Tuesday, November 30, 2010

What I read in November

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Book 7)It's time for my monthly summary of what I've been reading and writing about over at Marie's Book Garden. I spent much of November savoring my second read of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in preparation for the movie coming out. I think it's my favorite of all seven books. I'm excited that my nephews are starting to read them now!

Back RoadsEarly in November I read Back Roads by Tawni O'Dell (two stars--dark and depressing). Next was 8-1/2 Steps to Writing Faster, Better by Daphne Gray-Grant (four stars; a great cache of writing tips!).

Another four-star book was Babyface: A Story of Heart and Bones, by Jeanne McDermott, a beautiful memoir of a mother's love for her disabled son.Babyface: A Story of Heart and Bones
A few days ago I finished the disappointing Serious Men by Manu Joseph. I give it one star primarily for its sexism but also for its meandering text and lack of fulfilling its potential.

It's time soon to compile the best books of 2010--so stay tuned! What good books have you read this year?

Getting wet

Nicholas has informed me that he doesn't like kisses any more--only hugs. When asked why not, he says he doesn't want to get wet! Of course, this has made me ever more determined to shower him with much sloppier kisses!

He must not be a true Oregonians, because they don't mind getting wet.

Today is a typical fall/winter rainy day. Not a torrential downpour, but steady falling rain.

This morning on my commute I saw 40 or 50 people walking or biking. Maybe five of them had umbrellas. Most wore hoods or hats.

As for me, I neglected to look at the weather forecast before leaving the house. I was wearing a leather jacket with a scarf (which I put over my head while walking from car to office).

Because umbrellas are a pain in the neck and to be avoided unless you REALLY have a hard time getting wet. Like a 4-year-old little boy.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Thanks and Giving 2010

I've had a bad cold for well over a week now and am getting really tired of it! It doesn't help that our Nick has been sleeping really horribly lately, and even though my lovely husband has been shouldering the majority of the burden, he's waking me up as well. He is holding on the last vestiges of babyhood in two essential ways, one of them bad sleep habits! Typical youngest child? I don't know...you tell me!

Fortunately our Thanksgiving plans always involve going to my aunt and uncle's house in Lake Oswego. Our contributions were a vegetable (green beans with onion, crimini mushrooms, garlic, and basil) and a bottle of wine. Easy peasy! The food was marvelous and the company even better, although we were a smaller gathering than usual.

Decorating plates--we came home with about 20 of these!
Even Uncle Bill and Uncle Jerry got into the act later on!

Cousin Cameron and his adorable son, Caden
My dads brothers (John and Ed) with Ed's wife, one of my Aunt Judys

Aunt Barbara, cousin Cori, and Uncle Jerry
Uncle Jerry lives in Seattle, and he and his family usually come down for Thanksgiving--we miss them at Christmas. Growing up, Nadine and I had a special relationship with Uncle Jerry and his wife Judy--they took a special interest in us. Both of us worked as nannies for them during the summer--Nadine when their daughter Anne was a baby, and me for two summers--when Elena was a baby, and again when she was 1 and Anne was 3.
Mom talking to Brad, a friend of ours from church--their family are close friends with my
Uncle Bill and Aunt Terry (one of those small world things
Chris and his second cousin Jake--playing video games

Cousin Gary with his kids, McKenna and Jake

Kieran and Jake

Cousin Elena and her boyfriend Gus
Olivia, her mom Anne, and Uncle Bill (one of the hosts)

Mike and cousin Kim (who looks so more and more like my favorite Great Aunt Noni!)
Kieran with baby Noah (our church friends' grandson)

Baby kisses

I like your shoes, mister!

Cousin Cori with her brand-new puppy Ollee

Nicholas was quite the hit with the little boys--
here he is hugging Caden

And having an examination...

Uncle Jerry with Ollee

Me with my beloved cousins Anne and Elena--they were the flower
girl and ring bearer in our wedding...and now look at them!
Beautiful, bright, and loving young women!
Definitely the highlight of my Thanksgiving was catching up with Anne and Elena. After most of the guests had left, we hung out and watched "Avatar" in my aunt and uncle's little home theater, while Mike and Nick were being social.

Elena, Anne, and Olivia
Of course, seeing these sisters together made me miss my own sister...they spent Thanksgiving in Puyallup with David's family. But we will see them next week when we celebrate my nephews' December birthdays.

I've been feeling daring because I've started playing Christmas music. Turns out I'm behind the curve ball; the neighbors across the street have their Christmas tree up, and Nick is insisting that we must get one immediately!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Feeling thankful

Last year I practiced the Facebook tradition of writing one thing I am thankful for each day of November. Then I posted my collected thanks for 2009. I suspect my list will be similar this year, but I'm not going to go back and consult it beforehand. Here is my stream-of-consciousness, although more abbreviated, list for 2010, in no particular order:
  • A happy childhood, filled with love and great parenting
  • Good medicine and health insurance (which Chris and I particularly have benefited from)
  • A healthy, loving family--both nuclear and extended
  • The opportunity to see my extended family on a regular basis
  • Three easy-going, fun, curious boys...who sometimes drive me crazy but always make me laugh!
  • An easy teenager (I know this is not to be taken lightly!)
  • Parents, sister, and brother-in-law who are my close friends and with whom I can be myself
  • A wonderful mother-in-law (also not to be taken lightly!) and the way she raised Mike to be the person he is
  • The wonder of nature--as evident in the Pacific Northwest (ocean, mountains, forest, plains)
  • Great culture--music, theater, the arts
  • Plentiful healthy, local, and organic food and fresh water
  • Excellent educational experiences for my kids (and the dedication of great teachers!)
  • Books and libraries
  • A job I enjoy and great coworkers, and a stable company in this economy
  • A progressive church community filled with bright, compassionate people and great spiritual leaders
  • A large circle of fun, caring friends
  • The fact that 23 years ago, while living on the other side of the world, I met a funny, charming, intelligent, and kind Englishman and we fell in love--and it just keeps growing (20 years of marriage this year) (check out his own Thanksgiving post on his blog)
Happy thanksgiving, everyone!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Chris in Dracula

Last weekend, Chris appeared in his middle school production of Dracula. He played Dr. Seward, a psychiatrist who also woos the leading lady, Lucy.

