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My Love

My joy for today is 9 years of wedded bliss.

A few days ago, my husband and I celebrated our 9th wedding anniversary!

Chad and I went to the same high school, started dating the summer before our senior year of high school, and got married the summer after we graduated from college.  So we have actually been a couple for 14 years.  Wow, that’s crazy.

A few weeks ago, Tucker had a very painful neck.  He woke up crying, treated it very gingerly throughout the day, and had trouble laying down because it strained his neck.  Besides that, he was symptom free, but of course, thoughts of meningitis, brain tumors, and deadly diseases swirled through my head.  I debated taking him to the doctor or to the ER all day, discussing it with Chad on the phone several times.  As soon as Chad got home, he took over the Tucker problem.  He played with him, tickled him, told him jokes, and amused him continuously, all while testing his range of movement and pain levels.  After his Daddy took over, I was convinced he was fine.  Chad put him to bed that night and I was totally relieved of the worry and anxiety that had nearly incapacitated me all day.  I would be a mess without my man.

Like many husbands, Chad is a “fixer.”  Sometimes, this causes tension because if the problem is only emotional, it is difficult to fix quickly, and that frustrates him, and at times frustrates me when he is focused a little too much on fixing instead of listening.  However, without my “fixer,” my world would be destroyed.  He is my partner in life, in parenting, in finances, in love.  The day with Tucker’s neck pain is a perfect example of how we complement each other.  I was being overtaken with my emotions about his pain, the possibilities of what could be wrong, and the choices of action.  Chad came home, “did” a bunch of stuff, and solved the problem.  I cannot bear to imagine my life without him.

For our anniversary a few days ago, we didn’t do anything too special.  I am thankful to be beyond the point in our marriage that we feel we need to do something amazing to celebrate.  We used a Groupon for a couple’s massage at an interesting spa, picked up food from a favorite local Italian place, came home and put our kids to bed.  We agreed to not give each other gifts, but that usually means that Chad does actually get me something little, which I love.  We gave each other cute cards, and then Chad had two gift bags for me.  One contained two boxes of doughnuts and the other bag contained a very touching gift.  I had mentioned a few months ago that I had happened to pick up an amazing water bottle from a gas station.  It just had the perfect rate of delivery of water, as well as an ergonomic mouth piece.  I just loved it, but could never justify buying such fancy water.  My second gift from Chad was 10 of these water bottles.  I was so impressed that he had remembered something that I had mentioned in passing so many months ago.

There is no way to summarize in this post my love for this man, who is my life partner, the author of the love story of my life, my faithful cheerleader, my most active blog follower and editor, and the father to my children.  I can only simply say, thank you Lord for giving me the gift of my husband.  And thank you Chad for choosing to love me every day.  You bring safety, stability, love, happiness, and overwhelming joy to my life, and to the lives of our precious children.  I love you more than words could ever say.  As you said, looking forward to the next 70 years together.

Enjoy your joys for today.

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My joy for today is Midnight in Paris.

We recently rented Woody Allen’s movie from last year, Midnight in Paris.  I am somewhat embarrassed to admit that I am not one of those people that have always longed to visit Paris.  Some movies that I love do feature the City of Light, such as The Devil Wears Prada, Something’s Gotta Give and Ratatouille.  However, they failed to convince me and I often felt that love of Paris was somewhat cliched and something the cool cats like to discuss.

Woody Allen got me.  In this film, Paris is the main character.  The opening is a montage of many picturesque and familiar locations in the city, which continue on much longer than necessary.  But this opening serves to inform the audience that this is a movie that takes place in Paris, and is also about Paris.  It really is a love letter to the city, and to the time that it romanticizes.

