Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas!

We've been laughing a lot, eating a lot, relaxing a lot, opening a lot (of presents). What fun! I got everything on my Christmas list. Lucas got more than he could have imagined, for sure. He can hardly figure out what to play with next or who to hug next. What fun!

Merry Christmas to you and yours!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Two years, a reflection

Tomorrow Lucas will be two years old.


It is hard to believe.

Over the past few weeks I've been reflecting a lot about this time two years ago, the Advent season. Preparing for the birth of Jesus. Preparing for the birth of Lucas.

When Lucas turned one, I didn't do much reflecting. Of course I was excited about his birthday, but I felt like I was the one who deserved a party. A cake. Presents. Heck, even a medal or something. I had done it. I had survived my first year of motherhood. Lucas was happy and healthy. I was happy and healthy. Abel and I, our marriage, it was happy and healthy. What an accomplishment! Yes, it was a group effort for the three of us.

But come on. Really, it was me.

Happy Lucas's First Birthday to Mama--that's what I wanted the cake to say. That's what I wanted the cards to say.

Now, as we approach his second birthday I'm feeling less like the occasion is a personal victory celebration and more like the occasion is a true celebration for and of Lucas. (I'm sure it helps that this year he will be excited about the cake and the presents and the singing of Happy Birthday.)

And, I've been reflecting.

Two years ago, I think truly, for the first time, I understood Advent. The waiting. The hoping. The anticipation.

Two years ago in church we were reading the Gospel of Luke. It gave me a personal thrill whenever I heard "A reading from the Gospel of St. Luke" from the pulpit. We had already chosen the name Lucas and so I felt a special connection to St. Luke.

I'll never forget when we got to the reading about Mary going to see her cousin Elizabeth: the baby John "leapt" in her womb.


Before being pregnant with Lucas I didn't really understand that verse. How can a baby leap in the womb? What an exaggeration, I thought.

But two years ago, I understood. For indeed Lucas had lept in my womb! And now he leaps into my arms!

What a gift Lucas is to me. To us. To all who know and love him. I look forward to sharing Advent with him for the many years ahead of us. To sharing my own stories of the waiting, hoping, and anticipation of his birth during the season of Advent.

What a gift!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Grammar Pet Peeve: Me vs. I

Okay folks. Here's the deal: I am a big fan of correct grammar.

I love grammar.

I admit that faithful readers might take issue with this statement. But, I rebut their examples of sentence fragments, etc. used in my blog posts with this: my blog is all about casual-write-as-I-talk writing. When I am writing something formal, I promise that I use proper grammar, punctuation and more!

Lately I have noticed over and over and over again the incorrect use of "I" and "me" in sentences both written and spoken. Now folks, the people using these pronouns incorrectly are otherwise intelligent and often highly-educated people. And when they use I and me incorrectly, to me, it is like nails on a chalkboard.

Grammar Girl tackled this subject in her podcast/website over the summer. If you want the technical explanation of subject pronouns and object pronouns check out her post. (Oh, and if you, too, love grammar or could simply use a little help in the department and don't already know about Grammar Girl then be sure to check her out!)

Here's my tip for figuring out when to use I or me in a sentence: simply take the other person out and say the sentence again. Your ear will know what is correct.

Here's an example:

David took Jane and I out to dinner.

Sound correct?


But now read it like this: David took I out to dinner.

Now you can hear that it is wrong.

Here's the correct sentence: David took Jane and me out to dinner.

Remove Jane from the party and you'd have: David took me out to dinner.

Ding! Ding! Ding! That sounds correct and it is!

Grammar Girl surmises that people are "hypercorrecting" themselves, writing, "Most grammarians are sympathetic to people who say between you and I because it's considered a hypercorrection. The theory is that people have been so traumatized by being corrected when they say things such as Ashley and me went to the mall instead of Ashley and I went to the mall that they incorrectly correct between you and me to between you and I."

Just so you know, I am not one of those grammarians who is sympathetic. Use my little trick. I promise it will work and you'll write and speak better!


Jumping down. From soapbox.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

January shopping list

In addition to the wonderful necklace I am sure I'm not getting for Christmas, I'd like to add this to my January shopping list. Otherwise, I'm sure I'll completely forget about it and I really want to have it for next year. Thanks Design Mom!

Dum da da dummmmmmm

In case you've been totally curious about what we look like... here we are!

Left to Right: Lucas, Smiling Mama, Abel, my sister Sarah


Thanks, Mom!

P.S. Doesn't Lucas really look elf-like in this pic!!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

My Christmas List

I only asked for two things for Christmas. One I know I am getting. The other, doubtful.

You see, I told my dad in August. Yes, you read that right, August. That Abel and I wanted a new digital camera for Christmas. It was almost as much a gift to him as it would be for us. He loves to research things.

And we gave him four months.

