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Thursday, December 30, 2010

An end to washing dishes like a pioneer

Little things mean a lot. Especially, when it comes to my new dishwasher.

Some background: Our dishwasher gasped its last breath back in April. At the time, we didn't want to run out and get one (financially), and, I reasoned: I washed dishes by hand for nine years when we lived in our first house, and there were even two babies involved, so I should be able to wash dishes without a dishwasher for a little while, at least. Besides, I really don't mind doing dishes and actually find it a little relaxing; queuing up my fave tunes and settling in for a little scrubbing.

Except that, for whatever reason, my tap water doesn't get hot enough to really get the dishes clean and every time I wash dishes I have to boil a kettle of water. REAL OLD, REAL SOON. Why not then, you ask, get a dishwasher sooner? Well, the reason is probably one that many will think is odd...

My laptop died right around the same time as my dishwasher. It came down to deciding what I wanted more: a new laptop or a new dishwasher. Since the dishwasher gig wasn't all that bad and I really wanted a new laptop, the laptop won.

Now, eight months down the line I've had it with having to boil a kettle of water in order to do the dishes. So, on Tuesday we headed out to Sears and got our new dishwasher. I warned everyone in the house to resist the urge to remind me that I "got a new dishwasher for Christmas," because surely if it was my present I would have chosen something a little more exciting (like my awesome new winter coat that feels like I'm wearing a fluffy, down pillow!). So, our new Bosch dishwasher was delivered on Tuesday, it all it's shiny, stainless steel glory. Last night I ran the first load through and it's nice to have sparkly, super clean dishes, glasses, and silverware again!

In other house renovation news: the Renovation 2011 projects are underway. In late January, we're having the moulding put up in the back room (Mark's cave) in preparation for Jeff, our painter, to paint that room. We are also having the side entryway and Annalisse's room painted in early February. So, while I have my projects lined up for this week, so does Mark: he's stripping wallpaper off "The Cave" walls. Little by little, we are marking stuff off "THE LIST."

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Happy Birthday to my OLD LADY!

Happy 80th Birthday today to my mother, Aline! I hope she finds glorious wealth from the $20 in scratch-offs that I sent her in the mail. Have fun today, Mom!!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

'Twas the day after Christmas...

...and of course I'm up by 6am doing laundry and other chores.

It as a great couple of days, punctuated by lots of family and fun surprises. Regular readers of The Fabulous B@ker Blog will know that sometimes Christmas really send me over the edge, but that's mostly just the "lead up"; the crazy store decorations and sales, the holiday music in November, the emphasis on spending. But when all is said and done, it's great to see the extended family and, if I've done my job well, paying attention throughout the year, the gift giving is very rewarding.

This year followed the same comforting format of all the years that came before: Christmas Eve service, the Christmas Eve party at Uncle Pete's and Aunt Mary's (who is thankfully doing really well after her tough fall battling lung cancer), then the "silent night, holy night" prep for the big morning.

On Christmas morning I got up early and fed pup, took him out, turned on the lights and waited. And waited. It sure is different from when the kids were little and and were clamoring down the stairs to see if Santa came. Mom Shiao got her apple kuchen in the oven, then we were ready for the festivities to begin.

The kids' big gifts this year were iPads. Since we didn't do a lot of ski stuff for Christmas, and the kids aren't doing ski club this year, we decided to spend that $$ on what I think will be a useful and fun device for them. They were surprised and happy. SCORE!
After unwrapping our gifts, we headed over to Nara and Jim's for some breakfast and more presents. While there, we "skyped" Dave, Mandy and the kids and chatted with them for a while (Skyping, by the way, is really awesome and a great way to stay connected. The future of the video phone is NOW, George Jetson.)

Then, in the afternoon (all the while fighting off the urge to nod off) we headed down to Grandma Pat's for our Christmas with her. It was a fun time, and a great dinner of bacon-wrapped filet mignon that Mark cooked on the grill. DELISH! By 5pm we were all hitting the wall, so we headed home, unpacked our goodies, and settled in for a movie. Cam got a text from his friend Zack around 7pm and headed to his friend Cody's for the night (he perked right up and started gathering his stuff when he got the note), and he'll be back sometime this morning (then most likely will sleep most of the day away).

So, here I sit, with a hot mug of Jamaican Me Crazy coffee, trying to get motivated so we can go to the mall and get a new dishwasher (I think washing dishes by hand since April is a great demonstration of patience and endurance, don't you?).

Best wishes for the First Day of Christmas from Bakers!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

I Deserve a Break Today

Rarely have I ever looked more forward to a break than I am to my vacation that starts at around 2pm tomorrow! While I'm sure I felt exactly the same way last year at this time, forgetfulness is a kind mistress since I jumped back on the horse and rode at a quick pace for the last year.

Long live sanity restoring vacations!

(Hey wait! What if it turns out to be a stressful, contentious vacation with two bored teenagers? Still TOTALLY WORTH IT!)

Monday, December 20, 2010

Cam's Big News!

How can it be that it's December 20 and I have neglected to announce to the world via The Fabulous B@ker Blog that Cam was accepted to RIT on December 8?!

Wow, that one definitely slipped by without the attention it deserved!

CONGRATS, CAM, ON MAKING YOUR DREAMS COME TRUE!

Now, if how to pay for it...?...

Cookie Overload (Not a bad thing)

Last night we hosted the Seventh Annual Fourth Ave Cookie Exchange, which, of course, included a lot more than cookies. Wine, 12 different kinds of micro-brews, my famous ('round these parts) homemade eggnog, some simple appetizers, and, of course, the stars of the night: the cookies. I love the way our house looks at Christmastime, with the soft glow of the tree, the mantle lights, and the candles. That's probably why I have such a hard time taking the lights off the mantle until mid-February.

It was great seeing all our neighbors as we don't see them quite so often with the snowy, cold weather (not to mention it gets dark so early these days), and it's so much fun to see all the kids from year-to-year - they are growing up so fast.

Enjoy some pictures from our night:

Couch Potatoes

Annalisse and Smiley Riley

Guests

More guests

The Cookie Load

The Nog

Noshing!

Geoff and Chris

Unfortunately, we are "stuck" with the leftover cookies. Oh well, might as well make the best of it!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Vacation Countdown

While I know we should not dismiss our moments as we wait for others to arrive, I CANNOT WAIT UNTIL CHRISTMAS VACATION. One more week until I'm off for 10 days, and I really feel like I need the downtime. It's been a crazy, stressful fall and I just want to chill out at home and work on some once-a-year projects like:
  • Clean out the cellar and arrange all the garage sale stuff (dreaming of June - there I go not living in the moment again...)
  • File two years worth of kids "to keep" stuff in their memory bins in the attic
  • Put approx. 700 pictures into photo albums (this idea deserve a blog entry all its own)
  • Take down the wallpaper in Mark's cave to get it ready for painting in February
  • Relocate all the games in the cupboards to make room for the 30 photo albums
Of course, beyond the projects, on the vacation list are (these mostly go without saying):
  • Sleep late
  • Walk with pup to get coffee every morning
  • Take naps
  • Get up to see Mary for quick overnight if the weather allows
  • Don't eat too much (very hard this time of year)
So, ONE MORE WEEK. Give me strength.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Fly In

There is a right way and a wrong way to spend time in Chicago.

