O Tannenbaum

And now it starts: that part of the year when all my posts get Christmas carol names instead of regular old lame punny song titles. Sorry. (Not really.) Anyway ... one whole day earlier than last year, we have our tree up back at the ol' homestead.

2009 Naked

Some of the particulars for this year: instead of a Frasier fir, we got a balsam fir. The reasoning is simple -- cost. Our tree is about 7" tall, and the balsam was almost $10 cheaper for that size. We're still quite happy with it. It has a nice pine-with-some-kind-of-random citrus scent. Oh, and I think I might be allergic to it because I've had a sore, gummy throat since we brought it into the house. Zyrtec, baby.

2009 Lights

This year's tree is decorated pretty similarly to last year's. What can I say? When I find a Martha-Stewart-approved design scheme that I like, I tend to stick with it. This year, I did add some white to the mix, so our "official" holiday colors are gold, silver, and white, with accents of "last year's wrapping paper." Lots and lots of sparkles. Fewer lights than last year, and I did NOT buy any more lights this time around.

2009 Finished

You can see here the (mostly) completed tree. I think I am going to see if I can pick up some more white ornaments, just singles here and there, but for the most part, we are done with this bad boy. The only decorations that have any "not approved" colorings are the cupcake (about halfway down, on the left hand side, near the giant bedazzled "S") and the little blue sweater (near the bottom, center-right). One thing you might not be able to tell -- no balls. Just bells and pinecones and finials and glittery springs and random sparklies.

2009 Finished (No Flash)

We did go shopping for my Christmas presents over the weekend, and one of them is a tripod, so I will try to get some nice pictures of some of the new favorite ornaments soon. In the meantime, if you're really interested, you can see a couple of pictures I took with the iPhone camera here and here and here. (That last one is a joke, but you better believe that I would hang that sucker if I had one, because I find it best to hedge all bets at holiday time, you know?)


Street Survivors

Because "The One Where I Run Around Acting Like I Am Shooting A Lynyrd Skynyrd Album Cover" is too long, and also maybe more than a little bit obvious.

Home of the Rovers

For the past 103 years, my high school has played football on Thaksgiving morning against the high school just across the river, our counterpart in new Jersey.

Bonfire 2009

The night before is The Bonfire, which is at the end of a week of activities which are significantly primarily to seniors: the Sleep-Out, the Pep Rally, the ritual of dressing like lumberjacks and getting splinters from unload pallets off trucks.

Shae & Pop
Shae & Mom

We didn't take Shae to the bonfire last year -- I can't remember why, but I'm sure it made sense at the time. She didn't lose a step any way: she handled the stroll perfectly. Like a pageant queen, waving and flouncing and working the crowd. Queen of the Bonfire, already.

World on Fire

She already wants to know when we can go to the next bonfire.


A Week of Thanks: Day 7

This year, I am especially thankful for HER.

Gladys 2
Mischief 2
Splashy Splash 2
Mystery Pose 2
School Pic Fall 2009-3a

I do not delude myself: a lot of stars and planets and miracles both major and minor had to line up in order for everything to work out the way it did. A whole lot. Our adoption was easier than most, but it was not without its perils. Probably the most dangerous of these were our own personal issues, our heavy baggage, the bullshit we dragged with us back and forth to Allentown and back -- no, to hell and back -- to get through this. More than once we talked about calling the whole thing off. Not because we didn't want it, but because we wanted it so much that we couldn't bear it if anything went wrong.

It didn't, of course, and there are a lot of people we need to thank for that. Shae deserves most of the credit, because she is just so supremely awesome -- and I know that's a cheap and almost tacky word these days, "awesome," but it sure does describe this kid, doesn't it? Every day I am filled with awe at how amazing she is. How much like me, and like her Daddy. How much like her grandparents, all of them, how much like this entire family our little girl is. When we decided to adopt, we knew we didn't want to "select" a child from those available, but instead we decided to wait until the right child found us. Boy, howdy, it's astonishing how that happened, isn't it? Awesome, even.

