Friday, January 1, 2010

I'm not superstitious, but I'm just sayin...

As I write, there is a slab of pork ribs a-cookin' in the oven. I have black beans ready to cook at the two-hour warning mark before the ribs are done. If I can find my way to the grocery yet this afternoon, I will probably seek out and purchase some greens to accompany dinner as well.

Why all the specifics?

I have bought into the "tradition" of consuming certain foods on New Year's Day to yield good luck in the coming year. At this point, I figured it most definitely couldn't hurt. See... last year? While we did have some pretty awesome celebrations and high points as chronicled here, there were certainly a fair share (and then some!) of challenges. We were dragged kicking and screaming into legal proceedings that could have very well redefined the word "ridiculous." I never spoke of it, but it spanned from November 2008 through December 2009. Good times. The other mentionable challenge was being laid off from my part-time writing gig at a local magazine in mid-July. Are you keeping score here? That's one part legal drama (read: outrageous attorney fees) and one part job loss (read: significant drop in income). Add that to a family of seven that became a family of eight... well, YOU do the math. It isn't rocket science--there have been some tough times over the past 12 months. Jeff and I continue to master the art of creative budgeting, with a fierce determination to make things work. We have to. There is no other option.

So. Here we are, perched on the high branch of a bright, shiny new year. I all but told 2009 to kiss my ass, as we collectively shooed it out the door last night. I was nearly tearful with hope at the stroke of midnight, knowing I can put the challenges of last year behind us, and look ahead to a new year. One without blemish or dark clouds ... a year with unknown promise. After reading a light-hearted article about the traditional good luck foods usually eaten at the new year, I immediately signed up. I grabbed the first pork product I could find in the freezer, and dug a nearly-forgotten bag of black beans out of the pantry. I am going to fight bad luck from the get-go this year. Two foods that are all but forbidden today are lobster and chicken. Lobster because of their backward movement underwater, and chicken because of they scratch backward in the dirt. I caught Jeff reaching for a leftover container filled with chicken and noodles earlier, and just about jumped out of my skin. "Don't even touch it," I begged. "I don't want to tempt fate."

I'm usually not all that superstitious, but just for today... I'm ALL.ABOUT. IT.

Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009 in retro

In preparation for this entry, I flipped back through the archives, re-reading things from this time last year. Back then, my belly was tricked out in pre-birthin' style, as we all eagerly awaited Bobby's arrival and I had enjoyed a fabulous 40th birthday. I'm not sure if we had any grand hopes for 2009, other than the safe arrival of a healthy baby boy... but here's what else we got:

January: Celebrated Tyler's 17th birthday and braced ourselves for sub-zero temps which resulted in the kids having more days off from school then any parent should have to endure.

February/March: Celebrated Sam's 7th birthday and enjoyed counting down to the baby's due date around March 21. Imagine our surprise when the OB told us he wasn't comfortable waiting that long. We chose March 14 as the new date (I loved calling him our "Little Pi Baby"... 3.14... get it?) Then he said choose something sooner. Hello, Sunday, March 1... Bobby's Birthday. Also was fortunate enough to welcome friends and family into town that weekend for a baby shower, and meeting the newest family member the next day. Celebrated Kate's 15th birthday on the 17th with a party here at the house. Looking forward to Sweet 16 in 2010!

April: Celebrated Easter (Orthodox) and marveled at how wonderfully Jeff executes home improvement projects. He would continue to amaze me the remainder of the year with these projects.

May: Enjoyed a lovely Mother's Day. I love that Jeff and I are blessed with six children in this incredible "yours, mine & ours" family. I would change nothing. Ever.

June: Jeff and I celebrated our one year wedding anniversary. One year down,... and looking forward to countless more. Never imagined a love like this was really out there to find. And I am so grateful to have found it. Also celebrated my nephew's graduation from high school, which led me to realize that, even though he was born at the end of my senior year of college,... I can't possibly be that old. Yet.

July: Was witness to the first ever "Cameron Brothers Fireworks Extravaganza." If you ever want to see Jeff and James regress to, say, 10 years old and giggle themselves silly, give them a bag of fireworks and a fire source. Then stand back. Waaaay back. We also celebrated Jeff and James' 39th birthday this month. (Jeff and I reminisced back to one year earlier when we learned I was pregnant on their birthday. This resulted in a few photographs featuring Jeff wearing a tense, polite smile on the outside, while freaking the hell out on the inside.) A much more jovial party this year, despite my job having been axed mid-month. Yet another lesson on learning to roll with the punches.

August: Jack and Charlie began their first season of PAL football, and proceeded to love every last minute of it. They also celebrated their 10th birthday at the end of the month. Additionally, I celebrated the start of school this month, and we all were happy to see Bobby sprout his first two teeth.

September/October: These eight weeks -- give or take -- were a blur of Jack and Charlie's football games and Tyler and Kates marching band competitions. Spent a lot of time in the car, and kudos to Sam and Bobby for being tolerant and supportive of their older siblings' schedules. Jack and Charlie's football season ended with a tough loss in the championship game. They had a shot at redemption when they were invited to play with the intermediate squad at their championship game. Unfortunately, luck was not on their side and they endured a loss there too.

