Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Ventage Tuesday: 5 Sounds of the Season

It is fitting that today's topic among the Ventage Girls is Christmas music. I am quickly typing this blog post before getting my family ready to head to AJ's very first school Christmas program. I'm sure I will cry, because that's just what I do. I'll probably laugh too because if I had to guess, AJ will have some sort of antics while he is up on stage.

Music is a huge part of the Christmas season for me. Growing up there were Christmas concerts at school, sing a longs, and church choir. Some of my favorite Christmas memories are from midnight Mass on Christmas eve. The choir always prepared special music for the 45 minutes before the service began. I remember the Christmas of my freshman year in college I returned to sing with the choir while on break and we held our midnight mass outside (only in South Florida can you do that and not freeze your butt off).

Now, I'm sharing my love of Christmas music with the little dudes. Since the week after Thanksgiving, the minute we get in the car AJ makes the decision between "regular music" and "christmas music" and before we are out of the driveway we are singing. He won't tell me what they're singing this afternoon, so after the concert I might have some new favorites for my list, but for now here's a look at 5 songs that I couldn't celebrate Christmas without.

Oh Holy Night (Martina McBride):
This is the ultimate Christmas song to me. It feels like everyone records it, but there's something to be said for the quiet power in this version. No matter whose voice is singing though, I can never get through "Fall on your knees" without chills. 
Mary Did You Know (CeeLo Green)
 Up until just a couple of weeks ago I would have posted the Kenny Rogers version of this song. But then someone on facebook shared this one and it has fast become a favorite. Now that I'm a mom of two little boys, I feel like I look at Mary completely differently.
Tennessee Christmas
Oh, so hokey, but I can't help it. I've now lived in Wisconsin twice as long as I lived in Knoxville, but I can't help it, Tennessee will always have a part of my heart. Maybe it's because I feel like that's where I became an adult. My first non college apartment, my first job, where I experienced 9/11, where I made some of my very best friends. 
Elf's Lament
I love me some BNL. I also love Christmas music that makes me crazy dance. And this, this is a crazy dance in the car, freaking people out in the parking lot sort of song. And now that I'm spending the better part of my Target time working in the toy department, well it's even more appropriate. I make toys, but I've got aspirations!
Dominic the Italian Christmas Donkey
And the song guaranteed to not be on anyone else's favorite Christmas songs list! I love me some Dominic. This song is growing up on Long Island, spending Christmas Eves at my aunt's house with all of my cousins, going into the city to see the tree. And it makes me want a cannoli.

So, there you have it. Five songs that I will listen to a million times this month and then happily file away for another 330 days. Be sure to visit with Ang, Barb, Em, and Katrina to add a few more tunes to your December playlist.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Mama Loves You, Baby

I'm neurotic about it. Every single time I leave my little dudes my last words are "Mama loves you, baby." Whether it's when I'm dropping AJ off at school, or leaving the boys with Karl when I go to work. Whether I'm going to be gone for a few hours or a few minutes. "Mama loves you, baby" Because in my head (and my heart), that is the most important thing for them to know.

"Be kind. Use your listening ears. Mama loves you, baby."

Tonight, my heart aches for the parents who said those very words this morning and will never get to say them again. Or the ones who will now wonder what exactly their final words to their sweet babies were. What if they bickered in the car on the way to school? What if they were running late and the mom yelled? What if there was rushing and running and no goodbye hug? That morning will replay in their minds forever.

Mornings are not my favorite. I resolve every day not to yell. I try to do lots of prep work. I cling to our routine. But it rarely works. There is rarely a morning where the words, "Come ON! We have to GO!" don't cross my lips. We're always running late. I'm always exasperated.

How many of those 20 moms had that kind of morning?

There are so many things on my heart tonight. Many tears and fears and prayers.

"Be kind. Use your listening ears. Mama loves you, baby."

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Ventage Tuesday: But it's Tradition!

It's hard to believe it's Tuesday again. And not just any Tuesday! Two weeks from today is CHRISTMAS DAY!!! I'm a Christmas fan, no question. I love the music, the decorating, finding the perfect gift, the baking, and the eating, and that general giddy feeling. I feel like all of these feelings are amplified this year because AJ is old enough to *get it* and boy is he excited. He knows Ho Ho Santa. We have an elf named Boomer who's giving the big guy a daily report on his behavior. He LOVES the Christmas lights. I love experiencing this season through his eyes.

So in honor of that rapidly approaching holiday, the Ventage girls are sharing a few of our personal Christmas traditions. I'm a tradition kind of girl (in fact there was recently an email exchange with my girls wherein I confessed to feeling so overwhelmed by the need to start all these traditions with AJ now that he is old enough to be aware) so narrowing this list down to five wasn't easy for me.

