Goodbye, 2012

I suppose everyone has their own year-end list, but mine might be a bit different.

This year, I am thankful for

  • The Boy adapting so well to 5th grade, and making such big strides in terms of independence
  • My deepening relationship with The Man, now taking that next step
  • Finding balance between work and home, most days
  • The love and support of my friends and family, who remain incredibly supportive of our upcoming major life changes
  • You people!  Yes, you all, who are so supportive of my blog.  I LOVE doing this, and while I would still do it if no one was reading, it makes it that much more fun and satisfying that people are enjoying it.

I hope you, too, have much to be thankful for about 2012, and even more to be thankful for in the coming year.

Happy New Year!!

Ohio River




The Boy is at his dad’s and has been for about a week.  He sounds happy and relatively tired when I talk to him on the phone each night.  While I miss him a bit, I am still savoring the respite: besides a few days this summer (Thank you, Fantastic Babysitter!) and a few days in June (Thank you, Grammy & Poppy!), this is the first extended break I’ve had since February.  In fact, by the end of this next week, it will be the longest time I can remember being separated from The Boy, ever.  For the same reason that I don’t feel guilty for being a working mom, and for the same reason I don’t feel guilty when I have the rare opportunity to go out with friends or The Man, I don’t feel guilty about enjoying this time right now.

This makes me a better mom.


Without this time away, the threshhold for frustration gets dangerously low, and a whole range of negative emotions starts brewing.

The Man and I do feel like something (someone, more like) is missing at times, and we get bored a little more easily.  Ask me in three days, and I will definitely be missing The Boy fiercely.  But for right now, it feels good to not really have to worry about meds, schedules, and sharp crayons.  And The Boy is actually spending time with his dad.  It’s a win-win.

The Previously Preempted Christmas Post

The Man’s proposal certainly surprised me, and preempted my Christmas post.  Not that I mind…  So here’s the post that was originally supposed to air.

The Man isn’t big on Christmas, which has caused some friction in the almost-three years we’ve been dating.  I love Christmas!  Not in a must-decorate-the-house-witihin-an-inch-of-its-life kind of way, but an I-really-dig-finding-just-the-right-thing-for-everyone-on-my-list kind of way.  You probably already know this about me, but I digress.

The Man, however, has a lot of anxiety about gift-giving, as well as other issues with Christmas in general, and can sometimes get downright depressed about it.  I have treated him gently, been very cognizant about his needs, and I’m pretty sure I have rubbed off on him a bit, meaning he’s not as big of a Scrooge as he used to be.

Last year, it came up in conversation that his beloved grandmother, who helped raise him, had one of those all-silver trees that she would decorate with either red or blue bulbs, depending on the year, complete with the rotating light shining on it.  He expressed fond memories of this tree.  “Wait, fond memories of something having to do with Christmas?” I thought to myself, “We gotta get on that!”

A few months later, we were in Marietta, Ohio for Thanksgiving, and walked into a chocolate shop where a silver tree just like his grandmother’s was in the window.  He started a lengthy conversation with the shop owner, fondly reminiscing about his grandmother’s tree, yet again.

After that, I looked them up online to see how much they were, but unfortunately found them to be rather expensive, being truly antiques and all.

And then

And then, I posted about it on facebook, and a few hours later, Fantastic Babysitter responded to my post that her parents were interested in getting rid of just such a tree that they had in their attic!  Not wanting to get my hopes up too high, I asked her about it, and asked how much they wanted for it.  She said they wouldn’t want any money for it.

Ask and ye shall receive!

She brought the tree over, and I got out some rags and brasso, and spent an afternoon in my living room, listening to the Peanuts and Muppets Christmas albums, and shining up every single branch on that tree.

Shining up the tree!

When I gave it to the Man last Christmas, he was speechless, almost moved to tears, and said it was quite possibly the best Christmas gift he had ever gotten.

And this year, it is up in our new house, bulbs, light and all.  He is very proud of it, and you know what?  No Scrooge to be found this year!


Hope you all are having a wonderful holiday season!  Sending much love and good will to all of you!

Happy Day

Christmas morning, The Man and I got up leisurely and decided to open our presents to each other before my parents came over for the meal, stockings, and all of the other gifts.

