Tag Archives: gratitude

Gratitude 2014

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HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

I’m writing this in the wee hours partially because I had a big mug of coffee ice cream at 9:30pm, so I’m wide awake and partially because I’ve been trying to write a post for about 17 days and am determined to finish this one before we leave for New Jersey later this morning. (Mostly because of the coffee ice cream.)

Earlier today, the Loud One told me that she LOVES Thanksgiving because there’s so much good food. And by that, she means crescent rolls and pie.

I told her that while she is not alone in thinking about Thanksgiving as a food-centric holiday, it’s really important to remember that this day is about gratitude; you know, giving thanks. She said, “Right. I’m thankful for my family,” and I said, “That’s great! I’m thankful for coffee.” She said, “You can’t say that!” and I said, “You’re right… I SHOULD have said that I’m thankful for the creamer that goes in my coffee because without that, the coffee tastes like… bad.

It goes without saying that I’m extremely thankful for my family – immediate, extended and in-law’ed. I hit the lottery on all three accounts and man, do I know it. I also have several friends that I know would drop their coffee/wine/desert to help me out if I needed it. (You all know who you are and which choice belongs to you… ) I’m truly [hashtag] blessed.

BUT…

It’s also the little things.

So with that in mind… I give you my Gratitude List for 2014. Randomly selected and in no particular order, here are the things that I’m thankful for right now.

The Thanksgiving Day parade
It starts in less than eight hours and I CAN’T WAIT. I love seeing Matt Lauer and Al Roker and [insert female host here] in their festive winter garb – red scarves and Irish sweaters – making small talk about those talented Spirit of America dancers and about Snoopy’s tenure in the parade (36 years!). I love the odd pairings on the floats like Carrie Underwood singing with the Pilgrims, KISS hanging with the Sesame Street gang and Meghan Trainor following the Pillsbury Dough Boy.* I love predicting what the annual controversy will be – another ill-placed Victoria’s Secret ad? Or maybe a performance by the cast of Kinky Boots? I love it all. I really hope Jimmy Fallon and The Roots sing “We Will Rock You” again this year because that really spoke to my soul in 2012. *These are all real, scheduled balloons and musical acts this year, although I did make up the combinations. 

Anne Lamott 
After finishing Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers a couple of months ago, I became fairly interested obsessed with Anne Lamott and now I can’t stop reading her words. ALL OF HER WORDS. I think many of her sentences are like tiny works of art and I feel like I’m becoming a slightly better person just by paying attention to her. I also feel insanely jealous of her talent, so maybe I’m not THAT much better yet.

Given it’s the day of thanks, you can start with this: Counting Our Blessings: Why We Say Grace.

The Mindy Show/Parenthood/The Shonda Rhimes Thursday Night Line-Up
Yup, I’m thankful for TV. Look, I have to fold a lot of laundry. I can either do it in sad, boring silence OR I can watch Scott Foley sit in a hole with no shirt on (Scandal reference). Seems like a pretty obvious choice to me.

Also, Mindy Kaling is FUNNY and Parenthood makes me cry. For the whole hour. Every week. It’s like therapy.

*I could be grateful for technology in general, as it allows me to waste countless hours each day on social media like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, but since I simply cannot grasp the concept of tumblr or reddit, I’m going to just stick to TV.

Odd-shaped bookmarks

Originality? Ummm...

Is it a tree? Or…

The fact that I don’t have to cook Thanksgiving dinner
I feel really lucky to not be responsible for a turkey or the majority of the Thanksgiving Day meal (thanks Keith and Colleen!) because all I know is that I made this one dish today and it took me almost two hours and I used EVERY pan and bowl in the kitchen.

Teachers
I shared this conversation I had with the Nibbit on Facebook but it’s worth copying and pasting here:

Nib: Mr. S told us…
Me: Wait, who’s Mr. S?
Nib: He’s the teacher who comes in to teach us about healthy… ness.
Me: OH, cool.
Nib: Yeah, Mr. S told us that when we exercise – you know Mom, like run or jump – there’s a dance party in our heart.

A DANCE PARTY IN OUR HEART!!

Also, I spent two hours with the Loud One crying over long division the other day and that was about all I can handle. Her teacher handles THAT – multiplied by 21 more kids – many more hours each day. And then she still puts smiley faces on her emails home!

The Nibbit’s Kindergarten teacher creates and sends out a video/slide show every month with pictures she’s taken of the kids during the previous weeks. It has MUSIC! And that’s in addition to doing the usual humdrum things like teaching our kids to READ and WRITE and SHARE and BE KIND and KEEP YOUR HANDS TO YOURSELF. Unbelievable!

