Saturday, March 31, 2012


Grandma, Grandpa, Sarah and I. 
Yes, I basically have the same haircut now.

A week.  That is how long I looked, search, ransacked, and dug through boxes of old college papers and 3.5” floppy disks (with an old school adapter), looking for one special personal essay that I wrote about my Grandma.  It was good.  It was really good, actually.  Frankly, it was probably the best piece I have ever written.  My professor agreed, suggesting I publish it.  I never did.  Now I’m frustrated to say, I don’t even have a copy of it.  I envisioned being able to write a prologue to the essay about what a wonderful woman my Grandma was and post the essay itself.  It captured her essence and how special she was to anyone who ever knew her.  Today, on the one year anniversary of her passing, I guess I’ll just have to write a few of those memories with today’s words (and some stolen from the speech I wrote for her funeral), instead of leaning on my words of the past to express how special she was.

Four generations of women.
To know my Grandma was to love my Grandma.  She was such a wonderful woman, who lived for her faith, family, and friends.  Her funeral was literally like the funeral for a nun.  The church recognized that although she was married with children, she was as close to a Catholic nun a member of the church could be.  Cloaked in the gold cloth of Catholic clergy, she would have been so proud to be honored in the way that the three priests that came to preside over her funeral.  In fact, the rosary for my Grandmother caused a tiff between the nun and the priest at her church.  Both felt they were due the honor of leading her rosary.  Of course, they compromised.

My Grandma was so caring.  It was just natural for her to take care of everyone and everything she came across.  A little bunny attacked by a cat in the neighborhood?  No worries, she would nurse it back to health feeding it with a medicine dropper.  A woman at church is sick?  Grandma would plan out a food schedule to help her while she was ill.  No matter who you were, if you needed help, she was there.
Grandma and Myles (wearing
gloves because her hands were cold)
To go to Grandma’s house was like going to a special place made to be enjoyed by grandchildren. Toys, tiny rocking chairs for each child, and cartoons filled the day.  Grandma always had something that she wanted to make for us to eat.  From her smiley face eggs with pickles for the eyes and a ketchup smile, to her authentic Mexican food, she was a natural caregiver to everyone she knew.  Games to play, wagon rides, and summers on the swing singing songs are just a few of my cherished memories.  In fact, every single memory I have of her makes me smile….all the way down to remembering her passing a sweater down the pew at church for us girls to cover our legs in a skirt she deemed too short.  No doll went without handmade undergarments.  Grandma wanted to make sure they each had the opportunity for modesty.  Grandma taught us the Mexican hat dance and loved to tape us telling stories and singing songs (now that is true love – wanting my singing voice on tape). 

Grandma and Jillian on her First Birthday.

Every picture, craft, letter, or project we made for her was important and saved over all of these years.  Shoot, half of the things I saw when I was digging for the essay had her writing on it.  She had clipped several articles I had written back in high school for the newspaper, photos, and other memorabilia that I wouldn’t have today if she hadn’t saved them for me. 

As I got older, I would love to ask Grandma about her past.  I would have never guessed this small woman who was so involved with her family and parish was a secretary for the President of Mexico when she was younger.  Listening to the stories of the life-long love that she and my Grandpa shared was simply amazing.  He travelled across the country to marry her…not to mention asking her father for her hand in marriage…twice, until he said yes.  Persistence paid off.  The deep rooted loved they shared was apparent.  Witnessing this throughout their marriage was a wonderful example to their children and grandchildren.

I am confident that all eight of us grandkids are better people for being her grandchildren.  She gave us love and care every day.  She also gave us our faith.  She cared so much about making sure that God was a part of our lives.  We all miss Grandma every day.  I am so thankful for the time we had with her.  With a failing heart from a very young age, we were so lucky to have her as long as we did.  As kids, we liked to call her our electric Grandma because we could hear her mechanical heart tick.  We would giggle at the watches that could never keep time with the tick.

Grandma, we love you forever and always.  As I encounter decisions in life and faith, I think to myself, “What would Grandma do?”  I am comforted knowing that you are still caring for us with golden wings in heaven.

