Friday, December 31, 2010

New Year's Eve

Normally, I would get a little introspective on New Year's Eve, reflecting on the past year. But I forgot to do that this year. Instead, I've had five glasses of wine. I had planned a pretty intense entry for tonight, but I think that's going to have to wait until tomorrow night. After a nine hour car drive. In a hotel room... Hmm... Maybe I should try to pull something together tonight.

I don't normally like New Year's Eve. It's a time to panic about everything that you didn't accomplish during the past year. And time to worry about what you're going to do to celebrate a chance to start all over again. But tonight, I'm spending it with my husband and best friend. Justin is currently singing (and performing hand gestures) to "I Want It That Way". It's no Times Square (Louisa and i did that in 1999/2000). But it's getting me ready to start 2011 on the right foot. And, trust me, I want it that way...

OK. Enough bad puns. I'll get reflective tomorrow. Promise. I need it more for me than for you. Not that you aren't valuable. Oh, boy. I think I need another glass of wine.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Communication

So... I'm not sure how much about my evening I can post, since I'm still frustrated about it. This is the frustrating part about knowing that my spouse reads this blog... All I can do is urge you to please be clear and concise when communicating with spouses. And then be more clear. Maybe put it in writing. In several places.

And now, since I've urged you to be concise, I will be as well. More for the sake of getting back to level 15 of Angry Birds than being concise, but...

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Bourbon Trail

I don't like to think of myself as one of those mom's who arrives at her parents' house and doesn't do anything to take car of her child until she's on her way home. But I am. I haven't gotten Robbie up in the morning since last Thursday (actually, he got me up pointing to Barkley's eyes and nose at the other end of the bed). Come to think of it, that is the only time in his life that Robbie has slept with us all night. But back to me being a dedicated mother...

When we come home, Mom puts Justin and me in the basement bedroom. This allows us to escape completely from the sounds of a little boy early in the morning. I tell myself she doesn't get the opportunity to do this often, so really I'm doing her the favor. Right...

Then there are days like today, where I sleep an hour later than my son. Days like today where I'm not the one feeding him breakfast or, for that matter, doing anything with him. Days like today, I'm headed out for some fun on my own and leaving Robbie at home with Nona. And, being the excellent mother that I am, I have a phone that dies at approximately 10:45. Justin's died around 1:00. Fortunately, I knew Robbie was in the hands of someone far more patient and capable than I. This is why I found it perfectly acceptable to travel the Bourbon Trail all day today with Tom (stepdad extraordinaire) and Justin.

Maker's Mark was our first stop, and it was incredible! There were fresh baked cookies in the kitchen. Everything was hands on (yes, I sampled the different stages of bourbon by sticking my hand right in the vat). Justin and I both dipped our own bottles. It's pretty evident whose is whose. The dipper lady told me that the "professionals" aim to have between 5 and 7 drips on a bottle. I had six. Justin had one. But it went all the way down the bottle. The one I dipped is for Robbie's 21st birthday.

Does that count as another strike against me? I didn't get up with Robbie (1). I didn't feed him breakfast or get him dressed (2). I left him all day (3). My phone died two hours after I left (4). I'm already planning his 21st birthday. Nah, I won't count that one. I will count the fact that I didn't change a diaper all day (although that may just be really smart parenting).

None of the other distilleries measured up to Maker's Mark... But we went to all of them: Jim Beam, Heaven Hill (OK, we just drove past it), Four Roses, Wild Turkey, and Woodford Reserve. It's hard to believe that I lived in Kentucky for over 23 years and never did this. It's even harder to believe that it took 31 years for me to realize there are tourist attractions in my state!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

On, On U of K!

Justin and I went to Rupp Arena for what has become our annual Christmas break basketball game (I think after three years it becomes a tradition). Always against a no-name team. Always a blow-out (I think it's been 30 points the past two years). Always a great reminder of what we are missing living so far away from Wildcat Country.

Justin and I hauled ourselves across downtown Lexington in about ten minutes tonight (a perk of a smaller town than Boston!) and made it into our seats just as they began announcing the starting line-up for Coppin State (you know you haven't heard of them before, either; according to Justin, they're a school in Baltimore not known for their basketball). We were there for the fireworks. We were there for the tip-off. We had amazing seats. But something was missing, and I don't mean Robbie (don't panic; he was at the dinner we left early with my parents).

Although the game was more exciting than the lackluster showing of Billy Clyde's Cats in 2008 (can you believe that guys STILL doesn't have a job?), it didn't have the magic about it that last year's did. There was no John Wall. There was no Cousins. There was no anticipation about seeing the NEW Kentucky Wildcats.

But you know what? None of that really mattered to me. Well, it did a little. I think what was more important was the nostalgia. Watching the student section, seeing the college students living the life that I had ten years ago (how has it been a decade?). Remembering the most important games we've been to (mine is still Pitino's first game back as Louisville's coach in 2001). Waiting for the UK pyramid at the end of the second half.

Being home is a very conflicting thing for me (and Justin, too). Being here makes me want to move home, be closer to family, live a life that I know would be comfortable and "easy"-ish. But I also know that I'll go home to Boston on Sunday and fall in love with life up there. I'll love the snow and my friends and my job. I guess this is the part of life that we can't necessarily plan. I worry that if I want to be home in Lexington so bad that I try to force it to happen, I might be disappointed in how it all turns out. So I'll enjoy my time at home and let life take me on the journey I'm supposed to have. And I'll thank God every day that he gave me a wonderful man to travel with (oh, and a pretty great little boy, too).

Monday, December 27, 2010

Tangled

We took Robbie to his first real movie today. I say "real" movie because he saw The Hangover when he was two weeks old and Avatar when he was five months old. But today was the real deal: Tangled at the Movie Tavern. And it was a fail. Not an epic fail, but a fail nonetheless.

Robbie was bored with all of the "no talking/no cell phone" portions, but he immediately became entranced when the previews came on. He stayed that way until about thirty minutes into the movie. That was when the real fun began. Robbie started yelling, "Hi!" every few seconds. And then he started his loud fussing. Thus ended any attempt I was going to make to actually watch the movie.

Now, even though I said the afternoon at the movie was a fail, that just meant for me. For Robbie, it was probably one of the best afternoons of his life. He ran up and down the hallway. He met all the people working in the theatre. He busted into different movies. He ran up and down the aisles in an empty theatre and managed to conquer going down stairs. It was an ultimate win.

I don't think I'll have enough energy to try taking him to a movie until at least spring break. But, since we're going to be on vacation then, I think I'll be able to get away without taking him until at least Memorial Day weekend. And even then, only if there's something good out.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christmas Adventures

Where did Christmas go? I spent the past five (seven?) weeks so excited for it to get here: making Christmas cards, decorating the house, dragging my family out to buy the perfect tree, shopping, traveling to see family. And now it's gone. Over. I cleaned up all the presents and boxes and paper in my mom's basement after we got home this afternoon. The tree looks empty; it's uneven branches are even more apparent. But, as I type, I'm sitting next to the tree, surrounded by my family and thinking that maybe I need to remember that Christmas isn't just on 25 December...

Roberto had a big day on Christmas; he got to celebrate three different times! As soon as we got up, we went over to my mother-in-law's house. Robbie got all the classic toys: the wooden bench with pegs to hammer, a Bozo punching bag, a sled, and a Sit 'n Spin. I wasn't sure what he would do when faced with a four-foot tall Bozo replica. Personally, I was a little disturbed. But, Robbie, undaunted, immediately tackled the clown to the ground and went back for more as soon as he popped up.

When we got back to my mom's house, it was almost time for breakfast. However, Hilary and Hunter wanted to get Robbie ready for his big day. As soon as he got upstairs, I heard the screaming start. And continue. And get louder. And louder. It didn't stop until my child was back downstairs and running into my arms. In a pimp suit. That's right. Robbie was fully outfitted in a gray Little Kings suit, complete with a purple shirt, vest, and coordinating striped tie. I'm not entirely sure it was designed with a white boy from Boston in mind, but Robbie wore it as well as he could.

The present-opening extravaganza continued all day, only interrupted by a brief nap before driving to Cincinnati. There were presents to open, trash to throw away (how did I manage to get a child concerned with picking up after himself?), and food to eat. He played with his toys, focusing mostly on his new baby laptop, which I'm hoping will be a nice substitute for banging on mine. I almost burned the fire hose meant to go on the truck of Robbie's new fire station. I'm still enjoying the irony of that.

Robbie doesn't really understand the meaning of Christmas, but it was so fun to watch him see presents and have his eyes get big. They say Christmas is for children. But for my money, I think it's for the parents who get to watch the children.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Eve Snow

On my way to bed... Don't want Santa to see that I'm still up. But, since the snow started, we all went outside to make snow angels. No coats. Just snow angels. It was awesome.

Merry Christmas!

What Did You Say?

