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Entries from January 2011

Even I Have My Limits

In an effort to give equal face time to the grandparents not yet represented for the occasion, here is what Jack, Sophia and Chloë opened on Christmas Day, from both their grandpas (and step-grandmas):

Christmas 2010

As for the day itself, it was pretty fab. Everyone did exactly what he wanted to. The kids slept 'til way late, Rob puttered and relaxed without one word from me asking him to DO something household-y, and I... cleaned my office. I actually stayed up all night and spent almost all day on Christmas, semi-blaring music from my iTunes or on YouTube, dancing with myself or the kiddos, and cleaning up my favorite space in the house. There was no floor to speak of before I started, but now there's all kinds of room.

Speaking of music and dancing and such, I have a video of myself dancing with Sophia on that day. I'm shy about sharing it, though. Me, dancing? Unchoreographed? Scary. Funny, but scary. Maybe I'll keep it under wraps...


Better Than Zoolander

Anyone who knows Sophia very well - even through this blog or on Facebook - knows that she is a riot. At not-quite-six, she's definitely proven herself to be quite the hilarious kid, and whenever she opens her mouth, we know that something funny is sure to come out. Even if it's not funny by itself, the WAY she talks is often amusing.

But her speech isn't the only thing amusing about Soapy. She is just silly all the way around. It's a good thing she makes us laugh as much as she does, because it helps forget the other half of the time, when we'd like to throttle her!

All of which to say, here are a few recent, unblogged photos of our little dickens, being truly Sophiesque:

001 (2)

I don't remember what she was supposed to be here, but it didn't matter, because LOOK! The pantyhose on her head were (was?) from the reptile field trip we took, wherein the kids were given a piece of hose to "shed" like a snake. She decided they looked good as a head covering, instead. She's not quite ready to rob a bank, but definitely worth a snap.


It's not really funny when you think too hard about it, except that it is: this is from our quick hotel shop down in North Carolina last month. Sophia pulled the entire blanket off one bed and came up to me, telling me she was "a poor person." She was fake-shivering and everything. Like I said, it's funny if you DON'T think about it too hard and just admire her imagination...

008 (5)

My favorite one of the lot, it really needs no explanation, does it? Yes, that is a dinner tray she's wearing on her back, and my lab goggles from my old college chemistry days. Thumbs up right back, Kid!


Little Big Boy!


I can't believe I didn't post about this right away! Well, who am I kidding, yes I can. Anyway, a long-anticipated event finally happened a week or two ago: Jack, at the ripe old age of 7-and-three-quarters, lost his first tooth!!

It was cause for great celebration at the House d'Odette.  He and Chloë don't do anything on time, at least not physically, so when something like this happens, it's big news!

The tooth's partner is a very wiggly one in its own right, so #2 will be sure to follow suit within the next fortnight! He's asked me to give it a yank, but I can feel it still holding on for dear life right in the middle, so it's not ready yet. I told him to keep twisting it, and he does. Constantly. That little boy's hand is forever in his mouth right now.

Probably not the best idea in Winter.


Because Christmas Babies Need Hand-Knits

(Okay, so all babies do, but I couldn't think of a cleverer title.)

A most beautiful baby girl was born the morn of Christmas, and she set my previously motionless knitting needles to work once again. I wanted to make something pretty but FAST, because unlike my own children, most babies GROW quickly, and I wanted her to fit in whatever I made while it was still seasonable for her to be wearing wooly knits.

010 (2)

In the end, or rather close to the beginning, actually, I chose to make this, the 5-hour Baby Sweater. I didn't terribly like the looks of the sweater in the pattern picture, but I figured I could do it better (ha! How's that for arrogance?) and anyway, I was going to be using some beautiful merino yarn from Artyarns.  Beautiful yarn always = beautiful results, right?