The Right Way: fly in, check into a great hotel downtown, walk around, do some shopping, eat at some great restaurants, see the sights.

The Wrong Way: fly in, check into the hotel connected to the airport, spend two days in meeting room, and experience mounting anxiety about your ability to get out of that snowy hell before the blizzard hits.

I spent this weekend seeing Chicago "the wrong way." Luckily I was able to catch an early flight out before Mother Nature wrecked havoc on the Chicago area. But, it wasn't as bad as it sounds...I got to spend time with some great colleagues, met some new folks and got back to Rochester in time for dinner on Saturday night. Whew!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Saying Goodbye to Ma Bell

I lost a very important person today: Barb Bell, my best friend Sue's mom who was like a second mother to me. She had been in declining health for several months, and today she passed away peacefully at Sue and Ken's home in Roanoke. She's now at peace, joining her beloved husband, Jack, who passed away 30 years ago.

I am heartbroken, and I'm sure I'm not the only one. I often tell people I got my sense of humor from the Bells (and their cousin San) as they were always such fun people, never taking themselves too seriously and finding fun whereever they went. Charades, a colander on your head at the New Year's party, enjoying that "generous" glass of wine, and our favorite British comedies. For God's sake, would I even know Benny Hill existed if not for the Bells?

The Bell family, and especially Ma, always welcomed me with open arms as if I were one of their own. Growing up I spent so many nights there I had my own toothbrush. They knew if I was going to have dinner with them something was sure to get spilled, and every once in a while, when I helped clean up, the milk would end up in the cupboard. I'll never live that down.

Ma Bell and her children were genuinely "friends." I can't recall a time when Lisa, Tim or Sue gave their mom trouble. There was so much love and respect there. Sue and Ken did an amazing job taking care of Ma Bell in her last months, with frequent help from sister Lisa and cousin San, and I'm sure they considered every minute of it (and what were some very stressful, worrisome, and scary moments) a great privilege, and never a burden.

So, goodbye, Ma Bell. You were loved and will be missed, and someday we'll see each other again.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Our Crooked, Full/Flat, Holey Tree

I should have know when we found it so quickly. But it looked so "perfect" in the field, and had those nice, soft needles. I continue to think it's a really cute tree, a little on the small side, full on one side, flat on the other, and a big gap at the top. Annalisse needed a little more convincing, calling it ugly and small.

Just like the Charlie Brown Christmas tree, it seemed to come to life once I got the lights and decorations on it. For the barren spot near the top, I hung a beautiful glass ornament, which looked great with a light right behind it.

After it was decorated, I stood back and exclaimed, "It's the most beautiful tree we've ever had!" - just like every other year!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Have Yourself a Melancholy Christmas

As we enter the season of Advent, and the world "waits" for the happy promise of Christmas, I am reminded how hard this season can be, and will be, for several folks I care very much about. Please keep in your thoughts and prayers our friends and family who are facing devastating loss and health challenges this year:
  • My cousins Lisa, Frank, Joey and their families on the loss of Uncle Joe, and especially Auntie, who has suffered the devastating loss of her husband, her big brother, and now her little brother
  • Barb "Ma" Bell, a woman who is a second mother to me, during her battle with cancer
  • Sue and Ken, and when they can help out, Lisa, and San, who are so willingly and lovingly making Ma Bell so comfortable during her decline in health
  • My coworker, Jo, as she faces yet another surgery after which has been a discouraging and scary year with her health issues
  • Taylor in the loss of her mom, and Hannah in the loss of her dad
  • Our cousin Sue and her family in the loss of John this year
  • Aunt Mary TV, on her health challenges this year
  • And lastly, for my mother with the challenges that come to adjusting to her new life living with my sister, Carol, and for Carol, who has also had some recent heath issues, including emergency appendix surgery. Especially for Carol having to deal with the challenges that come with helping my mother out day-to-day!
I'm sure there are many others who are silently suffering, but you are all in my thoughts, especially at this time of year.

The other day I was reminded of one of my favorite Christmas songs, as sung by the legendary Judy Garland. Judy's version of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" lends just the right melancholy interpretation for which I believe this song was meant. It's so heartfelt, and reminds me that, while Christmas is a happy time for many, for some it's a reminder of loss and challenge.

"Someday soon, we all will be together, if the fates allow
Until then, we'll have to muddle through some how..."

Friday, November 26, 2010

R.I.P. Uncle Joe

During the early hours of this morning, my Uncle Joe passed away peacefully. Uncle Joe had been in declining health recently, and the years leading up to this one had not been easy ones for his health either. The news of late had not been good, and we all held our breath, waiting for the day we would get the call.

Joe Greco was my father's youngest sibling, with my father being the oldest and my Aunt Carol (Auntie) the "rose between two thorns." He always had such a twinkle in his eye, and a smile on his face. He was a devoted father and brother, and gave service to the Massena Police Department and the Volunteer Fire Department for many years. Our family was always very close, and his brother and sister were his best friends. For all of us, we feel a piece of us has died with Uncle Joe.

Although Uncle Joe will never pull another penny from my ear, I will cherish my memories of him for the rest of my days. Rest in peace, Uncle Joe, and I hope you are having a wonderful time with Nonnie, Poo Poo, Dad, Uncle Duff, and all those who went before.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Bear


Last night I randomly started calling Jasper "'Bear." I don't know why. Maybe I just needed to shake things up a little. Or maybe it's because when he lays on the floor he stretches and flattens out like a bearskin rug. Perhaps it's his manly fluffiness.

Anyway, it's not catching on and he just looks confused.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Yearly Christmas Card Picture Challenge=VICTORY!

I'm happy to report that I have already ordered, received, stuff, sealed and addressed our Christmas cards for this year. It's not as ambitious as it sounds. Let me explain...

Around the beginning of November each year I start to fret about taking the ever-elusive Christmas pictures of the kids (and, for the last several years, the dog) for our yearly missive, and it's never easy. Well, I should say, it's easy with two of the subjects (Annalisse and Jasper) and not easy or pleasant with Cameron. He spends endless shots ruining the pictures with weird faces and far away glances. Last year, think we took upwards of 50 pictures to get the one we finally used, and that was only achieved after several threats. Every year I tell him, "Cam, I've done a picture Christmas card since the year you were born, and XXXX WON'T be the year without a Baker family card!" Can you imagine this exercise without digital photography?!

This year, I decided to simply scan three separate pictures and put those into the card. When I caught on to this idea, I quickly decided on the kids' pictures, and had Annalisse take an appropriate picture of Jasper. Then, being ON FIRE with the idea, I ordered them. Of course, when I received them I had to sit right down and address them, and, well, you get the picture. I think the recipients of this year's card will be pleased - I think its' one of the best ones ever!