We survived the ride home in relative silence yesterday.

video

We found the noise preferable to constantly pulling over to readjust the luggage rack. It also drowned out any fussing that Robbie might have done (not entirely sure that he did any!). And it meant that Justin and I sat in the car without listening to music or talking to each other. For nine hours.

Even now that I've been out of the car for twelve hours, I can still hear the ringing in my ears from the luggage rack. As one friend put it, it sounded like we were sitting on the engine of a small plane. Hopefully, we'll remedy the situation before heading home. Mom already has a few suggestions for things that might make it better. And she usually knows best.

I'm feeling much more human now that I've slept for ten hours. Rob seems to be adjusting to life outside of his car seat, although I am a little concerned about him going through movie withdrawal. That's all he did for 17 hours in the car. Movie after movie after movie. I'm a little worried about how easily he zones out in front of a screen, but I'm willing to overlook that and exploit it during travel.

Now that we're finally home, it feels so good to just be. Sure, our room is a disaster. Some of my presents came unwrapped. One of them broke (my loving seester went out last night and found a replacement for me). Justin lost (and found) his wallet. But we're here. Now it's just time to relax, enjoy family, give some presents, and relish in just how wonderful life can be. Because it sure is fantastic.

Happy Christmas Eve!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Morning After

We left for Kentucky last night. Since I only have minimal time before we leave the hotel, here are the highlights:

1. The framed work that was supposed to be ready for pick-up at 4:00 wasn't. It took an extra twenty minutes with Robbie, Justin, and Barkley in the car waiting.
2. Don't tie luggage straps to the care across the width of it. This makes a horrible noise that is only slightly preferable to screaming child.
3. It was snowing when we left Boston and the traffic was horrible.
4. Wendy's in Meriden, CT, does not have a baby changing station. This is extremely inconvenient for anything involving poop and total clothing change.
5. A small Frosty comes with a kid's meal at said Wendy's. This makes up (almost) for the lack of a changing station.
6. Hubands can be unforgiving when a child comes out of the restroom with crisscrossed overall straps. They often refer to it as an "epic fail", which just seems cruel.
7. Being the watcher of the luggage rack is stressful. Particularly when it moves suddenly in a high wind are and the only place to stop is the side of the road as truckers race by. It's even more stressful the second time you have to do it.
8. My child does not sleep on road trips. Ever. Even at 12:15 in the morning. He prefers to scream and did so from 11:00 to 12:30.
9. It is not easy to watch a luggage rack in the dark.
10. My child thinks hotels are for playing. We arrived in our room at 1:00 this morning. He went to sleep at 3:00 this morning. THIS constitutes an epic fail.
11. My dog is crazy. He needed to be let out at 12:30, 2:30, and 7:30 to make sure we are safe.
12. I'm not entirely sure we'll make it to Kentucky in one piece (or at least with the luggage on top of the car).
13. Our hotel room is stocked with a variety of Jolly Ranchers. Most of them are watermelon. My son is trying to make up for last night by bringing them to me.

See? I told you there would be stories!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Ready? Set? Road Trip!

Somehow, I made it. It's 11:00, and I'm exhausted. But, I'm also as ready for this trip home as I'm ever gonna be. I didn't get the cookies baked, but that's OK. Justin's finishing up the laundry (he politely did mine first). The presents are all wrapped. The suitcase was broken, but we found a bigger one to fill.

Just one more day of work and then it's time to hit the road. I'm so ready for 3:07 tomorrow afternoon. For now, I'll settle for a hot shower and six hours of sleep.

Since I know you all wait with baited breath for a post every night, I want to give you fair warning that there may not be one tomorrow. After a full day of work and eight hours in the car... It just might not be in the cards! I'm sure there will be some great stories, though.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Unprepared

My entire day today can be summed up in one word: unprepared. Unprepared for how crazy the kids would be at school. Unprepared for snow on the ground (I was wearing flats with no socks). Unprepared for all the work left to do before leaving for Kentucky. Unprepared.

I accomplished a lot today. I graded half my email inbox (the best way for kids to turn in assignments, by the way). I made my way through most of the papers on my desk. I got all the snowflakes my students made hung (there's nothing like seeing grown boys cut snowflakes and then get competitive about it, unless it's watching inner-city boys do this). I got the house picked up. I rolled, cut, baked, and decorated 90 sugar cookies. I started a load of laundry to ensure clean clothes tomorrow (the pants I'm currently wearing have been pulled from the hamper three times). And now? Now I am tired. But I thought you'd like to know how my day went.

There was a highlight to this crazy Monday. When we got home, there was about half an inch of snow on the ground. I set Robbie down on the porch to open the door, and he realized he was standing on something difference. He did a little dance on the porch and watched the snow move under his feet. I can't wait to see him the first time he really gets to play in it.

And now I'm off to finish my day of unpreparation (is that even a word) with a hot shower and a comfortable bed.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Christmas Day

Christmas comes early at the Manna house - the last Sunday before Christmas. Since we travel to Kentucky for the holidays, it's nice for us to have our own family Christmas (and it saves the trouble of transporting toys 1000 miles). It's also important for me that Robbie has his own family traditions, even if they are what I did when I grew up.

The morning started with Justin and Robbie making their way downstairs. As you can see from the previous post, I had the tree all set up with our presents to Rob and Santa also came overnight (I think it was a dry run). I did my best to get a picture of Robbie's face when he came into the room and saw all the toys in front of the tree. A slow grin spread across his face, and he looked at Justin and me to make sure it was OK to play with them.

He dunked the basketball and mowed the grass. He tore open presents. He sat on the Sit 'n Spin and had me twirl him around. I was actually most nervous about that present; I was just sure it would end in tears. But, Robbie loved it. He kept sitting on it and scooting his bottom to make me push him around. It was so fun watching him enjoy everything. Being frugal with my time last night, I threw everything I bought for Robbie into one big box (I also figured he wouldn't have the attention span to open every little thing, and I was right). He had a blast going through the box and finding new things.

Robbie's first Christmas was special, but it's nothing compared to the first Christmas that he actually participated in. I know he still doesn't really get it, but he understands toys. Boy, does he understand toys!

Tomorrow is the start of the last three days of school. I'm so ready to be off for a week and a half and to see my family. But, like Thanksgiving, Christmas kind of snuck up on me at work. I usually have to get through the last few weeks with a countdown on my board. Not this year, though! And there's still so much to do: presents to wrap, cookies to bake, laundry to do, suitcases to pack... But surely it'll get done. And if it doesn't, maybe I can borrow Santa's elves on the 26th for the laundry part.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Quality Time


Every now and then, I forget how much I like my son. I love him more than anything. It's the liking that I sometimes lose track of. Before you start thinking I'm a horrible mom, let me explain. In the scheme of things, I sometimes get so bogged down with work, keeping the house clean, teething and crying, and just surviving in general. I do what I need to do with Robbie to get through the day and don't always get to spend a lot of extra time just playing.

Not today though. Today was all about Robbie time. We woke up around 7:45, and Robbie and I cuddled up in bed to watch A Muppet Christmas Carol, an important family tradition. He looked at me, impressed and wide-eyed, as I said the lines while they happened on the screen. He laughed hysterically when I sang along with the songs. I think he's really going to appreciate the finer qualities of film.

This afternoon, Justin went to a Bruins game with the Silletto men, and Robbie and I went on a play date. He went crazy playing with Max, Noah, and Pete; the four boys ran around like mad men. They dumped toys out of bins. They climbed in the bins. They bounced around. They had the time of their lives. And the moms all finally got a chance to catch up.

It turns out that all of our sons have lost their minds. They're throwing tantrums, sleeping erratically, refusing to eat foods that used to be their favorites... You know, being boys. It's so nice to know that I'm not alone or raising a brat.

I think the real "liking" came tonight when we finally got home from our play-date-turned-dinner. Robbie patiently waited while I booked a grooming appointment for the dog and talked to a sick friend. He stood in front of me, while I sat on the rocking chair, with his head on my knee. He smiled up at me while I rubbed his head, melting my heart.

When I finally got off the phone, Robbie climbed up into my lap and asked for "wawa" for the first time ever. He snuggled in while I read Trucks Roll, the book he picked out for tonight. Once it was over, he cuddled in a little closer and looked up at me. We made googlie eyes for a little while, and he pointed to my eyes, nose, mouth, teeth, and tongue - wanting to know what each was. And, before he fell asleep, he was able to say and point out "eye" and "nose".

It was hard to put him to bed. I love those nights where he wants to cuddle a little longer. Time slows down just a little bit and everything else that I have to do doesn't matter so much anymore. But, eventually, it's time to go back to reality.

