Daily Affirmation

The best things in life are free.
The second best are very expensive.
- Coco Chanel

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Pass The Emergen-C

Getting back into the semblance of a routine after so many days off is hard.  I sit in my chair and work and work and work... and all I am really thinking about is getting gifts checked off my Christmas list.  Whether or not we'll need more lights for the tree.  Which cookies to bake this year.  So much so that last night, after a quick 2 hour snooze, I awoke at 12:30am and couldn't go back to sleep.  So annoying.  I tossed and turned, walked into the other room, checked out the window, walked back, tried to sleep, repeat.  All told I probably didn't sleep more than about 4 hours last night.  I was surprised that I functioned as well as I did today.
Wendy came over in the morning right on schedule and off we went with the bikes.  ELEVEN MILES today, folks!  That's a record.  We rode all the way down to what used to be the Anaheim Pond (and now I can't remember what it's called other than home of the Anaheim Ducks!) and Angel Stadium and back again.  Past all of the homeless people scrubbing up at the restroom, and past the ones still sleeping under the bridge.  One gave us a cheery wave.  But we were moving, man.  No time for pleasantries with hobos.  Maybe some morning we can bring them something... maybe...
Got back, showered (yes, I did shower right when I got back - can't let work suck me in first!) and then got busy plowing through the stack of work.  Had a couple of weird problems come up, but mostly it all went as it should.
L has had a cold the past few days.  He seems to be getting better so that's good, but I think that's part of what has been waking me/keeping me up all night: listening to him cough and try to breathe.  Painful.  So now today at around 4:30 I noticed my right ear getting a little bit sore.  *Please don't let me get sick...*
We had a quick dinner of tomato soup and cornbread and went out to Target to get Lexi the object of her desire: a Lalaloopsy doll.  I would never have picked this toy out. Never.  But there you are.  They want what they want.  So with that, all of the grandchildren are shopped for.  Major relief!  That just leaves the grown up kids, and my parents, and I think I know what direction I'm going there.  I can't say here because most of them read this.  I'll whisper it to you when I know they're all busy elsewhere.  Oh - and I still have L to shop for and he is really hard.  He says maybe some clothes, so that means he will point at things and I will buy them.  I've never been able to pick his clothes out - he's very fussy about how things fit.  I come from a dad who hiked for half a day with a peach pit in his shoe (true story) so you can pretty well deduce that I'm not that choosy.  But I did direct his attention to these little beauties that had miraculously gone on sale at Zappos.com, and they are on their way here to my open arms (and feet) as we speak.

I'm easy to shop for - possibly because there are so many things for me to love.  I actually saw this picture of Hayden in this impossibly cute hat, and I developed a huge yen for an owl hat, too.  It would be so much fun to wear - perhaps not age appropriate, but very very fun.

But we won't dwell on the objects of my lust, because that doesn't say Christmas, does it?  I am trying to round up the things on my list that my family will weep in gratitude over - unable to believe that I was able to capture their desires so perfectly.  Well, that is my hope.  I'll have to let you know how it all turns out, but I really do love buying gifts for people.  I know I will love having those new boots, but I love even more handing out everyone else's gifts and playing Santa Claus.  The biggest tragedy is that most of them are being shipped out of state, so I won't get to watch them being opened.  *SIGH*  But I am starting to get the definite glow and glimmer of the Christmas spirit.  Bring on the carols (actually I HAVE brought them on - Pandora Christmas Eve station for the past two days!) and let's brew up some wassail.  Trim the tree and hang the lights!
But right now, my ear is still hurting.  So it's off for some Advil, some Emergen-C and my jammies.  Hopefully I'll be able to sleep my 8 hours tonight.  Because I really really cannot get sick, and I need to get rid of the bags under my eyes.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Thanksgiving 2011 Wrap-up

Thanksgiving Day was a festive table setting and sparkly accessories

Candles glowing softly

And plenty of food and drink.

