December 31, 2013

New Year's Eve revelations ...

It all started with this photo. A photo that I settled on after taking probably close to twenty that varied only slightly by a shadow or a strand of hair. The expression was pretty much the same, the natural light working for and against me. The reason behind this "selfie"? A photo-a-day challenge prompt on Instagram.

I like the daily photo challenges posted by Fat Mum Slim - it gives me just enough structured creative freedom - if that makes any sense. So, yesterday's prompt was You. I didn't stretch very far with this one, I decided on a self portrait. Not as easy as you think. I think most of us have struggles with accepting our appearance. And well, an up-close and personal shot of your face is almost never a good idea. But I did it. A simple filter and a share button later and there I was - in first place in my gallery.

When I looked at this picture yesterday, sitting on the corner of my bed, I realized how much my face has changed with age. I saw the freckles and wrinkles, the sagging skin, the tired eyes that are a dead giveaway that I am raising a toddler. And then I received incredibly positive compliments on Instagram and Facebook that made me take another look. This time I realized that my freckles are the same ones that have been there since I was a child. And that slight, crooked smile has been a staple in almost all of my photos from elementary school going forward. Most importantly I saw kindness in my eyes. They say 'eyes are a window to the soul' ... I think it's true. You can sometimes look at a lunatic and know right away that you want to walk in the other direction. The same is true when you give to someone and see their true appreciation or compliment a humble person. Eyes don't lie. And while mine say Man, I'm tired - they also say that I'm good. I saw so much in this one little square photo. And thanks to the overwhelming positive response, it kept me reflecting all day and night.

I've lived a life. I've lived longer than many people have had the chance to. I have long roads behind me and hopefully long ones ahead. I've made mistakes that have led to regrets. I've been cruel only to learn the importance of being kind. I've been selfish only to learn how much better it can feel to make others happy. My teens were typical and my twenties were a train wreck. But now, in my thirties, I have finally become the person I am proud to be. I know that what you give is more important than what you receive - and that material things mean nothing. I'm not trying to be better than anyone. And I'm a great mom. I am so much better at being a mom than I ever dreamed I'd be. Gregg and Scarlett have given me everything that I need from others - now I just have to learn how to give myself the rest.

In 2014 I will try to:

Let go of frustrating issues: I can't control what others do and say so I need to just let it roll and find peace elsewhere.

Be content with my appearance: I have said this every year since I was a kid but I am going to try to accept that I'm not a size 4 and that I have wrinkles and strands of gray.

Get way more exercise: The most cliche one of all - but it's true. I feel like crap all the time because I just can't carve out the time to routinely exercise. It is such a mental thing for me. But I need it for so many reasons - this is the longest stretch I've gone without a regular routine in at least ten years.

Stop policing myself all. the. time: I talk myself out of lots of things that I want because there are things that I should be doing instead. I'm a jerk.

Be less anxious: for example, I'd love to not panic about going outside in the buggy summer. And spring. And partial fall. Wish it was simple.

Wear more of what I like: I bought a hat last week. A winter hat. Because I like winter hats now. And I'm going to wear them.

Tonight will be very low key for me. I hope you all celebrate in your favorite ways!
I wish you all GREAT HEALTH and HAPPINESS in the New Year.
Welcome, 2014 - Be good to us all!

December 19, 2013

annual Christmas poem - 2013

It's again that time of year 
that I thoroughly adore 
though there's traffic on every street
and lines in every store

I love the cold, crisp air
the abundance of green and red
scents of peppermint and pine
sparkly gold and silver thread

Our lighted tree is a beauty
though a calamity to my surprise
step anywhere near it
and watch the needles drop like flies

I'm not thrilled about it
sweeping and watering twice a day
this lemon better last til Christmas
or there'll be hell to pay

I love receiving Christmas cards
and have them hanging on my door
the pictures of all the children
increase my spirit all the more

I'm slightly disappointed
that Scarlett turns up her nose
at a most beloved tradition...
watching all the Christmas shows

She won't sit still for Rudolph
she's sick of Charlie Brown and his tree
she'll glance at Frosty for a second
but the sight of Whoville makes her flee

We're obsessed with Christmas music
I love almost every song
Scarlett also has her favorites
and likes to sing along

I burn scented tarts like a lunatic
from Yankee Candle every year
I buy thirty at every dollar sale
it's like the frigging North Pole in here

I'm looking forward to the holiday
and Santa's visit most of all 
I can't wait to see Scarlett's little face
at the first sight of her haul 

We'll enjoy our time with family
as we are lucky to do each year
Wishing you all a Merry Christmas
and holiday season filled with cheer!

With love,

December 12, 2013

Happy Birthday ...

Today, December 12, is the birthday of a very special man. A man who passed away ten years ago this month. And a hundred years too soon if you ask me.

His name is Paul and I've blogged about him several times. I wonder what he would have thought about that. I wonder what he would have thought about a lot of things.

He was a dear companion to my grandmother, who just turned ninety-two on December 9th. She lost her husband when she was just forty-nine years old and she met Paul a few years later. They had so many things in common, their love of dancing was just one of them. Paul became part of our family and an important influence in my life. He always came to our home for the holidays and it really made them so special. I remember waiting at the window for his black El Camino to pull up in front of the house - hoping for a rain-free forecast so we could take our beloved after-dinner hike. On sunny Easter Sundays he would take my brother and me to play tennis at a local college court. Holidays simply have not been the same without him. Those truly were the days. 

Paul was an artist. He owned and operated a sign shop in Providence for many, many years. He hand-painted everything himself. {I cannot imagine what he would think about graphic design}. He painted plaques for my brother and me with our names on them - I still have mine tucked away for forever-keeping. He made us walking sticks with our names painted on them - I'm certain I'd still have mine had my brother not tossed it into a river when I was little. He also gave me a set of very nice paintbrushes and numerous sketch pads when I was growing up. I recently used those very paintbrushes to paint the mural in Scarlett's room.

When Paul visited he always asked to see what I'd been drawing or writing. He offered his thoughts, critique and positive feedback. And he urged me to continue doing what I love - to keep sharpening my skills, to keep learning, trying and bettering. Mostly, to keep enjoying.

