Friday, December 30, 2011

A Very MERRY Christmas!

**Disclosure:  Not a kid believing friendly post.**

Since Ryan and I have been a couple our Christmas days have gone as follows:

First Christmas was celebrated 3,000 miles apart with me in Philadelphia and him in Oregon with J-man.

Second Christmas we were together with Ryan's family in California.

Third Christmas Ryan was spent with Ryan on the ship.  I was home alone in Virginia.

This Christmas, our fourth Christmas was spent as a family in Philadelphia.  It was the first Philadelphia Christmas experience for both Ryan and J-man and I loved watching them adapt to new traditions, sometimes with giggles, and make the day extra special!

Our Christmas morning started off at 12am with a fire alarm.  Holy Panic Attack Batman!  Santa was on his way, we heard the pitter-patter on the roof.  I grabbed a dish rag and started batting frantically at the fire detector to make it stop.  At that moment, with one hand on the door to the kids room and one fanning in the air, I wanted nothing more than that damn beeping to stop.  It did...finally...but it started again...not once, but twice.  By this point, Ryan was laughing and said quote "I need a beer for this"...Really, Babe?!?!  Really?!  It is funny NOW.  To top it all off, my dad was sound asleep, one of those won't wake up, but answers questions in gibberish kind of sleeps.  This wasn't helpful for my mama who didn't know where he had strategically hid some Christmas presents.  Luckily, this gal knows her pops well and was able to locate them rather quickly, but not before my mama stomped through mud.  The sheet was hung in the hallway and off to bed we went! 

**Oh, so you aren't worried, the house is fine.  The fire detector went off because candle wax fell onto the wood stove and created an insane amount of smoke.**

Let me tell you, the look in those kiddos' eyes on Christmas morning made it all worth it!  Being on the other side is quite fun and way more rewarding!

It's faces like this that make your entire body smile!
And, what's Christmas without the essentials! 
I was obviously happy about my pretzel M&M's! 
 A sled with a strobe light!  Sadly, snow was nowhere to be found this Christmas :(
He's a Cutie! 
Mama was even in for a good surprise this year thanks to my brother who just happens to be one of the best gift givers of all times!   
 Giving was the theme.  This little one was beyond stoked about his gift to his Dad!  Just look at that smile. 
 Star Wars gets him every single time...
  And look at me being all stylish with my faux fur!!  Thanks bro for the crazy hat that I requested to a point and thanks mom and dad for the jacket!  Love 'em!
Oh...for the BIG Father-Son gift of the year...
J-man got a BB Gun! 
The dogs weren't fazed by the commotion, but loved the paper! 
 Last, but certainly not least, Pops was showered with some love as well!!
Gotta love that shirt!

Merry Christmas!


 Much love.

Birthday Trifecta with a side of Christmas Eve

In order from youngest to oldest...

Disclosure: I have been extremely emotional these past few days.

Happy Birthday Daddy!

He is an amazing father, husband and role model!  Through all my life, he has supported me and guided me when necessary.  Words cannot explain how lucky I feel to have such a wonderful man as my father.  His sense of humor isn't appreciated by all, but I get him spot on!  It must be a father-daughter thing...and I love it!  With age he has begun to care less about what others think and do and say things he wouldn't otherwise have done 10 years ago.  Generally, it's really funny and sweet!  Sometimes it is a bit shocking, but always, he is honest!  Honesty, loyalty and whole-bodily feeling are just a few of his characteristics that I admire.  Happy Birthday Pops!  I wish you a year of adventures, passion and good health!  I love you!

Happy Birthday Granny!
Although she is no longer with us, she is remembered and loved! My Granny is my father's mother whom birthed him on her birthday!  Pretty darn neat if I do say so myself!  In the words of my little sister and in keeping with her strong faith"She gets to celebrate her birthday with Jesus!"   And that must rock!   Happy Birthday Granny!  We love you, pray for you and remember you always!