Add in our special guests Tara (Ashley's friend, and now OUR friend)

Ashley... and

Scott (who insisted on goofy pictures/would NOT be serious, so he gets them both added here)

There was also my camera-shy Aunt Margie.  She gets a special pass on the non-photo because 
she let me bully her into buying some new clothes online at Chico's - they were/are having
a killer sale and she hasn't bought anything for herself in about a hundred years.  So she
had her first fish taco with us last weekend, and now her first online purchase.  I am merciless in my pushiness.  Tara, Ashley and I herded her upstairs after dinner and wouldn't let her have any pie 
until she let us help her place an order.  Yay for great sales and shopping from home!

The day after Thanksgiving I got to play with this beautiful dolly, Miss Skylee:

She was patient and mellow while Mema played with the camera

We went through many moods and expressions

But her expression always came back to a reflection of happy, contented mellowness.
Not since her daddy have I seen a baby this easy.  She is a joy.

Thanksgiving this year was a day of reflection.  It didn't all go how I thought it would.  There were moments of angst and we rallied together.  I was proud of my family - they are so dear to me.  They are everything.  And the food was good, the guests at the feast were appreciative, and everyone who wanted them went home with leftovers.  (That was pretty much everyone.)  A good day overall.

But I didn't put up our Christmas tree yet.
My heart couldn't take anymore holiday excitement.

Next weekend the merriment continues...  we will deck the halls.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving - Let The Joy Begin!

OK, I admit it: I've been listening to Christmas music all day today.  It's lifting my mood, and it's also transporting me to that special shiny, tinsel-y, warm, family lovin' place that I so need to be in to be able to break out the boughs of holly and create the Christmas season all over again.  It's sparked a bit of good will inside my black heart, is what it's done.  A desire to make pumpkin cheesecake, wrap gifts, and read the Christmas story in front of a glowing fireplace.
But first, Thanksgiving.  I was not in a Thanksgiving frame of mind.  To be honest, it was just making me tired.  But last night we had a family time that kind of changed it for me.  Charged my mental batteries.  Not that I'm not still physically tired - I went to bed last night so tired and achey I was afraid I might have the flu.  But an Advil/Excedrin cocktail does not cure the flu in 30 minutes so I think I was just on my feet and running more than I'd been used to.  Rheumatoid arthritis sucks.  But I digress.
My oldest son Rex and his wife and family are in town this week from Denver - an unexpected surprise.  And they came over yesterday to have dinner and spend some time.  Scott and Ashley came over after work too.  We decided to break out the panini press and make grilled sandwiches, so 5 year old Lexi and I went to the store for provisions.  We took the Miata.  I don't think Lexi had ever been in such a tiny car before.  When I told her we could drive it with the top down in the summer, her brown eyes got big.  We picked up roast beef, turkey, ham, cheeses of every kind, and a couple of different loaves of artisan bread.  Oh - and a toy for her and a toy for Matthew.   I'm a sucker for cute kids, what can I say?
At the height of the evening it was pandemonium in our little house.  So much conversation, so many grilled sandwiches, numerous cups of milk to be filled, hungry Skylee to be fed, and freshly baked pumpkin bread to be eaten.
After dinner, the big kids sat and visited while L plied the little ones with leftover Halloween candy (I wish I had a picture of L and Matthew sharing a box of Nerds and conversation... priceless.)  Lexi and I broke out the fairy castle and carriage, and got out other toys for Matt.  I was just getting Matthew and Lexi settled down watching The Little Mermaid - one on my little couch with his blankie and the other snuggled in the big bean bag chair - when Rex came in to tell them it was time to go.  Too soon!
The whole evening was hectic, loud, and in a constant state of movement.  It was joyous and lovely.  Without going into detail, it was the first evening in a long, long time that brought back memories of how much fun we all used to have together when the kids were younger.  Even L was in the thick of it.  It was the best Christmas gift I could ever have received.  The only thing missing was Katie and her family - and that's a big thing, but some things can't be helped.  Maybe one of these years...
I'd purchased a new camera lens from Katie while we were in Massachusetts last month.  I broke it out yesterday and gave it a test drive.  I've got a lot to learn about using it, but I had some fun.
So in the spirit of the holiday season, may I wish you all a safe, joyous and blessed holiday season.