Celeste's Layette 002

I finished the sweater in - you guessed it - about five hours (who'da thunk?), although not consecutive ones. So, it did fulfill that promise. And really, you get what you pay for with some - but definitely not all - free patterns, and also, pictures don't often lie. So even though the yarn I used was scrumptious and should feel delightful next to that cute little monkey baby's skin, the looks of the resulting sweater left me a little... eh. Just, eh. You know that feeling, right?

My hope is that the beautiousness of the baby will bring out greater beauty in the knits. Or something.

Celeste's Layette 003

I decided the Christmas babe needed a bonnet and booties to cap off her outfit, so I quickly whipped up the ones that were linked from the 5-hr pattern. They were quick and easy, and, well, suitable.


Celeste's Layette 009

You know what I just realized? I sent the booties like this, with the stiff pink ribbons in them, but I'd meant to crochet matching laces out of the yarn so Mom could switch them out when she desired. Except, I forgot. So if you're reading this, Mama, feel free to say hey! about it.

Did I mention this is the FIFTH baby in the family? The oldest two are a couple of twin blond boys almost exactly Jack's age, and the next is a little girl who was in her mama's belly the same time Sophia was in mine. Then came another girl, and then THIS girl. All beauties. A lovely family!

After I finished this, I discovered a very good friend of mine - my best friend in college, actually - had gone and had a baby girl without even telling me she was pregnant! She had good reasons for being secretive, and she's not a blab-all like I tend to be, so I forgive her. I enjoyed this yarn so much, I immediately cast on for another little pink sweater for this other new babe.

In a different, more reliably beautiful pattern: the February Baby Sweater by Elizabeth Zimmermann. I've made it before, and I'll make it again. Rarely do I repeat myself in word or deed, so you know it's a winner.

It's still on the needles, so you'll have to wait for that a bit.


To-Do List

Often, I make to-do lists, which I love. One of my favorite things in this existence is crossing a thick line through an item on these lists. Sometimes, when I forget to make a list before I start "doing," I make "done today" lists. Is that lame? I like to write stuff down, so I know I was productive. Obviously, I don't do this on the days that I wasn't, because that would be lame.


Here's my "done today" list for this past Thursday, just in case you might care:

  • Zipped out at 12:10 AM for dishwasher detergent, because we were out and the dishwasher had already been loaded when I realized it. (Dammit.) Ran that.
  • Slept from about 12:50 AM to 3:00 AM, at which point I ran out of Teh Tired
  • Got up and started doing the first of 8 loads of laundry (I was way behind again, what else is new?)
  • Emptied the dishwasher and washed the extra dishes, pots, and pans that hadn't fit
  • Cleaned and reorganized the pantry and freezer (still need to do fridge); proof:



  • Freecycled all those freezer packs in the plastic bags up there, since we had about a dozen more than we needed (from shipment of Jack's meds)
  • Set up beef and mushroom stew in the crockpot for the kids' dinner; proof:


  • Got my Daisies' make-a-plates and patches ready for their party in the afternoon; proof:


  • Baked a cherry pie for the kids' dessert; proof:


  • Swept the kitchen floor about 3x over the course of the day
  • Made the kids breakfast (oatmeal) and lunch (PB sandwiches), in quick succession
  • Measured Sophia after two nights in a row sleeping 18 and 14 hours, respectively; proof:010

(She woke up around 1 PM and came down to sleep some more on the office floor, comforter and all!)


(I thought she had grown another inch since last measured on New Year's Day, but I found out later that she had been on her tippy-toes! Stinker!) 

  • Ran the holiday gift exchange party for our combined two Girl Scout troops; proof:

011 014a 015a

(I was absolutely mortified by Sophia's horrible reaction - she even cried and threw it - to her present, upon seeing it was MORE Tinkerbell goodies. I guess she'd had enough of Tinkerbell after a stocking full of her, but I let her know in no uncertain terms that her behavior was UNacceptable!!!)