1. Christmas PJs: This tradition is a carry over from my own childhood. As a child of divorced parents, my holidays were always split between two houses and two families. I spent Christmas Eve with my father and his family. Our tradition was to always open new Christmas PJs. Even though I'm now 33, my dad still mails me Christmas jammies every year and labels them so I know to open them first. And now that Karl has married into the family, he also gets PJs from the Andersons. I take special joy in picking out just the right jammies to carry on this tradition with AJ. And this year I was able to pick out MATCHING sets for AJ and Sam! How exciting to celebrate our first holiday season as a family of four!

2. Bakeapalooza: This tradition is a newer one (established in 2007), and one that reminds me that this holiday is just as much about our friends as it is our family. In fact, this time of year reminds us that some friends are the family we have chosen for ourselves. The Bakeapalooza tradition is on hiatus this year, do to scheduling issues, but I have faith that next year Barb, Em, and I will be back at it, armed with a ridiculous amount of butter, tackling a new list of recipes.

3. Visiting Santa: To be honest, I'm not a big fan of the Santa at our local mall. His attire leaves a little something to be desired, and his long beard kind of reminds me of an Oak Ridge Boys reject. BUT, it's tradition. We MUST make time to go see Santa and get that classic photo. AJ smiled during his first visit to the big guy at 6 months old. He looked stoned during his second visit at 18 months. At 2.5 he was sporting a hand wrapped in gauze and was quite proud to show off his stitched up boo boo. Now when we visit the big guy this year, AJ will show his baby brother the ropes.

4. Lights, Lights, LIGHTS!: Every year I find as many ways to squeeze in Christmas light viewing as possible. A trip to the Green Bay Botanical Gardens "Garden of Lights" display is mandatory. Some years we've even gone more than once. Last year when Karl was traveling a bunch, I spent many a night driving the neighborhoods so AJ could ooh and ahh himself to sleep. We also started a new tradition last year that I'm excited to continue. The local paper puts out a map of the best houses in the valley, so on Christmas Eve after church and dinner, we got AJ into his Christmas jammies, got him all snuggled up in the car, and set off to see all the houses for ourselves, listening to Christmas music all the way.

5. Annual Ornaments: Truth: My tree will never be one of those magazine Christmas trees. There's no theme or color scheme or any pattern whatsoever. But what my tree has that those magazine trees don't is memories. From Karl's first Christmas bell to the gold violin that's hung on my tree since I started playing in 1st grade. There are ornaments from vacations, from old jobs, and even ornaments to remember our sweet angel babies who never celebrated a Christmas here on earth. This weekend we added two new ornaments to our tree: one to document our new family of four, and the other to celebrate AJ's new role as big brother. Put all those ornaments together and they make one perfect tree!

I'd love to hear what traditions mean the most to you this time of year. And don't forget to check in with Angie, Barb, Emily, and Katrina to take a peek into their holiday traditions!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Hello, Monday

hello, holiday hours. Because everyone needs to be able to shop at Target until midnight, right? I am torn. I understand that for some people, after the kids are in bed is the only time to shop. But for me, after the kids are in bed is time to SLEEP. And working until 1130 isn't allowing for very much of that sleep thing.

hello, princess party perfection: The lovely Miss Angie threw a perfect pink and purple party for Dottie the Diva this weekend. I wore a pink and purple satin number and a tiara (and a black cardigan because December is too cold for sleeveless!) I also took my two princes to the party solo and am eternally thankful that Auntie Barb was able to step in and keep me from losing my mind. Oh, and it is not at all easy to nurse a baby in an evening gown, just FYI. I may or may not have flashed a boob at both Angie AND her mom. Ah, motherhood. So glamorous.

hello, *that* kid. I have him. The one who blows out the birthday girl's candles and tries to unwrap her presents. Even though we talked in the car about it being Dottie's day and Dottie's party. It's a hard concept for a 3 year old to understand. Thankfully everyone laughed, and the birthday girl got a candle blowing do over.

hello, double duty. I had the best of intentions. I had Sammy's birth announcement designed back in June. Nobody got one. I never had them printed. Until yesterday. Surprise! Your Christmas card will also include a birth announcement for the kid who will be 7 months the day before Christmas Eve. I know Emily will appreciate that, right Em?

hello, snow. I can't help myself. I love it. I love looking out my huge back window at all of the bare trees now covered in a perfect blanket of white. I love peeking out front to see the neighbor kids scraping up every bit they can find to make a snowman. I love how AJ repeats every five minutes "It no-ing Mama"

hello, grown up snow problems. I get so caught up in the snow love that I forget the downsides. Like shoveling, and scraping, and waiting for the car to warm up. And those awkward first few walks on the slush and ice. It's like getting my sea legs every year. And it's especially fun to try to walk that slippery walk holding a 3 year olds hand on one side and a baby carrier on the other.

