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Moving

Yesterday, Ash and I stood together and stared at the hall closet. We exchanged a couple of sentences and walked away. It was the first day in two weeks that we haven’t packed at least one box. Oh, didn’t I tell you that we are moving?

So, we are moving. I mentioned this in I’m Thankful: Day 2. Over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, we were able to come to an agreement and the buyers signed off on the inspection. We made a plan that weekend, and a spreadsheet because we are that kind of people, to plan our packing and moving. Every single day since, we have packed something. In the past when we have moved, we have been rushed to get it done and not been able to really purge and organize along the way. This time we are serious about not taking excess with us. We have thrown away or recycled so much and we have a large pile of items to be donated to various causes. It has been both exhausting and exhilarating to minimize the stuff in our lives.

As we approach the next week and the actual moving, I’m feeling pretty good about how well we have navigated through this process so far, especially given the time of year and the others happenings in our lives. But, it is getting old and it isn’t over yet. If all goes well we will be moved into our new place one week from today. We may not be unpacked but if things go as planned, everything will be there and not here.

That is just about all I have to say about moving at this point but here are some photos from the past couple of weeks that don’t include boxes.

He is serious about his gingerbread house decorating
She thinks this is her very own advent calendar
At preschool in the mud (pretty much an everyday occurrence)

I’m Thankful: Day 6 and 7

This is Day 6 and 7 of seven days of posting. You can read Day 1Day 2Day 3Day 4, and Day 5 also or not. Basically, the goal is to share current events along with things that I’m thankful for.

Day 6 and 7:

Preparing a “Thanksgiving dinner” is a lot. That is my excuse for posting day 6 and day 7 together. It’s not a very good excuse because it is 4 p.m. and we have cooked, eaten, and cleaned up. I am at heart a ‘southern woman’ when it comes to preparing food and cleaning up a big kitchen mess. The rest of the family went to pick out a tree for our holiday decorations after dinner (a.k.a. a 2 p.m. meal) and A and I stayed behind and cleaned up the whole feast of pots and pans and dirty plates, silverware (actual silver) and carcass. We got the job done quickly and after A said to me, “I had fun cleaning with you, Mama.” Oh my.

This lovely but cold morning, Ash and I started with a little tradition of our own. We went to Cumberland Farms to get a hot beverage and the paper (containing Black Friday adds). We returned in time to take the breakfast casserole out of the oven. We ate and headed to the living room for parade watching. Ash and I looked at the adds together. This day is about tradition and eating for our family.

Breakfasting
A plate from our table

Today our table was full with turkey, mashed potatoes, mac n’ cheese (two ways), mushrooms, Brussels spouts, gravy, cranberry sauce, and stuffing. But, it was also full of family and love and traditions, all of which I’m most thankful for on this day.

I’m Thankful: Day 5

This is Day 5 of seven days of posting. You can read Day 1Day 2Day 3, and Day 4 also or not. Basically, the goal is to share current events along with things that I’m thankful for.

Day 5: My kids are siblings and friends

Our schedule lately has been off and if you are a person that has kids or a person that knows anything about how kids work, you know what that means. Lots of bitching and moaning (mostly from me), and lots of squabbles and screaming. Disagreements turn into tears. The word “no” has been said some number of times.

Tonight I spent extra time during our bedtime routine with each kid. It is easy for the focus to shift away from the kids when there is so much else going on but that little extra time seems to mean a lot. During each kid’s bath, I spent time playing with the other kid.

A and I played legos (obvs). I built a car with arms to prevent it from rolling over during our high intensity races. We lined up all of the guys and decided which guys were good guys and which guys were bad guys. A likes the bad guys better. He is super into bad guys. We also looked at his most recent lego set, SUV and camper (which is cool because it comes with a grill and weenies and a dog with dog bones).

