Winter Break Fun

holiday collage 2012

The holidays are officially over and we are back to our regular routines again.  Gone are the days of sleeping in until 8 AM,  figuring out which museum to explore each day, what wonderful friend or family to visit with, and how many yummy treats to indulge in after each meal.  The kids are back to school, I am back at work (full-time at that), chocolates and cookies have been replaced with fruits and veggies, and we are back to the hustle and bustle of our busy life.  The holidays are busy too, don’t get me wrong, but it is a different kind of busy.  There is gift buying and wrapping, a busy social schedule of holiday parties, and long days of no school to fill for three little kids, but that is certainly a fun kind of busy.

In our house, the “holiday season” seems to run from November 15th – January 8th.  During that time we have Isabella’s birthday, Thanksgiving (which we host every year), Hanukkah (what we celebrate in our house and with the Levins and Stevahns), Christmas (which we celebrate at my parents), the New Year, and Les’ birthday.  It is two months of nonstop eating, spending money, socializing, and fun.  It can be a little exhausting and overwhelming, but I love it.  This winter break seemed especially great – for the kids, for us, and for me personally.

As the kids get older, they seem to get more into the holiday spirit and understand more of what is going on.  Isabella really got into Hanukkah this year.  She has always enjoyed getting presents, but she was much more interested in some of the culture and tradition that comes along with the holiday.  By the 5th or 6th night of Hanukkah she could almost say the entire prayer over the menorah, making Les and I very proud.  She loved having her Grammy and Pop as special guests at her school to teach her classmates about Hanukkah.  She lead dreidel games and even tried her first potato latke – a big deal for our very picky eater.  Jacob and Noah both got into the spirit of Hanukkah and Christmas, relishing the unwrapping of the gifts as much, if not more, than the gifts themselves.  We all got a kick out of Jacob’s squeals of delight and laughter as he unwrapped a gift or Noah’s exclamations of “Whoa” or “cool this” each time he opened a new toy or book.  The kids had a blast on Christmas day at Grandma and Grandpa’s house, opening their stockings and presents, and playing with all their new toys.  I love experiencing any holiday through my children’s eyes, especially Hanukkah and Christmas.  There is just something magical about that look in your child’s eyes as they open that special gift they have been wanting all year.  I don’t think there is any gift I could receive that would equal the excitement and joy I get from giving my kids gifts.  I know that the holidays are not all about the gifts, and I want my kids to know that too, but when you are three or five – it kind of is all about the gifts.

This winter break was really great for Les and I because we got to have some pretty awesome dates.  We had an overnight trip to Richmond for a delicious dinner with friends and a day of holiday shopping and time alone in the car and at lunch with just the two of us.  We try to go out on dates regularly, but there is just something different about being away overnight that feels more luxurious and special.  We also got to see our close friends John and Corynne for a dinner date.  These are friends that we don’t see nearly enough of, and it was great to catch up on the exciting things coming up in the new year.  Les and I have also been on three movie dates in the last month – pretty amazing considering that we probably had not made it to three movies in the theater in the past five years total.  Although Les always works a lot around the holidays, I had a lot of time off as I transitioned to my new job.  The overall pace in our house was slower, more relaxed, and less stressful – making for a happier marriage.

I was thrilled to spend quality time with my sister Emily.  We don’t get to see her nearly enough since she is in California, so we try to spend as much time as possible with her when she is in town.  We even got to go out for sushi and a movie date to see Les Mis (a fantastic movie, but glad I spared Les on that one).  I was able to tackle some home organization products (freezer, refrigerator, pantry, and only a small part of the office).  I completed home study for my new job and went away to San Antonio for a week of training for the new job.  I am very happy with the job change and very impressed with the new company so far.  I really enjoyed being home for a few weeks.  Of course, getting paid while being at home probably made the whole experience more relaxing and enjoyable than if I were not employed.  Now if I could only find a way to stay at home for work AND still get paid – that would be the ticket.

We rang in the New Year with our neighbors and friends at a fantastic grown-up party.  We got all fancied up and danced the night away.  I look forward to this party every year and am so appreciative of the Hempecks for throwing such a wonderful bash.  We got together with the Reuter family for a fun play date and gift exchange.  Even though we only live 30 miles from each other, it seems impossible to get our 6 kids and crazy work schedules aligned for more frequent family fun.  We’ll have to do better at this in 2013.   We did our annual trip to the Great Wolf Lodge with our dear friends Zach and Parul and their adorable daughter Madeline.  That place gets better and better as the kids get older and more independent in the water.  This is one of our favorite ways to kick off a new year and celebrate Les’ birthday with some of our best friends.

NYE2012collage

All in all – we have had a blast these past couple of months.  As I have been able to sit back and reflect on the past year, I feel so fortunate to have the life that I have.  We feel so blessed to have our health, our amazing family and friends, jobs, and a wonderful life.  I know how quickly life can change and the good times can turn to bad in just the blink of an eye.  In 2013, I am trying to cherish each moment  and be grateful for the many gifts that I have in my life.  Now if only I can remember this resolution during the crazy, stressful times that will inevitably occur in my world of five spinning plates!

Livestrong

The famous yellow wristband that has helped raise millions for cancer research and services, in addition to being a visible symbol of strength and hope.

Seeing Lance for the first time during cancer treatment. The Tour of Hope was a great event sponsored by Bristol-Myers Squibb. Very inspirational to us before the month-long hospital stay.

In the Pyrenees waiting to see the Tour de France riders. Camped on the side of the mountain to make sure we had a great spot.

Discovery Team – Lance winning #7

Celebrating Lance at the Tour de France in Paris

Ride for the Roses in Austin, TX in October, 2006. This was our first, and best, year of fundraising for the Lance Armstrong Foundation. We were part of a select group of cyclists/fundraisers that got invited to the Ride for the Roses.

Meeting Lance was the highlight of the Ride for the Roses

Getting a poster autographed – We have six autographed Lance items and display them proudly in our guest room

Completed our 1st Ride for the Roses – in the rain

Hanging with Jake Gyllenhaal at a fundraising dinner for LAF

Getting to hear Lance speak

Meeting other cancer survivors and fundraisers is always one of the most fun parts of these rides

The yellow survivor rose

Our second Ride for the Roses in Austin. Our second best fundraising year.

Lance crossing the finish line at Ride for the Roses

Les crossing the finish line

One of my favorite images – Les giving our daughter a high five – the yellow survivor rose and Livestrong shirt make it even sweeter.

Les with his parents – they joined us in Austin for their first Livestrong event

Our best friends Zach and Parul joined us for the Livestrong Challenge Philadelphia. Zach was a loyal and generous friend during Les’ cancer challenge and has been a great training and fundraising partner for the Livestrong Challenges

Les and Zach starting the ride

Go Les!

Isabella standing by the yellow survivor roses

Introducing Jacob to the Livestrong Challenge

After the second Livestrong Challenge Philly – another rainy ride

My Livestrong kids – what little miracles

Livestrong Challenge Philly 2012 – days before the USADA announcement

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“I just want you to comfort me”

Sometimes Isabella is four-and-a-half going on fourteen and sometimes she acts exactly her age. Tonight we had a little of both. Isabella is my oldest child, my daughter, and probably the one I worry about the least. We had a rough start with a difficult delivery, lots of trouble nursing, and three to four months of colic, but after that it was pretty smooth sailing. She is sweet, smart, generous, imaginative, playful, and sometimes sassy. She hit all of her developmental milestones early or right on schedule and has blossomed over the past two years in Montessori school. She is starting to read already and has wonderful critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Isabella is polite and a fairly good listener. Although she looks just like my husband, she inherited quite a few of my personality traits including being a good negotiator and debater. She can be very convincing in arguing her side and trying to get what she wants. Les is in trouble when the two of us team up and try to get what we want (new shoes, a vacation, a pool or new car one day????). She can also be sensitive and emotional. This could be inherited, since I can be emotional and overly sensitive at times, or it could just be a girl thing.

With two mischievous, and very needy, young boys constantly demanding my attention, Isabella, unfortunately. is the one that often has to fend for herself. I count on her, as the oldest and as my most responsible child, to make safe and smart choices. I rely on her to speak up if something is amiss or if she needs something. Isabella is very good about playing on her own or with friends, requiring the least amount of my hands-on time between my three children. She is so outgoing and eager to make a friend wherever we go. We were at the park the other day and she did not hesitate to run over to a young girl that was swinging on the swing set and ask her to play. She is young and innocent enough to not know the sting of rejection or the arbitrary social constraints that prevent so many older kids and adults from going up to a stranger and inviting them to join us in play or engage in conversation. We are lucky to have some great kids in the neighborhood with whom Isabella loves to play, especially two of her best friends that live next door. The three of them enjoy playing outside, dressing up, doing arts and crafts, and playing with Barbies and American Girl dolls. They get along very well, with only the occasional hurt feeling or disagreement thrown in for good measure.

After a busy four-day family trip to Philadelphia, Isabella could not wait to play with her friends. She got to go to Gymnastics camp with a school friend this morning and got to play with her neighbor friends all afternoon. By the time I got home from work today, dinner needed to be made and I had to go next door to pick her up from her playdate fun. After little sleep the night before (due to our long drive home from Philly) and a very busy day of activity, Isabella was tearful and exhausted. She started crying about a seemingly trivial issue of whether she had missed her American Girl doll’s birthday. I am not sure if she thought of this or if the birthday question came up while she was playing dolls with her friends, but she was inconsolable.

I tried the rational approach, telling her that she could choose any date for her American Girl doll’s birthday. I tried to reassure her that we had not missed her doll’s birthday. I even got out the computer and tried to look up the actual birthday of her doll. I tried to ask questions to see if she had been in a disagreement with her friends and attempted to coach her on standing up for herself if she did not like what her friends were telling her. The more I talked and tried to reason with her, the more she cried. I did not know what else to say. Frankly, I could not believe I was even going to these lengths over such a silly issue. As I tried another approach of reasoning with my very unreasonable and overtired 4-year-old, Isabella threw her hands up and said, “Mommy, I just want you to comfort me. You keep talking and making me more sad.” Wow! She was right. I was so busy trying to make dinner and give advice and offer solutions, I had not stopped to simply wrap my little girl in my arms and smother her with hugs and kisses. I stopped what I was doing and sat her on my lap and just held her. I rubbed her head, held her like the child that she still is, and just let her cry for a few minutes. I waited until the tears stopped and she was feeling better – maybe five or ten minutes. Bedtime followed shortly thereafter.

Tonight reminded me of a couple of important lessons. Four-year-old girls are not that different from thirty-four year-old women. I know when I am tired, sad, and frustrated and just need a good cry, I don’t want my husband to offer advice or solutions. I usually am just looking for an understanding shoulder to cry on or a sympathetic ear to listen to my woes. Once I finish my good cry, I am usually fine. Although I have never said the words “I just want you to comfort me”, that is exactly what I have thought on numerous occasions. Isabella is growing up, sometimes faster than I would like. As she gets older, the problems and disagreements she will encounter will only multiply and become more complex. I have so many things I want to teach her, and my initial instinct is always going to be to try to help her navigate the world and find solutions to the challenges she faces. I need to remember that she is still my little girl, and I always need to give hugs and just listen before I start doling out advice. Parental guidance and problem-solving usually goes down better with a healthy dose of comfort and empathy mixed in.