Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Moving Chaos Begins

Our first meal at the house
On the evening of (Tuesday) 2/14, I ended up puking my guts out (yum!).  I had to have caught whatever "bug" Madeline had on that Monday (2/13).  Our closing date for our house purchase was Wednesday (2/15) morning with our final walk-thru inspection prior to the close.  I woke up the morning of the close feeling like absolute crap.  I was not sure how I was going to survive sitting through all the paperwork signing.  On a day that should've been filled with excitement, I literally did not have the strength to do the final walk-thru.  I laid on the floor of the family room, in the vacant house, as David completed the inspection.  During the house closing, I signed my life away, not caring what I was signing but only caring about getting thru the process.  I was disappointed that once the house was officially ours, I had no desire to go back to the house.  Instead, I told David that there was absolutely no way I would survive "kid duty" and asked him to take the rest of the day off of work in order to cover the parental duties for the rest of the day.  When we got home, I took my temperature and, sure enough, I was officially sick with a 101.5 fever.  Whahhh!!  What a way to start our time with this house.  The crazy thing is that the very next morning I was a new person, however, David "caught the bug" and he was sick half of Wednesday (2/15) and Thursday (2/16).  So much for getting work done in the house... When David started feeling better on Friday (2/17), he needed to get ready for his business trip to Japan.  David left for Japan on Saturday 2/18 and did not return until Saturday 2/25.  For all the above reasons, we barely stepped into our new home the first week-plus that we owned it.  As much as I would've loved to start prepping for our move-in, I knew that I would only be frustrated to try to attempt productivity with 2 kids at my side.

Workplace Chaos!
Last night, David and I went to the house and tried to slowly make some progress.  We figured we would have better luck if the two of us could "tag team" the kids. You have no idea how difficult it is to juggle house time for working around Madeline's school pick-up, homework, dinner, bedtime, etc.  Throw into the mix an infant and we have a recipe for getting *nothing* done.  Ugh!!!  I can't thing about this.....all I know is that neither David nor I have enough hands or coloring books to occupy these children.  It is so hard to function at times without the support system we had in New York. We did, however, enjoy our first meal in the house.  A card table & chairs, a vinyl tablecloth, a rotisserie chicken & frozen microwave "steamers" vegetables and microwave rice (served on paper plates) was on the menu for the evening.  Not exactly gourmet cooking but it was nice to start claiming the house as our own.....but, as far as the work department goes......I will be lucky to accomplish ANYTHING among all our chaos!

Monday, February 27, 2012

どうもありがとう (Domo arigato)

My kimono (I know it is not tied properly)
Domo arigato is a Japanese phrase meaning "Thank you very much". Of course each time I hear this phrase, I feel the need to add "Mr. Roboto" after it and sing a Styx song.  However, in this situation, its true meaning of gratitude is intended. 

Madeline checking out some of the loot
Saturday (2/25), David returned from a week long business trip to Japan (Tokyo, Ibaraki City, & Osaka).  After the two of us navigated communication with a 15 hour time difference and David traveled approximately 19 hours to get back, all of us in this household can easily say that we are happy that David is back.  Of course an added bonus of David's travel is the suitcase of goodies that he brings home with him.  No matter where he goes, David always remembers us in his travels.  Often times, a larger trip such as Japan, China, Germany, etc brings extra special goodies.

Madeline couldn't wait to start coloring in her new Hello Kitty coloring book
David's "Certificate of Friendly Citizen" from Ibaraki City
David really does not have to go all out. I would be very happy with just a small "I was thinking of you" token gift.  In fact, I always tell him to not go crazy bringing stuff home and typically scold him for too much stuff when he returns.  Regardless, it is still fun to have a suitcase of goodies and, quite honestly, I think David enjoys giving us the goodies as much as we enjoy receiving them. 

Loose tea, Tokyo bananas(?), green tea Kit Kats (?!) & coffee in a can (common way to get your coffee, out of a vending machine, in Japan)
From Japan, Mama-Dirtyfoot was given a kimono.  Better than the kimono was the story of David trying to work with the Japanese ladies to figure out what he needed to purchase for this ensemble.  I won't name or list all the goodies we received but there were many.  Some of the highlights were (aside from the kimono) origami paper kits, unique stationary (I *love* unique stationary), gift cloths (the Japanese use them to wrap gifts in) chopstick training kit for Madeline, sweet treats, wine, sake, Japanese baseball team wear for Madeline, Japanese baseball blanket for Jonathan, wooden puzzle for Jonathan, sandal socks (all the rage in Japan) for me & Madeline, Hello Kitty stuff for Madeline.  Yes, you can say that we are very spoiled.  But, without a doubt, the absolute best gift we got from Japan was David coming home, and the entire family being together again! 