Four months to search on-line. Four months to grill everyone he knows about their camera. Four months to ask random strangers about their digital cameras. Four months to ask me questions like: what is more important to you, the size of the camera or the optical zoom. My answer every single time was: I trust you to get us the best digital camera with a reasonable price.

It drove my mom crazy.

But, I'm sure we'll be getting a GREAT digital camera under the tree.

The second thing I asked for is this. Only with my initials, of course. I adore Lisa Leonard's blog and her hand-stamped jewelry. I've wanted a piece for MONTHS but could never really justify buying one for myself. So, in early December I told both my sister (who has my name in our family exchange) and Abel that this is what I wanted.

I'm not confident that either one of them purchased it for me.

Sarah hates to buy people what they ask for. Yet, she always has the hardest time picking out gifts. Hmmmm.....

Abel, on the other hand, is a last-minute shopper and I would be SHOCKED if he placed the order in time for Christmas delivery.

Sar and Abel, no need to feel guilty as you read this if you didn't get me the necklace. I've already decided that I'm going to buy it for myself in January!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Christmas Cards

Sending Christmas cards is one of my favorite holiday tasks. I've sent my own Christmas cards out since my freshman year in college and have always gotten them in the mail right after Thanksgiving.

Not this year, though. This year I just mailed them on December 15.

There were are few reasons for the delay.

For weeks I was in a big debate with myself about going the easy way out and doing a photo card from Kodak Gallery or Snapfish or one of those sites. I poured through their designs and there were many that I really loved. My hang-up was that those cards leave very little room for a personal, hand-written message, and most of them are not very religious.

You see, I can handle most of the commercialization of the Christmas season, but I take pride in always sending a religious Christmas card. For the past several years, I've purchased our cards from Ministry of the Arts a group of wonderfully talented Sisters of St. Joseph. This is our card this year. And, I also ordered a few packages of this card for our Jewish friends and some others. I like it because it isn't specifically for Christmas but still feels very spiritual to me. I also take pride in hand-addressing my cards and writing at least a short note in each one.

For the past two years we've also included a photo of Lucas in the cards. This year that was also a major hang-up. You see, our digital camera died a few months ago. I know we are getting a new one from my parents, but in the meantime, we needed a Christmas photo! So, I bought a disposable camera and we took an entire roll of Lucas in his wagon outside--in our front yard and at our local park. There were three good ones and one great one. We're thrilled with it!

So, on Saturday, just a few weeks later than I would have liked, I felt the satisfaction of putting 67 beautiful, religious, hand-addressed, photo-enclosed Christmas cards in the mail!

If you are one of the lucky people to receive one, Enjoy! (And sorry to be so late this year!)

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Christmas gift list - Eric

It was so fun to post the items we are getting for Lucas that I thought I'd post a few more.

But then I realized that certain people who read my blog would then find out what they are getting. I am 99.9% sure that my brother doesn't read this so it is safe to post his gift.

ERIC - if you are reading stop now.

I mean it!

I'm determined that this is going to be a surprise and if it isn't then I'll know and you'll be in big trouble!!!

Okay. Coast is clear. Here's what we've ordered for Eric:

Isn't it cool? Ork Posters has several cities for sale. While Eric now lives in Philly, he used to live in Brooklyn and really loved his neighborhood (Park Slope). When it arrives, we'll get it framed and I'm sure he'll hang it proudly. Thank goodness Abel agreed to this idea of mine in just one day and got his order in before they all sold out!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Practically all done

So my last post mentioned that I am practically all done with my Christmas shopping.

Who remains on our list?

Anyone that Abel is responsible for.

I start making a list of gift ideas around Thanksgiving. I take charge of my parents, Lucas, whomever I've received in my family's gift exchange (this year that's my brother-in-law). On Abel's side of the family I can generally get away with taking charge of his mom, our sister-in-law and niece.

So that leaves whomever Abel has in my family's gift exchange (this year that's my brother), Abel's dad and his brother.

Every year the process of buying gifts for Abel's dad and brother has driven me CRAZY. Here's how those gifts usually go:

Smiling Mama: How about if we get your dad A and your brother B.
Abel: I'll think about it.

A few days later...
Smiling Mama: Oh, your dad would love C. Let's get him that.
Abel: He hasn't given me a list yet.

A week later:
SM: Oh, let's get your brother D--he'll love it!
A: I don't know what he wants.

A few days later:
SM: Let's get your dad E.
A: I'll ask mom what he wants.

A few days later:
SM: Did you find out what your dad wants?
A: I'll ask him.

A few hours later:
SM: Did you ask your brother what he wants?
A: He doesn't want anything.

A few days later:
SM: Okay, let's just get your Dad F and your brother G.
A: Let me think about it.

A few days later:
SM: Okay, seriously, we have to ship presents and I want them to get to Ohio before Christmas what are we getting your dad and brother?
A: I'll find out what they want.

A few days later:
A: Okay. Fine.

Christmas Gift List - Lucas

It is official, I am totally excited for Christmas!