Still and all, we would not have gotten through the past year and a half without the phenomenal support of all our family and friends. We are especially grateful to the folks at Catholic Charities at the Diocese of Allentown, who gave us a chance when there were other agencies who might not have, and who kept us fighting for what we knew we wanted from the day we got The Call. More still, we need to acknowledge our old family friend and lawyer Lisa, who handled things for us in court, and my cousin Jessie, who suggested we give this foster-adopt thing a try in the first place. To all of you: THANK YOU. For everything.

But mostly, we are thankful for our beautiful, wonderful, fantastic, awesome Shae. Whom we loved before we even knew her, and who we will always love, always and forever. Amen.


A Week of Thanks: Day 5

This one is probably going to be the most trite and unoriginal "thanks" of the bunch, but as is my wont, I just don't care. I'm thankful for my family, and I'm thankful that I have the kind of family that I can be thankful for. Sure, we've got our share of dysfunction, but do you honestly know a family that doesn't? Because I sure as hell don't.

Everybody's got their something -- and that works both ways. My family's got a history of diabetes, mental illness, Phillies fandom, and pigheadedness. But they also always have room enough at the table, love enough to share, and stories enough to tell. We are all a part of each other, in ways both mortifying and nourishing, but isn't that what families are all about? That which multiplies our joy and divides our grief?


A Week of Thanks: Day 4

Let's tell it like it is: we don't live in the best neighborhood. It has its particular advantages and disadvantages, like any neighborhood does. I joke about living in the "ghetto," but it's not entirely unlike a lot of streets in a lot of towns in a lot of places all over the place. They won't be making TV shows about this place, is what I am saying.

We don't live in the best house on the block, but we don't live in the worst house on the block, either. Do I wish things were different? Yes. Is there anyone who doesn't? I wish we had the time and the money and the skills to make some repairs, do some redecorating, arrange for some improvements. But you know what? It's ours, we have a nice life here, a beautiful garden, a happy family.

Could I be any more cliché? Probably. But be it ever so humble, I'm thankful for our home.

Proof of Life

It occurred to me last night that with all the thankfulness and the whining about suddenly up and moving to one of the wings of Naxxramas and all, it's been a few days since I posted any pictures. Not that anyone is keeping track except my sister and My Anonymous Mother, of course. (Ba-dum-DUM.) But I thought it might be a good idea to offer up some photographic evidence that we are all still alive, if not necessarily well.

Bride of Edgar Winter's Frankenstein
(Butter) Bread and Water

Here we are, rocking out as much as it is possible to do so on command, and also enjoying our butter bread and water, which is the only thing she wanted to eat for dinner last night. We got her to eat a few bites under threat of calling Santa Claus, but she's smarter than we are and would have none of it.

I won't lie: these pictures are terrible, because neither she nor I really felt like taking any pictures, but I thought it was worth confirming that rumors of our death have been greatly exaggerated.


A Week of Thanks: Day 3

I whined earlier about the weird little Rosie-the-Riveter story I am living in my head, of how we're going to muddle through in these Difficult Economic Times® and it's going to be all up to Miss Mama to keep this family together and how as God is my witness we shall never go hungry again, and ... wait, did I just shift paradigms without a clutch again?

Anyway: when things were better (or, more pecisely, easier), we bought a lot of STUFF, and some of that stuff included a DVD player and a nice flat-screen TV and a pretty comprehensive collection of Disney movies, things that maybe we didn't need at the time, but that we saved up for because we wanted them, and anyway the point of all of this is that I am thankful that because we have these things, we are able to enjoy Sunday Movie Night with our daughter.

(This week's selection? Cinderella. Oh, shut up. Don't you judge me. It's important to get into the enemy's head, or how else are you supposed to RISE UP AND SLAY THEM?)