The main (human as opposed to city) character, Gil Pender, played by the amazing Owen Wilson, travels back in time, through means unknown, to the 1920’s in Paris.  He meets a whole slew of artists, including Picasso, Hemingway, and F. Scott Fitzgerald.  This movie made me feel shockingly uneducated and uncultured, although not in an annoying or condescending way.  Many of the artists that Pender meets are undoubtedly extremely famous and revered, and Pender is appropriately awestruck.  But the real surprise is that the audience is not left behind if they are not fully aware of the talents of a particular artist.  Although this movie is clearly a “smart” film for the upper echelons of society, us regular folks can also appreciate the beauty of the cinematography, the music, and the simplicity of the plot and the characters.

Besides the love affair with Paris, the movie also explores the notion that a bygone time period is preferable to the present.  Personally, I have never been under this false assumption.  I have always rested in the assurance that all time periods have had their significant problems and challenges.  Like Allen alludes to in the plot, in each time period in history, there are those that would wish for time periods past.  In the movie, Pender longs for Paris in the twenties, but his love interest from the twenties longs for the turn of the century.  Are we ever happy where we actually find ourselves?

I am not a fan of a great deal of Rachel McAdam’s films.  That is not to say that I am not a fan of the actress.  She is one of the great chameleons of our time.  I do not enjoy the sappy, overly romantic version of her in The Notebook and The Vow.  I adore her in Mean Girls, The Family Stone and in this film.  She is best when she is bad.  She is hilarious in Midnight in Paris, as well as her snotty parents and friends in the film.  The film is entirely enjoyable because both the magic and delight of the twenties is as entertaining as the strained, distant relationships of the present.

Maybe one day, about thirty years from now, when our kids are grown and we have managed to save a few pennies in a vacation fund, we will see what all the fuss is about in Paris.  Until then, I will put Midnight in Paris on my birthday wish list, and live vicariously through Woody Allen’s eyes.

Enjoy your joys for today.

My joy for today is a summer blockbuster with heart.

A few nights ago, my husband and I saw the first movie together in a theater since the last Harry Potter. It was a rare, spur of the moment night out, along with my family.  We went to see the latest installation of the Men in Black series.  When Men in Black II came out, I was a college student, unmarried, and without children.  Fast forward a decade later, a husband, a home, and four children added to my life, and I hoped Men in Black III could deliver the same carefree summer fun of 10 years ago. I was looking forward to seeing Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones together again.

The film did not disappoint, and actually surpassed my expectations.  It is rated PG-13, which is warranted mostly because of disgusting bad guy and typical sci-fi violence.  We had a fleeting thought of taking our 7 year old to see MIB III, but were immensely glad we decided against that.  The opening sequence of the movie is surprisingly disgusting and I would actually turn my head away from the screen many times, along with “ewww-ing” out loud.  After the initial sequence, establishing the conflict, the audience was treated to the return of Agents J and K.  Although I have not seen Will Smith in much lately, I believe he is a classic movie star of our time.  He is handsome, funny in a witty and sarcastic manner, and a smart, capable character in this film.  Tommy Lee Jones reminds me of older men in my family, and his dry humor and straight laced persona are classic.  Josh Brolin is absolutely amazing as a young Tommy Lee Jones.  His mannerisms, humor, and voice are dead on.  It is hard to believe you are not actually watching a younger Tommy Lee in the flesh.  The actor playing the villain, Boris the Animal, is Jemaine Clement.  I was not aware of him before this movie, but he perfectly portrays a bad guy.  There are no torturous feelings about actually caring about him or wondering why he is so evil.  He is an alien, the last of his kind, and he should not be allowed to continue living.  Pure and simple; just as a popcorn flick should be.

There are several inconsistencies in the time travel plot, but it is overall easy to follow and believable.  I will not give away the best aspects of the plot, but there is an unbelievably heartwarming and touching culmination to the film.  I actually had to wipe away tears.  The final scene is musically accompanied by one of my favorite songs, “Empire State of Mind” and with that, a summer blockbuster is complete.    This is a movie that needs to be seen in a theater.  Start your summer off right.

Enjoy your joys for today.

My joy for today is birthday parties.

