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Gratitude November 28

I am thankful for……..
November 28: liberti church

(well actually God, but liberti was sort of the gateway to that guy for me)
Good representation of liberti church goers, lots of scarfs, belts, skinny jeans, bike helmets, and then me in my fleece. 🙂

Typical view from the back of a service

So I do not mention religion or my beliefs too often on this blog. And that is not entirely on purpose or entirely by accident.  I have always been a more private person when it came to my spiritual beliefs- probably because I felt and still sometimes feel that discussing what I believe in with folks would bring conflict and judgement.  That is unfortunate in my book, because I think a lot of people would explore their belief system much more if they felt they could do it without getting the stink eye from others. Without fear, they could pray before a meal in a public place, or wear a piece of clothing that represents their religion, or walk around on Ash Wednesday with a dark smudge on their forehead.

Geoff, the pastor who married us. His sermons stir things in me I didn’t know needed stirring…
Evan’s baptism at liberti Fairmount May 2012

I used to fall into the category of believing there was “something” or “someone” out there, but not knowing exactly what or why we were all here. I would get frustrated by family members who would push the gospel on me, telling me that my gay friends were not going to Heaven, or that I had to act a certain way in order for God to look kindly on me.  As I got older, I began to realize I did believe in God, and I knew in my heart that the story of Jesus was not some conspiracy theory or plot line in the DaVinci Code. I began to face very big obstacles in my life, and also experience some amazing moments that I knew did not happen by accident.  I could go on and on about my spiritual journey (I promise not to use that word as much as they do on ABC’s Bachelor), but I wanted to take a moment to express my gratitude to liberti church.  Todd and I started to attend liberti Fairmount in 2007 after we had been dating for a bit. I had never regularly attended a church. I was one of the typical go to church twice a year Catholics who was dropped off at CCD as a child while my mother and father stayed home. I never looked forward to church, never realized that “normal” people went to church. I know that sounds ridiculous, and I am fully aware of that. I had this notion that you had to be this bible banging, drinking the kool aid type of person to attend church regularly. I felt comfortable with the “I believe in God, but not in church” mantra. Then Todd and I stumbled into a liberti service one HOT summer day in Philly.  The fans were blowing, there were about 20 people who showed up to the service. A bald man with earrings and cargo shorts stood at the front of the church.  I sat in awe of his appearance, his comfort in speaking, but mostly in what he had to say. He preached that day including some pop culture references, I do not remember each one. But what I do remember, is that I listened. I listened for the entire sermon. I didn’t tune out. I didn’t start thinking about where we were going to get dinner afterwards. I engaged. I felt connected to the words, and the words included references to the bible.  And the words also mentioned the word “broken.” He put himself in that category, not just me, the one who thought the church would go up in flames when I walked in. The people sitting around us were fully engaged too. I remember getting in the car and thinking, “Church can be like that?” That pastor is like me! A real person! (again, ridiculous, I know, but true.)
And the rest is history.  We became members of liberti fairmount and became very good friends with many of its members. I became co-coordinator of the nursery, Todd joined the finance team and helped to lead a search committee to find a new pastor when The Bradfords moved to NC.

Now we are part of a church plant of liberti on our side of the bridge in Collingswood, NJ. 

liberti Collingswood is starting preview services this month, on December 9th.  We have become friends with the pastor, Jim and his wife Emily.  Again, very REAL people who have flaws, strengths, questions, and beliefs just like the rest of us.  It was so eye opening to have a church community and administration that made me feel like it was okay to hurt, okay to be angry, okay to question. And also okay to love God and believe in what he does for us each day. 
I am thankful for liberti church, the amazing friends I have made, and how it has helped me to see Christianity in a different way.

Gratitude November 27

I am thankful for……….

