Monday, December 31, 2007

2007 Was a Blogger Year

My blog now receives 75-100 unique visitors a day. By internet standards, this is minuscule. In the mommy's world, however, that's a whole lotta folks.

Thanks to the following for your blog acknowledgments/support/comments over the past year: My husband Jim, Aunt Melody (California), Aunt Melody (Georgia), Aunt Robin, Oracle, Meghan, Christy, Eddy, Lauri, Mary O., Aunt Bea, Phyllis, Tracy, Trish, and Kenya.

As for everyone else, comment on a post now and then, give me feedback, share an opinion, or take me to task. The comments I get from perfect strangers, while appreciated, far outnumber those received from friends and loved ones.

When issuing critiques, I make an effort to protect personal anonymity. When praising or congratulating, I do reveal surnames from time to time. If this makes you uncomfortable, please let me know. I've chosen to reveal a good portion of my family's life story for the purpose of preserving a bit of history. If I have unwittingly revealed more than your comfort-level-share of personal information, please give me this feedback. I'm open to receiving it and editing posts accordingly.

More blogging in 2008--that's for sure.

Blessings in the year to come.


Sunday, December 30, 2007

Yard Decorating on Steroids

There are some folks who just don't buy into the "less is more" thing.

(Click on image for larger view...if you dare)

You simply must go to I was howling with laughter.

Some of the comments are as hysterical as the photos. "They must not watch news at all. I think global warming started right here"..."I was exhausted just looking at it"..."My snow globe is bigger than my house"..."We've hit the inflatable motherload"..."My electric bill is bigger than yours"..."Help! We're trapped behind a chain link fence and we can't deliver presents".

Disclaimer: This is all in good fun and we applaud these over-the-top decorators. Keep in mind that many of the photos on the above mentioned site are self-submitted. If they can laugh at themselves--so can we.

Pregnancy Sentiment

My youngest sister is expecting and I'm very happy for her. However, I don't think I'll be sending her this card anytime soon. :-)

I'm so thankful for my children but getting them here was, well...not fun. I had nearly every common yet highly uncomfortable pregnancy malady that you can think of. Not to mention the beauty issues. Some women become more lovely in pregnancy. I, on the other hand, was a planet--complete with my own gravity. Any number of common, household items regularly orbited my substantial girth.

So no, I did not enjoy most of the pregnancy experience. But I'm sure glad I did it. And now that I'm 41 and the necessary anatomy is no longer in working order, I do kinda wish that we could have had just one more....

So be it. The ones I've got are all that I could ask for and more. In the meantime, it's good to laugh about

Friday, December 28, 2007

Happy Birthday Monica!

Happy birthday friend!

I've known you for almost as long as I can remember. Hopefully, I'll know you for as long as I am no longer ABLE to remember you or anyone else for that matter.

One cannot replace a life long friend. The new, fresh-from-the-package kind of friendships don't have bumps, bruises, and worn out parts. But they also don't feel like your grandma's writing chair. Or your fuzzy blanket. Or taste like macaroni and tomatoes on a rainy, cold day.

This kind of friendship just has to stew. You throw in the good with the not-so-good. And somehow, what you end up with is something pretty darned decent and, by the way, nearly impossible to replicate. Maybe not a culinary delight but a jambalaya that is as comforting as it is evolving. A dish to count on during times of joy and of despair.

So here's to you and that golden spike Missy.

Happy birthday!!!!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

New Header

In case you're wondering...the women on my new header are (left to right): My paternal grandmother (Sue Alvarez McDonald), my mother (Sheryl Whistance), me, my maternal grandmother (Jane Drennan Whistance), and my maternal great-grandmother (Rosa Baldwin Whistance).

Millie Out of ICU

(The card that the kids and I made for Millie today. Click on image to enlarge.)

We are thankful. True to form, she's telling everyone to stay home and to not go to the trouble of visiting her.

Eckrothspeak translation: Please come visit me. The sooner, the better.

Love, love, love you mother-in-law.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Random Traveling Information

States I have visited:

Countries I have visited:

Wow...and I thought I had done a lot of travel. I've only seen 7% of the world!

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas

May the wonder that is Christ's love

be with you this day and always.

The Eckroth Family

Leigh, Jim, Ethan, and McKenna

Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas Eve Revelation

As I begin to wrap untold numbers of presents for my family, I think of all that our Father has given to us and I am in awe. He loves us so much that He literally gave us His only son. What an amazing and mysterious truth.