I got the house picked up, groceries organized for cookie baking, and presents wrapped and put under the tree for the Manna family Christmas tomorrow morning. I'm ready for another day with Robbie and promise to make the time to really enjoy his company instead of just moving from one thing to the next so quickly.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Chinese Christmas


It was Christmas at daycare today! I wish I'd known; I would have sent cookies or something... Or not because we were up late finishing the Christmas cards last night. Anyway... Chinese Christmas is something we look forward to at our house every year. This year was a little more exciting because Robbie was actually aware of what was going on (instead of his five-month-old self that just smiled with drool pooling on his bib last year).

He came running to the door this afternoon, carrying his Christmas prize: a stuffed Santa that he picked out himself (Addie also chose the Santa, while Luke chose the "flake" - translated, this means "snowman"). Zhining also gave us what is sure to be my new favorite Christmas decoration (previously a mouse house made for me 30 years ago by my babysitter). She makes figures out of clay, and she created a Santa and a Christmas tree. They are set up in a clear box with a picture behind them of the kids in daycare. She also put in a picture of Robbie running around a tennis court this fall because that was an important thing that happened this year.

It means so much to me that Zhining devotes so much of herself to QiQi. She made a Christmas gift bag for the whole family, including two "balls" (oranges, Robbie's most favorite food ever) and an assortment of Chinese food that QiQi loves (and Justin and I are developing a taste for). I actually look forward to some of the snacks now (she sometimes has an afternoon snack for me when I pick Robbie up). Zhining also included some pictures over the past month of Robbie with the other daycare kids. My favorite is of Robbie and Pete on tricycles next to each other.

I'm sure everyone thinks they have the best daycare provider, and that's important for you. But, we really do! And, since we have the daycare provider of the century (I know, you'd think it was a little early to call "of the century" in 2010), Christmas shopping for her is difficult. I don't want to give her just cash; I want to give her something that shows how much we appreciate her, how vital she is to our lives, how much we love her (yes, even Justin!). A gift card seems impersonal. Zhining isn't a frivolous woman, so I'm not sure that something like jewelry would work. I thought about pajamas because she definitely deserves some downtime, but that seems too personal. And, even though her job would drive me to drink, I don't think she does. I guess I'll just have to wander around stores aimlessly until the right thing hits me... Or until a creative reader posts a suggestion!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Dog Days of December

The morning started like any other. I woke up at 5:45 and desperately had to go to the bathroom, but I knew that I couldn't. After all, that would wake up Robbie and end my half hour of continued sleep. Much better to lay in bed with a full bladder than deal with a crying baby...

Everything continued as normal: put hair in rollers, slip on fuzzy flip flop slippers, wear fleece UK robe, moisturize, let the dog out. It was the last one that got me. When I went back downstairs to let Barkley in, I noticed that the trash hadn't been put out front. Being the good neighbor that I am (and the fact that most of the trash was ours), I decided to take it outside the fence. I planned to take it to the curb when I went to leave. But, since I was already there and already had my hands on the trash cans, why not just take them out now? Save myself time later. Right?

I got the first can to the curb and came back to get the second one. I praised Barkley for being such a good dog and staying put. Then I took the second can out. When I looked up, I saw that Barkley had joined me. Suddenly, a sinking feeling took over. And Barkley started walking down the street. Quickly.

I did the only thing I could think of. I followed him, maintaining a calm facade. And, just to fulfill your mental image: I was wearing striped pajama pants, a t-shirt, my pink, fleece UK robe, and blue fuzzy flip flop slippers. Oh, and my hair was in rollers. I was a vision...

Barkley continued walking down the street, undaunted for my calls and attempts at bribery (he was not interested in the recyclables placed intermittently down the street). He reached the corner and turned. At this point, a runner dashed past and laughed at my predicament. Barkley continued down the road at a good clip. When he reached the corner, he stopped and looked at me. I crouched down and, sounding as pathetic as possible, called my dog, who came running and nearly knocked me over with all his enthusiasm.

In a moment of brilliance, I tied the belt of my robe to his collar and walked home as quickly as my frozen little feet could carry me. And learned to never take the trash out on a Thursday morning. Surely Robbie will be old enough to take the trash out on his own soon. Or Justin will remember that the trash comes on Thursday mornings and volunteer to take it out Wednesday night. Or I'll just take it out when Barkley isn't in the yard. Yeah, that's probably it.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Glitter, Glitter Everywhere!

It's that time of year again: Christmas card making... Every year I tell myself that I'm going to get them started early; I'm not going to be stressed out about them the third week in December. But then October seems so early. And I feel like I'm rushing things if I start in November. So, once again, here we are in the third week of December.

You'll notice I said Christmas card "making", not "signing". Not to ruin the anticipation for anyone on my Christmas card list, but... We have a stack of penguins this year. I swore I wasn't going to color, but the penguins didn't look cute with a black body, black eyes, black lips, and black feet... So, I colored and stamped 288 penguins. And glitterized 96 icebergs, which one of the cats is now walking on.

There's still some work to do. I need to stamp "Happy Christmas" or "Happy Wishes" or "Christmas Wishes" (I am refusing "Happy Christmas Wishes" because that's an extra 96 stamping motions), and I have to attach the front of the card to the rest of the card. Justin signed them all for us (Justin, Erin, and Rob, since "Robbie" was too much to write 96 times). Oh, and the envelopes have to be addressed.

Thank God Robbie goes to bed early. It's the only shot I have at getting this done. And they have to go out by Friday to make it before Christmas. Plus, there are presents to be wrapped and cookies to be baked. I love the holidays! I love the holidays! I love the holidays! Someone pass the hot chocolate, please.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Pain in the Neck

Last Friday, I slept wrong and woke up with a horrible pain in my right upper arm. I expected (hoped?) it would go away with a good night's sleep on Saturday. Unfortunately, I couldn't get comfortable enough to have a good night's sleep. Sunday and Monday night were more of the same. Well, not the same because it was worse. Last night, I almost cried as I tried to work my way through muscle spasms down my neck, across my shoulder, through my elbow, and straight down my back.

Today I stayed home from work because I was unable to move anything on the right side of my body. I took Robbie to daycare for Justin, who was also under the weather. But I had to have Justin put the baby in the car because I couldn't lift him up to put him in there. Luckily, he could climb down from his car seat and walk into Zhining's house.

Afterwards, I went to have the right side of my body "fixed". It was one of the most painful experiences of my life. I nearly leapt off the table about three times. It turns out I had pinched something under my shoulder blade. It caused pain to shoot down my arm. Then, after three days of compensating for the pain, my entire right side cramped up. Now, even though I can move, I'm still sore.

Zhining, ever concerned when something is wrong in our family, gave me something to help with that... It's a Chinese ointment (liniment?) that she swears will make me feel better by tomorrow. Of course, since the instructions are written in Chinese characters, Zhining reminded me not to let Robbie play with it and not to ingest it. And, even better, she promised to bring me my own bottle when she goes to China next summer.

I suppose it's time to take off the Icy Hot (err... Walgreens Cold and Heat) patch, wrap my arm and shoulder in a hot towel for ten minutes, and rub the Chinese miracle on my shoulder and arm. Oh, and cross my fingers that it all works!

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Power of No

Robbie has recently learned "no" and all the power that comes with the simple word. He's known about shaking his head for a while now, but he wasn't quite sure how to use it properly. Every now and then, he would just move his head from side to side. But now that he can pair it with a solid "no", he's unstoppable.

Tonight, as we crossed the street, I asked Robbie for a kiss. He looked at me, shook his head, laughed, and said, "No." I asked him for a hug. Again, he looked at me, shook his head, laughed, and said, "No." Undaunted, I continued. "Do you know how to say 'yes'?" He paused for a moment, looked at me, and said, "Yeah." I'm still not sure what to make of Robbie's new-found comprehension skills...

He played the same game at dinner. "Do you want more chicken?" "No." "Do you want more cheese?" "No." "Do you want more milk?" "Yeah." And again when we video chatted with my mom, and we asked him to blow her a kiss. "No, no," with a big smile and shake of the head. I have a feeling we're going to hear a lot of this word over the next few years... But at least he says it with a smile. Even a "no" is hard to resist with that smile and those eyes.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Return to the Real World

I looked forward to this trip for over a month, and now it's over. I have returned from the frozen tundra of Montreal to the soggy streets of Arlington. The trip didn't go off exactly the way I anticipated; my friend Amy got horribly sick during the day Friday, so it was just Allie and me. We got into town around 11:00, checked into our hotel, and drifted off to dream sweet Canadian dreams. On Saturday, I slept later than I can remember sleeping in the past 17 months. I dragged myself from bed at 10:30 in the morning.

The weekend was a great time: a cute cafe for lunch, shopping at the RESO underground, a new pair of red shoes, fireworks over the St. Lawrence, a search for good Christmas decorations, and a terrible and expensive buffet dinner at the hotel. But this morning? This morning I wanted to get home and see my little boy (and Justin, too). I wanted to hug him and cuddle him. Allie and I left around 11:30 because the snow was coming down pretty heavy in Montreal. Incidentally, they do not have excellent snow removal in Montreal. The streets were HORRIBLE. Luckily, we were able to get home safely in about 5.5 hours.