November 27: Music 

 
Von Trapp Time

 Whenever I answer the deserted island question- you know, the one where they ask if you could only have 3 things what would they be? (ok so I don’t really answer it that often, just bear with me) I always think that some form of music would be number one. A way to be able to hear music while stranded on a desert island seems more important to me than food or a comfortable sleeping arrangement. I think since I was a little girl, singing to myself in my crib, I have always had a special spot in my heart and mind that is fueled by music. I am the type who hears the swell of classical music and gets tears in my eyes, the type that needed “getting ready” music in college before a night out, the type that could listen to the soundtrack to the movie “Glory” over and over and still feel an emotional connection to it.  I love to sing, whether it be in my car, to Evan before bed, or on stage- singing is freeing to me. I always wanted to learn acoustic guitar and do the coffee shop circuit.
Todd went one step closer than me, and recently purchased a guitar and is teaching himself how to play.  I love watching him practice- and so does Evan. He crawls over from wherever he is and strums the strings himself and smiles from ear to ear.
Children with Williams Syndrome have been noted to have a special affinity towards music and possibly even a tendency towards being gifted in that area.  Some experts think that statement is exaggerated  and can give parents a false hope that their child will be gifted in music.
One thing I am sure of, Evan LOVES music. He loves all his toys that play music, and is a captive audience if you sing to him. I hope if anything we can share a mutual love of music.
Which I think has already been established……

Making raspberries is music, right?

Gratitude November 26

I am thankful for……………days like today, November 26.

Fun with a hat

Off……..

On!

Wheeeeeeeeee!

Hey mom, did you figure out that my hat is on backwards yet?

Little hands exploring

I wanted to capture how his whole lower body was hopping up and down while he watched Zoey run around

Evan’s favorite girl

Checking out the fire pit

True love

Who needs to walk? I can crawl like the wind!

Gratitude November 20-25

So…..a week flew by and I was without blogging access while visiting family. I apologize for the brevity of this entry, but it does not mean I am any less thankful for them. 🙂

November 20: I am thankful for….. the internet.
This is a tricky one because it also has invited in open season for my obsessiveness over health issues and finding answers for everything, but on the whole, it has been a huge blessing in so many ways. The most obvious one being that I met my husband on Match. The second being the amazing group of parents I have met through the Williams Syndrome Support page on Facebook.  The past six or so months would not have been bearable without their support. I acknowledge the double edged sword that it can be at times, but I also recognize what wonderful experiences and relationships I have gained from its use.

November 21: French Fries
So while not the healthiest food, it has been one of my favorites since I was little. I remember one year I gave them up for lent and I tried to extend it for the rest of the year. I think I made it about 10 months or something, but man, was that a difficult 10 months for me. Our little dude tried them for the first time this past week and I literally felt my heart soaring when he eagerly chomped away, and actually swallowed the yummy treats. He kept reaching for more which rarely happens with food and Evan. 🙂

November 22: Our backyard

Z and E playing

Pop Pop’s tree

Who’s cold? Not this guy.

November 23: Todd’s job
This is a tough one, because it is not necessarily where my husband feels the most fulfilled, but for right now, with only his salary, we are able to have me home with the bug for an extra year. That is priceless and I am forever grateful he is gainfully employed and brings home the bacon for us each day.

November 24: My health
While I have had my ups and downs health wise- none have been life threatening and I consider myself very lucky to have the good health I do. It enables me to work, take care of a child, a house, and to get around as I choose. I know that is not the case for many, many people and I try to recognize that as often as I can.

November 25: The health of my family and friends
I have a multitude of very important people in my life who are in good health and if they are not, they are able to get the healthcare they need to be in the best shape that they can be.  And that is a wonderful thing. 

Gratitude November 19

I am thankful for…..

