Friday, September 30, 2011

Anticipation Month of October- Blog 1: Letters from Mom & Mimi

My Dear Spaghetti Ellie,

Happy October, my sweet one.  In most years, I can’t say that I am especially fond of this month- the days get shorter, the weather turns colder, and I miss Central Pennsylvania most this time of year (there is nothing like the Appalachian Mountains turning colors of yellow, gold, burnt orange, auburn, crimson, and even violet).  Mimi, can you take a picture of what home looks like right now so that we can see the foliage?  Someday Ellie, we will get you to visit Mount Nittany in the autumn.  

But the good things about October (other than being able to dress you up in the best, and somewhat ridiculous, outfits for Halloween- oh just wait to see what your Mimi and Poppy have picked out and notice the word outfits is plural!) are my week off for fall break (can you say girl time Ellie?!), these days get us one step closer to Christmas- my favorite holiday (aside from my birthday of course!), and this month is Uncle Ryan and Aunt Samantha’s wedding!!!  So really, it’s only fitting that October is about anticipation… we have a lot to get excited about.  

But more on the wedding details next week.  For now, I am eager for something much simpler, something during most parts of the year I take for granted; routine.  Ellie, these past six weeks of me being back at school have been such an adjustment.  From Back-to-School Night, Parent Conferences, you getting sick five days in between (being back at daycare also means strengthening that immune system and having Mommy and Daddy figure out their schedules for who takes off), you sharing one or two of those viruses with your poor Dad and I, and my bout with shingles, I am grateful for the pace to slow down.  I have felt like a very ineffective mom, spread a bit too thin for the past month.  And I think you felt that Ellie too.  Your trip down the terrible twos took a turn for the worse.  The nightly tantrums seemed daily (and endless).  Our few hours together in the evening before bedtime were cut in half with your screaming.  I did fear that you are destined to be a mean girl.  But I think Angel, you and I have a special bond and you sensed my stress… and my stress centers so much around being a good mom (and your tantrums make me feel like the worst, I hate when I can’t fix what makes you upset). 

But as I am reflecting, I reread this section, it sure is a Catch-22 (it’s so circular), isn’t it?  I am afraid that I am not singing you enough songs, that I’m not reading you enough books, that we don’t take enough walks to the park, that I don’t cook you enough home cooked meals.  Sometimes, there aren’t enough hours in the day.  Is there ever enough???  Are all moms wracked with this guilt?  I wonder if this stems from losing your brother Kyle, Ellie?  

I sometimes feel that I failed to give him the best life before he died or I failed because I couldn’t fix him and make him better (and I know rationally in my head that’s ridiculous, we did the best we could and he is in the best place now… but sometimes my heart is irrational and questions).  

Mimi, did you feel this ever?  Being out west on our own has its advantages (namely being the quality of your Dad’s and my marriage) but with the stressors of life, I wished for help this month (but that’s also part of the problem and the cause of the shingles, I don’t ask).  So take this as a lesson Ellie, you aren’t allowed to move far away from me when you grow up and I will help you whenever you need it (but you have to speak up).  
So as October blows in with the chillier days (and cute fall sweaters and blazers), I am anticipating finding balance and peace again.  And let’s pray for good health!
Love you Elle-Belle,

And now from your Mimi…

Hi Ellie!

All right, it is the beginning of October and our topic this month is Anticipation.  So here is its definition.  Are you ready for it?????  Are you really, really ready to read its definition?????  If (yes) then you are probably “anticipating” an answer in the next sentence!  OK.  Anticipation:  The act of looking forward; especially: a pleasurable expectation.

For me drinking a great cup of tea is a pleasurable expectation!  But I am pretty sure you already know that!
Watching the changing of seasons is a heightened anticipation of mine!  But I am saving that one for next week when the fall colors will be close to peeking!

Oh, here is another pleasurable expectation that I enjoy Ellie.  Watching my favorite football team (the Green Bay Packers) play some great Sunday football!   

Most of the time Ellie I am the quiet one while viewing the game, and Poppy is the excitable one, especially when the team’s defense is not playing up to par…. But there are times that I have been known to scream out when a spectacular play leading up to a touchdown happens!  I always wear my Bart Star (#15) jersey, but Poppy surprised me this week and bought me my favorite player’s jersey Greg Jennings (#85)!  So now I can mix my Sunday wardrobe up a bit!  You know even though it is early in the football season, I have great “anticipation” that the Packers will have a repeat Superbowl win this year!

Looking forward to reading a great book (usually recommended by your mommy) is a great anticipation for me Ellie, especially during the Fall and Winter evenings!  There is nothing cozier than being wrapped up in my white ivory fleece throw blanket while comfortably sitting on my favorite oversized rocking chair with a steaming cup of tea on the end table to my right and a wonderful book cradled in my lap!  But once in a while there is a glitch in this so-called perfect picture that I have painted for you.  And that is when I misplace my reading glasses, which should be lying ever so nicely on top of the anticipated book sitting on the end table to the right of my chair.  You see, when they disappear I have to unwrap myself from my warm cozy blanket and go on a seek and (hopefully) find my reading glasses mission.  And you know what Ellie?  That is when I also find out that the other ten pair of reading glasses that I have sporadically placed around the house are missing too.  I find them all in unusual places such as on top of the unplugged freezer next to the garage refrigerator, the third medal shelf in the storage room, Poppy’s workbench and my closet!   You are probably thinking at this moment that I have gone off track again, but not really Ellie because I always “anticipate” a sense of relief when I find them!