A Week of Thanks: Day 2

Even though I am kind of convinced that this bout of strep is a tool of the male patriarchy trying to keep me down ... I am thankful for a loving and patient husband who's been taking care of my ass for the last two days.


A Week of Thanks: Day 1

If I hadn't come down with the plague I was going to be all cute about this, but right now I am too tired and too crashed out to make any jokes, so let me say this: I am very, very thankful for my medical plan. People bitch because the prices are going up next year, and everybody wants something for nothing, and yadda yadda, but I have to say that $250 or so a month to make sure that I can call My Anonymous Mother on the phone at 8:00 and end up with a doctor's appointment the same day? Priceless to me. And know that the same applies to G and Shae? Even more invaluable.

And that I only had to pay $40 on my prescription for Levaquin? Don't even get me started -- retail on those bad boys is over $160!

So. Anyway. I'm thankful for my health insurance and prescription plan, and I'm thankful that I live in a time and a place where Congress is trying to fight for these same benefits for other people.


Fifth Element

As I previously reported before, I am a notorious hypochondriac. If I so much as hear about the hot new disease, I convince myself six ways from Sunday that I have it. Swine flu, shingles, echolocation (which is not actually a disease but it sounds like one, doesn't it?) -- if it exists, I've convinced myself that I have it. Having once worked for a doctor's office in a position that allowed me to read other peoples' diagnoses probably exacerbated this problem. And of course the Internet and "The Hypochondriac's Guide to Life. And Death." do not help.

After that adventure I had over the summer where I had that weird case of contact dermatitis that caused some kind of underlying secondary infection -- or, as I like to call it, the "Really Bad Hot Itchy Boob Poison" -- I am particularly wary of (and suggestible to) rashes and itching. Like, right now my face is SO ITCHY that I feel like I am going to have no choice in a few minutes but to SCRATCH ALL MY SKIN OFF WITH A BENT PAPERCLIP just to keep from slowly going insane.

Now, probably it's nothing -- just dry skin from the weather changing. But this has been going on for a couple of days and it doesn't feel like it's getting better, even though I've been using my fancy expensive moisturizers every day and my special exotic treatment gels every night and washing my face with Cetaphil and sacrificing virgin baby unicorns during a lunar eclipse with a blade made of fairy wings and titansteel. Nothing has worked, so I went to WebMD, and simply by filling in that my symptoms include itchy or burning skin on my face, with nothing else going on (no foreign travel, no eating fish, no dancing with the devil in the pale moonlight), I have helpfully been informed that I probably have lice, or poison (again!), or hives, or alopecia, or narcotic abuse.

NARCOTIC ABUSE. Son of a bitch, I knew those two Vicodin that I took when the dentist YANKED TWO WHOLE TEETH RIGHT THE FUCK OUT OF MY HEAD were going to come back and bite me in the ass eventually. I didn't think it would take two and a half months, but there you go -- those 10 mg of Vicodin have turned me into an ADDICT and soon I'll be living on the STREET doing GOD KNOWS WHAT for money so I can buy cigarettes and alcohol and more drugs and it will just all be a bad scene and this is ALL BECAUSE THE INTERNET TOLD ME I HAVE ITCHY SKIN ON MY FACE! Because it's almost winter. Those bastards.

Oh, my point? My point is that Shae is sick, and she ALSO has a weird rash:

Weird Rash

Except when little kids get a head cold with weird rash on their face (now it's more on her cheeks than around her mouth -- the mouth and nose redness is because she has been blowing her nose for three straight days), they get to have something called "fifth disease" and not, you know, a DRUG PROBLEM.


The X-(mas) Files

It's been a long time since I made a proper list for Santa, so the details are fuzzy, but I'm pretty sure there was never a year when I asked for only one thing for Christmas. Even now, in my old age, my list contains multiple items, to wit:
  1. New lens for the fancy camera
  2. New flash for the fancy camera
  3. ???
  4. Profit!
So it's something of a shock to me, material girl living in a material world that I am, that my 2½-year-old has been asking for one thing, and one thing only, this year. What she wants for Christmas is ... a camera.