I admired Paul so much. He was smart as a whip, up to snuff on all current events and could spit the newspaper back to you. He loved to watch hockey and tennis. He loved to go dancing and watch real entertainers like Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. He was active - exercising everyday - walking, jogging, playing tennis. He was creative - a very talented sketcher and painter. He was a sharp dresser, always classy and neat. He was kind. The most wonderful gifts that he gave were not wrapped in paper or tucked in an envelope. They are the gifts that last much longer than a doll or a fifty dollar bill. He gave me insight, inspiration, encouragement and love. He instilled a drive in me that will last forever. He was like a grandfather to me, a mentor and one of the most special people I've ever known.

Sometimes I feel like I should stop trying to sell my rinky-dink artwork. Or quit spending so much time trying to create a Christmas card that people will glance at just the same as a store-bought one. It's in that moment when I'm about to pull the plug that I feel his encouragement. It's like I can hear him saying Why give up doing something you love? Do it because you love to do it - don't worry what anyone else says of it. He keeps me moving forward. He gives me that little nudge, letting me know he's always in my corner.

Oh, how I miss him and how I wish he could have met my daughter. He would be so amazed by her. He had a genuine knack with children - he was never upset or impatient with us - and he was always smiling.

Rest in Peace, dear Paul. And Happy Birthday.
 (an ode to Paul Marzullo - forever in my heart)

December 7, 2013

The Scarlett Letters: Little Miss terrible two

Dear Scarlett,

I'm so glad you are much happier today than you have been over the past few days. You've become very defiant, resistant to change and hard to read. We had our annual visit with Santa and you did GREAT! We were so happy that you weren't petrified or shy. When he asked you what you would like for Christmas you replied, "Mickey toys! A tree! A wreath! Presents!" ... yeah, it was pretty adorable. You love our Christmas tree and have been pretty good about not touching too many of the ornaments. You're having a blast finding the elf, "snoozy" every day too. I'm a little disappointed that you aren't interested in any of the Christmas specials that I'm DVR'ing like a freak. Sorry, Mama is semi-North Pole obsessed. I'm sure you'll enjoy them another year - and if you don't that's okay, I watch them anyway.

Here are a few "Little Miss" nicknames we could give you right now:

You are pretty set in your ways, you are. You just like things to be a certain way. Every figure has a specific car, they can't swap cars or you will spin off the planet. Mickey cannot play with McCoggins - it's simply not allowed. You play how you want to play - you don't seem to enjoy many other ways right now. We keep coming up with new games to play and new arrangements and places to keep toys. We try to change things up as much as we can to keep you straying from that one favored path. We want you to have many paths as much as we want you to do what you like.

This age is by far the most challenging of all. You are constantly pressing buttons, pushing limits and testing waters. We have our daily ups and downs. I'm tired. You're wearing me out, little girl! It's okay, I know you are growing and learning every second of every day. As long as you remain healthy and happy I'm thrilled. You're still my little pig-tailed sweetie bo-beetie pants. Although I have been known to call you my sour-bo-bower face from time to time. ;o)  Love you to pieces!


December 2, 2013

Scarlett's Christmas excitement begins...

Yesterday morning we headed out on our annual trip to the Christmas tree farm to cut and haul home our prized pick. Scarlett and I waited in the car while Gregg and "the man" took care of the cutting, bailing and strapping. We got it home in one piece and made room for it in the living room. (My busted recliner is finally on the curb!!)

It was tricky (frustrating) trying to keep Scarlett on the couch and watching a television show while we tried to get the tree into the stand. For some reason it just kept falling over. We've never had that problem before - the trunk was straight but the tree was much heavier than we're used to. After about twenty minutes the tree was up and anchored for security. We swept up, vacuumed and had lunch.

Scarlett had her playtime and spent her "nap" yappin away while Gregg put the lights on the tree. It was so cute when we later showed her the lighted magic by flipping the switch. She said, "ohh wowwwwwwwww." Like a little old lady.

When the time came to decorate the tree we weren't sure how it would go. To our surprise Scarlett dove right in - choosing ornaments at a lightning pace! She had clustered about twenty in one small spot on the front of the tree - we were dying. She ooh'd and ahh'd the whole time. She loved all of our weird little plush ornaments, the shiny ones, the novelties and of course the vast selection of Plutos, Goofys, Tiggers, Hello Kittys, Strawberry Shortcakes, Woodstocks, Charlie Browns and Grinches. We took lots of pictures to capture the adorable moments. I love looking through old Christmas photos, don't you?

Gregg and I prettied everything up once Scarlett was done with her handiwork and we stood back to enjoy our creation. To our surprise it's a much larger tree than we usually choose. And it sure looks pretty.

November 30, 2013

I got your merry...

On Thanksgiving night Gregg had the idea that we could decorate the house for Christmas after putting Scarlett to bed. We normally do it each year on the day after Thanksgiving. Gregg has to work this Saturday and Sunday which is when we would normally get our Christmas tree so this plan would free up our Friday to handle the tree festivities. I was pretty tired and looking forward to unwinding but I decided it was a great plan. So we merried up the place right quick - it only took an hour and a half! A new record!

We can't wait to see Scarlett's face when she walks into her little Christmas-town! We set out our Elf on the Shelf on Thanksgiving night and she saw him right away - and was pretty excited... "Mama, wook! The elf is here!" (I had been mentioning him over the past few weeks so she sort of knew what to expect).

She named him "snoozy" and is going to have a ball finding him each day! What a fun little tradition.

Looking forward to our tree farm trip this morning in the c-c-c-c-olllllllld temps. Hoping it is a fun day decorating the tree for the first time with our sweet girl. Last year she watched from the play-yard, drooling over the sparkly ornaments. This year should be a heap of glittery chaos! FUN!

November 29, 2013


... And there it goes. Another Thanksgiving under our belts, hope you all had a wonderful day!

Our holiday was a bit strange as usual - we are always trying to come up with the best way to split time between families. It's really never easy to do. This year we did something different.