Ooooooooooh…. Here is a good one.  How about the anticipation of how the new episodes of this season’s TV shows will fare!  I am thinking that Modern Family is still topping my favorite list as its season opener last week gave me many a giggle!  And then there is always Date Night Saturday with Poppy!  After church we usually head off to the movies and it doesn’t really matter if the movie is terrific or not…. Poppy and I really go to eat and enjoy the Popcorn!  Sometimes the simplest of pleasurable expectations can be the best Ellie! 

Another yearly “anticipation” for me has already happened.  And that is the starting of a new school year.  I can happily say that it looks like our 2011/12 school year is going to be another awesome one.  The children in our class are eager to learn, they are kind, they are fun and overall they are amazing!  Getting back into a regular routine after having a whirlwind summer is good for me too, as multi-tasking is not one of my greater strengths!  Your mommy is finding this transition a little bit more complex of which I can totally understand as she has more on her plate to juggle.  She is a great wife, a fantastic teacher, a compassionate daughter, a true friend and an incredible, hands on, loving mommy!  You will learn as you grow Ellie, that your mommy will bring you lots of anticipation because she is always full of exciting surprises and pleasant memories!

I think next week we should begin talking about the upcoming “anticipation” of your Uncle Ryan and Aunt Samantha’s wedding.  What a grand time and a beautiful day it shall be!  What do you think Kimberly???  Oooooooh, and I can’t forget to touch on Fall, maybe sneaking in a picture or two!  (That is if it doesn’t keep raining!)

Now I shall end with a quote from Gloria Swanson.  “As daddy said…. Life is 95% anticipation!”  So very true Gloria Swanson, so very true.

Till next week Ellie-bean!
Love Mimi!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Characteristic Traits of September: Blog 4- Letters from Mom & Mimi

Dear Ellie,
Since this is our last blog on our characteristic traits, we will end with our favorite recipe (that prevailed through childhood on up) and our favorite poem (great idea Mimi!!!).
So Ellie, every since I was a little girl, I have loved this Philly favorite (and it is so simple and although I usually eat it for breakfast, it is so good for lunch and dinner when you are by yourself!).
Tomato and Egg Sandwich

2 pieces of white bread
1 Jersey tomato (but if you can’t get it from Jersey any big, juicy one will do)
1 egg
2 tablespoons of light mayonnaise
Salt and Pepper

Fry your egg
Generously spread the light mayo on your bread
Slice the tomatoes and pile them high on the bread
Put your fried egg on top and use a butter knife to break the yoke and spread over the sandwich
Add salt and pepper
Cut in half and serve

And my very favorite poem to share with you that I read on days when I need a pick-me-up or to refocus on what is important (FYI Ellie, you should keep a folder of your favorite poems, letters, and cards- reading these on rainy or sad days will always uplift you), is:
Success by Mickey Russell (your Mimi)

I am sitting quietly at my desk,
Pondering the thought of what makes Success.

It has nothing to do with the dollars you make.
But rather the quality of time here is really what’s at stake.

It has nothing to do with the properties you own.
But rather the sharing of your faith so as never to stand-alone.

It has nothing to do with the furs and jewels you acquire.
But rather following in the footsteps of someone’s actions you admire.

It has nothing to do with the automobiles you buy.
But rather the unselfish giving of oneself before you die.

It has nothing to do with the lavish places you see.
But rather the forgiving of yourself and others completely.

You see, when all is said and done,
Material things will not have won.

When you go before the heavens, HE won’t have to guess.
HE will nod in approval because you have learned Success.

Well Miss Spaghetti, I will close here as I am writing this on my day off (we had parent conferences late into the evening these past two nights and today, Friday, we were compensated for our time).  I cannot wait to spend a girls’ day with you.  Let’s go for a walk and who knows what… the day is ours.
Love you gorgeous!!!
And now from your Mimi…  

Hi Ellie Spaghetti,
I am using your mommy’s favorite nickname for you in my part of the blog as it fits perfectly with my recipe this month!  When you read my choice of dinners, I think you will giggle!

But first I must tell you that at this very moment your Poppy and I are having teatime while I type away!  As you can see from below, I stopped midway through our tea and purposely took a photograph of Poppy drinking his tea.   

If you look very closely at the picture on his mug Ellie, you will see yourself!  You little Miss Sunshine are our daily “ray of light” and you top our list of conversation at each and every tea-break we have!   Yep… Poppy and I are like the “NYSE Ticker Tape” when it comes to chatting about you.  We could go on, and on, and on, and on as neither of us ever tires when it comes to speaking or listening about our favorite baby girl!

But now for my recipe.  I chose Baked Macaroni and Cheese because when I was growing up, that was a staple in our household.  Your great-great Gram Jones would serve up a delicious Mac-n-cheese with a side of tuna fish on Friday nights.  To this day I have never tired of it.  The recipe I am sharing with you is not one of my mother’s originals, but another very yummy one that I have tasted and given a huge thumbs up!  Give it a try spaghetti girl … I think you will be “hooked!”