May your souls be filled with heaven's light

May your days be blessed with life's bounty

And some sparkly things that glitter and shine

Quiet reflection of beauty and blessings received

And a sure knowledge of, and gratitude for,
the love our Heavenly Father has for us that shines in the darkest night.

And may we all witness the true spirit of love and hope shining in the eyes of a child.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Countdown To The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

This has been one of those Saturdays that has flown by at high speed.  L and I had set aside the morning to go pick up a console cabinet we'd ordered for my aunt at Sears, trying to save her the $75 delivery charge.  When we ordered it, we pictured it being a complete piece of furniture, save for pushing pegs in and setting the shelves on them, as the description said "No tools needed for assembly."  Well, they spoke the truth, but I'm glad we didn't pay anyone to deliver the absolutely flat box of wooden panels that we picked up.  Everything either folded or fit together nicely without needing screwdrivers or anything, but we were a little freaked out when we first looked at the box.  I have to say, though, that Sears gave us a beautiful product that, once assembled (and it was pretty easy) looked like a piece of fine furniture.  My aunt was thrilled.  It looked beautiful in the room and cleaned up a spot that had a million cords from the TV, DVR, modem, cable box, etc. all snaking in a big mess on the floor.  The cabinet hid all of that and gave it such a clean look.  Love it!
Our service project over, we took her across the street to Rubio's for the first fish taco of her 77 years.  She opened it up, stared at it, and said "It doesn't look very good."  Just eat it, we urged her.  I KNOW fish in a taco doesn't sound good, but you will love it.  And she did.  A big smile went across her face as she took the first bite.  Yay - another Rubio's fish taco fan!
The sky was starting to look ominous and a cold wind was picking up.  Target or bike ride?  We dropped Margie off back home and decided to get in the bike ride before it started to rain.  I'm proud to say that we went a hard 10 miles.  The wind blew hard against us the entire first five miles.  There was a point about a mile short of the goal where I thought I might quit, but I somehow found the fortitude to keep going.  It's amazing what a difference a little wind can make.  I was a little whiney but L couldn't hear me.  At the five mile mark there's a little park of sorts with restrooms and it's become a sort of camp for homeless people.  We stopped for a few minutes to catch our breath, and I felt lucky to be there to just have a breather.  Those people were going to be there for a long cold night.  As we started to pedal off, one man raised his hand to me and gave a cheery wave.  I loved that - in spite of everything he still wasn't beaten.
The ride back was much less painful.  Wind at our backs, the pace wasn't quite so labored.  The air was cold, but we were back at the starting point soon enough.  Privately I was so glad to be done, but proud that we'd toughed it out.  I need to remember that the wind picks up in the afternoon - morning would be a much better time to go.  L isn't one for riding side by side chatting (like Wendy and I like to do) so it really wouldn't matter if the trail was crowded.  Next weekend we'll have to roust our derrieres out of the house earlier so we can cycle wind free.
Got home, unloaded the bikes, and it was off to Target for a multitude of random items.  I always want to get sidetracked in there, but L pretty much keeps me to task.  It's just so hard for me to walk by cute little Santa dishes in home goods and tiny tutus in the baby department.  I want to see what DVDs are on sale.  It's all hopelessly, endlessly fascinating, but when you're with L there is none of that.  He is all business, and the less time spent looking, the less money is spent.  That is not my philosophy of choice at all.  So I've learned to have a mental list before I go and be very quick because he gets cranky if I start meandering too much.
Back home.  L down in the garage crafting a step stool to help my aunt get in and out of bed without falling.  The mattress is a little high for her, and her legs are a little on the rickety side.  So the little box step will help keep her from falling at night.  We hope.  When that's complete, he's going to build her a tall bookcase to fit in a corner of her room so she can bring in all of her beloved books.  They are still out at the house she shared with my grandmother and having them in her new surroundings will help make it cozy and homey.  It's my goal to see her happier and healthier this next year, and I'm so lucky to have a husband who is so sweet and loving.  He's been so tender and sweet to my aunt, and seems to be able to reach through her depression and grief at losing her mother in a way the rest of us can't.  So a nice back rub and foot rub for him tonight - if I can pry his Precious (iPhone) out of his hand, anyway.
The countdown is on for Thanksgiving.  The Denver bunch is down for an unexpected trip.  Sadly there was a funeral they had to attend for a member of Ronna's family, but I can't help being excited about seeing them this next week.  I hear that Skylee's eyes have become a very clear blue.  I will do my best to take some pictures of all of them because we'll probably not see them for Christmas.  And then Andrew arrives Wednesday evening for a short Thanksgiving visit.  It's all a whirlwind!
I did want to share two new pictures of Hayden and Mia with you.  It was Hayden's 2nd birthday recently and here she is wearing her birthday crown:

And then there's Mia.  She has been harder to catch these days, but last week she let her mom snap some of her and this one is absolutely frame-worthy:

And lastly, I wanted to give a shout out for a blogging friend I've come to really enjoy: Robert Brault.  If you look on my side bar of blog lists, you'll see the link for his.  The man is genius at writing clever and/or pithy quotes.  The kind that make you smile to yourself, laugh outright, or just get you thinking.  Anyway, I adore his work.  And luckily, just in time for Christmas gift giving, he's come out with a calendar featuring some gorgeous pictures and his amazing quotes for each month.  And who couldn't use a calendar to scribble all of their appointments on?  But wait - there's MORE: notecards.  Beautiful, quote-y note cards.  And we all have someone on our list who would love those.  My suggestion is that you give the website a peek here   You'll recognize his most famous quote immediately and you can view thumbnails of the notecards and calendar pages.  You'll thank me for this - really, you will.  I would not steer you wrong.
So that's it from our camp.  I have a feeling that weekends from here on out are going to be just like this - crazy busy with all kinds of things on the To Do List that multiply like rabbits.  The holidays are here, my friends - like it or not.  Mostly I like it, but I have moments of being completely overwhelmed.  I'll just have to keep my rhythm going by listening to music I love and yes - that even involves cranking on the Christmas tune-age to get me in the mood for decking the halls and making it a wonderland.  *sigh*  I'll feel more like it tomorrow after a good night's rest, right?  Because I've got to be honest: that 10 miles on the bike today just beat me up.  So tonight's Rx is a simple dinner, a hot shower, make sure L gets his rub, and then cuddle up under warm covers!  Sweet dreams, all.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Mishmash Ramblings