  • Ran the cookie training for the parents of our troop girls, for 2011 cookie sale
  • Helped clean up the huge post-party mess
  • Ran to get babysitter, G, to watch the kids and feed them their already-made (phew!) dinner
  • Dropped off kids and G, and left to spend approximately 1 hour on the parking lot that was 264-W during rush hour
  • Visited Rob at the hospital for a couple of hours, sans children. That was nice.
  • Rushed home, dropped G off at her house, returned to hurriedly put children to bed, and CRASHED!


Knot So Fast


A while ago, I picked up some pretzel mix from Williams-Sonoma, thinking it would be a fun baking project to do with the kids. That was probably in October or so, and they (read: Jack) have been asking when we're going to do it at least once a week since. My stock answer has been: "When the kitchen is clean." Well, Daddy's away, which means what's normally his kitchen duty has fallen on me, which, in turn, means that the kitchen has been cleaned every single day! (You might ask why I don't do it when he's home, too. I don't have a stock answer for that one. Just you hush.) This isn't that pretzel mix, but I can vouch that it's got major yum quotient.


I just thought this picture was cute, because it shows Chloë pushing Sophia's sleeves up after I rolled up Jack's. She took it upon herself, without asking. She's not so bad, that one.

Sophia's a scary Dough Monster. Aaaahhhhhh!

After the kids each took a turn kneading the dough - which had too little water at first, and then, of course, too much - we had to let it rise for an hour. They went back to watching their Barbie-cum-Rapunzel movie that Aunt Stacey had sent down, while I... I don't know, drank entirely too much instant coffee. {I made a resolution a week ago to cut down on the number of trips to 7-11 for Diet Coke, but I didn't say anything about my caffeine intake!} 


The kids were eager little beavers after the dough had fully risen. We have baked lots of bread in this household, and yet it never stops being an exciting thing for them to see how big the dough has gotten. It's like they have child Alzheimer's and forget that's going to happen.

I cut the dough into strips with Rob's handy-dandy Wüsthof kitchen shears and showed the kids how to make a pretzel. After that, I let them loose - and they did a pretty fine job with it, right off the bat!


See what I mean? Not too shabby, Chlo!


Sophia spent several minutes arranging hers just so, not realizing I was going to have to pick it up and dip it right into the warm water-and-baking soda solution. Eh, no matter.


Jack was pretty pleased with the entire process. He LOVES getting into the kitchen and getting his hands dirty.


We salted some of the pretzels and left some plain. If I'd thought about it, I'd have done a cinnamon and sugar thing, but... okay, well, I did think about it, and for whatever reason, I decided against it. I guess I just wanted to see how they turned out this first time.


After they came out of the oven, perfectly golden brown, the kids each took a turn brushing them with melted butter. {And did you notice how long Sophie's hair has gotten? It's about time for her to cut it again, huh?}


Behold: a plate of deliciousness!


Chloë had the first taste of the kids' creations.


Well, what do you think, kiddos?


I concur. Good job, young chefs!


Sunday Stealing: The First 2011 Alphabet Meme

Sunday Stealing 

Link the selves up here if you're playing along this week!

A is for Age:  34

B is for Beer of choice: Uh, no thanks.

C is for Career: Mama ♥

D is for favourite Drink: Diet Coke

E is for Essential item you use everyday: iPhone

F is for Favourite song at the moment: Bruno Mars, that one he sings about the girl being so beautiful

G is for favourite Game: Farmville  ;p

H is for Home town: Baldwinsville, NY

I is for Instruments you play: None, anymore. Well, I can tap a mean triangle...

J is for favourite Juice: Apple or orange, but low-sugar, please!

K is for Kids: Three living, and one little angel

L is for Last kiss: Kissing hubby good-bye at the hospital for the night, a couple of hours ago

M is for marriage: Just marked 10 years, woo!

N is for full Name: Smellymellypants

O is for Overnight hospital stays: Numerous. Three c-sections, a hysterectomy, a sleep study, gastric bypass, and several sleepovers with the children. I'm no stranger to these!

P is for phobias: Mustard. If it touches me, I faint. Not really, but the thought crosses my mind.