Baked Macaroni and Cheese

8 oz. uncooked elbow macaroni
¼ cup butter
2-½ Tbsp all-purpose flour
3 cups milk
2 cups shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
¼ cup butter
½ cup breadcrumbs
1 pinch of paprika

1.      Cook macaroni according to the package directions.  Drain.
2.      In a saucepan, melt butter over medium heat.  Stir in enough flour to make a roux.  Add milk to roux slowly, stirring constantly.  Stir in cheeses, and cook over low heat until cheese is melted and the sauce is a little thick.  Put macaroni in large casserole dish, and pour sauce over macaroni.  Stir well.
3.      Melt butter in a skillet over medium heat.  Add breadcrumbs and brown.  Spread over the macaroni and cheese to cover.  Sprinkle with a little paprika.
4.      Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.  Serve.

As for a poem this month Ellie, I am using one that I wrote a while ago, as it was a challenge from me, to me, to write about little girls and childhood dreams.  Hopefully you will enjoy my selection this month.

Growing Up By: Mickey Russell

I like blush
And red lipstick
I can pose for pictures
Take your pick
I like pocketbooks
And long white gloves
I can play a movie star
In and out of love
I like earrings
And rings on my finger
I can hum a tune
Like and opera singer
I like boas
And high heel shoes
I want to be famous
And always in the news
I like dress up
And dream to be
Just like the people
Who are important to me.

Well Ellie, after talking with your mom today, we both think this blog is a perfect ending to the beautiful month of September.   And for next month we decided October’s theme topic would be “Anticipation!”  Wait till you see what we have in store for you!

Till next time Spaghetti Girl!
Love Mimi

Friday, September 16, 2011

Characteristic Traits of September: Blog 3- Letters from Mom & Mimi

Dear Ellie,

So in sticking with characteristic traits, I love your Mimi’s idea about making a list of our favorites (and possibly least favorites) to give you a snapshot of us today.  So here you go!

Favorite Professional Football Team- PACKERS!  Superbowl 2010 Champs (your Mimi has had me following this team since I was younger and her affiliation as a Packerette Cheerleader in the 1970s has made it all the more cooler!).
3 Generations of Packer-Backers ;)

Favorite College Football Team- Penn State Nittany Lions… tradition means everything to JoePa (not our cat, the coach).  And I had the amazing opportunity to work in the Penn State Football office during college!
On the field with recruits for Joe's big 324th record breaking win... the game was against Ohio State!

Favorite Animal- Cats… sooner or later we will have two!

Favorite Flower- The tulip (but never when someone dies… either get fake ones or none at all!)

Favorite Color- Magenta (note the color of my first car and the license plate spelled out MAJNTA, the closest spelling that I could get to the color that no one else had!).

Favorite Food- Spicy tuna rolls and California rolls or spinach/mushroom/tomato pizza or tomato and egg sandwiches or Philadelphia pretzels! 

Favorite Leisure Activity- It used to be reading but writing this blog is sure catching up!  I love getting manicures and pedicures with friends, shopping, and going to the movies with your Dad.  But of course, playing (or taking walks) with you Ellie has taken over all else!

Least Favorite Leisure Activity- Anything that involves sweating… working out is not my thing (your Mimi and I hired a trainer for my wedding and every time she made us go a little faster on the treadmill, we will slow it down).

Favorite Famous Person You Admire- Although I don’t always agree with her opinions, I’ve always loved Oprah and how she has made a name for herself.  My dream was to see her in person (and your Mimi and I have tried many of times to get tickets to her show but no luck and now her very interesting show has ended).

Favorite Movie- Gone With the Wind, The Help (just saw it two weeks ago and loved it as much as the book, which is super rare!), Sex and the City, Goonies, The Notebook, Titanic, Sleepless in Seattle, A League of Their Own

Favorite Book- The Help, The Forgotten Garden, Pillars of the Earth, The Color Purple, The Red Tent, DaVinci Code, The Book Thief, A Thousand Splendid Suns, The Diary of Ann Frank, Snow Flower and The Secret Fan…

Favorite Mini-Series- The Kennedys, Pillars of the Earth, North & South

Favorite Music Artist- Tim McGraw, Faith Hill, Rascal Flatts, Brad Paisley

Favorite Song- Although I love anything country, it would have to be Papa Don’t Preach as I have wonderful memories as a kid dancing to this song with my friends (although I didn’t have any idea what it meant until many years later!)

Favorite TV Show- America’s Next Top Model, Grey’s Anatomy, Desperate Housewives, Today Show

(which I did get to see a recording with our cousin Michelle four years ago in NYC!), Dateline, reruns of Friends and Sex and the City

Most Scared Of- Disappointing people

Favorite Number- 5 (Ever since I was a kid playing games on the Jersey boardwalk, I’ve loved picking this number and it wins often!).

Favorite Ice Cream Flavor- Gold Medal Ribbon from Baskin Robbins

Favorite City- Paris and Rome (cliché I know but they are so romantic and historic!  I would go back again to both in a heartbeat)
On our honeymoon at the Coliseum in Rome

Favorite Restaurant- Trieste in Prospect Park, Pa (I’ve loved it since I was a kid and now whenever I visit Philly, it is a place that we always stop to eat at).

Favorite Moment of the Day- Seeing your sweet and beautiful face every morning!!!

