Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year's Eve!

Happy New Year's Eve! Some of you probably have big plans for tonight, others will celebrate quietly. Whatever you do, I hope you spend it with your loved ones and have a blast. Cassidy is spending the night with her BFF at her house, and even Trevor is over a friend's house right now. I expect to spend the night with Jeremy watching TV and drinking some wine and maybe splurging and ordering yummy boneless chicken wings from Wings Over Worcester.... mmmmmmm..... I have had a headache for 2 days, so I'm really not in the partying mood right now. Besides, New Year's Eve makes me nervous. Too many crazy drunks out there - I heard someone call it "amateur night" and that made me laugh but cringe at the same time. I will stay home where I'm safe, thank you very much!

So - funny story to tell you. I went to visit my cousin Angela and her little kids yesterday to bring them their Christmas gifts. When I opened my gift from Angela, I just burst out laughing - I said "Quick, open yours!" She did - and died laughing, too. We got each other EXACTLY the same Christmas ornament! LOL We got a kick out of it - here it is, isn't she beautiful?

So I have had a chance to do some thinking the past few days, what with having this wretched headache and all (can't do much else). It was exactly a year ago that we finally had a name for Trevor's problems - Asperger's. It was exactly a year ago that we started counseling with our therapist. At that time, I was so worried about Trevor that I cried every single day. I can hardly believe it now, but I worried that he would commit suicide - or at least attempt it. School was absolute torture and I felt hopeless and helpless. We have come a long way since then, let me tell you. Trevor has grown dramatically in the past year and is now about 5' 8" - almost a full half-foot taller than me! He is built solid, too, and is just a big kid. Kids don't tend to pick on kids who are much bigger than them, bullies usually go after the smaller, weaker kids. Trevor is not that kid anymore! We finally have him in a school where he feels accepted by his peers and he has friends who call him several times a day. When Jeremy starts to get irritated, I have to remind him how awesome it is that the phone is ringing at all!!! Trevor was barely passing school with C's and D's back then - he now has all A's, B's, and the occasional C. Most importantly, though, he has teachers who have patience and who UNDERSTAND Asperger's and the behaviors of these kids - and they don't PUNISH them for being who they are. They work with them. They have clinicians on hand readily available for when the kids need them. It's just been so wonderful - it's really made a huge positive impact on all of our lives, and I sm so thankful for it. Although things aren't perfect and we have a long way to go, we've come an awful long way and I am extremely proud of that. I'm extremely proud of Trev - for not giving up, for believing us when we told him to try ONE MORE TIME, for not letting the jerks turn HIM into a jerk. He's a good kid, my boy. Just look at him:
So that's what I'm most thankful for this year. And I can only look forward and hope for another year full of even more happiness and success for Trevor and for all of my family and friends. Happy 2009, everyone! Peace!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Happy Holidays!

Happy Holidays!!! We had a wonderful Christmas and I hope you all did, too! Our family's big celebration is on Christmas Eve. It's been this way since I was a little girl. This year, we gathered at my parents' house along with a few of my aunts, uncles, cousins, and their significant others. We had a really good time and here are some of the pictures from the evening.

My cousin Amanda and me - she's the baby of the family and will turn 20 in a couple of weeks (my mom has 7 sisters and 2 brothers - I am the 2nd oldest cousin, daughter of the 2nd oldest daughter - Amanda is the youngest daughter of the youngest daughter - the very youngest cousin - you following me? hee hee):

This is my auntie Karen and Trevor, they have always "clicked" LOL Eric and Christopher - I love this picture - Eric is so patient for a 17-year-old boy!
Me and Jeremy, I love this picture!

Cassidy looking all sweet and innocent, I also love this picture!
Papa and my mom, so cute:

Joshua and Cassidy - cousins:

Jeremy and Cassidy - he wanted me to take the picture, but he was CHEWING food - I snapped it 4 times and finally gave up, LOL:

This is me, my mom, and my sister - I love this picture:

Trevor and Eric - Trevor idolizes his cousin:

We went to my parents' house around 4:00 in the afternoon on Christmas Eve and we got home around 9:30/10:00 that night. Christmas morning Trevor and I had to wake Cassidy up at 7:00 to open gifts! LOL They had a blast and got everything that they wanted. Trev got an XBOX 360, games for the XBOX, some CD's, a comforter for his bed, a cell phone, and lots of gift cards. Cassidy got an iPod Touch, gift cards, some clothes, a gorgeous new quilt and sheet set for her bedroom, and a digital camera. Let's just say if I hear "I'm bored" ONCE between now and the time they go back to school, I cannot be held responsible for my reaction. ;o)

What did I get for Christmas? I'm glad you asked! I was psyched to get lots of stuff for my new house this year! I got an awesome standing mixer that I've wanted for a long time, a new set of pots and pans, and new silverware. I got Jeremy 2 tickets to a Boston Bruins game in March, it was a surprise and he was thrilled. His grandparents also renew our AAA membership every year for Christmas, which I LOVE. We had a really nice holiday and I can hardly believe that I still have another whole WEEK off from work! I feel like I haven't been there in forever! LOL

Right before we moved, the TV in our bedroom gave up on us. It was an old TV and it just stopped working. Thanks to Jeremy's mom, we were able to buy a new TV for ourselves for Christmas. We got a super deal on a flat screen 32" VIZIO at Walmart for our living room, and moved the old TV from there up into our bedroom. We have not bought new things for ourselves in years - when we first moved got married 15 years ago, we had bought a new living room set, mattress set, etc. Then we had kids and they sucked every stinkin' cent out of us and we rarely bought anything new for US again. hee hee So it was nice to buy something for ourselves. My plan is to buy a new living room set when we get our tax refund check in the Spring - a sectional would look so nice in the new house.

Hope you all have a nice, relaxing weekend and that you are able to get some good deals on those after-Christmas sales! Peace.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Eve eve

Last night was Christmas Eve eve, and Jeremy and I decided to go out and have a few drinks with our friend Missy and my cousin Angela. We had a great time - so much so that we forgot it was a Tuesday night and by 12:15, we were still sitting in the booth in the restaurant laughing and talking and the manager came over and said "Um - we'd like to lock the doors...." LOL So we left and came back to my house for an hour or so. We had a great time, and here are some pics for you - this one is my favorite - Missy, me, and Angela:

Me, Jeremy, and Missy below - the funniest part about this picture is that Missy and Jeremy were in a heated discussion and everytime I took a picture, Missy would go into instant model-posing mode. I was CRACKING UP. As soon as we snapped the picture, she went right back to bitching at Jeremy. hee hee

Jeremy, Angela, and Missy - I love this picture:

Jeremy and Missy - they have known each other their entire lives and are like brother and sister:

Well I'm off to get ready for Christmas Eve at my parents' house. Hope you all have a wonderful Christmas!!! Drive safe and all that - peace.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

New England sucks!

There, I said it. I am NOT a fan of this beautiful part of the country that I inhabit, with it's lovely four seasons and all. Well, OK, I'm not a fan of it during Winter. I'm a fair-weather friend, I guess. It's hard to feel anything but loathing when your entire car, house, and streets/sideways are covered in alternating layers of rock-hard ice, snow, and slush. During the past week and a half, we have had an ice storm the likes of which I have never experienced and hope to never experience again, lost power for almost a week (OVER a week for some folks), and just within the past 3-4 days been dumped on by that witch Mother Nature close to two freaking FEET of snow. And Winter JUST STARTED YESTERDAY! AAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
OK - I had to have a little mini breakdown there, sorry about that. I'm feeling much better now. The kids' school was canceled for today and tomorrow, so that gives us all 3 straight weeks of unending togetherness. Are you feeling the freaking love or what? *sigh* My kids are antsy and irritable and bored. Trevor, especially - he NEEDS school, it helps keep him on track with everything - when he's away from school for too long, he seems to kind of regress. I think a big part of it is the fact that kids get so excited for Christmas, there's so much anticipation. At least when they are in school, they are busy and occupied and have other things to keep their minds on, you know? Well, at this point there is really only one more day to get through - our family's big celebration is on Christmas Eve. And I plan on baking all day tomorrow, so I'll have the kids helping me and hopefully they will be able to get along and we can have an enjoyable day. I am making peanut butter cookies for Cassidy, molasses cookies for Trevor, Frito Dip for Jeremy (this awesome yummy delicious dip that is actually heated up and served with Fritos SCOOPS - everyone in my family is addicted to it - e-mail me if you want the recipe!) - then I am also making chocolate fudge and Chex mix, because those are the 2 things that I make every year that remind me of my favorite aunt who passed away about 14 years ago.

We are loving our new home, I am so very happy here. I just love it. I have unpacked every single box and put everything away, I'm so proud of myself. We do need to get a tree now, though - seems pointless with Christmas a couple days away, but how can you wake up Christmas morning with no tree? You can't - se we're getting one. It will probably be a small one, but we're getting a stinkin' tree!

I probably won't be back until after Christmas, so I hope you all have a wonderful and happy celebration and that you get whatever you wished for. Peace, my friends.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

I am no pioneer woman!

Oh. My. God. I am 37 years old and have lived in Worcester, MA - central New England - my entire life. We have had some pretty severe weather between hurricanes and blizzards, etc. But never in my entire life have I seen anything like this right in my own backyard. This storm took my breath away, along with power and heat to thousands of people. It was really scary, and I know our family will never forget this experience.

Thursday night my mom and I were supposed to go shopping, but when I heard we were supposed to have an "ice storm" I called her and rescheduled. Thank God I did. By 10:00 Thursday night, power was out across the city as the ice took down power lines one by one. What we thought was lightning was actually circuit breakers or transformers blowing up all over the city and lighting up the sky. We sleep with fans on year-round for the white noise, and I cannot sleep without it - so I pretty much lay in bed listening to the ice and sirens all night long. Every time I'd start to drift into sleep - CRASH - I'd hear a tree falling or ice crashing down - it sounded like the world was coming to an end. It was so scary. And it was so dark out, you couldn't see what had fallen!! So I'd hear this awful crash and look out the window and have no idea what just happened. Tree limbs kept falling on our roof and we just prayed that nothing crashed through into the house. This is the site we woke up to Friday morning, this car belongs to our neighbors across the street:
This is our backyard, and our next-door neighbor's back yard. We have a small "woodsy" area back there:
This is the yard at the new house that we were supposed to move into yesterday. Mother Nature had other plans, apparently. There is still no power/electricity/heat at the new house, so we are slowly moving things in but have to stay put for now. The temperature was 34 degrees this morning inside - Jeremy and his dad are bringing his dad's generator over there today to just run the furnace and get the house back up to at least 60-65 degrees, so the pipes don't freeze. Hopefully, they haven't already! This is what the yard looked like when we went to check on the house Friday afternoon:
It's all so pretty, isn't it? Until you see the destruction. Friday morning we realized it was bad, but we had no idea HOW bad. Since we had no power, Jeremy decided to see if he could go get us a coffee somewhere. He came back about 1/2 hour later with no coffee and said "You guys have GOT to come see this." The kids and I got into the car and Jeremy took us for a ride around the block, basically - it took us an hour. I started crying about 1/2 way into the trip Align Centerand just said "Take me home." It was just awful - this is the kind of stuff we saw:Entire trees, tree limbs, and power lines were EVERYWHERE. Jeremy was able to navigate the car through it, there is no way I could have. Most streets were completely blocked by entire trees. People were standing in their front yards in their bathrobes and pj's just staring at the damage. Having lost power before, we weren't too nervous about it until we saw the depth of the damage. We knew then that we weren't going to have power for a while.

Luckily, we have a fireplace. We burned wood all day Friday and all night Friday night - but then we started to run out of wood. In times like these, things like firewood become scarce and people scoop up as much as they can. By Saturday, we were starting to burn things like old broken chairs and wooden shelves. I gotta tell you, it was starting to get really scary. We tried to make the best of it - Jeremy and Trevor managed to find a grocery store open and they had some hot food, so we sat around the fire in the dark eating fried chicken and mashed potatoes Friday night. Jeremy and Trevor played poker and I read by candle-light, and we actually had a little bit of fun.

By Saturday morning, though, I was starting to feel sorry for myself. We were supposed to move that day, and my plans had been squashed. But then Jeremy and I went to check on the new house, and I saw homes that had both cars in their driveways with trees lying on them, I saw houses with windows smashed in, and I went from crying over our own misfortune to crying because I felt guilty for crying! LOL I know we were lucky, and I am so thankful that no one was hurt, and we were really only inconvenienced - we were cold, yes, but we managed to get by. We lost all of the food in the refrigerator, but we had not gone grocery shopping in 2 weeks because we are moving - so the loss was minimal. I was determined to stay busy all day and at least feel like I was doing SOMETHING productive!

Saturday afternoon, Cassidy asked if her and her friend Jamie could spend the day at her friend Audrey's house, because Audrey had not lost power at all. Of course we said yes and dropped them off. My cell phone was dying and I told her not to call me unless it was an emergency. Jeremy and Trevor and I were going to make a few trips to the new house bringing as much stuff over as we could. On our very first trip, Jeremy's cell phone rang and it was Jamie on the other end - she sounded upset and scared and said that Cassidy had split her head open. Jeremy hung up and said "Let's go" - I called Jamie back and she said "Jenn, it's really, really bad - she is bleeding badly and it's really deep." I could hear Cassidy in the background crying hysterically and she grabbed the phone and I could barely even understand her, she kept screaming that she was going to die. We went 90 mph on the highway to get to her and blew every red light that came between us and her. We were there in 5 minutes - when I finally saw her, I didn't know whether to hug her or choke her. She had a bad cut over her left eye, like right on her eyebrow - and it WAS bad, but certainly not life-threatening! I hugged her, and managed to calm her down and we took her to the ER. Jeremy then drove Trevor to his dad's house while I sat in the waiting room with Cassidy. We were there for FOUR HOURS. It was awful. When the doctor was finally able to look at her, she confirmed that she definitely needed stitches. She ended up with 5 blue stitches and she was a trooper through the whole thing. I think when it originally happened, there was so much blood that it just completely freaked her out. Combine that with the fact that there were no adults around to minimize the drama and you have 4 emotional teenage girls trying to deal with a semi-crisis. By the time we got out of the hospital, I was just wiped out. Here she is, in all her stitched-up glory: Our plan was to come home, get clothes, go eat dinner at Jeremy's dad's house and take showers, and then we were going to go sleep at my friend Missy's house, who has a wood-burning stove. As we were driving up the main road, the traffic lights were working. I held my breath and said "Jeremy - the traffic lights are on!" He was like "Oh my God - you're right!" I crossed both my fingers and started chanting "Please, please, please" - sure enough, we came around the corner and saw lights on in our house and the neighbors, and let me tell you, I just burst into tears of happiness. I don't think I have EVER appreciated electricity so much in my entire life.

Do I sound like a brat? I couldn't help but feel like one - I thought about the Hurricane Katrina victims and victims of other natural disasters, and I just couldn't help but think that people, people watching the news and reading the stories, they just don't realize how bad it is unless they are HERE. I've seen it on TV and sat in my warm living room saying "Wow, that sucks" - but until I was someone actually AFFECTED by something like this, I really had no idea how badly it sucked. How hopeless it feels - there is just nothing you can do. And that is a really terrifying feeling.

I have to tell you one more story, and it's hard for me to even type this. I'm already bawling just thinking about it. My mom works third shift (11 p.m. - 7 a.m.) at Stop & Shop, she stocks shelves and loves her job. She went to work Thursday night - around 3:00 a.m. Papa called her to say that he would pick her up in the morning, because there was no way she was going to be able to get home. Her boss told him that he was sending her to a different store - and Papa said "I don't think you should do that - she should not be out driving in this right now." Keep in mind, this was Thursday night, right in the middle of the storm - trees and power lines were coming down every MINUTE. Well, this jerk tells her to go anyway - so she does. She tries to get there and as she's driving, a tree fell on the truck in front of her and snapped live power lines down. She panicked and turned around and apparently drove right into a 4-foot puddle. She couldn't get out of it - she opened her car door and ice-cold water started to pour in. She was so scared, she jumped out of the car into waist-deep water and literally swam to safety. The car was gone. She has no cell phone, so she walked to the nearest gas station - remember it's about 25 degrees out and now she's soaked to her waist - she's no elderly old lady, but she IS 59 years old, for crying out loud. The gas station had no power and no heat - she was able to use a phone and called Papa, who said he'd come to get her. She walked back down to Stop & Shop, dodging power lines and trees the whole way, and the doors were locked. She said by then, she was just in absolute shock about the whole thing. It took Papa an hour to get to her - which would normally be a 5-minute trip - he even called 911 and they said "Good luck, buddy" - it was THAT bad! Yes, my mom can drive me nuts and piss me off, but let me tell you, when she told me this story, I just cried like a baby. And when I went to visit her yesterday to just make sure they were OK, she said to me that when it was all happening, she actually thought to herself, "I'm so glad none of my kids are mad at me right now, and that if I die, I don't have to worry that anyone will feel guilty or have bad feelings." How scary is that, to really consider the fact that you may die? It gives me goosebumps just thinking about it. Here is her white Jeep floating the next day, this pic was taken by the media and my brother found it online:
I'm still in shock, I think. It's now Sunday and we are not sure if the kids will have school tomorrow, or even all week. I'm thinking that they will - and I'm actually hoping that they will! First, they need to get back to a routine - this kind of thing is traumatizing and I think having the kids be able to focus on school can keep their minds off the chaos. Second, they are on vacation next week, and I took this entire week off to purposely have no kids around while I get things settled at the new house. Although my plans have been a bit altered, I still plan to get a lot done and it will be more difficult if the kids are not at school.

I am hoping that all of my friends and family are OK and that power and heat have been restored to most. My parents still do not have power, neither do Jeremy's grandparents. They are staying with his dad - and my parents have a neighbor with a generator who is going to hook it up to their furnace today, so they will at least be able to get the house warm. I am off to get some more packing done and hopefully get something accomplished today. Stay warm and appreciate your electricity and heat - peace. ;o)

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

What do you know - I was right!

A few of you asked me to keep you updated about the little girl that I blogged about the other day, the one who is being charged with suffocating her 1-year-old son. Dianne Williamson, a local columnist, wrote this column about it last Thursday, and I had to share it with you. I realized that I was right to wonder what kind of life the little girl (she just turned 17) has had - not that I was surprised.

The article can be found online here, but here is a re-print of it:

The Worcester teen accused of suffocating her infant son may be many things — a high school student, daughter of a neglectful mother, loving girlfriend, an overwhelmed young parent who committed a despicable act.

But the one thing she never had a chance to be was a child.

Nga Truong was just 8 years old in 2000 when she was placed in charge of an infant and another younger sibling in the family apartment on Penn Avenue while her mother was out of town. Such a scenario was not unusual. By all accounts, Nga served as mother to her siblings from a young age — feeding them, baby-sitting, changing diapers — while their real mother struggled with mental illness.

On this day, though, Nov. 23, 2000, Nga ran to an upstairs apartment with the 3-month-old infant in her arms, saying she had found him blue and unresponsive in his crib. Little Hien Tuan Truong was rushed to the hospital and later declared dead. The death certificate on file with the Worcester city clerk lists the cause as sudden infant death syndrome.

The circumstances are disturbingly similar to the events of Sunday morning, when police responded to a frantic 911 call and found Nga’s year-old son blue and unresponsive. The now 17-year-old mother initially told police she had found little Khyle in his crib. Later, she tearfully confessed that she had suffocated him with a teddy bear, according to police.

“There’s no evidence to suggest that Nga had anything to do with the death of her brother, but it’s certainly something we have to look at,” said Worcester Detective Capt. Edward McGinn Jr. “It could be a tragic coincidence, but let’s face it — we have to look at it.”

As police continue to investigate the death of an infant, details about the mother charged with murder are emerging. A petite and quiet young woman, Nga shared a crowded apartment near Webster Square with her mother, her mother’s four children by three different fathers, her own child and her boyfriend, who was not the baby’s father. Nga became pregnant at 15. At one point during her pregnancy she ran away from home and was deemed a truant.

Back in 2000, as a result of her baby brother’s death, a neglect petition was filed against Nga’s mother and she lost custody of her children to their grandmother. Within the past year or so the grandmother died, and the children remained in the apartment with their mother, 31-year-old Van Truong.

Yesterday, the four other children of Van Truong — ages 1 through 14 — were placed in the custody of the Department of Children and Families, which had an open case with the family. Van Truong came to the United States in 1984 from Vietnam, where she had lived in refugee camps. She struggled with mental illness and left much of the care of her children to her oldest daughter, a junior at South High.

“This kid never had a chance,” said someone familiar with the case. “It’s heartbreaking.”

Yesterday, on her 17th birthday, Nga was moved from a juvenile facility to a women’s facility; however, she avoided confinement at Framingham State Prison. She may or may not be pregnant again. Meanwhile, her lawyer continued to blast police for what he deemed an “unlawful” interrogation, and called any inference that Nga was involved in the 2000 death of her brother absurd.

“She was 8 years old,” said lawyer Edward P. Ryan Jr. “Any suggestion that she was involved in the death of her brother is an obscenity.”

Police have defended their questioning of the girl. They said she understood her rights, agreed to speak without a lawyer and declined the opportunity to call her mother.

“We’re not unsympathetic to this young lady,” Capt. McGinn said. “She doesn’t seem like a villain. She seems like someone who’s up against it all. I don’t think we were sitting across from a stone cold killer. Motherhood is stressful under any circumstances. But at 16? Couple that with the other children in the house.”

He said typically hardened investigators were “pale” when they emerged from their interview with Nga.

“One of them said, ‘This was an admission we didn’t want to get,’ ” Capt. McGinn said. “She said that she needed help. Obviously, her outlook was grim at that time.”

On her MySpace page, Nga posted a picture of herself with her son and wrote on Monday, “missin yhu so much khyle. mommy luhvs yhu so much i wish yhu were here buht I kno yhur in a better place now.”


Isn't that just heart-breaking? I can hardly believe this poor kid lived within 10 miles of me. I hope she gets the help that she so obviously needs.

Off to work - last week before I have 3 weeks off!!! Peace!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Christmas Cards!

I spent the entire day Sunday frantically trying to finish my Christmas cards - but you know I can't just take one style and easily recreate it 50 times. Nooooo, not me! For some reason, I feel the need to be creative - plus I just get bored after stamping the same card 10 times in a row! So here is a sampling of what I created yesterday. You never know, one of these could end up in YOUR mailbox! :o)
Sugar Nellies, Maggie the Christmas Fairy (one of my favorite stamps):
Using some different color schemes - I get sick of red and green!

I love Riley, but I don't have any stamps yet. These were created with images from my lovely friends at the SCS Wish RAK group:

More Wish RAK images - this is Lily & Milo:
And my absolute FAVE - Bella! My SCS Big Sis sent me 2 Bella stamps, and one of them was this one - Wreathabella! Just in time for me to finish up my cards, isn't she just adorable?

This past weekend was Stamping Bella's 2nd anniversary and they had a sale in honor of it - cheap shipping plus FREEBIES! Well, you know I cannot resist FREEBIES, so I placed an order on Friday and spent more money than I had any business spending on myself at this time of year. I don't care, I deserve it - it's my Christmas present to myself! However, I can't promise that I'm going to wrap them and put them under the tree - I'll be foaming at the mouth when they arrive, and I wouldn't want my drool to ruin the wrapping.... hee hee

We cleaned the new house this weekend and I already brought a bunch of stuff over and hung up some curtains. I fully expect this week to be a whirlwind - I still have about 10-15 more Christmas cards to finish before I can pack up all of my "stuff" so I'll have to work on them when I get home from work. The "big move" is Saturday and I am so excited! I will post pictures of the new house soon, I promise!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

'Tis the season!!!

This time of year offers many opportunities to do something good for someone else. I figured I'd take some time today to share with you all some of the ways that I celebrate the season by volunteering my time, money, and crafting projects with people who need it. It doesn't have to cost a lot of money to help out, either - I find sometimes the simplest, cheapest things can be the most appreciated - handmade cards, ornaments, and other items (it helps that I am addicted to rubber-stamping!!) can bring a smile to someone's face without breaking the bank. I should also mention that I do NOT shop on credit - if I can't afford it, I don't do it. That goes for my own family and life as well as what I try to do to help others. I often shop at the "dollar section" at Target and get incredible deals - I hit clearance racks at every store I go to, and I am a champion coupon user! Pay attention and you'll get the best deals!I stumbled across this website and immediately had to participate - it's through Creating Keepsakes, which is a scrapbooking magazine. What they came up with is an Ornament Drop - click on this to get to the website. The concept is simple - create a handmade Christmas ornament, print out the tag from the website and leave the ornament with tag in a public place. That's it. I have made my ornament and am trying to decide where to leave it - I'm considering somewhere at work (I work at a local college) or maybe at the post office when I'm out doing my errands this morning.

In the year 2000, I started volunteering with online organizations that helped children suffering from cancer and other heart-breaking diseases. One of the organizations that I volunteered with wanted to run a "Christmas Elf" program, and so I decided to offer to head that up. It was a lot of work, but very fulfilling - I collected the names, ages, addresses, and "wish lists" from the kids (and their siblings - sometimes parents, too) and matched up volunteers with them to provide Christmas gifts, which they usually mailed a week or two before the holiday. We had "regular Elves" and "Stocking Elves" - the regular Elves sent a large box of gifts for the most part, and the Stocking Elves packed stockings full of little treats and sent those to the kids.
I also joined ChemoAngels shortly after - I adopted a family through that organization for many years at Christmas time. They would give me the information and I would mail a large box for the entire family - and they usually chose the neediest families, so you knew that it was appreciated.I always try to help a family in my own community, as well. There are Christmas trees put up in some local organizations that have paper ornaments hung from them. The ornaments have the name and age of a child and also lists one particular item that the child is hoping to receive for Christmas. I try to get that item and a few "extras" before turning it in to the organization.

Some of the other ways that I volunteer are with Audrey's Umbrella (which is also run online and pairs volunteers up with brain tumor patients), the T&G Santa (our local newspaper that collects monetary donations and provides Christmas to the neediest families in our community), and Abby's House (a local shelter for battered women and their children).

There is so much need in the world, it can really be overwhelming. Salvation Army bell-ringers at every corner and store you come out of, solicitations through the mail for donations, and heartbreaking news stories about struggling families can really make you feel there is just so MUCH need, that you just can't possibly make a difference. But you can. You can make a difference to ONE family - and if everyone did that, imagine what a difference we could make.

I'm off today to the new house to do some cleaning and bring over all of my Christmas boxes, etc. Then tomorrow I have GOT to finish my Christmas cards because I'll be packing up all of my stamping supplies for the big move next weekend. No pressure or anything, you know? hee hee I had intended to make a bunch of card sets to bring to work to sell, but I don't know if I'll have the time.

My husband wants me to come "join the real world" now - ha ha ha - which probably means that he wants the computer to play poker. hee hee I have to get my day started anyway, so much to do and so little time!!! Have a great weekend, my friends! Peace.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Babies shouldn't have babies

Yesterday morning, a 16-year-old girl in my city was charged with murdering her 13-month-old son by suffocating him with a teddy bear. She is an adorable little Vietnamese girl who looks about 12 in her pictures. She is shown on the news and in the newspapers in a picture where she is smiling and holding her baby boy, who is also smiling. They look so happy. The next shot is of the little girl in court, obviously not so happy - and looking very scared. Although she denied killing the baby initially, police say she later confessed. Her lawyer says that she was tired and worn out and pressured into confessing. He swears that there is evidence that helps prove that she did NOT kill her baby - he says the baby was recently diagnosed with asthma and/or bronchitis, and that the girl was interrogated by police for hours without being offered a lawyer.
The newscasters on Fox 25 this morning also said that this same little girl was babysitting her 3-month-old brother when she was EIGHT YEARS OLD and that baby also died by suffocation. My jaw dropped open, Cassidy was sitting next to me on the couch and she looked at me and said "Can I ask why an 8-year-old was babysitting an infant? Shouldn't the 8-year-old have had a babysitter herself?" I was so proud of my daughter for pointing that out when even the newscaster didn't seem to see a problem with it. However, the police stated flat out that they have no reason to suspect that she had anything to do with her baby brother's death - but they don't mention that on TV - they simply state it as if it's a fact that she murdered that baby and that she must have also murdered this one.
If you watch the Fox 25 news in the Boston area, you'll know who this is - it was VB on Fox (who I think is quite the asshole anyway) - who was talking about this case and the way he told the story made this girl sound like a cold, calculating mass murderer. She may very well be, I don't know - but neither does he. She could also very well be a poor little girl who has had some really bad shit happen to her. What happened to innocent until proven guilty? What if her baby was sick and died, and she's barely out of childhood herself - and suddenly she's treated like a criminal instead of a grieving parent?!? I can't think of anything much worse than that - and I think it's shameful to assume she caused the baby's death simply because of her age. He made it sound like she was a bad kid simply for having a baby at such a young age - as if the fact that she was young was some kind of evidence against her.
Now here's the kicker - her boyfriend was interviewed on TV stating that she is supposedly pregnant with his child (the baby is not his, he called himself the baby's stepfather and kept referring to him as "my child" - the article says he's been her boyfriend for about 7 months) - and that she turned 17 today and was supposed to go to the doctor to confirm the pregnancy. VB-the-jerk also states this as if it's more proof that she murdered her baby - I was absolutely irate and disgusted and I would have clocked him right upside the head if I had been anywhere near him. Jerk.
What a nightmare - can you even imagine? If you want to read the news story, it's on the front page today - click on the - if it's not still front page, search for "Nga Truong", that's her name. I can't help but wonder what kind of life this little girl has had, and what she's been through. She was babysitting her infant siblings at EIGHT YEARS OLD - she was pregnant at 15, and pregnant again at barely 17. She lived at home, but what kind of parents did she have? Her boyfriend of only 7 months lived with them - and he was not the baby's father. Of course she was pregnant again - what the hell did her parents think would happen by letting their teenage daughter move her new boyfriend in months after she gave birth? Shameful, I tell you - those parents should also be held accountable, as far as I'm concerned.
I just had to vent about this - it's really got my blood boiling, everything about it! It's sad and horrible that it happened, but it's even worse what the media is doing to convict this girl before the police are even done investigating. I sincerely hope from the bottom of my heart that she did not do it. But it's not up to me to decide - it's up to the police and the courts. There is one jury I would definitely NOT want to be on.
Love your children. Hug your children. Let them be CHILDREN! Peace.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Black Friday!

My sister and I have spent the last couple of years starting a new tradition of "Black Friday shopping". When the kids were little, Michelle did this with our step-dad to get the "hottest items" for her kids - I was never patient enough for that nonsense. There isn't anything that I (or my kids) want that I would stand in line outside in the middle of the night in the freezing cold for hours to buy. HOWEVER - now that they are older and the things they want are usually electronic and much more expensive.... those Black Friday deals always look a little bit sweeter.

So here is what we did - first of all, she is so funny, she couldn't sleep! I went to bed at 9:30 and set my alarm for 3:30. I got a text from Shell around 1:30 that she was staying up all night - when I saw that around 3:00, I just got up and texted her back that I was ready when she was! LOL The stores opened at 4:00 a.m. (some of them). So Shell picked me up a little after 3:30 and we headed to Kohl's. We got some good bargains and waited in line for about 45 minutes - the lines are just hysterical, they go all the way to the back of the stores! LOL Then we headed out to Target, but they weren't opening until 6 and the line was wrapped around the store. So we hit Old Navy first, and then drove to a different Target. The thing I needed at Target was an XBOX 360 for my son, and the deal was that it came with a $60.00 Target gift card. So by the time we got there, it was about 6:15, and I had to go to the bathroom, which is right at the front door. Shell said "I'm going over to get the XBOX, meet me in electronics." By the time I got over there a whole 4 minutes later, she was yelling "JENN" and waving her arms at me. I was cracking up - apparently, she got the LAST XBOX360 that they had. Thank God for her - if she had come to the bathroom with me, I would have probably missed out! So that was my big accomplishment of the day. I got him a couple of games, a 3-month-live-card (that enables him to play online for 3 months) and a few other little things, and I am done with him.

After Target, we went and got a coffee and then we went to another mall. I did really good at Bath & Body Works, and got my grab gifts done (for work and my family) and Jeremy's sisters. I have one more paycheck before Christmas, and it's looking like I should be fine. It's so stressful trying to make sure you get everything done - and I do not shop on credit, so once I'm done - that's it, I'm done!

