Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Days Go Slowly But the Years Fly By

I looked at my calendar this morning and realized that today is the last day of November. When did that happen? I’m sure that part of my confusion is the fact that I spent part of both yesterday and today outside in just a T-shirt (okay, pants too) and I wasn’t even cold. But I’m quite certain that Ryan’s birthday, which is on November 2nd, was just a couple of days ago, and Thanksgiving was only yesterday. I guess it’s true that the days go slowly but the years (and months) fly by.

It’s funny how things change so gradually under your nose that they don’t seem to change at all until you look back. My stepdaughter got home yesterday after being away for 3 weeks and was astonished at how big Katie had gotten since she last saw her. I hadn’t really noticed until I stopped to think about it. Now I can see that she hardly fits in the baby bathtub, she can’t quite stretch her legs all the way out in some of her pajamas, and she takes up a lot more space on the changing table than she used to. How could I not see that?

I’m so grateful for modern technologies like photography that capture those amazing fleeting moments of childhood. For all that I swear I’ll remember each little expression and each little chirp, they are momentarily forgotten in the excitement of the next expression or chirp. But when I look at photos and videos, it all comes flooding back. And being able to watch the kids’ development and evolution through a series of photos is such a gift. It reminds me of how much they’ve already changed and learned and grown in their few short years and few short months on this earth.

Time passes, and there’s nothing I can do about it. But what I can do is soak in and enjoy each moment. What I can do is remember how fleeting this time is. What I can do is keep my priorities straight. Ten years from now, I won’t remember the day I didn’t have clean socks because I hadn’t taken time to throw in a load of laundry, but you can bet I’ll remember the night that Katie and I sat watching Daddy and Ryan set up the train set around the Christmas tree. I won’t remember the week we ate spaghetti three nights in a row because I was too exhausted to go grocery shopping, but I’ll remember that 3am feeding when Katie looked up at me and grinned. I won’t remember scrubbing crayon off the kitchen table, but I will remember sitting with Ryan drawing truck after truck and practicing naming letters and shapes.

I may be nearly too tired to keep my eyes open sometimes, but I’m still not going to blink. I wouldn’t want to miss anything.

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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Things I Never Knew I’d Need to Know About Trucks

Having a 2-year-old son has been an education in a lot of things, but the most obvious at this point in time is trucks. I know things about trucks that I didn’t know I didn’t know. Thank goodness for the internet and DVDs, particularly the “Twenty Trucks” series ( Thanks to them I am now quite well-versed in the many kinds of trucks out there as well as their various features. For those of you not so well-informed, here are the basics of what you need to know about trucks in order to converse intelligently with your friendly neighborhood 2-year-old.

An excavator truck is also called a digger truck. It has tracks instead of wheels and its cab, where the driver sits, can swing all the way around in a big circle. It has a single arm called a boom with a scoop at the end called a bucket, which is often tipped with heavy teeth. An excavator truck can dig the deepest holes of any machine. It is also extremely entertaining to watch it push over trees.

Front-End Loader

A front-end loader works to move lots of dirt around. It has very large tires and is very strong. It scoops up a load in its bucket and dumps it into a pile or into a dump truck. Some front-end loaders are hinged in the middle so they can turn around in tight spaces. These loaders are called articulated front-end loaders. Most two year-olds can pronounce the word “articulated” better than you can.


A backhoe is the most versatile digging machine. It has a boom with a bucket (like an excavator) on one side and a large bucket or blade (like a front-end loader) on the other. A backhoe can take off its bucket and use attachments like a compactor or a grapple, which looks like a giant claw, to do different things with dirt. Unlike an excavator, it has wheels and uses short legs called stabilizers to steady itself as it digs. Most two year-olds can also pronounce the word “stabilizers” better than you can.

A bulldozer is another truck that has tracks instead of wheels. It has a heavy blade in the front that it uses to push dirt around. In back, it sometimes has a ripper, which has one, two, or three shanks that tear up hard dirt behind it as it moves.

Dump Truck
A dump truck often works alongside excavators, front-end loaders, and backhoes. Those trucks dump piles of dirt, sand, or rocks into the dump truck, and the dump truck brings the load somewhere else. Some dump trucks are also roll-off trucks, which means that their hopper (the back part where the load goes) can be rolled off the back of the truck when it’s full and an empty hopper pulled onto the truck by a big cable. The best part of this process is that the dump truck goes “beep beep beep” as it backs up to the empty hopper.