I was talking to a friend today and she mentioned something about Thanksgiving.  Next week.  WHAT??!??  Next WEEK??!?  I mean, I knew what the date was, and of course it would follow that Thanksgiving would be next week, but for some reason it kind of snuck up on me.
I didn't have a chance today to pull out recipes and start making that big bad grocery list, but tomorrow I really need to start.  Luckily, we are only going to be six people for dinner, so that takes a lot of the complications out of the whole situation.
I feel I've been a bad, bad blogger.  Work has stepped up quite a bit this week.  Good for my paycheck.  Bad for getting anything else done.  When the entire day is spent in front of a computer screen, it doesn't make for compelling writing.  But I've been keeping up on all of you.  Doing my due diligence and reading.  Just no writing, so I hope you're in a forgiving frame of mind.
And I've been taking notes on HGTV and Food TV and yes, even the Today Show.  The other day they were showing table settings - easy things to do to make your Thanksgiving or holiday table fabulous.  Did anyone else see that segment?  One idea was to take little pumpkins and spray them white, slice a little slit in the top and VOILA! - place card holders.  Well, it got my juices flowing, is what it did.  And these days, the juices don't flow quite as... well... juicily, so I was excited at the inspiration.  OR - I may take those same little pumpkins and spray them gold and glitter them.  I'm excited just thinking about it.
But whatever I ultimately decide to do, I need to start taking stock of what I have, write down some ideas, and make some plans.  I haven't had a small crowd for dinner since probably last Thanksgiving so I'm looking forward to it.  Starting to stretch my muscles and work up my endurance for the Great Day Of Cooking.  The weather has been crisp and cool - perfect for a holiday feast.
I've been riding my bike on a pretty regular basis.  I have a friend who is the perfect biking buddy. We've worked our way up to 10 miles already!  I came home with sore knees today and was tired afterwards, but -  10 MILES!!  I was stoked.
In other news, I sat around in my nasty exercise clothes and worked until 4pm when I finally took a shower.  Sadly, now you know, dear friends, what a pig I can be.  But no one was home, and the workload kept calling me.  Is that too much information?  Can we still be friends?  Because I can promise you if I'd had somewhere to be I would have cleaned up.  Immediately.  My standards may be low, but I do have some.
Tomorrow is soon enough to start making lists and sharpening details.  Tonight I'm enjoying listening to a little Neil Young - "Cowgirl In The Sand," "Long May You Run," "Cinnamon Girl."  Brings back the wayward days of my youth which, come to think of it, weren't all that wayward.  And if you know different, just keep it to yourself.  Because right now, it's all just a sweet romantic memory and I'd like to keep it that way.  Old friends and confidants who will forever be some of the sweetest memories ever in my somewhat selective mind.

"We found things to do in stormy weather. Long may you run." - Neil Young

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Wedding Photos By Popular Demand

OK - for all of you out there who chastised me for not taking pictures at the wedding last week, here are some I've managed to gather up.  Or, to be perfectly honest, I stole them off of L's ex-wife's Facebook page.  That's right - we're Facebook friends, me and the sister-wife.  (Don't tell L that I call her that....)  I tend to be somewhat lackadaisical about things like pictures and documenting big days, but she is a force to contend with.  Nothing stops her, and so I was happy she didn't let me down in this case either.  These pictures came from a variety of cameras and amateur photographers, so be prepared beforehand for a wide range of image quality.  But at least you'll have an idea of what things looked like.  Here we go:

The dress hanging in the window of the bridal suite

The infamous photo shoot in the freezing rain - but Autumn remained cheerful!

Gettin' married!

More ceremony.  But look  - there I am on the right in my gold jacket!

I wanted you to see the pretty veil and dress from the back.  Autumn's mom made the veil.

At some point during the reception, there was picture taking up on the mezzanine of the bookstore.

All of the handsome groomsmen - don't have a picture of the ladies - sorry...

Tim giving tribute to Autumn.  Look at the transformation of the bookstore!

Another shot of the reception setup

Part of the dessert were jars of home baked cookies made by the bridesmaids

Silly pictures up on the mezzanine

So there you have it.  That's how they do weddings in the Big Apple.  You'll have to be content with grainy amateur shots until we get the real deal.  But you can see what a sweet little wedding it was, and isn't her dress GORGEOUS?  (It doesn't hurt to be about a size 1, either...)  Autumn is so photogenic she even looked good standing in the freezing rain outside.   The happy couple is now on their honeymoon in Thailand, and when they return, I'm sure there will be some equally amazing pictures.  Thanks to my sister-wife for bailing me out on these pictures - she does come in handy on certain occasions.  And believe it or not, we do have a good time when we're together for family occasions.  I like her, and she likes me.  I just don't want her to move in.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Winter In The City - and Other Tales of Near Disaster