I'm practically all done with my Christmas shopping, eagerly anticipating my sister's arrival from California and looking forward to some relaxing days with the whole fam. at my parents' house.

I'm especially excited about Lucas's gifts.

Last year we knew Lucas would get tons of stuff from his grandparents, aunts, uncles and great aunt and uncle, so we bought him a Tickle Me Elmo TMX and opened up a 529 college savings account.

This year we're still restraining ourselves gift-wise but have bought him a few things that I know he will love. Here's the list.

1) A Cranium Super Fort Lucas loves to hide and crawl into small spaces. I know he will love this! And, I am convinced that it will be used for years! Initially I think we'll build a fort for him, but as he gets older, he'll be able to use all the pieces to construct his own forts--indoors or out. I think we will actually give this to Lucas for his birthday one day early on Dec. 21. That way he can play with it at our house before we leave for Pennsylvania. (Oh my gosh, I am a terrible mom of a Christmas baby. Well, I guess when he's older and accuses me of just taking a Christmas present to use as a birthday present this is the evidence that will indict me!)

2) Melissa & Doug Deluxe Gallop-N-Go Stick Pony w/Sound
This arrived yesterday and it is really a beautiful toy. For the last few months Lucas has been using any sort of long tube or stick to gallop around the house saying "horsey" "horsey". He is going to be so excited to have a "real" horsey to use!

My only dilemma with this toy is the batteries. I'm torn about putting them in at all. One one hand, I think that Lucas would get a kick out of the sound effects. On the other hand, I'd love for him to make his own sound effects. We'll see....

3) Rolling Suitcase

Whenever we go somewhere or someone comes for a visit, Lucas loves to push around their luggage. I thought about getting him a small character suitcase but realized we could get him a real rolling suitcase for less money! And, we'll actually be able to use it for trips.

4) Zoe doll

We love Zoe almost as much as we love Elmo. I picked this up the other day and can't wait for Santa to give it to him!

So those are the "big ticket" items. He'll also get a stocking filled with things like mittens, a new toothbrush, a book, a small elephant toy, maybe a few small cars/trucks.

I just can't wait for Christmas morning!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Works for Me Wednesday: Magnetic Walls

Yay! I'm so excited to be back at Works for Me Wednesday!

What works for me? Magnetic Walls!

Recently my husband renovated our basement turning it into a multi-purpose family room. As we considered the layout, we wanted to give lots of space for a play area.

Though our son isn't producing wall-worthy art yet, I know he will be someday soon and gave some thought to how we would display it.

Brainstorm: Magnetic Walls!

In one corner of the room, we used magnetic paint primer to transform the walls into magnetic surfaces. The paint is very very thick gooey black. The more layers you paint, the stronger the magnetic pull. We put about 3.5 layers on. Then you let it dry for at least 24 hours and paint your regular paint color over it. There is a slightly different texture to the magnetic surface, but nothing is noticible from a few feet away.

We love our magnetic walls! We purchased magnetic letters and Thomas the Train magnets for them. And, we got creative with thin decorated wood shapes like a train, truck, duck, frog, that we glued magnets to. Lucas LOVES playing with the magnets and gets a kick out of the fact that they stick to the wall. (Disclaimer: none of these magnets are as strong as those which have been recently recalled. Also, they are generally large and flat, not choking hazards).

I'm really looking forward to displaying artwork on the walls, too, when he's a little older.

What works for me? Magnetic playroom walls!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Spreading joy and germs

So from my last few posts you may have realized that we had a nasty stomach virus going around our house. Lucas got it on a Thursday night. But then was totally fine on Friday and Saturday. Abel and I were fine. So, I decided to proceed with my "Babes and Babies Brunch" on Saturday.

It was a wonderful affair. Many of my closest girlfriends came over with their babies and toddlers. Everyone brought supplies for a local Refugee Resettlement Program including lots of baby gear, towels, toiletries and other sundry items.

I made great food. We had champagne cocktails. We caught up. We laughed. Everyone was so generous! It was an all-around great time.

But apparently more than good cheer was shared that day.

Late Saturday night the nasty stomach virus struck me. And Abel. And apparently at least four more of the "babes" and one of the "babies" in attendance. And it spread to their spouses. And their friends.

Abel tells me to expect "depressed attendance" next year.

Sorry girls! Hope everyone is feeling better by now!

Definition of True Love

In my freshman honors English class my professor told us that her definition of true love is "caring when someone is constipated". At the time I thought that was just gross. I definitely did not understand what she meant.

Until one day I did understand what she meant. Until I did care when someone was constipated and he cared when I was. Ah, I had found true love.

Now I've got a new definition.

True love is when someone* throws up all over you and you don't throw him down onto the floor, you hug him closer, cleaning him up before yourself.

True love.

But both those things are still pretty gross.

Disclaimer: I think this only applies to toddler age and younger. No way I'd do this for Abel.