think of those crab cakes.  And talking to my mother-in-law mid-December as she and my father-in-law are making pecan rolls, debating whether this year they are, in fact, the absolute best they ever made.

My mother-in-laws Christmas cookies. Said pecan roll, which was the best she ever made, on the left.

I picture each of us at our tables wearing a rainbow of paper crowns unfolded from their crackers, glasses aloft, mouthing “cent’anni” as my father-in-law leads the toast.

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My son, most definitely not listening to anything, not even Grandpop, but looking very cute in his crown.

I remember how it was at Christmas Eve dinner when my father-in-law shared the news with the whole clan that my husband and I were expecting our first baby and I can still hear the raucous cheers that followed.  I laugh at my son counting the kids and the stockings to see if they really match up as my daughter writes out each name in a neat list.  And I reminisce about how, when I first joined this merriment, the oldest of the grandchildren in this family were still in diapers.  Those babies are now in college.  And last year, as I watched my oldest niece stuffing mushrooms with my own daughter, it finally dawned on me.

Whether you believe in Jesus Christ or Santa Claus or someone else or nothing, it is up to each of us to make the Meaning in our lives.  And like every other good thing I am trying to teach my children, it takes work.  It takes effort.  We can do it alone but it is easier if you have other people to help you.  If you are lucky, like me, you find people who work as hard (or harder) than you to do it.  And if you are really, really, lucky, like me, those people will also happen to make a wicked stuffed mushroom.

 

Can You Guess Who Molly’s Superhero is?

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We participated in a Superhero themed 5K/1K fun run this weekend.  Our kids were asked to invite a buddy to run/walk with them.  Here is a mid-way shot of a cape Molly made for one of her heroes.

Can you guess who she is (Hint:  those are a stack of books)?  Thank you to our wonderful, encouraging, children’s librarian!  Eden Unger Bowditch says it best: “LIBRARIANS ARE HEROES! You are the gatekeepers who show us the maps to incredible journeys and fabulous adventures in the worlds of words.”

 

JohnJohn, When I Think of 2…

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I’m waking you up with Sonic The Hedgehog cupcakes, glad that Daddy takes off from work for all our birthdays, and that all five of us are together today.

I laugh at how Daddy, in trying to give you a more “grown up” name this year, came up with “Grape Juice Juicy JohnJohn”.  Seriously, (I’m looking at you, Molly and Joseph), I cannot believe that it caught on!

When I think of 2, JohnJohn, I’d ride the rails with you again.

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I’ll shake my head as I recall the Big Mahoff, and his villain counterpart, The Puker, whom we all still see pretty regularly.  As Aunt Susan says, “that John sure is a PIP!”

I will do the conga all over again with Molly and Joseph as we watch you march off into your new pre-school with Miss Suzie.  Then I will carry my heart in my throat the rest of the day after Suzie calls me to tell me that you threw up.  Thankfully, that only lasted two days.

I will pity poor Joseph, as I count how many times I made him play “Ninjas” or “Star Wars” or “Smash Bros.” with you this year.  He’s  so good to you.  He deserves how much you adore him.

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I am blown away all over again at how, at Grandpop’s birthday weekend, you informed EVERYONE you met that you were getting Power Ranger underwear and wouldn’t need diapers anymore.  I still can’t believe that after I found the undies in the clearance bin at the store the next day, even though they were a size 6, you put them on and never wore diapers again.

Gosh, I’ll miss the day I don’t overhear Molly turning into a horse as you “morph-forr” her with your Red Ranger Morpher.

I can smell that camel from here.  As I should.  We’ve spent a lot of time with (and money on) Good Old Benny!

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I’ll read Molly’s birthday card to you and wish I had a sister like her.

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I’ll hear you yelling at the top of your lungs “I JUST WANT TO SNUGGA YOU, MOMMY!”  I’ll try to be annoyed because you’re yelling it while I am trying to take my first pee alone in days, but it won’t work.  Truth is, I just want to snugga you too.

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I’ll stop to think how fast this is all going.  You three are best friends.  My birthday wish for you is that you always will be.

Happy birthday, Grape Juice!  We are all glad that you were born.

Molly, When I Think of 7…

I STILL laugh at the ridiculous dancing green bean, all elbows and knees and giggles, bopping across the floor after bath – – even though you don’t do it so often anymore.