Bringing home some booze (two of those are gifts for others)
The BEST part of the evening, David was able to read Madeline her bedtime story

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Movie Night

Fire started, waiting for the feature presentation (The Smurfs) to start.
When David travels, in particular when his travel spans a long period of time or spans over the course of a weekend, it can be difficult to be the jack-of-all trades "single mom".  It gets to a point where everything is a bit more difficult. Why??...maybe because I get tired and lose a little steam from holding down the fort.  Weekends are the most difficult and I claim victory on these days if everyone survives in one piece.

Shrimp Po Boy & fries.
Last night was our last evening before David comes home. He has been in Japan since last Saturday.  In addition to attempting a low key late evening (in hopes that Madeline would sleep a little longer on Saturday), I just wanted to do something a little different than our normal evening.

Mesmerized by the movie, I had to keep reminding Madeline to eat while she was watching.
We decided to have a movie night. We changed into our PJ's early (BONUS!!) and ate dinner in front of the TV (which we NEVER do).  I made fish stick po boys (not exactly a household 1st choice but it was a Friday during Lent, so..no meat.) and french fries.  We had a fire in the fireplace and watched the movie "The Smurfs".  Madeline is very sensitive with scary parts on TV.  Although I didn't think the movie was particularly scary, I ended up with her sitting on my lap for half of the movie.

My two kids snuggled with me as the movie played
We had a great night together and I almost considered a "slumber party" (allowing her to sleep in my bed for the last night that David was away) but then thought better of it.....I didn't want to be kicked by a sleeping 6-year old all night.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Shuffle Off To Buffalo

Jonathan's 1st plane ride. He did great!
Madeline is an old pro at flying
Ahhhh!! Tim Hortons
For the first time in over 4 months, my family and I were back in the city I called home for 41 years.  We traveled back to Buffalo for a much needed family getaway.  Although Buffalo, and all those I love there, are ALWAYS on my mind, the timing of this particular trip was prompted as a result of the fact that David was receiving a special recognition award from a NY commercial realtors association.  The award was for David's work in partnering with them with regards to economic development in the WNY region.  Funny, this organization used to HATE were David used to work.  The commercial realtors inaccurately looked as David (and were he worked) as competition rather than a partnership asset that would assist the realtors in closing deals.  David worked very hard in fostering a relationship with a professional group that wanted to run David (and were he worked) out of town.  I have attend several of these awards dinners with David in the past.  In fact, I was there at some of the first ones David attended when the speakers would literally say, "Let's put them (David's former work) out of business". Endless lunches, speaking engagements, eventually getting elected to their board of directors and ultimately working collaboratively on creating WNY's first commercial MLS had helped the commercial realtors work to meet the needs of their commercial clients while simultaneously helping David work with businesses in meeting their needs as well.  Think of what David did in Buffalo as being the Julie McCoy (Love Boat cruise director) of attracting business to WNY, that is, organizing all the players to work together to get a business to the region - real estate, government agencies for tax incentives, universities for work force, etc, etc, etc.  Without the commercial realtors on board, WNY was missing out on some great leads and David worked very hard to tap into those leads for himself, the realtors, and ultimately the economic developmental success of the WNY region.  Ultimately, his hard work in fostering these relationships is what was being recognized with this award.  Although this award dinner is what prompted us to book flights, this was only one piece of our stay in Buffalo.  It really was a whirlwind trip!

Merry-Go-Round at Boulevard Mall (Jonathan's 1st)

Mmmmm - Charlie the Buthcer
We arrived on Wednesday (2/8) night.  The father of our friend, Kelly, was out of town at the time we were visiting.  They were gracious enough to let us stay at their home - and OMG, they had the MOST comfortable bed in the world!!  I was able to see Kelly for a little bit on Wednesday night as we got settled into her dad's house but, it was late and we were all pretty tuckered out.