I gave him his gift, cleverly disguised (he told me later he thought I had bought him a large tool set, but they were actually three framed engineering prints in poster frames, which were also a great cover for the real gift — a gift card to the tool store).

Then it was my turn.  I had told The Man that I would like a watch for Christmas, and lo and behold, there was a watch-shaped box under the tree with my name on it. I unwrapped it to find “Parker” on the top of the box.  “Parker pens?” I asked, not expecting a response.  Sure enough, I opened the box and found a nice pen and pencil set, not what I expected but nice enough.  I pulled out the mechanical pencil to see how to activate the mechanism, which The Man promptly grabbed from me, leaving me to examine the pen.  I turned it over and noticed his name engraved on it… What the —??

I had not noticed The Man getting off the couch and doing some other stuff in my peripheral vision.  At the very moment I was thinking this could quite possibly be a very rough day, he suggested I look again under the tree, because he thought he saw another gift for me under there…

And there was a ring box.

After uttering his name, and looking at him to see if he was for real, I reached down, grabbed the box, opened it, and realized what he was giving me.  He asked me if I would marry him, and I said, “You know I will!”

my RING!

Sneaky, sneaky man.  He did an amazing job remembering exactly what I liked.  And now we are engaged!  He says he had no idea those pens had his name engraved on them, but wrapped them knowing I would think it was a watch.  He knows me so well.

I am a lucky, lucky (and happy!) woman.


No Offense, But…

You know when someone starts a sentence like that, you are going to immediately take offense.  It’s a given.  I’m pretty sure there’s even some physical, defensive response in most people upon hearing that phrase uttered.

The Boy’s class is having a “garage sale” tomorrow to simulate buying and selling products, and I suppose it’s a lesson in social studies.  Of course, with our busy, busy lives over the past couple of weeks, I put off the preparations for this garage sale until this evening.  The idea is that students will find things at home that they do not have a use for anymore, and put those in their desktop sale.  Most kids with autism that I know would (and do) have a real problem with giving up their stuff, so we had a bit of an issue.

I wasn’t sure how many of these “items” we needed, so I contacted a friend who’s daughter went through the same school a few years ago, and asked her if she knew.  She contacted another parent of a 5th grader and reported back to me.  She said this other parent suggested 10-20 items, and that if the kids didn’t want to give anything up, they could do a craft.  My friend asked her if The Boy might draw something (because she knows how much he loves to draw).  This mom responded, “No offense, but it should be something the kids actually want.”

Now, this is secondhand information, and like texts and email, a lot of nuance can be lost.  I’m sure this mom really meant no harm, and she was actually being helpful by passing along information about this event.  But like one of my other favorite phrases (“Don’t worry about it!”), it ends up being immediately offensive, and just by adding “No offense” to the beginning doesn’t give you a pass.  Just because you don’t mean to offend someone doesn’t mean that you won’t end up actually doing it.  It’s a pretty useless prefix.

I know that maybe other 5th graders may not appreciate The Boy’s artwork as much as I do, but there are some really great kids in his class who would probably purchase a few of his items.  In fact some of his “longer works”, which are often pages of comic books that are running through his head, are pretty cool and entertaining.

I’m not upset.  I know that my kid rocks, and I don’t need anyone else’s approval.  But I think the phrase, “No offense…” needs to be put to rest.


Stressed, But in a Good Way

There has been a whirlwind of activity over the past couple of weeks, with school concerts and holiday preparations. The day before yesterday, I worked on about six craft projects in one evening, not including the nightly box for the advent calendar.

ac1Yesterday, it was a cleaning frenzy, not to say that there was a lot to do, but The Man was flying in last night. Not only do I work harder for those I love, I wanted to make sure we had a clean house to come home to after our various holiday travels.

The Man remarked about how much stress surrounds the holidays, but this is self-induced and I enjoy it.  I enjoy being busy if it has to do with Christmas and preparing food, gifts, or my house for loved ones.  How about you?

amaretto fixin's


I Got (Some) Skills

Every once in a while, I will flip through the Groupon offerings and find one that seems like a great deal, and I will jump on it.  I have rarely been disappointed.  One of the ones I have been enjoying recently is an online photography class.