In Loving Memory of Josephine Elizondo.

My grandparents on my wedding day.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Dedication to a Mommy Role Model

A year ago today, the world lost one of the most special women…ever. 
When I was a kid, I was lucky enough to have that cool older cousin that was just…so…cool.  She was nine years older than me.  Just the perfect age to keep her coolness factor from the time I was a tiny tike, through mommyhood.  Growing up going to my grandparent’s home on the lake for family parties, I would always be extra excited if Petra was going to be there.  Anyone that ever met her would attest to the fact that she had a magnetic quality that just drew people in.  She was so likeable.  She could make you feel special in any interaction you had with her.
I remember some tearful days for Petra as she was attending WMU, much too far from her first and only love, her high school sweetheart.  She was just so in love.  At nine, I could only dream of one day having the fairytale love that Petra was living.  As many of you know, I followed in Petra’s footsteps, marrying my own high school sweetheart.
Petra’s wedding was beautiful.  I remember going to one of her wedding dress fittings.  She stood on the pedestal in the bridal salon looking absolutely stunning.  Her dress had a heart cutout on the back and I thought it was beautiful.  I asked if I could wear it in my own wedding someday.  It was the first time I had ever thought about my future wedding and she had set the picture in my head for what I wanted it to be.  Though, I didn’t actually wear her dress, I still remember the awe I had for her on that day.  Again, she was just so perfect.
It was on to motherhood for Petra.  Through six wonderful children, she truly left her mark.  It always amazed me how you could have that many children and have them each so well behaved.  Every time we saw them, they were the picture of the perfect family.  It still baffles me today how she could handle everything with ease, grace, and classiness.  She even looked good doing it!  I know that with just my two kids…well…you know.  I can’t even imagine being so put together with six.
Loss, unfortunately, was a bit of a theme for my family in 2011.  From that, I know there are no words that I can express to her family to fill the void that comes with such a great loss.  Know that I think of Petra everyday and the wonderful woman that she was.  I am confident that each and every one of her children has a special mother angel watching over them in everything that they do.  When I have a bad day as a mother and naughty kids have me raising my voice in frustration, I think of Petra.  I think of the type of mother that she was and the type of mother and woman that I aspire to be.
Dedicated to a wonderful mother, wife, daughter, sister, cousin, aunt, and friend.
Petra Maria Sambaer
August 16, 1971 – March 23, 2011.

Love you forever and always.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Closet Renovation

This post is a bit embarrassing to me…kinda like posting a picture on Facebook in my pajamas…but I’ll do it anyways.  Does anyone else have one of those closets in their house?  One of those closets that you would throw yourself down the hallway to keep a guest from opening it to hang their coat in?  A Monica Geller closet that is just crammed full of insanity that no one would ever know about…unless you post it on your blog like an idiot.  Yeah, I used to have one of those closets.  When we moved into this house in October of 2010, our front entryway closet was stuffed with a few boxes and crap I never unpacked and just stayed that way.  For a year and a half, people!!

Well today, that closet is no longer my Monica closet.  It is our new entryway bench.  I am lucky enough to have a very handy husband, who built the bench (with storage underneath!), shelving, and hooks for all of the kids’ things as they come home from school.  I do have to give myself some credit for helping with the design, doing all of the painting, and of course, making the bench cushions!  I still need to get some baskets for the storage box area.  I’m thinking a box for each of us to keep our gloves, hats, scarves, and sunglasses would be great.  Boots and shoes can be tucked away in the bench and we have a much more functional area that we will actually use!

I took a few pictures along the process if you want to take a peek…
It's empty!!

Ready for storage baskets and boots under the bench.  I bought boot trays to keep moisture at bay.

