Sweet Surrender

Today is Ash Wednesday. The Easter bunny will arrive in 46 days. ‘Tis the season for sacrifice.

Just about a decade ago (good grief did time go by quickly), G.G. and I decided to tackle Lent together. We gave up chocolate. The night before Easter, I stayed up until midnight – watching the seconds tick by until the moment I could maim my milk chocolate rabbit and devour his ears.

Last year, I didn’t give up anything. I figured I’d already given up enough to comply with pregnancy rules. And that which I had not voluntarily given up because of potential danger for my unborn children, my body spent the first trimester (including Lent) rejecting in a projectile fashion.

But this year, I felt that I should honor the vast amount of prayer lists the muppets and I spent months on. My boys are home and healthy, so in the grand scheme of the universe my Lenten sacrifice is not much to give up.

But just in case, I’m posting my promise publicly. Maybe that will make it easier to stick with it throughout the next 46 days.

This season, I decided to relinquish my desserts and junk food.

Perhaps it will make me more zen-like and serene. Perhaps it will result in a number of “oh my God, I need chocolate in the way the muppets needed air!” posts. Either way, I’m pretty sure you’ll be able to find me at an Easter vigil mass, staring down the clock, with See’s assorted chocolates stashed in my Easter bonnet.

And in case it wasn’t clear, back slowly away from my rabbit ears…

 

Read Across America

What should we do today?
Could we read, run or play?
Do I even need to say?
It’s Read Across America Day!

Haven’t you heard?
It’s all about the word.

We have a need to read, to help our brain’s exceed and lead. Agreed?
Proceed – let your mind be freed. Just pick a book and take a look.

Imagination. An educational donation of narration elation.

Because today is Dr. Seuss’ birthday, we’ll have a celebration.
I’ll cook up a dinner in honor of the award winner.
Green Eggs and Ham? You do not like them? Damn.
One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish. Wouldn’t that be an awkward dish?

A Grinch, Yertle, the Lorax and Horton. The Cat in the Hat or Hop on Pop.
We’re just getting started. Did you really think I’d stop?

Oh, The Places You’ll Go! But only if you’re in the know.

We’re off for now. The Hungry Caterpillar awaits.
Followed by an evening full of other literary dates.

My dear Dr. Seuss: Happy Birthday!
And to the rest: It’s Read Across America Day!

 

Cupid’s Kiss

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!

I’ll admit, I’ve never been a big fan of this Hallmark holiday. I don’t really have a good reason why – especially since I’m such a huge fan of the assorted chocolates associated with it. Maybe it’s because there’s just so much pressure involved on what we’re “supposed” to do.

I do remember looking forward to Valentine’s Day as a kid. We’d all make shoebox mailboxes covered in red, pink and white construction paper. Elmer’s Glue would coat our little hands as we finished cutting out folded hearts in contrasting colors and lined them with lace borders. After recess we’d all file back into the classroom – each personalized shoebox sitting atop our assigned desks, eagerly awaiting candy donations and cartoon greetings. You weren’t allowed to pick and choose your valentines; everybody got one.

So all 32 kids in Mrs. Kaplan’s third grade class were my sweethearts. By the end of the day, my box would be tearing at the seams – laden with Sweethearts, cherry lollipops and individually wrapped chocolates. I’d rocket out to the playground high on sugar from what I’d already devoured of my bounty and the cupcakes someone’s mother was sure to have brought to celebrate the day.

I haven’t really celebrated it since I moved on from the decorative footwear receptacles of elementary education. Here and there my parents would get my brother and me a little something. Once I moved away to college, my grandmother would unfailingly send me a box of See’s Candy. (Oh, how I love Mary See…) Jon and I have never done anything to mark it as special.

One year Jon moseyed into work on a February 14 morning. “What’re you doing for your girlfriend today?” inquired a colleague (we weren’t married yet, so the girlfriend referred to is me). Jon casually replied that he had no plans based on my ambivalence. A horror-filled tension immediately filled the air. Didn’t he know girls were lying when they said they didn’t care about Valentine’s Day? Everyone returned to work the following day with a sadistic curiosity about how far Jon had fallen. I actually think there was some disappointment that the only result was a bit of chuckling over their concern.

I approached the holiday this year much in the same fashion as the decades previous. But then the muppets got their very first Valentine. It was a red bumble bee from two of their little friends. Cards from G.G. soon followed. I was so excited to see that she’d found not one, but TWO, great-grandson cards.

Getting more and more into the spirit, the muppets and I gathered up our gear and headed off to the NICU. Caden and Logan both gave me extremely wary looks – neither seemed to think purposely and willingly re-entering that locale was a very good idea. Caden presented Nurse June with a cliched heart-shaped box of chocolates. Logan clutched one for Nurse Susan (sorry if it’s a little chewed on.)

“Thank you for helping me get big and strong so we could go home. Will you be my Valentine?” We also sent our good vibes and healthy chubby baby thoughts to all the current NICU residents, that they may be home asking for Irish kisses next month.

