Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Is this my fault?

As anyone who knows me knows, I'm a control freak.  Type A.  A micromanager.  I come from a long line of females like it.  And my daughter is one too.  I plan and analyze and then end up trying to do everything myself because I need it done a specific manner and a specific time frame.  I add a lot of stress to myself.  And I drive my husband insane with it.

So, I'm this person who thinks they can control everything.  I talk to inanimate objects.  When something is not cooperating (think stacking items that are sliding all over the place), I tell the objects to, "Be nice."  I talk to other drivers, warning them not to pull out in front of me.  As if they could hear me.  And yes, I talk to the tv.  I feel that I can control the outcome of, say a sporting event, by yelling at the TV.

Now, I know, realistically, that this is insane.  However, I do know that I have some actual proof that I can control the universe.  And the weight of that responsibility is weighing heavily right now. 

Let's rewind to Fall 2003.  I was pregnant with my first child.  My husband and I watched the playoffs. I stayed up late every night, as it seemed EVERY game went about 20 innings as my Red Sox tried their hardest against the Yankees.  I promised the powers that be one late, late night that I would name my son "Trot Nixon Biel" if they won the series.  Yeah, we all know how that turned out.

Jake was born in 2004.  The Red Sox won the World Series in 2004.

The bat was mine from when I went to Fenway as a kid.


Ok, could be a coincidence.

Sophia was born in 2007.  The Red Sox won again in 2007.

Apparently, my giving birth that calendar year enables the Red Sox to win the World Series.  We had talked earlier in the year about whether or not to try for #3.  We voted no.  So is it my fault the Red Sox have imploded?  Do I have to keep having babies for the Red Sox to win?

  If I do have control over this, I'm not sure I want it.  That's a lot of responsibilty for one person.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Great Wall of Biel

When we renovated our house over four years ago, we knew the yard would need some work.  Our house faces south and is oriented on a hill that runs east to west.  As such, the driveway is lower than the house.  The previous owner used wood to terrace the hill part.  There were 2 main problems with that for us: 1. The wood was rotting out and home for carpenter ants. 2. We are HORRIBLE at maintaining flower beds, and they looked disasterous.  As such, Pat came up with a wonderful idea to build a retaining wall and a new set of stairs.  Ok, fine by me.

Pat rents an excavator and digs out.  October 31, 2008

Once Pat dug the whole, winter set in quickly, and we had a large hole in our yard until the following summer.  Once the heat of July hit, Pat got to work building the wall.  Each block weighs about 70 pounds.  I tried to lift one once, and nearly wet my pants.  Pat lifted every single block into place.
Working on the stairs, with the assistance of Sophia. July 2009.

Nice curve, carefully measured out.
So, Pat got the wall built.  And it was impressive, and he was tired.  And so the wall sat.  It was finished.  Sort of.  We still needed to get caps for the pillars, and the walkway needed to be put in. 

And so the wall has sat, since 2009. 



This spring, we started the process of trying to buy caps.  The first place we went to visit would not return our calls.  The caps we ordered from another place were too small.  No one had the right color and size.  The right color and size were in Utah, with no way to get them here.  We ordered lights to match the lights on the house. In April.  They arrived last week.  So Pat, with "encouragement" from my dad, decided to make the caps.  Pat built a form. 

The form is up on a pallet on the back of my dad's pick-up in our garage, which is the only level spot in our driveway.

He bought concrete.  We borrowed a concrete mixer.  I hand blended color.


This is what it looked like, about 1/2 way through.
The concrete needs to cure for about 24 hours.   Then it has to be flipped onto the post. We will drive it right up to the post, which is why we poured it right on the back of the truck.  We think this cap will weigh about 600 pounds.   If this works, we get to do it again for the second cap. 

Keep your fingers crossed...

Friday, September 23, 2011

It's all about the process

I'm getting a late start this year, but I finally started on Halloween costumes.  I spent over an hour in JoAnn's this morning (no kids!!!) looking at patterns, material and fabric.  And then I spent a whole lot of money on just one costume.  I do this every year.  And every year, I question whether or not it is worth the time and money. 