The greatest gift of all.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

The Holy Father and Christmas

Pope Benedict is not winning popular favor with the press nor with a recognizable number of Catholics. True enough, he's not particularly charismatic in the way that popular culture has grown to expect. Nevertheless, his words cut to the heart of crucial issues surrounding our faith and what is expected of us as a result of this gift. As I read more of Pope Benedict's work, I am developing an admiration for his ability to drill down to the point.

The Holy Father recently voiced a reminder about the profound meaning of Christmas and the relevancy of this Miracle in our daily lives:

"Moreover," he added, "we have formed a view of tolerance and pluralism such that to believe that Truth has been effectively manifested appears to constitute an attack on tolerance and the freedom of man. If, however, truth is canceled, is man not a being deprived of meaning? Do we not force ourselves and the world into a meaningless relativism?"

He continued: "How important it is, then, for us to reinforce the mystery of salvation which the celebration of Christ's Nativity brings. In Bethlehem the Light that illuminates our lives was revealed to the world; we were shown the Way that leads us to the fullness of our humanity. If we do not recognize that God was made man, what sense does it have to celebrate Christmas? We Christians must reaffirm with profound and heartfelt conviction the truth of Christ's nativity, in order to bear witness before everyone of the unique gift which brings wealth not just to us, but to everyone.

"From here," the Holy Father added, "arises the duty of evangelization, which is the communication of the 'eu-angelion,' the 'good news.' "

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

If You Don't Want To Look Frumpy...

DO NOT wear any of the following (according to O Magazine):

(1) any type of holiday themed sweatshirts, sweaters, etc. No reindeer. No teddy bears.
(2) granny necklaces that tell how many grandchildren you have
(3) souvenir t-shirts
(4) t-shirts with meant-to-be-funny sayings
(5) overalls
(6) acid-washed jeans
(7) ripped jeans
(8) shoulder pads
(9) flannel shirts
(10) muumuus
(11) photo handbags
(12) flesh colored hose
(13) penny loafers
(14) oversized blazers
(15) mommy robes
(16) thin gold chain necklaces
(17) elastic waist pants
(18) granny undies
(19) baggy sweats
(20) Bearlike, full-length fur coats
(21) short shorts
(22) cargo pants
(23) stockings with reinforced toes
(24) three-piece suits with vests
(25) backpacks

I agree with this list but I will fess up to throwing on the baggy sweats now and then. C'mon...

Monday, December 17, 2007

How Parenthood Changed Me

I think most people know that life will be different after children arrive. And it is. In a whole host of ways that you would surely expect. What I did not see coming was the reshaping of a very basic and universal fear.....death. I no longer worry about it in terms of what happens TO ME when I'm gone. Now it's more about what happens to THEM if I'm no longer here.

What's more, it recently dawned on me that my children will one day pass on (shudder). Hopefully, it will be after a long, fulfilling, love-filled life. One day, my baby Ethan will be a grandfather, maybe even a great-grandfather. And McKenna. What type of elderly lady will she be? Will those dimples of hers be her trade mark despite the inevitable wrinkles and lines? How will my children remember me when they reach their twilight? Will they know even then that they were loved beyond words? Will McKenna reminisce with her big brother and ask him if he remembers all those years ago when their mommy would rock them to sleep and tell them that she loved them "to the moon, to the stars and back again"?

Sometimes I watch elderly people and wonder what they were like as children. When my mother-in-law laughs, I see a cheerful, strawberry blond girl-- circa 1933. She twirls in the small backyard of her family's modest Chicago home on a humid summer afternoon. She dreams of what her life will be like someday. And she dismisses this passing thought as her milkman father greets his little girl at the end of a hard day. He pats her on her head, straightens her bow, and asks what mother's got in store for dinner. She skips behind her Daddy as they enter the house. The year 2007 is as knowable to this social, happy child as the planet Mars.

In an instant, I'm in the here and now. I remind myself how precious and fragile life is. And fleeting. I tuck my fears away and rejoin the moment--whatever that moment may be. Later, when left with my thoughts in the remnants of a chaotic day, I think of how different I am from a short six years ago. And on occasion, very rarely, the weight of that change saddens me. But I suspect that it also makes me a far more reflective, grounded parent.

The enormity of raising children becomes apparent in small, simple revelations that are difficult to convey to those who have not experienced the endeavor. And some may wonder why anyone would willingly put themselves through all of the heartache, the fear, the worry. They may wonder is it worth it?


Post Script: We lost our beloved Millie in March, 2008 after a protracted, difficult illness. She was the quintessential mother, grandmother, mother-in-law, and friend. She will always be my inspiration.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Mommy Envy

I recently received an email from a fellow mommy whom I like and genuinely admire. For the sake of her anonymity, I won't go into the particulars about her except to say that she and her husband are dedicated, loving parents who make their children their number one priority. In the e-mail, mommy X expressed that she felt just a small pang of envy about one of McKenna's accomplishments. She has a daughter close to McKenna's age and both girls have experienced some similar milestone challenges.