Don’t worry, I haven’t totally said goodbye to my Monica Geller tendencies… I still have a junk drawer in my kitchen…not to mention the storage area in the basement…

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


This afternoon, I watched Jillian make friends in the sandbox with several kids.  Myles was off perfecting his fire pole sliding skills.  After a while, he came over to the huge sand area and Jillian proceeded to introduce him to the friends she had made as, “My Myles”.  I loved this.  She was proud that he was her brother and she wanted everyone to know it.
I remember last summer the kids were playing at the park in Saugatuck.  A little girl who was much older (maybe seven) was playing with Myles.  Jillian tried to join in the fun and the little girl threw woodchips at Jillian and said she was too much of a baby to play with them.  I was on edge to come to her rescue, but Myles handled it himself.  He told her that Jillian was his sister and if she wanted to play with him, she had to play with Jillian too.
Every day, I see examples of how much my kids love each other.  From Jillian hugging Myles when we drop him off at school (which isn’t too cool for his image with his heartthrob based on his occasional resistance), to saying I love you, I know they appreciate having each other.
I have had several conversations with friends nearing the end of their second pregnancy about how the new sibling(s) will impact the life of the first child.  Maybe I am a likely candidate to field this question because we were among the first to have kids with many of our friends and consequently, among the first to add another child to the family.  I have confidently said to each of them that I really feel that although the first child may have to wait for that snack that they want because they are “sttttarrrvinggg”…the benefits of the sibling relationship will outweigh the negative aspects of raising more than one child.  I truly believe this and I am confident in saying it, but it is even easier to say when the friend can barely tie her own shoes reaching over her belly.  No turning back at this point anyway!
Certainly, choosing to have a second child (or third, fourth, or tenth) is a very personal decision and the circumstances that each family comes from in this decision is very different and unique.  I have struggled with decisions about a third (read about it here).  For some families, one child is the right number and other families continue to add to the litter as often as they can.  I definitely don’t think there is a “right” number of children to have in a family.  I am certainly not making an argument to have a second child.  Frankly, it is harder to have more than one child whining, needing to go potty before we leave the house, needing their teeth brushed, multiple favorite books needing to be read before bedtime...and just needing…  Yet, I am confident in saying that when a sibling is added to the family, it is another person for the existing child to love and to have on their side, their team.  
Daily life for the older sibling is certainly changed.  At first, there is a crying baby that needs their diaper changed instead of reading a story, or some milk instead of playing outside right now.  It can be tough, but there is always a stuffed bunny or doll that needs feeding at the same time…and we can go for a walk when everybody has a full tummy.  That baby grows and soon becomes a playmate…a best friend for the older sibling.  When they live in the same house, how would they not become the best of friends (at least some / most of the time)?  The kind of friend that introduces you to other friends at the playground and hopefully someday the kind of friend that stick up for you at school. 
Myles is super excited about starting baseball again this spring.  One of his concerns as the season nears…does Jillian have a cheerleading outfit so that she can cheer for him again this year?  It becomes their reality.  There is another member in the family to love, just like they love their mom, dad, and dog.
Don’t get me wrong, my kids bicker, whine, lapse in their sharing skills, and drive each other nuts sometimes.  They are twenty-eight months apart…of course they will have their differences.  Yet, there must be a reason that the threat of separating them for a while to play alone typically works.  They ultimately love each other…a lot.  With Jillian approaching three, we certainly have not experienced all there is to experience in raising siblings.  I look forward to learning and growing with them as they go through their own journeys…side by side.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Hello Sunshine!

So we did What to Wear Wednesday once…  Hmmm…  No fashion advice today, but with spring on our doorstep this morning, we did run out and get Jillian a spring jacket.  Just one of those fun necessary things to do, right?  It’s not like we didn’t have time in between preschool, Wednesday Wigglers, playing at the park, and working on our two home projects going on right now (I can’t wait to show you!  Soon, soon, soon!).   There is always time for a quick shopping trip with my girl.
So, Jillian wanted a fashion show with her new coat on…so we took a few pictures.  What you can’t tell in these pictures…her jeggings are on backwards.  Pockets in the front, fly in the back.  Getting dressed in the morning is ALWAYS her job, “By Myself!”  We actually went all around town this morning and I didn’t even notice…until we got home.
Notice her hair is straight?  This is very exciting to her – we used a flat iron last night like Mommy does.
I’m still amazed at my negotiation skills in purchasing this gray coat with pink polka dots.  Not with the sales staff…with my daughter.  I’m so glad I could lean on the hot pink interior lining and pink polka dots.  If she had it her way, it would be all pink.  “I don’t really like gray, Mommy.”  Negotiation Skills, I tell ya!  Somehow, I got her to love it.
If you live in Michigan, hope you enjoyed our amazing summer day in the middle of March.  I could get used to this!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Perspectives on Life…From a Two Year Old.