And our preschool teachers? Well, they’ve been heroic since I met them seven years ago. It’s going to be really awkward when I keep showing up there next fall even though I won’t have any kids enrolled. Co-op, consider yourself warned.

I am really thankful that these educators spend each day with our kids and teach them an ungodly amount of stuff. Because Lord knows, I could not do that on my own. I’m serious, the Lord really knows that. That’s why whenever I read stories about impressive homeschoolers, I hear a little voice that says, “That could NEVER be you. Put the kids on the bus and let those wonderful professionals do their thing.”

Rummikub 
It’s fun. That’s all.

The Backyardigans
They may be retired, but HD is still obsessed and they bring him a lot of joy. Although, today he asked for “the Backyardigans’ Mom’s and Dad’s houses” for Christmas… I am not sure how Santa is going to pull that one off.

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Roasted Vegetables
I arrived late to the “if you roast vegetables to a crisp, they taste better and your children will eat them” party but believe me, I am here now! My friend Smitty calls it the “carcinogenic sauté” which I’ll admit, does not make me feel like Mother of the Year, but hey, they’re eating vegetables!

Humans of New York 
Restoring my faith in humanity one post at a time, Brandon Stanton is proving the point that “Everyone has a story that will stop your heart” (Claudia Shear). Plus, it’s the ONLY place on the Internet where it’s safe to read the comments.

Last and most definitely not least and not really so “little” …

The good health of my children (knocking so much wood)
Last week, my boys were sick. The Nibbit started dragging on Sunday morning and by Monday he was down for the count. It was a bacterial bronchial infection according to the Urgent Care doctor, which is code for “nothing you can do about it.”

So we just sat. Rather, I sat and he slept on me. His skin was so hot that I had to put a blanket under his face so it wouldn’t heat my blood to a boil. Basically, for two days, we were on the couch. He was so sick, he couldn’t even be nibbity. That was distressing. (and maybe a tiny bit nice.) 

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Tuesday night at midnight, I was giving him a routine dose of Tylenol when I heard a sound come from HD’s room that scared me like a stranger in the dark. I ran in there to find him coughing and desperately trying to get a deep breath and failing. Croup. Channeling my inner-Debra Winger, I took him into the steamy shower and we basically alternated hours in the shower with hours of this:

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And then the next day, we all looked like this:

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Of course, they got better and by the fourth day, they were JUST sick enough to justify sippy cups of juice on the couch.

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Thank God they recovered. I do, thank God. I don’t take their normal, noisy, active, crazy little selves for granted; I know how lucky we have been.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. Make happy memories today and count your blessings.  

Here are four of mine.

Here are four of mine.

PS. I’m also grateful for coffee ice cream because it helped me stay awake to finally finish this post. Also, because it’s delicious.

 

 

 

Giving Thanks. A LOT of Thanks.

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I’m going to share with you something I wrote in a moment of sadness last year on Thanksgiving morning. But stay with me… it all has a happy ending.

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I Always Broke the Bread

That was always my Thanksgiving job. Every year, I would roll out of bed at what… 10:00am? 11:00am? (Remember those days?) And make my lame offer to help.

<yawn> “Mom, what can I do?”

“You can break the bread for the stuffing,” she would say every year.

Every year, she would explain that stale Wonder Bread was good for the stuffing. I would break the bread. She would look over my shoulder to make sure the pieces weren’t too big. “That’s fine,” she would tell me.

Every year.

Every year, I would roll out of bed and the house would smell delicious. Like turkey and holidays and warmth.  I could smell the warmth. I can still smell it today. I’ve never smelled warmth like that anywhere else. I don’t know if it was the turkey, the cooking, the house or just her.

Every year I would make a lame offer to help and every year, I only broke the bread.

Then we’d watch the parade. Or rather I would watch the parade; she would listen to the parade while she single-handedly made Thanksgiving dinner.

I never said, “Why don’t you give me a bigger job? Or another job? Or let me help with the whole meal? Or TEACH ME how to make Thanksgiving dinner so that someday I can do it for it my family?”

Why didn’t I say any of those things?

If I had, I might now know how to cook a turkey. Or make stuffing. Or fill my house with the fantastic smell of welcoming. Or simply create warmth.

Instead, I only know how to break bread.

