Sunday, January 31, 2010

11 & 1/2 Years In The Making

Back when David and I were getting married we just bought our first house and decided that it was best if we were not elaborate with our honeymoon plans. We chose a road trip to Quebec City, Quebec (although we also spent a couple nights in Montreal and one in the 1,000 Islands too). We chose Quebec City because we were told it has the feel of Europe without having to "cross the pond". David and I since had the opportunity to travel to Europe and now that I am able to compare the two I would have to agree, yes, that is an accurate description of Quebec City.

Anyway, time has passed and so much of that trip is now a blur although there are a few memories that stick out in my mind. I remember driving back roads that were off the beaten path from Montreal to Quebec City. We stopped along the way at a tiny ice cream stand. The people didn't speak English so I attempted to use my high school French to place our orders. David's milkshake was somewhat warm and he teased me that the order was lost in translation because of my French.

I remember climbing into a fountain and trying to climb the statue inside the fountain after dinner one night.

I remember Le Chateau Frontenac, the beautiful hotel we stayed at while in Quebec City. We were there during Quebec's "national" holiday Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day:La Fête nationale du Québec. Our hotel room overlooked the St. Lawrence River and the boardwalk-like area that had lots of street entertainers for the holiday celebration.

Another memory that David and I refer to is a big joke because one night in Montreal we went out to dinner at a nice restaurant to celebrate my birthday. We asked the maître d for a table in one of the cozier, more romantic spots in the restaurant. As he was seating us we were told we would have a "lovely table with a view of the *entire* restaurant".....yep, right smack dab in the middle of the crowded restaurant, and close to the kitchen door.

Finally, I remember David and I explored the lower area of Quebec City right near the St. Lawrence River. While down hill (quite a distance away by foot from our hotel) we were caught up in a quick down pour of a rain storm. David and I ducked into a little wine bar to wait out the rain. Just around the corner from that wine bar was a tiny art shop where David and I bought a print of Le Chateau Frontenac. . I don't recall if we purchased that print before or after we ducked in to that wine bar however our intent was to some day have the framed and have it displayed in our home as a reminder of our honeymoon.

We lived in our first home for a little over 11 years and never had the print framed. Finally, after moving into our new house in August, we acquired more room and thus more wall space. I realized that I had to suck up the cost of getting that print framed because if we didn't hang that picture in this house, it would never be used. I found a perfect space for it in our living room yet, the cost of the framing was making me drag my feet. However, one day, David's Uncle Charles sent us a monetary gift to go towards a house warming present. Immediately, I knew how I wanted to spend that money and it was put towards the framing of that print that was waiting 11 1/2 years to be displayed. We hung the print last night and I absolutely love not only how it looks in our living room but also the fact that it has such sentimental meaning to both David and me. Above is a close-up view of the framed work and to the left is a picture of David reading Madeline a bedtime story with Le Chateau Frontenac looking over David's shoulder. (Although this photo makes it look as though the print is too small for the wall, an additional framed piece is just out of view to the right) Thanks sooooo much, Uncle Charles! Your house warming gift definitely warmed our home while reliving the memories of our time in Quebec City has warmed our hearts. Thank you!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Happy Anniversary!

Today is the 33rd anniversary of Buffalo, NY's Blizzard of '77. Anyone old enough to remember that far back can recall events that led up to Buffalo's most infamous storm. Mother Nature flexed her muscles and crippled the city for days. Without a doubt, this blizzard is truly what gave Buffalo the national reputation of being located in the tundra (we actually have 4 beautiful seasons here). However, I would guess that, regardless of how harrowing their blizzard saga was, most people (I stress the word "most" because there were some tragedies that were a result of the storm) can look back at that crazy weather spectacle with somewhat fond memories.