Garbage Truck
There are lots of different kinds of garbage trucks. Some have a compactor in the back that squishes the trash. Some have arms at the side that reach out to pick up trash cans from the side of the road and dump them out into the truck’s hopper. Some have a hopper in the front, and when it gets full, the truck has arms that lift the front hopper over its head and dump it into the main hopper. Hopper is a fun word to say.

The most important feature of the feller-buncher is that it has a goofy name. But it also has a big, six-foot-wide saw blade that cuts down trees, and arms that pull the trees into a big bunch.

Fire Engine/Ambulance/Police Car
All you really need to know about any of these trucks is that they have lights and a siren. Oh, and fire engines also sometimes have stabilizers.


Forklifts have two long teeth that pick up heavy things and raise them up on a tall mast. The forklift driver has a safety cage over his head in case he drops anything, so his head doesn’t get squished. It is important to be able to recognize a forklift because you will see them at Costco and will need to follow them around for a long time or tears will ensue.

Skid Steer

If you’ve ever seen a little Bobcat digger in someone’s yard, you’ve seen a skid steer. The most interesting feature of a skid steer is that the wheels don’t turn, they lock on one side so the machine literally skids around instead of turning like other vehicles. Its scaled-down size makes it especially appealing to little boys; however, the fascination that a two-year-old boy has for skid steers will not abate for the next 75 years or so.

If you can master these ten trucks and their various features, you will become a total rock star in the eyes of every small boy you encounter.

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Monday, November 28, 2011

Five Items Every Woman Should Own

I just read an article ( that lists five articles of clothing (and/or accessories) that every woman should own in her 20s, 30s, and 40s. I have to say that I disagree with quite a few of them, so I decided to put together a list of my own. These are the items that I think are worthy of investing in at these ages.

In Your 20s
In your 20s, you are probably starting a career, and have a limited budget. You are also able to pull off fashion trends that older women just can’t get away with. (To quote one of my favorite lines from The Golden Girls, “At that age, you don’t even have to be pretty to be pretty.”) The article recommends that 20-somethings own a sparkly dress, a leather jacket, metallic lace-up oxfords (no, I am not making that up), a “cross-body bag”, and a monogram necklace. Here are my recommendations:

Instead of a sparkly dress: A classy, classic little black dress that can be dressed up or down to be suitable for weddings, funerals, work functions, or any other social or business event that comes up. A well-fitting, well-made, flattering dress will last for years and will get plenty of use.

Instead of a leather jacket: A mid-length trench coat in a bright, print, or textured fabric. Like the little black dress, it can span occasions from casual to dressy and from social to business. In your 20s, you can get away with something flashier than a basic khaki trench, so go with something more visually interesting, like a cute Burberry plaid or a deep burgundy with a satin finish.

Instead of metallic lace-up oxfords: A pair of fabulous, brightly colored or blinged-out shoes. Go for a pair of bright red spectator pumps, purple velvet stilettos, or rhinestone-trimmed sandals. Like the trench coat, a pair of great, eye-catching shoes is a fabulous way to dress up an outfit that you can really pull off in your 20s.

Instead of a cross-body bag: a leather briefcase or laptop case with a shoulder strap. In your 20s is a great time for traveling, especially spontaneous, last-minute trips. This bag will serve you well at job interviews and on long plane trips. And it can last you well into your career, so get one you love in a classic but not boring style.

Instead of a monogram necklace: A fabulous pair of rhinestone chandelier earrings. Your 20s is the decade of cocktail parties, New Year’s Eve parties, and moving out of the bar/club scene and into nice restaurants, concerts, and theater. Get the bling for it now.

In Your 30s
By the time you reach your 30s, you may be well into your career, or married and raising children, or maybe both. You're also probably investing in "adult" things like a house and nice furniture. And although you might not have exactly the same lithe figure you had in your 20s, you've got the confidence to carry off both more sexy and more elegant clothes. The article recommends that 30-somethings own a pair of leather pants, a wrap coat, platform pumps, an investment bag, and a “statement cuff”. Here are my alternatives:

Instead of leather pants: a perfectly tailored wool suit. Whether a woman is on her way to a business meeting or a PTA meeting, nothing says confidence like a great suit. And a classic style will last from your junior associate to your vice president days and from parent-teacher conferences to college admissions interviews.

Instead of a wrap coat: a long wool coat. Like the little black dress, a long wool coat is always classic and elegant, and can be dressed up or down to suit any occasion. Pop on leather gloves and a fur hat and you’re ready for the opera; toss on a scarf in your team colors and matching earmuffs and you’re ready to cheer at the big game.