This mommy felt like a creep. In my own excitement to share a big McKenna achievement, I made another mom feel not-so-great. And I hate that--especially when my friend pours her heart and soul into being a really good parent. Not to mention the fact that her daughter, despite some issues, is doing really well and is a shining little star in her own right.

I hope I don't give the impression that I blog to show-off. I wonder if I ought to write more about the tantrums, the back talk, the frustration. Maybe a few pics of my two darlings in a hair raising screaming match are in order. Because I don't want this to be anything like the photo albums of our parents and grandparents generations. You know the ones--where image after image reflects the way our parents wanted life to be remembered versus the way it really was. Snapshots of children in rows, in front of fireplaces, saying cheese in their Sunday best. It was the way everyone preserved memories in those days. I'm just opting for something a little more evolved. And hopefully Ethan and McKenna's tools and methods for recording their children's histories will be even more amazing.

So, without airing every bit of childhood laundry, I'll try to throw in the not-so-good with the great a little more often. Because raising children, while the best job in the world, is filled with more ups and downs than I can shake a stick at. And we mommies, well, we're in this thing together. We should be anyway.

By the way mommy X. Your little girl is doing great. The other kidlet too for that matter. And I marvel at your perseverance and dedication. I learn from you every time we're together.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Father Sunny

Late sixties TV had Sister Bertrille, A.K.A The Flying Nun and St. Michael Church in Wheaton, Illinois has Father Sunny, the singing priest. Now I know you might say that lots of priests sing or try to anyway. It's in the job description somewhere. But they don't sing like Father Sunny. He has a beautiful, American Idol kind of voice. Match that with his lively sermon delivery and yes, his "sunny" disposition, and you just find yourself very thankful that he made his way to our parish. Thought I would share his cover of Josh Groban's Cinema Paradiso.

In his profile, he lists his relationship status as "committed". Love that.

Democrats: There's No There There

When referring to the 08 presidential election, the oft-quoted Gertrude Steinism is certainly apropos.

As a former business manager, I'm all about results. Tangible accomplishments. I think middle America is equally like minded. As such, can anyone name a single accomplishment of either Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton? I'm not talking about writing books, waxing poetic, or garnering celebrity endorsements. What have either done as U.S. senators? What bills have they written? Championed? Spearheaded? What have they done that I as an American can say, "Wow--that was impressive. It really contributed to our country being safer, respected, and/or productive".

Take your time. Do your research. I'll wait.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Mind Clutter

On any given day, I often feel like there are just too many decisions to make. I'm not just referring to the biggees in life, although those certainly tax the peace of one's soul from time to time. I'm talking about the day-to-day quandaries that fill up what little space is left in this tightly packed noggin of mine. And I'm not just yacking about whether to use a dryer sheet or liquid fabric softener. Or white versus wheat. My ax-to-grind has more to do with the seemingly benign, ostensibly inane options that will determine the fate of life as we know it for generations to come. Or so we're told anyway.

Am I nuts or does anyone else worry about whether one should use paper towels or, as Janie used to say, a tea towel? You know, of the good old fashioned cloth variety. We're told that our kitchens will be festering, bacteria ridden cesspools if we use anything but disposable paper products on our counter tops, handles, etc. One the other hand, the Green crowd tells us that paper towels are waste of precious resources and cloth does the trick. I used to think about this all of the time when the kids were in diapers. Was I irresponsible and lazy for using disposables? Or was I being practical and realistic?

Anti-bacterial everything or plain old soap? Some day care centers will not use antibacterial hand cleaners and cleaning products. The thought here is that bacteria become resistant to the germicide and can actually mutate into stronger, more potent little buggers. Makes sense to me, sort of. Why then do hospitals use antibacterial hand solution like it's going out of style? Aren't hospitals bastions of medical science and knowledge? Wouldn't a hospital know a thing or two about efficiently killing germs? Hmmmm.

And there's more. Lots more in fact.

Some video gaming for kids vs. none at all

Analgesics to reduce mild fever vs. using nothing and allowing the body to heat up and kill the virus and/or bacteria (this is actually the purpose of a fever). An ER doc once told me that by giving my child Motrin for a fever, I was sabotaging the body's way of killing an intruder. My child's pediatrician, on the other hand, said that while he was technically correct, the reality is that Motrin/Tylenol make your kids feel a lot better and that is an overriding priority. But still...I think about it.