My goal is to someday be able to cook holiday dinners in my home. It's not going to happen anytime soon. It's complicated. My father is unable to visit - he's confined to a wheelchair and needs special transportation (not to mention a ramp which we don't have). We would never leave him home alone on the holiday. My husband's family goes to his sister's house. Her husband cooks an enormous meal and hosts his family and friends along with Gregg's parents and grandfather. They wouldn't be able to come to our house for the holiday because they always host. My mother gets stuck doing all of the cooking and preparations for my family every year for every holiday - along with the help of my soon-to-be 92 year old grandmother. Since I can't do all of the cooking for her I want to help her as much as possible. She has her hands full everyday as it is. She's tired. She shouldn't have to work so hard on a day that is supposed to be enjoyed by all.

On Wednesday I took a couple of  'jobs' from my mom and handled them at home. I realized it was such a tiny portion of the work ahead of her so Gregg and I decided to change our plans. I normally bring Scarlett to Gregg's sister's house around noon and leave at two-thirty to go to my mom's. We eat dinner at three - the work is all done when I get there. His sister had dinner at four o'clock this year because she had to work during the day. So Gregg brought Scarlett to visit her uncle and Grandparents while I went to help my mom. At three he shuttled her to my mother's house for dinner. We saw each other long enough to snap this picture of the three of us.

He carved the turkey (because my father is unable to) and headed back to have dinner with his family. A bit unconventional, yes. We were both able to spend time with our families although not with each other. Still, we had it much better than so many people who simply cannot be with their loved ones on the holiday. My mother very much appreciated the help and my grandmother appreciated being able to rest.

Until I can take over and spend the holidays in my own home I am going to continue to try to lessen the burden on my mom. I think after forty years she deserves the break.

I hope you all had a lovely time with your family and friends. There is so much to be thankful for - and one of those things is the side of pumpkin chocolate-chip cake I'm about to have with my coffee. Cheers! 

November 22, 2013

a rotten post...

For those of you who know me - you know I am a grateful person. You know I'm always recognizing the many wonderful things that I'm thankful for in my life. So, in this lovely 'thank-filled' month of November I'd like to switch it up and be a rotten bitch. Here is an annoying post filled with complaints, "I want"s and "I hate"s. Enjoy!

1. I'd love to have a law enforcement official sit in my driveway and hand out tickets to every single one of my reckless neighbors who plow through the stop sign at the top of our street. And then have them hand out a second ticket to the very same neighbors who, upon returning home, whip around the corner at lightning speed just to get to their driveways. I'd like them to do this daily until each neighbor is so broke from ticket-paying that they are unable to afford their home, forcing them to find another hood and paving the way for awesome people to move in and exchange holiday goodies with me.

2. I wish I could visit the twenty-year old me so I could punch myself in the face for over-plucking my eyebrows causing my future years to be filled with the daily task penciling in fake hairs with expensive crayons.

3. I could eat an entire danish ring from Panera if I allowed myself to. I have incredible willpower when it comes to eating the good (bad) stuff. I would be 900 lbs if I didn't.

4. While I do put in the time and effort on a lot of things there are some things I just want without having to learn / work for them. Like to know how to sew. Or build stuff, like tables or cabinets. I'm not a fan of math or measuring so I'd like the magic wand for these kinds of skills.

5. I get aggravated by some of those e-cards and things that float around on Facebook. I'm pretty easy-going but I still have a line that can get crossed. I hate when people over-push their views/opinions on others. Be passionate but don't be an asshole.

6. I despise Bitstrips. Oh how I hate them. I have never seen one that is even remotely interesting, never mind funny. I get that it's between friends - an inside joke kinda thing and the characters are supposed to look like you even though they really don't. But it's dumb as hell. (Here's where Bitstrips fans yell, "YOUR BLOG IS NEVER REMOTELY INTERESTING OR FUNNY -YOUR BLOG IS DUMB AS HELL!" - stole your thunder, didn't I?)

7. I can't deal with people that text while driving. I wish there was an instant whistle you could blow that would make their phones melt.

8. I want a new chair. My recliner has been broken for well over a year and I finally abandoned it last month. I just stare at it with disgust as I walk by en route to the couch which is lopsided or Gregg's recliner which is also broken and requires at least two pillows. My lower back has never ached more. After the holidays we are buying some frigging seats. What do you think? One of those hanging swinging chairs? A papasan? A beanbag?

9. I hate that we have to rely on technology and morons to keep our lives running smoothly. Direct deposit goes awry and fouls up your entire existence for days on end. Human error or computer error - either way, it wasn't my error but it affects my life. How dare youuuuu! Makes me dream of The Mosquito Coast - remember that movie??

10. I don't enjoy Thanksgiving. Oh, calm down - it's not because I'm not thankful for family and health - it's because I don't like the menu. I'm not a turkey, mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce kind of girl. Give me a salad, some lasagna and eggplant parm. Christmas dinner for the win!

Happy Thanksgiving, friends. I hope you all enjoy YOUR turkey dinners with your loved ones. Please don't go shopping after dinner - sit and visit with the people who mean the most. Don't spend your holiday fighting a jerk for an iPad and swiping your card in front of a salty cashier. Have a nightcap and an extra slice of pie, tell stories by the fire - reminisce and make memories. The sales can wait.

November 20, 2013

Gregg's new job...

It's true! Gregg has left his grueling job of eight years for a fantastic opportunity which will better suit our family. He was tired. Tired of driving, tired of hauling, tired of being sore, tired of being tired. Most importantly, tired of hardly seeing his family.

His commute added an extra forty minutes to sometimes an hour and a half onto an already windshield-heavy day. He left the house at 5 am and most times didn't return until 6 pm. He missed breakfast, lunch and dinner. He missed seeing Scarlett - except for about an hour before her bedtime which was mostly spent prepping for bed - brushing her teeth and reading books with her. The weekends were filled with obligations, yard work and unavoidable rest. He had hardly any time for himself or for his family. So he decided it was time for a change.

Just three days in, he is already enjoying the change. He is in a seven week training period in which he will learn the ins and outs of being a manager for a popular and Leach-loved cafe. His hours will vary each week, some mornings, some nights, some weekends. That variety is what is going to allow us to see each other more often and spend some quality time together. He will be home for breakfast, or lunch or dinner. Sometimes all three. He will be able to run errands during the week and stay awake during the afternoon on a weekend. His commute won't be longer than thirty minutes and when he gets to work, he stays there. When he's finished for the day - he's home in thirty minutes. When he finished his day at the old job he used to text me, "Done" ... I could expect him home three hours later on average.