Here are the things I have learned from my trip to Canada:
1. Border patrol employees do not have senses of humor. When they ask why you are going to Montreal, the correct answer is not, "To escape my husband and child." When they ask if you bought anything, they don't appreciate seeing the McDonald's bag you just procured.
2. Canadians have highway signs for spas. They are stick figures giving a massage. The do not, however, have signs for gas stations. This is particularly problematic when your "low fuel" light comes on and the GPS only shows gas stations that are 15 miles the other way.
3. Canadians tend to walk in packs of four or six and take up the entire sidewalk. It is difficult to get around them because Canadians driving down narrow roads often pull up onto the sidewalk. Speaking of sidewalks, it is important to note that sometimes there are deep puddles of melted snow. For a lesson on how to avoid these, please ask Allie. She was not able to avoid them.
4. Canadians are extremely friendly and willing to speak English. We tried our best with the French, which I think was appreciated. However, we did find that the English-speaking was limited to Montreal. When we finally found the evasive gas station, we stopped for lunch. We were barely able to communicate enough to order an Extra Value Meal... Thank goodness I knew the word for "bag" (sac, in case you're traveling to Quebec soon). Otherwise we would have had to carry our food out to the car piece by piece.
5. Red shoes at 50% off and the Canadian dollar are a terrific buy. I'm very excited to wear them tomorrow. I paid $20 Canadian. And Allie found a white wool peacoat for only $50. I probably could have done some more damage, but... You have to know when to call it quits.
6. When it sounds like fireworks, run quickly in the direction everyone else is going. You don't want to miss the show! We didn't know there were going to be fireworks, but the show over the St. Lawrence was pretty fabulous!
7. Sometimes, when you think about an Orange Julius, one will show up (that actually happened in Old Montreal; I mentioned that one would have been great while shopping, and there was an Orange Julius stand).
8. Canadian soft serve is different from American soft serve. It is much denser, and the chocolate has a lemony taste. This is where the Orange Julius came up; that seemed like better mall food than dense soft serve.
9. If you get caught making a right turn on red in Montreal, it will cost you $135 Canadian (so, approximately $134 US).
10. There are no Santa Clauses to be found in Montreal. And we looked. Maybe they just keep them above ground. There were none in the underground shopping, but there was a four-story Christmas tree.
11. There's nothing like returning home. Unless it's returning home to a baby who is thrilled to see you and comes running to you with a big hug. I'd imagine that would be nice. And maybe it'll happen next time. This time, Robbie just wanted to rifle through my purse.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Almost Free!

It's Thursday night, which means I have less than 24 hours before I leave Robbie and Justin alone for the first time. Even though I'm so excited about my trip away, I'm a little sad, too. What if Robbie does something amazing? Like talk in complete sentences? Or compose a symphony? It could happen...

I know this trip is going to be great. I'm already looking forward to the extra sleep for two mornings. And eating without worrying about feeding someone else. And not changing any diapers. But, boy am I going to miss that smile. And that laugh. And those hugs. And the occasional kiss when I've been a really good mom. I suppose those things will hold to Monday morning, though. And it's only fair that Justin get a few of those things while I'm gone.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Santa



This morning I woke up excited about tonight; it was time to take Robbie to see Santa! Like most things, I built this moment up in my mind. It was going to be perfect. Robbie would be his personable self and patiently sit on Santa's lap. We'd get a great picture to put up on the fridge next to last year's (we just never took it down). But, things went as they can only go when you've built up the perfect moment in your mind...

I got Robbie changed into his perfect Santa outfit when I picked him up from daycare (an hour late because of professional development meetings). Justin met us there, and it was off to the mall. We stopped for Chik-fil-a for dinner, and I smartly left Robbie's coat on and zipped up to prevent any damage to the perfect Santa outfit. Did you know Chik-fil-a gives a 50% military discount? Neither did I until after we placed our order... But excellent information to know for the future!

After dinner, we made our way to the North Pole. There was a near disaster on the escalator, where we learned why you aren't supposed to have strollers on them. A funny thing happens when a stroller wheel gets stuck: the escalator keeps going. Crisis averted, we continued down the mall with Robbie waving to passersby from his stroller. I think the kid's going to make a great politician...

We arrived at the North Pole, and Robbie sat up a little straighter in his stroller. It was like he could sense something momentous was about to occur. The line moved quickly, and, suddenly, we were at the front. Justin tried to pass Robbie to Santa, and the child turned into part spider monkey. He refused to let go of Justin. I finally managed to get Robbie, and we sat down next to Santa. The patient man handed Robbie a candy cane, which seemed to soothe him some.

Miraculously, the lady snapping pictures managed to catch Rob between shrieks. Instead of being in a full-on scream, he only looks merely horrified at his situation. Being the good mom that I am, I tried to pick the one where he appeared to be in the most distress. After all, if you're going to have a bad Santa picture (crying child, mom without brushed hair or lipstick...), you might as well go all the way. Justin and I are considering going to Natick to the Santa we saw last year next week. I know it sounds silly, but I like the idea of having pictures of Robbie with the same Santa.


The Christmas spirit was alive and well in Lawrence today, too. One of my favorite students stopped me in the hall today and told me he had an ornament for me. I wasn't sure I'd heard correctly, but he pulled something out of his pocket. It was, indeed, an ornament. He had decorated a clothes pin to look like a nutcracker. I was so flabbergasted! Later, I asked my student what had caused him to decide to make this ornament for me (even now, I still have a hard time picturing him sitting down to make it, surrounded by clothes pins, paint, glittery pipe cleaners, and puffy balls for hair). He said his niece and uncle were making Christmas ornaments, so he decided to make one. Earlier in the week, I'd told my kids that I had a list of all the ornaments I've ever received with the names of the people who gave them to me. My students said he thought that was pretty cool and wanted to be on my ornament list. And he did make the list; it will be the first entry for 2010!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Big Helper

The grocery store has the possibility of being a disaster. However, I have figured out a way of making it an interactive event resulting in fewer tears than I would have imagined. I discovered this several months ago but discovered the full power of the technique this afternoon.

Robbie was in full meltdown mode when we pulled into the Stop & Shop parking lot. I'm talking screaming, pausing for a deep breath, and screaming again at a higher pitch.He was somewhat calmer when I got him into the cart, reminding him of what a big helper he is in the grocery store. When I grabbed the first item off the shelf, Rob was in full helper mode.

It's a pretty good system we have down: I hand Robbie whatever I want to purchase; Robbie inspects the item; if the item is found to be acceptable, it is place in the back of the cart by Robbie. The only time this has really failed is when Rob misses the cart and the item lands on the floor. For this reason, all fragile items are handles by both of us. This also works well for heavy items, like bags of dog food. I pretend that it's so heavy I couldn't possibly do it without Rob's help. He giggles and helps me put it in the back.

However, all bets are off if there is an item Robbie finds particularly desirable. There were two of those tonight. One was a container of yogurt (the other seven were thrown back without a thought; the eighth was a coveted item). Yogurt is bad for this because the seal can be bitten through, causing quite a mess. The other item was equally hazardous, though for other reasons. I bought a roll of wrapping paper, which Robbie carried for about ten minutes. Much to the dismay of the other shoppers in the aisles who narrowly missed being knighted by Sir Robert.

We made it out of the store without a major meltdown, and, let's face it, that's really the goal of any trip to a public place. In fact, the event was so successful that Robbie did a victory dance at home. Now I just need to figure out how to get him through a trip to see Santa... video

Monday, December 6, 2010

Monday, Monday

Who needs Mondays? Other than half a dozen holidays during the year and my birthday every six years or so, they really don't do me any good. Particularly when they start thirty minutes before my alarm goes off after only six hours of sleep. Today was doomed to be a fail. Maybe not an epic fail, but still far below the passing line.

My day actually started at 12:38 when Robbie woke up crying. I still don't know what he wanted because he fell back asleep before I could give him his bottle. Fortunately, I was able to quickly fall back asleep. No such luck for the 5:23 wake-up call, which Justin dutifully answered. He brought Robbie back to our room (I'm still not really sure about the thought process there), where Robbie proceeded to fuss, pull my hair, head-butt Justin, smack my face, and drop a full bottle of water on me. Twice. I just didn't have the energy to do much about it, so I turned on Peter Pan, which Robbie did not want to watch.

I finally got out of bed at 6:30 (that extra hit on the snooze button was a real waste because that's when the bottle of water landed on me). I went through my morning routine successfully, even finding a matching pair of black dress socks. I took that to be a sign of my impending good fortune because, honestly, who finds that on a Monday morning?