So Ellie, that’s me in a nutshell… I can also give you a list of your favorites- soft serve ice cream, Blues Clues, Mickey Mouse (who you call Misca Musca), stuffed animals, the zoo, all books (but most especially your Animal Dictionary), baths, pools, dancing, music, the park (especially the slide and swings), skyping, fruit snacks, walks, and Elmo.  

You are such a crazy girl and I love every second with you!!! 

And now from your Mimi… 

Hi Ellie!

It is a delightful morning and I am enjoying my tea immensely while reading over your mommy’s part of the blog.  You are going to realize very quickly that your mommy and I are very, very much alike.  That old saying “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree” fits perfectly in our life.  Now not meaning to get off track, but I beg to differ with that statement.  What exactly does that mean?  Yes, apple trees don’t grow to be monstrous skyscrapers, so I guess it is easy for us to make that judgment call because when we pick an apple from a tree, we are pretty much eye level with the fruit. So when the apple does fall, I think it is safe to assume that it only drops an average of 6 to 12 feet.  Hmmm.  That may not be a long distance to you and me, but think about the apple, which is only about 3 inches tall.  That is one heck of a drop!  If the apple were actually human, it would for sure have a humungous migraine falling from that distance.  Or maybe that statement came from when the apple and the ground met on impact and the actual plunk deadened its get-away plan or rather its roll.  Which brings me to another thought…. Since the apple is round, why don’t they ever roll away after they drop???... Are they bottom heavy or just “solid’ in their weight?  Or are all apple orchards built on flat land?  Hmmmmmm…. Just a few points that may need additional pondering later!  I guess I just got sidetracked again. Huh-imagine that!  A possible trait of mine???  OK, back to our blog.  The following information are my answers to your mommy’s list of favorites and least favorites.  Here goes Ellie:

Favorite Professional Football Team- Ditto to your mommy’s answer, the Packers! 
Even after moving from Green Bay over 30 years ago, my heart still bleeds Green and Gold!  And your Poppy is such a sweetheart because he is always buying me something that validates my loyalty!

Favorite College Football Team- Ditto again.  Penn State Nittany Lions.  Ellie this is actually our first year in a long time where we won’t be tailgating on a weekly basis.  We gave up our tickets opting to enjoy watching the games in the comfort of our own home!  And that means no more Port-A-Potties!

Favorite Animal- Can you believe “Ditto” again?  Cats it is… even though I was petrified of them when I was a young girl.  Cutie (our Garfield cat), Dusty (our “forgets to lick himself clean” cat), and Daisy (our mean, temperamental yet needy cat) all have cured me of my phobia!

Favorite Flower- Ha!  Different answer!  I would say the deep purplish/bluish hydrangea plant.  The colors of this plant are sooooo vibrant as well as large and full!
Don’t tell anyone but I have fake ones strategically potted around the outside of my house!  Now that it is September, I wonder how many people think it is strange that my flower garden looks like Spring has just sprung!

Favorite Color- Ha, Ha!  Different answer again!  I’ll start with Sky Blue, Sun Yellow, Lime Green, Sherbet Orange and Hot Pink.  OK, honestly Ellie… any color that is neon or vibrant!

Favorite Food- Hmmmmmmm.  My first choice would be a fancier dish called Chilean Sea Bass and my second choice would be a practical dish called Grilled Chicken Salad!

Favorite Leisure Activity- Ditto to reading, Ditto to blogging, Ditto to pedicures (not the manicures though… my nails chip too quickly), Ditto to shopping, Ditto to movies and of course Ditto to walking.  I would add hiking in Colorado to this one too!

Least Favorite Leisure Activity- HUGE Ditto to sweating.  Yuck!

Favorite Famous Person You Admire- Wow… this is a tough one.  There are different people for different reasons.  Spiritually talking I shall go with Mother Theresa as she is to be admired for her selflessness and her strength in honoring her God given purpose.  I love to read her quotes as I find them to be very inspirational.

Favorite Movie- Oh my.  Ditto, ditto, not ditto, not ditto, ditto, ditto, ditto, and ditto to your mommy’s answers.  I would also add Sweet Home Alabama to this one!

Favorite Book- Did you ever hear of the word “Ditto”?  Well, here we go again.  Ditto, ditto, ditto, not ditto, not ditto, ditto, ditto, ditto, not ditto, and ditto again to your mommy’s answers.  I would like to add Nineteen Minutes to this Fave.

Favorite Mini-Series- Ditto, ditto, ditto!

Favorite Music Artist- Whitney Houston (she was my favorite from many years ago, but I still love her songs.) The Eagles, Brad Paisley, Keith Urban and Sugarland.  Ok, ditto to Rascal Flats too.

Favorite Song- Whitney Houston’s I Wanna Dance With Somebody.  I saw her ages ago Ellie at the Mann Music Center in Philadelphia before her “stardom” hit and I remember thinking that she had not only a beautiful voice, but a very powerful one too!  Many of her songs are actually favorites of mine!

Favorite TV Show- Modern Family, The Mentalist, NCSI (the original show only) and Desperate Housewives.

Most Scared Of- Alligators and Mountain Lions.  One time we were on a hike Ellie and I thought we were going to be eaten by a wild animal.  It was chasing us or so we thought, which made us scream and run!  It was actually a yellowed belly marmot, which is no bigger than a groundhog, but from a distance it looked like a mountain lion, or so I thought!  Alligators scare me too. Maybe it is because they lurk underneath the water.