Happy Birthday Baby Jesus!
Yes, we sing Happy Birthday Baby Jesus on Christmas morning before presents are opened and after coffee is brewed.  In all my years of singing happy birthday, I have never heard such amazing harmony of morning grogginess as we had this year!  Those altos...Father, brothers and husband, really blended well with us lady sopranos!  Oh traditions, how I love thee!

**Speaking of traditions, I am looking forward to having little ones that we can start new traditions with...such as The Elf on the Shelf!  I know this little Elf has caused some children fears, but I believe that if done properly, with some fudging of the rules, this little Elf could be awesome and a great tradition for our family.**

Christmas Eve is the holiday in my family!  And we get dolled up!!
Me & my Honey
Father & Son 
 Me and J-man
 Sisters
My mother, whom happens to be one of seven...six girls and one boy...all get together at a different sister's house each year with your significant others and growing families!  There are 14 grandkids, 4 great-grandkids, and a bunch of in laws!
Here are the older boy grandkids:
And here's the baby of the family:
It's a blast!  Gramma, the matriarch is in all her glory regardless of how much her body ached.  Her face says it all...

In the midst of craziness, she is just smiling!  This is love and pride in her family, pure love and pride!  And those are strong eyes. Some of the strongest I've ever witnessed.

Santa makes a little visit on Christmas Eve for the wee ones...this is another tradition that is fun!  This year my adorable and extremely animated husband played Santa and man-oh-man, he was a hoot! 
His belting entrance of Ho-Ho-Ho Merry Christmas alone was wonderful, but when he went into his I hear there have been lots of good little boys and girls here... the kids grew quiet and stared with wide-eyes for Santa's been keeping a list and checking it twice...  
Helping his get dressed, especially shoving a pillow up his shirt, was oh so fun!!  I was his sexy Mrs. Claus for a moment!  No one saw this Mommy kissing Santa though!  (I just had to use that line.)

After a fun-filled evening, we headed to Mass!  I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas Eve! 

Much love.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Walks

Walks help me in so many ways...mentally, physically, emotionally. There is something about being outside, alone, and breaking a sweat.
  • I power walk to feel better about my body image and in turn that helps me physically and mentally.
  • The fresh air works wonders on my emotions. I'm a girl who doesn't bode well being couped up inside.  When the mood swings start, I know that I haven't been getting enough fresh air. 
  • Having a little puppy to enjoy the walks with my helps me enjoy nature a bit more.  She slows me down and makes me smell the roses or should I say enjoy the grasses and thick, low hanging fog that dances across the water.
Morning walks are a daily occurrence with my little Lira.  She goes gaga over the word walk (in a really high pitched voice)!  Heck, she sees me grab my sneakers and she starts jumping up my leg followed by a few figure-8's around the house!  Her excitement alone makes me smile!

Nature is beautiful!  From the white herons that fly over my head every morning, to the beautiful paintings of the skies, to the glow of the moon, first blooms, falling leaves, vibrant berries in the mist of a brown, I am amazed.  We really do have a beautiful, sometimes you just need to look beyond the obvious and open your eyes to seeing in a different light. 

I foresee many walks in my future.  Between not being employed and the change in weather, I know I will need all the fresh air I can get!  I'm trying to be proactive and prevent any negative mood swings if possible.  I vow to not panic about not having a job until January 2nd.  Once January 2nd comes, the job hunt is on big time.  If I am lucky, I'll hear back from one of the companies I applied to this week. 

If you are traveling for the holidays, I wish you safe travels and happy reunions!

Much love.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Post Graduation Life Through Photos

Luckily for me, it's easy to stay busy this time of year!  Between finishing up Christmas shopping, wrapping presents, baking for school, baking for cookies exchanges, keeping the house clean, packing for holidays spent away from home, apply for jobs, learning a new photo editing program, being a wife, mother and friend...you get the idea!  There is no shortage of things to do at the moment.

Oh, you know that couponing thing that I mentioned a while back, well, that was hastily thrown aside during the past month...or two.  I finally sorted out all my expired coupons out...
Umm...that's a heck of a lot of EXPIRED coupons.  I am basically starting back at square one.  I clipped at least a months worth of coupon inserts and realized that some of my unclipped inserts had expired too.  The coupon gods are shaking their fingers at me right now.