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I was really sad when I wrote that. I was full of regret that was bigger than just not asking how to cook a turkey. Did I tell her that I loved her often enough? Did I tell her I loved that she served the cranberry-sauce-from-the-can-with-the-ridges even though she was the only one that liked it? Did I tell her that I appreciated all the manual labor that goes into making mashed potatoes? Did I tell her that I was thankful simply for her?

I was feeling so awful, so I did the only thing a sane person would do in that moment. I opened the box of chocolates that was supposed to be part of my brother-in-law’s Christmas present and ate one two three all of them.

And then, I did the second thing. I reached out to someone I knew would make me feel better.

I emailed my sad, little story to someone I love and got this response:

“I’ve been reading this over and over.  A couple of thoughts – how could a memory like this be sad? How awesome is it to remember a house that smelled like warmth and love? How happy would your Mom be to know this is one of your memories of her?  And finally, don’t think for a minute that creating that kind of family, warmth and wonderful memories has anything to do with cooking.  She taught you everything you had to know.”

I know. Here’s a tissue. I’ll give you a minute.

Take as long as you need.

I’m going to channel my inner-Chandler Bing for a minute and say, “Could there have BEEN a more perfect response?” No. I’m sure that’s why I sent my sad words. Because I just knew I would get something perfect back… something that would make me ugly cry. And then smile for a whole year.

This year, I’m so grateful for that response and the person who sent it. Because if I wake up tomorrow morning and my house doesn’t smell like turkey, I’m going to remember that it doesn’t mean I haven’t created the same kind of home and warmth that my own Mom created. And that somebody believes I can.

This year, I am also so grateful to be surrounded with such an incredible family. I’m so thankful that I still have my Dad. There’s still time to ask him to explain complicated things… like economics. I’m so thankful to have the siblings that I grew up with and the ones I met later in my life… all of whom are my closest friends – and a huge extended family of aunts, uncles and cousins who, while I don’t see them often enough, never feel far away.

This year, I’m grateful for all of my friends – my oldest friends (some of whom I’ve known my whole life), my newest friends (some of whom I feel like I’ve known my whole life), and all of the friends I’ve kept in between (back when we wrote letters instead of status updates).

This year, I am so grateful to have won the Loud One, the Nibbit and Happy Dude in the kid lottery. As the Nibbit would say, “I love you to the moon and to the stars on a rocket and to California and to the smoothie store 137 times.” (Of course I just throw the “INFINITY!” at him and that shuts him up.) It’s impossible to put into words how grateful you are to have healthy and [mostly] happy kids. I won’t try.

I’m grateful for KJ. That guy is so patient and funny and kind and he never says to me, “When are you going to STOP being such a bitch in the morning?” I cannot believe he has never said that.

Lastly, I’m so grateful for the following things that make my life a bit better on a daily basis: the iPad and Amanda (the two best babysitters in the world), Annie’s Macaroni & Cheese and Belle & Evans chicken nuggets; soldiers, doctors and baristas; Matchbox cars and books about trucks; tequila; Matt Lauer; sea salt caramels; all of my kids’ fantastic teachers and lastly, the best next-door neighbors in the whole world.

I’m sorry, I didn’t mean for this to sound like an Oscar speech, but once you get started, it’s hard to stop, you know? It’s so cliché to say that I have so much to be thankful for, but it’s also so damn true.

Greer Garson gave the longest Oscar speech in history. It was way longer than this post. Be thankful for THAT.

So, I leave you with this:

Tomorrow. Be thankful, of course. Be thankful for the meal, but more so for the people you’re sharing it with. Be aware that you’re literally creating memories for the people sharing your space. Make them good ones. Make them warm.

Remember those that can’t be there with you, but know they are with you in spirit.

And if your Mom is the one that makes Thanksgiving dinner, offer to do more than just break the bread.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

I’m so thankful you read this whole thing.

I’m Thankful for YOU, Howard Schultz

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I mentioned in a previous post that there’s a trend on Facebook right now to post an update every day about one thing for which you’re thankful. (I’m not sure if that’s proper grammar, but I am thankful that since this is my blog, it doesn’t really matter. Suck it Elements of Style.)

I’ve been working on my own Gratitude List. I’m going to be honest with you – Starbucks was super high. Like higher than some humans. And then, when I kept writing Starbucks sub-posts, I realized that I love SBs so much, it really deserves its own list. So, without further ado, I present to you:

My Gratitude List: Starbucks Edition

The top ten eleven things I love and appreciate most about Starbucks. (I thought it would just be ten. But the love just kept coming.)