Awards dinner
As we sat on the plane, prior to take-off in Minneapolis, David says, "Ohhhh....this is not going to work. I hope this doesn't interfere with our trip."  Huh???  His tooth was bothering him.  A man being a man, the tooth was bothering David for several days and he didn't mention it until that moment.  On Wednesday evening, when David drank some cold water, he nearly went through the roof. And so, our Thursday (2/29) morning involved a trip to the dentist.  Madeline and I were happy to make a stop at a Tim Horton's for breakfast while David was at his appointment.  After "tooth time", we had a little bit of time to make some other stops.  We went to the Boulevard Mall because I *needed* a new BFLO car magnet for my van.  I must've lost my other one in a car wash.  This also gave Madeline some time to run around like a monkey at the mall's play area.  A trip to Buffalo also means getting our fill of Buffalo foods.  For lunch on Thursday we headed to Charlie the Butcher for a Beef on Weck.  After lunch, we headed over to the cemetery to visit Mom & Dad.  Next, off to downtown Buffalo to David's old office.  David worked there for 8 years. After that amount of time, seeing his former co-workers was like seeing family.  After a nice visit we took the half-hour drive back north to get ready for the awards dinner.

David and his award.  It is a buffalo that has some mirrored glass, therefore I now call it the "disco buffalo".
It was around Christmastime when we knew we were going to travel to Buffalo in February.  At that time we figured that we would be *much* overdue for some Mama/Papa time, and so we contacted our NY babysitters and arranged for them to sit with the kids each night we were in town.  Mama and Papa were thrilled with the idea of some time away while Madeline was also thrilled to see both Sarah and Molly.  After returning from our visit at David's old workplace, we basically had enough time to get changed and fill in the sitters on baby care (their 1st time with Jonathan) before we had to drive back downtown for the awards dinner.    The awards dinner was nice.  David and I often comment that we are currently living in a region of over 3 million unfamiliar faces.  Although I knew a handful of people at the dinner, a good majority of those in attendance we mere acquaintances for me.  However, it was so refreshing to be in a roomful of familiar faces. We literally could not get across the room because one person after the other stopped us to talk to David.  What a good feeling that must've been for David.  I was so proud of him!

Jonathan and Aunt Vicky
Madeline loved the hair accessories from her cousin Christina (brought to Bflo by Uncle Marty & Aunt Vicky)
Kelly & Me (with Madeline) before the girls' dinner
Girls' dinner. LOVE my friends!
Kym, Mary, Me and Jen out after dinner
Jen is short enough for us to use her shoulders as a boob rest!
Although we were away from Buffalo for over 4 months, it felt as though we simply returned from a long vacation.  We jumped right back into the swing of things as though we still lived there.  The trip was good for us for many reasons but one of the positives was that I was able to appreciate some of the things that Minnesota has to offer.  However, with that also came the "Damn! I wish Minnesota had this!"  On Friday morning, we drove around some of our old stomping grounds.  We drove past our first house in Wheatfield and the house that we just moved out of in North Tonawanda.  It wasn't until we did the North Tonawanda drive-by that I got that awful "someone died" feeling in the pit of my stomach that one gets when they are completely homesick.  How does one feel better?  A trip to Tim Horton's, of course!  We ended up going to the Tim Horton's that they were still building when we moved.  It was walking distance from our old house.  Next, a NECESSARY Wegmans visit.  This is essential for any Buffalo expatriate as food selection and grocery shopping experience is not the same elsewhere.  We stocked up on so many Buffalo goodies that we needed a cooler (Thanks Aunt Sue) to bring things home.  Friday, my brother, Marty, and sister-in-law, Vicky drove to Buffalo from central Pennsylvania.  I already had made plans with some girlfriends for a girls' night out so David and the kids did dinner with Marty and Vicky while I did dinner with the gals.  In the evening, one of our sitters came over and David, Marty and Vicky were able to meet us out for a few drinks.