Unfortunately, my auspicious morning only lasted about five minutes. I walked into the dining room shortly after I finished getting dressed to look for my shoes (I think; I could have been looking for anything). And then I felt it on my right foot. Startled, I stepped back with my left foot. Right into a huge puddle of dog pee. Lovely. Just lovely.

Already running late (remember it was a Monday AND I hit the snooze button an extra time - double whammy), I left Justin in charge of the mess and dashed upstairs to find another pair of socks. For those of you concerned about the small details (as I would be), I did take the soiled socks off before my stair dash. Unfortunately, there were no good socks to be found in my sock drawer. There were gloves, running socks, Justin's socks, and a hat for Robbie. But there were no dress socks. Knowing that school would be cold, I grabbed blue fleece socks. And found the missing shoes right next to my dresser. If only I had looked there first...

The day continued to get better as I arrived at school to find that there was no heat in our building. I spent the entire day teaching in my coat and gloves. But, never fear, my feet were toasty warm in their fleece socks.

On Mondays, I pick Rob and his buddy Pete up from daycare and then bring them home to play for awhile. In the past, the must-have toys have been the Swiffer and the broom. Tears have been shed over these items. To avoid such disasters, I put them up, sure that the boys would rather tear apart the Christmas tree. When we got home, I let the boys play while I straightened the living room. And then, sensing something incredible was going to happen, I looked up in time to see Pete dragging my Vac 'n Steam from the dining room. He got it appropriately set up and started to push the vacuum back and forth. I was tempted to turn it on and see what the kid could do... And I just might do that next Monday. After all, he did a great job with the sweeping.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Christmas Trees


I've been looking forward to today all week. Christmas tree day! The day our house will finally feel like Christmas. And, boy, did it start early. With that sickly sweet smell you can recognize as soon as you walk into a baby's room. Vomit. Everywhere. And my child? All smiles because it was time to cuddle with Justin and me.

He made a pretty fast recovery, although he didn't actually eat anything at all today. He had a few saltines and some Sprite, but that was it. Not even a bottle before he went to bed. I know it's important to keep him hydrated, but it's hard to force liquid into him. He does this every time he throws up; he gets wary about putting anything into his body, which I can respect.

What I appreciate the most about my son is his ability to persevere, even in the face of a stomach bug. Robbie happily climbed into his car seat for our trip to Tyngsboro to procure our family Christmas tree from our friend, Ken Times. We also took a family nap after returning home, where Justin slept, Robbie played, and I tried to sleep.

Finally, finally, finally it was time to decorate the tree! The moment I have been waiting for since at least two weeks before Thanksgiving. The tree went into the stand without trouble. The ornaments were in the living room. Everything was ready to go. Until Justin plugged in the lights. They didn't work. The lights I have been using since 2003. They had a good run, but getting new lights really wasn't in the plans tonight. After all, I was already on borrowed time with a sick, hungry, tired child. I quickly ran to the new CVS across the street to get more lights. After spending $9.00 on three boxes of lights, I darted back across Mass Ave., ready to decorate the tree.

Justin opened the boxes to put all the lights on the trees (this is a husband job) and found that the strands wouldn't connect to each other. They were all dead-enders. With only 50 lights on each strand, there was no way we could decorate our tree with just one strand. A quick trip to the grocery was a fail, so it was into the car and down to Walgreens. Fortunately, they had strands of 300 lights and, in a fantastic turn of events, Christmas DVDs.

Unfortunately, at home, things were deteriorating. Robbie was cranky and inconsolable. Tree decorating was put off again. With the baby finally down (Justin rocked him to sleep in the way that only he can do), my P90X workout completed, dinner eaten, and shower taken, it was finally time to actually decorate the tree. Justin and I turned on A Charlie Brown Christmas and opened 31 years of Christmas ornaments.

Justin patiently listened to me recount the stories of the ornaments: the ones I made, the ones from my sorority years, the ones we made together the first year we were married, the ones from Robbie's first ornaments. And, bless his heart, Justin didn't give up when he saw there was a second box of ornaments. He just kept hanging.

I'm not sure if you can tell really what the picture for this post is, so let me explain it to you. There are three snowman snowglobe ornaments. One reads Erin, another Dad (they were out of "Justin"), and a third Katherine. We bought them in the Macon Macy's the January I was pregnant. I went down to visit Justin while he was on active duty for 30 days, and we picked up the ornaments for about 75 cents apiece. I did look for a Robert, which they didn't have. However, I was so convinced that we were having a girl, that I didn't care. I bought the Katherine ornament, thinking that my daughter would really appreciate that I was so in tune with my body that I bought her an ornament without actually knowing she was a girl. Now I'm just hoping that Robbie will find the humor in the first ornament ever bought for him. And, knowing Robbie, I'm sure he will.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Clean House

I'm not sure when I turned into an adult, but I know it was sometime when I looked forward to Saturdays because it would give me enough time to fully clean my house. And that's how I felt when I woke up this morning. Justin had class all day, which meant he was out of my hair for the day. It was just Robbie and me. And a filthy house.

We avoided it in the morning by going to a craft fair, a greenery sale, and Wilson Farm. Robert went down for his nap easily, so I turned on the Kentucky game and got to work. Thank goodness I had the cleaning to distract me from the game... I only sat down to watch the last five minutes; I just listened to the rest of the game from various places in the house.

It took me six hours, but I did it. The kitchen is clean (even after dinner, with a newly cleared dishwasher). The living room and dining room are in mint condition (even the Pack 'n Play is organized). The bathroom? Don't even get me started on how cute the new Santa rug is on top of the recently sanitized floor. And the three bedrooms? Let me just say that beds are made and laundry is put away. Even the laundry basket full of clothes I wasn't sure where to put. Christmas presents are stashed appropriately.

And now? Now I'm blogging to try to procrastinate starting my Christmas cards because I just don't know how to get started. I even did 90 minutes of yoga to avoid it. But now, yoga done and house clean and stamp supplies organized and blogging close to complete... I guess it's time to start Christmas cards. Or go to bed. Hmm...

Friday, December 3, 2010

The 'Ish




Robbie loves his 'ish. He feeds him every night. He points to him every morning. And, if you ask him what a fish says, he will very proudly say, "Gulp." I know, I know. A fish really says, "Glub", but I say, "Gulp" every time Jake the Fish eats a piece of food. Robbie is very attached to Jake, and I'd like to think that Jake was attached to Robbie.

Yes. I said "was". Being the responsible pet owner that I am, I changed Jake's water last night because it had gotten uncomfortably low from Cookie Monster drinking it. I figured if it got much lower, he wouldn't have any room to swim and would die. And, since I accidentally boiled my fish when changing their tank in college because I didn't wait long enough for the water to go to room temperature (this is the first time I have publicly admitted that), I let Jake sit in a mug on the kitchen counter overnight. This is what I found this morning.



And, for the close-up...



I can only assume that a cat wanted some water and knocked over the mug. I don't think she (yes, I'm assuming it was Grover since she loves to hunt or Cookie since she was drinking the water) meant to commit fishicide. But, when the water was knocked over, and the fish came flopping onto the counter... Well, what was she supposed to do?

I explained the situation to Robbie this morning, and he took it well. He was concerned about the missing fish, pointing at the place on his dresser where Jake lived for the past five months, pitifully saying, "'Ish? 'Ish?" I have a feeling he didn't quite understand that a cat was the culprit here because he was loving on them five minutes later.

Robbie and I took a field trip this afternoon to Pet Supplies "Plus" (don't even get me started on the name...), and Robbie picked out a new 'ish. It's not the same as Jake or Fake Jake (last night's casualty). But Robbie doesn't really seem to care. He proudly held the bag with his new fish in it at the store, saying, "Gulp! Gulp!" Somehow, I think he'll pull through. I'm just hoping that I will.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Music Man

This morning, Justin and I were sitting on the bed engaging in our usual witty early-morning conversation. All of a sudden, there was music playing. A nice Bruce Hornsby ballad, actually. It was as if we were living in a musical, where conversations burst into song mid-sentence. Startled, Justin and I looked around to find the source of the music: Robbie and my cell phone (which used to be Justin's, explaining the Bruce Hornsby music selection). Robbie was sitting on the bed, phone up to his ear, rocking out to the easy-listening jam. It would have made the perfect video, but, well, Robbie had the phone...

Amused, Justin and I stopped talking and watched Robbie for a few minutes. Then, the song was over, and we went back to our conversation (obviously something very important that early in the morning). All of a sudden, there was more music. And it wasn't coming from the phone. It was coming from Robbie. I don't know if he was trying to mimic good 'ol Bruce or trying to do a mash-up of easy-listening and Chinese opera, but he was getting a real kick out of himself.

Now, Justin and I have never heard Robbie sing. He actually has a sweet little voice, even if he doesn't have any words... Apparently he practices his singing with Zhining most days. She practices her opera with the kids (it's nice to have a built-in audience), and young QiQi often joins in ("big song" has two meanings - he sings loudly or he cries loudly).