Favorite Number- Sometimes 3.  Sometimes 9.  Sometimes 39.  Don’t ask me why Ellie as I don’t really have an answer to this one.  Once in a while it is 23.  Go figure!

Favorite Ice Cream Flavor- Penn State Creamery’s Death by Chocolate!  We took you there this summer and I so enjoyed watching you attempt to devour one of their strawberry ice-cream cones.   
Ellie, we had to give up that attempt and put your ice-cream in a dish because it was melting faster than you could lick it!  You had ice-cream everywhere…. Your face, your hands, your clothes, Mimi’s clothes, the table, the chair and even the floor!

Favorite City- Definitely ditto on Paris but I also loved Italy, favoring Venice.  The moment you step into this country you feel as though you’ve stepped back in history.  It is breathtaking, it is beauty like none other, it is romantic, it is nostalgic, it’s as though time stood still here. 
Ellie, I could go back and visit this land laden in rich history every year and never tire of it.

Favorite Restaurant- The American Ale House and Faccia Luna’s found in State College.  Casual dining at both with great food!

Favorite Moment of the Day- Aaaaaaah, easy one.  Waking up.  If I do, that means I get another day to experience all the wonderful things that God has in-store for me!

I think I pretty much covered all that I enjoy and a few not so enjoyable things Ellie.  You will find that I am kind of like a tiered cake, or a worm, or even the Earth.   There are many layers to who I am and as I age my surroundings may change my answers but the original ones never disappear.  They are just updated!  Your mommy and I are like books.  We want you to read the pages of our lives Ellie so that together, each of our souls will always stay bound with one another!  I think you too Ellie will soon become our “Ditto” soul mate!

How about next week Kimberly we end September’s Blog for Ellie with a recipe of a favorite childhood dish and also a favorite poem?

Till next time Favorite Baby-girl!
Love Mimi

Friday, September 9, 2011

Characteristic Traits of September: Blog 2- Letters from Mom & Mimi

 Dearest Ellie Girl,

I need to start off by saying HAPPY BIRTHDAY to your Daddy and my amazing husband!!!  

I can’t wait to have a wonderful weekend of celebrating!!!  And you being quite the sweet eater these days Ellie (fruit snacks top the list and we all know how you love ice cream), a Dairy Queen cake is on the agenda!

Your Daddy was sweet enough to help me out by giving me one trait that describes me today (as your Poppy and Uncle Ryan could give details about me growing up).  So here’s what he had to say, “Princess!”  It’s his nickname for me on a few occasions if I forget that we didn’t recently win the lottery!  At this particular time, I was giving him my Christmas list (I know it’s only September but I LOVE Christmas… the smell of fall in the air makes me think of the holidays around the corner and getting gifts are almost as good as giving them).     

Honestly Ellie, if I had to describe myself in one word today, it would be split (or torn).  I have such nostalgic feelings this time of year about work (transitioning you back to day care and starting to teach in the fall after such a wonderful summer together is just plain hard and I said the same thing this time last year!).  I constantly question if I am making the right decisions.  After losing your brother, I try not to take any of your first moments (or any of your moments really) for granted.  I know how fast time goes (11 days went by in the blink of an eye), and I know how fast you can lose what is most important.  Balancing, Ellie, really is an act and it’s a job when you have children.  I hope when you are grown that you admire the independence I have and you don’t resent the choices I made.  For you Ellie are also having a bit of a time right now… my school year started off rough when you had a bad cold and fever on my first day.  Usually, it’s me who takes off and takes care of you but when you have a 145 pre-teens anxiously waiting to meet their new teachers, the first day off isn’t an option.  You broke my heart as I left… you cried in this pathetic sick way with your Dad and I cried the whole way to work.  But you are a quick healer (knock on wood!), and you rebounded by day 2.  But still these days into the first month back, dinner is hard...  I think after a day with the sitter, you tend to get angry when your Dad and I cook dinner and try to eat a meal, as you want our full attention (but please try to understand that we need to eat too and we just want you to join us!).  But later in the evenings are the best… after our walk, you bring all your stuffed animals to show your Dad, you get very goofy, and you settle in to use your imagination (and did I mention that we recently had to get a second toy basket for the living room?  Your stuffed animals and books, which you play with them all, have taken over our downstairs!).  

Being the oldest, I think independent is the best word to describe me as a baby (or at least according to my baby book that I went through when I was home).  Being the oldest (or the oldest take home baby in your case sweet girl) has its advantages.  Since there are no other children to share the spotlight with, you tend to get full attention and do things fast (like talking).  I am most impressed with you these days as you have officially learned the word “YES!” and "Pretty!" (Which you say if I pull out a pink shirt from your closet to wear for the day… I think you are beginning to understand how to pick out your own clothes!).  

I love how positive you are and you are a girl who knows what she wants.  Don’t ever lose that strength!