An interview with Jillian Kate…
I just think these interviews are so fun.  I love that I have a marker in time that she answered these questions.  I plan to ask the kids questions over the years as they get older.  I think it will be fun to see how their answers evolve, preferences change, and personalities shine!
What is a pencil skirt?
A PINK skirt.
What is a noodle necklace?
It goes around your neck.
What is your favorite song?
Me and My Teddy. (Wonderful song from Barney...)
Who is in charge of our house?
You are!
What is mom’s job?
Taking care of me.
What is your favorite color?
Who is your best friend?
Mom.  Myles, “What about me?”  Yeah, brother Myles too.
How old are you?
How old do you want to be?
What is your favorite thing to do?
Doing all the things I do.
What do you think you will like about preschool next year?
Trying on all the hats! (She is referring to the pretend play area at school.)
What does the prettiest outfit look like?
A pink princess dress.
What is an interview?
I thought I was going to get a song!
What famous person would you like to meet?
Barney!  I would like to meet Barney!
What is Facebook?
A book with faces in it.
What is a blog?
I don’t know.
What is your favorite thing about your brother?
Taking this picture (to the right) and holding still like a princess.  Can I help you type?  I want to help.
What do you want to be when you grow up?
A princess.  Ummmm….No…....D-d-d-dora.
Where are you going to live when you are older?
I’m going to live inside my party.
Why are you going to go to college?
Mom, are you going to go to college with me?  Please?
What kind of car will you drive when you are older?
A pink car.
Who is the smartest person you know?
Me and Mom.
What was your favorite Christmas present?
My princess.
What kind of birthday party theme do you want to have (her birthday is April 24th)?
A birthday present party theme!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Confessions of a Recovering Sugar Lover

I love sweet things.  Candy, cookies, brownies, KEY LIME PIE, you name it.  If it has sugar in it, I probably love it.  Don’t leave out those other wonderful carbohydraty dishes like pasta, pizza, crackers, pretzels…yup…I love them all.  I’m one of those girls that would rather go ahead and eat that gorgeous piece of peanut butter pie and just run extra miles later that night.  It all balances out, right?
So…two Mondays ago, I was having a piece of cold pizza and I was enjoying every bite of it when the phone rang.  I answered it and found out from my doctor’s office that my blood-work proves I have a “sugar problem”.   I need to go on a diabetic diet.  As I hung up the phone in disbelief, Jillian walked up and asks if she can have a bite of my half-eaten piece of pizza.  “You can have the whole thing, hunny.”
I have never been a carb counter.  Calories, yes.  Carbs…never.  Well, actually that’s not true.  In my early twenties I tried Atkins.  I started on a Saturday morning.  I passed out in church on Sunday morning.  No, I wasn’t pregnant (which is what every church lady and nun assumed).  It was nothing some orange juice couldn’t cure, but that was the end of a carb-based diet for me.  I really had no desire to cut carbs out anyway.  Give me a bag of pretzels and I’ll be a happy girl.
So how the heck was I going to survive a diet that someone else was making me do that limited carbs?  Grrrrr.  It is one thing to diet for myself, but to have someone else tell me that I had to do it?!?  No, thank you.  My first phase was anger.  Why does my pancreas not work like everyone else’s?  Why do I have to make dinner for my family…and make something else for myself?  Why can’t I have that piece of cake that everyone else is having?  Certainly, there are worse things than adhering to a diet that is healthy for my body.  If it can’t regulate sugar, than I need to do it for myself.  But as that sugar crash occurred, anger and frustration came with it.
The first few days were hungry ones.  I hadn’t fully figured out what I could eat and I was attempting to get a grasp on it all.  I was crabby.  Short-tempered.  Grouchy.  Overall, probably pretty unpleasant.  I actually felt weak.  I didn’t feel I could complete all of my scheduled runs for the week.  I was in a slump.  To give an example, one night Ben said, “Could you go grab a handful of candy and eat it…or just go to bed.”  I was a mess.  An emotional mess.  How about tearing up at the thought that I couldn’t have a piece of Jillian’s birthday cake?  The mom has to have a piece, right?  Well, then.  I needed to get a grip…and some food that I can eat. 
By the first weekend, I felt like I had “recovered” from the sugar crash.  I was actually feeling better and I wasn’t craving the foods that everyone around me was eating.  I had found some go-to meals that are well within the dietary restrictions.  I was doing it.  I had lost a few pounds, so that was at least a benefit to adhering to the doctor’s orders.
I am coming up on the completion of the second week of my new dietary life.  I am still in denial, despite my doctor calling it a “permanent lifestyle change” this week.  “Are you telling me I can never have a piece of pizza again?”  She replied, “Well…it better be a whole grain crust.”  I didn’t dare ask about cake, cookies, or our family’s beloved scotcheroos.  As time goes on I still have hopes that I can moderate sugar, but not live in this world of constant monitoring.  We’ll see.  Only time will tell.  In the meantime, I raise my slimwich sandwich to myself.  I made it through the initial sugar crash…and avoided that peanut butter pie at work on Friday.  Hooray for miracles.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Kindergarten Round-Up