I know that our friends and family, especially those across the miles, enjoys seeing how the kids are growing up in the same way I love to receive their cards. It's a little strange to think about how old the kids are getting and that one of these years might actually be the last year for the picture card. It's also really fun to look back at all the cards over the years. When I get them each year I put one aside for each kid's "memory book" so that someday THEY WILL appreciate their mother's effort and persistance, even though trying to get "get the shot" has caused more than a couple gray hairs from year to year.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

My Father's NYC

I took another quick trip to the Big Apple this week (well, technically, Long Island, but close), and whenever I get any where near NYC I am immediately transported back to my childhood memories of New York - a place I had not even visited until last year. This is the New York as seen through the eyes of my father, who had a great affinity for the city but rarely visited. I grew up reading the Daily News every day, which was later joined by the NY Post, and my father constantly watched the station that broadcast NYC commercials and, most likely, the Yankee games. Come to think of it, that's mainly what he listened to on the radio, also.

I think the reason I love the musical Evita, starring Patti LuPone, is because of the commercial for the Broadway play, which also starred Mandy Patinkn, and ran in the late 70s/early 80s. It's a classic, with Patti LuPone singing "Just a little touch of, just a little touch of, just a little touch of star quality!" Another classic commercial that was popular during that time was the Milford Plaza advertisement. When I was in NYC last year I saw the Milford Plaza, and, of course, the jingle sprang to mind.

My father's New York City was a gritty place, not unlike the urban setting of "All in the Family," the hit 70s sitcom set in the Astoria section of Queens. For those of us from a small town, NYC was a mysterious place, much like the world depicted in "All in the Family," the Daily News, and on the NYC TV station. For me, these things, were, and continue to be, New York. When I go there I feel a very strong connection with my father, as he always kept up with the news and, of course, his beloved Yankees.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Far Away February

Is it too late to start thinking about going someplace warm for February break? Of course, I can't afford that, but I sure feel like I need it. I knew I was a goner when I received the AAA magazine in the mail and it featured an amazing picture of the El Conquistador Resort in Puerto Rico on the cover. I was immediately drawn to it, and went online to see how much it would cost. Needless to say, that dream was dashed fairly quickly. I have a quick weekend trip to Ft. Lauderdale to look forward to in January (courtesy of my professional association) and Las Vegas again in July. But, I was envisioning something a little more restful, maybe a girl's weekend with my sister(s) and Annalisse (and my niece if she could make it) as Mark is not as keen on winter getaways as as I am.

(HINT HINT, sisters.)

With these short, dark days, I know I'll need something to get through the winter, like sunshine and sand and surf. Stay tuned...

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Turn the Page (Orr)

The five-days-a-week practices are done. We can eat dinner at a leisurely pace again. The kids can sleep in on (most) Saturdays. We escaped without freezing rain and snowing...although the last few regattas hovered around a chilly 45 degrees. In other words:

THE FALL SEASON OF CREW IS DONE!

Hurray! At last! The kids have been at it since the last week in August, day in and day out, rain or shine (or darkness). Needless to say, everyone is relieved and looking forward to the break.

At today's last fall season regatta, Pittsford's "Pull the Plug," each of the kids won a silver medal, and Cam was just four seconds away from winning two. That was a nice finish for him since he hadn't taken home a medal all season. It was a nice way to end this VERY LONG SEASON.

Things will start up again at the end of February with winter training, which will take us through the official start to the spring season in early April. At this point, Annalisse is not planning to participate in winter training as there is not a lot for the coxswains to do, and she is thinking of trying out for the spring play. This was a rough season for her - she was not feeling really motivated and a lot of the friends she joined with dropped out (although she's never really at a loss for friends...). So, we'll see what spring brings. She claims she'll do spring season, but not fall. Time will tell.

In the meantime, we'll just enjoy our down time and the lack of rushing in the evenings that comes with it!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

From Sea to Shining Sea

What? Why are you looking at me that way? You had to know it would be a while between blog posts since I explained in my last post that I was going to be traveling...besides, you actually have to be home to write a blog (unless you take your computer with you, which I didn't). I am not being defensive!

So, I'm back at it after a whirlwind week-and-a-half of travel. From Chicago and back, to Portland and back, with an overnight in Saratoga Springs thrown in there there for good measure. Boy, am I sick of packing and unpacking. I don't know how truly frequent travelers do it. One of my colleagues and good friend, Josh, recruits for SU's MBA program, and he's gone probably more than 75% of the time, on the road at recruitment fairs and college and visits and such. It's really hard on him, but to his credit he's only 30 and doesn't have any kids. He probably has a little more stamina than I do. Anyway...
In spite of the travel fatigue, both trips were great. This was my second time to Chicago, and my impression of that city gets better and better with every visit. This time I stayed near the lakefront (Lake Michigan), and it was absolutely beautiful - the scenery and the weather, both. I stayed in a lovely old hotel downtown called The Palmer House, and it was located near a lot of the colleges, The Chicago Institute of Art, and the funky/artsy section of the city. I spent some time walking along the lakefront, and nearby was the Buckingham Fountain, made famous in the opening scene of Fox's '90s hit "Married with Children." The architecture in Chicago is absolutely amazing, and I would love to spend more time there in the near future. The trip from Rochester is a manageable hour-and-a-half, so it's definitely a possibility for a family weekend getaway.

After spending the weekend in Chicago, I unpacked and repacked for my trip to Portland. I left at the ungodly hour of 6:10am, but that allowed me to get in mid-day. Mark's cousin, Kara, picked me up at the airport, and, after a brief stop at her house, we grabbed some lunch and did some sight seeing. It was so nice spending time with Kara. We tried to determine the last time we had seen each other, and figured it may have been as many as 20 years ago at her brother's wedding. Thanks to the magic of Facebook, though, we've been able to reconnect and get to know each other again.

Kara has lived in the Portland area for some 15 years, and she shares a 5-year old daughter, Piper, with her former partner, Heather. Lucky for us (me) we got a chance to spend a lot of time with Piper, who is incredibly cute and very smart. She's a little firecracker! On Thursday, before I had to head to Portland State University for the grad fair, Kara, Piper, Kara's roommate, Jessica, and I started out early and headed up Mt. Hood to the Timberline Lodge, the exterior of which was used for Stephen King's (Stanley Kubrick's version) The Shining. That was an extremely cool experience, considering that Mark and I had visited the real hotel that The Shining was based on two years ago during our trip to Colorado.

Actually, it was not only a cool experience, it was a COLD experience as Mt. Hood was experiencing a snow storm during our visit. I could not wait to get down the mountain as I am definitely not ready for dark, cold, wet, snow just yet! But, it was a lot of fun just the same!! On the way back to Portland we meandered back by a beautiful scenic route through the mountains, and stopped in the really cute little town of Hood River for a coffee break and some shopping. Amazingly, just over the Columbia River, a stone's throw away, was Washington State. Pretty cool!