Although there is absolutely no comparison to the weather of 33 years ago, Buffalo had some crazy weather conditions today. There were typical lake effect snow conditions. What is that, you ask?? In the afternoon, as I was driving home from the grocery store, the snow was whipping around quite heavily. 30 minutes later when I was on my way to take Madeline to swim class there was not one flake falling and the sky was a beautiful bright blue. Another 30 minutes later when I was returning home, the snow was falling at a pace where there were white out conditions. Crazy!!!.....and tonight, there is supposed to be more snow and wind gusts whipping. Hmmmm....will history repeat itself??

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

A Betty Crocker Kind Of Day

Just wanted to share a couple of photos of Madeline and me making cookies this afternoon. I didn't feel like heading to the grocery store so I was limited to bake with ingredients that I had at home. I thought that would leave us with the "Oatmeal Raisin" option but, no, I did not have raisins. Therefore, we improvised and made "Oatmeal Craisin" (dried cranberries) cookies. Madeline enjoyed sniffing the various spices before they were added to the recipe and also passing judgement (solely on looks) on what was being added by stating "I like this" or "I don't like this". With EVERY ingredient added Madeline exclaimed, "I wanna taste!" but I was successful in holding her off until I was done mixing the batter and she was able to have her own beater to lick (of course I had the other one). Now, I must say that the *last thing* I needed was a huge batch of cookies sitting around the house however Madeline and I enjoyed the together time in the kitchen.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Extending The Fun

This past weekend was so nice for a number of reasons and today's "weekend extension" was even more enjoyable. On Friday, our brother-in-law, Dan (David's sister's hubby), and Dan's son Adam were in town from Indiana. Dan and Adam's business has them travel to various locations around the country to complete contracting work. Dan and Adam had business in a town in New York that is located about 2 hours east of our house. Although they did not have to be to their job until Monday, Dan and Adam came on Friday. They were hauling their 16ft trailer with all their tools and wanted to offer their hands (and skill) in any projects around the house. This is not the first time Dan visited us and was put to work. I always feel bad about that but Dan insists that he loves it.

On Friday, Dan and Adam arrived later in the evening so we just sort of hung out and chowed down on pizza and wings. Saturday was another story! In the course of the day they fixed the shower off of our bedroom that was leaking into our front hallway, replaced a new exhaust fan in the same bathroom, added an exhaust fan with light in Madeline's bathroom shower stall, better secured our garage door, and fixed the connection to my wireless printer. The most I could do was keep the men's tummies happy. So, after they finished we were able to leisurely dine in the dining room (the wallpaper is still not done but I was hoping that eating off the China would help counteract that). I made Beef Wellington, yummy fried potatoes with onions, sauteed fennel and crumbled blue cheese, baby carrots & brussel sprouts (the way my brother Paul taught me....Mmmmm!) After dinner, the boys headed out for a few drinks.

On Sunday, we took a drive up to Niagara Falls because Adam never saw the Falls before. Unfortunately, the weather that day was quite crappy. As you can see from the photo above, it was rainy and dreary. I think this was the first time I have been to the Falls at his time of year. Although the Falls are always impressive, the green of the summer weather just makes everything prettier. After stopping for an early dinner at the Niagara Falls Hard Rock Cafe, Dan and Adam headed out of town so that they could be closer to their work locale for the next morning.

Today, was a GREAT extension of the weekend. See, David's work was off for Martin Luther King Day last Monday yet, David had clients in town and therefore he worked 12+ hours on his "day off". So, today was David's MLK holiday. The fun part was that Madeline had school this morning. After dropping Madeline at school, David and I had a "date morning" without having to pay a babysitter. We started off our morning at a trendy coffee shop in downtown Buffalo. While in Buffalo we scoped out the "Extreme Makeover-Buffalo" house that was debuted on ABC last night. We took a ride to Beaver Island State Park to do some birdwatching of migratory birds. While in the neighborhood of the park we drove through the neighborhood and past the house that we missed out on before we found this house (the day we decided we were going to put a bid on it we found out that someone else signed a contract on that house days before) and we realized that we love the house we chose so much more. Finally, David and I did a small amount of window shopping at a local mall before picking up Madeline.