Q is for quote: The latest favorite from Sophia, my 5yo daughter: "No, eating poop is the worst thing in the world!"

R is for biggest Regret: Any time I hurt the ones I love the most.

S is for sports: Not applicable. I'll watch my 'Canes play some ball, though.

T is for Time you wake up: Whatever time I wake up, that's when I wake up.

U is for colour of underwear: Pink with yellow polka-dots, at the moment.

V is for Vegetable you love: Corn, carrots, broccoli, asparagus...I like lots of veggies.

W is for Worst Habit: Sophia would tell you it's pick-pick-picking at her nails, Chloë would tell you it's yelling, Jack would tell you it's asking him to do ANYthing, Hubs would tell you ... hm, that's a tough one. But I think it's being self-indulgent and lazy.

X is for X-rays you've had: When I broke my toe tripping over my bitty dog, Johnny. Various times with pneumonia. Uh... lots of times, now that I think of it. I can't remember anything terribly exciting, like a nail through my brain.

Y is for Yummy food you make: If I make it, it's yummy. (*snort*)

Z is for zodiac sign: Virgo


Saturday 9: Closer To Home

Closer to home 

Link up here if you're playing along today!

1. Where did you grow up? Where do you consider home?

I grew up in Central NY. "Home" is a concept I sort of lack, but my heart belongs to Florida.

2. If you could paint your car any color with no loss in value, what color would it be?

I would have a graffiti artist paint some really cool mural on it, actually. I'd love that!

3. What do you think comes after death?


4. Name a TV show that should NOT be renewed for another season.

I couldn't even begin to tell ya, since we don't have any TV service here.

5. If you could have a free subscription to any online service, which would you like to have?

I don't know, I guess Netflix.

6. Where did you think you'd be at the age you are now?

I thought I'd have a Nobel Prize! Seriously, I did! Ha.

7. What did you want to be when you grew up?

I always wanted to be a marine biologist. And, for a brief time, I was... then came love, marriage, and a trio of baby carriages. All is well.

8. If you were to suddenly become famous, and were forced to change names, what would you choose as your stage name?

Melanie Penelope ... really? I don't know, it's not something on which I've spent a lot of brainpower!

9. What is the first book that you can remember reading by yourself as a child?

I spontaneously learned to read when I was three years old. I don't remember WHAT I read, other than that even from that early age, I hated to be read to... I still do. I just tune out. Don't read to me!



Insane In The Membrane


Depression hurts. Bipolar Disorder sucks.

Some of you know, I very recently spent some time in the local psych ward. I don't really feel like saying too much about it, other than that I went in there voluntarily, I got out voluntarily after two days, and I didn't get a whole lot of out of it (who would, after two days?) except some awesome new friends. It's not a big secret that I want to keep to myself, because as I've said before, I've made it my personal ambition to help dispel the stigma surrounding mental illness, but there's just not a whole lot to say. I did not make any suicide attempts, as I have done many times in the past, nor did I cause harm to anyone else (or feel like it). So that's all I'm going to say about that.

Anyway, my point for telling you at all is, I'm struggling lately. I do not feel as if my disease is being managed well at the moment, the way it had been for a good solid few years. I credit my doctor for that. He may not be the sweetest, kindest soul in the world, but he knows his pharmaceuticals.

So we have been playing around with las drogas lately, to get me "stable" again. I put that word in quotes because with bipolar disorder, it's only a fleeting illusion. He increased my Effexor to double the maximum dose, which put the military pharmacists in a bit of a tizzy at first, but the psych ward doctor told me that it was a good dosage, one that should work well for me. I don't feel it has settled me down yet, though.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not trying to hurt myself. After years of pain, dealing with my son's death on top of many previous hurts in my younger life, I am finally at a place in my life where I actually want to be alive. I want to grow old with my husband, I want to see my children grow up and give me grandchildren, I want ... to live. Really live.