J and I played caregiver. We found all of the dolls and stuffies and made them beds and blankets. Some of them we had to rock to sleep or give bottles. There were also some big brothers that helped take care of the little babies. We had no less than seven beds and many more babies to care for. We had to turn down the lights and talk quietly.

I cringe at the gender divide but that is not what we have taught our children, that is who they are. They are just different people. They handle their emotions differently, they interact with other children differently, they have different interests and different preferences.

At home they sleep in separate rooms but when we are Grandma and Papa-U’s house they share a room. Every night they stay up and play and giggle and talk excitedly together. It is easy to sit and listen to them playing and be frustrated that they aren’t asleep yet or think about how this will affect their behavior tomorrow. But, not tonight. Tonight I am thankful that my kids get along. I am thankful that they play together and learn from each other. I am thankful that they are such good friends.

I’m Thankful: Day 4

This is Day 4 of seven days of posting. You can read Day 1Day 2, and Day 3 also or not. Basically, the goal is to share current events along with things that I’m thankful for.

Day 4: All six of us

Tonight we had dinner as a family, all six of us. Then after dinner, we all sat down and played a game. We were all there, all six of us. This is relevant because of the following…

About 10 days ago, I went with my in-laws to the University of Vermont Medical Center for a pre-op appointment for a hemicolectomy, the first step in the treatment of colon cancer for my MIL. She was diagnosed about a month ago after experiencing some shortness of breath on exertion which lead to blood tests which showed anemia which lead to concerns of bleeding which lead to a colonoscopy… And so there we were. We were told that she would have the surgery and that she would be in the hospital for 3-5 days after surgery depending on how well she did. When we found out that the surgery would be the Friday before Thanksgiving, we were expecting her to be in the hospital until at least Monday (that is today) and likely longer.

So, she had her surgery on Friday and it ended up being later than we thought. The surgeon came out to talk to us after 6pm on Friday evening. Less than 48 hours later, she was home, eating dinner, and hanging with all of us. Basically, she is recovering like a rock star.

Generally, I’m pretty chill. I’m comfortable in hospitals and around medical professionals. I even enjoy learning about the newest procedures and interesting medical tidbits. But, if you had asked me last week or sometime in the past month how I felt about her having this surgery, it would have been inaccurate to say that I wasn’t stressed about it. But, now I’m relieved. I’m relieved that the surgery went well and the recovery has been smooth thus far. So, sitting down for dinner and a game as a family of six may not seem like a big deal but this evening I’m incredibly thankful for it.

I’m Thankful: Day 3

This is Day 3 of seven days of posting. You can read Day 1 and Day 2 also or not. Basically, the goal is to share current events along with things that I’m thankful for.

Day 3: I can make a difference

If you don’t already know, I work in State government. When people ask me what I do, I usually just say, “I work for the State.” I’m intentionally vague about what I do for a couple of reasons. One, what I do typically incites a lot of questions that I either don’t want to answer or cannot answer for privacy reasons. Two, we (and by we I mean my department, division, co-workers) get a lot of bad press and it is sometimes uncomfortable to be very specific about what I do.

Lately, the media has been wrecked by negative news stories about the care that individuals are getting in our system. It has been really getting me down because you never read in the paper about how great we are doing, not because we are never doing great things but because no one wants to read about that. I am a part of a relatively small team that is responsible for a lot. Every single person on our team is committed to ensuring that individuals in our system are getting the best care possible. We are competent, caring, and compassionate people (otherwise we wouldn’t be doing the work that we do). There are of course challenges. Money is always one. Logistics can be an issue. We deal with some challenging people and challenging environments but mostly we are assessing and improving care.

This media issue won’t last forever but sometimes it is hard to manage. This week I am focusing on the good. I work with some fantastic people who care a lot about the quality of care that our individuals are getting. Many, many people are better off because of the work that we do. Today I am thankful for my co-workers and I am thankful to have a job where I can use my skills to make a difference for others.