I shouldn't be surprised, I guess -- this poor kid lives her life on film, unfortunately, because I am that mom, and she gets her picture taken at least once a week doing every frickin' random thing she does except pooping. (Oh, c'mon, I do have my limits.) Ever since she got her grubby mitts on the "baby" camera back in August, she's been asking for a camera of her own.

But what does amaze me is how familiar all of this seems. The fixation, the single-mindedness of purpose. The stubbornness. That's how I get when I find something I really want: a cashmere scarf, an iPhone, a baby. I can't talk about anything else. It's all I can think about. Something I can always picture myself being and doing and using. Kind of like with the writing, and why I started a blog in the first place. I've got all this stuff, and I need to get it out.

This is how Shae has been with the camera, and even if there was ever a doubt about what we are getting her for Christmas -- and there wasn't, anyway -- even if G and I could not agree on what the "big" gift would be this year, I would find away to get her what she wants. She has been all-camera, all-the-time since August, so come hell or high water, baby's getting a camera.

And personally, Mommy is thrilled, because it's one more thing that she and I can do together. I don't know and don't really care whether she'll grow up to be a professional photographer, but even if she's just an adventurous amateur, I am all about encouraging that kind of creative self-expression. Especially when it means that we're not going to dye the cats with Manic Panic, or paint on the sofa.


Space Between

We're smack dab in the middle of birthdays -- one yesterday, two today, and then two more next week, with even more coming soon after that. This time of year, as you might imagine, we do a lot of visiting.

Nannie Hallman Cake

Yesterday we went to visit my Nana Haldaman, my dad's mom, who turned 82. Boy, howdy. Eighty-two years old and still going strong, even with 13 kids, 30-something grandchildren, and about a dozen great-grandchildren. She still crochets afghans and goes to doo-wop shows at the Legion. I get exhausted after walking to the kitchen for a cookie. So good on her. Happy birthday, "Nannie Hallman"!

(Oh, and by the way: These are not up to my usual standards because they're iPhone pictures. Deal. I wasn't lugging that giant-ass camera out just to take pictures of the back of my grandmother's head. You want those shots, you call TMZ, you vultures.)

Uncle Quack's Birthday Donut

We stopped in to visit my mother-in-law for a little bit, and then it was off to my other grandparents' for dinner and college football (not necessarily in that order). And since tomorrow is my godfather Uncle Quack's birthday, we had some donuts in his honor and lit some candles and sang.

Nom 1
Nom 2
Nom 3
Nom 4

Then came the very best part: the ritual demolishing of the chocolate-frosted birthday donut. Happy birthday, everyone!


The Princess Diaries

So ... these shoes.

Ballerina Shoes

My Anonymous Mother picked these up at a yard sale, along with a matching Cinderella ball gown costume. To say I am not a fan of the outfit is probably an understatement -- as far as I can tell, I am one of the least girly moms I know. I own skirts and dresses, but I wear them at most once a month, when I have to go to church or a wedding or something. Company holiday parties. That sort of thing.

Glass Slipper

But these shoes kill me. Shae calls them "ballerina shoes," which cracks me right up. Yesterday she wanted to wear them around the house, and once I got her to agree that we don't wear them on the stairs (they're too big, and I don't want her to fall, and yes I know this is maybe a little too over protective, but I don't care), we had ourselves a Dress-Up Situation.

Tea Party

I try to discourage certain kinds of feminity as much as possible -- not really into the whole "damsel in distress" thing, because sometimes the princess needs to save her own damn self -- but really, even to an old-school hard-core feminist like me, what is offensive about a tea party? I like tea parties. Sometimes there is cake.


Everybody loves cake. Even wicked bitter evil queens, like me.