November 19: Time
April 2012
Boston trip April 2012

 I never thought I would hear myself say this, but time is a wonderful thing.  When you have months ahead of a difficult experience, like grief, or a job you dislike, or a surgery you are avoiding- time can seem overwhelming. But in reality, time is the only thing that moves on no matter what. It is a constant. We have
no choice in the matter, time is going to continue and we all get older and hopefully wiser.  These first two pictures are of Evan this past spring when we were struggling to figure out why he was vomiting all the time, and why he suddenly would not eat baby food.  When he would drink his bottles, he could only keep down about 2 oz at a time. We had burp cloths and towels everywhere because you never knew when he would get sick again.I included the picture of Evan sitting on the duck from “Make Way for Ducklings” because it reminded me of how floppy he was, how much he hated holding himself up on toys, that is why I am giving him so much support in the picture

 Enter time, 6 months to be exact, and here we are in November. Evan has grown significantly, has had two hair cuts, he climbs the steps, and can get on and off the couch himself with no support from us.  He can stand independently (albeit for a very short amount of time).  He understands cause and effect and action on object very well, and loves to practice all day with his toys.  He has tried a cupcake, bites of a cheeseburger, and chicken nuggets all in the past two weeks.  He would drink 6-8 oz of his pediasure mixture if we let him. He has totally mastered the straw and he loves it. He has become so snuggly and affectionate with us in the last month, too! He used to wiggle out of our arms all the time, and now he tucks his legs and arms under almost every time I pick him up.  I can’t tell you how much I adore that time with him.  I am mentioning all these things not to brag (well I did say last entry that I would do that freely though…), but to illustrate that time was on our side to help Evan to progress so much.  It  can be frustrating at times, to realize his delays and work with him over and over on things and see no progress. But- the progress IS there, he takes in so much more than I realize.  And some things really do “just take time.” 

November 2012-Drinking 6 oz out of a straw!

Over time, he started to sleep through the night.
Over time, I stopped feeling guilty for putting Evan in the pack and play so I could brush my teeth.
Over time, I stopped thinking of my father the instant I would wake up every morning.
Over time, Evan started to eat again without vomiting.
Over time, I realized I wasn’t so bad at this stay at home mom thing.
Over time, I fell in love all over again with my husband, watching him be a father to our boy.
Over time, I learned to be comfortable talking about church, being a Christian, and how it is possible to be me, and also believe in God.
Over time, I re-learned the importance of friendships and how crucial they are to helping me feel whole as a woman and a mother.

 Time….is on our side…..yes it is. Sing it Mick.

November 2012- first bites of chicken nuggets
Snuggling, our new favorite past-time
 

Gratitude November 16, 17, and 18

Meeting Courtney’s first born, Trent

I am thankful for……

November 16, 17, and 18:    Memories.
Yes, I am sort of cheating again- combining a few days of thankfulness. But I will say that I thought this one through and I am totally okay with it. I spent a large chunk of my day today going through my stepmom’s basement trying to help her clean it out. All of the kids have stored things in this basement at some point in the last 5+ years so there is a LOT to go through.  As one would expect, this was difficult at times.  It felt like pieces of my father were all over the basement in pictures, pieces of clothing, old sports memorabilia, roller coaster articles, etc. I spent a good 30 min just looking at all his name badges from the roller coaster conventions he attended over the years- many of which I attended as well.  I felt so many different emotions while going through all the boxes. Anger that he was taken too soon, warmth and happiness as I remembered the amazing trips we took, amazement at finding his program from the original cast production of Les Miserables in London in 1985. 
After carrying out box after box and wiping away the tears, a resonating feeling of gratitude remained. I kept hearing what Todd had said to me repeatedly after my dad passed, “You wouldn’t be so sad if you did not have such a wonderful relationship with your dad” “It hurts so much because your memories are so wonderful of him and your time together.”  
That was hard for me to hear and understand in the beginning but I sure do believe it now.  
Evan, just a few weeks old

Memories serve a very important purpose.  They are here to remind us what is important, why we wake up each day and fight on through tough times. And I am not just talking good memories, I am talking rough ones as well.  Watching a documentary tonight on Hurricane Sandy was heart-wrenching.  A mother who lost her son to a fallen tree said, “It felt like God turned the other way for a minute.” And I heard myself mumble, “Yup, it can feel that way sometimes.” And it can. But I can’t accept that the bad memories are to be forgotten, because without them, how would we appreciate the good ones? Comparison is necessary in this case. In my humble opinion of course. And you might want to remind me about this (gently) when I am feeling sad or frustrated. 

