Monday, November 28, 2011

Guest post and gearing up

Whew, what a week!  We are slowly coming out from behind laundry loads and leftovers after our week that involved 1 birthday, 20 Ridge Road Turkey Trot participants (0 trophies in this house), 18 lovely individuals around our Thanksgiving table, a Cirillo-Gray Christmas tree excursion (worthy of a Griswald Christmas tree!), several trips to the store to find the perfect lights, and one sweet baby boy's baptism...
It's like we've completed one race only to find another one ahead.  Ahh, the marathon countdown of Christmas.  I love that tomorrow begins our advent tradition.  It is a wonderful tool to prepare our hearts for Christmas and a great way of introducing the reason why we celebrate.  I will post more about creative ways to introduce the meaning of this holiday to the little ones, but first I wanted to highlight my guest post on my friend Laura's blog  I have a minor obsession with neatly wrapped gifts so I posted a few "think out of the box" ideas for wrapping.  Keep checking her blog for some creative holiday ideas from plants to centerpieces to yummy will surely be inspired to rediscover Christmas in very simple ways!  Plus, she is so much cooler than I am :)
Tis the season!

Sunday, November 27, 2011


From our sermon today:
The greatest gift that we can give this year is not what the world tells us we "should" or "must" have.  It's not in the attempts at buying more or busying one self.  It is investing in the true gift that is revealed through the season - Christ was born at Christmas time.  HE is our gift.  Let the season upon us be one of reflection and a constant inward challenge to focus on that which truly matters. 
Feeling extra thankful today for the gift of Charles Ethan Gray - baptized on this day.  And the wonderful gift of family, friends and our community.  This past week has been a constant reminder of how blessed we are.  Despite a full schedule of celebrations, I feel rejuvenated by those around us and the reminders to stop and enjoy it.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

just one day

I don't think much about my life before children.  I really can't imagine my life any other way and when I even allow my mind to think about what things were like before Julia and Charlie, it's like thinking in terms of prehistoric times.  It seems like they have been a part of me my whole life.
Yesterday was my birthday.  It was a day just like any other.  I got up, started the morning routine, and headed off to work.  As Julia was having a tantrum about the fact that she must wear the same pink dress every day, I thought to myself, "don't I just get a day?"  A day where I call all of the shots, where everyone cooperates, a day off from cleaning up incessant messes?  I drove to work harping on this topic.  Suddenly realized that I had about 20+ birthdays like that.  Ones that involved posh restaurants and weekends away.  Birthdays where my friends were all present and nobody had to miss out because of babysitting issues.  Dozens of years where my mom cooked me my favorite meal and always made the most delicious cake.  Halfway into my commute from work, I had convinced myself that I was missing something (a little pity party can suddenly evolve into a full fledged "I deserve this!" in no time).  Once I made it to work I had figured that I needed to have an intervention with my family.  My husband was going to have to understand that birthdays DEMAND more attention!
It's a good thing that I have a sobering job as a social worker to bring me back to reality.  By the time I made it through my through my day, I was a bit more clear headed about the important things in life.  I decided that this intervention could be toned down a bit.  On my drive home, I thought about how to make the most of the rest of my day.  If it meant cuddling on the couch with my little ones, I was content with that.
Well...I walked into my house and was greeted by my very eager toddler who had made me a card.  Not just any card, it was the most beautiful and special handmade card that I've ever received.  This was met shortly after by my husband who was in the kitchen making a meal that would surely meet the requirements for Top Chef.  Not that I was surprised, but Charlie was his content, belly-laughing self to pull it all together.  The night unfolded into this wonderful family time that I could have easily missed if I continued to measure the fun factor by the expectations from my non-parenthood days.  I mean, really, who gets serenaded by a kazoo for the birthday song?  
 Really, I guess I don't think much about my life before Charlie and Julia because I don't know that I felt things so powerfully and in such a rich way.  As we said grace before our meal we prayed for mommy's birthday and also the "squirrel with God", (yes, we pray for the roadkill in our neighborhood), which somehow a funny reminder to stay grounded.  All of it is important in its own way.
And on a side note, I actually did get my fair share of adult time.  This included a visit from my dear friend, Kate and a great dinner our with some of our closest friends (and yes, everyone secured their babysitters).  
My husband tells me that planning my birthday takes a year off of his life.  He has 364 days before he needs to worry about that again...

Friday, November 11, 2011

thankful, thankful

This time last year I posted about the interesting month we had in November...I was newly pregnant and hardly functioning because I was so sick.  We were in the thick of our kitchen remodel and I can recall vividly that each day was such a struggle to just maintain the basics.  On top of that, we had a few scares and wondered if the pregnancy would continue.  We obviously made it through, and I remember feeling such a sense of thankfulness during that season.  God had literally carried us through from moment to moment and in the midst of all of it, we were surrounded by little gifts that just made us stop and give thanks.  There is nothing like hardship that will bring you to your knees in gratitude for the simple things in life.  In my mind, there was nothing that could compare to that time in our lives one year ago.
Well, fast forward one year... 
November roared in with a NorEaster that delivered about 15 inches of snow and made a whole heck of a mess.  We were without power for a week and after 3 days of it (with a very cold 3-month old and an active toddler), I headed to safer ground with the kids while Charles stayed behind to take care of the mess.  We made an impromptu visit to Delaware until power was restored.  It was almost as if we pressed pause in our lives for a week.  During the time we were here, we built fires, ate what was salvagable, and lived by candle-light.  The first night of our power outage, we sat around the fire with our neighbors and let the kids run their energy out.  Because our neighbors have gas, they were able to cook up some hot dinners the following nights, so we collected what we could offer and ate our meals with them. (Yes, they had us over despite the fact that our big oak tree had fallen across their car!) 
Though this year is very different from last, we are again reminded in a big way of all of the things for which we are thankful.  
I am thankful for the major stuff:  Our health.  A healthy baby who is full of life despite our uncertainty this time last year.  The fact that our home was not damaged in a big way.  Precious time with family.  The basics in life that we rely on everyday - like power and hot showers.  And I am thankful for these situations that bring to light the small things.  
I am thankful for this picture of Charlie in awe of his great-great grandmother. 
What a gift!
 We are okay and resuming this crazy life of ours.
In 2 weeks we are hosting Thanksgiving and Charlie's baptism.  Despite that fact that our front lawn is now home to piles upon piles of huge branches that my lumberjack husband has cut up, it will all get done.  And we will sit down and eat, and enjoy family, and wonder how we did it all.
And after all of it, we will again give thanks.