Here is a brief clip of Dr. Seward with his patient in the mental hospital:

And Dr. Seward proposing to Lucy:

Dr. Seward at Lucy's side after she's been bitten by Dracula

The suitors debating what to do to save Lucy

At the end of the show, the kids did the Thriller dance:

Kieran posing after the show with Renfield, the mental patient

Chris' fan club (my sister and her family, and my cousin Tim and his family)
The kids did a great job! We had a turkey dinner (pre-Thanksgiving) with everyone that evening to celebrate.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Remembering Zacary

On November 22, 2001, an adorable, sweet little boy became an angel. Zacary was born with VACTERL Syndrome (which involve a heart defect among other things). He was 4-1/2 years old when he died...way too young.

The first time I met his mom, Laurie, was at a Family Advisory Board meeting at the hospital. I will never forget hearing her describe how she had endured something like nine miscarriages and two tubal pregnancies before getting pregnant with Zac. And even that pregnancy was not without its problems. At the beginning of the pregnancy, her HCG did not go up like it was supposed to, and the doctors were convinced she'd lost this baby too. But Zacary was determined to come forth into being.

When he was born, the medical staff noticed that he was missing a thumb (an indicator of VACTERL syndrome) and immediately whisked him away. They announced that they needed to take him to Emanuel to the Level 3 NICU, where he would receive the care he needed. Laurie jumped out of bed (remember, she had just given birth moments before) and announced that she would be accompanying him. Throughout Zacary's hospital stays, Laurie never left Zacary's side. She simply informed the hospital staff that they would need to find a place for her to stay. I was awed by her strength and fortitude--it would never have occurred to me to do something like that!

Laurie was pureminded in her passion and love for Zacary. The devotion was completely mutual, too--you can see from the photos below how much he adored his mama.

Laurie and Zacary (used with permission from Laurie)
Laurie knew firsthand how terrifying it is to be a parent with a baby in the NICU. She spent countless hours supporting other families in the hospital...sitting with them, supporting them, and giving them hope for the future. She was such a gift to these families.

Zacary's heart was so big, and it gave out on Thanksgiving Day nine years ago. The night Zacary died, the nurses from the NICU called us at 3 a.m. to tell us the news. We arrived at the pediatric ICU to see Laurie and her husband Derek holding a limp, silent Zacary in their arms, shellshocked by their sudden loss. That night will be forever seared in my memory. No parent should ever have to mourn their child--especially such a young one.

The days and months that followed were agonizing and awful for everyone who knew them...and the memorial service was heartbreakingly beautiful and sad. Zacary touched so many people's lives. I will always remember his impish sense of humor and love of life. He loved to draw and paint. He adored ladybugs and marshmallows...to this day, whenever I see a ladybug I believe it's Zacary sending me a message from heaven. To this day, when Chris hears a song from "John Denver and the Muppets," which says "Merry Christmas, little Zachary"...it makes him cry and remember Zac. (Chris was 5 when Zacary died, and they were buddies.)

Bike buddies Calder, Chris, and Zacary
From Laurie--as well as my close friends Kristin and Roger and Catherine and Doug--I have learned how to honor children who have died before their time. I have learned that no parent ever recovers from this kind of loss. I have learned that it's important to treasure every day with our children, no matter how difficult it might be.

I have learned to keep things in perspective. Nick accidentally broke our toilet the other day. The tank top was not fitted on all the way, and he climbed up on top of it (I had stepped away to get a towel!). It crashed down onto the toilet, splitting the tank lid in half and cracking the toilet. But even though it is a $300+ toilet, such a thing or scratches on our newish leather furniture...none of these are truly important if we keep things in perspective. It's not worth losing my temper over something so minor, knowing that others would give anything they had for another moment with their beloved child.

Today I am conscious of the fact that I have a four-year-old sweet boy myself. I am remembering that sweet little Zacary and thinking of Laurie (who marked the day by visiting the beach and writing him a message in the sand)...and all parents everywhere who have lost a child too soon. I know he's looking at his friends growing up and smiling...wishing he were still here with us.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

New Christmas music!

One of my favorite things about this time of the year is Christmas music. It's my holiday weakness. I wish I could play it all year long, but I don't allow myself to start playing it until the week of Thanksgiving.

Some of my favorite Christmas albums are ones I've bought fairly recently:

A New Thought For ChristmasWintersongJames Taylor at ChristmasCome Darkness Come Light: Twelve Songs of Christmas

And then I have some older favorites:

Holiday CelebrationHarry Belafonte ChristmasGo Tell It on the MountainThe Bells of DublinChristmas With The Trail Band - Live In ConcertJohn Denver & The Muppets A Christmas Together

And now I have three new ones I bought this month--by some of my favorite musical groups/artists! They arrived the other day and I'm just beginning to get a chance to play them.

A Christmas CornucopiaHolly Happy DaysJoy to The World

Such fun!

For a taste of Annie's album, check out her Dickensian video of "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen."