Monday, June 29, 2009

Thanks, but no thanks

I remember sitting at the kitchen table as a girl in elementary school, grudgingly writing out thank you note after thank you note for birthdays and Christmases. My parents instilled the importance of a thank you note pretty early. I admit; I have never enjoyed writing them. Not because I don't want to say thank you; quite the opposite, actually. I always worry I will forget some detail that was important to me or that I won't express my gratitude as sincerely as I hope. Let's face it; a thank you note can easily sound cliche' and boring. Think back to your wedding thank you notes. I know that mine certainly weren't sent as punctually as I had wished; I needed some time off or else I worried they would all sound exactly the same. I figured out later that it really matters more that the gift was acknowledged than that the thank you note was terribly original or special. But I still try to achieve that in the notes I write, regardless of how punctual (or not) I am in sending them.

I was recently reading an article in one of my parenting magazines in which a mom was stressing to her teenage daughter that she should write a thank you note for a recent interview she had for a summer job. The teenager said, "But Mom, no one does that anymore." And the mom countered, "That's precisely why you should."

But the teenager is right. No one does that anymore. At a graduation party I attended this year, one of the parents so profusely thanked me for writing his son's college recommendation letter every time he saw me that he left me at a literal loss for words. But it was certainly nice to hear. And I started to think: I write dozens of recommendation letters every single year. How often had I received a thank you note?!? I can tell you this: In over a decade of teaching at my current high school, I can count on one hand. I'm not saying that for a sympathetic response; I just find it sort of a sad truth of my chosen profession. But honestly, I doubt it is much different in other work environments.

Peanut had a wonderful experience in kindergarten this year. He was assigned a teacher who quickly understood how his mind and heart work and the best ways to help him to excel. We were so impressed with her! I wanted to thank her in a meaningful way, but how do you express that in one end-of-the-year gift from a six-year-old?!? I thought about what I would find touching as a teacher. And I thought about what Peanut likes to do.

And here is what we did: We bought a photo album with pretty pressed flowers on the cover.

Inside, I wrote:

Dear Mrs. S, We are so grateful for all you did to make Peanut's kindergarten experience so special. Thank you for everything! Love, Peanut's Family

Then, we used a stack of plain index cards and inserted them into the photo slots. On the first one, I wrote:

Peanut wants to thank you in his own words. Thank you for...

Here are some of the pages that followed (in Peanut's own words!):

The last page is a picture of Peanut's teacher with him at their end-of-the-year ice cream social. On the next page, I inserted a gift card to Borders. Because, well...teachers love meaningful mushy stuff. But we also like gift cards. :)

I hoped that this gift would not only express our gratitude to an exceptional teacher but that it would teach Peanut a valuable lesson in saying "thank you." He worked very hard on this project for two nights before dinner, and I think he was surprised when Mrs. S was unable to look at the whole book because she "didn't want to cry so early in the morning" on their last day.

And guess what? Mrs. S sent Peanut a thank you note for his thank you gift. See? Told you she was a keeper.

And now I thank you for indulging me, my kind readers. Every time any of you leaves a comment or chooses to follow my blog and lets me know I am not writing just for myself, I thank you in my head. And now I thank you out loud. Well, in writing at least. Thank you, readers!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Birthday Portraits

I promise that my blogging will not always be this boring, but for now, here are the boys' newest portraits taken in April after their respective birthdays. Let me know your favorites!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Flashback Friday: Daddy's Little Girl

Dad and me at three weeks old

Since Father's Day is right around the corner, I thought this would be an appropriate Flashback Friday. I have and always will be a daddy's girl. I think most girls are -- I know that even my mom, my stepmom, and my mother-in-law were all daddy's girls, too. There's just some kind of unspoken code between a daddy and his daughter. My dad chose his words carefully and could scare the dickens out of me with just a stern look. He could also alert the entire neighborhood with his powerful whistle that we could all hear blocks away to indicate that it was dinnertime. We had a ritual when I was little of watching Fat Albert together on Saturday while eating grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup that he made. And he always gave me the sandwich with the most cheese drizzle, even though I know he liked them that way just as much as I did. But the most powerful of all things he has given me through the years is his unconditional love that has never wavered, regardless of some of my idiotic decisions or my immature perspective. While my dad's glares and whistles were strong, his hugs were even stronger. And he still is the best hugger ever.

At my Senior Voice Recital, December 1991

One of the funniest stories my dad tells is how I would not talk to him after he grew a moustache when I was three. I was scared of men with facial hair. If you think back to the seventies, you can see why; all men with facial hair were "bad guys" with the exception of Santa Claus (although I was not a fan of his facial hair, either). So, imagine my surprise when recently my dad arrived at my house, and I saw his upper lip for the first time in 36 years!

May 2009 -- My Now-Moustacheless Dad!

I know I am blessed to have such a wonderful bond with my dad and to have also had such other amazing fathers in my life: my Pop Pop who was my heart, my grandpa, my father-in-law, and now my own husband. (It is no wonder with such strong father figures in my life that I chose someone to love whose second job is being SuperDad.)

So, Happy Early Father's Day to my dad and all of the other dads who have influenced my life. And Dad, thanks for always letting me be Daddy's little girl, even though I'm not so little anymore.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

How I Spent My Summer Vacation (2009 Edition)

Hello? Hello? Do I hear an echo? Is anyone out there?!?

Well, I can't say I would blame you if you have cited me for reckless blog neglect and thrown me and my blog address to the wayside. But I have a reason (read: not an excuse!); I promise.

"How I Spent My Summer Vacation" by

special arrangement with the State Police.

Okay, so at least I didn't get arrested.

Anyone remember this beauty of a post? You know, it's the one where I got into a fight with the corner of a wall in my house on the very first day of summer vacation. If you've been reading my blog that long, I have a feeling that you'll remember. Does a purplish-black pinky toe ring any bells?!?

So, I am an overachiever for those of you who don't know. I have calmed down in my old age, but I used to be pretty bad. Evidently, I needed to surpass my own record from last June.

Last Friday was my first official day off from work for the summer. Woo-Hoo, right?!? Not so fast.

I woke up in the middle of the night with 87 little knives in my throat. Okay, maybe they weren't actual knives. But if you would have told me that then, I may have gotten a knife out to show you how it felt. Anyway, I couldn't swallow, and unless you really think about it, most of us probably don't realize how often we must swallow to do anything -- including sleeping. It hurt to drink water if that helps you understand. The only thing I could do without making it worse was cry.

So, after a trip to see a doctor first thing in the morning, it turned out that I had strep. Now, I have had strep before, but it never felt like this. In fact, the doctor I saw said he would have bet me a case of beer that it was not strep because of all of the blistering (Kristin speak = little knives) all over my throat (don't worry; no visual aides for this one). No problem...a quick visit to the pharmacy to get my medication, and I figured I'd be good as new in no time.

Or not.

Two days later, the little knives had set up camp and were toasting marshmallows in my throat with no intent to leave. Eric called the doctor since I had no voice nor senses left, and the doc wanted me to go back to the ER and get an IV of stronger (!!!) pain medication (I dare not tell you what he had already prescribed!) and perhaps get what he thought was a throat abscess drained (no visual for that, either; you're welcome). Upon hearing that, my blankets all of the sudden felt way better and I didn't want to trade them for any hospital bed. He did say that the abscess could drain on its own with continued use of antibiotics, so I hoped for option number two. And I am happy to say that the little knives have finally left and my gallbladder.

Well, not exactly. I was actually dealing with the gallbladder pain before the throat pain, but I just found out yesterday from my surgeon that he definitely advises in my case that I have the gallbladder removed. I have gallstones (no visuals here, either), and the pain has been constant for over ten days (minus the days I was on the pain meds for my throat -- at least it helped something!). I was worried after reading so much about it that the weight loss could be the culprit, but I have done it sensibly, not rapidly at all. And I have never been a fried/fatty/spicy food fan. I am a carb girl. But actually, the doctor said that -- in his experience -- gallstones are very typical a few years after pregnancy if the patient is close to...well...that number looming ahead at my next birthday.

So, now I have to add a surgery to my summer plans. Think strep, a throat abscess, and gallbladder surgery trump a broken toe?!? Please say yes. I told you I'm an overachiever! I guess I'd better work on changing that for next summer.