Wednesday, December 16, 2009


My mom was always big on traditions when we were growing up. I think it had a lot to do with the fact that we were a blended family, and she and my dad wanted to make sure we built memories as a family. It gave us all something to look forward to each season and at the same time we could look back to past years and remember what we had done.

I am reminded of a tissue paper craft I once did with E. We had several sheets of colored paper which we cut into different shapes, and then glued onto waxed paper. We layered the different colors, and then put a black contruction paper frame around it. When we held it up to the light, the colors blended and overlapped, as well as stood out in contrast to each other.

My families' past is like that window of light that E and I created. Each memory is like a scrap of tissue paper. The memories might different colors for the different years, but each shape is the season or holiday that defines it- Christmas may be squares, Easter circles, or summer vacation the triangles. My parents kept that shape for us in the traditions we kept. The colors might have changed as the years went on, but what shaped our memories stayed the same.

I have been thinking about these memories as Ed and I try to shape the seasons and holidays for our own family. We too, have built traditions into our lives- apple picking, valentine breakfasts, July 4th parades, and of course the many ways we celebrate Christmas throughout the month of December. This past Saturday we decided to introduce the kids to a new tradition that I had enjoyed as a kid- the light show in Center City. We took the train down to Market East, and walked the block to the department store.
When my family used to go, it had been "Wanamaker's" now it is "Macy's". The memories came back as we entered- I knew exactly which way to go, even though it has been almost 25 years since I was last there. The place was packed, but we got a spot to watch as the lights dimmed and Julie Andrews' voice rang through the store. It amazed me that the show was exactly the same, although in the modern times of the Comcast light show in 3-D, the kids weren't as impressed or thrilled as I remember being when I saw it for the first time. We then followed the flow of the crowds up the escalators to the Dicken's Village display of The Christmas Carol .
It too, was exactly as I remembered it, although we didn't have to wait in line back then- I remember racing through the display with my siblings a couple of times as we were the only ones there. This year the crowds snaked through the display, shoulder to shoulder. The kids listened as I read the story out loud to them from the posted signs, but it felt a little rushed, and I think it may have been hard to hear with all the background noise.
The one thing that was missing was the real electric "El" in the kid's department. It used to run around the ceiling, and my sisters and brother and I would get a thrill as we rode it and looked down on our parents waiting below. I understand that it is now on display at the Please Touch Museum, but it doesn't run anymore.

We didn't linger in the city, as it was mid afternoon and K was ready for her nap. On the return trip home the kids discussed their favorite parts with us (predictably, the train ride). I don't know if this will become a yearly tradition for our family, but in sharing this part of my childhood with my children, I am sharing part of myself, part of who Papi was, and in turn, it becomes part of who they will be.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Family Photoshoot

I am always admiring my friend Judy's photographs, and so when she offered to take pictures of our family, I jumped at the chance! She had us meet at a nearby mansion and we had a little photoshoot. The lighting was perfect, and we ended up with some really nice shots. The older kids did a great job posing and smiling,

but K's smile was elusive.

She had just woken up from a nap, and was in a funk.

Nevertheless, Judy captured a few smiles despite K's best attempts to thwart her.

I am excited that we got some photographs for our Christmas card this year. I wasn't sure what I was going to use, so this was great. Thanks Judy!!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Introducing the two newest members of our family!

Jasper and Blossom!

As some of you may know, we have a cat-crazed daughter. From the time she could say the word, she has been yearning for a kitten of her own. When E was two and a half, we were in a restaurant that displayed an assortment of stuffed animals to purchase. She immediately fell in love with a stuffed kitty, and wouldn't put it down. This first kitty was named "Mama Kitty". In the next couple of years, she started to collect an assortment of little beanie babies that she named, and added to her "kitty family"- Vanilla, Chocolate, Holly, Marshmallow and Georgie. Every night she slept with her kitty family, and dreamed of the day that she would have a real kitty cat.