Heading into work…

I’m Thankful: Day 2

This is Day 2 of seven days of posting. You can read Day 1 also or not. Basically, the goal is to share current events along with things that I’m thankful for.

Day 2: Our house is still under contract

The day after the vomiting incident, I was home with the kids trying to keep them separate. It happened to also be the day that a person was coming to our house to check on the three (not one, not two, but three heating stoves). Full disclosure, and Vermont people can hold their tongues, we have never used any of the stoves. The buyers wanted to make sure, since we have not used them, that they worked. Spoiled alert, they do.

I know little to nothing about stoves. We have two pellet stoves and one wood stove. That is about all that I know. The stoves turned on fine. It was cool to see them lit but I made sure to ask that the stoves be turned off before they left since I have no idea how they work. After they left, the stove in our main living room was making this great fan noise which no one appreciated (especially A who was trying to watch TV). So after a few minutes the noise stopped and the fire was gone. I unplugged the stove and pushed the cord back behind it (like it has been for the past year and a half. I went about my business cleaning the kitchen and about 20 minutes later, I came back into the room and see a blazing fire in the stove. What?! How is this happening?? It was like that scene on Friends when the fire alarm is beeping and Phoebe cannot get it to stop.

Anyway. No big deal. I can handle this. It cannot be that hard. So, I opened the control panel but everything was dark. Duh. Because I had unplugged it. So, I plugged it back in. When I did the On/Off switch was flashing. I pressed it (thinking that it would turn off). Instead it blazed even more. Oops. Now it was fully back on and making a loud fan type noise. I pressed the same button again. Nothing changed. Small amounts of panic ensued. Well, I guess that is it. The house is going to burn down. Meanwhile, the fan noise is getting louder, A is freaking out because he couldn’t hear the TV and he is not a fan of loud noises, and J was who-knows-where upstairs making a huge mess of toys and such. Because we didn’t hire the guys to come look at the stoves, I didn’t even have their info or contact so I called the realtor and explained the situation. By the time she got back in touch, the stove had basically turned off (about an hour later). I can only assume that I pressed the button to turn it off but the fire was going so strong by that point that it took a while to fully turn off and cool down. As soon as I was sure it was off, I unplugged it again but was sure to continue checking it for the next hour or so.

What an exciting time it was. As traumatizing and frustrating as it was in the moment, I had to step back and think about how lucky we actually were to have found this house when we did. It fit our needs and has served us well over the past year and a half. We are also lucky in that we are currently working with some very reasonable people (the buyers) and will likely be moving and moving on shortly which will put us one step closer to our new home. And for that, I am quite thankful.

I’m Thankful: Day 1

Today begins what seems like an unimaginable feat. I am going to post something everyday for the next seven days (through Thanksgiving Day). I have taken some time away and though I have had tons to say, I have had little time to say it. But, for the next seven days I’m going to share some of what has been happening in my life, each day trying to see the positive in some things that… well frankly aren’t so positive. The goal is to share some things that I am thankful for and give you a glimpse into my life lately at the same time.

Day 1: It wasn’t a stomach virus.

So two evenings ago everything seemed to be going okay. I got the kids ready for bed and read them stories. Everyone seemed fine. About an hour later, there was a knock at our bedroom door (a rare occurrence at night). Then came, “I threw up in my bed.” Oh no. The worst. Doomsday noises. Mama drama. Why is this happening to me?! Deep breath. Okay pull yourself together. Go out there and be calm.

So, I handled it. Because we have learned from our mistakes in the past, our kids both have double sheeted beds with water proof pads between them. I took off the first set of sheets and got the little one (A) cleaned up and put him back to bed. Phew. Fine until an hour later when I hear, “Mama!” Oh no. This time it was worse. Worse because it was worse, but also because when I took off the second sheet, I realized that there was no water proof pad under the second sheet. Epic parenting fail. I won’t go into detail but I handled it (leaving a mountain of gross laundry to deal with the next day). By now it was after 10 o’clock and sleeping was not happening. All I could think about was the stomach virus that we were all (mostly me) going to get. How long would it take before I was hugging the toilet? This was all complicated by some really bad timing issues that will become clearer in a future post.