Although the morning was action packed, the three of us went roller skating in the afternoon. I haven't roller skated in YEARS and this was Madeline's first experience at a roller rink. I used to love roller skating when I was younger so it was fun for me to get back on skates. However, I did take a few good tumbles so I anticipate being a bit sore tomorrow. Madeline was having mini-meltdowns when we started out at the rink. She was frustrated that she kept falling. Yet, after spending a little time at the rink, Madeline was zipping along on her skates and was having a blast and did not want to leave.

Now....the big question is this. Today's "weekend extension" was so enjoyable, I wonder if David would be willing to take a vacation day once in a while for a scheduled morning breakfast date with Mama and afternoon family fun.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Angel Food

Somehow I have gotten out of the habit of blogging every night. One thing that used to keep me motivated to blog was knowing that Grandma was able to see Madeline's adventures from Indiana. Yet, since David's mom's stroke, circumstances prevent her from accessing one of her favorite hobbies, the computer. At this point, I am not quite sure who is following Mama-Dirtyfoot anymore although my sister, Marysia, from Maryland asked me, "Why don't you blog anymore"? Honestly, I didn't have a good answer. Maybe it's writer's block...who knows. Whatever the case may be, I was determined to blog about something today. So, here goes...

Our little Madeline is just too darn sweet! Yes, there are some days that I want to sell her cheap. She is as stubborn as they come and can, at times, run me through the ringer. However, the majority of the time she is a sweet, caring, thoughtful little girl. The other day, I asked Madeline to feed the cats. Madeline carefully poured some kitty food into each of their bowls and sat on the couch with me. After a few moments, Madeline returned to the cat food bin and started digging in there again. This time Madeline returned to the family room with a small play pail that had about an inch or so of food scooped into it. Madeline wanted to show me that the food in the pail was for Packard (our kitty that went to Kitty Heaven in December). Madeline told me, "This [the food] is for Packard so Packard can feel better and come home". How can that not melt your heart?

Thursday, January 14, 2010

And The Oscar Goes To....

Oscar, Grammy, Tony, People's name it! Madeline is destined to be in show business. First, she is all about the costumes and make-up. In this photo (top) Madeline created an ensemble made from a purple flapper costume (courtesy of Aunt Margaret), a plastic rhinestone-like belt, beaded necklace and a purple boa. The pose, by the way, is also staged. As soon as she knew I was taking her picture she wanted to strike a pose....and this is what she came up with. Finally, the photo on top was taken in my living room...aka the dance studio. The cream rug is Madeline's dance floor.

Moving from the living room to the family room, Madeline will glide along the ceramic tile, or shall I say "ice". She is sometimes a figure skater but she could be pretending to be a hockey player. As a side note, yesterday David was teaching Madeline how to play hockey with a yard stick and mini-Sleeping Beauty godmother figurines used as pucks.

The bottom photo was taken in my family room....on what Madeline *thinks* is her stage. The outfit she is wearing - well, I have no explanation for that one! Although I love the fake pink braid that she put in her hair while accessorizing it with a plastic fireman's hat. (At least I know Madeline will be all set if the Village People audition a new member) The little head that is sitting to Madeline's left on the "stage" is a Hannah Montana make-over head which by the way plays one Hannah Montana song (which I can't even make out the lyrics to). Madeline *loves* this and the music is continually played throughout the day and used for Madeline's stage music (Thanks again, Margaret). Madeline has created this new dance where she points to her "audience", points and shakes her finger while shaking her butt. WHERE does she get this stuff from??