Instead of platform pumps: leather dress boots. A pair of high-quality leather boots can project confidence like no other kind of shoe. If you like to be a bit more subdued, stick to a simple, classic style; if you like to make a statement, choose a pair with buckles, braid, or texture.

Instead of an investment bag: If you follow my suggestions, you already have a great bag from your 20s. So your 30s is time to invest in a designer handbag. Most women love bags, and your 30s is the time you’re most likely to have both the disposable income to afford one and the lifestyle in which it can be appreciated. So if this is your thing, splurge on a great Coach or Kate Spade bag. If it’s not your thing, find a bunch of cute knockoffs that you just love.

Instead of a statement cuff: A single-strand pearl necklace and matching earrings. If you can’t afford the real thing, get a good faux strand. Chances are you already own a ton of costume jewelry; now is the time to start getting the real stuff. Pearls are a great start to your collection.

In Your 40s
If you’re a career woman, you’re probably in a position with significant responsibility by your 40s. If you’re more family-oriented, you need clothes that are versatile and can go from your son’s football game to your daughter’s recital to your board meeting. The article recommends: a sheath dress, a faux fur vest, pointy-toe pumps, a bright clutch, and a cocktail ring. This is what I think you need:

Instead of a sheath dress: A wrap dress. More versatile than a sheath, but just as figure-flattering for all figures. Let’s face it, your figure probably needs a bit more support these days, and a wrap dress allows for maximum coverage but is still sexy.

Instead of a faux fur vest: A tailored leather jacket. In your 40s is the time to find a princess-seamed, figure-flattering jacket in a rich shade of mocha or charcoal. It spans seasons, is appropriate for business meetings, and looks great on all figure types. Plus, if you're like me, it helps satisfy your secret biker chick side.

Instead of pointy-toe pumps: Kitten heels. In your 40s, comfort becomes more important than fashion – but with kitten heels, you can have both. Sexy kitten heels with that tailored suit from your 30s makes a great statement about both the competence and the femininity of the wearer.

Instead of a bright clutch: a small casual purse. 40-somethings have a habit of falling into the “giant purse” trap, usually with the only other purse in their wardrobe being a small, dressy evening bag. Get something in the middle that carries only what you need: wallet, phone, tube of lipstick, mints, and a few tissues. And make sure it has a shoulder strap – you never know when you’ll need both hands for something else.

Instead of a cocktail ring: An understated gemstone ring. Cocktail rings tend to be big and tacky; in your 40s, aim for subtlety and class. Choose your birthstone or a gemstone in your favorite color in a simple setting. A single, simple ring on a beautifully-manicured hand is much more elegant than a gaudy cocktail ring.

So that's my take on wardrobe essentials at every age. And by the way, I'm in my 40s and I have in my closet several wrap dresses, a tailored leather coat, a great mid-sized handbag, and a topaz cocktail ring. I guess I'd better get shopping for those kitten heels!

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Saturday, November 26, 2011

The (Five) Stockings Were Hung by the Chimney with Care

In keeping with family tradition, this being the Saturday after Thanksgiving, today was the day we put up our Christmas tree and decorated the house for the holidays. Since we perform in the Reagle Christmas show every year, if we don’t do it this weekend, it doesn’t get done, and certainly it doesn’t get done in time for the cast party we always host. And since we decorate fairly elaborately, it’s pretty much a whole-day affair.

Yesterday we went to the farm and picked out our Christmas tree and brought it home, then hauled all the boxes of decorations down from the attic, and last night we went to the Waltham Treelighting ceremony, so we were certainly in the holiday mood. We started the day by running (or, in my case, walking, or in Ryan and Katie’s cases, riding) in the weekly Fresh Pond race in Cambridge. It was a beautiful day to be outside in the fresh air, and it invigorated all of us for the busy day. While the rest of the troops took a nap, I organized the boxes and started a few small tasks, like tying red bows on each of the candles in the dining room chandelier and setting up the manger scene, complete with the lamb up in the hayloft where Rosemary decided he should go so many years ago. When Herb got up, he put up the tree and did some of the heavier lifting and the projects requiring height. And then, we found the stockings.