My mother likes to tell the story of how we learned our colors while looking at thread in the fabric department of JC Penney's (back when they had one).  My dad likes to tell the story of how his mother, a mother of 11, would get her own "me" time by asking who wanted to go to the fabric store.  Somehow her 10 boys never took her up on the offer.  Her one daughter is a quilter and sewer. 

I like to sew, but only really do it about once a year.  Right about this time.  My dining room gets taken over by my sewing machine.  Someday, when our basement is finished (more on that later) I will get to have my sewing machine out all the time, and will hopefully sew more.  But for right now, I'm focusing on Halloween costumes. 

Jake, 2004.  First Halloween

Jake, 2005.  Notice our awesome kitchen, before the remodel.


Jake @ preschool, 2007.  For those observant ones, we recycled the penguin costume in 2006 (and Sophia, being 10 weeks old, did have a store bought costume).

Sophia, 2008.  She has always been our little monkey.



Jake, 2008 at Uncle Dan's.  He was insistant on being a bee.



Jake and Sophia, 2009 @ Mimere's house.  Jake wanted to be a white tiger after seeing them at Busch Gardens. The penguin costume does look awfully familiar, though.


I know it would be easier and quicker (plus cheaper) to just buy their costumes. My kids like to "help" and are in the dining room pretty much when I am. It is such a good time for all of us. I am proud that I am able to make this for Jake and Sophia. I love that they are learning about how things get put together. It teaches us all patience and appreciation, those long nights listening to the playoff games on the TV in the next room. I hope someday, they will look back on the time we spent working on their costumes with good memories. I love being able to provide this for my kids. I know the day will come when I either buy a costume for them, or they don't want to dress up anymore. That will make me sad, but I know it will come. So, in the meantime, I will enjoy the process...and the outcome.

Jake and Sophia @ Grammy and Grandpa's, 2010.
Sophia actually came up with the lion idea first, and Jake liked it.  I am still finding this fur in the house...

And I got in on the action.  Trying out a new parenting style...

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Possible Development?

I wasn't going to post today.

But then I witnessed a moment with my son. And it's the type of story that I want to get down and record for my children.  (Someday soon, I promise I will write about my daughter too!)

I love to read.  I always have.  I have wonderfully fond memories of my mother reading The Bobbsey Twins to my brothers and I before bed.  I associate certain books with certain grade levels.  When I was in 2nd grade, as my son is now, we read "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs," "Charlotte's Web," and "How to Eat Fried Worms."  "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs" remains my favorite children's story, and was the first item I bought when I found out I was expecting Jake.

Jake, like me, started reading early.  In fact, I think he's a better reader than I was at his age.  And he reads signs, labels, cereal boxes, titles on TV.  But he doesn't like to read fiction books.  9 times out of 10, if forced to read, he will pick a non-fiction book.  The expectation in his school is that children read 15+ minutes on 20 or more nights per month.  We usually end up having a battle about him having to read.  He reads 1-2 pages, and then wants me to read for him.  Every 3-4 minutes, he asks how much longer he has to read for.

Tonight, I had to leave to go to dance class.  Jake had not yet read.  He wanted to watch TV, but I told him he had to read.  He came out from his room with a book, and asked if it was acceptable. I reminded him that he had started "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" last night.  I was trying to get my stuff together and deal with Sophia, who was throwing a tantrum.  I look in my room, and Jake is sitting on the bed, reading out loud.  Without prompting or assistance.  I kissed him good-bye.  As I started to go downstairs, I heard Jake laughing out loud.  He said, "Listen to this!" and then repeated a passage that made him laugh.  And he laughed again.

Maybe, just maybe, tonight, Jake developed a love for reading.  (Fingers crossed)

Monday, September 19, 2011

Memory and Memories...

Memory is a funny thing.  I have an awesome memory.  Sort of.  I can remember all sorts of useless, trivial facts and details.  My dream is to someday be on Jeopardy!, kick some serious ass and win a whole bunch of money.  On the other hand, I have a library book that is 19 days overdue.  When they called with a reminder, I did not even remember that I had a book checked out.