We are back from our adventure - our foray east to New York City and Worcester, MA.  We arrived without incident at La Guardia airport last Thursday evening - October 27th.  It was raining hard- an omen of things to come - as we caught the shuttle to our hotel out in the suburb of Astoria.  It was nice to be out of the noise and crowds of the city proper, but here's a little advice: it's a pain to get back and forth when you're staying so far out of the city so you have to weigh the good deal you're getting on your hotel with the extra expense of getting back and forth.
View of NYC from our hotel room

I guess in our case it was worth it, but barely.  Question: whatever happened to cab and town car drivers who knew the city like the back of their hand?  Every driver we engaged expected us to give them cross streets and specific location info.  ????  Do I live here?  Isn't that what they're supposed to know?  In addition, the first cab we got into on Friday afternoon was driven by an angry Indian man.  He ranted and raved about rich people and how unfair it all was that they had many cars and luxuries while so many people were suffering.  We were afraid to say anything for fear he would toss us out of the cab.  We were on our way to the 9/11 Memorial, which is worth reserving a time slot and standing in line for.  It's amazing and beautiful and very solemn.  We stayed there for quite awhile just taking it all in.
One of the two fountain pools

The names of the fallen are engraved all the way around each pool.  Such a beautiful tribute.

It was a beautiful, crisp blue-skied afternoon, and we tried to walk a bit towards the wedding rehearsal location.  L's GPS wasn't working very well down in the canyon of tall buildings and it was hard to get a reading on where to go so we gave up and got in a cab.  Again, the driver had no idea where to go.  What is going on?  Between L's GPS and the driver figuring it out we got to the used bookstore where the rehearsal and wedding were going to take place.

It was very used book store-ish and we were wondering how it was all going to come together, but the staff seemed to have it together.  We rehearsed our placement in the ceremony and then it was off to dinner!  Again - the cab dilemma and at the dinner hour it was about 30 minutes out in the cold before we finally caught one.  I don't know how people who live there do it.  Well, they do the subway, but in this case, there was no convenient subway location.  The city experience that had seemed so fun when we were there before in the early summer months, was starting to lose it's allure in the cold that had the feeling of a storm approaching.
At the restaurant we were a large group with everyone's significant other, and it was loud and noisy and joyful.  Tim and Autumn have a really nice bunch of friends, and it was a pleasure to meet them.  A couple of Tim's California friends had flown out for the occasion, and it was great to catch up with them also.  We ate, stayed warm, and celebrated the upcoming wedding and the happy couple.  But then we had to catch another cab back to Astoria - GAH!  As we got out of the taxi we could smell the storm coming in on the wind.

We woke up on Saturday morning to a snowstorm with the biggest, fattest snowflakes I'd ever seen.  yay...  As we got dressed - me in a little eggplant jersey number that was summer weight with the lightweight jacket over it - I was already shivering.  I carried the gold sandals and instead wore a pair of black flats that seemed more practical to maneuver snowy sidewalks in.  If I'd had half a brain I'd have just thrown on the Ugg boots I'd brought.  But no...  L had arranged to have a town car pick us up, and when it got there we walked out to it...and I literally had to leap a foot from the curb, over icy slush, and into the car.  I'm sure I flashed the driver a great view up my dress as I made the leap (he didn't get out to open the door or help us in.  Sweet...) but by that point I didn't even care anymore.  We were to meet at the Tribeca Hotel to take pictures (thankfully not at a park which was the original location) and luckily it was not as snowy in the city.  But it was raining really hard.  Long story short, we all arrived, took pictures inside, and then the photographer herded us outside because she "didn't like the light" inside.  What the???!?  It was at that point I got grumpy.  I didn't want to stand outside freezing.  But the bride was so happy and cheerful and lovely that I couldn't stay crabby.  She wasn't about to let anything ruin her happy mood on her day and it was infectious.  We all caught cabs again (much easier when the hotel doorman is helping out) and arrived at the bookstore.  Let the festivities begin!
The ceremony was lovely, the bookstore was absolutely transformed with beautiful lighting and softly lit tables.  The place cards were names printed on library cards.  It was so cute and clever.  I feel bad that we didn't get any good pictures of the reception or ceremony.  When/if we get some professional images I'll have to share some then.  But it was a lively crowd.  Autumn is a stage actress and a lot of their friends are involved in theatre so it was a crowd of some of the best looking people I've ever seen, starting with Autumn and Tim.  We caught a couple of shots of them dancing and that's it.