1. The Ubiquity – Oooooh, big word, kmac. I know. (I’m not entirely sure I used it correctly… did I?) I mean that it’s awesome that there are four SBs accessible to me. Sometimes, I’m embarrassed to go into the same one for the third time in one day, so it’s good to have a back-up. And a back-up for the back-up.

2. The DRIVE-THRU – Yup, that fourth branch has a drive-thru. BEST. INVENTION. EVER. Because who needs caffeine more than a sleep-deprived new parent? Nobody. And what does a sleep-deprived new parent always have in the backseat? Yup, a sleeping baby. Or maybe you have three kids ages 2, almost 4 and 6 and you do not want to subject the good customers of your regular SBs to their… volume. (That’s actually really kind of you… you must be a good person.)

3. Flat lids – OK, confession: this one is really just my way of saying that I HATE the bubble lids. Unless you’ve ordered a Frappuccino with whipped cream (and if you have, I must ask… why not just go for the Blizzard at Dairy Queen?), than you should not be subjected to the bubble lid. Every once in a while my SBs runs out of flat lids and the bubble lid RUINS MY DAY. #IsSheKiddingMeWithThat?NoIAmNot.

I’m all for reusable cups but a permanent bubble top? NO. (I mean no, thank you.)

4. The holiday cups – does this one even need an explanation? If you don’t feel happy when those red holiday cups appear, then I feel confident in saying that you have a heart made of stone. Or just a stone where your heart should be. Or whatever. We can’t be friends.

Those mittens? The winking snowman? COME ON.

 

5. The Starbucks inside the Barnes & Noble – Now I know this one may be a bit controversial, because it’s not a real SBs and the Grande Skinny Vanilla No Foam Latte you get there doesn’t taste exactly like the Grande Skinny Vanilla No Foam Latte you get from your three other local branches, BUT bookstores are my second favorite retail destination ever so combining the two is like heaven in a strip mall.

Side note: for years I’ve told KJ that I’m jealous that he likes to play golf and is a huge Yankees and Jets fan because playing a round or going to games are multiple-hour-outings. It’s not nearly as acceptable to say, “Hey, can you take the kids for the day on Sunday? My laptop and I want to go sit at B&N and drink pseudo-SBs for five hours.”  

6. Skinny Vanilla Lattes – It just makes me feel virtuous to order it. “That’s right, I’m drinking the SKINNY version… I’m kind of a health nut.” (For those of you asking, “What makes it ‘skinny?’” the answer is, “I’m not telling you.”)

7. The logo – Admit it. You get psyched when you see the familiar green, long-haired goddess on the sign that says, “Rest Stop: 22 miles ahead.” That’s right road trip buddies… 22 miles until euphoria!

I’m on my way!

 

8. The Horizons chocolate milk boxes – OF COURSE I’d rather go to SBs without my kids. Obvious duh. But if they HAVE to come, it’s good to know that I can keep them quiet enjoy their company because SBs has a little something for everybody.

9. The scones. At only 1,687 calories and 243 grams of fat, I try not to have one every day. Or twice a day. But the pumpkin variety is worth the splurge every so often (how are we defining “every so often” these days anyway?).

10. The variety of seating options. Look, if I need to work (omg, calling writing for EW.com or NickMom “work” will NEVER get old), I like the standard table and chairs. But if I’m meeting a friend to catch up and we can score the two plush comfy arm chairs? Oh my, that is a Good Day. We’re drinking our skinny lattes (OK fine lazypants, here you go), curled up in the comfy chairs, gossiping about everyone else we know (<— I don’t really do that), it’s like Christmas morning. Maybe even better because I wasn’t jumped on at 4:30am.

11. Saying Grande & Venti (see #4 and #5) – Yeah, yeah… I know it’s cooler to act like you think saying “grande” or “venti” is dumb and “why can’t they just use medium or large?” Whatever. You say dumb. I say BILINGUAL.

Look. If you prefer Dunkin’ Donuts, I get it. I mean I don’t GET IT, but I’ll accept it. I’ll secretly laugh at you inside my brain, but we can still hang out.

At Starbucks.

No, no, no SBs… THANK YOU!

Sick Boys and Gratitude

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This post was written at 3:00am. Please keep that in mind when you start to feel critical of all the typos.

Yesterday, Happy Dude woke up from his nap on fire. He was burning up and while I’m never really able to get a reliable temperature read, I did the patented cheek-to-forehead-touch-followed-with-a-kiss move, and I estimate that he had a fever of 103.8˚. I know it’s not unusual for kids to run a high fever when they’re fighting a bug, but that doesn’t make touching their BURNING HOT SKIN any less disconcerting.