After I got divorced, one of the things I treated myself to was a decent camera.  It’s not quite a DSLR, but it takes a really nice photo.  And since I have had that camera, I have taken a few really great shots.  I know I’ll never be a professional, but I have picked up a little hobby, and I enjoy taking pictures a lot.

When this groupon came around, it was advertised as a way to get to know the ins and outs of your camera a little more, to shoot more than just on the automatic settings.  And it sounded like a small time commitment to learn some more skills.  Lifelong learner that I am, I knew it would be fun.

And it is.  It’s only a four week class.  The past two Mondays, I have come home and taken the weekly “class” which consists of videos and worksheets and a little quiz.  Then at some point during the week, I take what I have learned and take some shots, one of which I will choose to upload for my “homework assignment” for the week. The instructor gets back to us with feedback by the following Wednesday through the comment sections on the photo, and we can see others’ photos, as well, learning about which settings they are using to take their fantastic shots.

It’s a little scary to go off automatic, and see what comes out, but it’s so much more rewarding, because the composition of the shot is all you, all of your skills on display.  There’s a metaphor for life if I’ve ever heard one…

Here are my two homework assignments, so far:


shutter speed

white balance

white balance

How to Be Thoughtful About a Small Family Christmas

As I’ve mentioned, this Christmas, I will be without The Boy. Since the divorce, I have noted how few gifts are on my list for others.  Being an only child and having an only child leaves only gifts for my parents, The Man, and The Boy.  I’ll admit this is kind of nice, although giving the perfect gift is something on which I pride myself a bit.  I do get gift cards when someone tells me that’s all they want, but it’s difficult to stretch the traditions of Christmas morning out when you are giving gift cards to 3 other people…

How do I get my gift-giving fix?  Where do I get to be creative? (Mom, Dad, anyone else on my list — stop reading!)

I’m working on some crafty wrapping this year, thanks to all kinds of inspiration from Pinterest.  I just got a new sewing machine, so I will be working on these stitched wrapping projects from Shimtokk:


The tutorial is here at Martha Stewart (the idea was so good they were featured as a part of last year’s Gift Wrap Challenge!)

Stocking stuffers are another area where I get to be thoughtful and creative.  No dollar store trips for me!  Here are some of the projects I will be attempting:

Surprise Box from Martha

Dad’s will have his favorite treat, Jordan almonds, and The Man’s will contain his favorite, Necco wafers:

almonds & wafers

The directions are here at Martha Stewart’s site, again.  Haters can hate, but sometimes she’s got good, achievable ideas!

And maybe these:


Filled with coffee or hot chocolate mix?  The tutorial is from Design Mom.

Finally, we have a tradition to spend some time on the gift tags – not making them elaborate or anything, but as clues to the gift.  Rather than just saying “To: Mom, From: Annie” it will elude to the nature of the gift, and from whom the gift is.  For example:  if I was giving my mom a book (a fairly common gift), the tag might read, “To: William Least Heat Moon, From: Alex Haley”. (Moon wrote one of Mom’s favorite books, “Blue Highways”, and Haley wrote one of my favorite books, “Roots”.  We know each other’s favorites, so this would be a big clue to her that it is book-related, and that it is from me!)

What can I say?  I like to emphasize the relationship I have with each person rather than the stuff.  I want to remind them about all of their little quirks which make them so lovable.  To me, that’s what this season is about.

A Little Bit Southern

Sweet_tea_with_lemon by Nate SteinerWe were talking the other day at lunch about how the South has been rubbing off on me a bit.  I’m a die-hard sweet tea fan now (although without the lemon as pictured here), and that is what I drink with most meals when I am down there.  I’ve taste-tested all the brands in the convenience stores (The Man has to visit one at least once a day), and Gold Peak is my favorite, but I’ll drink Arizona if I have to.  The rest are just swill.  Oh, and McDonald’s usually has the best of all, and it’s only $1!

I’ve also picked up a few little phrase here and there, like when you ask someone to put something away, you say, “Will you put that up, please?”  I actually used this phrase with my band students one day, telling them to “put (their) instruments up,” and they promptly held their instruments in the air, looking around at each other as if to say, “What the -?”

I don’t think I’ll ever call my purse a “pocketbook”, though, nor will I call a bedroom “suite” a bedroom “suit”.

But I am a natural mimic, so “y’all” might catch me saying “y’all” a bit in the future…