Antibiotics or allowing the passage of time to work it's magic? I can tell you that I wasn't on half of the stuff that my kids now take. Perhaps I should have been a time or two. But do I over medicate my kids in an attempt to control every physical malady that comes their way? Or am I just thorough?

Sugar vs. sugar free

Commercial TV or PBS?

Scheduled Activities vs. Free Time.
My guess is that both parents think my children are over scheduled. I might agree. The problem is if you decide to de-schedule your kids, they're gonna be playing alone because all of the other kids are busy at their appointed activities.

SUV or Minivan?

Light bulbs or those new spiral things that look suspiciously florescent to me?

Milk or no milk.
My sister-in-law drinks the stuff by the gallons and gives an equal amount to her kids. But PETA and even some less radical groups would have you believe that all of this milk is turning our 8-year daughters into curvy, mini women. Hormones apparently. In the milk, that is. Or is that propaganda?

I could go on and on. My wheels spin with this stuff all day.

One day, maybe I'll just have the confidence (some might call it hubris) to say, "This is what I'm doing and I know it's the right decision". Don't get me wrong--there are some key issues on which I do not waiver. But there are an equal amount that have me sitting on the fence. The mental fence that is. And this head of mine needs a little freed up space. Do they have a TLC organization team for the mind? How about a Discovery Channel feature on thought hoarding?

A reality show in the making.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Love Is A Losing Game

The "real" video for my favorite song from my favorite act. I hope she gets some help soon. Apparently, she's as drug addicted as drug addicted can get.

By the way, this mommy does NOT think love is a losing game. Not for a moment.

Poor Amy.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Christmas Card OCD

If you know me, you are well aware that I'm way into Christmas cards. I start thinking about mine right at the end of August. Casual or formal? Snapshot or studio photo? Flat card or fold over? Traditional or whimsical? Color or black and white. You get the gist.

I was like this well before I had children. I'm not sure why except to say that I just can't imagine Christmas being Christmas without sending out cards. I remember sitting at the kitchen table with my grandmother when I was six or seven. She took pride in her holiday greeting--in those days it was kind of a status symbol thing to have your family's name professionally printed inside the fold over. I can see it now-- the velvet nativity scene framed in gold foil. I'm sure these would look really dated if I saw them today. But in 1972--the look was very elegant.

She tried to inscribe a line or two in every single one of them. And there were lots. I remember piles and piles. She would let me lick the envelopes or the stamps. I would run out of steam and go to bed sooner or later. I'm sure Janie stayed up into the wee hours getting them all done.

So there you have the Norman Rockwell aspect of this little obsession of mine. Now the dark side. I get really irked when people don't send Christmas cards. I get downright crabby if by December 15 I'm not getting a decent amount each day. Maybe because it's so nice to receive something, anything besides bills and never ending junk mail. And I'm sure that it's also about reciprocity. If I send one to you then yes, I want one in return. Antithetical to the spirit of the holiday, I know. But I'm just being truthful. I doubt I'm alone in my way of thinking either.

Just for the record, I don't care if you include a handwritten note. If you feel the love--go for it. But the card will do. Cards with pictures are ideal but I understand if that's not your thing. That's a right of passage for folks with children, by and large. Just send me something and I'll be happy. And grateful. Send me nothing and you've made the "list". I'm ashamed to admit it but I do keep track. I know--CATTY with a capital "C". Sometimes the truth aint pretty friends.

I've made my list and I'll be checking it more than twice.

So indulge me. Just send the card.

Thank you. :-)

Sunday, December 02, 2007

My Baby Girl...Nearly Three

As I helped her change into her PJs tonight, it occurred to me that I can remember back to nearly the age that she is now. Just barely. It really hit home that one of my most important roles is to create the best possible memories for her. And to prevent the really, really bad ones whenever humanly possible. 'Cause the bad ones--well, they just don't ever go away. They become manageable, tolerable. But the most beautiful day can be marred by a triggering photograph, an odor, a song. A blistering distraction from all that is beautiful, well, and good.

What that means for me, now, is that self-fulfillment, exploration, discovery--well, they're just nothing compared to the safety and protection of both of my children. If that means a few coveted accomplishments become placeholders on the proverbial back burner--so be it. If it means that I'm not the friend I should be or the multi-tasker I ought to be--oh well.

As I snuggled with McKenna this evening, I promised her that this mommy will always have her back. And Ethan's too.

No matter what.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

First Snowy Day

For some reason, this day just seemed like the right day for snow.

Not a ton of the white stuff but enough to count.

Check out the snow!