But the disease is present within me, and as far as anyone can say, it always will be. I try not to think about the fact that I will be on brain chemistry-altering medication for the rest of my life, because, well, that's depressing in and of itself! It's self-limiting, for me. I try just to be grateful that these medications do exist for people like myself, and know that without them, I would be a person I don't want to know.

I just wish I could reach a point of contentment within my heart, when I should be able to feel what I really want to feel: happy. There are sucky things about my life, sure, but aren't there about any life? For the most part, though, I am leading an extraordinairily blissful existence, with a family I would die for, and so many more blessings. But my heart hurts. Literally. I can physically feel the deep pain in my chest, like the bottom has fallen out of me, and all that's left are the ragged edges from a wound that is trying to heal but can't. In short, it's Teh Suck.

Most of the time, the meds work like they are supposed to, and I am my normal happy-happy-joy-joy self, all smiles, dancing around, singing, loving life, having fun... but when those chemicals inside me are all used up, and it's time for more, I can feel that it's time without looking at the clock. I can feel that raggedy-edged wound once again, the one that makes me want to sob without being able. I'm not trying to wax poetic here, I'm just trying to explain to those of you who might not be unfortunate enough to know for yourselves, how it feels right now.

It feels... well, bipolar. Manic-depressive. Uppity-downity-uppity-UP-UP-down-down-down-very-down. And the downs, they hurt. Inside my chest. Ripping pain.

Thank God, I am not at the "I can't take it any more" point.

But I don't want to get there... because I want to be here.

Thanks for reading, if you did. I just really needed to get this out, lately.


For My Husband On Our Tenth Anniversary


I was going to write you a long letter full of pithy prose, but I've decided to let this video stand for itself. The images, of course, are of the building of our beautiful family and life together. The song is like the musical version of our Britto work, in that it represents our singular, unique brand of love and our joint "you and me against the world" mentality.

So here's to you and me, up in the trees... and I know there's more for us in this life.


Peep. Peep. Peep.

Flappy Chick 004

I'll be brief.  I made this today, being highly desirous of some instant gratification.

Flappy Chick 003 

It satisfied the need. His name is Flappy. He's cute as a bug, and I love him.

It's my first amigurumi, unless you count this rocket I made Lucas for his first birthday:

Luke's rocket 001

I always think amigurumi should have eyes, though.

Now, I'm itching to make more. I bought four bags of safety eyes, and I have lots of yarn, so... what's next?

 Flappy Chick 008


Sunday Stealing: The Over The Edge Meme


Link up here if you're playing along!

1. What curse word do you use the most?

I can drop the f-bomb with the best of 'em.

2. Do you own an iPod?

Sure do. I barely use it, though, for whatever reason.

3. Do you still remember the first person you kissed?

Yup. And I remember my sister squealing with delight when I told her. Details, she wanted!

4. Would you rather take the picture or be in the picture?

Before, take. I never wanted to be in pictures. Now, though, I'm just as happy with the lens on me.

5. Has anyone ever called you lazy?

Yeah, me! My mother did, too, in my baby book. It makes me laugh to read that.

6. Has anyone told you a secret this week?

No, I don't think so...

7. What is the first thing you notice about the someone that you are attracted to?

Which way they hang

8. What are you looking forward to?

Spending a few hours alone in the hotel room with my husband, celebrating our 10th anniversary today (Sunday), before the sitter quits watching our kiddos!

9. Do you own any band t-shirts?

No. My t-shirt wardrobe was furnished entirely by the American Red Cross, TYVM.

10. When is the last time you slept on the floor?

A very long time. It hurts my back. I've been on the floor recently for other bed-related activities, though... ;P

11. What did you do last night?

For the new year? Hubs and I were snuggling in bed, sound asleep, when the ball dropped. First time I slept through it in my life!

12. Do you get along better with the same sex or the opposite sex?

Opposite, definitely. I have lots of male friends...

13. Who was the last person to make you mad?

The kids, who are supposed to be upstairs cleaning their rooms.