This morning we all took a walk together. {Since it was probably the coldest day of the year you know it was my idea}. It was awesome. He ran a couple of errands, brought home coffees, cleaned the gutters and raked (more) leaves. We all sat and ate grilled cheese and soup for lunch. It almost felt like vacation.

Change is nice. There's always an adjustment period but it's good for everyone. I think he is really going to be happy with this new move. I think we all are.

November 17, 2013

Those questions again...

Here is one of those little questionnaires that circled the globe back in 2008. I found a few bloggers doing this for "Old School Blogging - the November edition" so I jumped on board but am feeling too lazy to link up right now - 
Where is your cell phone? Charging on the kitchen counter with a brand new cracked screen that mysteriously appeared yesterday. So pissed. 

Your significant other?  He's sleeping in after 'guys night'  

Your hair? In need of freshening up, I had to cancel my appointment last week! (note: gotta reschedule that appointment) 

Your mother? The most selfless person you'll ever meet - almost to a fault. In desperate need of a vacation. Loves Days of Our Lives, Dancin' With The Stars, Italian food and the movie White Christmas. She passed on to me her love of Christmas, her passion for a clean home and her grandmother's recipe for Italian "gravy." 

Your father? A joker and instigator. Born and raised in North Carolina and a US Navy Veteran. He loves poker, Red Skelton and oyster stew. Living with Multiple Sclerosis and unable to walk. He passed on to me his love for Motown, Doo-Wop, Classic Rock and horror films.

Your favorite thing? My family. 

Your dream last night? Watching an Air Force plane crash at the airport and diving on top of my daughter to shelter her from the blast/debris.

Your favorite drink? Coffee or water. Alcoholic - Grey Goose and tonic with lemon. 

Your dream/goal?  I'd like to publish/illustrate children's books.

The room you are in? I'm in my living room with Christmas music on the television. 

Your fear? Loss of loved ones and my memories. 

Where do you want to be in six years? Comfortable in my life with an enjoyable job and plenty of free time with my family. 

Where were you last night? In this very room with one of my best friends, Elisha - hashing out life issues and smiling about great things.

What are you not? Discriminatory. 

Muffins? Oh how I love a pumpkin muffin. Or blueberry. Or corn. I rarely have them but if I had my way they would be an everyday coffee companion.

One of your wish list items? New living room furniture. Our recliners are shot.

Where you grew up? Rhode Island 

The last thing you did? I just looked up at the television to see who was singing this horrid jazzy Christmas Valentine song. Eeeek.

What are you wearing? Black sweatpants, t-shirt that reads "In Love", gray hoodie, Hello Kitty slippers and my glasses. Hands off, I'm taken. 

Your TV? Provides just enough entertainment yet the cost of cable is so outrageous I often wish I could get rid of it.

Your pets? Brody. (named for Chief Brody in the movie JAWS) He's a Shepard/Husky mix We rescued him about six or seven years ago. He's full of energy but definitely calming down as the years go by.

Your computer? Dell laptop, HP desktop. Someday a mac.

Your life? Pretty awesome. We have our woes like everyone else but I couldn't have imagined myself this happy fifteen years ago. 

Your mood? Currently in a bit of a funk. Lots of things going on but trying to pull myself out of it to enjoy the season. 

Missing someone? Paul. 

Your Car? Honda Civic which I've had for seventy-five thousand years.

Something you are not wearing? Socks. I am not a sock fan.

Favorite store? I frequent Marshalls, HomeGoods, Kohl's and Old Navy but I love Pier 1 - if only I could afford it. 

Your summer? This summer wasn't very memorable honestly - I'm more of a Fall and Winter gal.

Like someone? I like Soleil Moon Frye very much and the Today show cast minus Matt Lauer.

Your favorite color? I think I'd have to say Aqua at this moment. 

When was the last time you laughed? Last night when Elisha and I picked up our husbands from the bar. We felt like old moms waiting for their teenagers. We used to be the ones closing down the bars, now we wait outside in sweats for our husbands haha. 

Last time you cried? Just teared up reading this post from one of my favorite bloggers, May at Achieving Clarity. 

What is one thing on your To-Do list?  I need to finalize the grocery list and head to the market. I don't know what it is about meal planning but I LOATHE it. I hate trying to figure out what we will eat each week. If I ever strike it rich I'd love to have that task taken care of for me. I swear when I had Scarlett and was in the hospital for six days it was actually NICE to have crappy hospital food served to me three times a day. Mindless yet nourishing. 

November 7, 2013

The Scarlett Letters: Imagination and Sparkle

My dear Scarlett,

I'm writing this while you take your little nap. You don't nap often, maybe three times each week for no more than an hour. You still sleep well overnight. I put you in the crib around 8pm on average. Sometimes you go right to sleep - mostly if you've missed your nap that day. Other times you will yap and yap and yap until sometimes ten o'clock! We love to listen to you tell stories to your friends (Mickey, Minnie, Pluto, Snoopy, Blanky, Bunny, Owl). You talk about things you did that day, you make up stories and scenarios and what cracks us up is that you actually use different voices! Hysterics!

Some of your favorite things lately:

Jewelry. You love your little bracelets and necklaces and have so many of them! You will wear them all at once or choose just a few. You like to put them and out of boxes, baskets and containers over and over.

Memory. Gee-Gee gave you this game in your Halloween treat bag and you just love it! Just like I did as a kid, it was my favorite! We have played it dozens of times already and you are so good at making pairs, your memory is just incredible.

Figures. You've had a fondness for little figures for quite a while now. You have a bunch of them - mostly Mickey Mouse Clubhouse "guys" as you call them. You also have some from the Tickety Toc gang and Team Umizoomi. I love listening to you play with them, setting up little scenes and such. That imagination is really wonderful.

Pearl Jam. Haha that's right. When their new album, Lightning Bolt, came out you were more than happy to listen to it several times a day for several days while Mama acquired her "fix." You even asked for it to be played a bunch of times. I'd look over and you'd be dancing all around the room or enthusiastically nodding in your high chair. When we were in the car the other day one of their old songs came on and you yelled, "IT'S PEARL JAM!!" Proud moment.

