Gratitude and the Gift of Giving

With Bug’s birthday falling smack-dab on Thanksgiving Day this year, I'm afraid the topic of gratitude, which I don’t take lightly, got no press here.  As November ends and we begin to gear up for December, I want to reflect on gratitude for a bit. 

I keep my Gratitude Journal in my nightstand and enter my daily top five as often as I think of it.  It’s so interesting looking over the entries since I began it in 2007.  What I used to be grateful for then and how that differs from what I’m grateful for now…  If I were to analyze it, my drive to photograph is fueled by capturing all I’m thankful for – the gift of everyday, beautiful moments, big and small. 

Not a day goes by that I don’t say a prayer in my own way for all that I’ve been gifted in this life.  I know full-well that I’m a fortunate soul and I don’t take a moment for granted.  I have a healthy, loving family with a roof over our heads, food on the table, and laughter abounding.  I have few, but real friends.  I have a purpose in raising my family.  I have passion for what interests me.  If you were to ask me what more I want in life, it’s for nothing than the continued health and safety of those I love.

We model the concept of gratitude to the kids through saying “thank you” often, through our nightly ritual of “what was your best part of today,” by teaching to not be wasteful, and through donating to those who have less.  The latter is a tough concept to present to a child of Bug’s age – that there are people who are hungry, who don’t have homes.  How to do it in a gentle way, without scaring him is truly a challenge.  We took our brown paper grocery bag from one Sunday’s newspaper inserts and filled it at Safeway for the Sunday Breakfast Mission and while I thought it was a good idea to do this with the kids, I questioned it after the fact when Bug saw me putting in the baby food jars.  He couldn’t comprehend the thought of babies without food and when I saw the confusion on his face, I wondered if he was too young to be exposed to this, but then again, when is a “good age” to face such things?  I delicately continued our conversation about those who don’t have much and we paid for the bag, dropping it in the collection bin on the way out.  As tough as it is to share these truths with a child, I think it is too valuable a lesson NOT to and I’ll continue to talk with him about giving. 

Our next opportunity to give will be for the SPCA through the collection box at his preschool.  Giving to the SPCA was something his dad and I did often back in Michigan.  We would visit the shelter with our bag of food, towels, and toys, and give a few snuggles to the animals here and there.  We visited our local SPCA a time or two here as well, but sadness overcame me so much so that I couldn’t do it anymore.  That was around the time we became feline foster parents instead.  Nevertheless, going to the shelter probably isn’t the best idea for Bug either, so I’m excited to get involved with giving to the SPCA in this way again.

Anyway, I guess where I’m going with all of this is that for me, the most tangible way of expressing gratitude is through giving.  I want to get the kids involved in giving at a young age and hopefully when they’re older, we can become more active in other ways, too. If I could raise grateful and giving children, that would be the gift of a lifetime!


Our Boy

Serious, daring, serene amongst a whirl of energy. 

He is independent, yet craves our attention.  He needs help sometimes and that frustrates him because he's a perfectionist.  Gee, I wonder what that came from?!  He is loving, yet pushes the envelope with physical play.  Such a rough-houser!  Good thing he has a strong and willing daddy. He is imaginative and creative. He is beautiful and energetic. He is tender and innocent.  He is a little bit in between toddler-ness and boyhood.  He believes in fairies and builds them houses.  When something pleasantly surprises him, he credits the fairies for doing it.  He thinks there are ghosts in the dark and runs from a dimly lit room giggling and shrieking in playfulness.

He just stopped needing his "polka dot blankie" at bedtime within the past week or so, which is something I am having a hard time with, though not to my surprise, given my sentimentality. His blankie is a pink and brown Little Giraffe that was my very first baby gift (from my mom) when we all "just knew" my firstborn would be a girl!  He's held it at night, every night, since he was less than a year old.  There were times when we had to return to his babysitter's or to school to get it if forgotten so he could sleep that night.  This week, he told me we could leave it at school for nap time. He doesn't need it at home...

He is smart.  So smart!  He is observant.  He doesn't miss anything and asks such intelligent questions, so precocious.  I love the conversations we have.  He's articulate and I'm constantly amazed by his memory.  He is curious about learning his letters and sounds and often asks what things say.

He is a loving brother and a good friend.  He knows right from wrong, but sometimes his urges get the better of him. He divides his time now equally between mom and dad, not so much the momma's boy any longer, and I'm glad for that.  His dad needs his boy to need him, too.

