Elf on the Shelf 2015 – Day 1

It’s December 1 and the Romanos already have the Christmas tree up and decorated. Mark this on the calendar and consider buying a lottery ticket folks because this NEVER happens. Usually we’re cruising along somewhere around the middle of December debating whether or not it’s even worth it to put the tree up, and we do, mostly because we had Cadence, and it’s sort of our responsibility as parents to bring the magic of Christmas into our home. And let’s face it, Christmas just isn’t Christmas without a tree and lights and all the ornaments we’ve been collecting our entire lives dangling from the branches.

I’m actually pretty amazed (and excited) that we managed to get the tree decorated so early this year. It was hard enough when it was just us, and then us and Electra, and then us and Cadence and Electra in the house. Somehow the holidays always seemed to sneak up on us a little more stealthily each year. I guess I imagined adding an infant to the mix would pretty much guarantee another year fumbling through the holidays like we’d just been thrown off a merry-go-round gone berserk, doing our best to try and keep ourselves upright while the lights and the parties and the gifts and the family gatherings spun around us in a blur. Yet somehow, even with the chaos Henry has introduced into our lives, he has also grounded us too. We’re perfectly content cocooning ourselves in our home and enjoying the quiet (oh hell, who are we kidding, enjoying the not-so-quiet) moments together as a family of 4+hound.

We hosted another Thanksgiving this year, exactly as we’ve done since we were first married and living in Arizona. When Stevie and I found out we were expecting our first child, it became important to us to forge some of our very own family traditions, blending together bits and pieces of the things that were special to each of us growing up with some brand new traditions of our very own. We claimed Thanksgiving and made it ours. And yeah, maybe it’s a little selfish that we insist on staying home and hosting and refusing to travel anywhere each year, but it has quickly become one of our favorite holidays.

This year, the 4-day vacation was even sweeter because it was the first little break we’ve had since I returned to work full-time. I’m not going to lie, it has been a tough transition. My mom agreed to watch Henry, which means he gets to be in his own home during the day, and Mom gets to spend a whole lot of quality time snuggling her youngest grandson. I have a job that I absolutely love, really cool co-workers, and an office close enough that I can run home over my lunch hour to feed Henry and put him down for his afternoon nap. On paper, it’s perfect. Yet the moment I first found out I was pregnant with Henry, I knew that I needed to start mentally preparing myself for the fact that I was going to have to leave him, and it has definitely been one of the hardest things I have ever had to do.

With Cadence, it made more sense for me to stay home, and I loved having that time with my little girl. Becoming a mom was scary and stressful. I had no idea what I was doing and I was constantly second-guessing myself. There were so many moments of intense joy those first few months, punctuated by frustration and fear and grief. But then Miss Cadence reached that stage where she began to gain a little independence, that wonderful stage where she cried less and smiled more, where she slept soundly, that stage where I could begin see both the separation and the bond between us, and that is when I finally began to gain a little confidence as a mother and enjoy the whole process a little more.

I can honestly say, nothing really prepared me for the emotional beating I would take after Henry’s birth. People like to tell you that it’s easier with the second child. They like to tell you that you’ll feel like an old pro because you’ve done it all before. I’m not sure if anyone deliberately pulled a bait and switch or if I’m just a little more sensitive than most, but the last thing I was feeling those first few weeks after bringing Henry home was confident. Stevie, Cadence and I had spent 5 ½ years carving our way into a very comfortable place, and suddenly it was closing in on us overnight. Those first few weeks as Henry commanded our attention (and our sanity), we clung to our routines and each other like life preservers. As I nursed around the clock, Stevie focused his attention on Cadence, trying to keep each day as stable as possible to help ease the transition. My sweet little girl has never complained as I tell her “just a minute”, setting her requests temporarily aside as I tend to her brother. She hasn’t lashed out or cried when I’ve had to miss a swimming lesson or when Henry and I have had to stay home from church and miss her singing because he kept me awake all night, alternating between cluster feeding and crying. Cadence has never complained, yet I know it has been hard on her, and I’ve struggled to carve out extra time for and her make it a point to sneak in extra snuggles and kisses when I can as I watch my beautiful baby girl growing up right before my eyes.

And now, finally, FINALLY, I feel like we’re starting to float with our heads above the surface again. And even if the waters we’re treading aren’t totally calm, it is definitely starting to feel like maybe we’re hitting our stride, like we have a little room to breathe again. We’re finally getting into a routine, one that includes me being back at work for more than a month now, and I have to say it feels good (oh God, it feels so damn good) to finally feel like we’re not spending the majority of each day just trying to keep ourselves from downing.

It has taken us four months, but I think we’re settling into what feels like it just might be our new normal and I am so very thankful. While it might be hard to juggle working and being a mom (who is still so very, very sleep-deprived), my salary helps my family live comfortably, and helps pay for my daughter and someday my son to attend one of the best private schools in the city. Plus, I get to go to a job every day that I find incredibly fulfilling. I get to work with a great group of people and stretch my wings creatively. Yes, I miss my baby boy during the day, and there are still moments I feel incredibly guilty that I won’t have the time with him that I did with Cadence, but I also know he is being well cared for, and there is nothing that can make my heart soar higher than seeing him wiggle with excitement and coo and smile when he hears my voice and sees me walk in the door. And there is nothing quite as good as the moment the four of us (and hound) are settled in for the evening, just us, eating dinner and sharing the highlights of our days.

I’ll admit, Stevie and I have agreed to be a little selfish about our family time. We are very choosy when it comes to doing things outside our home or committing ourselves to events or gatherings if it means sacrificing our precious time with our children. Instead, we spend a lot of time together–at Cadence’s swimming lessons, running errands, hanging out at home, watching movies, playing cards…it doesn’t really matter what it is we’re doing as long as we’re together. In a way, I feel like my return to work has brought us closer because it allows us to miss each other, and it just might make us appreciate our time together even more.