"Peanut Butter Cantaloupe" Over the past couple of months anytime we ask you what you want to eat the answer is the same - peanut butter cantaloupe. A peanut-butter and jelly sandwich with a side of melon. Time and time again. It has become a very popular lunch.

The blanket. Lately you can be found several times a day playing underneath a blanket. You choose a few toys, drape the blanket over your head and have a ball. I find it hilarious and adorable.

"Shoods" Because you can't pronounce your F's yet you say "Shoods" meaning Foods. We gave you a big bag of plastic foods for your birthday and you lovvvvvvvvvvve it. You, of course, have your favorites: The apple/tomato (I don't know what it is!), ice cream cone, cookie, banana, potato chips, orange, lettuce, lemon, egg, ketchup bottle etc. I remember vividly how much I loved my fake foods as a kid too. (smile).

Things have been really, really great with you. You are growing like a weed, super tall girl! You're long and lean, I can't keep your pants up! Trying to find you pajamas is pretty difficult. The shirts are all too short and the pants fall off of you. One-pieces are the new norm. You're wearing 18 mo or 24 mo pants and 3T shirts on average. Your shoe size is a 6/7 in case you were wondering. Haha.

Daddy and I are sooooooooooooo looking forward to Christmastime with you this year. I think you will really enjoy it all. Especially decorating the tree. I hope to watch all of our favorite Christmas specials with you so ... get on board! We are excited to start our own little family traditions, making wonderful memories to stay with you for a lifetime.

We love you so much, sweet girl.

November 6, 2013

the most wonderful time of the year...

This right here, right now is my favorite time of the year. While still enjoying the best of the beauty that Autumn has to offer, I'm dreaming of Christmastime.

The stores have begun playing Christmas music and putting up displays of red and green. Some say it's much too early - and the rest of us say bring it on! I love it all! I can listen to holiday music the whole year through, I just choose not to because I don't want the feeling to wear off by the time the snow falls. I am loving these cold mornings! I step out on the deck in bare feet and short sleeves just to enhance the thirty degree temps. I like to see my breath. I love the crispness to the air, it feels clean and new and puts a spring in my step. Inside I'm dying for the first snowfall but I'm trying to hold back to fully enjoy the rest of our beautiful Fall season which comes and goes much too quickly.

I love getting holiday catalogs in the mail; I consider it part of my Christmas celebration. I came across the most adorable ornament I've ever seen in the Pier 1 catalog and I am going to buy it today. Sometimes I find something that I feel like I cannot live without. This is one of those things...

It basically sums up nearly everything I love about Christmastime in one adorable hand-painted design. It's a must-have.

So here I am, rationing my Christmas music, circling toys in the flyers for Scarlett, burning the rest of my Autumn-scented Yankee Candle wax tarts ... gearing up. The time has come, friends... let's enjoy every second! Cheers to the couple of months of joy that we seem to forget about for the rest of the year.

November 4, 2013

Telling it like it is...

Last week I published a post about the people that drive me crazy on Facebook. These are the people who drip with conceit and try desperately to make the world jealous of their amazing life. The vain, the shallow and the super-superficial.

Believe it or not, I've had people send me messages saying that they envy my life. I know, it blew me away too! Here are a few things about my life that people have told me they envy:

1. My relationship with Gregg
2. My beautiful and happy family
3. My passion for writing and graphic design
4. My cleanliness and organization skills
5. My home
6. My hair
7. My ability to be home with Scarlett
8. My love for the holidays

Before I elaborate, I want to stress that I am so happy and grateful for all of these things in my life. However few things in life are effortless or without flaws. Let's take a closer look.

1. My relationship with Gregg. Yes, I have an amazing husband and a truly awesome relationship and marriage. I am so lucky to have crossed paths with him at a former workplace. We became best friends - for life. We never fight, we've never really even argued. But we don't have a lot of time together. Last night was the first night we've sat down for dinner as a family in a week. His job is exhausting, his hours are long. On the weekends, if he isn't doing yard work, he rests. We don't get to go many places together. He only sees Scarlett for an hour or so each day, right before bedtime. He drives for a living so those long drives we once enjoyed taking together have been banished. Who feels like taking a thirty mile ride for 'enjoyment' when you clock sixty grueling hours on the road every week? We enjoy being at home mostly, eating frozen yogurt and making each other laugh.

2. My beautiful and happy family. I can't argue with that. But I will say we have our ups and downs like any other family. Scarlett is smiling in almost every picture I post but she still cries every night at bedtime. She has tantrums like any other two year old. She tests the waters. She requires constant stimulation and lots and lots of attention. We waited a long time for her. Before she came along we had tried to conceive for a year and a half, finally became pregnant and had a miscarriage. Nothing comes easy. And most wonderful things aren't undeserved.

3. My passion for writing and graphic design. I've loved writing since I was a kid. I always loved making up stories - from as young as three years old. I have been blessed with a creative mind and I am really fortunate and grateful for that. I love the energy that "making things" gives me. It truly makes me happy. However, I'm a hack. Or so I believe. Nothing I create seems worthy of an audience. I feel inferior in every aspect. My blog is for me and I share it for my friends who enjoy it. I have no plans for it to ever become anything other than what it is. My art abilities are 'basic with a twist'. I never went to school for it. I know what I've taught and continue to teach myself and what I've picked up in my former jobs as a graphic artist. On paper, I'm nothing. You can doodle on a white piece of paper with a black pen and I'd treasure it more than a design I've spent twelve hours on. Which isn't to say that I'm never proud of anything that I do, because I am at times.

4. My cleanliness and organization skills. Again, nothing comes easy. I clean all the time because I take pride in having a super clean home. I like to sit comfortably and look around and enjoy what I see. I simply don't have a place for clutter in my life. I swiffer the floors every other day. I dust every room at least once each week. I read mail when it comes and file it appropriately. I hang up jackets. I put away boots. I clear the table and counters of items that don't belong. I clean as I go... all the time. There are some people who just enjoy being organized and I am one of those people. I am always looking at small boxes with a glimmer in my eye - just imagining what little items they can neatly house - like paper clips, receipts or post-it notes. I like for everything to have a place to go. It does take effort and time but I enjoy it.