Even though I haven't been studying, my faithful study partner hasn't left my side.  She doesn't know the difference between running regressions and applying for jobs...but my heart and mind do... Looking for a job in this economy and in this area is far from easy.  I've applied to a few, gone on some interviews, but haven't had any luck. 
It was noon was I took the picture. Yes, her eyes are covered. :)

The sky this morning was awesome!  It's the little things in life that put a smile on my face and make me realize how awesome nature it. 
Nature spoke to me once more this morning...
A cocoon of some sort...
I was fascinated and didn't even realize the owner of the house staring at my for being in his driveway...Oops.  I was only about a foot into his drive... Sorry dude.  I apologized and told him about the cocoon, but he glared at me.  Obviously he woke up on the WRONG side of the bed.  Stinks to have his attitude.

Oh wrapping...being one of six kids myself, having married into a quite large family and spoiling my husband and stepson, I had a lot of wrapping to do...
This is just a glimpse...
What's a Christmas tree without a bottle of wine?!? Don't worry.  It's a gift too!

For all you nonbakers out there that want to share in the cookie giving tradition...
OR
For all you Chocolate and Pomegranate lovers out there...
YOU MUST TRY THESE
De-seed two pomegranates
Melt 2 cups of chocolate (white, milk or dark)
Add dollop of shortening to chocolate while melting
Mix together
dollop onto a cookie sheet
Chill for an hour
ENJOY!
It's a tart, juicy, sweet explosion in your mouth!
I used white chocolate because a) it's all I had in my house and b) it looks festive.

Back to applying for jobs and piles of laundry...
Happy Tuesday!

Much love.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

M.A. Economics

After 15 months of running regressions, stressing over exams, working through grueling derivations, being a complete maniac around my husband, I am proud to say that I graduated on Saturday, from ODU with my Masters in Economics!
 That's me handing my name off to the announcer! 
This is the smile Ryan's been waiting for...
Hearing your name announced is one of the greatest feelings of accomplishment and then hearing a loud, but very short and polite cheer following is even sweeter!  Thank you to my wonderful husband, parents, siblings and stepson, for supporting me through this journey!  I love them and I love school!  Total nerd alert here!
Me and my loving and proud parents!  I am the first in my family to receive a Masters degree!  My dad being the man that he is said congratulations and "you look damn good doing it!"  Love him!  Love them!
"The Kids" according to Mama!
My Sexy Husband!  Thank the Lord he supported me, stepped in to make dinners, and believed in my goal!  I love you babe!
J-man and me!
My little sister!
Luckily for me, the class of 2011 was an awesome bunch!  We understood each other's freak-out moments, complained to one another, challenged ideas and thoughts, threw jabs at each other, and had a blast through the entire process...even while cramming for exams! 
That's us standing up!  The M.A. Econ peeps are the 6 on the right!
The day was surreal.  Graduations symbolize the end of coursework and the being of applying your knowledge, the end of one routine and the beginning of another, the end of certainty and start of the unknown.  As we walked across campus for the last time as a group, we smiled and laughed, but deep down, we all knew this could be the last time we ever see one another...and that is truly sad.  We were a great bunch of students and with our parting of ways, the Econ cubicles are going to be much quieter and the department will shrink by over a 1/4 in size.  We were a core part of that program.  I will miss my classmates and professors, but I am excited about having time for my family and moving on in the world. 
I tried to get my cool 'winged' sleeves in the picture, but when you aren't the one taking the photos, you have little control. I am truly grateful to Ryan and my parents for coming and taking such great photos!   

The only thing that stands between me and the top of my ladder is the ladder.  Step by step, I will make my climb to my goal and it will be glorious!  I'm ready for the ride of my life!

Much love.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

MIA

Super quick post:

My life has been consumed with my thesis project, a research project, prepping & proctoring exams, and study my brains out for Urban Economics and Econometrics III.  As of tonight at 10pm, I will have completed my final Masters course in Economics!  

I promise to post about my GRADUATION!!  Eekk!  That word brings a smile to my face!