Happy Valentine’s Day to you and all your loved ones. My cherubic chubby little muppets send you kisses.

Santa Tantrums

As a final conclusion to the holidays 2010, I would like to share one of my favorite posts of the year from one of my favorite parenting blogs – The Poop.

Sadly, I missed the call for entries for the 2010 Annual Santa Tantrum Awards. But the muppets didn’t let us down. Their first visit with Santa is one to be remembered…

But here’s what our entry would have been:
Both muppets remained calm and composed throughout the wait in line. The moment we met Santa, Logan became entranced by all the glittering and blinking lights. Caden was not a fan.

Auld Lang Syne

Interestingly enough, I am closing out 2010 in the exact same fashion that I welcomed it – in my sweats, in my comfy chair, and gunning to be curled up in bed by the New York New Year. That’s about all I can same for the similarities between the years.

What a year. This has been a year of absolute elation and terrifying concerns. Absolutely nothing played out the way I’d envisioned.

When the clock struck midnight 365 days ago, I was sound asleep – dreaming of what the following year would be like. I pictured us a new family of three. Would we have a little boy or a little girl? I envisioned waddling around, glowing with delight as I prepared to welcome a child. I imagined being the guest of honor at a baby shower, opening cutesy baby clothes. I thought the summer would come to a close and I’d find myself cradling a crying and wrinkled newborn while Jon grinned and teared up nearby.

The first curveball came less than a week into the year. We were going to straight to a family of four. The nurse pointed out two blinking dots on the ultrasound screen. It was my first introduction to my two children.

Then I got sick. Turns out, that glow of pregnancy so many people talk about is simply the blood rushing to your face as you arf your guts out.

I didn’t imagine the level of fear that would consume me when my sons were born. I never thought I’d be a preemie parent. I hadn’t fully grasped how much I would fall in love the very second I saw their tiny wriggling bodies beneath the mounds of wires.

I spent this year completely ensconced in a bubble. No world events penetrated my thoughts. I didn’t care what kind of health care plan Obama signed – as long as the muppets were getting the best care right this very second. I sensed that the BP oil spill sucked from a peripheral point of view – as long as there was enough gas to get me to the NICU twice a day I was fine.

Despite the setbacks, 2010 was a year of new arrivals. Friends welcomed new babies, and shared that siblings were on the way. Uncle Paul proposed to Aunt Stephanie, so I’m getting a sister. But by far the biggest celebration of the year was the weekend of August 6. The muppets came home.

2010 saw much heartache and joy and so many milestones. This evening, Jon and I sat on the living room floor with the boys, playing with blocks. Caden sat by himself, with the tiniest bit of support. Logan stood with a little help from Jon. Drool soaked all of us since both boys are teething. And when it came time to say goodnight, the muppets bid their first calendar year goodbye with a grin and a giggle. Who could ask for more?

Life is no longer about me. Laundry can wait. That honey-do project may get done someday. Friends and family have no interest in visiting me; they want to meet the muppets. We’ve given up our identity as Jon and Tricia – we’re the twins’ parents now. It’s the coolest title I will ever achieve.

This year, I have 3 guys to kiss at midnight (Sydney time, London time and New York time respectively). 2011 holds so much possibility – we get to watch little lives discover and develop before our eyes. Just think of how different life will be at the end of 2011. Sure, I’ll still be sitting in my comfy chair gunning for bed by 9. But I’ll be reflecting on a year gone by with toddlers.

Without a doubt, this has been the most amazing year of my life. But I’ll be honest, I’m not sad to see the year become the past. Here’s to the coming year. I wish everyone happiness and health in 2011. May your dreams come true, and may even more memorable events be created from the dreams that don’t precisely play out.

To paraphrase New Year’s Rocking Eve host Ryan Seacrest, “Stream 2010, OUT!”

A Bloody Birthday Cake

Grandpa Gary’s birthday is the day after Christmas. This year, that also happened to be the day of our fancy family dinner.

I set out our fine china – complete with wine and water goblets. The table was lined with the linen tablecloth and cloth napkins we received for our wedding. A peppermint candy-cane lay across each place-setting to mark the season. Martinelli’s sparking cider was set out and zinfandel red wine was decanted in preparation for the toasts. Jon ordered a Honey Baked Ham. He made garlic mashed potatoes, green bean casserole and croissant biscuits. Aunt Ivy brought a sweet potato dish – made from See’s marshmallows.

I was responsible for dessert.

By now you all know that traditions are very important to me. Which means two things: Yule Log and G.G.’s pumpkin bread. On a whim, after the success of the pumpkin bread at Thanksgiving, I decided to make a pumpkin roll as well. (Many of the celebrants have not yet fully comprehended the fabulousness of Yule Log.) I’d practiced twice before this particular feast, so I felt very confident in the quality of the outcome. Or at least relatively certain that I wouldn’t blow up the Yule Log’s pudding topping.