5. My home. People always tell me that my home is so "cozy" and I feel that's the best compliment a homeowner can get. Being clean and organized does make it easier for people to see the house for what it is. They notice the decor rather than the clutter. Again, it takes time and effort to make a house a home and you get out of it what you put into it. You should also know that our yard may be large but it's a mess - mostly from Brody. Our home may be roomy but our mortgage is outrageous. It appears that we live on a nice cul-de-sac but we only speak to one out of ten neighbors - and they are in their seventies. There are always pros and cons.

6. My hair. This one makes me giggle. I've always been told that I have lovely shiny, silky hair. Yes it is normally shiny (although my thirties are giving shine a run for its money) and it is very easy to run your fingers through. It straightens easily with the use of the right products - thank you Argan oil! However, I could never wear barrettes, clips, scarves or headbands of any kind - they slip right out. It's a million bobbie pins, an elastic or nothing. Hence my signature long, straight, boring 'do'.

7. My ability to be home with Scarlett. Most of you know me enough to know that I haven't worked since I was pregnant with Scarlett. I've been very fortunate to be home with her. Let me assure you, it's not because we are "well-off." We are not that family who can make it through life on one income. We have a gazillion bills just like the lot of you. We live paycheck to paycheck just like most of you. We can't afford extras. We don't frivolously spend. We haven't been on a trip since our honeymoon - nine years ago this coming December. We don't go to the movies. We rarely go out to dinner. We don't go to shows. Our entertainment is mostly television or movies from our collection. We go to places that are free, like state parks. We live a no-frills life. We have had to skip parties because we simply can't afford another gift. (November is the only month in which we have no birthdays to buy for). I don't publicly complain about these things because I am okay with making a lot of sacrifices to be home with Scarlett right now. I will work again one day. My life with my family comes first and I am doing what I am doing because I have chosen to. Not because it makes the most sense. And not because it's "doable."

8. My love for the holidays. Many people have told me how they wish they could get into the holiday spirit the way that I do. I credit my mom for this one. My mom always made the holidays festive and fun when I was a kid. We always decorated the house together. We baked Christmas cookies together. And we always listened to Christmas music. We had great big Christmas trees and tons of ornaments to enjoy. We watched all the holiday specials on television together. We looked forward to it all. My mother spent countless hours shopping for what seemed like hundreds of gifts for everyone. She worked so hard to cook huge, delicious meals. She did it all for us to enjoy. And it stuck with me. And that's where I get my love for the holiday season. But the actual holiday is complicated. As kids, we stayed home in our pajamas playing with our toys all day until it was time to dress for dinner. As adults, we are running from house to house, flying through morning gift-opening to get showered and ready to head out for the day. We enjoy spending time with our families but all-the-while we're looking at the clock to see what time we have to be at the next house. I miss some of the slow-paced enjoyment, being home in jammies, enjoying each others' company. The spirit of the day gets us through each time.

So there you have it. My tell-all. I hope it reads the way I intend it to. I LOVE my life. I think part of the reason I am a happy person is because I appreciate every single thing I have. I am grateful everyday. We all need to appreciate the things that we are good at, the places we go, where we hang our hat, what our situation is. Be grateful.

And ladies, wear your hair accessories with pride ;)

November 1, 2013

Tricks for treats...

Well she did it! Scarlett put on a costume and had a blast on her first true Halloween night of trick-or-treating! Whew! It came down to the wire really. But she did it herself with little coaxing attempts from mom and dad.

In a recent post I explained how Scarlett was flat-out refusing to wear any form of costume. Sure, she told everyone we came in contact with that she was going to be Mickey Mouse for Halloween but when it came down to it she had no intention of wearing those red pants or that headband. Tantrums were thrown, fits ensued. We finally dropped the issue, switched gears and took a more subtle approach - thanks to a few helpful ideas from our Facebook friends.

In her dress-up box that Grandma made for her birthday was a Minnie Mouse costume. Thinking that could be a last minute option we laid the groundwork. I randomly wore her Minnie ears. Gregg hung the sparkly Minnie dress in her room. We made comments like, "Oh look how cute these ears look on your bunny! Maybe we will take the bunny out trick-or-treating since he loves them so much!" Scarlett gave us the stink eye, showing her disapproval. Gregg began giving her lessons on trick-or-treating by closing the doors upstairs and handing her a pail. They walked down the hallway and knocked on the doors saying, "TRICK OR TREAT!! HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!" and (when wooden blocks were placed in her pail) "Thank Youuuu" - she LOVED it. Playing peek-a-boo was Gregg's idea - we threw her dress over her head saying, "Where's Scarlett???" and before you know it we were just inches away from getting that dress all the way on. Each afternoon I wore the Minnie ears for a while and then left them on the floor alongside Scarlett's toys. One evening I looked over and saw her trying to put them on, then wearing them around her neck. Masking my excitement, I casually said, "Oh do you want some help, let me help you put those on" and Presto! Minnie was born. That same night Gregg asked if she wanted to wear her dress and practice trick-or-treating in the hallway again. BAM! SUCCESS! She was ready. Awesome.

We only knocked on a small block's worth of doors but Scarlett loved every minute of it. "Let's do another one!" She chanted, dragging along her heavy bucket of goodies. She really had a great time - and so did we. She even had her very first lollipop.

October 29, 2013

why Facebook (occasionally) makes my skin crawl

I feel I should elaborate on a Facebook status that I posted yesterday as it left a few questions unanswered.

The status was this:

"oh facebook. sometimes the glimpse I get into others' lives just isn't what I want to see. nobody enjoys a bragger. nobody enjoys a conceited soul. think about what you're putting out there, people. it's not always flattering. sigh."

This could be interpreted a million different ways. We all know that people drive people crazy. We all have "friends" that over-share their personal family matters, beg for pity and attention, 'check-in' everywhere they go six times a day seven days a week, complain about health issues etc. We can't love everything about everyone. By choosing (or feeling obligated) to become "friends" with a person you are potentially stepping on a beehive. We may not realize this at the time of the initial high-five but we might learn a different side of someone that we thought we knew. A truly unflattering side.

For me, my issue is mostly with show-offs. I don't understand the concept of trying so hard to make people envy you. Most people know better than to envy anyone. The front you put up is most certainly masking things you are unhappy with. The perfect picture these types attempt to paint is already soiled by the fact that we usually know their real lives. You say you're a hotshot at your job but we know your title. You brag about your new car but you leave out the fact that your parents bought it for you. You may think you're celeb status because you go on five trips a year but you don't brag about charging those trips and spiraling into debt.