And aside from Madeline's flamboyance with dance, her drama is unbelievable! Today before dinner, David and Madeline were playing train while I was finishing up with getting dinner on the table. Madeline would hold on to David's back pocket but would occasionally let go and the "train" would break. One time Madeline started crying because the wheel (her foot) on her train broke. Her crying sounded so real that both David and I stopped what we were doing because we thought she was hurt. Soon we realized that she was still playing make-believe but her act was certainly believable. What scares me is that this isn't the first time this happened. Madeline can *really* play a part with emotion!

My only request, dear daughter, is can I *please* walk the red carpet with you?

Monday, January 11, 2010

Get Busy, Gal!!

So, here I am, a stay-at-home mom (SAHM). I NEVER in a million years thought that I would miss working yet when I first became a SAHM in 2007, I was amazed at the adjustment period that occurred. I never really realized how much my job identified me. I guess that makes sense since we spend so many hours of our day working but I never anticipated such a strong feeling of being without identity. Also, I've always been the social butterfly - in grade school, high school and of course, the workplace. Staying at home, I truly missed human contact with other adults and this was yet another adjustment.

Don't get me wrong, I knew that what I was doing at home as a mom was extremely important and given the choice, I wouldn't have it any other way. Yet, nonetheless, I had to redefine myself....and this also came on the heels of no longer being a primary caretaker for my mom, who passed away only 18 days before we left for Russia to bring Madeline home. I was no longer AMY: wife, teacher, daughter, caregiver but, I was now AMY: wife, mom and ????? Although I loved staying home and being a mom, as David began traveling more for work I found myself becoming extremely stir-crazy. So, I found that in order prevent myself from going crazy and to try to allow for myself to be a better mom and wife, I had to do things that fostered my own self-development and feeling of worth. (Yes, I know, being a mom is one of the most worthwhile things yet, it is a thankless job :-)

So where am I now in 2010? Since becoming a SAHM I have learned to force myself to break away from things and occasionally take time for myself. Although life gets busy, David and I have learned that date nights are essential! And, although life gets busy I still try to make a date with friends for a bite to eat or a cocktail. I occasionally splurge and indulge in pampering such as a pedicure. I have also tried to find activities that would be rewarding for me. I have tried to find opportunities (for me AND Madeline) to socialize during the day by joining and becoming Treasurer of our local MOMS Club (New Years Resolution is to be more consistent with my participation in this club). I am the room mom for Madeline's Pre-K class. I have taken on coordinating alumni events for the former grade school/Catholic church of the neighborhood that I grew up in. The alumni group is not just for my class but all grades and the events benefit the non-for-profit organization that is currently housed on the campus of the old school.....oh, by the way, they asked if I would be interested in serving on their board. I also, have a phone call in to inquire about being a reading volunteer for a reading radio (for the blind) Wheewwwww......

So, here I sit, Madeline had school this morning. What did I accomplish around the house? No, no cleaning....not stripping wallpaper.....not sorting and unpacking the stack of boxes that are STILL in my basement from our move.....not laundry.....not cooking....not balancing checkbooks....not working on the home decorating that needs to be done. Nope, I worked on Alumni Event stuff. Don't get me wrong....I am not complaining but I have to stop being so hard on myself! I have to remember that when I am working on my other projects, I am still being productive - even though I might not have worked on things that need to be done around the house. Yet, unlike when I first became a SAHM, I once again feel as though I am doing something with my spare time....but that leaves me with little spare time (thus the lack of regular blog posts). My calendar is often booked up and the hours in any given day are limited....but I have figured out a way to be a stay-at-home mom and also fill the void that not working left in my social life and self-development.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Got Botox?