WTF!? Friday: Name That Soup

Know what makes you feel better after a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day? Soup, that's what. Even when it's soup that you kind of invented, sort of, out of ingredients you found in your pantry (plus a couple of fresh items, just to be different). Here is what we had for dinner last night:

"Mystery Soup"
  • 1 cup dry white cannellini beans (or 15 ounce can)
  • 1 pound chicken or turket sweet Italian sausage
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 6 ounce bag of baby spinach, washed and patted dry
  • 1 can Italian-style diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 32 ounces chicken stock (or equivalent made from water & bouillon cubes)
  • 1 cup tomato juice (or water) -- only if needed
  • 1 cup uncooked elbow macaroni
  1. In a saucepan, combine beans with 4 cups warm water. Boil for five minutes, then cover and set aside for at least 1 hour. (If using canned beans, you can skip this step.) Drain, rinse, and return to saucepan. Set aside.
  2. Slice sausage into "coins" about 1/2" thick (or simply remove from casing). Preheat oil a large stockpot. Add sausage and cook for for 5-7 minutes or until mostly cooked through.
  3. Add spinach to stockpot and cook until wilted, about 3-5 minutes.
  4. Add tomatoes and chicken stock to stockpot. Heat to boiling. Add beans. Reduce heat to medium and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 15-20 minutes or until beans are mostly softened. (If using canned beans, you can skip this step -- just add beans and proceed directly to Step 5.)
  5. Add macaroni and cook, stirring occasionally, for an additional 15-20 minutes or until noodles are completely cooked. If necessary, add additional tomato juice so there is enough liquid to cover noodles completely plus about 1/2" of additional liquid.
  6. Let sit for 5 minutes before serving with grated Parmesan cheese and crusty bread.

If you know what you're doing and you feel inspired, you can add other stuff to this, or make this with mini shells or ditalini instead of elbows. Hot Italian sausage can work, too, if you like that stuff (we find it not toddler-friendly). Not sure what to call this concoction -- it's sort of Italian wedding soup, sort of minestrone, sort of goulash, all thrown into a stockpot -- but it's good. Hope you like it!

 PS -- Tried to take pictures of this. Was not successful. Doesn't look as good as it tastes.


Send in the Clowns

(NOTE: This is long and overwrought and very emo, and possibly upsetting. This was a big ol' stream of consciousness thing that I wrote. You can skip it if you want -- the pictures aren't that great anyway. I almost didn't publish this, but I decided to anyway, for two reasons: (1) these are real feelings, and (2) I feel better for having gotten it out, which is kind of the reason why I started this blog in the first place. I'm fine. I'll be fine. I have to be, and I want to be. You can worry, but know that I have this stuff on the radar, and I am monitoring myself, and I won't actually GET out of control. I just FEEL out of control, sometimes. YMMV, and QED, and etc.)


This time last year, I was was practically swimming in bliss, what with my team winning the World Series and my guy winning the election and things just generally going much more my way than things are right at this particular moment in time. I'm not exactly talking myself off the ledge, not quite, but ...

... well, let me put it this way: did you ever have one of those days when you have, like, tunnel vision, and all you can see is what's going on right in front of you, and that's probably okay anyway because what's happening off to the side there sounds a little bit terrifying, but anyway you're staring straight ahead trying to concentrate and then all of the sudden you notice that there is a very weighty darkness rapidly closing in around you and you feel this moist hot sulfurous breath on the back of your neck and then you blink and when you open your eyes all you can see is this pinpoint of light on the horizon and suddenly the panting is getting heavier behind you?

No? Just me?


G is still out of work, and right now I am the breadwinner in our family, and let me tell you something about that: my (not-so) inner feminist is at full-on DEFCON-5. It's one thing to be the moneymaker when you want to, when you and he are separate-but-equal-partners, when your marriage is new and you are both young and strong. But when you have to? When there are kids and pets and mortgage payments? When you've been constantly working for 10+ years without breaks except for the obligatory occasional week of vacation and you're old and tired? Whole 'nother ballgame, buster. This is quidditch on the moon.