Kindergarten Round-Up: The night you realize how much your life (and your child’s) is about to change.  You realize your baby is about to leave the bubble you have put around him his whole life to enter the world of school….where sharing is key - germs, naughty words, books, and learning, of course.
Last night we went to Kindergarten Round-Up.  It was really well run and not nearly as big of a deal as I thought.  A pizza party kicked off the night.  Myles was jazzed.  It was hilarious to see him in action.  We had some friends there, so he knew a few kids.  Then, as his preschool class entered one at a time, he was thrilled.  It was as exciting as he could have ever imagined.  Friends, pizza, and KINDERGARTEN!!  He told me four times while we were there that he can’t wait to do homework.  Glad I have this in writing to read back to him someday.  Only a kindergartener would wish for homework.  He was able to go and play with his friends and complete an art project while the parents watched a presentation about the coming year.  I can’t believe how many times they said during the presentation, “We don’t expect you to be able to remember all of this.  We know it is a lot of information.”  I’ll remember, don’t worry.  We are the parents listening to what our kids will be experiencing next fall.  We are paying attention.
I guess I’m still in shock that we will be doing the whole school thing next year.  He is certainly ready, but how did it go so fast?  It is so cliché that every mom talks about how fast the young years go.  Sure, sure, sure.  Blah, blah, blah.  Yet, is it ever true.  Just yesterday we were dealing with middle of the night feedings… cutting his paci…potty training…starting preschool…and the list goes on.  This marks the end of those tiny years for him.  Kindergarten is the start of a whole new era in his life.  He will be a member of the class of 2025.  Whoa.  Weird.  We’ll be the parents of a school-aged child with a whole new set of challenges.  Hope we’re ready.
As we were “touring” the school bus they had parked in the parking lot, I was imagining him getting on the bus on the first day with his little backpack on, turning around to wave goodbye (when the time comes, I’ll let you know if he even bothered to turn around).  What a day that will be.  I remember crying on his first day of preschool.  We’ll see how I will fare this go around.  This year is a double whammy.  Jillian starts preschool and Myles starts kindergarten.  He has his mind set on riding the bus.  “That’s what you do for kindergarten, Mom.  Except on the first day, you can drive me that day.”  Well thanks, hunny.  I have my worries about the bus…most of the worst times in elementary school for me didn’t occur at school…they were on the bus.  Not to mention, little kindergarteners mixed with older kids…teaching him…things. 
I’m sure this next year will bring a great deal of learning for both of our kids…and both of us parents.  We are embarking on a new era of parenting in this house.  Wish us luck!  In the meantime, we will just enjoy this gorgeous weather we were lucky enough to have in Michigan today.
Awkward moment of our playtime outside:  Myles asking very loudly if he could say hello to the man collecting sticks in his yard, which he proceeded to do very sweetly…to the lady picking up sticks.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Insight into the Mind of a Five-Year-Old.