There were several obstacles preventing this from happening. Our family was still growing, and I didn't want to add any more animals to the mix. And then there were all the allergies to be taken into consideration. Although I grew up with cats I had developed an allergy to them during my teen years. I was babysitting kids that were allergic, and then our small church group met in our home, and there were allergic people in there. Also, there were several allergic moms in our playgroup. But then I wasn't babysitting those kids, our church group split up into a couple of different groups and the allergic members were no longer in our home, and finally the moms that were allergic in our playgroup had other commitments and couldn't come anymore. But most importantly, my allergies seem to have improved. I think it had alot to do with having children, and my hormones changing. I can now hold and pet cats, but still have to be careful not to touch my eyes afterwards.

Ed and I started talking about the possibility of getting a kitten about a year ago. We really wanted to surprise E on Christmas morning, but it wasn't kitten season in December, so we decided to hold off. We thought about it through the summer, but we were going away so much, we didn't want to do anything until after school started. Of course back to school time is crazy with all the schedules and activities, and we just didn't have the time to consider it. We finally got a breather and realized kitten season was at the end, and if we wanted to do this, we had to act fast or we would be in the same situation as last year.

So Friday afternoon we called up the cat rescue lady (CRL), and set up an appointment. We told E when she came home from school, and she couldn't believe we had changed our minds after all these years. When we got to the house where CRL lived, we went up to her special "kitten room" where she had a collection of about 10 kittens. We looked, played, discussed, and decided on two little grey tabbies- a brother and sister pair. We had been talked into two kittens by the CRL who said that they would be much happier in pairs, and it would be easier for us. We saw the wisdom in this, and left with our two new little bundles of joy.

On the way home, E declared the girl kitty would be "Blossom". I didn't see anything wrong with that name, so Ed and I discussed possibilities for the boy. Although I liked "Basil", as it went with Blossom as sibling name, Ed wasn't too thrilled. He suggested "Jasper", and I liked it well enough, so "Jasper" it is.

The kitties are still settling in. They spend most of the time in the laundry room where we have their food, litter, beds, and toys. We occasionally open the doors and let them come upstairs, under close supervision, but they are nervous around Holly and seem to prefer being in their safe zone for now. Their favorite spot is in their cozy bed on top of the dryer. They cuddle in there together, while keeping an eye on who comes in and out. Jasper is more of the snuggle bug, and loves to sit right under my neck while Blossom is the playful one. She runs, chases toys and explores and then when she is exhausted, she consents to sitting in our laps for a snuggle session.

It's fun to see all the kids loving on the kittens, but it is especially nice to watch E with them, knowing that these kittens are the answer to so many of her wishes and prayers.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

A shocking wake-up

I woke up this morning, wandered into the bathroom, happened to glance in the mirror as I yawned... and stifled a gasp. Aaargh! My tongue was BLACK! Yes, black. I leaned in closer, sticking out my tongue to examine it, my mind racing. It looked like I had spent all night sucking on licorice. I had no idea what had caused it, "Could it be some weird fungal infection?" Other than the color, I looked, and felt healthy. I grabbed my toothbrush and took an experimental stab. It seemed to work. I added toothpaste and scrubbed my tongue for a minute before rinsing and inspecting. Phew! I breathed a sigh of relief- my tongue looked normal again, but still- what had caused this?

After dressing, I went down to my computer where Google once again came to my rescue. I typed in "I woke up with a black tongue", and to my surprise, I got an immediate hit. Several of them in fact. It seems that "black tongue" is a little known side effect of chewing on Pepto Bismol tablets before bed. There is an active ingredient in the medication that reacts with sulfur to create the black substance. I had taken a couple of tablets last night to combat some bloating, so it was obvious that the Pepto was the cause of my alarm.

On further reflection, I could have probably used this information in my "fake sick day" arsenal 20 years ago. There were several occasions when I could have used one more day for studying, or to finish a report.