14. Who would you want to be tied to for 24 hours?

Definitely Hubs. Hey, we've been married for 10 years. We could figure it out together.

15. T or F: All’s fair in love and war?

True dat!

16. What’s something you’ve always wanted?

A Chihuahua puppy, ever since I can remember

17. Do you enjoy spending time with your mother?

Fuck off. My mother died suddenly when I was seven years old. (I warned you about that word, didn't I?)

18. Do you want a bright yellow ‘06 mustang?

Sure, I'd take one. You offering?

19. Where is/are your best friend(s)?

In the kitchen, cooking dinner. In New York, doing...???

20. Would you rather swim in the ocean or a lake?

Ten times out of ten, I'd choose the ocean.


The Last Week Of 2010


Typically, we don't do much in the last week of any given year, and 2010 was no different. Rob's on leave from work until 3 January, and Sweet Pea Academy is on break, too. For my part, I've been alternating doing some necessary house cleaning with sitting here on my arse, listening to lots and lots of music and knitting. The kids have been playing with their various Christmas toys, and Daddy has been doing who-knows-what man stuff. It looks to me like he has just been moving his tools from one place to another, but I'm sure there is a method to his madness.

Sophia got an overnight pulse oximeter to check her O2 sats while she slept. The first night, she wouldn't keep it on, so we kept it for a second night. That time, she wouldn't stay asleep! So I don't know if it will actually tell us anything, but her next appointment isn't until freakin' March. 

I'm off now to pay the bills. Too bad that never changes either...


Happy Hausfrau


My darling husband "gave me" (I actually bought it, because it's hard to find and disappears quickly, so I had to pounce when I found it restocked) this gorgeous sea-blue hank of the delicious Wollmeise sock yarn for Christmas, purchased from The Loopy Ewe. I wanted to start using it right after Christmas, but I found it just a bit too big to wind on my trust swift. I begged Chloë to be me subtitute yarn holder, but she just couldn't hold her hands where I wanted her to, and everyone started getting frustrated.


I found this to be an acceptable solution... and it worked great, right up until I had to pee soo bad. I ended up having to cut the yarn so I could be free to go! Hee.


Finally, the yarn was wound - twice, to be sure, although it's properly supposed to be wound three times according to one yarn expert - and not a moment too soon, because this naughty kitty was getting a little too close for comfort. She's been stealing my yarn again lately. When we're out, we come home to find half a dozen balls of yarn strung all over the downstairs! It would be funny if she used a cheap yarn, but no, she always goes for the good stuff! 


So I didn't know what I was going to make with the beloved Wollmeise, except it had to be awesome, for ME, and NOT a shawl. I decided on these knee socks. What do you think? I'm only a few rounds in on the first sock, so it's not too late to change my mind. But if you say nay, you have to give me a good alternative!

I've done more knitting since then, but it's a sekret until the recipients get their packages. I'll show ya soon, promises!


Mystic Mermaid


The other day, I told you about our visit to the Carolina Cupcakery (scroll down two posts to find it), and this post is a continuation of the same day. You see, Michelle, who works at CC and is the artiste behind Gymbohannah on Etsy, also sells her artsy wares down the road in Ghent's Mystic Mermaid. If you're in the area, you simply MUST visit. Look for the "Handmade VA" section near the front left of the store to find Michelle and other local artists' goodies. After getting the cupcakes, the family and I eased on down the road so I could pick up some local, handmade creations. Michelle was just getting off work at the cupcake sto', so she joined us. It was pretty, pretty good.


I didn't know what I was in there after, but I soon decided everyone needed Christmas gifts. So we had an extra day of Christmas, but I don't think anyone minded. For Rob, I selected this big bag of Rogue Elephant Arabica coffee beans, and yum! That is some GOOD coffee! Much better than the crap we were drinking before that. (And I'm SO glad I got it, too, since we were housebound after the icestorm Christmas brought.)