Some of the performers in the summer theater program I directed-during Alice in Wonderland summer 2008

I hope to learn from the tough times, learn to love hard, hug hard, and dance hard, and feel no guilt about it. I want to unabashedly brag about my son and sing at the top of my lungs in the car no matter how many strange looks I get.
So in honor of memories, I went through about 8 years of photos saved on this computer and picked a precious few to highlight.  I love taking pictures and having photographic evidence of anything and everything. 


My Mom and I on her wedding day this past March
Noah and Evan get to hang out!

Todd and I in Maine 2007

The Osage School Volleyball Team

Engagement picture 2008
Evan and Daddy at E’s first hockey game
Family on the beach Summer 2012

Fun with teachers 2007

First annual Knoebels Trip with E 2011

Charlene and I at an Eagles bar in Florida 2004

New Year’s Eve with Talia and Barb 2003
Evan and Andrew playing Halloween 2011
My god-cuz Maureen and I at a brewfest 2007

Swimming Lessons- Aunt Caitlin and Evan having their typical greeting
The cousins minus Lisa and Angelo Summer 2012

Gratitude November 15

I am thankful for:

I mean who wouldn’t love a dog that wears a party hat?
November 15:
Zoey- our chocolate lab

(warning- long story ahead but I wanted to have it saved because it is such an important memory to me)

“You can’t wear me out, I’d like to see you try!”

Zoey has been a part of our family since the summer of 2009.  We had been married for about 3 months before we started searching for the next member of our family.  I combed local shelter websites and spent many afternoons after work visiting doggies to find the perfect fit for our family.  One particular shelter, Cumberland County SPCA had a dog named Sandy who I wanted to go see. I went down on a Saturday morning when Todd was with a friend fishing. The shelter was very inviting, and much cleaner and organized than many other places I had visited. They brought out Sandy and I met with her in a little “meet and greet room.” It was an awkward 5 minutes of both of us shuffling around the room trying to figure each other out. She was not aggressive towards me but she also wasn’t interested in coming over to meet me either. She put up with me reaching out my hand to be sniffed but again, no real interest. When walking her out of the room, another volunteer walked by with another dog. Before I knew it, Sandy came to life and basically mounted the other dog- but not in the way you think- this was not a happy encounter. She was snarling and barking and I lost the leash in the process and the volunteer had to intervene. She sort of laughed uncomfortably and said she is a female dog, and she has issues with male dogs sometimes.
Hmmmm. Considering I did not have a great feeling from our meeting anyway- I walked back to the kennel area and noticed a bulletin board with Polaroids all over it.One of the pictures caught my eye, a dark chocolate lab with bright eyes and a big tongue looking right at the camera. It said something like, ” Ziva, energetic lab who just wants some love.”  (Todd is convinced that the shelter had a thing for NCIS shows because Ziva is one of the characters on one of the shows)

Meeting of the minds

I asked one of the volunteers why she was on the board and I didn’t see her in the kennels. I came to find out there were several dogs in the back who had to be isolated because of having kennel cough. She said I could go back and meet her, but I would not be able to come back out to see the other dogs for fear of contamination. I decided it was worth a shot and headed back to meet Ziva. I waited in a hallway that had some balls and other dog toys lying around.  The door opened and a skinny, crazy dog came tumbling out and almost knocked me over. I knelt down to meet her and she attacked me with kisses and whimpers. I tossed the ball away from me out of instinct to put a little space in between us and she immediately chased after it and brought the ball back to me. I was in awe, the other dogs I have owned were not big fetchers. I played with her, hugged her, and just sat on the ground of this hallway thinking, better yet, knowing, that she was the dog for us.