An Interview with Myles…

What is a pencil skirt?
I dunno.  Hmmm…  I don’t know what that is.  Is it something that pencils have on them?  Or is it something girls wear?
What is a noodle necklace?
A noodle necklace is a whole bunch of macaronis!
Who is in charge of our house?
Mommy and Daddy.  Nana when she is here just with me and Jillian, and Nannie and Opa, or anyone else that babysits.
What is mom’s job?
Your job is to tell me and Jillian what to play with me...and keep us good.
What do you wish Mommy would do differently?
I wish I could always do what I want.
What do you want to be when you grow up?
A fireman, policeman, doctor, and the owner of Michigan Tile. [Aim high, kid!]
Where will you go to college?
Michigan State.
Why are you going to go to college?
So I can find a girl to marry.
Describe the girl you think you will marry.
Hmm…I dunno.  I want her to have gold, long hair.  Maybe Lydia.  She likes Star Wars!  And... I love her.
Where are you going to live when you are older?
I think Chicago.  Because I’m going to have 100 kids.  Or maybe I’ll live in this house…
100 kids?  That’s a lot.  Why?
I want to ask Chicago to build a building for 100 kids and two grown-ups. 
What kind of car will you drive when you are older?
A Tornado.
What is a Tornado?
You know, like you drive.  (He means a Toyota.)
Because you drive a Camry...and it’s going to be blue just like yours.
Who is your best friend?
Mommy, Daddy, Wilson, and Jillian (except when she is screaming, then I don’t want her included in my interview).  That’s everyone.
What do you like about school?
Pretty much just playing.
What is the hardest thing you do at school?
The hardest…  Well..  Kind of I think… everything is easy at school.  Like only one thing which is doing all those papers.  That is really hard.  It’s so hard to get it all done.
What are you looking forward to in kindergarten?
Doing homework.  I’m going to play and learn there.
What do you think you will do for homework in high school?
High School…  I think I’ll have to write, write, and write a lot.
What are your talents?
My talent is math.  That’s my talent...playing baseball...playing the drums.
What is an interview?
An interview…something where people talk and someone asks you questions.  That is an interview.
What famous person would you like to meet?
Ummm...I think Bruce Wayne.  Batman.  Remember, Bruce Wayne is really just Batman.  Remember Mom?
What is Facebook?
Facebook.  I don’t even know what Facebook is.  I know that you can look at pictures on Facebook.
What is a blog?
A blog.  Like a block?  Like a blog entry?  I know what a blog entry is.  Well, a blog entry is something where you kinda look at pictures on the camera and take more pictures.  That’s all on that question.
What age are people considered mature?
Ummm.  Five.  Five years old.
Why are you mature?
Because I’m five.
What is your favorite thing about your sister?
Playing with her! 
What do you like to play with her?
Catch!  I like to play catch.  That’s all on that question.
What is your favorite color?
My favorite color is blue, green, orange, and yellow.  Those are all my favorite colors.
What is your favorite song?
Old MacDonald Had a Farm.
Who is the smartest person you know?
Me.  Because Nana says I’m smart.
What is your favorite memory?
What was your favorite Christmas present?
My favorite.  Ummm.  My Drumset.  Boom boom boom.  It’s so loud.
What is your worst memory?
I don’t’ remember any.  My worst memory is having to take off the ornaments off of our tree.
What is your favorite thing to do?
Play with my friends at school!!!

Alright mom, that’s the whole thing.  I’m tired of this interview.  Interviews are really hard.