I searched high and low for something for Jack, but Mystic Mermaid is not really a store for little boy toys. Even though they have a toy section. I was just about to give up, when something made me spin around on my heel, look down, and peer into a crevice - and look! These Hemmings vehicles were nestled inside, hidden out of sight! I think, as you can see, I chose correctly.


For Soapy, I found this cute little technicolored sea horse in the toy section. She likey.


She didn't know what it was yet, but Chloë didn't care. A pretty package is always reason for excitement, isn't it?


She received this pretty mermaid bookmark, to use with all the nice, new books Grandma gave her. She loved it! 


I wanted to spend an equal amount on the girls as I did for Jack, and I always wanted to make sure I picked up something from Michelle, so I gave them these cute button rings she made, plus some hair pretties from another Etsy shop (click picture to make bigger). So cute, and I LOVE Sophia's hand in the top right!


I couldn't leave out myself. I'd smelled Michelle's "Monkey Farts" candles before, and I lucked out to find another one at the shop. Even cooler, Michelle often uses found objects for her candle containers, which I love. I'm thinking of returning the cup for a refill! Check out more of her candles here.

So it was a fun little shopping venture, and of course, it was great running into Michelle again. She's so inspiring! I'm determined to fill up my Etsy shop again this year... 



Saturday 9: Do Ya


Happy New Year, ever'body! If'n you're playing along this fine day, link up here!

1. Do ya love New Year's Eve? What did you do?

Every year, for my entire life, I have spent NYE at home with family. {Except one year when I was a Freshman in college, at my dad's for the break, and he and his then-girlfriend took me to a comedy club. That was fun, but there were a lot of sex jokes, and I was mortified to be listening to that with my dad! Not that I was an innocent, but you know - my dad!!} Anyway, I did stay home, but this year, I slept through the whole thing. I vaguely remember Hubs whispering, "Happy new year, Baby," into my ear at some point, but I don't know if I even replied. Lame!

2. What’s something nice you did for someone else last year?

Donated my awesome O- blood. I'm going to do it tomorrow, too. Give life!

3. Who do you wish could find their inner spirit to become more comfortable in their life?


4. What’s the best thing to inherit other than money?

Well, I just inherited my mom's secondary jewelry box, and it's a treasure trove of memories for me. My sister got the "better," "more valuable" jewelry, and I got the costume jewelry, but since she died when I was 7, and I can actually remember her wearing a few of the pieces, the sentimental valuable is immeasurable for me. So my answer is, anything that helps you remember the deceased person you loved.

5. How many members of your family not living with you did you see on Christmas Day?

None. Just the way I like it. I love hunkering down, just the five of us, on Christmas. Not that I wouldn't enjoy seeing family, but I'm good with things the way they are.

6. When spending time with family, how long after you arrive do you begin to feel "antsy" about being there too long?

Depends on who it is. If it's my sister or grandpa, never. Anyone else, and I'm already antsy before we get there!

7. Is your family more likely to have pleasant discussions or heated arguments during a big meal? Do you join in or quietly listen in?

Pleasant discussions. Our family, though a bit dysfunctional and non-traditional, is loving and close-knit. I intend to keep it that way... but of course, we haven't reached the teen-aged years yet! I join. Oh wait, did you mean extended famiily? Then I would be more likely to listen quietly. I'm shy, even with my own dad.

8. Did you get everything you wanted for Christmas? What one thing that you didn’t get would you like to have received?

I got everything I wanted, definitely. I'm very grateful. I got the most gorgeous, highly-coveted yarn, and I got a GPS that I really needed. I even got a little money. But all of that takes a back seat to what I really wanted - and received: the blessing of three gloriously happy, loving, kind, smart, funny, beautiful children who wanted to spend the day with me, and a husband I'm still in love with, despite our problems.

9. What’s one area of your life you really improved this year?

Hm. I would say I really improved in the area of stepping outside my comfort zone. Leading the Daisy Troop is hugely "uncomfortable" for me in many ways, but I'm doing it, and I'm proud of that.

Hope 2011 is fabulous for all of you!