I run the headcount with you before bed:  Bucky, Snookums, Mr. and Mrs. Chucklebottom, Bob, BlackLack, Sophie, Striped Bucky, Rudy, mini-Rudy…

I catch you on the couch.  In my bed.  At the table.  On the floor.  Walking across the lawn.  In the little nook you set up at Nana and Pop’s house.  Reading.  Always reading.

I am amazed that you figured out how to change the color of your Minecraft sword to the perfect hues of Pink and Orange Bucky.

I kind of get a tickle in my throat as I watch you march up to the children’s librarian with your notebook of ideas,  to ask whether you can start a book club this Fall.

I breathe deep watching you sing “Happy Birthday” to JohnJohn, even though it’s actually your birthday and your cake.  I know you wish for magic powers, but, you know, you already have them.

I run all those 5Ks with you all  over again, chatting about this and that, repeating “I am awesome.  I am awesome.  I am awesome.”

I hear Joseph’s laughter pealing throughout the house as you crack him up with “A Kooka Maraca Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Nana, A Kooka Maraca Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Nana…”

I trip over the power cords to one of your cousin’s laptops as I pass your Minecraft huddle.

I try to revel in your independence and be grateful for it instead of missing you,  as you march away from me to go to camp, without even a backward glance.

You are a joy, so poised and competent and interested in everything.

I love to watch you in the world.

Happy Birthday, Sweet Molly McGurkles!

 

Molly Running

 

Joseph, When I Think of 5…

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Birthday Ninjas

I will see Daddy’s mini-me, and laugh at how many times strangers pointed it out to us.

My heart will be in my throat all over again as you spontaneously jump up and flip, roll, cartwheel, handstand, headstand and dance across the floor. Across the couch. Across the counter. Down the entire flight of stairs.  Off my bed.  Into the tub.  Out of the back of our minivan.

I’ll try to remember whether it was this year that your romance with Star Wars started, you became a secret reader like your sister, and you first felt “shy”. It was.

I’ll hear you call for a “Family Hug!” and even though you sometimes squeeze too tight, I’ll love every minute of that hug. I really love those family hugs!

I will smell the dewy baby sweat that you still sometimes get, especially after you dance “woopnam gangnam style”.  I’ll suck it in, breathing deep, thinking how pure it is.

I’ll taste those “heavenly” P & S Ravioli that Aunt Sue made for you that Sunday and wish we were all still around her table.

I’ll hold your little hand when it searches for my belly as you get sleepy during books, smile down at you as you whisper how much you love it, and try to love myself the way that you do.

I’ll try not to yell, “STOP MENACING YOUR BROTHER!”, because, the truth us, while you are The Scooch, he totally deserves it.

You bring so much love to all of us.  I am so glad that you were born.

 

My Most Beloved Holiday Isn’t Even my Own

I don’t like to pick favorites when it comes to Holidays.  They all have their merits and I wouldn’t want any to get its feelings hurt.  Thanksgiving, with the no gifts required and all that pie?  Perfect!  This year was our best yet.  My birthday?  It’s all about me and what’s not to like?  My husband’s and kids’ birthdays?  I sure am glad they were born.  I’d celebrate that every day!  Even St. Patrick’s Day with all that green food and drink!  No.  I wouldn’t want to pick.  I love them all.

If I had to, though, I would choose my adopted Holiday of Christmas Eve Dinner with my in-laws as my most beloved and special holiday.  Here’s why:

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These are not stuffed mushrooms.  Well, they are.  And so good that I ate almost ½ a tray by myself.  But they are way more than bread, onions, mushrooms, garlic and spices.  For, you see, I helped make them with my sister-in-law for our Christmas Eve feast just as she has been making them to bring to Christmas Eve for over a decade.

She’s been making them so long that I don’t really remember Christmas Eve without them.  Just as my husband doesn’t remember Christmas Eve without at least seven fishes and dozens of family members of every age and sometimes friends coming together for the day.  Like so many other families, my husband’s big Italian family holds Christmas Eve as the most hallowed of days.  It is not just about the birth of Christ, although we are primarily a Catholic family.  And it is not because of the presents even if the presents are pretty fun.  And it is not really about seeing each other.  Most of us see each other pretty regularly.   It’s not even about food, although, admittedly, we do all love to eat.

OK.  It is about all those things.  But it is so much more than that.   I have learned since joining my husband’s family over 15 years ago, and especially since having my three children,  that it is really about the extra special effort that every single member of the family makes every single year to prioritize that time together and to hold it sacred above all else.  No matter what.