When Herb and I got married, we bought three new, matching stockings and had our names embroidered on them: Herb, Sandy, and Rosie. The next year, Ryan had just been born, so Herb bought another matching stocking and had it embroidered with Ryan’s name in the same color and script. And in hopeful anticipation of another child, he also bought a second matching stocking. And even as I am writing this, he and Ryan are at the mall, finding a shop that will match the color and script of Ryan’s stocking and embroider Katie’s name on it.

So this year, five stockings will be hung by the chimney with care. And as I look at those five stockings, I think about those same stockings being hung together for many Christmases to come. Probably the five will dwindle down to four as Rosemary graduates from college and starts a life of her own and a family of her own. Eventually, it may be back down to three and then to two as Ryan and Katie do the same. But in my mind’s eye, I think that every Christmas from now on I will always see the perfect set of five stockings.

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Friday, November 25, 2011

It's More Than Just a Spoon

In preparation for Thanksgiving dinner, I retrieved all my serving dishes from storage, carefully scrubbed them all until they sparkled, laid them out with post-it notes to remind me what went in each one and to make sure I hadn’t forgotten anything, and then I pulled out serving utensils to go with each one. Most of the spoons were ordinary serving spoons, a few matching our silverware set and then a few pretty extras we’d picked up here and there through the years. But this year there was one very special new – well, old – utensil: the Cranberry Sauce Spoon.

I loved holidays when I was growing up. I loved having company. I loved it when my dad would put the leaf in the dining room table and my mom would iron one of the big tablecloths. I loved being allowed to polish the silverware. And I loved it best of all when my mom would ask me to set the table. I loved finding matching sets of silverware and matching glasses. I loved being allowed to pick out a set of placemats and a candle for the centerpiece that matched the d├ęcor. And I really, really loved getting to pick out all the serving dishes and utensils. It wasn’t that much of an issue of picking, though, because every year the same foods went into the same dishes and were served with the same utensils. Mashed potatoes and squash went into the matching oval silver bowls with the slightly dented hammered silver spoon and the spoon that matched the sterling silverware. Gravy went into the gravy boat with the small ladle that matched the everyday silverware and sat on a dessert plate from the everyday dishes. Turkey went on the big platter with the big fork. And cranberry sauce (from a can, complete with ridges on every slice but the ends) went in a beautiful cut crystal bowl and was served with a beautiful shallow silver spoon with scalloped holes in the bowl and my mother’s initials engraved on the end. It was never used for anything but cranberry sauce. And I thought it was the most beautiful spoon I had ever seen.

So when my mother passed away this spring, I knew right away that the one piece I wanted to keep as an heirloom was that spoon. Just looking at that spoon has always brought back memories of visits with family, of “helping” my mom in the kitchen as a small child and truly helping as a young adult, of happy holidays spent with loved ones.

It’s more than just a spoon, it’s my past. My wonderful, fun- and family-filled, loving past.

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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

30 Days of Thanksgiving: Day 30

Today is the final day of this 30-day challenge, so I am spending it reflecting on my thankfulness journey over the past month. I have been thankful for:

My husband Herb
My mother- and father-in-law Herb and Sandra
My stepdaughter Rosemary
My sister-in-law Holly
My late brother-in-law Glen
My neighbor Roberta
The members of Belmont United Methodist Church
My friend Maryellen
My friend Dana
My son Ryan
Compassion International
Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston and all its members
Voices of Hope
All the pastors who have shepherded me throughout my life
Ryan’s gymnastics teacher, Adriane
Firefighters, especially volunteer firefighters
My friends Ann and Arthur
Veterans and those in military service, including my stepdaughter Rosemary and my brother-in-law Steven
My cousin Carol
My friend Suzanne
Focus on the Family and its founder James Dobson
My friends on my internet message board
My rheumatologist, Dr. Kovacs
All my Facebook friends
My in-laws, the Costa family
My two beautiful children, Ryan and Katie
The volunteer staff at my church nursery
The church ladies