I wish we'd gotten a shot of the dress, but L was manning the camera at this point.  It wouldn't have occurred
to him.  But it was so beautiful and floaty.  A work of art.

And a shot of Andrew gearing up for his best man's toast - he did a great job.  It was both funny and sweet.

The reception was lively until the very end - 12 midnight.  L and I managed to stumble out and locate a cab - no small feat at that hour.  We made it back to our hotel in one piece and fell into bed, ready to pack up and leave the next day to Boston.
We were hoping to get there, and settle into our hotel near where Katie lives by about 7:30 or 8:00 that night.  Wishful thinking.  There was a huge October storm, remember?  Every flight was running late, delayed by the stacked up flights that hadn't been able to make it in the day before.  So we had to sit in the wretched Newark airport (avoid it at all costs) waiting and waiting.  It was almost 11:00 before we were able to get to our hotel that night.  I spoke with Katie, and of course Mia had been up waiting and waiting for us to get there.  The storm had knocked out their power Sunday morning and it was cold.  I promised to be up bright and early, ready to go to breakfast with them.  We were all hoping the power would go back on during the night.
No such luck.  Halloween dawned with no power for thousands of people, including Katie and her family.  There were trees and wires down everywhere, with crews scrambling to get the power restored. L isn't much for breakfast, so I had him drop me off at the I-Hop we'd seen driving into Worcester and I sat and waited for Katie and crew.  So many people there for a Monday, and it was soon apparent that everyone had cold houses and just wanted to go somewhere warm for a hot breakfast.  Pumpkin pancakes were just the thing and it was so good to have breakfast with the little girlies and Katie and Zach.  Back to Katie's, where she kept apologizing for wet things hanging everywhere - no dryer.  L asked Mia what Mema had brought her.  "Oh... she didn't bring you anything?  Well, Papa did," as he handed her a dollar.  Score one for Papa.
We went outside and played a little bit in the snow, throwing snowballs and sending the girls down a hilly slope on a coaster.
Mia heaving a snowball at me

Finding the perfect spot to slide down

Hayden ready to shove off

It was Halloween, and we'd been so excited to take the little girls trick or treating.  Mia asked L if he'd brought his costume.  L said "What costume?"  Mia said, "Mema said  you were going to be a grumpy old troll!"  Hmmm... I'd forgotten I'd said that in a fit of wittiness a couple of weeks earlier.  Mia hadn't forgotten though, and was looking forward to that grumpy old troll costume.  L threw me a look.  Score one for Mema.  And note to self: be more careful what I say to small children.
Because of the damage from the storm, the cold, and the ice, the city of Worcester "cancelled" or postponed Halloween.  WHAT?  So no neighborhood trick or treating.  We'd heard that the mall in Auburn was going to have candy for the kids so we set off for there with the kids.  When we arrived, Mia was holding onto L's hand, just bouncing up and down.  She looked up at him and said "Papa, I'm just so excited!"
Rapunzel skipping with excitement, and Papa

When we entered the mall there were hundreds of kids.  Hundreds.  Most of the stores were already out of candy, but Mia and Hayden plugged along, holding out their candy containers where they could.

Our China Doll looking for treats...

            ...and getting them from Jerry Garcia at Macys...

At one point there was a large group of kids joining in a dance contest and Mia wanted to try.  I was impressed that she was so adamant about sticking with it.  She followed along as best she could until she was finally eliminated. 

Little Rapunzel, shaking her tail feathers...