The next day, I stayed home with the kids while Ashley took her father to his doctor’s appointment. She was gone all day and basically my only goal was to keep the kids separated and make it through the day. After much of the morning passed us by without any recurrences, I realized that perhaps it wasn’t a stomach virus after all. We had started to think about what A had eaten and suspect now that he had something bad to eat. So, other than the massacre of gross laundry that I had to do yesterday, it turned out okay. It has been over 48 hours and he is fine and no one else has been sick.

In the immediate, I’m thankful that it wasn’t a stomach virus. But in the larger picture, we are and have been very fortunate to have two two healthy children and for that I’m most thankful.

Hammock selfie (this was probably the last of the season…)
Chill time at Grandma’s house [heart]

Labels

Labels are a thing. And the number and specificity of labels is constantly increasing and changing. I’ve written lots about my thoughts on gender and some about being gay but not so much about the labels that we give ourselves.

Inside my idealistic head, we will one day live in a world without labels. I have said before that everyone should be able to be who they are and love who they love without having to define what that means because of their anatomy, their appearance, or their society’s expectations. But, that isn’t realistic for the world that we live in so let’s talk about labels anyway.

First of all, I am not an expert. I am just a person, a person with positive intentions and some amount of knowledge and opinions.

I am involved in a project at my job to make some changes on how we label individuals coming into our system. There is evidence to support that individuals of certain gender identities and/or sexual orientations are at higher risk in the system. Therefore, we are required to identify those individuals and take it into consideration. We are audited on a yearly basis and must provide a list to the auditor of individuals that have been labeled or have labeled themselves as “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex, and/or Gender non-conforming.” We have spent (so far) upwards of seven hours (per person) discussing how we will ask individuals questions that will cover these labels. Seven hours!

Obviously, labels have value in our society. It is important, for example, in this case for us to label people in order to protect them. BUT, labels are also complicating factors and can be limiting.

The first step was to evaluate what we currently ask individuals. Basically, we give the following options for gender:

  • Male
  • Female
  • Transgender Male
  • Transgender Female
  • Intersex

Currently, there is not an “Other” (i.e. non-binary, non-conforming, genderqueer, etc.) and we are not asking about sexual orientation at all. So, initially the group wanted to opt for “something easy” and one question. Something like… “Do you identify as part of the LGBTQIA+ community?” But there are some problems with this. For one, we are already asking questions about gender and preferences around name, pronoun, etc. so it doesn’t make sense to ask this question after that. There were a number of other issues with this question including the fact that we would not be able to give our auditor the list of people that they need.

From there we decided to break out the gender questions from the sexual orientation questions. Since we are already asking gender (excluding the “other” option), we decided to just add an “other” option. What? That seemed easy. Except that this really took several hours in real life. Then came the sexual orientation. Do we just ask “Are you lesbian, gay, or bisexual?” Spoiler alert, nope. Five hours later (and after calling in additional people to discuss), we settled on a list of labels including but not limited to heterosexual/straight (the group of straight people left that one out during the first draft) and “other” as a catch all.

I was fascinated by this process, not only by how little my cis-gendered straight co-workers knew about labels and gender identity and sexual orientation, but also by the fact that we were trying to strike the perfect balance when it comes to labeling people. We also had to take into consideration the individual’s privacy, the limitations of our IT systems (though we will be making changes to fit the change we made), and the blooming world of labels.

Basically, my message today is this… Labels serve a purpose in our society, they are a band-aid to some of the negative symptoms like prejudice and discrimination. They can be empowering in figuring out your identity. But, they are also limiting. Not just to us individually, but to our society and our future.