Don't get me wrong - this isn't always the case. Plenty of my friends are hard-working, good people who are responsible and deserving of everything they have. Most of my friends are awesome. Show pictures of your degree - you worked hard for it! Just don't post something like, "If you don't have one of these you are just a slacker." That's not nice. Show your excitement for your upcoming trip - you deserve a break! Just don't post something saying, "Off to Belize tomorrow, you wish you had my life!" That's just annoying.

Post pictures and videos of your beautiful children. Post before and after pictures of your weight loss. Promote your new business. Be proud. Just don't pretend to be something you aren't. And (most importantly) don't act like you are better than anyone. Be happy in your life with where you are and what you have without having to shove it in the faces of people who aren't interested. I hate writing this because it sounds like I am bitter and envious - but it's not that at all. It's an enormous distaste for bullshit that I have. I see through those thin veils - I'm no gullible gert. There is a part of me that wants to expose these frauds time and time again. Instead I sit back and watch as people buy into it. I bite my lip. It has nothing to do with me, it shouldn't bother me. But I'm not perfect by any means - things piss me off. This is just one of them. 

Feel free to share your biggest Facebook pet peeves in a comment.

October 27, 2013

Eye can't wait

So I went to the eye doctor the other day, finally, after almost five years. I figured I didn't need yearly exams since I haven't been steadily working on a computer all day long like I had in the past. Wrong-o.

Lately I've been getting daily headaches and having spells of dizziness. I've also been fighting a sinus infection or some form of allergies for over a month. Not being sure which could be causing the headaches and dizziness I decided to make an appointment to get my eyes checked.

The office is located in an oddly shaped building set back in an awkward parking lot. The inside is semi-time-warpy - think: super old wallpaper adorned with the latest ads for Prada eye-fashion. There is a woman who speaks too loud for the small environment in an over-the-top-overly-friendly-aiming-to-please manner. No music was playing. No television. You could've heard a termite picking his teeth. After waiting half an hour to be seen I headed to the 'puff of air' contraption. Familiar with that? It's the one where you rest your chin on a little shelf and stare into a red dot until air blasts you in the eyeball. It's so unnerving waiting for that puff. After that came a peripheral vision test which I'd never had before. It was another case of staring at a dot but clicking a button each time a flash of light appeared anywhere in sight. Interesting. Then came the doctor.

My eye doctor is awesome. He's so friendly and talkative and inquisitive and informative. Great guy. I had all of my regular tests and then some. I find it fascinating how they can pinpoint your prescription. I lovvvvvvvvve the final moments of an eye exam. The narrowing down of what's blurred vs clear and the final TA DAAAAAAAAAAAA!!! I sighed when I saw with new 'eyes'. He laughed. It really is like getting new eyes. So cool. Even though I have great vision and can pick up the teeniest tiniest details (so says the doc) he is amazed at how hard a time my eyes have focusing. I have ultra sensitive eyes and going from looking at my phone to looking at a television to looking at a magazine strains the crap out of them. It feels like they are rolling around - like those guys who get punched in cartoons.

Even though I'm pretty sure my headaches and dizziness are sinus-related, I cannot wait to pick up my new glasses next week - I have extremely high hopes. I can't wait to SEE the difference. HA! Cornball Jones signing off.

October 23, 2013

tell them...

Saturday morning I was sipping my coffee and catching up on emails and Facebook like any other day. Sitting in my inbox was something so simple yet so inspirational I've decided to share it here.

I just wanted to say that I adore you! Your spirit for the holidays and your photos make me feel good! Your lil girl is lucky to have u as her mama and all that u are doing is going to stick with her! I love seeing all the decorations cause it makes me nostalgic and I just love it and she will too now and when she's older. I know this message is out of left field but I'm a believer of telling people how u feel when u feel it. Not enough people do that."

Doesn't that just make you smile? I was so flattered and grateful and happy and proud and just absolutely shocked after reading this note. It comes from a friend of mine who I've only met a couple of times about five or six years ago. We've learned much about each other over the years based on our Facebook persona. Granted, you only get a glimpse into a person's life when you're dealing with social media. We offer what we choose to display, we hide what we wish to conceal. But I like what I know of her. She is a wonderful person, beautiful inside and out. And reading that note I've now learned that she likes what she knows of me. And the important point I'm trying to make is that she took the time to tell me.

I'm truly inspired. What a simple concept. You think something lovely about someone - so you tell them. I mean, does it get any less complicated than that? I think lovely things about people all the time, I think those things and most of the time I move on. Going forward I will take a few seconds to spread the goodness. I want to make people feel happy for no reason. This note was so out of the blue, it caught me by such surprise. I don't think we should be so surprised by pleasantries. I wish for it to become commonplace. Let's work on that, shall we?

Tell people how you feel. If you admire something about a friend, tell them. They have no idea what you are thinking about them. Give them that boost. I'm sure they deserve it and I'm sure they'll be so grateful that you took time out of your life to simply pay them a compliment. Do it. Pass it along and let it spread like wildfire.    


October 18, 2013

It's JUST a headband, get over yourself

I am at a loss.


I have never in my life heard of a child refusing to dress up for Halloween. I know all about the "terrible twos" (and "heinous threes" I've recently learned of) but even in the most ridiculous of tantrum stories I don't ever recall hearing that the idea of dressing up to get candy was cause for a meltdown.

This kid is a rare breed. She is newly two. She is very strong willed, stubborn, bold, what have you. She's a gal who knows what she wants... and what she doesn't. I'm happy with that on a normal basis, it's nice that she's so aware of her ability to control certain aspects of her life. It's a daily struggle, no doubt, but it's a positive one (or so I think). However, over the past few weeks I've been teaching Scarlett about having fun on Halloween. After reading books and watching little cartoons to help prove my point she finally seemed on board with wearing a costume. She began telling strangers that she was going to be Mickey. News to me. I was ecstatic to create my little Punky Brewster - oh well. So I semi-willingly hunted around for a Mickey Mouse costume. Since it's kind of last minute, I came up short.