In other news, the house is now as decorated for Christmas as it's probably going to be. Except for the tree, which we'll get on Sunday. And, thanks to some lovely candles, it smells like Christmas. Maybe I'll have visions of sugar plums dancing in my head tonight... We can only hope...

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Wake-Up Calls

That sleeping-through-the-night thing? Didn't happen. There were two: one at 10:43 and the other at 1:25 when he kicked me in the head for the sixth time. Since there were no tears at bedtime tonight (probably due to a late and fabulous Chipotle dinner) and I gave him a dose of Tylenol, I'm confident that I will be sleeping through the night tonight. At least I think I'm confident...

It used to be that when I got to daycare, Robbie would open the door, smile at me, and run away. He wanted little (if anything) to do with leaving his friends and going home. After all, things are so much more interesting in Chinese than in our bland English-speaking home. He would kick and scream as I put his jacket on, picked him up, and carried him to the door. It really did a lot for my ego after a long day at work...

Something changed over Thanksgiving. All of a sudden, Robbie is excited to see me when I come to get him from daycare. He opens the door, smiles at me, and gives my legs a big hug. He stands still while I put his coat on. And (maybe this part is my imagination), he nearly leaps into my arms to go, giving his friends a big "I-love-my-mom-so-much-and-I-can't-wait-to-go-home-and-play-with-her" grin as we go out the door.

And, with a dance party like we had at home, who can blame him? video

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Kohl's

I took Robbie on his first Christmas shopping extravaganza this afternoon. I have a few suggestions for the people at Kohl's... Well, really just one. Fix the stupid shopping carts! I'm not sure if you've been to Kohl's recently, but the child seats are in the front of the carts, lower than the handles, and facing out. This is extremely problematic.

Robbie got a kick out of facing front in a cart and seeing everything that was coming toward him. He was also a big fan of grabbing everything at his level. In case you're wondering, that was most of the merchandise. The seats in the carts are on the same level of all the tables and shelves. I looked down at one point and saw four towels in my basket. And they did not match my bathroom decor... This got particularly nerve-wracking when we were near the china.

Luckily, we survived without any casualties. And Robbie did make some friends while we were there. He blew kisses at a group of employees who came to find him before we left to say good bye. I also got all of my shopping done for one person on my list and I got some goodies for my yet-to-be-determined Secret Santa at work.

And now I'll sign off, hoping to sleep straight through the night without a 2:00 wake-up call ('cause that's what happened last night...).

Monday, November 29, 2010

Sleep Wars

While we were out of town, young Robert found himself very off-schedule. There were short naps and inexcusably late bedtimes. And now I pay the price...

Last night's bedtime was epic. It was a two-hour bonanza of ear-piercing shrieking. There was no escape from Robbie's shrill demonstration of displeasure. I put him down at 6:20 (I know because I called my sister right after he went down and checked my call log to see how long he had been screaming - a mere six minutes). At 6:26 I went in to get him. Normally, I would have waited much longer, but it was that screaming you can feel in your bones.

The screaming continued for another two hours. We tried to rock and soothe Robbie, which just made him more irate. We let him play quietly in his room, which was fine until he realized we were doing other things. We put him back in his crib to see if he would just get tired. Nothing worked. Not even when we drew the big guns: a bottle of milk.

The only thing that worked was Justin, who decided to try soothing Robbie two hours after the whole sleep ordeal began. How did that work out? Mmhmm... He had Robbie asleep in five minutes. Where, I ask you, was this man when the whole thing started?

Don't think it was over... Like we did. We were lulled into a false sense of security that was rudely interrupted at 9:30 when Robbie woke up and beckoned us with his war cry. It was more attempts at soothing, this time with all of us trying to go to sleep. Unfortunately, only two of us went to sleep. I woke up at 11:00 with a little smiling face two inches from mine, saying, "Hi!"

I naively hoped that one day at Zhining's would have Robbie back on track. Surely playing all day would get him so tired that he couldn't help but go straight to sleep. Of course. Not. The young one screamed as soon as we put him down. I took a shower, hoping he would fall asleep in the meantime. No such luck. I took him up a bottle of milk, as that usually does the trick (see big guns, above).

Robbie gratefully took the milk. As I turned away, he threw his arms up in the air and started screaming, "Mamamamamama!" Sensing that this was not going to go well for me, I picked Robbie up and went to the rocking chair, where we sat for the next half hour. Robbie drank his milk and stared at me like he did when he was a little baby, making googlie eyes. He nestled in a little closer and smiled up at me, closing his eyes for a little longer each time he blinked. And then he fell asleep. It turns out, all he wanted was a little time with me. And, since he has been so independent about sleeping for so long, I'm not going to question whether or not I'm starting a bad trend. I'm just going to enjoy that, tonight, my little boy just needed some more time with me in order to fall asleep. Oh, and that I didn't need Justin to come up and finish the job for me. At least not for the moment.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Wedded Bliss

Justin and I celebrated our sixth anniversary today! I'm not sure how long six years is supposed to feel. Six years is all of high school and half of college. Six years is all of elementary school. But being married to Justin for six years doesn't feel as long as all of that. I guess it's because when you're in school, there is an end in sight which can make the time seem to drag on. But, when you're on a journey with someone and don't ever want it to end, it flies by.

On our way out tonight, we attempted to recap the highlights of our marriage. It's interesting to try to define a marriage in a matter of minutes. We focused mostly on the positive things that have happened to us, although I think we're more changed by the challenges we face. For us, when the negative had the opportunity to draw us apart, our marriage got stronger. I think this is, in part, because our first two years were such a challenge. We were two independent people, neither of us used to compromising. But somehow we figured it out and have been able to become closer with every curve ball life has thrown at us.

It's so nice to be in the middle of a life you love, especially when you are with someone you absolutely adore, especially when you hear of so many people who are in a loveless marriage but can't leave for any number of reasons. There's no one else I ever want to go on this journey with. Justin's the only person I can tell a story with simultaneously and know just where to pick up and leave off again. He knows to never keep grape jelly in the house. He gets up with Robbie every morning, even on the weekends. He clears the dishwasher and does the laundry - not because he likes to but because he knows I abhor those chores. Justin does the grocery shopping and helps make dinner. He drives wherever we go and always gets the luggage at the airport because those are, as I describe them, "husband jobs." And he makes me laugh and lets me know how loved I am every day.

In the past six years, there have only been a handful of days that we haven't talked. I know that may sound silly, but Justin typically travels a lot. He's been to Japan, Chile, Colombia, England, Germany, and France for extended work trips. He hasn't always had phone access, but we've done everything we could to make sure that we get to talk at least once a day. Those days when I couldn't hear his voice stretched on forever.

And now I think I'll close this sappy post. It's probably been a bit of an overload for you - after all, I just counted my blessings on Thursday. And now you're forced to read about how much I love my husband? Oy! So, as reward for indulging me, I will leave you with a video of the Manna child eating an apple (with a cameo of Justin's singing - he only knows the word "dynamite", so you'll recognize his harmonizing). video

Friday, November 26, 2010

Other People's Homes

Visiting family is exhausting on its own. It is exponentially intensified when you visit with a young child. Since we flew to Annapolis, we were not able to bring the appropriate amount of child paraphenalia to successfully survive three days. There is no Pack 'n Play to place the child in when he has undone an entire rack of CDs for the fifth time. Or when he's gone digging in the litter box. Or when he's grabbed all the ornaments off the now top-heavy tree. I have never been so exhausted in my life.

There have also been benefits, though. Robbie is much more cuddly when we travel, probably because he's in unfamiliar places with people he doesn't really know. He fell asleep with me last night and then cuddled up with me again this morning.

We leave for home in just a few hours, and I'm hoping we survive the trip. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that Robbie will get tired and crash, but I'm not hopeful. I do plan to take a few Tylenol PM when I get home and get a really good night's sleep. There's something about sleeping in the same room as Robbie in a hotel that doesn't let me sleep well.

Better go... Robbie's screaming and throwing his head into Justin's chest. This does not bode well for our flight...

Thursday, November 25, 2010

So Many Blessings

I get so wrapped up in life that I often forget to take into account all the blessings I have. I'm so busy getting to work and daycare on time, stopping by the grocery, cleaning the house, and taking care of all the living beings who live with me that I forget how amazing life is. And so, if you will indulge me, I am going to take the time to count my blessings.

1. I have the perfect husband. Well, perfect for me. He loves me unconditionally and supports me in anything I want to do. He believes in me more than I believe in myself. He is my best friend. He is the one person I want to wake up next to for the rest of my life, morning breath and all. He knows how to hug me to make everything better and how to make me laugh when the rest of the world makes me cry. He puts thought into gifts and romantic gestures (yes, he's been known to be romantic!). I am so blessed that we met each other 14.5 years ago and even more blessed that he returned my call over 8 years ago. Thank goodness he finally gave into me begging to marry him (yes, it's true; I begged to marry Justin Manna).