And maybe it’s that selfishness that allowed us to get a jump on our Christmas decorating this year, as we stuck close to home through our first Thanksgiving weekend together. Either way, I’m pretty damn impressed with our efforts. Yoda is looking as fabulous as ever on our tree top, and we even finished decorating Cadence’s mini-tree and Henry’s little Charlie Brown tree just in time for Cadence’s elf, Cosette, to return from the North Pole.

We found Cosette and her elf-friend Leo when we woke this morning, and Cadence was so excited to see that they came bearing gifts just in time for the cold and snowy weather to set in…

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Welcome to our new home, little elves! We we’ve missed you!

Elf on the Shelf 2013 – Day 15

Apparently Cosette was famished after her overnight trip to the North Pole, because this is where we found her this morning…

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And because seeing Cosette reminded me that I had a loaf of Italian bread in the freezer just begging to be thawed, it looks like a little Cap’n Crunch French Toast is on the menu tomorrow morning. Mmm…

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Yeah, looks amazing, right? There’s a reason this stuff is on our breakfast menu every Thanksgiving (and any other day during the year we wake up and realize we can’t possibly make it through a day without it). And just because I’m a nice person who likes to spread all the good I can in this world, here’s the recipe. You’ll thank me after the first bite. 😉

Cap’n Crunch French Toast (as seen on the show Diners, Drive-in’s, and Dives)

Ingredients:
3/4 cup heavy cream,
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 cups Cap’n Crunch cereal
8-10 slices thick cut french bread or Texas Toast
Butter for cooking

Directions:
1. Mix the cream, eggs, sugar, and vanilla in large bowl and whisk until combined.

2. Put the cereal in a large Ziploc bag and use a rolling pin to crush until cereal resembles cracker meal. Transfer to a shallow dish.

3. Dip slices of bread into the cream mixture until soft but not completely soaked. Let excess liquid drip from the bread, then press into the cereal crumbs to coat evenly.

4. Heat a large skillet or griddle over medium heat, add butter as needed and cook the bread until caramelized on both sides.

Toppings – the Diners, Drive-ins and Dives book calls for topping with whipped cream and fresh berries, which is delicious. We also add a slight drizzle of maple syrup and it was fa-bu-lous!

Enjoy!

365 Project – Day 332 – Lost and Found

In the midst of the holiday and home-buying craziness, I forgot to relay what is perhaps the most exciting news of all.

Are you ready?

Wait for it…

STEVEN FOUND HIS MISSING JUMPDRIVE!!!

Well, the latest one he lost anyway (which by his count would have been #6).

It was a good thing that we were already starting to pack to move, because he tore the house apart looking for the damn thing. He unmade our bed, moved furniture, checked pockets. He took everything out of the dreaded kitchen junk drawer (and then promptly put it all back in when the jumpdrive was nowhere to be found). He even went so far as to accuse Electra of eating it, then in the next breath wondered aloud if maybe one of the prospective tenants that came to tour the house had spied it lying somewhere and stolen it.

After a full week of Steven’s over-zealous jumpdrive paranoia, I was seriously considering sneaking out to buy a new one and stashing it in one of Cadence’s favorite hiding places so I could have my husband back.

Then, last Wednesday morning, I was startled out of my slumber by a shrill, high-pitched giggle. I sat up and grabbed my glasses and saw my husband standing at the end of the bed, half-dressed in the half-light. He held the jumpdrive out in front of him, smiling like a lunatic.

“Look! Look honey! Look what I found!”

I just shook my head.

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” I said. “Where was it?”

“Right here in the pocket of my pants!” Steven giggled. “It must have been here all along! I swear I checked though! I laid my suits out on the bed and checked all the pockets.”

“You are crazy,” I said, putting my glasses back on the nightstand and pulling the covers up over my head. “You better lock that thing in the safe before you lose it again.”

“Yeah, good idea. Oh, it’s gonna be a great Thanksgiving!”

Steven left the room, giggling as he went.

He was right. It was a great Thanksgiving. And it has been a great week since. Thank you, little jumpdrive, for being such a good luck charm. Now stay in that safe where you belong!

365 Project – Day 328 – Post-Thanksgiving

This is what a perfect Post-Thanksgiving looks like…

Too full to move. To happy to care.

365 Project – Day 327 – You’ve Got a Friend

Instead of allowing my neurotic obsession with capturing every moment on camera to take over, I spent the day hanging out with some of my favorite people in the world, cooking up a storm, and indulging in a delicious meal in the company of family and friends. Yeah, it doesn’t get much better than that.

It has been a long day filled with family, friends, food, fun and a whole lot of thankfulness, and except for grabbing my camera to catch these few quick shots of Cadence helping Mojo eat breakfast, I took my holiday vacation very seriously.

This, however, was just too cute to pass up.

See, Mojo and Izzy get a little anxious when they are away from home, and don’t seem to want to eat. At times, they have gone days with barely a nibble. We seem to have discovered a secret though. Dog food served in the sweet-smelling hand of a toddler, one little fistful at a time, is apparently irresistable. And as you can see, Cadence is quite happy to oblige…

Tonight’s 365 Project is dedicated to a perfect Thanksgiving day spent with friends and family. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

365 Project – Day 326 – A Lazy Pre-Thanksgiving

This time of year, it is customary to think about all of the things that you are most thankful for. As I sit here in my living room, dogs at my feet, sipping a margarita, watching The Walking Dead with Papa Shawn, Wendy, Whitney, Collin, and Steven, I think that I am very blessed, and so very, very thankful for my family, my friends, my dog, my child, my life.

Yeah, it doesn’t get much better than this…

 

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