Thursday, December 31, 2015

Putting the Punctuation at the End of 2015

Christmas!  My favorite of all the holidays!  This year our Christmas was different in many ways but still wonderful.

Since my daughter was born, we have hosted Christmas Eve at our house.  I loved doing this in many ways, but it is a lot of work for us.  This year we switched things up to make travel easier on my parents.  Our kids are older now and their presents are getting smaller, so we are more portable than we used to be.  We had Christmas Eve at my parent's house.  It felt a little strange at first to not be cleaning and cooking for several days before Christmas Eve, but you know what?  It was actually quite nice to be free of the work.

Christmas morning we opened more presents.

 (It was all about the books this year for her.  And I loved that.)

Then we made a huge Christmas brunch.  Buffet style, baby.  All the way.

It is becoming more and more evident that the girl is growing up, as she took her gifts upstairs and spent the rest of the day reading her books and listening to music with her new headphones.  The boy was in heaven as he had new Wii U games to play.  I took a nice nap in the afternoon, and my husband began hooking up all the new electronics.  "Everybody gets to do what they want on Christmas Day" has always been my way of thinking.

A few days after Christmas, we ventured out and saw Star Wars: The Force Awakens.  If I thought The Peanuts Movie (which we saw earlier in the year) made me nostalgic, then this one made me downright wistful for the 70's.  I literally sat up, gasped, and did a little not-quite-silent applause when Han Solo and Chewbacca stepped onto the screen about 30 minutes into the movie.

Tonight we prepare to ring in 2016.  Even if it's just the four of us, it's enough for me to make it a party.  To celebrate everybody gets their favorite snacks.  Uno will be played.  And then I'm going to try to talk my kids into watching Lord of the Rings for the first time. 

Or maybe we'll just end up watching Shaun the Sheep again.  Whatever.  Happy New Year, Readers!  May 2016 bring you joy, good books to read, and your favorite snacks!


Tuesday, December 29, 2015

AAB's Top 5 Posts of 2015

As 2015 comes to a close, I thought I'd share AAB's five most popular posts for the year.  And by most popular, I mean most viewed. 

They are....

#5 Bathroom and Patience Renovation
The enthralling tale of the redo of our half bath off our bedroom and the workout it gave my patience.   As far as my own personal favorites, this one ranks right up there. 

Favorite excerpt: "And that's the thing.  I know he can, but everything takes so much time with a renovation project.  And it's so hard if you are patience-challenged, like me.  And I always forget.  It's like the pain you feel at childbirth.  Your brain protects you from remembering so that you might do it again some day.  This special brain-protecting mechanism is why everyone in the world is not an only child.  And it's also why people continue to do home improvement projects."

#4 The Volunteer
This was a piece I wrote when my brother launched his song The Volunteer online. 
His song is now available on iTunes.  Here's a link to The Volunteer if you want to give it a listen on YouTube.

Favorite Excerpt: "I'm a firm believer that things merge together in life to show us how everything is connected. We get the same lessons over and over again in different forms."

#3 What's Up, Wednesday?  Aug. 11, 2015 Edition
I'm pretty sure this one got a large number of views because I participated in a literature link up party with another blog, Modern Mrs. Darcy.  I also think it had a lot to do with this picture:

Sunflowers and Flannery O'Connor.  Who wouldn't take a look?

#2 What's Up, Wednesday?   Sep. 9, 2015 Edition
When I started the whole "What's Up, Wednesday?" feature, I had some trepidation.  These posts were lighter on text and heavier on pictures.  Up until trying to keep up with this regular post, my posting was erratic and heavier on writing. But as it turns out, not just one, but two What's Up, Wednesday? posts made it into the top five. That being said, this gimmick did help me regularly post and did bring more readers to AAB. So I think I'll be keeping it for now.

Flowers and books, two of my loves, were a recurring image in these posts.

#1 The DNA of My Story
I'm so glad this got the most reads of all my posts as I definitely would have picked it as one of my favorite posts of 2015, if not the favorite.  This was all about the Christmas gift my husband gave me: having my DNA analyzed by to see what my heritage was.

Favorite Excerpt: "As I was putting out my decorations for St. Patrick's Day this year (and yes, I've always done this, and now it seems apparent why), I found myself wanting to know more about the country and its history.  So I plan to do some more reading about Ireland.  And Scandinavia.  And France.  They're all important to me now. I don't stand alone, no matter how badly I wanted to when I was younger. For better or worse, my story only came about because of hundreds of other stories."


Wednesday, December 23, 2015


Tradition!  You have to read the title of this piece like you're Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof.  Tradition!  Always with an exclamation mark. He knew the importance of the word.

It is December 23rd as I type this.  Growing up in my family this date was known as "Christmas Eve Eve".  My brothers and I got to open one present of our choice on this night.  We all looked forward to it.  I enjoyed telling other people about this unique holiday as I was growing up.  "Don't you know that it's Christmas Eve Eve tonight?" We had some good Christmas traditions in my family.  This one was probably the best. 

One of my favorite things about having kids is having our own traditions for different things.  Christmas Eve Eve has never taken off with my own kids, but we do have a number of other things that must be done in order for it to "feel" like the Christmas season.  This year it's 60 degrees, raining and thundering.  We need all the help we can get.  Here's a few things we do.