They make that day and that time mean something special because of all of the effort that goes into it. It’s  Nana and Grandpop, who start shopping for stocking stuffers for all 13 grandchildren in October, review and prepare menus in November, and set tables weeks ahead of time (OK, Mom, if you’re reading this, I know it is probably only a day or two ahead of time ;)).  It’s the aunts, who cull Christmas lists to get their “something special” for each child, one of whom manages to find matching pajamas in every size from 24-months up to men’s medium.  It’s the kids, who give up time on their “idevices” and really do try to look and behave their best for their elders, even if it means wearing a skirt instead of jeans.  It’s the fact that every person there is there on purpose to be together and they prepare for it and look forward to it all the year through.

Sometimes I worry that Christmas is too commercialized and that as a parent I am a puppet of the major kids companies targeting my children.  And sometimes I fret that I spoil my kids when we perpetuate the myth of Santa Claus even a little bit (we don’t really do it full tilt).  And then I think of those crab cakes.  And talking to my mother-in-law mid-December as she and my father-in-law are making pecan rolls, debating whether this year they are, in fact, the absolute best they ever made.

My mother-in-laws Christmas cookies. Said pecan roll, which was the best she ever made, on the left.

I picture each of us at our tables wearing a rainbow of paper crowns unfolded from their crackers, glasses aloft, mouthing “cent’anni” as my father-in-law leads the toast.

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My son, most definitely not listening to anything, not even Grandpop, but looking very cute in his crown.

I remember how it was at Christmas Eve dinner when my father-in-law shared the news with the whole clan that my husband and I were expecting our first baby and I can still hear the raucous cheers that followed.  I laugh at my son counting the kids and the stockings to see if they really match up as my daughter writes out each name in a neat list.  And I reminisce about how, when I first joined this merriment, the oldest of the grandchildren in this family were still in diapers.  Those babies are now in college.  And last year, as I watched my oldest niece stuffing mushrooms with my own daughter, it finally dawned on me.

Whether you believe in Jesus Christ or Santa Claus or someone else or nothing, it is up to each of us to make the Meaning in our lives.  And like every other good thing I am trying to teach my children, it takes work.  It takes effort.  We can do it alone but it is easier if you have other people to help you.  If you are lucky, like me, you find people who work as hard (or harder) than you to do it.  And if you are really, really, lucky, like me, those people will also happen to make a wicked stuffed mushroom.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you and Yours.  May you make lots of Meaning this year.

Daily Prompt: Memories of Holidays Past

What is your very favorite holiday? Recount the specific memory or memories that have made that holiday special to you.

Photographers, artists, poets: show us BELOVED

Very Serious Playtime

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“It is paradoxical that many educators and parents still differentiate
between a time for learning and a time for play
without seeing the vital connection between them.”
Leo Buscaglia

Daily Prompt: Playtime

Do you play in your daily life? What says “playtime” to you?

 

 

 

JohnJohn, When I Think of 1…

I will remember the Big Mahoff, and his villain counterpart, The Puker.

I’ll see you dancing around on the soccer field in Joseph’s size-12 cleats, your Mickey shirt stained from too many wearings, kicking the ball like you belonged there.  You did pretty well!

I’ll reminisce with Daddy about your big paddle feet hanging over the couch, Ninjago playing, AGAIN.

I’ll smell blue bucky, and his smell will smell good, even though right now he just smells like sour milk and bad breath.

I’ll try to remember which way the saying goes, “long days and short years” or “short days and long years”.  I’ll pause.  Then smile with melancholy recognition.  Of course…long days and short, short years.

I’ll definitely recollect this with a smile:

You got  a problem with pink skates?

You got a problem with pink skates?

I’ll get tired all over again thinking of all that time chasing you and I’ll feel relief that you’ve figured out how to deal with all those emotions (you will have, won’t you?).

Of course I will have wished that time stood still today.  Except for the part where you woke up 9 times last night.  That, I would tweak.  Just a little.  But only if nothing else would change.

I’ll wish you were sitting across the counter from me eating your body weight in Piave and Parmigiano Reggiano.

I’ll wonder how much of it was a dream, and how much the snoozy haze of sleeplessness.

And I’ll think, Ahhh.  GOOD!

Daily Prompt: Standstill

For a moment today, time stands still — but you can tweak one thing while it’s stopped. What do you do?

Photographers, artists, poets: show us STILLNESS.