The fact that there are only 40-something days until Christmas and I have barely started my shopping, barely even started thinking about my shopping, barely even started considering thinking about my shopping, probably gives away how bad things are getting, in my head at least. How can I worry about Christmas presents when I am busy worrying about how we're going to make two car payments and a mortgage payment and a daycare payment with only one job? It's come to this: I am having a hard time justifying spoiling my own child, the child we wanted so long and worked so hard for, because I just can't make the cost-benefit analysis work. Even as I say it myself, it's the saddest and stupidest thing I've ever heard.


And then I think, "If it's this bad for us, how bad must it be for others? The ones with no jobs, no severance, no unemployment, no nothing? How bad must it be for them?" And I can do something for them, I know I can, if I am willing to sacrifice some of the little bit we still have, but ... then again. Then again. They just did a round of layoffs where I work. I know I am lucky to have a job right now. I have survivor's guilt, I guess. I am becoming overwhelmed with all of it. Sometimes I worry myself right into nausea. I need to out my head between my knees. I can't hardly sleep.

I mean, maybe I exaggerate a little bit, but I am starting to hit panic mode right now and I'm not sure how to keep the sky from swirling over me while the earth spins out of control underneath my feet in this maelstrom of my own making. I am starting to crack under the pressure and I wonder sometimes if we're going to make it, G and I, our little family. I feel like I'm going looneypants. Some days I am sad, and some days I am angry, and some days it's a struggle to get out of bed, and some days I am so consumed with so many emotions at once that I force myself to feel absolutely nothing in self-defense. Fuck off, world! Die in a fire.

Looney Toons

This is depression, probably a big one, and I know this. I can feel it like a giant octopus or a big hairy spider, twisting its legs around my ribs and squeezing until I can't run and can't move and can't breathe and can't scream. But I can't be bothered with this, I can't, I just can't be depressed right now, not with him depressed and people around me depressed and the whole damn world depressed. I'm the positive one. I'm the cockeyed optimist. I'm Little Miss Sunshine. I'm the Little Engine That Could.

And here I am, standing in the tunnel, and it's getting darker and darker and that panting behind me is getting louder and louder and that tiny point of light is getting farther and farther away and now I'm starting to hear calliope music, which means here come the horrible flesh-eating clowns, and I think it's going to be getting a lot worse before it gets better, and I'm barely hanging on to this high wire here already. Please, send help. And a flashlight.


The Other Public Option

Did you know that November is National Adoption Month, "a month set aside to raise awareness about the adoption of children and youth from foster care"? National Adoption Day is November 21st.

Shae 11-08-09 011

We're celebrating this month, in our own little ways. Mostly by running around and being a family and gasping for breath and do you have any idea how fast a 2½ year old is when she's avoiding a nap?

Smiley 2

I can't say it enough: becoming foster parents, and eventually adoptive parents, is absolutely, positively, without a doubt the single best thing we've ever done in our lives. Full stop.

Smiley 3

The theme of NAM for 2009 is "You don't have to be perfect to be a perfect parent." If ever there was proof of that, go back and read any random blog post of mine from March 2008 through and including the present.

Smiley 4

If you know anyone who has considered, even for a minute, becoming a foster or adoptive parent, give them all the encouragement you can. They won't be sorry. Pinky swear.

Resources: AdoptUSKids.org 


Save the Stinkbug!

I am not sure how other parents do things, but we don't give Shae baths every night. Partly this is because of how bad this is for her hair -- being all coarse and curly, it is also very dry, and washing it every day is not advised -- but mostly it is because Bath Night at Casa Gonzales is a giant big-ass hour-long rigmarole involving approximately seven bottles of stuff, negotiations over types and quantities of tub toys, mud wrestling to get that kid out of her clothes, several fits of tears when I try to rinse shampoo out of that mop, etc. It's kind of a big deal, and when it's over, we're exhausted.