Grinch Night
My kids are past Rudolph and Frosty.  They were never that crazy about them to begin with, to be honest.  The one I insist we watch every year is The Grinch.  It is my all time favorite.  I love Dr. Seuss so much.  A few years ago, I started buying everyone a pair of Grinch pajamas to wear on the official viewing night, which is usually on the Friday that Christmas Break starts.  It's not easy finding Grinch pajamas for everyone ranging in sizes from adult to juniors to boys.  But I love hunting for stuff each year.  We add a new Grinch ornament to the tree on this night as well.

Grinch ka-bobs!

Gingerbread Men
I have a gingerbread man pan that we break out every year.  We just use a simple gingerbread mix.  The kids do all the work and then decorate them.  I think they actually enjoy this more as they get older.

Christmas Cookies
Every year.  Oh, yes.  This was something I did as a child with my brothers and cousin every year.  I knew when that weekend rolled around, the Christmas season was starting.  I asked my aunt for the recipe for her Christmas sugar cookies before I was married so I could someday make and decorate cookies with my kids.  There's a big ball of dough in my fridge right now, waiting to be rolled out and cut into different shapes vaguely resembling Christmas trees, stars, and candy canes.

Christmas Mass in the Evening
The kids have been singing in the choir for many years now.  My girl started this first since she is older.  I'm always swelling with gratitude and happiness at this mass each year.

The Angel Tree
At the beginning of Advent, our church sets up two angel trees.  Since they were old enough, I let the kids pick one child off the tree.  This is most fun for me when they pick a very young child, since I don't get to buy those types of toys anymore and the clothes are so dang cute.  This year my they picked an 11 year old girl.  This proved to be tough, since it's hard enough buying for my 12 year old daughter who I know pretty well.  Maybe next year, I can talk them into a 2 year old again.

Matching Family Christmas Pajamas for Christmas Eve
My mom really started this for our family.  It wasn't something we did as kids, but a friend of hers did it with her family.  It used to be kind of hard to find adult and kid pajamas that match, but now it's become a "thing" for a lot of people.  It's much easier to find these for the whole family these days.

Just a few shots over the years of the matching pajamas.  You'll have to just trust me that my husband and I had on the same thing!  Just as an aside to my husband - thanks for always being such a good sport about this.



Tuesday, December 22, 2015


I started to write this as a Facebook status.  About halfway through, I gave up and realized it was longer than that.

When I moved to this city back in the year 2000, I was on my own. I came for a job.  I knew no one who lived here except my brother, his wife, and their three kids. (They have long since moved).  I've now lived here almost 16 years and realized how much that has changed.

Back in August, the results came back on my annual pap test. I had severe dysplasia in my cervix. Not cancer, but it wants to be cancer when it grows up, if you will.  After two more procedures, one at the doctor's office and one as an outpatient hospital procedure, I determined along with my doctor, that it was the best choice to have a hysterectomy.  He would leave my ovaries and take my uterus.  I debated about sharing this on the blog, but we're all friends here, right?.  Ladies, make sure you keep that yearly pap appointment.

I'm 45 and have two children and a husband now.  I knew this was the best decision for me.  And yet, by the time the other procedures were done, I had to schedule the operation  (not outpatient) for December 1st.  And there it hung over my head for two months.  It was the first thing I thought about when I woke up in the morning and usually what I was thinking about as I fell asleep each night.  What if something went wrong?  Would I be feeling okay for Christmas?  Who would take my kids to school? Of all the things I dislike, the unknown is right up there at the top.

My operation went off without a hitch.  I was home after one night in the hospital.  I had a quick recovery which is not 100 % complete but very close.  The time leading up to the holidays has been good.

I'm so happy to be on the other side of it now.  And even happier for what it has showed me more clearly.

Through my job, my husband's job, my children's school, our church, and our neighborhood, I've collected a wonderful bunch of people.

It's hard to become a part of a community for an introvert like me.  Maybe it's hard for everyone who grows up in one place and spends his or her adult life in another.  People aren't always sure what to make of you.  You're not someone's daughter or cousin.  People didn't see you play softball or have you in their Brownie troop or see you graduate from high school.  But in spite of that, I have become part of a community.

I took three weeks off of work.  In the time during my recuperation, we had neighbors, co-workers, and friends offer us prayers, meals, messages, and flowers.  And I realized I am no longer on my own.  I'm now part of not just my own family, but a larger community family.  So for everyone from the neighbors who brought us ribs from a local barbeque joint, to our priest who showed up, unsummoned, to sit with my husband and mom while I was in surgery, to the friends and co-workers who sent me flowers or meals or Chex mix (my favorite!), to friends who offered up prayers for my recovery or sent me a message to see how I was doing, I say thank you.  And I hope I can be there for you in the same way.  As you are a part of mine, I hope you will consider me a part of yours.


Wednesday, November 11, 2015

What's Up, Wednesday?

Here is why you should never deviate from a habit you want to keep...

I was too depressed to post for What's Up, Wednesday? when the Cubs got knocked out of the playoffs on Oct. 21st.  Plus, it was really late and I was tired.  That led to no post the next week. 

And the next week...

But here I am, back on the horse.  What's up?  Plenty, since I haven't posted in four weeks. :/

There were pumpkin patches and Halloween festivities.

There was also a most excellent book during this time...

...A wonderful movie that had me feeling that good old nostalgia...

...and two amazing performances: one by a new-ish favorite musician and another by of my long-time favorite singer-songwriters.

It's good to be back.