I am off to bed as school has me going in a million directions this month.  And an outbreak of shingles, yes sadly I am only 31, has made me a bit uncomfortable and I need to figure out how to relax now and then and not sweat the small stuff.  I love you Ellie!
Love, Mom

And now from your Mimi…

Hi Ellie,

I know this is going to be a fun weekend in your house being it is your daddy’s birthday and Penn State is playing the University of Alabama and the Pittsburgh Steelers are playing their first regular season game against the Baltimore Ravens!    I also know it’s going to be a fun weekend in your house because your daddy answered your mommy’s “tell me what you think is a strong character trait about me” correctly!  He definitely gets a high-five on the “princess” answer Ellie!  He couldn’t have nailed it any better!  I would have said “excitable” for your mom but princess works too!  Which reminds me…. I do have two specific memories of your mom’s “excitable” trait that I want to share with you Ellie, one happened when your mommy was 5 years old, and the other happened when you mommy was 28 years old!  The first memory took place on Christmas morning 26 years ago.  Santa Claus had come during the middle of the night and covered our floor with oodles and oodles of toys and games.  As your mommy bounced down the stairs and scanned the whole living room to see what Santa had brought, her eyes zeroed in on a present leaning against the far wall.  Racing over to the large orange saucer, she delightedly and excitedly exclaimed quite loudly for all to here, “Look Mommy, Santa brought us a Lid! (It was actually a sled!)  She didn’t care, it could have been an old boot and she still would have been happy!  The other excitable memory I want to share with you Ellie happened Christmas morning 2 ½ years ago.  Your mom and dad were visiting us here in State College and like every other year, your mommy got up before the sun rose.  Poppy and I decided to give your parents some personal time to exchange their Christmas gifts with each other before we joined them.  And of course your mommy’s enthusiasm always carries through her voice so we could hear their exchanged conversation from our bedroom, which is located at the other end of the house.  I took a fit of the giggles when your mommy “excitably” said, “Holy crap Justin,… are these real???” when she opened a box holding a pair of designer sunglasses!  A “princess” she is…. And we wouldn’t have her any other way!

Now for me Ellie, I asked your Poppy for a character trait that he thought would best describe me.  Poppy is a wonderful man because he didn’t just give me one trait… he gave me a half dozen, all very sweet ones too!  I will tell you the first one and the last one.  His first answer to me was “thoughtful.”  When I asked him what he meant by it, Poppy said that when I send greeting cards to our family and friends he noticed that I always write a personal message in them and he thinks people like that.  This comment made me feel happy Ellie because 1.) Your Poppy noticed and 2.) He validated that a personal message can brighten someone’s day!  The other trait Poppy gave me wasn’t a specific word but rather this:  People would know what kind of a person you are Mic by looking at how well you raised our children and who they became.  Ellie, I was in awe of his sincerity as this is a compliment every mom would be honored to hear at some point in her life… but in all honesty, I cannot take all the credit.  You see, your Poppy also played an equal part in raising two beautiful, intelligent, driven, humorous and loving children, your mommy and your Uncle Ryan.

My weaknesses are your Poppy’s strengths and his weaknesses are my strengths.  We didn’t always agree on one another’s methods, and a few times our choices were trial and error but as they entered adulthood, your Poppy and I can say that we are extremely proud of your mommy and Uncle Ryan, their accomplishments and the goals they have set for themselves as well as the kind and caring individuals that they truly are.   I, or rather we, happily look forward to watching and participating in their futures!  And yours too Ellie!  As you grow, you have been showing us some of your characteristic traits too, which your Poppy and I find very endearing!  1.) You love to tease, 2.)  You love to make people laugh, 3.)  You love to be in charge!

Now it is my turn to give myself a character trait.  Hmmmmm.  Tea Drinker?  Yes.  Short attention span?  At times.  Dreamer?  Yes.  Gullible?  OK.  Spiritual?  Without a doubt.  Caring?  When needed and even when not needed.  Picky?  Depends.  Patient?  With children.  Optimist?  Yes.  Wishy-washy?  99% of the time.  Happy?  Pretty much always.  But I guess the one trait that I would say most describes me is: I have a hard time saying the word “No.”  Ellie, I tend to be a people pleaser and because of that I don’t ever want to hurt anyone’s feelings.  So many times I find myself in situations where I am asked to do something for someone and most of the time I am happy to oblige, but those few times that I don’t really want to do it, I still will and of course always say “Yes.”  That is when I tend to stress myself out, and the only way for me to de-stress is to call your mommy, vent my situation, listen to her tell me that it will work out like they always do, take a deep breath and then let it go.  (I designated your mommy as my Go To Person because she is my twin when it comes to this trait!)  Another reason why I chose to tell you about this trait Ellie is because I tend to avoid any if not all confrontational situations.  I tend to agree with people even if I know they are wrong.  If someone told me today that the sky was purple and they were absolutely adamant about it, and even though I know the sky to be blue, if it was that important to them to be right, I would say ok.  Now if it is something that could be harmful or hurtful to another… that would be a different story.  I find that I can be pretty happy in any given situation Ellie so it is more important to me that all other people are secure in their happiness first.  I can adapt.   On a 1 to 5 scale, one being “top notch” and five being “possible discard”… my chosen trait is probably a low 3, high 4.  This isn’t a bad trait to have Ellie as kindness and sincerity can be found throughout it, but its intentions don’t always pan out in the way they were originally intended even when your heart is in the right place.  So even though this trait of mine hasn’t changed over the years, I am still young enough to continue working on it and not quite old enough to give up on it!

So I guess the lesson to be learned here Ellie can be found in the Serenity Prayer.
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change:
Courage to change the thinks I can:
And wisdom to know the difference.
This was another prayer that your great-great Gram Mundy chose to live by and encouraged us to do the same.

How about next week Kimberly we give Ellie an additional list of our favorite things and not so favorite things that will give her an even deeper understanding of who we, her mommy and her Mimi, are.