A loving and supportive extended family
The beauty of autumn in New England
Two children napping at the same time
My minivan
Internet recipe sites
Warm, cozy clothing
Comfortable shoes
Pleasant neighbors
Washable crayons
Hair color
Bubble bath
Pauline, Valentine, and Emma Philpott
The smell of a fire in the fireplace
A perfectly cooked steak
The first snowflakes of winter
The love of God that is shown to me through others
The opportunities I have to show the love of God to others
The Word of God that teaches me how to both give and receive the love of God
Safety through storms
Baby monitors
A good night’s sleep
My mom and her parenting example
Children’s books
Warm sunshine
Toy trucks
Suet attracting birds to my birdfeeder
A wonderful pediatrician with a nearby office
The smell of my favorite shampoo
Ryan’s good manners
Cake mixes
Car seat heaters
The angelic beauty of the face of a peacefully sleeping baby
The sheer pleasure of hearing a small voice asking for Mama and knowing that’s me
The touch of my husband’s hand as he shares my delight in both of those things
Katie’s first giggle
Watching Ryan learn to use his remote-controlled truck
The lingering smell of fireplace smoke in the living room
Having money for groceries
Clean drinking water
Good medical care
My backyard sandbox
Christmas music
The beauty of a glorious full moon
The pleasure of old movie musicals
Quiet mornings with a hot cup of coffee
The right to vote
The right to free speech
The right to worship God as I see fit
A reliable car
Fresh-baked bread
A well-staffed church nursery
Afternoon naps
Visits with extended family
My children’s health
My husband’s health
My own health
Katie learning to roll over
The hint of Indian summer in the air
The muffled hush of early morning
Falling asleep to the sound of a snoring husband and a snoring baby
The cool refreshment of a glass of juice in the morning
Lysol wipes
Funny birthday cards
Helpful Costco employees
The drop-in daycare program at Herb’s work
A long relaxing breakfast out with plenty of coffee
Educational television
The simple joy a small boy can find in a big plastic dump truck
Scented bubble bath
Veggie Tales
My heated lap blanket
Pumpkin pie
Cranberry sauce
Turkey gravy

This seems like a pretty long list – and it is!! But I still missed thanking dozens of people and causes for whom and for which I am truly thankful. I didn’t get the chance to thank my circle of friends from Gordon College that I still keep in touch with. I didn’t thank the librarians in the children’s room at Waltham Library. Or the clerk at Dress Barn who always picks out the perfect outfits for me. Or all my cousins and their families, or my aunts and uncles, or Herb’s aunts and uncles who all make being part of a family such a joy.

And there are hundreds of other things, small and large, for which I am thankful every single day. I didn’t express my thanks for online shopping, or room-darkening window blinds, or my favorite perfume, or having house cleaners, or my mom’s recipe collection, or my indoor herb garden. I didn’t express my thanks for my neighbors’ beautiful flower garden, or the smell of fresh laundry, or the feel of crisp, clean sheets.

So I guess I’ll need to spend some more time over the next few months continuing to be thankful for all the wonderful people and things that I have in my life. I’ll need to continue to challenge myself to be aware of the people around me who make my life easier and more pleasant. I’ll need to push myself to express my thankfulness to others.

So just to finish this exercise properly, today I am thankful for all of you who have been faithfully following my journey in this blog, who have cheered me on, kept me honest, and even joined with me on the journey. I am thankful for each one of you for your interest in my life, for your encouragement of my writing, and for your faithful support of me as a mom, a wife, and a human being. My life is richer because of each one of you.

And three final things that I am thankful for are the amazing technology that allows me to share my thoughts with friends and strangers all over the country and all over the world, for the beauty of the English language that allows me to express those thoughts, and for the God who made me, who loves me, who saved me, and who makes everything possible for one who believes.

Even being thankful every day for 30 days.

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Monday, November 21, 2011

30 Days of Thanksgiving: Day 29

Today I am thankful for a group of women that I fondly refer to as “the church ladies”. After my dad passed away in 2003, my mom began spending more time with her friends at church, i.e., the church ladies. Some of them were fellow widows, some were divorced, some were currently married, and some had never been married. But they all had two big things in common: they loved God and they loved each other. They attended Bible study together. They got together once a month for lunch to celebrate birthdays. And they all became huge fans of my theatrical career.

I forget which show it started with, but at some point in time my mom mentioned that she was going to see a show that I was in and it turned into a church ladies’ outing. I think they were all quite tickled to be able to tell fellow audience members that they knew someone in the cast. They loved to linger at the stage door after a performance waiting to see me, and they loved telling everyone in the cast just how much they enjoyed the performance. Before long, every time I did a show, the rest of the cast wanted to know which performance the church ladies would be at, because they just loved having such adoring fans in the audience.

And not only were they adoring fans of my performances, they were adoring fans of me as a person. I don’t know who was more excited when Herb and I got engaged: me, my mom, or the church ladies. And as proud as my mom was when Ryan was born and she finally became a grandmother, there was a whole bunch of adopted grandmas who were nearly as proud. And when Katie was born after my mom passed away, she inherited that same bunch of adoring grandmas.