After a long day of travel, I arrived home on Friday night to once again unpack and repack for our overnight to Saratoga for the Head of the Fish Regatta. THANK GOD THE WEATHER WAS NICE THIS YEAR. Sure, it was cold, but that I can take. I'm not great at math, but I do know this:

Cold+Rain+Snow=FROZEN HELL


So we piled on the layers and made the best of it. The kids didn't make out too well...Annalisse would not even discuss how she did, and apparently Cam's boat came in 4th out of about 15, which was not too bad. I feel very bad for Cameron as he's displayed great persistence and sportsmanship this fall, but has not wSave as Drafton a medal. We have one more regatta for this season: Sunday's "Pull the Plug" regatta in Pittsford. Maybe they'll pull off a win, yet.
Last night was the first night in recent memory that I got into my PJs and hung around the house. It was heaven! I was even inspired to bake cookies. I suppose it takes a couple of weeks like I've had lately to help me appreciate the quiet time at home.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Almost YOU KNOW WHAT

It is with much reluctance that I realized that Christmas is just about two months away. I spend most of my year trying to slow time down so it's not that time again: the decorations, the $$, the stress...ack!

I probably thought of that tonight because these last two weeks of October will be extraordinarily busy for me, passing in a blur, I'm sure. This week I've been on the road a lot for day trips to area colleges for work, and this weekend I'm heading to Chicago for my national association's meeting. Then, it's back to work for two days before heading back across the country to Portland, Oregon for a grad fair reception for my association. That's one day out, one in between, and one day back - a long trip through three time zones for just a day in Portland. Although, I am looking forward to my first trip there. Mark's cousin, Kara, has lived there for years so she'll be showing me the sights before I have to check into my fair/reception.

Just think: this year I've experienced two of the main Portlands in the US for the first time! According to Google, I still need to check out Portland, TX and Portland, NY. The day after I return home from Portland, we head three hours east to Saratoga for the Head of the Fish regatta. (PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE be nice weather...)

Wait, wasn't this blog about realizing there's only two month left until Christmas? I suppose my thought here is probably to reflect on how fast this year has gone, and for good reason. It's been DARN BUSY. I guess there will be time enough to sit around when we're old and gray (which I could be now if I didn't color my hair every six weeks).


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Another Step on the Road to College

Today Cam submitted his application to RIT for early decision (deadline: December 1). If accepted, "early decision" means he will withdraw apps to all other colleges and commit to going to RIT. That should not be a problem since

HE'S NOT APPLYING TO ANY OTHER COLLEGES.

Yup. That's right. This an all-or-nothing proposition, which makes me extremely nervous because he's a B+ student and didn't fare so well on his first round of SATs (he retook them a couple of weeks ago and we don't have the results back yet, but I'm not too optimistic that he "hit it out of the ballpark" based on his previous interest and engagement with the SAT). So, now we wait - and keep our fingers crossed. His major of interest is Bioinfomatics, which I think he chose because it's a combination of biology and computer science, two of his favorite subjects. But, lest we give up all hope that it's RIT or a life spent working in retail, he has hinted that he will consider applying to other colleges should the unthinkable happen. I think, though, in his mind, RIT is basically a sure thing, which is not too surprising from a 17 year old's perspective, I guess.

So we wait. And we hope. And come late December/early January, hopefully, WE CELEBRATE!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

It's Hip to Be Square

Happy (GUESS THE NUMBER) Birthday to my "old" man, Mark today. Remember when I was a "prime" number this year? Well, Mark's a square root. Let's just say next year's birthday will probably result in a big part of some kind!!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Sweet Amelie!

This past weekend we travelled down to Arlington, VA for Amelie's baptism. How sweet and smiley she is! Annalisse and Mema/Popo served as Amelie's sponsors, so it was really special. It was a fairly quick trip as we didn't get on the road until around 1pm on Saturday, after Cam took his final SAT (he's taken it twice, now, this is it - make or break time), and finally got settled in our hotel around 10pm. Who knew therewere three Hampton Inns in Alexandria?! We found ours on the third try - and it was a little tense by then as Mark was getting really cranky over the whole situation. Anyway, we got settled, got a good night's sleep, and headed out early to drive to McLean/Herndon for the baptism, which was performed at our old Pastor's new church.

After the baptism, we made our way back up route 7 for a little lunch at Dave and Mandy's, then took a trip to a German market on the Columbia Pike. Cam is on a mission to try to find Spezi, a soda from Germany that he enjoyed during his trip there. They didn't have Spezi, but they did have Mezzomix, which is apparently just as good. He picked up a case to sell for his soda selling business at school. Of course, being an import, he'll have to mark up the price to make a profit.

After the German market, we headed back to Dave and Mandy's and hung around for a while (and spend time with Jackson, who's getting so big!) before heading out to a Turkish restaurant for dinner. Once again, Cam is in search of another delicacy from Germany, doner, which is a common Turkish street food. We found it at Cafe Divan, and, since I was sitting next to him, I could hear an audible "mmmmm" when he was eating it. We were so happy to be joined by our dear friend Ken, who is my best gal Sue's husband, as he's working in DC for a couple of months. It was almost like being with Sue. Almost.

We headed back home early on Monday morning so we could get back in time to pick up Jasper at the kennel by 6pm. During his time at the "pet hotel," we had also paid for two days of Doggy Day Camp and a grooming. Well, did he ever get groomed. I'm not sure the groomer understood what I meant by "just trim his feathers a bit." He looks super cute and soft, but a little like a golden-yellow-lab mix. With all that hair gone you can also see his "plus
sized" qualities.

All in all, a great trip and a nice time with the family. It will be nice to have an excuse to visit the DC area now that more family is living there - it's an awesome (and awe inspiring) place!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Fünfzehn!

Today Annalisse celebrates her 15th birthday. Where did the time go? I'm already sad thinking that two years from now I'll have a sophomore in college and a senior in high school. The cruel, cruel trick of time.

I'm sure she'll make the best of it at school today, and we'll probably go out for a quick bite after work and before crew. She had her "big" celebration out for dinner with her girlfriends at the Bonefish Grill on Sunday night, which was followed by a family cake-n-ice cream celebration at the house.

In true Libra fashion, she's making the most of her special day!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

One of the Great Mysteries of Our Time

There is a mystery that continues to confound me well into my '40s: Orphan Sock Syndrome.

I have a pile of socks on my dresser that for months (years?) has not had a mate. Where the heck do they go? Is there a moment in time when a (non-laundry-doing) member of the family finally discards a hole-y sock, but does not notify me or its mate, sending the left or right footed sock into wearer limbo? Or, worse yet, is there a pair of socks rolled together in one of our drawers whose mate(s) have been left to search for it's match atop my dresser for all eternity? That seems a little clandestine on the part of the happily-matched-other-orphan socks.

Every week the orphan socks come together with the mated socks in the wild, wonderful "basket of clean whites," and every week they end up in their pile back on my dresser. Oh, every once in a while there will be a long awaited match, but more often than not the old standbys are welcoming new members to their lonely club.

This bothers me so much I'm thinking I should do a PSA.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Let's Get This Party Started!

Welcome to the sign of Libra!! Today marks our month long celebration. Libras, arise!! To usher in our special time, there was an amazing harvest moon in the sky this morning. Now, if I could only figure out a way to celebrate my birthday without actually getting older...