Time to eat.  We grabbed some fast food in the food court.  Katie was bitterly disappointed - she had been looking forward to Halloween for weeks, and had pictured a much different night.  She was having a hard time so far away from everything familiar, and now everything was in chaos due to the storm.  I had to remind her that in Mia's mind, she HAD gone trick or treating.  She doesn't have the memories of whole neighborhoods of kids going door to door filling up pillowcases with candy.  She had a few pieces, and she was happy and excited.  But I know the feeling of having a vision of how things should go, and having it all blow up in your face.  Not fun.  I think that's what was hardest for me: seeing MY girl having a hard time.  The little girls were perfectly happy.
We asked Mia if she'd like to spend the night with Mema and Papa at the hotel.  She didn't even hesitate, and was very excited.  She thought she would be sleeping on the floor, so it was fun to see her eyes get round like saucers when we unfolded the sleeper sofa in the room.  A whole big bed all to herself!  And one tired, happy little girl quickly went to sleep.  At least one of them was warm as toast that night.
Mia snuggling with her "kiki" - or, as I like to call it "that nasty old blanket."  Mia will tell you that she 
knows her kiki is gross looking, but that it's "so soft."  Fair enough...

On Tuesday, L set out for Boston.  He'd planned a walking tour through Boston (he'd never been there before) and the little girls weren't going to be good for that.  Katie, the girls, and I set out for Target, and then had lunch at Ruby Tuesday.  It was good to see Katie enjoy a good hot lunch of tilapia and veggies after spending another night in a cold house.  I inquired at our hotel to see if I could get them a room, but everything was sold out.  Everyone else wanted out of their cold houses too.  I think that was the worst day for me - knowing she was going to go back to that freezing house, and there wasn't much I could do to help except keep Mia overnight again.  I kept hoping that the power would go back on. 
Hayden kicking it in the hotel room, wearing her MiaMoo jewels (Katie's line of children's necklaces)

Everyone stayed with us at the hotel until Zach got off of work.  We swam in the pool (sooooo nicely warm!), and visited, and let Katie and Hayden have a little nap.  When L got back from Boston he'd brought a little Spongebob Squarepants backpack for Mia, but Hayden quickly commandeered it.  Finally, sometime between 10:30 and 11:00 Katie, Zach, and Hayden set out for their icy home, hoping the power would be on.  And sure enough, a few minutes later, Katie called saying that the power had come back on.  As they approached their front door, they saw the lights on, but wait... they also heard the smoke alarms saying "Evacuate!  Evacuate!"  They got inside, and, after searching frantically through the house, they discovered that a wire in the furnace had sparked a fire.  They had gotten home JUST in time to avoid a real tragedy.  Lucky, yet unlucky.  Another cold night in the house before they got a new furnace the next day, and yet they still had a roof over their heads.
When we left, I had the satisfaction of seeing the new furnace being installed and life getting back to normal.  I breathed a sigh of relief.  And I cried when I hugged my girl goodbye.  I miss being around her so much - and these days when we're together we're dealing with the demands of little girls.  No time for "our" time.  And that's what I miss the most.
When I was in Denver I snapped so many good pictures.  Those little ones loved having their pictures taken.  But Mia and Hayden have a mom who is always taking their pictures, and they weren't having it with me and my camera.  So I got very few decent ones.  So I'll share some that Katie took - she's young and quick, and knows her camera.  But they capture the essence of what I was so looking forward to seeing.  Enjoy.

Yes, 2 year old Hayden is happy enough.  But let me tell you: her favorite word is NO.  She says it before 
she even knows what you want.  But she says it cheerfully.

The cutest little snow fairy ever... brrrrrr!

All in all it was a great trip.  Not what we expected or even sort of planned on.  But fun in it's own way, and so wonderful to be with people big and small that I love so much.  The area they live in, Worcester, is beautiful.  It's very cold in the winter, and that will take Katie some getting used to.  But it's lovely.  L and I scouted around on our way back to Boston and saw beautiful neighborhoods nestled around lakes and surrounded by woods.  Beautiful.  But in the winter?  Oh yeah, baby - it's COLD!

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