He was pretty cranky for the rest of the day. “Cranky” for Happy Dude just means not 100% smiley and cooperative. It also means that when the Nibbit takes one of his cars (normal), Happy Dude FREAKS out (normal) but then he cannot recover (not normal). HD cries over this injustice for many, many minutes… long after the Nibbit has thrown the car back at him and has moved on to terrorize someone else.

Anyway, we fed him a steady stream of Tylenol, Advil and apple juice and he went to bed fairly easily.

Well, this morning, I received a call from the preschool saying that the Nibbit had a strange cough and was experiencing some labored breathing. I picked him up, rushed over to the Pediatricians’ office where he was promptly diagnosed with the croup. The doctor thinks that Happy Dude is probably carrying the virus too because apparently you can carry the croup virus without barking like a seal.

Side note: Is it even possible to think about croup without thinking about that scene in Terms of Endearment where Debra Winger is holding her baby in the steamy bathroom and they’re both sobbing? NO. IT’S NOT.

Side, side note: I also think about that movie whenever I add a candy bar to the grocery store check-out conveyor belt at the last minute.

So, I went to bed four hours ago expecting the worst. I expected the barking cough to start any minute and figured we’d be up all night in a steamy bathroom eating candy bars that I threw on the conveyor belt at the last minute.

I was pleasantly surprised when I heard the first cry at and saw that it was already 2:02am! I had already gotten three hours of sleep! Victory!

I headed into the Nibbit’s room, gave him another dose of Tylenol and he went right back to sleep. Easy peasy. Score: Me 1. Croup 0.

Moments after falling back to sleep (of course), I heard more crying. It was the Loud One this time and I immediately thought, “Oh no. She caught it.” I went into her room and she was whimpering about having a bad dream about being really allergic to puppies. Seriously? THAT’S your idea of a nightmare? Soothing words, blah blah blah. Back to sleep. And it was STILL only like 2:20am, so of course I’m thinking, “If I fall asleep RIGHT now, I can still get four more hours of sleep!”* Score: Me 2. Croup 0.

Then about a half an hour ago, I heard Happy Dude. And he was NOT happy. I ran into his room and the poor kid was trembling with fever. And moaning. I woke KJ up to help me with the Tylenol and after we got him medicated and calmed down, I rocked his little trembling body until he was back to sleep. And not trembling anymore. (Yea for drugs.)

So now everyone is back to sleep except for me. I’m wiiiide awake. And I probably will be until about 5:30am when I fall asleep only to be awoken again 12 minutes later because the Nibbit wants the iPad.

Anyway, the whole point of sharing this looong story is this: if the whole trembling baby thing had happened a week ago, prior to my sharing my tendency to over-react to worry about things, I would have been really nervous. I would have thought that maybe that trembling baby was, in fact, the other shoe dropping… that the shaking and the fever would escalate and we would eventually be in the ER and then we’d be told that he has some terrible trembling-baby disease and then … you get the point.

I would have looked like this:

BUT after I wrote that post about worrying, something crazy happened. I found out that I am FAR from alone in Crazy Town. SO MANY OF YOU LIVE THERE WITH ME!! I HAVE A LOT OF NEIGHBORS IN CRAZY TOWN! Sorry, I’ll stop screaming.

A few people left comments on the blog, a few on Facebook, but mostly friends came up to me, face-to-face and said, “I worry like that, too. I have cancer dreams, too. I AM CRAZY, TOO.”

So as I sat rocking that trembling baby a half an hour ago and I started to worry just a little bit, I immediately told myself, “You are just entering Crazy Town. This is normal. Your friends live here, too. BUT this baby is going to be fine.”

And then I looked like this:

In conclusion (I know, it sure as hell took long enough) I just wanted to say thanks for letting me know that I’m not alone. It helped.

And now I’m going to lie in my bed wide awake for the next two-and-a-half hours.

Postscript note: as expected, Happy Dude is indeed fine. He and the Nibbit are both still under the weather, but nobody is trembling with fever anymore. Cars & trucks play (and stealing) has resumed. Phew.

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*My Dad and I both have a habit of doing this… we’re always calculating how much sleep we’ll be able to get if we fall asleep RIGHT NOW. And then, immediately upon waking up, we calculate how much sleep we did get. It drives other members of the family (who shall remain nameless, P.) crazy.