Love

She started with us as an undernourished, somewhat skittish, extremely active dog who loved to play fetch and jump on everything. It took a lot of patience, many tough “parenting” discussions for Todd and I, and a lot of cleaned up messes and torn leashes.  But after a short while, Zoey (as we renamed her- at least keeping the Z intact) became a part of our family.  She is loyal to a fault, obedient (not 100% of the time-maybe 80%), energetic, and very smart. She has major separation anxiety, running from window to window to look for one of us if we are outside taking the trash out or doing yard work. Her favorite things in life are tennis balls, squirrels, other dogs, and my mother. She ADORES my mom.We love taking her to the local dog park that is a fenced in wooded area.  She runs free for as long as she can; darting in and out of patches of trees, jumping over logs, and leading groups of dogs around the perimeter. The thing that I just love is that she never gets too far without trotting back to us with that abnormally long tongue of hers hanging out. She always wants to make sure we are still there.

Cozy
Evan ready to chase his favorite girl

The last and most amazing thing about Zoey is her steadfast protective nature with Evan. Since the day we brought him home, she has been WONDERFUL with him.  In the early days when Evan cried constantly, Zoey would pace, and if he was crying in his crib, she would stand near his door or come over to me and nudge me as if to say, please go get Evan, he needs you. Today they have a sibling like relationship, playing with toys together, chasing after each other, and putting up with annoying habits that each one possesses. Zoey is a very loving girl, she likes to kiss, sniff, and nudge you as often as possible to show her appreciation and interest in you. I will often watch Evan withstand this affection from Z, even while his little fists ball up and he turns away slightly because he would rather she stop. He puts up with it because he loves her. Evan in return will tug at her tail, lick her paws (I know, it is pretty much the worst- and I do stop this when I can), take her toys and bounce in her face giggling just waiting for any response he can get. Zoey puts up with ALL of this graciously and goes back for more. Both Todd and I are pretty certain that Evan started pulling up on furniture regularly because he wanted to be eye level with Zoey and reach her. That is his favorite place to hang out, at the end of the couch standing up and leaning on her blanket.

Zoey is such a good girl, and even though having a dog and a toddler can be difficult at times, we would not have it any other way.  Love you Zoreena! xoxoxo

Gratitude November 13 and 14

I am thankful for:

November 13:
West Chester University.  I attended WCU from the fall of 1996 through the spring of 2000. Class of 00′ baby! It is crazy to me that I graduated 12 years ago.  Phew. Some of my best memories occurred in those 4 years. It is an amazing time-I often liken it to living in a bubble with only people close in age to you, going through the same experiences, figuring out who you are and who you aren’t through a boatload of crazy moments. I met several of my dearest friends during those 4 years and I still keep in touch with them to this day. I walked into Goshen Hall as a freshman a COMPLETELY different person than the person who graduated with a jet black cap and gown 4 years later.  I grew up so much.  I am very appreciative of the opportunity to go to college, and to live in both the dorms, and an off campus apartment. This bit of gratitude leads me to my next one……
November 14:
Being a teacher.  
If you know me at all, you know how proud I am to be a teacher. I was very lucky to get a job the fall after I graduated from college and I do not take that for granted. I know how hard it is these days to land a teaching job. I was one of three special education teachers hired at Osage School that fall. That almost NEVER happens anymore. I didn’t have to sub or send resumes out for years. And I have stayed at that same school for over 10 years. Again, I know how lucky I am. I love working with students. I love both the small group setting and the large group. I chose to go into special education after trying out speech pathology for a year at WCU. It was a little too heavy in science for me, and they required a lot of work with adults when I wanted to work with children.  So I figured, hmmmm, I can switch to special ed and get to work with children all the time, just not specifically in the area of speech. I think I made the best choice for me.
Don’t get me wrong, it can be hard, and I have had years where I am so exhausted at the end of the day that I can barely stand. Some students require so much of your time and energy, and I do not do well with accepting the bare minimum. I want to have my students reach their potential to the best of their ability which means giving the best of my teaching ability. I have not gone back since having Evan, and I plan to next September. I am a bit nervous and curious to see how the transition will go; how being a mom will affect my view as a teacher. I will be able to see the IEP table from both sides now which will hopefully be helpful for both roles.