Me, Madeline, Uncle Tom and Jonathan at Aunt Sue's house
Uncle Tom and Jonathan
Beautiful table setting for brunch
Marty. Heidi, & Vicky
Madeline, David, Aunt Sue, Uncle Ron, Uncle Tom, Aunt Mary Grace, Marty & Vicky
Uncle Marty & Jonathan
On Saturday morning, we took an hour ride south of where we were staying to go to brunch at my aunt's house.  Aunt Sue is the most awesome entertainer.  Not only does conversation and laughter flow easily at her house but she also is a phenomenal cook and goes all out to add all the little touches in presentation.  At Aunt Sue's we were able to visit with her, my Uncle Ron, Uncle Tom, Aunt Mary Grace, my brother Marty & sister-in-law Vicky.  We shared a delicious brunch and great conversation but the visit ended too quickly.  Next on the agenda was a play date for Madeline (okay for me too as the moms are my MOMS club friends).  Back in the car for an hour drive north.  David dropped me and the kids off to play so he could pick up two large La Nova Pizzas for us to freeze and take home (Pizza sucks in Minnesota!)  It was nice to visit more with Kym and Mary but Madeline was just beside herself with the opportunity to play with her friends, Dani and Michellynn.  She had so much fun. Although Madeline is getting along socially in school, she is missing out on friendships.  Madeline was just as much in need of friend time as Mama was. It was so nice to see the kids pick up exactly where they left off.  After a fun play date, back in the car for a 20 minute drive to the house where we once again met up with our sitters and got freshened up for a night out.  Once more, back in the car for a half-hour drive to Buffalo for a Buffalo Sabres hockey game.  We were invited to attend the game in a suite. From all the running around of the day we were running a few minutes late.  One of our favorite parts of going to a Sabres game is the pregame stuff.  We zoomed into the arena just as they were starting the pregame.  We knew we would miss it all if we tried to make it up to the suite and so we ducked into the "100 level" of the arena to watch.  During the pregame, there is a HUGE Sabres flag that is passed along the crowd and makes its way around the entire arena.  Just by dumb luck and good timing, we peeked into the 100 level just as the flag was coming our way.  David and I were able to be under the flag and help move it along.  What a special treat for our visit back home!  After the pre-game, we headed up to the suite to enjoy the game.  The evening would have only been better if the Sabres had one that night.

Madeline, Michellynn, & Dani
Christian, Michellynn, Dani, Madeline & Jonathan (missing from picture: Dani's brother Jack)
Girls Just Wanna Have Fun - Michellynn, Madeline & Dani
Sunday we had to head home.  Thank GOD for Kelly and Hailey for coming over.  If it weren't for their visit and their help occupying the kids, I think we would still be in the midst of packing! There is no doubt, we know how to land with a splat!  Prior to heading to the airport, we were able to make it to Mass at our old parish.  What good food for the soul!  David and I miss our church and will hopefully find a parish with which we feel comfortable here in Minnesota.  After two unsuccessful attempts, we admittedly stopped our efforts, however, we hope to have better luck after moving to a new neighborhood when we move into our house.

Best way to watch a Sabres game - in a suite, pigging out on Buffalo wings & weck while drinking a Canadian beer.
Our visit to Buffalo was such a mood booster for me!  I loved every second of seeing friends and family.  The unfortunate thing, however, is that we were spread so thin trying to see everyone.  We made "touch and go landings" with everyone.  Although, I do not regret any second of the time we were there or time spent with family and friends, I feel as though I didn't get to spend enough time with any one person.  Call me greedy, but I wanted my fill of everyone.  Instead, I guess you can say I was left hungry for a little more.  Already I am trying to figure out the next time  I'll be able to get back.  Due to the expense involved and other obligations here (David's job, Madeline's school, setting up a home after we move into our house, etc) and other travel obligations already set for this year, I am not sure when I will be able to return to Buffalo.  Even if it means I make a quick mama weekend get-away, I will try to get back as soon as I can.  In the meantime, I am not too proud to beg for visitors.  Our new house (moving in March 9th) will have a very private guest room.  We have always LOVED to entertain house guests while we lived in Buffalo and will appreciate visitors even more in Minnesota.  The more the merrier!!  Whether you want to see a baseball game or a hockey game, go shopping at the Mall of America, party at Howl at the Moon or just get into trouble together, we would love if you visit!!  Until that time, either in Buffalo or here, I will think fondly of the time we did share this month.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Happy Presidents Day?? - Oh, wait, I am late for that too!

Visit with Santa at Mall of America
I used to be really good about making a blog post almost everyday.  Now, I guess you can say I am a huge slacker.  I love so much about  my blog - the ability to share pictures, stories of my day, etc, with friends and family living near and far.  I guess I will blame Facebook (Uncle Charles and Merl - you *must* get a Facebook account!) for my lack of blogging.  Why??  In the matter of seconds I can share what is on my mind (and I do, at times, to excess).  Videos and photos can be uploaded instantly while in the midst of the chaos of my day.  If you every have any question what Mama-Dirtyfoot is up to at any given second, just log into Facebook and there you will see.  The convenience of communication with friends and family is amazing!!  So why then am I continuing my blog??  Well, although Facebook now has a "Timeline" feature, I prefer the format of this diary of our lives.  Often times I'll click onto my blog to just browse pictures of our life, in a chronologial order.  Or I may take a peek to reference a particular event or timeframe in our family history.  And so, despite  being a bit slower these days with my posts (an additional child in the mix also makes posting time more limited), my desire is to continue to update.