From where I sit for dinner at our kitchen table, I can see my own reflection in the sliding glass door looking back at me. Lately, I see an aging woman staring back at me. My god, I *am* going to be 40 in a few months! For whatever reason, the lines that are creeping onto my complexion seemed to be so much more noticeable in today's reflection. As we sat at the dinner table tonight, I quipped to my husband, "I need Botox". David's response was some smart aleck comment about that I would end up walking around looking like I was in a state of shock. Ignoring David's comment, I continued expressing my "need" for Botox. I proceeded to model (by physically stretching my forehead skin upward) what I might look like with those fine lines diminished. Holding my stretched skin in place I glanced, in awe, at how youthful my "smooth" forehead would look. My trance was broken by the outburst of laughter from my dear husband and daughter. Obviously they didn't share the same beauty vision I was having. Instead, they saw Mama-Dirtyfoot sitting at the dinner table and making silly faces at herself. Meanwhile, Madeline proceeds to imitate my silly faces. Sigh.....I guess I'll be shopping for a new anti-aging cream.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Ringing In 2010

I have been a little slow posting blog entries but we have been very busy with all the holiday festivities and spending some good family time together while David has been on vacation. We obviously made it home safe and sound from Indiana. We got home on the 30th. There is no place like home yet, home wasn't quite the same without our sweet little Packard there to greet us (and she always used to be the first at the door to welcome us home).

New Years Eve was pretty uneventful. We spent the majority of the day having our furnace replaced. This is something we knew we would need to do when we bought our house but we wanted to get the purchase in during 2009 in order to take advantage of both tax credits and rebates. Nothing like waiting until the last minute, right?

We also wanted to have Madeline celebrate the New Year but we had no desire to keep her up until midnight so....she celebrated at 9:15. I probably could've reset our clocks to make-believe it was midnight but that would just mean that I would have to set them back to the correct time. At her age I didn't think that I needed to be that elaborate but maybe next year. Yet, if she goes to school thinking that a new day starts at 9:15pm, you'll know why. Anyway, the three of us had a blast with the noisemakers and I even pulled out the pots and pans to bang on for added measure. After Madeline was fast asleep, David and I had an ever so exciting New Year watching the ball drop on TV. We did however, hop into the hot tub for an early 2010 dip yet, for the most part our celebration was quite.

Our first company of the New Year was my sister, Marysia's family from the Baltimore area. Marysia was in town visiting her in-laws (who also live in the Buffalo area) after Christmas. I was happy that we were able to meet up after we came home from Indiana but before they left Buffalo. Marysia, her husband Mike, and their children Tommy, Lauren, Andy and Julie stopped by late in the afternoon. We spent time snacking on munchies while the guys watched football. Later we had dinner in yes, you guessed it, my still unfinished (oh well) dining room. I cooked up a batch of breaded pork chops, apple sauce, au gratin potatoes, cauliflower and broccoli and a pumpkin cream cheese roll and some of Marysia's Christmas cookies for dessert. After putting Madeline to bed the rest of us played our new game, Cranium, that we got for Christmas. (Paul, I put that game on my wish list after your visit) We had a bunch of fun and loads of laughs playing the game until 1:30am!

Yesterday, it began snowing while Marysia's family was visiting and it pretty much snowed the rest of the night. Today we slept in and had a leisure-filled day however, the driveway and sidewalk did need to be shoveled. The three of us bundled up to head out into the snow. Madeline loved jumping around in the white fluffy stuff but I think she still wished it was summer as she dragged out her tricycle and scooter into the driveway. We also took Madeline's sled and played for a while on the snow pile that was deposited in the center of the cul-de-sac by the snow plow as it plowed the circle. Yet, just as I was always the first to want to go inside from the snow and cold when I was a child, I was also the first one to whine about being cold and wanting to go inside today. I tried to make up for my wimpy-ness by making some hot cocoa for when David and Madeline came inside to defrost. Tonight the weather is about 10 degrees and I am not feeling like braving the weather to go into the hot tub. Instead, here I sit snug as a bug wearing my flannel pj's, fuzzy socks, my favorite cozy down throw that I got from a former student, fireplace on, glass of wine, sitting on the couch with my laptop while David is engrossed in a "man-movie" (Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers).......ugh, it will suck on Monday when David is back to work and we are back to the grind! But, for now I will enjoy the afterglow of the holidays and the last few moments that we have David to ourselves!