hello, little dude with a big bump. AJ learned about the hazards of winter walking the hard way this morning. I left him at school with an ice pack on his noggin. Wet shoes on linoleum. Forehead made contact with bench. Tears and wailing and an immediate bruise. Poor kid. He is so much tougher than his mama.

hello, Monday inspired by Katrina

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Ventage Tuesday: My 5 Favorite Barb Moments

 In honor of the lovely Barb's 33rd birthday, the Ventage girls are taking this week to share some reasons why we love our Barb. So, without further ado, five of my favorite memories with one of my favorite people.
 (Barb and Me at a Trats game in 2008. I remember nothing about this game except the McSteamy look a like sitting a few rows in front of us.)
1. Bakeapalooza: I think this was one of our original crazy schemes. A full day of nonstop baking, back before I had kids and could do such a thing with very little advanced planning. The first year was such fun that we invited others in subsequent years. One year we had way too much butter. One year I had to stay out of the kitchen for any recipe involving peanut butter because it triggered my morning sickness. One year we baked very little because of the addition of two distracting babies to our group. So many things evolved over the course of the years but what remained the same was Barb and her crazy organization. Each year she organized the recipes, printed us all copies, and (attempted) to keep us on track. We're not baking this year due to scheduling issues and it makes me sad. Is it too early to start planning for Bakeapalooza 2013?
2. I'll sell you to the Amish: It sounded innocuous enough. A girl's weekend full of scrapping in a city a few hours away. Angie was driving. I printed off directions from mapquest. We picked Barb up on our way out of town. And then it all went awry. We found ourselves on this ice covered county road in the middle of nowhere, unless you were Amish and then it was the place to be. Of note: if you're going to get lost in Amish country, do it during the day. That whole lack of electricity thing makes it hard to find your way in the dark. That whole trip was a comedy of errors. But there was laughing, lots and lots of laughing.
3. If you bring me dinner you can hold the baby: Barb takes her aunt duties very seriously. As such, she held AJ when he was just a couple of hours old. After a long labor this mama was very hungry, and the kitchen was closed. Barb came to my rescue with a bag from McDonalds (best french fries I've had in my life) and when she walked in the door the nurse handed her the baby. It was a win win for all and an example of the kind of friend Barb is. I was exhausted and unshowered and starving and it was probably close to midnight at that point and she took care of me. Come to think of it, I think over the years Barb has seem me exhausted and unshowered more than anyone else except my husband. You know the saying that you know you have a real friend when you don't have to clean before inviting them over? That's Barb.
4. The Bouef:  Another one of our hair brained schemes, this one inspired by the movie Julie and Julia. There was a lot of meat. And butter. And pearl onions (gag). And laughing. Always the laughing. I am sure Julia Child would have been laughing too. AJ joined us for the meal, though he ate hot dogs. And I'm pretty sure he fed some of those to the dog. Now that we don't live just a few minutes away, one of the things I miss most is sitting in Barb's kitchen, chatting over something yummy.
5.  Lottery Luck: For 3 years Barb and I had a standing Sunday evening date to see whatever show was touring through the performing arts center. Sundays normally involved dinner before the show, drinks in our special PAC approved cups, sitting in our nosebleed cheap seats and then laughing our way through the parking garage afterward. One particular Sunday was my very favorite though. We had our usual tickets to see Wicked, but we got to the theater early to try our hands at a special lottery where we could win floor seats. Excited at the chance to get out of the nosebleed section we entered our names and crossed our fingers. I never win anything so I was pretty surprised when they called my name. We were even more surprised when we saw our actual seats, so close to the stage that I thought the flying monkeys were going to drop into our laps. It was such an awesome night!

(please note: I know it's Wednesday. Blogger was being silly yesterday and I gave up before going to work last night. Let's pretend it's Tuesday, okay?)

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Because I don't want to forget


She was a middle aged woman, probably a few years older than my own mom. She said she had a grandson about AJ's age. She and her group of family or friends were just a few feet ahead of us taking in the Christmas light display when AJ decided to sing his own version of "Twinkle Twinkle" at the top of his lungs. The lights were actually supposed to be snowflakes, but I can see where he was going with that. We heard other groups around us laughing as I suggested maybe "Jingle Bells" would be more festive.

"You sure are a chatty little guy," she said. And I felt my eyes well up with tears.
"He sure is. And believe it or not he wasn't saying much of anything this time last year."

She told me boys tend to be like that, and I just nodded, because really what else is there to say? How do I make a stranger understand what the past year has been like for us? How hard we fought for those signs in the beginning. How the words finally came in single syllable approximations and we would celebrate every one even if you had no idea whether he was trying to say ball or bike or baby or banana or bye. "Buh!" was a sound worth celebrating. She doesn't know that I wrote down on my calendar the day he said "I love lu Mama" for the first time, because for a while I wasn't sure those words would ever come.

She called him chatty. There's still a few weeks left, but that might be my favorite Christmas memory of 2012.