Saturday, September 18, 2010

One Wild Week

Last spring, Mark and I attended a German trip fundraiser that Cam was involved in. One of the Fairport High School acts that performed that night was the high school comedy improv troupe, Downstage. The kids were just hilarious and very entertaining , and at the time I thought, "Wow, Annalisse would really love this!" So, when auditions for Downstate were taking place this week, she hemmed and hawed and tried to decide if she wanted to try out. Of course, everyone she asked said she should because of her quick wit and funny sense of humor.

The Downstage troupe is composed of 10 kids, and this year there were three slots available. On Monday, she and many kids went through the first round of auditions, and afterwards she was so excited about the prospect of joining the group. On the second day of auditions, although she wasn't required to, she auditioned again so she could, in her words, "make sure she got noticed." Then, Tuesday night, we waited and checked the website for Wednesday's last round of auditions (callbacks). She screamed and jumped around when she saw her name on the callback list, so we got ourselves ready for Wednesday.

After Wednesday's callback, she felt that she had a really good shot. The current Downstage kids with whom she auditioned gave her great feedback, and led her to believe that she was a really strong contender. The next step was that she would hear if she was selected by Wednesday night. The rumor was that they would visit your home with the news if you made it.

As it happened, we were in and out on Wednesday night, so did not get a visit. At 8:30pm Mark and I went our separate ways: him to pick up Annalisse at crew, and me to pick up Cam at SAT prep class. Around 8:40pm I got the call: the Downstage kids had "rushed" Annalisse at the end of crew practice telling her she "made it." Much to the dismay of Annalisse's coach, there was jumping and screaming and crying all around.

We are so proud of her! I think this will be a great experience for her with a really nice group of kids. Traditionally, they've done a lot of stuff together and spend a lot of time "bonding," so it's nice for her to get to know yet another segment of the large high school population. She probably sums it best in one of her Facebook posts this week: "I officially LOVE high school!"

You go, girl!!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Many Updates, Little Time

Boy, that was a long stretch since my last post! The blog drought was not for lack of news, but for lack of time. There's been a lot going on in preparation for the kids' return to school. Just between you and me (and all the Internet universe), I think I'm one of the only people who, in a way, dreads the start of school because of the busyness, rushing and academic pressure involved.

On Wednesday, September 8, at 5:30am, we were off an running. After a summer of staying up late (and getting up really late), the kids were surely suffering by Thursday afternoon when they both fell asleep after school. When I got home from work on Friday it was the same scenario, and out of pity I let them sleep until 5:30pm. Let's hope they start to re-balance the sleep/school time as we enter the second week.

Before the "magic" day, though, there was school supply shopping and our neighbor's annual backyard movie night featuring old reels from the 30's, 40's and 50's (and probably the 60's). This year it started to rain just as the first movie started, so we didn't stay long enough to enjoy the old favorites like Jiminy Cricket and Johnny Appleseed. Still, it was good fun!

Perhaps the most exciting news of all is that after a year-and-a-half
on borrowed time, and three months since the (timely) demise of our Dell PC, WE FINALLY GOT OUR MACBOOK PRO!! Of course, it's never a good time financially for that sort of thing but since Cam returned from his job at camp and Annalisse is done with all her vacationing, I was really feeling the pinch of not having access to a computer at home. So, I spent all last weekend getting our new "toy" settled and even hooked up the wireless printer that we got for "free" with our purchase. I absolutely love it! (A snarky aside: Even though Mark is a System's Engineer he knows zilch, nothing, nada, about PCs and home networks. Good thing I love technology and consider myself a tehno geek!!).

Sometimes, when I'm so busy, I remind myself that there will come a time when the kids are grown and I'm not working full-time when I will have SO MUCH TIME ON MY HANDS that I can watch and read whatever I want...and dream of days when I was busier!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Ready! Set! Go! - Senior Year

I took the last week off to spend some time doing college related stuff with Cam, and relaxing it wasn't. Cam is finally home from his world travels and camp counselor job (eight weeks away with just about 10 days at home that whole time), so we really needed to get down to business and do some activities related to getting him ready for his senior year. First off, we took a trip to visit the University of Buffalo on Tuesday, and, while a nice campus (HUGE!) he was not swayed from his first choice, RIT.

We spent of a lot of Tuesday rushing from Fairport to Buffalo and back again to be back in time for his senior picture photo shoot. Despite much kicking and screaming (figuratively...), he turned out to be a very cooperative subject and the results were amazing! The formal picture was nice enough, but the black and white casual shots blew us away. We were very pleased and have an appointment tomorrow to finalize our order (side note: very very expensive - they obviously pull you in emotionally and soak you financially).

On Wednesday, we headed over to RIT for Cam's formal interview, and afterward walked around the campus a little. He is getting visibly excited for his senior year, seeing it as the stepping stone to next year at RIT. This week also served to reinforce what we've been telling him for the past two years about his grades and SAT scores, and I think he finally "gets it." He tells us that he's going to buckle down and do his best during the first 10 weeks of the grading periods (his last chance to impact his average), and he is really a lot more engaged in the SAT prep course he's in right now.

People ask me if I'm upset and about him being a senior and the looming college years, and I'm really not (as of today anyway!). I remember how special these days were for me, and I'm excited about the new experiences coming his way over the next couple of years.

The icing on the cake (did somebody say "cake"?) of this crazy busy week is that Cam finally got his learners permit (at 17 1/2). We haven't been out practice driving yet because the days have been filled, including a trip to Seabreeze with Annalisse and her posse, and a whirlwind trip to Massena from Friday to Saturday. Some friends told me about a guy they used to teach their kids to drive who is a former driver's ed teacher. That sounds really tempting and I may give him a call in the next couple of weeks.

So, Cam will be a senior in 10 days, and Annalisse will start her 10th grade journey. In a blink we'll be celebrating Cam's graduation from high school. Will I be ready?

Isn't it funny that as your kids grow, you grow with them?

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Mulch Madness!

As often happens, this year we recognized that we would like to mulch the beds around the house, which is fine, but FOR GOD'S SAKE IT'S ALMOST SEPTEMBER. Anyway, we recently had two yards of mulch delivered, and once that happens Mark is obsessed with getting the beds cleaned out and the mulch spread. He takes great pride in his home, inside and out, and it shows with our beautiful gardens. While I do help, he really gets the most credit, and it feels really good to both of us at the end of the day to have a well kept lawn and surrounding plant beds. That being said, two yards was not enough for the all the areas and another two yards are being delivered tomorrow. Sigh.

For a couple of years I've wanted to remedy are really problematic section of our yard, which is a Y shaped pathway leading from the side yard to the patio. My suggestion was to replace the flat stones that serve as walkway (which are constantly surrounded by weeds that grow faster than I can pull them) with pebble stones. I finally convinced Mark to give it a try and it looks AWESOME. That whole section of the yard now looks neater and brighter. I love it.
At the end of a busy day, there is absolutely nothing like laying in the hammock in our back yard looking up into the tree above. It is extremely relaxing and I've taken many a nap there this summer. Ah, paradise!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Biggest Camping Cliche There Is

Cam came home from his summer camp gig for a 20 hour visit on Friday night before heading back yesterday at 4pm, and brought with him some interesting looking markings on his face. At first I thought he had a series of bug bites that were swelling up, but yesterday morning, on closer inspection, I thought a trip to the doctor was in order.