(I couldn’t find any good teaching pictures, sorry- but here is one with my teaching bff who was the matron of honor in my wedding- from fall of 2003 Love you Tal! )

Gratitude November 12

I am thankful for……

November 12: my big brother Brian
What, is there something on my head? Christmas 2011

Brian looking at me adoringly in Nanny’s lap (he liked me at one point I think)
A fantastic picture of Dad, Brian, and I in 1988ish. So much hair, so little time.

 So my brother is 6 years older, and when we were kids, I basically worshiped him and liked to follow him around.  I thought everything he did was cool, and that all his friends were cool, and basically he was the epitome of cool for me. He did not return that feeling for quite some time, being that I wanted him to play barbies and tea party with me and he wanted to ride his bike with his buddies and play with our Intellivision. Yup we weren’t fancy enough to have an Atari, folks. 🙂 But he always treated me well, aside from the occasional noogie or throwing me accidentally into the old fashioned radio. He’ll never live that one down……When he went away to college I was going into middle school. That was when we first started to really connect- he would come home on school vacations and we would compare notes on teachers he used to have and roll our eyes at things our mom and dad would do. That was when our friendship really began I think. After I graduated college, we would visit each other, share stories, secrets, hardships, and joys over some craft beers and yummy food. He became protective of me and would try to steer me away from creepy guys at bars and he checked in on me all the time. I remember thinking one day after a particularly long phone conversation with Brian, “wow, he really likes me!” That sounds so funny probably but I’m so glad we have the relationship we do.  No one else can completely understand issues within our family like he can, no one else can reminisce about ridiculous holiday stories, how our dad numbered our Christmas gifts and our mom would stomp on the floor to get our attention for dinner. We are on different coasts now, he lives in Seattle and we have very different lives. But he still calls me to check on me almost every week, and I know he loves me (even if that is an “icky” thing for a brother to say).  Love ya Bro! xoxo

Brian and I at BMMC 2007 maybe?

Gratitude November 11

I am thankful for….
November 11: My two step families.
Again, how did I get this lucky?  Not only do I have great in laws, but I happen to have two different step families and I love both like they have been a part of my life since I was born. 

Shannon, Rich, my mom Lynn, and Shannon’s husband Ryan

My mother remarried this past spring, and we LOVE Rich. We call him GrandRich and hope that Evan will catch on too.  And along with Rich comes his daughter Shannon, who is beautiful inside and out. She just got married as well so we get her hubby Ryan and his awesome family as part of the package too!  Rich treats my mother like gold, and I have not seen her this happy in a very long time. He is awesome with Evan, and E absolutely adores his GrandRich.  Shannon and Ryan are such sweet, fun people, I mean, look at their smiles, they just make you feel comfortable in an instant.

The whole crew on Memorial Day 2008

And then there is my step family through my father. Where to begin with how important they are all to me……My father remarried when I was almost done college to an amazing woman, Debbie. Don’t get me wrong, I am glad my parents were together (I mean, for obvious reasons…I wouldn’t be here otherwise) 🙂 and I really had a nice childhood and all that….But both my mom and my dad found love again and they really found it with people I think they were meant to be with. My dad lived to please Debbie. He loved traveling with her, surprising her, and being a stepfather to her children and Pop-Pop to her grandkids. I think he liked the Pop Pop role most of all.  Debbie has a heart of gold and would do anything for her kids. Evan loves his Mom Mom and just hearing her voice, he lights up like a Christmas tree.  My dad must be tickled pink to know that we are all so close now, even closer than we were ten years ago. My step siblings are all awesome and I just love when we all get together for monthly dinners.

All the grandkids on my Dad’s side- Scarlett, Lisa, Simone, little George, and Evan (missing from pic: Jude and Angelo)
Thank goodness for family.

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