I regret that I haven’t kept in touch with them the way I would like since Katie was born. But I know that my whole family is constantly in their thoughts and prayers, and they are certainly in my thoughts and prayers as well. So I am thankful for Jean, Muriel, Priscilla, Arlene, and all the wonderful church ladies who have been such a loving part of my life.

Three things I am thankful for today are pumpkin pie, cranberry sauce, and turkey gravy.

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Sunday, November 20, 2011

30 Days of Thanksgiving: Day 28

Today I am thankful for all the volunteers who staff the nursery at my church. I can’t imagine what it would be like to try and force Ryan to sit through a church service without being a huge distraction to me, to the pastor, and to the entire congregation. And today, when I participated in the service, I had the option of leaving Katie there, as well. Since there isn’t a large number of families with nursery-aged children, it would be difficult if only the parents staffed the nursery – with children there from only 2 or 3 families each week, parents would be missing the church service to work in the nursery every other week!

So I am thankful for Hyapin, who stays in the nursery every week, since she attends a church service in the evening. I am thankful for Heather, who coordinates the volunteers and steps in on a regular basis when another body is needed. I am thankful for all the moms and dads who take turns serving. And I am thankful for my own opportunity to volunteer, to get to know all the beautiful and delightful children in our congregation who will grow up to be the next generation to serve the church.

Three things I am thankful for today are scented bubble bath, Veggie Tales kids’ videos, and my new heated lap blanket. All three of them bring me peace and relaxation!

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Saturday, November 19, 2011

30 Days of Thanksgiving: Day 27

Today I am thankful for my two beautiful children. They fill my life with joy and laughter every single day. Their smiles can pull me from the darkest mood. Their sweet innocence, their fascination with discovering the world around them, their learning new things every day – all these things are a joy to watch. It is a great responsibility to be a parent, to be completely in charge of these young lives. I am responsible for keeping them safe, for teaching them how to survive in the world, and for teaching them to take care of that world, to be a positive part of it, and to leave it better off than they found it. I don’t take that responsibility lightly. But when I look at my children, I am proud and excited to have that responsibility. I know that with my help, and with the grace of God, they will grow to be a young man and a young woman that I am proud of.

I am thankful for Ryan and Katie.

Today, I am also thankful for educational television programming, classic children’s books, and the simple joy a small boy can find in a plastic dump truck.

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Friday, November 18, 2011

30 Days of Thanksgiving: Day 26

Early on in this Thanksgiving challenge, I was thankful for my sister-in-law, Holly, but I neglected the rest of her family. So today, I am thankful for Jim, Kayla, and Troy Costa.

I am particularly thankful for how wonderful they all are with Ryan and Katie. Jim is one of those men who seems at first glance like he would not be a “baby person”, but who absolutely is. Jim is very athletic and muscular, so he is one of the few people who can toss Ryan in the air with pulling a muscle or giving himself a hernia. And Ryan adores roughhousing with “Unca Jeem”. Ryan can hurl himself into Jim’s legs and instead of nearly knocking him over, as is the case with most adults, Jim just grabs him and swings him high into the air or wrestles him to the ground, giggling maniacally. (Ryan giggles, not Jim. Actually, come to think of it, Jim does too.) And Katie loves being tucked under Jim’s arm like a football, or being dandled on his lap while they both grin and make silly googly faces at each other. I’m thankful for Jim’s playful spirit.

Kayla also naturally takes to both kids. Not only is she great at playing with Ryan, but she is a master of the distraction technique when he is getting into something he shouldn’t, or getting overly wound up. A little, “Hey Ryan, look at this” from her and he completely forgets about the trouble he was about to get into. And she has no fear of handling tiny Katie, expertly finding a position that stops her fussing and keeps her comfortable and happy. She is an experienced and capable babysitter, and it shows. I am thankful for Kayla’s calm competence.

And then there is Troy, Ryan’s favorite play buddy. One of my very favorite videos from Ryan’s first Christmas, when he was only about 6 weeks old, shows Troy and Ryan “wrestling”. Herb is holding Ryan and tackling Troy with him, and Troy obligingly throws himself to the ground while Ryan grins madly. And their relationship has been like that ever since. When Ryan started to speak and we were practicing the names of all the different relatives, for some reason Ryan decided that Troy’s name was “Mun”, and it’s stuck ever since. And there is no better way to get Ryan all excited than to tell him that Mun is coming over. Troy is one of the few people who can keep up with Ryan’s manic energy for more than a few minutes at a time, and Ryan loves that he has a buddy who will chase him around the room and won’t tire of the game before Ryan does. He loves that there’s someone who will wrestle him without fear of getting bumped or bruised. And yet Troy can still be gentle and sweet with Katie. I am thankful for Troy’s energy.