It's a good thing we went because he had a fresh case of poison ivy all over his cheek and both sides of his chin. It was amazing to me that after probably seven years of summers at Camp Bristol, first as a camper and later as an employee, neither he (or Annalisse) has never had poison ivy. I suppose we're due. He's now on an eight day intensive course of Prednisone (steroid) to help clear it up. I know when he went back yesterday he was really itchy, so I'm hoping the medication works quickly so he can fully enjoy his last week (washing dishes mostly - he's working for at a music camp that is renting the facilities from Saturday to Saturday) at this favorite place on Earth.

Another great reason for his face to clear up: Senior pictures a week from Wednesday.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Too Good Not to Share

I was looking through some old pictures and I came across this one, which was taken on our first trip to Florida (St. Pete Beach/Tampa), which we took with Sue. What year? Hmmm....it was probably around 2002, which would mean that Annalisse was six (about to turn seven) and Cam was nine. There are a couple of pictures in my collection that really stand out for me, and this is one of them. What fun we had with Sue!!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Comfort in the Routine

Isn't it funny how, in the weeks leading up to a vacation or a break, you can't wait to have a change of routine, pace and scenery, then by the time you get home you are looking forward to getting back into the routine? We humans, always wanting the opposite of what we have!

That's what it feels like for me right now. It's been non-stop since the kids got out of school, and Mark and I (mostly "I") have been on the go a lot in the last month. Of course, Cam has been gone (to Germany, then camp) since June 25 (I think we counted that he's been home for maybe 10 days in the last month-and-a-half), and Annalisse has been enjoying our family vacations, time traveling with her friend, Mo, and a week at camp herself. No wonder the years seem to fly by!!

This morning for the first time in what seems like months we're heading to the Fairport farmer's market to stock up on fruits and vegetables, and will also make a stop at the meat market to fill the freezer with one of their "meat" package specials (i.e. 2 lbs of this, 3 lbs of that). As a result of our crazy schedules (and the fact that there's usually only 1-2 people home at any one time) we've been eating out a lot. So my comfort in the routine will come from having fresh food in the house and making meals at home. CAN YOU EVEN BELIEVE I'M SAYING THAT? ME, WHO REALLY DISLIKES COOKING?

See, we always want the opposite of what we have. I'm thinking I'll last a couple of days and then head out to McCardles for the Tuesday pasta special!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Dreaming of the Days of Puppy Dog Tails, Cotton Candy and Rainbows

This has been another not-great-news week, just like last week's (and month's) non-great-news week as Annalisse's good friend's (Taylor's) mom passed away suddenly last Wednesday. We are all very upset for Taylor and her sister and two brothers. To lose a parent anytime is devastating, but to lose your mom suddenly in your teen years will be a very difficult thing for them to overcome, if they ever do. Very, very sad.

I thought as the calendar turned to August 1 I would have a respite from the doom and gloom, and get some good news, but my August 1 included a speeding ticket on my way home from a whirlwind trip to Massena. I earned this special token I thought I was in a 55 mph zone but apparently I had just recently entered a 55 mph zone (I definitely saw the 55 mph sign, checked my speed, and settled in at 57) after exiting a 45mph zone and was 12 miles over the speed limit. Freakin' Route 12 between Ogdensburg and Morristown!! To be fair, the sheriff was a really nice woman and told me to go online, download a form, and request a reduction in the charge to a moving vehicle violation (which she said would almost certainly get approved), which would carry with it no points and no insurance consequences.

Today's little interlude just added to my gloomy and cranky state, the mood of which, of course, my family was unfortunately subjected to for the rest of the day. Oh well, as they say, tomorrow's another day.

ON A BRIGHT NOTE: Happy 25th Birthday to my awesome nephew, Anthony! We love you very much!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Raining (Reigning?) Bad News

Today, on the seventh anniversary of my dad's death, I am reminded that the last couple of weeks have had a dearth of bad news. From the shocking death of a Fairport grad (who many of our friends/families knew), to the news that Mark's Aunt Mary was diagnosed with lung cancer (luckily, it has not spread and she will sacrifice a lung, which is the "best case" scenario), to the untimely and sudden death of Mark's cousin, John, there just doesn't seem to much good news.

I remain concerned about my dear second mother, Barb Bell, who's battling lung cancer, and we are also bummed by the imminent move of Mark's mom to the DC area. Always in the picture is my mother in the nursing home, and how it might not be the greatest situation but is probably the smartest choice we could have made based on her condition, what's available in the North Country for elder care, and in consideration of her inability to live independently.

Illness, death, loss, the fabric of our lives this July 2010. Beaten down with bad news, that's what we are.

(Of course, always the optimist, I must consider the birth of our niece, Amiele and our new cousin, Paul John [born to Mark's cousin Paula], the fact that our kids are healthy and having a great summer filled with fun activities, and we're both gainfully employed. Stil...)

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Welcome, Amelie!

On Thursday we welcomed our new baby niece/cousin, Amelie Feng Li Shiao, born around 9:30pm and weighing in at 8lb, 5 oz. She's just beautiful and we can't wait to meet her. Congrats Amanda, Dave and Jackson on the new addition to your family!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Home Sweet Home

We've all returned from our major summer vacation odysseys (well, all accept Annalisse, but more on that in a minute) to Maine, Las Vegas and Germany (pictures soon). For the pleasure of the Fabulous B@ker Blog readers, we'll relive them one trip at a time.

Maine

We dropped Jasper off at the Petsmart Dog Hotel and headed north for approx. 8 hours to Portland Maine on Thursday, July 1. In Portland, we stayed at the Inn at Spring Park, a beautiful historic row house right in the heart of the "Old Port." The location was great, within walking distance to really neat shops and restaurants on Maine's Casco Bay. Our goal was to eat seafood for every meal (except breakfast, of course, where we were treated to decadent meals at the inn), and we mostly accomplished that except for a meal or two.

My general impression of Portland, which is the largest city in Maine, was that it was a lot like Saratoga Springs, and not at all like I pictured Maine. We saw the "real" Maine soon enough with a morning visiting lighthouses (some are really hard to find) and white water rafting on the Kenneck River, two-and-a-half hours north of Portland.

One of the highlights of the trip was "said" whitewater rafting trip with my high school chum Dave Fiacco, his girlfriend Kim, her two daughters, Annie and Christina, and their friend, Tom. I've told many people that I'm a huge chicken when it comes to thrill-type activities, and I readily confessed my nervousness to this adventure. BUT, we had so much fun, and none of us really toppled out of the boat (except Tom, and we weren't even in bad rapids when he slipped out). It was so great to see Dave and meet Kim, and was a thrilling experience.