Till next time Angel Child.
Love Mimi

Friday, September 2, 2011

Characteristic Traists of September- Blog 1: Letters from Mom & Mimi

To My Dearest Ellie,

This month, your Mimi came up with the topic of Characteristic Traits so that you know who we are (not just as your mom and grandmother, but as real people).  To jump start us, we asked those people who grew up with us for one word that best describes us and why.   

I emailed your Poppy and Ryan to help me because I knew they would be honest (especially your Uncle Ryan) and they lived with me the longest (aside from your Mimi).  And as much as I value her opinion, your Mimi and I tend to just tell each other how wonderful the other is so I’m not sure how deep this would go if we asked each other!).

So Poppy emailed me a list (very typical and sweet of him but I only wanted one, so this one topped the bunch), “Driven- When you see or want something you put your mind to it and figure out a way to make it happen.”  I really think that this is his nice way to say anal.  You see Ellie, I can’t let anything go unfinished.  EVER.   

I would be the student in school and through college that others hated because I would do a homework assignment the day it was given, despite its due date several days or weeks later.  I’m like that with books I am hooked on… I will stay up all night to finish them.  And now this seems to be the case with the mail… I can’t let one day pass without checking the postal box (and as soon as I do, I have to pay any bills, put away any pictures I ordered, or write thank you notes immediately to any gifts sent).  I know, I am a bit retentive!  And in retrospect, it’s not the best trait to have… I may get things done quickly but that doesn’t mean that it’s always the best quality.  The best example, these blogs… I have them done days (sometimes the framework completed weeks) in advance.  As much as I appreciate a challenge, the idea of a looming deadline worries me to no end.  And in my eyes a finished project is finished… it’s like pulling teeth to have me go back and revise after my mind has mentally shut it down.  I love to-do lists so I can cross off items (in fact, I write items I already completed on them just so I can check them off- it’s the best feeling of relief!).  So Ellie, I love my Dad for being so optimistic but I think this is a lifelong struggle of mine to realize that I can get to things tomorrow and relax today (and taking the time to do the best work possible anytime, even when I think I am done).  Maybe hiding the mail key someday will help (or drive me to the insane asylum so don’t try that!).  
Ryan texted me his response, “Bossy- This should be self-explanatory.  It’s no surprise you became a teacher since you used to make me sit in your pretend class and write a giant letter “F” on each piece of my pretend homework.”  Poor Ryan, who is two and half years younger than me, never had a chance.  When I started kindergarten, I used to come home and play school and try to recreate everything that I learned that day.  I was the teacher of course and Ryan was the student.  But Ryan was only barely three, had never been to school, and couldn’t yet read so of course I had to fail him when he couldn’t complete my work!  But he got me back in the end- I distinctly remember (and I bet I could find the scar) when he bit me in retaliation for all the red marks (from the red felt-tipped pen my Mom bought me) that I made on his incorrect responses on papers.  Very ironic that we both ended up as educators… I hope that I learned some compassion from him and I hope that he learned to try a little harder ;)  Truly, I’m glad Ryan doesn’t have self-esteem issues from those days!
I wish I had a picture of my play room that I turned into my classroom.  Suffice it to say, that despite it all Ryan and I still got along and he was always the dutiful brother supporting his big sis! 

You know Ellie, I’m loving this stage you are in right now.  You are a Momma’s girl through and through. 

You mimic me, borrow my bracelets and headbands, repeat my words, and cry when I leave (and although this breaks my heart and usually makes me cry too, I do find some comfort in how attached you are to me because I know it won’t last forever).  

If I had to describe you in one word, it would be radiant because your smile and eyes light up a room but so do your facial expressions and your incredibly bright (and somewhat sarcastic) humor.   

You truly draw people in Ellie (but at the same time, it’s when you choose too as you are very selective and cautious with you who you let into your circle!). 

So now let’s ask Mimi what her best traits are after asking those that knew her best growing up.  I wonder if the word selfless will show up because that’s the one word that encompasses your Mimi’s whole being (and I think you feel that and that’s why you are so connected with her spirit).  Like I always say, I hope I can be half the Mom that she was and is.

I love you Ellie, more than I ever thought possible.

And now from your Mimi…    

Good Morning Ellie,

I arose early to get a head start on the day, but found it raining quite harshly.  The sky looks as though all its beauty has been washed away leaving in its place an endless sight of bleak grayness.  Needless to say, 2 hours later I am still in my comfy PJ’s, and of course a cup of tea is sitting to the right side of my computer and Daisy to my left meowing up a storm!  Perfect combo?  Not!  Daisy has to go!

This month of September your mommy and I decided to make our blog about the character traits of “us.”  We also decided that this first week we would ask family members who have known us the longest, what character trait of ours stood out to be what they thought was the strongest one.  Their answers were quite diverse, as you shall read.  But first Ellie, here is its definition.
Character Traits:  The Combination of qualities or features that distinguish one person from another. 