This past Saturday, we attended two children’s birthday parties.  We have been invited to at least one party every weekend this month.  For those of you that don’t have kids, do not be under the false assumption that we are very popular.  When you are a parent of school-age children, it is just part of the job description.  Sometimes these parties are great, sometimes they are not.  But they are always thrilling for our kids and we are always honored to celebrate a special moment in a friend’s life.

So far, we have only hosted one birthday party that included more than family for any of our four kids.  We are attempting to institute a 5, 10, 16 year old plan for big birthday parties.  Time will tell if we stick to that proposal.

In the meantime, we will enjoy entertaining our kids by celebrating other kid’s birthdays.  The cake, the presents, the games, the entertaining locations; free food, fun, entertainment, and time with friends, for both the kids and for us; it all makes for a pleasant way to spend some weekend time.

All of these parties also allows my kids the opportunity to do a lot of things that they do not normally get to experience.  At birthday parties, we have been to several farms, where we held chickens, rode horses, and got to take home freshly laid eggs, played laser tag, had gymnastics lessons, karate lessons, enjoyed bounce houses, many different pools, parks, and friend’s backyards, just to name a few.

Having kids can help you and hurt you when making friends.  At birthday parties, you have as many new friends as you choose to talk to, at least for the several hours of the engagement.  You are in it together, to have fun, to eat, to help your children with the new activities, to socialize, and to survive.  It can be overwhelming and exhausting, but as with so many aspects of having children, it is a simple, short-lived joy.  Twenty years from now, I might not miss navigating the crowds at Chuck E. Cheese, but I will miss seeing the overwhelming joy on my child’s face from a simple cupcake and goodie bag.

Enjoy your joys for today.

My joy for today is another date afternoon, with a better movie.

My brother and I had been looking forward to Dark Shadows for a while.  Since neither of us are old enough to have seen the original soap opera from the 70’s, we were just pulled in by the Burton/Depp duo, as well as the entertaining “someone from the past is in the present day and doesn’t know about cars, roads, television, etc.” story line.  I love that from Hocus Pocus and it was enjoyable in this movie as well.  I also adore Michelle Pfeiffer, harkening back from her days as Catwoman in Batman Returns.  That was actually the first movie I ever owned, which I obtained at a silent auction in 7th grade.  Although it scared me a little, Tim Burton’s Gotham City will always be Gotham to me.

Dark Shadows was enjoyable, and despite having 4 kids at home, I never even checked my phone to see how much time was left.  In my opinion, there were several plots and genres happening within this movie, which kept this audience member entertained, yet also confused for a great deal of the movie.  From the previews, I thought it was going to be primarily a comedy, yet while watching it I felt it was somewhat in that category, but was also a romance, somewhat of a horror, and a drama.  One of the most confusing aspects of the movie was the rules on the supernatural.  Let me tell you about just a touch of the confusion:  this movie contains a vampire, a witch, a werewolf, several ghosts, and humans, some of which can see ghosts and some cannot.  But apparently, vampires cannot kill witches, werewolves cannot kill witches, some ghosts can defeat a witch, a witch doesn’t die, a vampire doesn’t die, a witch can set an entire factory on fire by looking at it, but has to kill people one by one.  And that is just the tip of the iceberg.  Throughout so much of the movie, I felt like I needed a flow chart as to who was the most powerful and what special abilities they possessed.

Again, my astute filmmaking brother suggested that since Tim Burton and Johnny Depp wanted to make this movie based on a beloved, yet somewhat obscure soap opera, they/the studio/the Hollywood powers-that-be decided to make it at this moment in time, in order to ride the coattails of the vampire phenomenon.  Personally, I have totally avoided that craze until now.  I have not seen or read any of The Twilight saga, but while watching this movie, I felt that if I knew a little more about the rules of vampires, some of the plots in Dark Shadows would have been easier to understand.