Another highlight of the Maine trip was taking Annalisse to spend the afternoon with her friend from Fairport, whose family owned a cottage in Ocean Park, near Old Orchard Beach. They bought the cottage 20 years ago and have been fixing up ever since, and it's just three blocks from a beautiful sandy beach. They live there for almost two months every summer. What a life!!

We got home on Tuesday, July 6, unpacked our suitcases, repacked and got ready to go to...

Las Vegas

Annalisse, my sister Mary, and I headed out to Las Vegas on Thursday, July 8 for a board meeting for my professional organization, NAGAP (I'm the membership committee chair). I knew I would be tied up from Friday at 4pm until Sunday at noon, so I asked Mary to come along to hang with Annalisse since they both LOVE to do girl stuff (you know, pedis, shopping, that stuff). When we headed out of the airport on Thursday evening to catch the shuttle to the MResort, WHOOMP! we were hit with a wall of heat. It was amazing. So that's what 107 degrees feels like? It's really something!

We made out way to the hotel (which, by the way, was amazing - contemporary and beautiful), and prepared to head out on Friday morning to "get the lay of the land." In honor of my father's birthday the day before, we decided that for every casino we entered in our travels we would play $1 in honor of Dad. Well, you can imagine we were done quite quickly!

We had a really good time going in and out of the different gardens and shops at the casinos. We aren't big gamblers, so I think I lost a total of $25 for the entire time I was there. It was really fun just to see all the extravagance, not to mention all the incredibly tempting food and treats. If I see one more pastry shop... (I may just cave in and eat it all!)

While there, we had a chance to visit with our cousins Nancy and Patsy (Spadafore). Patsy has lived in Henderson, NV for almost 20 years, and for Nancy, it's probably been not quite that long.

On our last day, we ventured back down to the strip in the morning, but came back to the hotel early enough to spend a couple of hours lounging by the pool. It was heavenly!!

And through all our travels, Cam was having the time of his life in...

Germany

We got home on Tuesday, and Cam flew in on Wednesday evening.

Cam visited Southern Germany for approximately three weeks from June 25 until July 14 through the Fairport High School German Exchange program. For the first two weeks of his trip, he stayed at the home of Belinda Fischer, the young lady who stayed with us in May. Then, after leaving the host families the 22 Fairport kids traveled to several castles in the area, visited Salzburg, and spent time in Munich before returning home.

Cam took around 400 pictures of his trip, and said it was "the best trip of his life." It probably didn't hurt that he was there during the World Cup, which is huge in Europe. He really enjoyed the public viewings, where the entire village came out to one central area to watch the games.

A wonderful, wonderful trip!

Think our travel is over? Not quite. Annalisse left yesterday for a week in the Outer Banks with her friend Mo and Mo's family, and Cam left today for his summer job at 4H Camp Bristol (he'll be home just weekends for the next three weeks, and possibly more if he is able to work some of the camps that rent Camp Bristol after their season is over).

No wonder summer passses so fast!!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Road Runners

A quick post to hold you over for exciting entries to come, like:
  • All the news from our trip to Maine, complete with beautiful pictures
  • A diary of our adventures in Las Vegas, for which Annalisse, Mary and I leave today (Happy Birthday, Dad! We miss you and are heading to LV in your honor today!)
  • Cam's arrival home from Germany next Wednesday
  • Our crazy travel summer in general
If we could stay in one place long enough, I might be able to update the blog. Obviously, the next entry will be a long one and worth checking back!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

An Exaltation of Larks

Once, during my undergraduate study when I was an English major working on my bachelor's degree, one of my professors introduced the concept of collective nouns for animals through James Lipton's book, An Exaltation of Larks. It's something that has stuck with me ever since.

A collective noun is the term used to describe a "group" of something. There are the common ones that we hear all the time like "a herd of cattle" or "a flock of geese," but there are some collective terms that are downright beautiful, and others that are just plain weird. Some examples you might not have heard of - including the title of this post- are:
  • Shrewdness of apes
  • Chain of boblolinks (what the heck is a bobolink?!)
  • Wake of buzzards (seems fitting
  • Kindle of kittens
  • Scold of jays (is that why they seem like they're always yelling at each other?
  • Smack of jellyfish
  • Leep of leopards
  • Watch of nightingales
  • Bevy of otter
  • Bouquet of pheasants (sounds lovely!)
  • Passel of possum
  • Storytelling of ravens
  • Harem of Seals (those crazy seals!)
  • Knot of toads

There are many, many more collectives that can be found here. I have a couple less eloquent terms I'd like to add to the list:

  • Tumbleweed of doghair
  • Mountain of laundry
  • Stack of dirty dishes
  • Eternity of homework
  • Rotation of bills
  • Foot of weeds

Obviously, I could think of tons more. The English language can be so much fun, don't you agree?

This blog entry brought to you by the murder of crows outside my window every morning starting at 4am. They make my mornings sound like something out of an Alfred Hitchcock movie.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Full Circle

Right now my sisters and I are experiencing one of the great ironies of life: when the child becomes the caretaker of the elderly parent. With my mother in her present condition and residing at the Highland Nursing Home in Massena, a situation I experienced last weekend particularly drove this point home.

Last Saturday, I was able to take my mother out to the mall for the first time since she had fallen and broken her hip the night before Mother's Day. She was absolutely thrilled to be there to see all her "friends," and the ones she ran into were equally happy to see her looking so healthy and well. If I haven't mentioned it before, for a long time now, but particularly in the seven years since my father's death, my mother has compulsively bought cheap stuff (some [like me] would call it "junk") with every trip to the mall. Over the years, this stuff has piled up on every surface in the house, and made for a very cluttered and dangerous living situation. In fact, she bought and wore such crappy jewelry all the time that my sister had to take her to the doctor last year for a very bad rash on her face and neck.

Well, as I pushed her in her wheelchair around the mall she insisted that we go into all her favorite haunts to check out the clearance rack. It was at this time that I found myself saying, "We're not going to buy anything today, we're just out for a nice walk around the mall." BOY, did she get mad. It definitely reminded of when I took the kids to the mall when they were younger and had to spend the entire car ride on the way there setting expectations: "We're not going to buy anything today, we're just going to look around." Somehow, the meltdown was rarely averted. It was a very weird feeling.

All these changes, milestones on the journey that comes with having an aging parent.

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Long-Awaited-Much-Anticipated Freshman Dance

Last weekend Annalisse went to the freshman dance with 18 of her closet friends. Unfortunately, she did not have a date with an actual boy, but that's really a blessing in disguise because, as much as she likes to "talk the talk," she's not ready to "walk the walk" and is very hesitant about boys (Whew! I can relax a little longer on that one!). Anyway, between having her braces off and a new hair-do (combined with a new dress, new jewelry, and new shoes), she was all gussied up and off to a friends house by 5:30pm for group pictures. All the girls looked so nice! The best thing was they had a lot of fun at the dance itself - not always the case as sometimes the prep is funner than the actual event. I'm sure talk will now turn to next year's 10th grade dance, during which the kids will kick it up a notch with gowns, tuxedos and limo rentals. As Nonnie used to say, oh mamma mia!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Four Updates in One, All the While Counting My Blessings

I've been trying to get to updating the blog but the last couple of weeks have been kind of like a runaway train for us. So here are a bunch of unrelated updates all in one!