I can remember the details of an outfit I wore when I was three, and how I felt that day.  But I cannot remember to RSVP for birthday parties my children are invited to. 

I vividly remember a dream I had when I was about 4 or 5.  The dream was in black and white, and my mother had made me toast for breakfast.  I can still picture her getting the toast out of the toaster, which was our old one and got replaced when I was about 4.  And in this black and white dream, my mother spread orange marmalade on my toast.  And the orange marmalade was in color, like something out of Schindler's List.  I was so upset, since anything orange is my arch nemesis (the fruit, not the color, although I'm not wild about the color either).  In my dream, I felt she did it on purpose, and should have known better.  I woke up feeling upset and crying.  I still remember that feeling.  Most people don't remember their dreams when they wake up, let alone over 30 years later.

I'd like to think that my brain is a great big filing cabinet, and that I'm just very good at opening the drawers and flipping through the files quickly.  So, sometimes, for me, it's frustrating to deal with people who have, um, less efficient filing systems.  Like my husband.  He never remembers to bring his cell phone with him.  He forgets his wallet a lot too.  A trip to the supermarket can sometimes take 4 trips to get the necessary ingredients for one dish (Forget about the household shopping-- I can't even ask him to begin to undertake that one!)  He was really up front about his memory skills.  When we first started dating, and he told me he can't remember anything, I asked him to make a list of 5-10 things about me that he was required to know (middle name, eye color, birthday, favorite food).  He has always done well with those.

So, when we had children, it was always a wonder who they would take after.  Our son, the seven year-old, is a lot like my husband, in a lot of ways.  He has an excellent memory, but has trouble with accessing the information in his brain.  For example, he can't always remember who he sat with at lunch 4 hours earlier.  But, he knows all 50 state capitals, birds and flowers, as well as what state all of the president's are from. 

Tonight, I made Jake a grilled cheese sandwich to have with chicken noodle soup.  He complimented the grilled cheese, which he has just recently started eating again.  Then he said, "Mom, remember that day when you went and got fingerprinted?"
I was starting a new job, working with in the schools.  It is done as a security measure.  It was over two-years ago.

"Yes, I do."

"After we went to the police station, I had grilled cheese and tomato soup for lunch."

I rest my case.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

What Are You Doing?

"What are you doing?"

That's what my seven year-old just asked me.  While I responded, "Starting a blog," the actual truth is I have no idea!

I'm not sure why I'm even doing this.  I spent last night reading my college roommate's blog.  I just found it last night, even though she's been doing it since 2009 or so.  And she has a two year-old and 5 month-old triplets.  I think what inspired me is her reason for starting her blog--to give her son (and now all four sons) her words and thoughts and feelings during their childhood.

Seems like a good idea to me.

You see, I'm the historian in the family. Since I can remember, I have loved to look at old family pictures.  I have asked questions and learned the family stories.  Frankly, I'll look at strangers' pictures too.  (This is where, had I been prepared to do this blog, would post the scanned in picture of me, age 3, looking at photo albums at my grandmother's house.  However, I'm flying by the seat of my pants here, so no picture.  Maybe later).  I love to scrapbook.  I'm not good about journaling on my scrapbook pages, but I'm trying to get better.  My thought was that if I start to blog, maybe I'll have a better record for my kids.

My grandmother is 93 and her mind is failing her.  It is hard to get answers out of her anymore, and about 1/2 of what she "remembers" is not correct.  I've heard a lot of her stories.  I am the keeper of her stories.  But 93 years is a long time with a lot of stories.  When she dies, her stories will die with her.  If I can get them written down and pass them on to my children, then part of her will continue to live on.  I don't think I'll get too many more out of her, but I did learn one new thing today.  I'll share that story another day.

So, I guess I'd like to use this blog as a way to tell my family's history.  Knowing me, it will also be an outlet for my rants and raves, and other miscellaneous thoughts that come my way.