Now to start.  I agree with your mommy that we cannot write a character trait for each other because we only know love and kindness for one another and we need to give you a deeper perspective of the women we are.  Since your mommy asked your Poppy and your Uncle Ryan, I decided to ask my own mom, my sister and also my brother.   
So to give you some images from who is telling me these... your Gram Bubbles is on top with me and you from our trip this past June.  And the bottom picture is from when Aunt Sheri, Uncle Steve and I were kids...
Here is what they told me Ellie.  The first phone call I made was to my mom your Great-Grandmom Jones, and when I presented the question to her she asked me if it could be a “negative.”  Her response took me a bit off guard, but I said “sure” (a bit apprehensively of course!)  So she proceeded with, “That’s an easy question to answer Mickey…. I would say a strong trait of yours would be that you rarely finished anything you started.”  Well after my initial shock (although I should have known better) I started to giggle!  That is so like my mom.  If you are going to ask her a question, be prepared for a brutally honest answer!   It is a trait of hers Ellie that I greatly admire…. And whether we like it or not, she has never sugar coated any of her words but rather stated them straight out which in turn has helped guide us, her children, in making better choices.  But now let me go back and explain the “quitter” answer she came up with.  I think I have told you in a past blog that I have been dubbed the “2-year girl” meaning I have tried many things over the years that have lasted no more than that time frame.  However this time I think my mom was referring more to the many projects I started when I was younger and left unfinished.   One such project that comes to mind Ellie was a Hook-N- Latch Butterfly Rug that I started and quit all in one afternoon.  I remember getting as far as hooking 1 wing and ½ of the body with the colorful and plush carpet threads before setting down the needle never to be picked up again.  The rest of the plastic weaved butterfly rug laid just as that… threadless.  Needless to say it went right back into its box and stored down in the basement not to be recovered again till years later.  My mom could also have been referring to my knitting experience.   I remember a time when I wanted to make an exquisite, intricate-patterned afghan in shades of blue on my first try at knitting!   Of course that too fell short… after a dozen rows of “knit 1 pearl 2” boredom started to set in, so down went the knitting needles (also never to be picked up again) and my lovely afghan idea took on the look of a potholder!  My thinking at the time was that I could whip out this afghan in about an hour or so… and at the rate it was actually taking me to knit; it would be more like 100 years!  So of course that ended up finding its way to the basement too!  I could tell you many more stories similar to this Ellie but I shall save myself the embarrassment and tell you that your Great-Gram knows me better than most!  However if you are ever interested in hearing of those stories, you can ask her yourself for I am sure it will amuse her to tell them! 

I then asked my sister, your Aunt Sheri for a character trait.  She also spoke honestly and facebooked me this message:  “There are several traits of yours that endeared you to everyone who met or knew you when we were growing was your gullibility...we could tell you any unbelievable story...didn't matter what it was about...and you would believe it...gave everyone quite a few chuckles over the years! Love you Michelle Marie Jones Russell!”  I so love my sister Ellie, as she is the strength of us siblings.  It is her that I have always looked to for answers, for ideas, for support and for a smile.  And as much as I would like to shy away from her answer, it is the truth.  I don’t know why, but the gullibility trait is a hard one for me to swallow.  To this day I still have a difficult time “reading” people.  I am not sure why that is… when I was younger I thought God forgot to wire that part of my brain which is suppose to help me realize when someone is pulling my leg or not.  I guess I just take people at face value and assume that everyone or mostly everyone tells truths.  And of course there are times when my mouth is a good minute or so quicker than my “wait until you process all the information before you speak” brain-wire!  I am not sure if that makes sense to you Ellie but maybe the better way to put it is: Open mouth, insert foot syndrome!  I think I hold the record for this trait!  Over the years I have learned to get past the embarrassment and laugh along with family or friends once I finally “get it”, knowing that it is a character trait of mine that no matter how hard I try, I am unable to change it!  It is who I am. 

Lastly, I asked my brother, your Uncle Steve, for a character trait.  He was very sweet and told me that it wasn’t a specific word, but rather a phrase.  Ellie, he told me that when he thinks of me he sees a person that always finds the good in other people.  I have to tell you that the selfish me loved his answer (and no I did not pay my little brother to say this) and the not so selfish me is humbled by his answer.  I do love people Ellie no matter their age.  There is a part of me that knows and understands how important it is to encourage those who need encouraging, praise those you deserve praise, help those who need a helping hand and heart and love those who so need love.  Honestly Ellie, this trait could belong to a great number of people, for all it is… is taking the time to follow the Golden Rule: Do unto others, as you would have them do unto you.  My brother is the happiest guy you could ever meet.  He takes life in stride and enjoys all aspects that it brings to him.  I believe he too wakes up with a smile each day.

Now if I were to describe a character trait of you Ellie it would be; joy.  For you bring pure joy to my life each and every day.  Even though distance wise you are so far away, we have been able through Skype to stay close and connected.   

There are times when you are so full of life that your excitement is a joy to get caught up in.   

There are times when you are quiet and observing and it is a joy watching you take in your surroundings.  There are times when you are playful and mischievous and it is a joy to see that twinkle in your eye.  

With you, Joy takes on all kinds of forms.  I see you Ellie as sunshine and blue skies.  To me that is the highest form of joy there is!

So Kimberly, how about next week we each ask our spouse for one character trait that they would say best fits us.  Hmmmmmmmm…. Next week could be an interesting blog!  Maybe we should also be honest with ourselves and state a trait that we see fit too.  What do you think of that?  Let’s hope our blog takes on a kind and humorous note… not the “my spouse is going to get the silent treatment for his response” note!

Till next time Sweet Joy,
Love Mimi