Baker Blog Updates Lag, But For Good (German) Reasons

With Belinda visiting (which was AWESOME), we were a little out of our routine, doing something to keep busy just about every weeknight while the kids were at crew practice, and running around every weekend, trying to get the most out of her visit with us. It's been a great 2 1/2 weeks with Belinda, who left bright and early (5:30am) on Wednesday morning, as the group headed to Washington DC and New York City for a few days before flying back to Germany tomorrow evening. Maybe the greatest part about Belinda's visit was spending time with the other Fairport families as we got to know each other better. It was a great experience all around, and the best part is Cam leaves to spend time with Belinda and her family three weeks from today.

14 Going on 21

The other big news for today is that Annalisse got her braces off. Such anticipation for this day!! I reminded her she was equally (or maybe just a little less) excited to get them on in December 2008. She waited for this day to also get her hair cut, something she had not done since probably last summer. I guess you could say she wanted the full makeover effect as she "gets all purdy" for the 9th grade dance tomorrow night. (I know what you're wondering...) No, she doesn't have a date, she's going with friends, the lineup of which seems to change daily. She bought herself a cute dress at Forever 21 (it was quite a bargain, I might add, at $25), and I sprung for new sandals and a strapless bra (MOM! DID YOU HAVE TO TELL THEM THAT PART?!), so pictures will follow tomorrow once the whole look is put together. (Where does the time go? Yesterday, American Girl dolls, today, strapless push-up bras...)

Fairport Crew Wraps Up a Mediocre (But Well-Intentioned) Spring Season

Another significant thing that has occurred is that the spring season of crew is finally (mostly) done!! Last weekend's Pittsford Regatta was the last one for this season, and with disappointing results overall. Cam's boat made it to the semi-finals and lost to Pittsford (who generally killed in every race) by barely a nose. It was an exciting and heartbreaking race. Annalisse didn't even make into the semi-finals of that race, so she'll need to be content with the gold medal she and her team won in Saratoga. The kids have one last race, through the Village of Fairport tomorrow morning in front of hundreds (thousands, actually) of spectators at Fairport's Canal Days festival. Then, they are really looking forward to a well-deserved break, having spent four nights a week and every Saturday either at crew practice or at a regatta. At this point I expect they'll both rejoin for the Fall season, but we're really not talking about it as THEY ARE ALL CREWED-OUT.

I Guess We Can't Phone Home Anymore

Lastly, an update about my Mother's progress. In a nutshell, it's not great. She left the rehab center in Ogdensburg where she was undergoing intensive physical therapy as a result of her Mother's Day hip surgery, for the Highland Nursing Home in Massena. My sisters and I decided this was the best course of action for her since her recovery had been pretty slow and we noticed she was really starting to get forgetful and confused.

Over many years, but especially since my father had passed away in 2003, my Mother had accumulated a lot of "stuff," and was really heading toward a life of tunneling, if not hoarding. Her home is filled with what can only be called junk, and tons of plastic bags filled with stuff she has bought on clearance at the mall. This is certainly not somewhere she can be safe, especially since she's having trouble getting around and would most likely not be able to make her own meals. For some time we've worried that she's not eating well, and it's anyone's guess if she's taking her medication in correct doses or in the right time intervals.

One of the weirdest, most disconcerting things about my mother having to go to the nursing home is the dismantling of our family home. My sisters and I decided that Carol, my middle sister, would move into Mom's place since it's bigger than her house, and that she would rent her place. When the time comes, we'll sell her place and she can continue to live in the old house. It will be nice that it's still in the family, and recently my parent's phone disconnected. It's a very strange thing to think I'll never call the number (315) 769-7800 again, a phone number I've called all my life. Life just keeps marching on, whether or not we're ready for it to.

All in all, though, I feel blessed by a great family and wonderful friends, marked by a little sadness every now and then.

Monday, May 24, 2010

A Farewell to LOST

Last night Cam and I stayed up until 11:30pm (on a school night!) to watch the long awaited series finale of LOST. We've watched LOST from the beginning, through the twists and turns, crazy story lines, improbable and unbelievable plots, and a couple of seasons of "what the...?", which I'm sure contributed to its cult following, with viewers dropping off along the way because it was just getting too weird. I, for one, is glad I stuck with it, no doubt due to a little peer pressure from co-workers and friends that helped keep me engaged. But, through it all LOST has stayed loyal to one very important element of any story: the depiction of richly drawn characters that the viewer cared about and felt connected to and invested in.

The finale was particularly touching as many of the characters lost along the way (no pun intended) were joined together through fatefully orchestrated meetings. I'm still trying to understand what the finale meant, and I think my understanding of "what happened" is in the ballpark of what the creators intended. Some people would say if you have to put that much work into understanding something (as mundane as a TV show), then it's not worth it. LOSTies would say, "it's worth it, and then some."

Maybe the main reason I'll miss LOST really has nothing to do with LOST. Will miss sitting with Cam every Tuesday night, just the two of us, watching the show and discussing possible plot theories over the next week until we once again sit down for another episode. It was special Mom/Cam time, bonding over the complicated and many times confusing story lines that characterized the show - a rare chance to spend some quality time together. Thank God True Blood, another favorite of ours, on HBO starts again soon. That being said, I don't think there will ever be another LOST.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Germany comes to Fairport

Last night, around 11:30pm, our German exchange student, Belinda Fischer (with 20 of her friends) landed in Rochester as part of a Fairport exchange program with a high school near Stuttgardt. Belinda's visit has been highly anticipated by everyone, but especially Annalisse, who's been in constant contact with her through Facebook, and by Cameron, who's also been in touch but not as frequently. Over the next two weeks Belinda will go to school with Cam some of the time, and take various Central and Western NY field trips the other days. She will be with us for the next two weekends, and a lot of the weekend time will be spent at regattas. Luckily, there are five or six crew families hosting German students, so the kids can all hang together.

Here's what we know about Belinda so far:
  • Her mom is American, and is from Fairfax County, VA. They visit the states every summer for a month (it used to be twice yearly, but these days flying is too expensive). So, she definitely has had an introduction to American culture, and speaks really great English.
  • Her favorite food is Italian (so I'll be making my famous sauce-n-balls dinner).
  • She LOVES Scrubs (the TV show).
  • She has a Golden Retriever named Sunny.
  • She has a younger sister who is Annalisse's age.

After Belinda leaves us on June 2, she and her group will spend another week in the States visiting NYC and Washington, DC. Then, on June 25, Cam will head across the pond to spend two weeks with Belinda and her family, attending school and learning about the area. After his two weeks, his group will travel around Germany and Austria for another week.

WHAT LUCKY KIDS!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Coxswain Gold

You're looking at the coxswain for the Girls Varsity Lightweight 4 boat that won first place (GOLD!) for the NYS club championship this weekend at the Saratoga "States" Regatta. Congrats to Annalisse and her team for a job well done! Very happy girls, indeed!!