I know that there is a 97% chance that Scarlett will refuse her costume. Rather than spending a fortune ordering some elaborate plush nightmare online I decided to throw something together from her closet that we can use in a pinch if she changes her mind. Oh, that's right, it's pretty lame. But let's face it - the mouse isn't exactly a complex character - a little red, a little black (sounds like my high school nights) and some ears. Presto.

There it is. In all its homemade glory. To my surprise, Scarlett was very excited when she saw this monstrosity. I thought WOW! She's actually going to wear this! Yeah, no. She's not. After several horrifying attempts to put these simple items (pants, socks and a jacket) on her - I decided we will wait until next year to have Halloween fun. You cannot even imagine the fireworks when I bring that headband within seven feet of her. It's absolutely mind-blowing.

So... I've dismantled the pieces, put them back in her drawers and let the topic drop. Everyday Scarlett insists that she wants to wear a costume. I call bullshit.

I can't press the issue because it's really not a big deal. So she doesn't want to look like something she's not (for an hour). She doesn't need bags of candy - if she wanted candy she'd have sat on her potty chair by now. I'm learning to pick my battles. It is so not worth seeing her through another tantrum just to TRY to put a headband on her thick little head. So here's my solution...

Happy Halloween 2013!!!

October 17, 2013

Society6 promo

You may have noticed my shameless Society6 store "plug" in my sidebar. I've come to realize that it is VERY hard to gain exposure on the site. Without constant post-sharing and self-promotion it's next to impossible. And even WITH those things, it's next to impossible.

So, here is my shameless blog post promoting some of my designs for sale. I have to say many of the items offered really look great with most designs. Cell phone, laptop and iPad cases, stationary, pillows and tote bags - all really decent! I hope you'll take a look. And if you don't enjoy MY work please scope out other artists because you cannot IMAGINE the talent on this website. It's bananas.

Here are some of my designs... CLICK HERE to visit my store

These are "the shes and Autumn" ... She gazes, She sits, She loves, Autumn, She sings and She shops. While I enjoy them all as prints they also make pretty cute pillows and stationary.

These are some of my pillows. The skeleton key pattern is hands down my favorite. The anchors look pretty nice on the iPad and phone case as well. 

And these are just some random others - I love the "grumpy owl" tote and both versions of "Hanging the Stars" - partial to pastel of course. "Winter Window" was a hit in my old etsy shop so I thought I'd include it here, it makes a nice looking pillow.

I hope you like what you see and revisit my shop often for newbies. Please feel free to pass this along to anyone who may enjoy it. Thanks!

October 16, 2013

Blog template woes ...

For anyone who actually notices that I change my stupid background and header and all the little doo-dad images and junk on a regular basis - rest easy, I think I'm done for a bit. It is truly a pain in the ass and it drives me insane. It's all because I really don't like what I put up - but after spending too many hours on it I have to leave it. When I get a few more hours to spare, I destroy the old version and make a new one. A new one that I normally hate just the same. This goes on for days and sometimes weeks and months until I finally find a decent fit. The fact that I'm pretty sure I'm the only person who notices it makes it all the more excruciating.

Today I am happy with it. I am liking the uncluttered "clean" look, simple two-color combo, plain enough header, easy fonts, and so on.

We'll see how long this lasts.

October 10, 2013

taking advantage of October

I wait all year long for weather like we have today. It's CHILLY. With a cloudy sky to make it feel even chillier. I took advantage of my free morning by packing up the car (with simply a tote bag and big pink ball) and heading to the park. I can't tell you how happy I am that I made that decision. 

Clad in our jeans, sneakers and hoodies, Scarlett and I had a ball...

We ran, we raced, we kicked that big pink ball, we searched for acorns, we chased squirrels, we threw leaves, we took a walk - we savored our morning together, for certain. While I still had my phone in hand to capture these moments in photos - I finally felt "disconnected" for a bit. I heard the tweeting text alerts but I didn't answer them. I was more focused on the sound and smell of crisp leaves, the chilly breeze fighting to enter my sleeves, the colors all around us and most importantly - my daughter's smile. The clarity of the pictures may not be the greatest but the memory behind each of them is priceless. Forever grateful for this day.  

October 7, 2013

get it out of here!!

As I sit here on my couch (because my recliner is nearly nine years old and finally so busted that it actually hurts my ass to sit in it) I am looking at my home in a different way. So used to seeing the rooms from a different angle I'm now horrified at what is staring me in the face on 'the other side'. Mainly the hideously ornate glass and brass embellished ceiling fan hanging over the dining room. Holy mackerel. I mean, I've hated it from day one but seeing it from this seat makes me loathe it on a entirely new level. Talk about an eyesore. I might as well have a Rosie O'Donnell wax dummy hanging in the center of the room. Not to mention I can't remember the last time I washed those glass globes or whatever they're called. Vomit city. I haaaaaaaaaaaaaaate it. Among this monstrosity are cute ghost and pumpkin decorations, a thriving spider plant on a pedestal, my favorite piece of furniture - a hand-carved jelly cabinet adorned with chili peppers, three framed artworks from my sweet Scarlett and a clean, clutter-free space. I want that tacky misfit OUT!

I guess we will add that to the list of ceiling fans we need to buy for this house.

1. The kitchen replacement. Two of the lights on that one have blown out in haunting ways making me believe that the wiring is dangerous and we need to get it the hell out of there.

2. Scarlett's room replacement. I don't know who the frig designed that fan but it was clearly made for a high school locker. It is tiny. We can never tell if it's on low or high or off. Friggin thing is useless.

3. Playroom/office replacement. See number two.

4. Dining room atrocity.

There, I've added it. We will officially be replacing that ugly beast. One by one we'll be cooling our brow in style. Oh, it's probably gonna be a while but I've noted it and that's the important thing.
(Now accepting Lowe's gift cards).

September 27, 2013

Quonset Point... in the pines

In the early seventies my father, who is from North Carolina, was stationed at the Quonset Point Naval Base here in Rhode Island. He met my mother during an outing at Goddard Park and they eventually married. Their ceremony took place at the Chapel in the Pines in Davisville - on the grounds near my father's barracks. Today, the base is inactive (although the airport is still functioning) and is home to mostly commercial buildings. There are a few areas that remain dedicated to the USN, particularly the Seabees. Today I took a walk through to snap a few pictures...