November: We were fortunate to see great honors bestowed on our kids for their hard work. First, Jack and Charlie were awarded Defensive Player of the Year and Offensive Player of the Year, respectively, at their football awards banquet. I may have nearly burst with pride. Next, the Snider Marching Band placed well enough at semi-state to perform at the state competition at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indy. Their season ended with an eighth place finish at state. I think I can speak for Jeff when I say we are enormously proud of all the kids' accomplishments and honors, and mostly the hard work they put into their activities. The month ended with Tyler and Kate enjoying a marching band trip out East to march in the Philadelphia Thanksgiving Day parade. They also visited NYC and had a blast. We missed them over the holiday, but we also traveled East (not quite as far, though) to spend the holiday with my family near Buffalo. While we were there, we took Jack, Charlie, Sam and Bobby to Niagara Falls. A bit cold and misty, but a breathtaking sight nonetheless.

December: With everyone back home from traveling, we prepared for the holiday with our traditional tobogganing trip and enjoyed spending time together. The day we left, Tyler received notification he'd been accepted to Butler University. Then, on Christmas Eve, the mail brought an acceptance letter from Indiana University as well. Talk about two great Christmas gifts!Despite losing power from 7am to noon Christmas Day, it was wonderful. We welcomed family members over for dinner, and--somehow--everything came together beautifully for dinner. I celebrated my 40+1 birthday... with Jeff surprising me with my favorite lunch from Chipotle, a really good book and a crossword-puzzle-a-day calendar. This, I am sure, we BOTH will enjoy throughout 2010.

I noticed we had a lot to celebrate this past year. Sure, we faced challenges and stressful situations, but those aren't even worth mentioning. Looking forward to 2010 being a wonderful year, full of happiness, health and laughter... and wishing that to you and your family as well!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Holiday Photo Album-Phase II

Since Jeff and I have been together, we have kicked off the kids' holiday break with a tobogganing trip. It's a favorite tradition we created for our new family. We rent a cabin, bring an assortment of goodies to eat and hit the toboggan run. The track is refrigerated, so there needn't be snow. This photo of Kate, Jeff and cousin Chloe was snapped before I realized my camera settings were all jinky. Sorry guys.

The boys were hanging out with me and Bobby during the first tobogganing session to serve out a punishment for in-car fighting on the drive up to the park. Yes, such behavior from these sweet, angelic faces. Shocking.

Nothing like waking up to a surprise snowfall! And it kept the kids busy as we packed up the cabin to head home.

Sam, on our walk down the path to the lake. Immediately after this was taken, Tyler launched a snowball at him, and thus began a hilarious snowball fight between those two and Chloe.

See? If I were Tyler, I'd have run. I think Sam and Chloe could totally hold their own against him. And, in fact, they did.

View across the lake on a cold, wintry morning.

Had to give some perspective on the toboggan run. The black dot in the left chute is a toboggan coming at us. That hazy black box that looks kind of like a tree house is the top of the tower where the trip begins. It's about five stories high. How do I know this? I counted every last one of the stairs we climbed the night before--as we carried heavy, wooden toboggans. If memory serves, it's something like a quarter mile track, completely iced, allowing for speeds up to 30-40 mph. Our highest speed was 32-34mph, I think. When you drive it in your car, it doesn't seem so fast. Try flying down an icy chute from five stories up at that speed. I promise. It's. Fast.

This is our Christmas tree on Christmas morning. Notice the absence of twinkly lights. This is because at approximately 6:50am, our power went out. It stayed out for the better part of five hours. Five. Hours. We had ourselves an old-fashioned Pioneer Christmas and opened presents by lantern. (Don't let this photo fool you... it was d-a-r-k. The flash on the camera is just doing its job.) Note that the photo is wide enough for you to enjoy a peek at the shelves in the kitchen and our DVDs. I'm sure this is largely due to the fact that when Jeff was taking the photo he couldn't see anything in the viewfinder. Remember? Because it was DARK. I swear there's a really groovy star on the tree (my 40+ year old family star) and gifts underneath, even though you see none of this.

And would this photo montage be complete without a picture of Bobby experiencing his first Christmas? Again, the camera flash did a super job of lighting him; although after about five pictures, we all but begged Jeff to stop for fear of permanently blinding the tyke. Here, he is opening a set of wooden alphabet blocks. Pioneer Christmas, indeed!

Holiday Photo Album-Phase I

The craziness of the holidays is nearly over, and I finally carved out time to download a ton of photos from the past several weeks. I'd chat more, but I want to get two posts in today. Enjoy!

First of only two pictures taken on Thanksgiving Day. Aunt Patty making gravy. And, apparently, shunning the papparazzi.

Second of two photos. Jack being..., well... Jack. This is the child I have to beg and bribe to give me at least one good smile per photo. On Thanksgiving, I just went with what he gave me and counted it as a blessing. Besides, I had already won a battle that day--he's wearing a collared shirt AND jeans, rather than his usual t-shirt and warm-ups.

The lot of us at Niagara Falls the day after Thanksgiving. While others braved crowded, overheated shopping malls, we braved the elements and trekked the short 30 min. from Buffalo to Niagara. Obviously, there was wind (see the wall-o-hair covering half my face?) and some spitting rain, but we all managed to have fun. A lot of walking, but the beautiful scenery of the falls, rapids and such were so worth it!

Of course he's smiling and happy. He was strapped to me in the Baby Bjorn and as we schlepped all over Niagara Falls.

Before we left for home, we got a great photo of all the boys and Great Grandma Evelyn (Baba).

And I couldn't resist posting this one. It's up there with my all-time favorites. The story behind it is that Jeff and I were trying to get a good, smiley photo of Bobby for the Christmas card. Unfortunately, with all his enthusiastic movement, most photos were just a blur of drooling happy baby. I posted this on a Facebook album with the caption, "Laughing so hard you pee your pants isn't such a big deal when you're a baby." Or something like that.