Bloody Mary lunches during sisters' shopping weekend
In the past, this blog's title may have read "Christmas Recap" and it would've been dated December 26th.  Christmas came and went, as did New Year's.  My "grand" idea was to then title my post "Happy Year of the Dragon", however the Chinese New Year came and went too.  Ahhhh...President Day!!! Wait, that was 3 days ago!!  Heck, you get the picture.

Sisters, matching PJs and egg nog.  What more could we ask for???  Oh, yeah, Anthony Bourdain!
Real tree! Christmas in the house rental.
This was a strange Christmas.  Our first in Minnesota.  Our normal traditions were in play, although in December we had only been in Minnesota for a couple of months.  We were (and continue) trying to get in our own groove here.  I was thrilled that my annual sisters Christmas shopping weekend was in Minnesota this year (also, well documented on Facebook....but, damn!! I never blogged about it).  Having family visit helped build memories here....and Christmas shopping with my sisters at the Mall of America didn't hurt either!  Yet, all the "comforts of home" were not as comfortable.  I am still trying to get accustomed to grocery shopping here, and so, shopping for holiday meals made me feel like a fish out of water.  We are still in temporary housing, and so the comfort level of our residence is not where it has been in the past.  Also, knowing that we will be moving again in the near future, half of our things are still in boxes.  China, fancy serving dishes, and the like remain unpacked.  This Christmas was a year of transition, however, for the kids, we did the best we could.  Although Jonathan didn't really know any different, it WAS his first Christmas, while Madeline is in the height of her Santa years.

Table set
Our old house in North Tonawanda, NY had a family room with a cathedral ceiling.  We have a 9 foot artificial tree that worked perfectly in that room.  There was no way that tree would work in our house rental.  Good news - this was the first time since shortly after David and I got married that we had a real tree.  THAT was a definite bonus to this year.

Our china was in boxes this year and so, things were a bit more casual for our Christmas Eve and Christmas Day dinners.  I really missed some of our non-china sentimental pieces that normally share our company at the Christmas dinner table, however, the BONUS to no China is that all our everyday plates that we used are dishwasher safe!

Christmas dinner - 2011
I did miss the familiarity of our old parish church in NY.  We have not found a church that we like here yet.  My thoughts on worship: Matthew 6:6.  And so, I am not feeling the whole mega-church "let's make a name tag for you"  atmosphere of the parishes here.  THIS aspect of our lives David and I miss very much and, therefore, Christmas Mass was not quite as fulfilling for us as in years past.  This, however, is an "issue" for us for 2012.

The day after Christmas was no different than
 many years past.  We got in the car and traveled to Indiana.  The only difference was this year we had to travel east instead of west.  Unfortunately, I do have the bad habit of not taking enough pictures while in Indiana.  It was, however, great to have Grandma and Grandpa see the kids.

Cookies for Santa
2011 was a year filled with amazing amounts of transition for the entire family.  We are still trying to catch our breath from everything.  Pregnancy & the birth of Jonathan, crazy amounts of business travel for David, David switching jobs....out of state, Madeline becoming a sister, Madeline starting kindergarten, selling our home, moving over 900 away from friends, Madeline starting a *new* kindergarten, house hunting....Yep, we were busy!  Luckily, all of our transitions in 2011 were a result of good fortune, regardless we had mixed emotions about seeing the end of the year marked on New Years.  We were, however, ready for the kids to go to bed that night! Luckily they are still young enough to fake out and so we set the clocks ahead, celebrated our fake New Year, put the kids to bed and David and I shared a quiet evening together.  But the kids and the season exhausted us.  We were not able to stay awake until midnight.....can we get partial credit for staying up until midnight in Eastern Standard Time??

Treats for reindeer
Santa came
All in all we had a great Christmas and New Years.  I am, however, looking forward to moving into our new house and making it a home.

Jonathan enjoying his first Christmas!

Theme for the year - "Stay Warm In Minnesota" gifts. This hat is from my brother Chris.  David said, "laugh all you want but it is the warmest hat ever"!

Jonathan slept most of the way to/from Indiana and Madeline was mesmerized by movies...yeah!

"Look, Mama! I am making Jonathan look grumpy!"

A Vikings jersey and a Bumpo seat - Jonathan is ready to watch some football!

While at Grandpa's, Madeline felt the need to create and add lips to her "Doctor Drill and Fill" Play Doh set from Uncle Ed

Jonathan slept well at Grandpa's

You can tell Madeline goes to a Catholic School.  Madeline created this Mary costume when she was playing.

I was well stocked with Buffalo goodies from my friends.  Thanks!!

Madeline was so excited to give me the "Mother"/"Daughter" heart necklaces that she picked out for me.