2. I have an amazing son. He greats every day with a cheer (seriously: "Yay!' and lots of clapping over and over and over). He loves to laugh and smile and he loves me. He is happy and generally thrilled to be alive. He makes me want to be a better person. He makes me want to get up every morning and live more of my life than I did the day before. Robbie learns new things every day (today I asked him to say "turkey" and he responded with "chicken" - a word he's never uttered in his life). I am so blessed to be able to see his smile and sparking eyes and hear that sweet voice and get those beautiful kisses every day.

3. I have an incredible family. My parents and brother and sister believe in me and are there whenever I need them. We talk almost every day (sometimes two or three times...). They are a part of my best memories and the only way I got through the not-so-good memories. I hated being apart from them for another Thanksgiving (this makes six), but I am so thankful that this is the family I got.

4. Justin and I have enough. I read an email forward about a family that always wished each other "enough." At first, this struck me as sad. Shouldn't we strive for more than "enough"? But then I realized that wishing for enough is a perfect blessing. And, in a time when so many people don't have any, to have enough is more than we can ask for. We have a house that we love, reliable cars, food on the table, heat in the radiators. And you know what the best part of "enough" is? Knowing that when you have it, there's nothing else you need.

5. I love my job. It is the perfect job for me and exactly where I need to be in my professional life right now. I am working with incredible students who make me laugh (and, in all honesty, frustrate the hell out of me sometimes). I am excited to get to work every day, and I don't even mind Mondays anymore. I love my job so much that Thanksgiving actually snuck up on me; I wasn't counting down, hoping to survive until Thanksgiving like I've sometimes done in the past. I have fantastic colleagues who make coming to work even better.

6. I am no longer in grad school. I know this is old news, but it is so fabulous to not be in class or doing a practicum. I didn't realize how much of my life that consumed until, suddenly, I wasn't doing it any more. I can come home at the end of the day and just be. I can just be Robbie's mom and Justin's wife and (on really lucky days) just Erin. It's an amazing feeling to just be finished and know that you don't ever have to go back. Of course, I said that the last time. But this time I really think it's true. I don't think I can read another professional article and pretend to care about it for a class.

7. I am healthy. Justin is healthy. Robbie is healthy.

8. My friends are incredible. I have the friends I am closer to now that we have kids and new things to talk about. I have friends from miles and miles away who can pick up the phone and feel like no time has passed, even though it's been two and a half years. I have childhood friends who I see when I go home and new friends who I see for football. It's so nice to know that there are people in my life who care about me and aren't related to me. And it's amazing to have so many friends who play different roles in my life.

I know I have so many more blessings, but these are my top eight. Right now I think I'm going to end this and grab one of my favorite blessings to cuddle. He's still awake, but I think I could convince him to go to sleep if we had a little hug time. Last night, he fell asleep with his head on my lap, stretched out perpendicular to me. These moments are few and far between, so I'll enjoy it if he'll let me.

Happy Thanksgiving! video

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thanksgiving Travel

We made it. In one piece. Actually, it wasn't nearly as terrible as we thought it would be. We breezed through check-in.
Security took a matter of minutes. Waiting for the plane? Well, that took about two hours since we got to the airport so freaking early. But Robbie did pretty well give that he had to be confined. The flight? Refer to the posting I had in August for information about that, although this one wasn't as bad because I had Justin, there was no vomit, it was a nonstop flight, and Robbie didn't actually scream at the top of his lungs. He just fussed loudly and threw his head against the side of the airplane. Actually, relatively speaking, it was a pretty easy flight.

My brother-in-law picked us up, and we went back to his house to spend some time with him, his wife, and my father-in-law. Jarnetta, my sister-in-law, had never met Robbie. He took a little while to warm up, mostly because he doesn't usually meet people out of state two hours past his bedtime. He decided she was pretty OK, though, because she has bells on her Christmas tree and he was allowed to play with them.

We're at our hotel now. By we, I mean Robbie and myself. Justin (thankfully) went out with his dad and brother, so I have a little peace. Kind of. Robbie is still awake, four and a half hours past his bedtime... I'm noticing the eye rub, though, so I'm hoping cuddle time is going to happen. I'm not getting my hopes up though. However, it could happen. This afternoon, I asked Robbie to come give me a kiss and fully expected him to blow me one. Nope! My darling little boy ran across the room and gave me a big kiss on the cheek! For the first time ever. Definitely topping my what-am-I-thankful-for list this year!

I hate to leave you with what I feel is a sub-par posting, but it's so late. And I'm so tired. And Kentucky basketball is on.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Travel Woes

Remember when you were little and it was time to travel somewhere? Maybe it was Thanksgiving (ahem). Maybe it was Christmas. Maybe it was your first trip to Disney World? And all you wanted was to watch TV or read a book or do anything but help clean the house? After all, why bother cleaning the house when you're just going to leave it. It makes no sense. You're not going to be there to enjoy the clean, and your time could be much better spent elsewhere. And wouldn't your mom be so much more pleasant if she was able to just be excited about the trip and not flipping her lid about clearing the dishwasher and finishing the laundry and taking the trash out?

That's what I thought. You do it, too, don't you? Yup. We've all joined the league of "Those Who Clean the House Before Attempting to Travel." It's a pain in the ass, isn't it? I want to sit on the couch and do nothing. I want to eat dinner at a reasonable hour (it's in the oven now). I want to actually call my sister back when I promise to (in 45 minutes, not 3 hours...). But no. That's not how tonight worked out at all.

I'll be honest; I thought about just giving into the filth. I battle it every day. There's the litter box to clean (I wholeheartedly recommend stopping at two pets, by the way; Mom, you were so right about that one). The dishwasher to clear. The laundry to sort, clean, fold, and (on a really good day) put away. The bed has to be made every day. Toys need to be put away. Floors need to be vacuumed and steam cleaned (a new addition to the list). And I can't go to bed if it isn't all set and ready to wreck again the next day. I've tried to give in. I've tried to let the piles and fur and dirt and dishes not irritate me. They do, though. Especially when I'm trying to go out of town.

I can't even pack until the house is clean, which is why the suitcase is still in the closet. Luckily, we bought last-minute plane tickets to Baltimore instead of driving to Annapolis (can you believe they were only $171 each?). So, I'll have time tomorrow afternoon to enjoy lunch with Justin and Robbie and get packed. And thank goodness I have a clean house that will make that packing possible.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Toy Story

On Mondays, I pick up Robbie and his buddy Pete from daycare. Everyone comes back to our house, and my friend Rebecca comes to take Pete home around 5:00. As they've gotten older, Pete and Rob have started actually playing together instead of just existing in the same place. And, with playing, comes jealousy...

Robbie has a toy that he has never liked. Ever. It just never intrigued him, and I've been meaning to take it down to the basement to clear some space. It's one of those walkers-turned-ride-on-toy things. It doesn't light up or make noise, so Roberto is really all set with ignoring it. Until Pete noticed it. Then, all bets were off.

I looked up this afternoon to see Robbie pulling Pete by the shirt and Pete tried to "ride off" on the toy. Pete, understandably frustrated and concerned for his own safety, just tried to pull himself away with more effort. Undaunted, my son moved to Pete's side and grabbed his collar. Then, with strength and rudeness that I am embarrassed to admit came from my child, he pulled Pete right off the toy. Onto the floor. And Robbie picked the toy up and took it across the room. He didn't even ride it away! Robbie has no idea what the toy is actually used for (unlike Pete who knew exactly what it was when he uncovered it). He just knew that he wanted it.

Unfortunately, so did Pete, who was up and shaking the dust off his shoulders. Pete was across the room in a second, ready to fight for the toy. Each boy, standing, had one end of it. Until Pete let go and sent a startled Robbie flying across the room. Encouraged by this brief victory, Pete hopped on, hoping that Robbie wouldn't be able to throw him off if he really dug his heels in this time. Although Robbie didn't try to pull Pete off the toy, he did try to pull the toy with Pete on it.

At this point, I felt it was my parental responsibility to intervene. There were tears, red faces, and yelling. I did the only thing a responsible parent could do. I took the toy and put it on the dining room table. Then, I opened the tool kit, since it has about twenty different things for them to play with. And what happened? You got it. They both wanted the hammer...

Sunday, November 21, 2010

One of "Those" Dads

It had to happen. I had to leave Justin and Robbie alone at some point for an extended period of time. After all, how could I leave for three days without a four or five hour test run? Today was the day...

I left the house at 11:15 to have lunch with some friends, leaving Justin in charge of Robbie and the horribly clogged toilet. When I walked out the door, Justin was still plunging away in our bathroom, frustrated that I was actually leaving him with the disaster. It should have been an easy afternoon for Justin, other than fixing the epically clogged toilet. Give Robbie some lunch, put him down, and play video games until his heart's content.