Until then, I leave you with a quote from a wise and wonderful man:

"Nourish Youth and It Will Blossom"  ~ JSG

Much love.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

A Lovely Saturday

We have a tree, Captain!  As we were walking through the tree farm, gawking at the prices and listening to an excited boy say this one's perfect, wait this one's better, we came across our tree.  It chose us, price and all!  You know those moments when you feel like a gift was handed to you, the most perfect gift?!?  Well, it wasn't quite that perfect, but is was really nice.  Ryan and I were holding hands, Lira was sniffing away and Jared found the tree...right in front of us!  :)

It isn't decorated yet, but it will be tomorrow!  Ryan had to work the afternoon, evening shift and Jared and I didn't want to decorate it without him, so tomorrow, in true holiday fashion, we will blast Christmas music, drink hot tea, munch on homemade cookies and decorate our tree as a family!! I'm stoked!

Sweets.
Sweets pretty much sums up our afternoon!  We made ginger bread houses with some of Jared's friends, but only one is standing (because I reinforced it with icing big time)!
He is focusing very hard! 
Side note:  The shirt J-man is wearing is from his daddy's high school!  It was a gift from his Great Gran last year and he loves it! 

Love the tongue!  Always sticking out when he is thinking hard :)

All done and looking good!  To my complete surprise, he hasn't touched it since he finished making it! 

We made peppermint bark, but my kitchen floor ate it and the dog pounced on the opportunity.  So Sad to see hard work go down the drain...  Accidents happen.

And then we baked...snicker doodles which are still chilling, peanut butter cookies which look delish and brownie-chocolate chip bars!
This boy and his silly faces!
School:
My thesis has been submitted and according to Ryan, I have been walking around with a "Shit eating grin"  on my face!  It feels amazing to not have it hanging over my head.  All that stands in between my and my Masters in Economics is one research project (that's almost done), an Urban Econ Final and an Econometrics III final.  As of this time next week, I will have walked the long awaited walk across the ODU stage!

Next...Phd?!?!  Stay tuned!

Random Thoughts:
This shepherd boy makes me smile.  I love the way he is embracing the little sheep in his arms.  I think he may be my favorite figurine in my nativity set this year.  He just speaks to my heart. 

Thanks to Jared's Great Gran, he has a new stocking!!  This year, a Christmas box was missing...I think.  Moving around and having Christmas stuff in storage for the past year has made my memory fuzzy.  Regardless, it is really nice to see the mantle with all three stockings hand crafted with lots of love!  Thank you, Grandma!  We love you!
What little things are making you smile this holiday season?
Much love.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Proud Parent Moments

We are very proud of our little award winner!  J-man received Honor Roll and Perfect Attendance for the first quarter of 4th grade!  There was a little assembly and Ryan and I were both able to watch him walk across stage!  It was very nice for all three of us!

 He was excited!
 Geesh, he's a cutie!
 Daddy was up front and center taking photos, so I took advantage of the photo opportunity to capture that proud father-son moment!

His elementary school does Citizen of the Month AwardsEach month has a specific quality attached to it and each class selects two students who emanate this characteristic.  Respect was the quality for November and J-man was selected from his class! 
Thanks to his Aunt Kara, we now know that respect is one of the seven Army values! 
J-man loves the military and talks about joining all the time, so  this was the coolest news he found out all day!  I wish I could have recorded his reaction.  It was one of those big grin, wide-eyed faces with a long drawn out COOOOOL that gets a little high at the end! :)
That's out little Respectful Christmas Tree!
He wouldn't stand next to the poster for a picture...sniffles.

Oh and now my car is completely Proud Parented Out with decals thanks to our little award winner!!  The quality of respect is a strong quality that I strive to emanate myself, show towards other and instill in those around me.  Being respectful in life is one of the greatest qualities.  It brings out the best in you and others, and is the core to many other wonderful qualities.  To truly love, you must respect one another.  To truly be generous and giving, you must respect the cause and the person. 

"Being brilliant is no great feat if you respect nothing."
~Johann Wolfgang

Much love.