At any rate, just remember this the next time you wake up with black tongue. Be reassured that you are not dying of some weird disease, or fungus- it is merely an embarrassing (and a little gross) chemical reaction in your mouth!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Soccer Saturdays

I always looked with pity those parents who were stuck on the sidelines all Saturday morning, in the rain, cold, blazing heat. I would cruise on by in my dry/warm/cool car thanking my lucky stars that I was not one of them...yet. I knew the day was coming, but I figured that maybe Ed could take over that aspect of parenting, and I could stay at home. Then E started soccer in kindergarten, and I found that I couldn't really stay in the comfort of my home in good conscience while I made my 5 year old go out and brave the elements for an hour of running. If I was going to put her through torture, the least I could do was cheer her on. And she did think it was torture, so after serving her time and putting in two years, she was allowed to move on to other pursuits while we had a blessed year of soccer free Saturdays. (Can you tell I am not a big sports fan?)

And then it was N's turn. The first few weeks were pleasant enough, with sun, moderate temperatures and our whole family went out to the field to support him. And then it started to cool down, and we had a couple of rainy Saturdays. So there I sat,
that parent, huddled on the sidelines in my canvas chair, trying to shield my body as well as KK's with the umbrella, cheering for my sodden son as he chased the ball. N doesn't seem to mind the weather, and cheerfully heads out to play each Saturday. He seems to enjoy the game, so I have a feeling we have many years ahead of us. Even though I don't love the game, I love the player.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Autumn '09

So what have we been up to in the past couple of months? Well, since you asked...

The months of September and October are always full of seasonal activities. Sometime in mid-September we go apple picking with our family. This year we also went with my sisters, mom, and our friends. It was a beautiful evening, and the kids had fun climbing the trees, going on the hayride, running through the pumpkin patch, and of course, sampling the apples.

Then in October it is the other side of the family's turn as we go out to eat, and then on to the pumpkin patch with Ed's parents, brother and sister. We had a gorgeous fall day this year, and it was so much better than the torture we endured last year. Last year we had a 2 hour wait for lunch, which meant that we ate around 2, then the day was unseasonably warm in the 80's, so we were baking out in the fields. Plus the babies were overdue for their naps and d-o-n-e. I left thinking "Never again". Yet, we decided to give it one more try- setting out earlier in the day so that we wouldn't have to wait to be seated, and not over Kaelin's nap time. The tradition was redeemed by a perfect day.

Later that same day our family took a walk in a nearby park and enjoyed the sights and sounds of autumn in PA.

On Halloween we finally got around to carving our pumpkins. Each kid picked a design to put on a pumpkin. They all helped to scoop out the goop, and then Ed and I set to work on the tricky part of carving.

We ended up with
a cat:

a soaring owl (hard to see):

a silly face:

and a winky emoticon;)
For the kids' costumes this year I had a plan brewing to dress them up as Wendy, Peter Pan, and Tinkerbell. N had plans of his own to be Optimus Prime, since last year when his friends were and I told him he could be it next year. So we were driving home from Target and he asks me

"What am I going to be for Halloween?"

"Peter Pan"

pause..."I thought I was going to be Optimus Prime..."

I was feeling a little guilty, so I decided to compromise. "Ok, you can be Optimus Prime for the school parade, and then Peter Pan when we go trick-or-treating."

longer pause..."How 'bout if I am Optimus Prime for both?"

"How about if you are Peter Pan for both?"

"OK, I'll be Optimus Prime for school, and Peter Pan at home"


Ed shook his head when he heard this story, and didn't quite agree with my hijacking the kids' costume ideas. But I figured this is probably the last year I can do this cute theme, so I went ahead anyway, feeling a little guilty but they were so cute on Halloween!
Here is N as Optimus Prime at school:

And here are the 3 kids as Wendy, Tinkerbell and Peter Pan:

And N even got into it once he was given a dagger as part of the costume:

The actual night was rainy, but the kids still had fun. I had to take K back early when she complained about the rain,"My princess is wet!" and begged to go inside one of our neighbor's homes "My go inside?". She was so in love with her costume that she insisted on wearing it the next morning over her pj's.
Maybe I can convince her to be Tink again next year