So recently we started a new routine on our off-nights. She gets regular full-on bubble baths two or three nights a week, and most of the rest of the time, she gets what have we been calling "bird baths." We put her Elmo mat in the bottom of the tub, turn on the water, give her some roll-on soap syrup, and let her have at it for about 10 minutes.


It's great, because we are using this as one of those "teachable moments" -- we're trying to get her into the habit of washing herself, and this is a big help. Of course we follow up with a washcloth on all the important bits, but it's fun to listen to her check off all her bits that need to be cleaned: feet, hands, neck, ears. And it's fun for her, of course, because she can kind of make a mess while she's washing up.

Duck Towel

But of course the best part of this plan is one that I hadn't even really thought out, and it is that we get to relish in the best part of bath night -- the after-bath snuggling and giggling, when Shae is all clean and smells extra wonderful -- a lot sooner. And for a lot longer.


Back in the Saddle Again

Sorry that blogging has been so light in the last few days: someone -- and I am not saying who because it might be me -- ran over the camera cord with the computer chair, and we just this morning got it fixed. We've also been wallowing in our depression over the end of the world the other day, and we're still kind of down in the dumps about it.

Cryin' Hawaiian

Oh, and there's that whole situation where I've been working on two calendars at the same time for Christmas. Boy howdy, what was I thinking with that? But I promise: we'll be back on track this week. Thanks for your patience.


WFC's No More (For Now)

These words are not mine -- they are all other people's. Because all I have to say is, "Meh." I'm sorry the Phillies lost, I'm more sorry that the Phillies lost to the damn Yankees, but I am not devastated. Losing at this point last year probably would have killed me dead, but now I'm in a place where I can accept this loss with the knowledge -- or perhaps it is the hope? -- that we have done it before, and we can sure as hell do it again. I'm not a "next year" kind of girl, not really, but there is always next year. I am one of the "Phaithful."

As for this year? It's been hella fun, and now I can get some sleep. It's been hard staying up all night and amusing myself with Facebook games while I didn't actually watch the games because I'm superstitious.

= = = = =

From The 700 Level: "This team has character, heart, and took us on one of the most amazing runs this city has ever seen. It was an awfully fun ride. While I'm sad to see it come to an end, I'm thankful for the fun it's been."

= = = = =

From The Fightins: "At first, this recap felt like an obituary. Here lies the 2009 Philadelphia Phillies, it started out with. That theme continued for about 50 or so words, until I realized something: It’s wrong.

"It’s wrong, and I’ll tell you why: 2009 wasn’t the death of something. These Phillies aren’t getting taken apart from a fire sale spurred on by cheap management. There are no pending free agents that anchor the team, and the owner doesn’t have a beef with the skipper."

= = = = =

From Beerleaguer: "2009 carried a different meaning ... one that mattered less about winning and more about the bonds the Phillies have created among us. Step back. Look around. What great pleasure, excitement and brotherhood the Phillies have stirred, at a time when unity and goodwill are in such short supply."

= = = = =

From Phillie Phanatics: "This team is filled with a unique group of guys, gathered together from the various nooks and crannies of our country, who have gelled together unlike any team I’ve ever seen. They are a giant family, they all get along, and manage to find a way to do the impossible, get through a Major League season."

= = = = =

There are some people I know, co-workers and friends and even some family members, who are going to gloat because their team won a World Series again. They have sent out bragging emails and posted smug Facebook status updates wherein they are waiting for excuses and begging for arguments. They'll get none from me, because I have none to give; their team won, and my team lost, and that's the way the cookie crumbles. It is what it is.

I refuse to tell them to take their 27 trophies and stick them sideways up their asses, because it's just not me. Not right now, anyway. And it's not what the late great Harry Kalas would want, I don't think. Let them be happy that their team won. Hooray for you! (Insert Monty Python-esque "great rejoicing" noises here.) Me? I'm happy that my TEAM -- all of them, barring unforeseen tragedy -- will be back together next year.

And I mean, really, what is one more loss, when we've already had 10,000 of them anyway? I feel the same way now that I did then: "Learn from the experience, but don't let it define you. 10,000 losses. Big whoop. Game over. Reset. Full steam ahead."