He loves to be read to, to be sung to at bedtime, to hear all about when he was a baby.  He loves when I make up stories for him.

He is into matchbox cars, garbage trucks, superheros, dinosaurs, and making crafts.  He is a great daddy to his baby doll.  He loves his stuffed animals and often has two or three with him at bedtime.   He is a bundle of energy, showing us how fast he can run or how high he can jump (usually off of the furniture!)  He loves his kitchen set and to help with any real cooking.  Of course, sweets are a favorite thing to make, but he's an excellent mushroom chopper, too!

We are proud, honored, and grateful to be his parents. He is four years old tomorrow.

Happy Birthday, Bug!  
We Love You!


Mind Dump

Laundry, bookkeeping, stuff pinata, buy the stuff to stuff the pinata, wrap gifts, pack...

What a wild couple of weeks it's been!  So much for a slower pace.  That didn't last long.  I've had to work the past two weekends, so with only one day off since the 7th of this month, our home business computer crashing (bookkeeping nightmare!), preparing for very important little man's fourth birthday and getting ready for a trip to Michigan, I'm not sure how I've stayed sane other than the fact that I haven't been to bed before 1:00am in over a week. 

I can't help but think in times like these about the dream of being a stay-at-home mom.  In my mind, I'm a better cook, mother, wife, housekeeper, truck crasher, swing pusher, bike rider, boo boo kisser, and business partner for my husband.  I'd have time for the important things.  I'd feel better about the way I'm able to take care of myself and my family.  Of course, it would come with its own list of challenges, too, as any SAHM can attest to, but the dream lives on.

In the meantime, I keep telling myself to take a deep breath.  I check the items off the never-ending to-do list. I focus on being present when I'm with the kids.  I (try to) let go.  And I remind myself to be grateful for all of the things that keep my mind racing on nights like tonight.  Isn't it truly a gift to have a huge pile of laundry (a family to make the pile!), toys all over the living room floor (kids playing!), a growing business to account for (maybe one day I can be a SAHM!), and the busy-ness of life (work, friends, family)?

I feel better now.  Good night!


A Girl and Her Cat

This is my Button doing what she does almost daily to our 10 year old cat, Pele.  She adores him.  He is a saint.

Once upon a time, we were the "crazy cat people" with five of them in the house.  After a series of unfortunate events, we now only have Pele as the Ruler of the Roost.  Momma Kitty and Nate are our beautiful "garden kitties", living in the backyard (don't worry, they are VERY well cared for.)  We don't know what happened to sweet Katie.  She got out one day and we haven't seen her since.   I miss her so...  And the grand dame of them all, my Biggie, my Salem, lost her health exactly one year ago and was peacefully put down in my arms.

That said, Pele still hasn't quite adjusted to life as a loner, but the kids make sure he doesn't get too bored.  Personally, I think he loves to get pummeled as much as the little delights in pummeling.  Best. Cat. Ever.


The Rhythm of Fall

I have a love-hate relationship with fall.   I hate being cold.  And the reason I unfairly dislike fall so much is that it precedes winter.  Cold, dreary, dark endless winter.

I love the fall colors.  The trees are amazingly beautiful right now.  The one outside my office window at work is particularly gorgeous.  It looks like it's on fire, the way the color starts with yellow and gradually become orange then red at the top.  The tree outside our bedroom is always a favorite, too.  It's almost ethereal to sit in the rocking chair of my room nursing the baby at dusk as the evening light reflects from the leaves and into the room.

I love the food.  I love pumpkin, mushrooms and squash, soups and hearty meals like pot pies and casseroles.  Comfort food... building a winter cushion food.

I still don't look forward to winter, but this year I'm giving fall a break.  I'm embracing it.  I'm glad, relieved even, to fall (no pun intended) into a gentler, more forgiving routine... earlier bedtimes, less hustle and bustle, time to cook, play, and rest.  It feels good to have this season upon us.


Trick or Treat!

The girl and I stayed in on Halloween night to pass out candy while dad took the boy out.  We don't think he was nearly as excited about the candy as he was about running door to door and being with his friends.  I am so grateful for these precious days of little kids' costumes, unbridled anticipation and excitement. 



I did say I was going to go crazy with Halloween photos and I meant it, but life has been crazy this week, so I'm just getting around to them... Without further ado, the Halloween Parade!

 They loved it!

 Chickens with horns?  Yes, please!

 Oh, yes they did...