Costumes: A Retrospective Review

This post was a reader requested! The reader was Ashley. To celebrate Halloween on Maple Sticks, I’ve put together and little historical review of the Halloween costumes that the littles have worn over the years. It was probably just as much fun for me to put together and go through old photos as it is to look at…

2011: We just had (and I also mean we had just had) this tiny babe for Halloween in 2011. This photo was taken at Walt Disney World and we went to Mickey’s Not-so-scary Halloween Party. Where A was dressed as Andy from Toy Story. It was a subtle costume…

What is with my side eye?
Buzz and Woody basically made the costume…

2012: A lot changed between Halloween 2011 and Halloween 2012. We moved to Vermont being the biggest thing… (Seeing the changes in our life was an unexpected and interesting study through this process.) Note in this first picture that the lot next to our house was vacant. This was the year that he realized that you got candy…

This little baby black bear is the cutest…
In his natural habitat…

2013: This year A had a vision. He was very specific. He wanted to be an airplane. Not the pilot of an airplane but an airplane. He still sort of looked like the pilot of the airplane but this plane was mostly his design and he wore it well. Materials were cardboard, recycled plastic container, and duct tape. The propeller worked!

Showing off his costume at my work…
Umbrella service so that his cardboard costume didn’t start to melt. It held up the whole time though.

2014: Introducing the one and only Stink. This was the first year with two littles and we called J our stinker so guess what?

Skunk!

A had another year of specificity in his costume idea. He wanted to be a race care driver. He was super into cars. When I found this photo, I also found a video of him before or after trick or treating racing Hot Wheels down the hall.

Driver and skunk visiting Mama at work.

2015: For fifteen we saw the oldest go for a more mainstream branded costume as Marshall from Paw Patrol. But, the former skunk had some creative ideas of her own.

Not in Adventure Bay.

To understand what is pictured below, I must tell a little story. When J was a baby Ashley and I went garage sale-ing. We were keeping an eye out for a doll for her for cheap. We wanted her to have a doll but didn’t want it to be the fancy new baby dolls that eat and talk and poop. We just wanted a doll. At the last place we went that day, we found a doll that was nearly free that met all of the doll standards we had. We brought it home and J fell in love. She named the doll Ashy and carried it around by its hair. It almost never had pants on so it became known as “Ashy No-pants.” And so what do you think J wanted to be for Halloween that year?

Ashy No-pants!

2016: Last year we had a ghost and a purple princess, pictured in front of Grandma and Papa-U’s house. If there was a snapshot from our children’s childhood that represented who they each are this is it:

Easiest photo of both of them because who knows what face he is making under there…

2017: If you read Silly Spooky Day you already know that this year we have a knight and a flower. Each year we have discussions about what they want to be for Halloween and each year A has a long list of things that he wants to be. This year he is a knight because a few years ago he made his Halloween costume list and it went like this.. Circa 2015: “This year I want to be a race car driver and next year I want to be a ghost and the year after that a knight.” He totally stuck to it. This year he has said that next year he wants to be a dragon and the year after that he wants to be a lego… We shall see.

Happy Halloween, everyone!

Quick House Happenings

So, it had been about three weeks since our last house contract was terminated due to the cold feet of the buyers… It has seemed like 10 times that long for us. Not long after the house was back on the market and being shown lots, we got another offer, this time from some folks from New York state. The only catch was their house in New York needed to be sold before they could purchase. They presented an offer that was contingent on their house being under contract and we declined to sign it (at the recommendation of our realtor) but we did enter verbal negotiations with them and came to an agreement. Then we waited. And waited. AND WAITED. Then Friday evening we got word that their house in New York was under contract!

So, I can officially say that we are under contract again. Now certainly that doesn’t mean that our house is sold… but at least a step in the right direction. If we can get through the inspection and then final financing approval (for their house and ours) we might be moving…

What a thrill ride selling a house is…

If you look closely you can see me and J in this picture
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