And it was easy for Justin. Very easy. He put Robbie down and Robbie slept for over three hours. It was the perfect Sunday afternoon, lying on the couch in shorts and a t-shirt, doing nothing.

Robbie had just woken up when I got home, and he seemed a little cranky. I picked him up and took him into the kitchen. He nearly leapt out of my arms when he saw the banana bread, shouting, "Na! Na!" (Chinese for "I want that"). He devoured the bread. And then he picked an apple from yesterday up out of the dog's bed (don't even ask...) and started eating it. He grabbed crackers out of my hand and shoved them in his mouth.

Being the intuitive wife and mother that I am, I asked Justin what Robbie had for lunch. Without even looking up from the computer, he said, "A bottle of milk when he went down for his nap." Are you kidding me? Our sixteen-month-old has only had eight ounces of milk in the past eight hours? Really? Our conversation went something like this:

"Are you telling me that Robbie didn't eat today?"

"Yeah, actually. I am. He just had milk. Is that a problem?" And he was actually serious - he didn't know if that was a problem.

"Well... Did you eat anything other than milk today?"

"Of course. I had lun... Oh..."

And with that, my dutiful husband propelled himself off the couch with surprising speed and ran into the kitchen. He did shout back to me, asking where the peanut butter was. He managed to find it in the same place we've stored peanut butter for the past four years. I've never seen a meal thrown together with this much speed. In about 90 seconds (after a few minutes delayed for the great peanut butter hunt), Robbie was buckled into his seat and chowing down on a peanut butter sandwich, some cheese, and an orange.

I have never seen Robbie eat so fast (or with such accuracy). Usually, some of the food winds up on the floor or given to the dog. And all of this made Justin feel even worse, which I appreciated. I've learned a valuable lesson from all this, too. I will leave detailed directions for Justin when I go to Montreal next month (please note that I specifically told him what to feed Robbie and when before leaving for lunch). But I'm still a little concerned...

On another note... I've started a Facebook page for the blog. I'd love it if you became a fan! And feel free to click on any of the ads you see on the page. It really helps me out. :)

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Fabulous Day!

So... Today is my birthday. And. It. Was. Fabulous. The perfect day, from start to now ('cause it isn't finished yet). Robbie (and the dog and the husband) let me sleep until about 7:15. I woke up to a happy baby babble and listened to it for about fifteen minutes until my bladder propelled me out of bed. I stood at the door for a few minutes, watching Robbie through the crack. He spied me after a few seconds and played peek-a-boo.

We had breakfast and opened some presents and cards. Justin got me a very thoughtful necklace. I almost cried when I opened it because I could tell all the thought he had put into it. If I spelled it all out for you, it would sound corny and cliche. And it was. Perfectly cliche. He bought me a necklace with a Hershey Kiss pendant; whenever we close our emails, we sign them "Kisses and Love." And now I will always have a "Kiss" with me. See? I told you it was perfectly corny and cliche.

We went to the Boston College game with some fabulous friends and, responsibly, left Robbie and Jack with a trusted babysitter. Trusted and very, very brave. Elena had both boys for nine hours. And she bathed both of them. And had them both asleep when we came home at 7:30. If you need her number, let me know. She is amazing. I don't know that I (mother-of-the-year that I am) could have handled two kids (one 16 months and one 18 months) for that long.

The game was really great - at least the second half was! And it was a game right down to the end. Like the last play. And, in honor of my birthday, BC won. Fabulous!

We made our way back home, and went to ...Cakes, where Amy picked up an amazing birthday cake for me. I think this store may be my new addiction. Cupcakes. Muffins. Coffee. Calzones. Fabulous. Absolutely fabulous. Then it was off to Tango for steak and sangria. And more sangria. And birthday cake. And a great combination of friends. I sometimes get nervous introducing people from different aspects of my life, but it worked out perfectly. It was good timing, too, since Amy an Allie are both going on the girls' weekend to Montreal in three weeks.

We came home to my second floral delivery of the day. The first was from my mother-in-law, who sent me a gorgeous fall bouquet. My neighborhood florist had delivered these (from my fabulous brother) on her way home. It's so nice to be friends with the florist around the corner. She called to make sure someone would be home to get them.

So now, with sangria making my fingers move quickly (if not accurately) on the keyboard, I'm going to sign off and enjoy the last four hours of my birthday.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Thirty-One


This time last year, I was (admittedly) a little panicked about turning thirty. I tried to cram in doing things one more time while I was in my twenties ("This is the last time I'll go to the gym in my twenties," "This is the last time you'll kiss me in my twenties"...). After all, our twenties are when so much of life happens. It seems much more defining than the first two decades. For me, it was really when all of my major life events happened: I graduated college, I finished grad school, I got my first "real" job, I met Justin, I moved to Georgia, I got engaged, I got married, I moved to Boston, I got laid off for the first (and, please God, only) time, I got into Boston College, I got pregnant, I had a baby. It was a pretty busy decade.

And I'm sitting on the couch in my freshly cleaned house (mostly because I was going crazy searching for tomorrow's football tickets, which were, incidentally, on the floor of the closet; I should have asked Justin four hours earlier than I did), doing a little reflecting on the past year. I don't know that there have been that many "defining" moments, but it's my favorite year so far. There was the time I spent appreciating my family and relishing the quiet. Finishing up grad school (surely for the last time) and walking at my graduation. Getting a new job, my dream job. Spending four weeks in Lexington over the summer. Swimming at The Res when Justin got home from work. Running my first 5K.

Maybe my twenties were just the foundation. I know they say, "Life starts at thirty." There were so many wonderful things before thirty that shouldn't be discounted. But, you know what? I don't think I'd go back to twenty-nine for anything.

And, since I know you're dying to ask, yes. There is one thing that I want to do before I turn thirty-one. I'm going to finish the damn stocking that's been in my grandmother's sewing box half-completed for five years. Just have to sew the back part to the front part, and I have 96 minutes to do it!

But before I go, you should all know what a thoughtful husband I have. He started celebrating my birthday weekend early with a dozen roses. I hope you are all so lucky in love!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Late Nights

Robbie had to stay at daycare late tonight. Super late. 7:30 late. I haven't gone that long in the day without seeing him since I was taking classes last spring. I rushed all the way from Lawrence to get there, even though I knew he would be asleep. And he was. Zhining was waiting for me, so I didn't have to ring the doorbell. She slowly opened the door to the room where Robbie was sleeping, and we peaked in on him.

Robbie rolled over and briefly opened his eyes. He slowly closed them. And then quickly opened them. If he was coordinated to jump to his feet, that's what he would have done. He ran to the side of the crib with an award-winning smile on his face. It was one of those I've-been-waiting-to-see-you-all-day-and-you're-finally-here smiles. I picked him up out of the crib and he threw himself at me. Then he pulled back from me and just looked at me, a slow grin spreading across his face. He touched my cheek like he wasn't really sure I was there and then hugged me again (Cuddle Baby is really working!).

I'm not saying that I would want to have Open House every week. But, it was nice to be gone long enough for Robbie to really miss me. Usually when I pick him up from daycare, he opens the door, looks at me, and runs the other way. But not tonight. Tonight, I was the one person he wanted to see. And, at the end of the day, that's all that matters.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Cuddle Baby

As you may have guessed, Robbie does not have any tolerance for cuddling. He's down for kisses because they are quick and he can be on his way. I also thinks he gets a kick out of how kisses sound. But hugs? Forget about it. They require actually stopping what he is doing. He can kiss and walk, which is acceptable.

I, on the other hand, have always dreamed of having a baby (err... little boy) who loved to give hugs and cuddle. So, being a mom who likes to conform others to fit her expectations, I have begun training Robbie to cuddle with me. How? (I know you're out there! The other moms with kids who don't want to give hugs) Easy. I made it a game that involves rapid movement, one of Robbie's favorite things.

I started a few days ago hugging him close to me, saying "Be a cuddle baby!", and swinging from side to side so his legs bounced around. There are a few key things here. First, it was important to hold him close the way I always pictured my little boy hugging me (you guessed it: head on my shoulder). This way, he knows what to do when I say the trigger word (can you tell I'm the one who trained the dog?). This leads me to the next point: you need to have a name for the game. For us, it's "Cuddle Baby". This lets Robbie know what he should do when you say that word. Kind of like he's figured out how to bow when Zhining says, "Thank you" in Chinese. And, finally, I swing him from side to side because he thinks it's hilarious. That way we both get something fun out of the experience.

Is it possible that this actually works? Yes. Well, most of the time. There are times when Robbie is too busy to even think about Cuddle Baby. But then there are the times that he thinks it's fun, and I love that he leaves his head on my shoulder for a few extra seconds after we finish playing. Soon enough, he'll be crawling into my lap to cuddle while we read books together... Right?