Next year, guys. We've got high-apple-pie-in-the-sky hopes.


Cupcake Calendar: November

Ugh, I look at these calendar pages now and I just ... well, suffice it to say that compared to what I have been working on for next year's Cupcake Calendar, the 2009 edition looks like it was assembled by a color-blind first-grader with Parkinson's or something. Or, to clarify: holy hell, this is a hot ghetto mess, isn't it?

But I still love these pictures -- they are some of my favorite from last year. The one on the bottom, of her in the middle of a fit of giggles with her crazy hair, never ceases to cheer me up, no matter what is going on. Her smiles are the most beautiful things in the world, and I just can't get enough of them. Yesterday I tickled her for 10 minutes, just to soak up some of her laughter.

And of course that picture of her with the guitar? Fuggeddaboudit. That was the moment, right there, when all doubts were erased and I knew this kid was something special. It took us almost a year to prove it, of course, but we got there eventually.


Time Of The Season

Okay, time to trot out the last of the Halloween pictures before I -- perhaps quite literally, this time -- run out of things to say.

Dark Side of the Rainbow

This picture was originally in my Twitter feed. It's from the school Halloween parade on Friday. Oh boy, was that an unmitigated disaster, or what? Imagine 100 kids, aged 6 weeks-5 years, all in costumes, all freshly-awakened from their naps, after a big lunch, on a cool and cloudy day, while trying to stay in a straight line, and -- ooooh, look! There's a bug!

Yeah, it went about that well. And it was a bad day for Shae, because she was so tired, after waking up at 2:00 that day and pretty much refusing to go back to sleep. Obviously this picture has been edited, since it's all sepia-toned; I had wanted to make it "match" the pre-cyclone coloring of "The Wizard of Oz," but G says the sad, serious little face is very "Grapes of Wrath." Can't really argue.

Shae & Aidan

Trick-or-treat went much better than the parade, in spite of the rain. At least it wasn't freezing, and there were so few actual kids out this year that Shae made quite an excellent haul. Being cute doesn't hurt, I guess. We ran into some people we knew, including Aidan, who went with us on vacation to the shore (and I can't believe that I never put up any pictures to prove it, but he was there).

BTW: Aidan has a little sister, Mia, who's birthday is tomorrow and also a cousin Kaine who is about 6 months old, and Mia and Kaine were dressed up as Thing 1 and Thing 2. Frickin' adorable. Cute kids in coordinated costumes FTW!

Shae & "Nannie Hallman"

If there is any reason why I am glad for my iPhone, it is this: I am able to catch moments without having to get that giant-ass camera out. Yes, this picture isn't as great as some of the others, and yet I think it's even more awesome because there is no posing or pretense. This is my kid, tearing into the house and running right over to her "Nannie Hallman" to give her a hug. And Nana loves it, obviously.

OK, so that's it ... as of tomorrow, I have no idea what you're going to get. No more new pictures, and the weather doesn't look promising. Maybe I'll eat a bagful of Halloween candy and write something while I'm tweaking. That ought to be interesting.


Over The Rainbow

Okay, Halloween is over, and now I can go back to agonizing over next year's costume for trick or treat. I was thinking about doing her up as an Oktoberfest girl, but it's so hard to find "girly" costumes that aren't "princessy" while at the same time also not "slutty." So I guess it's a good thing I have a whole year to work things out.

Anyway ... know what you get when you combine the following ingredients, costing a total of maybe $12?
  • One blue gingham dress from a bag of hand-me-downs from Brittany
  • A white Hello Kitty tutu skirt bought on clearance at Macy's
  • Some blue gingham pigtail holders from Wal-Mart
  • And a pair of sparkleriffic red shoes from Target?
What you get is this:

Top Half
Bottom Half

Oh, and yes, I did send my kid trick-or-treating with a Longaberger basket. Don't you judge me!