Keeping with the fine dining theme of the meal, I found nice holiday platters to present my culinary creations. I proudly showed them off to GrammaJ, GrampaTavo and Jon. At that point, Jon brought up the aligning dates of this Christmas feast and Grandpa Gary’s birthday. Perhaps, Jon inquired, I could write “Happy Birthday” on the pumpkin roll with some decorative frosting remaining from a holiday cookie exchange endeavor.

Martha Stewart I am not. But I tried. Very slowly, I squeezed each letter onto the roll. I even allotted for the excess frosting as I drew individual letters.

“Jon,” I called, as I examined the final results. “This doesn’t look quite right.”

He sauntered over from the living room where he’d been chatting with his in-laws, assuring me that it was just fine. As he finished his statement he caught the briefest glimpse of the birthday roll and laughed out loud.

“It looks like I murdered something,” I admitted.

The decorative frosting was red. The frosting on the roll was still warm. And the roll was, well, a roll. Despite my intense focus as I carefully crafted the words, the lettering had begun to drip down the sides of the cake.

Jon returned to the living room chanting “redrum….redrum….”

GrampaTavo proclaimed no one would notice; it’s the thought that counts. GrammaJ was certain it was’t that bad.

Then I entered the living room with the bloody birthday cake. GrammaJ tried, but even she couldn’t keep a straight face. She and Jon joined together in a chorus of Psycho sound effects.

When Grandpa Gary arrived for dinner, Jon pronounced that we had prepared a murder cake in his honor. Everyone agreed it was delicious and would become a staple of all Christmases to come – by the name of Murder Cake.

This was not quite the tradition I was going for.

The Muppets Christmas Spectacular

I am sitting amidst the mountains of wrapping-paper wreckage in the living room. The laughter has finally died down. This has been a holiday for the history books – new chapters and new memories.

The muppets woke up at 8 a.m. and I was all too eager to scoop them up. SANTA CAME! Merry Christmas!!! And with two smiling little ones and a belly laugh spurred by Dad, the holiday was off and running.

Aunt Ivy and her parents arrived for a Christmas morning breakfast. Grammy and Poppy’s grandchildren are older, and they live in Texas and Florida. So they were eager to come over and borrow Ivy’s nephews this morning. With the muppets secured in their big boy high chairs, we enjoyed an amazing breakfast feast.

In the excitement, there was no morning nap. And the celebration was just getting started.

GrammaJ and GramaTavo arrived shortly thereafter. They pulled up alongside our house in the pouring rain. (There is no white Christmas here in these parts, but Mother Nature was darn sure it was going to be a wet one…) They unloaded the car; our Christmas tree threw up. My parents have fully embraced the role of grandparent…

When the muppets woke up from their afternoon nap, we were ready to see what Santa (and grandparents) had brought. Caden sported his “Baby’s First Christmas” shirt and later his fuzzy gingerbread man outfit. Logan was chilling in a onesie proclaiming, “All Mommy wants for Christmas is a Silent Night.”

Caden and Logan were blissfully snuggled up with GrammaJ and GrampaTavo as Jon and I looked in vain for the floor of our living room. Last Christmas, we gave GrammaJ the book, “Chicken Soup for the Grandmother’s Soul.” Surprise, we’re having a baby! This Christmas, we’ve come full circle and they weren’t about to let go of their “cutie pies.”

What a year.

The muppets were actually far more interested in the unwrapping activities than I had anticipated. Caden even helped open several of the presents, grapping at the wrapping and tearing it away. Granted, he was likely thinking he wanted something new to gnaw on, but I like my version better. Two hours later we had made a respectable dent in the piles of glittering generosity. The muppets were still content in their grandparents’ arms, but with a noticeable fog surrounding their rosy-cheeked, chubby, cherubic faces. They were seriously zoned out – the excitement and stimulation completely overwhelmed and exhausted them.

We are now the proud owners of all toys made for children six months old. Every. Single. One.

Then the muppets passed out.

This morning we once again awoke with a clatter. Christmas Part II! Today, Aunt Steph and Uncle Paul arrived. And Aunt Ivy, Uncle Jeffrey and Grampa Gary and Celia visited in the afternoon for a big fancy Christmas dinner. I was over-the-moon; I got to use our wedding china. Christmas celebrations are my “thing.” (And I want my traditions.)

Major muppet meltdown.

Apparently, the boys love this season as much as I do. The change in routine, all the attention and the empty lull you feel when the main event is through caught up with Caden. He wouldn’t sleep; he wouldn’t cuddle. He just screamed. And screamed. And screamed.

Dinner, otherwise, went off without a hitch. (The china looked great.) Caden finally calmed down. (He pooped. That helped.) And now he’s out cold. Logan, on the other hand, is screaming.

Tomorrow, I’m looking forward to the return to our nice, dull daily routine. I have a feeling this isn’t the last we’ll see of holiday meltdowns caused by over-exertion (by any one of our family of four…) After all, we do have two twin boys.

Greatest. Christmas. Ever.