With all that being said, this movie was fun.  In a lot of ways, I felt that it encompassed what we need as moviegoers a great deal of the time, which is a simple escape.  For a little under two hours, I was enthralled by Tim Burton’s Collinsport and Johnny Depp’s Barnabas Collins.  It was a lovely way to start Mother’s Day weekend, and to rejuvenate me to come home to put my precious little ones to bed and appreciate my family.  Like Barnabas says, “Blood is thicker than water.”

Enjoy your joys for today.

My joy for today is getting close to one pound gained.

Our sweet baby girl has been struggling to gain weight for several months.  At ten months old, she weighed 15 lbs. 9 oz.  She is the size of an average 4 month old and far below the growth chart.  Between the ages of 6 and 9 months, she gained just over a pound.

Amelia is our fourth, and she is the first to ever have an ounce of formula.  I have nursed my other children for about 16-18 months.  But with exclusively nursing not really seeming to be helping our sweet girl grow sufficiently, we had to make some changes.  I have offered bottles to some of my other kids, but none of them have ever taken them.  In order for Amelia to take a bottle, it took literally about two weeks of her screaming in my face, for two hours, two or three times a day.  She will now take two 5 ounce bottles each day, with only minimal crying, in addition to nursing 3 or 4 times per day.

She does not eat solid food yet, which is similar to the pattern that my second and third children took.  They each did not really start eating any food until almost a year.  I keep offering food to Amelia a couple  times each week, and she keeps spitting it out.  Once she does start eating solid foods, we will load her up with full fat yogurt, avocados, and after she turns one, add Pediasure to all of her food.  We took this same course of action with Tucker when he had trouble gaining weight, so it is familiar territory.

Why is it so easy for me to gain a pound and so hard for my tiny princess?  It is extremely frustrating.  Most of the time, I am able to stay incredibly grateful that she is overall healthy and developing well.  I know many parents struggle with much, much larger issues.  But when anything is wrong with your little ones, it can be difficult to keep perspective.  If you are so inclined, say a prayer for her ounces to come and stay, as well as my sanity.

Enjoy your joys for today.

My joy for today is a horrible movie with an awesome date.

My brother and I went to see “The Five-Year Engagement” last night.  It was not good.  We literally warned people coming into the theater to go see something else.  Since this movie was playing against “The Avengers,” my astute, filmmaking, and future Oscar-winning brother, surmised that those involved in the production realized it was horrible, had to release it sometime, and figured they might as well release it around the same time as the first summer blockbuster, at a time when any movie would have a great deal of competition.

I knew it would not be the best movie ever when it was billed as a comedy, but had a running time over 2 hours long.  My general opinion is that no comedy should be longer than about 90 minutes.  There are obvious exceptions, anything by Wes Anderson clearly exempt from this rule.  In order to fill this amount of time, “The Five-Year Engagement” involved a great deal of random scenes, including a foot chase with martial arts, gratuitous awkward crude humor, a frozen toe, hunting, and an arrow in a leg, among many others.  When we were about 90 minutes into the movie, I was sure it would be over any minute.  Spencer informed me that there was at least 30 minutes left.  At this time, we almost totally stopped paying attention and just talked about life.  I really do not know how we would have endured this movie if there was one other person in the theater, for which we would have had to be polite and quiet.

I adored Jason Segel’s “The Muppets.”  I think Emily Blunt’s performance as an overworked assistant in “The Devil Wears Prada” was a brilliant comedic masterpiece.  There were many hilarious people in this movie- Chris Pratt, Molly Shannon, Chris Parnell…  It was sad to see this movie fall apart with so many clearly talented contributors.

It had a few redeeming moments, particularly the ending, which was really adorable.  Interestingly, the ending was very reminiscent of a musical number from “The Muppets.”  This was the shining moment of the movie, which was no coincidence.  It has provided Spencer and I with a world of memories.  We will take away an awesome catch phrase.  I will use it in the last line of this post and do not feel bad about not being a part of our inside joke.  It’s easy enough to understand.  Wait for it…

If you see the movie, which I emphatically do not recommend, you will definitely feel like eating the day old doughnuts.

Enjoy your joys for today.