Three things that I am thankful for today are the drop-in daycare program at Herb’s work, comfortable shoes (especially when they’re on sale), and a long, relaxing breakfast out with plenty of coffee (and plenty of waitresses who aren’t too busy to stop by and tell me how adorable my baby girl is).

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Thursday, November 17, 2011

30 Days of Thanksgiving: Day 25

Today is my birthday, and although I woke up intending on being thankful for certain people today, I’m putting them off for a day because I am so thankful for all my Facebook friends who have been showering me with cheerful birthday wishes literally since the clock struck midnight.

My day began somewhat less than auspiciously when I left my toddler in the playroom for a few minutes so I could feed my infant daughter, and when I came back, I discovered a poopy diaper on the floor, a naked, slightly poopy toddler racing happily around the room, and a poop-covered wall that either diaper or bum (or possibly both) had been wiped on. It made it much easier to laugh rather than cry over the situation when I saw the litany of good wishes on my Wall, and also the sympathy after I posted the story.

Facebook, for me, has been a wonderful way to connect (or re-connect) with distant relatives, classmates, former work colleagues, and theater friends. I’ve found a whole new community of fellow older parents and parents of grown children ready to give advice and commiseration, of theater buffs giving recommendations and reviews, and of people of all persuasions just being funny and interesting. As a stay-at-home mom, it is my major social outlet and method of keeping in touch with the outside world. I can chat with a friend even if I haven’t managed to get out of my bathrobe or brush my teeth yet. I can find a fellow insomniac when I’m up in the wee hours of the night. I can sneak peeks at other people’s families and vacation adventures and whatever else they choose to share in pictures and stories. I can be part of a community that extends across the country and around the world.

And I am thankful for every one of them, and for their willingness to share their lives with me through this medium, and for their interest in sharing mine.

Three things I am thankful for today are Lysol wipes, funny birthday cards, and the helpful employees at Costco.

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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

30 Days of Thanksgiving: Day 24

Today I am thankful for my rheumatologist, Dr. Kovacs, at Lahey Medical Center in Burlington ( Nearly twenty years ago, I woke up one morning with a terrible pain in my left wrist that didn’t go away. My primary care doctor quickly diagnosed me with rheumatoid arthritis and sent me to Lahey. I had a wonderful rheumatologist who immediately got me into a drug study and on a medication that was extremely successful. When I had to leave the study, she found another drug that worked just as well. When she moved her practice to another state, I was sure I would never find another doctor as compassionate and understanding. But I ended up as a patient of Dr. Kovacs and I am once again blessed with a doctor who listens to my concerns, treats me as a whole person rather than just a patient, and works hard to keep up to date with new treatment options.

She is genuinely concerned with improving my life, not just my health. When I told her I was getting married and planning to start a family, she didn’t just address my concerns about how the drugs I was currently on would affect conception and pregnancy, but we also talked about how the changes in my lifestyle upon becoming a parent would affect what drug would be most suitable – being a mother herself, she understood that coming to the hospital for an infusion every 7 weeks would not be feasible with children at home. She was aware of the physical tasks of taking care of an infant and gave me practical suggestions on dealing with them given my physical limitations. And when each of my children was born, the first thing she said to me at my next appointment was not, “How is your health?” but, “How is the baby and where are the pictures?” She takes a genuine interest in the lives of each of her patients. I am so thankful for a doctor who cares for me in the best possible sense of the word.

Today I am thankful for the muffled hush of early morning, for falling asleep with the beautiful harmony of a gently snoring husband on one side of me and a gently snoring baby on the other, and for the cool refreshment of a cold glass of juice in the morning.

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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

30 Days of Thanksgiving: Day 23

Today I am thankful for a group of people: the friends I have made on the internet message board that I post on. When I was pregnant with my son, I joined a message board to look for advice and support from other expectant moms and moms with small children. Through that motherhood-specific board I discovered a different message board which is, essentially, a group of people who chat about whatever they’re thinking about at the moment. The topics of discussion range from politics and current news stories, to dealing with difficult family members, to fashion advice, to sharing sad or exciting personal news, to exchanging recipes and menu advice. We discuss the same sorts of things that friends in real life would discuss, we just do it electronically.

But what makes the people on this board so special is the way they support each other. Even when posters disagree, they generally do it in a respectful manner that allows for discussion of the different points of view. And if someone is struggling, the posters rally around to support her (or him), sending virtual hugs, offering kind advice, offering sympathy, or just saying, “I’ve been there and I got through it, and you will, too.”

It continues to amaze and impress me that people of all ages, backgrounds, cultures, and locations can come together and create such a supportive community. Is it all sunshine and roses? Of course not. There are occasionally nasty things said (and often regretted), there is the occasional bout of name-calling, and posters are even occasionally made to take a “cyber time-out” by the board moderators. But generally, it is as harmonious a group as any group of that size and varying composition could possibly be.

Although I have never met any of my fellow posters, I do feel like many of them are friends. After all, they offered me sympathy when my mom passed away, they eagerly awaited my daughter’s birth, and they enjoy hearing my stories about my kids. And I enjoy sharing in their joys and struggles, as well. Because that’s what friends do, whether you’ve ever met them in person or not.

Three things I am thankful for today are my daughter’s newfound ability to roll over, my son’s polite manners, and the hint of lingering Indian summer in the air.

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Monday, November 14, 2011

30 Days of Thanksgiving: Day 22

Today I am thankful for a cause: James Dobson’s Focus on the Family (

I have listened to the Focus on the Family radio broadcasts since long before I had a family of my own. The wisdom of Dr. Dobson and his guests has guided how I relate to my husband, my children, and everyone around me. His advice on Christian marriage taught me what to look for in a relationship, and I used that knowledge to find my own wonderful, godly husband. His advice on Christian parenting, both through the Focus broadcasts and through his books, “The Strong Willed Child”, “Bringing Up Boys”, and “Bringing Up Girls”, continues to guide me as a parent – and to reassure me that perfection in parenting is not required in order to raise healthy children. I am thankful for the many years he has spent in building up this ministry, and in gathering resources for husbands, wives, and parents. I am thankful for the many volunteers as well as paid staff at Focus on the Family that provide resources to those who seek them. I am thankful that God has given Dr. Dobson the gifts of teaching, strong parenting, and gentle guidance and support of those around him.

Three things I am thankful for today are my children’s health, my husband’s health, and my own health.

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Sunday, November 13, 2011

30 Days of Thanksgiving: Day 21

Today I am thankful for my friend, Suzanne Herman. Suzanne has been a friend for the past 20 years. I still recall her first day at Gordon College, when a group of friends went out to Pizza Hut and I realized what a kindred soul she was. There are a group of girls who all lived on the same dorm floor that year (well, one of us was an honorary floormate!) who have all stayed friends and stayed in touch through the years. Suzanne is another woman who, like my cousin Carol, has become a mother that I aim to emulate.

Suzanne is the mom of three delightful young ladies, an older girl and younger twin girls. I didn’t realize how impressive her parenting skills (and nerves) were until I had children of my own. I can’t imagine managing newborn twins; I certainly can’t imagine doing it with a toddler as well. But she manages every crisis with grace and humor. She tells the story of going to the ER with a child who had somehow gotten a Polly Pocket phone wedged up her nose (note to self: do NOT let Katie get interested in Polly Pocket stuff). When she tells the story, she laughs, but I have no doubt it wasn’t that funny at the time. I want to be the mom who can laugh at this kind of emergency after the fact. I am thankful that I can look at Suzanne and know that even in the face of emergencies, laughter can be not far behind.

I am thankful that I have friends like her that I can go to for wise advice and assurance that “this too shall pass”. I am thankful that I can look at her kids and realize that even with the most careful parenting, crises will happen and everyone will come out OK. I am thankful that she shows me that laughter is essential to raising children without losing your mind. And I am thankful for her relationship with her husband, both as co-parents and as husband and wife. I am thankful that I can see both his strictness with and his blatant adoration of his three beautiful girls, two traits that are so mirrored in my own husband. I am thankful that he reminds me that the two can go hand in hand, and that seeing that helps me see my own husband’s skillful parenting in the balance of sternness and love.

Ryan with Greta, Bridget, and Holly during their visit to Boston last year. The girls are well on their way to becoming the world’s best babysitters, not surprisingly.

The three things I am thankful for today are a well-staffed nursery at church, the beauty of an afternoon nap, and the joy of visits with extended family.

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