Anyway - we did save quite a bit of money, but it's more about the laughing and the fun we have. All of the people in line with us seemed to be in good spirits, which always helps. The last place we went to was Toys R Us, which was absolutely ridiculous. I didn't need anything there, but Shell did - and after her saving my life by grabbing that last XBOX, I had to stand by her while she waited for an hour and a half in line. Those were the longest lines I had ever seen in my entire life - not only to the back of the store, but then weaving in and out of every aisle. The poor people who were not yet in line could barely even shop. I had a feeling it would be more chaotic this year due to the economy, and I was right. But it was still an absolute blast. Once we finished (ran out of money), we went to our favorite diner for breakfast - of course, by then it was noon! LOL When I got home, I was basically useless. My feet and legs were killing me! I organized all of my Christmas stuff, fixed my "lists" and plopped on the couch for the remainder of the day. I was sleeping by 9:00 p.m.

Now - on a different note - I could kill my husband today. I snore. There, I said it. I snore, and I snore LOUDLY. I cannot help it - how the hell can someone NOT snore? Now, I know it's annoying for the person trying to sleep, and normally I actually feel bad for him. But last night, I was just too tired to feel bad for him. He slept until 8:30 a.m. yesterday - I was up at 3:00. So after he woke me up the third or fourth time by yelling at me for snoring, I was starting to get pissed. Then around 11:30 last night, I heard him get up and leave the room - two seconds later he's SCREAMING my name from downstairs! I jump up with my heart racing thinking the house is on fire or something! But no, he's just pissed off at Trevor because he (Trev) was downstairs pouring fruit punch into an old wine bottle. Yes, it was stupid and yes, he should have gotten in trouble... but - HELLO - did you really need to wake me up screaming over it? I guess what pisses me off the most is how many times in my 15+ years as a mother that I have woken up in the middle of the night to deal with all kinds of things (kids puking, headaches, wet beds when they were little, etc.) and I have NEVER woken him up, not ever. I just dealt with it and then went back to bed, if and when I could. So yeah, I was bullshit. I think today I'm going to try to buy some of that stuff that is supposed to help with snoring. Actually, HE can buy it. hee hee

I am going to finish my Christmas cards this weekend, I promise! And I'll take some pics and post them tomorrow, hopefully. Have a wonderful weekend, my friends! Peace.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Christmas Spirit!

I gotta tell you, I usually get annoyed when I start seeing Christmas items in stores before Halloween. Well, OK - I still do. But normally, I don't even want to THINK about Christmas until after Thanksgiving. There's a local radio station here that recently started playing all Christmas music, my husband listens to this station. One day when I was with him, I was about to complain when I realized that I was starting to get into the Christmas spirit. I mean, I think what's always annoyed me is the financial aspect of Christmas - or the lack of my own personal finances! It's hard to be jolly when you are worried about buying gifts and wondering which bill you can skip on this month in order to make sure your kids have a great Christmas. This year, though, I started my shopping early. And when I heard those songs in Jeremy's car, I realized that I really am looking forward to the holidays this year.

Don't get me wrong - I'm not even CLOSE to being done with my Christmas shopping. But I've started, and I have a good idea of what I need to do to finish. My sister and I started going shopping on Black Friday a couple of years ago, and it's becoming a tradition that I absolutely love. It's not just the good deals and the huge sales - it's the excitement and the laughing our asses off sitting in a parking lot with Dunkin Donuts coffees at 4:55 a.m. waiting for a store to open, wondering if we'll even get what we came for. We don't stress over it - we just have a blast. But I do get a lot done on this day, and then I still have another paycheck and almost a whole month to finish. You know what's funny? I feel like Christmas is just around the corner, and Cassidy said to me yesterday that she feels like it's months away! LOL I guess it depends on which end you're on - when your biggest concern is whether you'll get the iPod Touch that you so desperately covet, Christmas seems ages away!

I guess I just feel like things are falling into place - and with the new house we're moving into right before Christmas and the new year starting, I feel very thankful for my life. Even when I'm having a bad day, I know I'm a lucky girl. I count my blessings on a regular basis to remind myself of how lucky I really am.

So I hope you all take some time to enjoy the anticipation of the holidays, the sights and sounds, the smells, the excitement. Donate to a local charitable organization or volunteer your time with one - check with your local United Way or Salvation Army for ideas. It will make you feel good about yourself and get you into the holiday spirit.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

It's official....

We are moving again! I can hardly believe I'm even saying it, but I'm really excited about this. We are getting a break on rent for a bigger place, and I think I am most excited about getting my stamping room back!!! Jeremy is going to meet with the landlord, Lindsey, today, and firm things up. The house is vacant, so she already told Jeremy that she is fine with us starting to move things in whenever we want. We plan on doing the "big move" the weekend before Christmas. I have the last 2 weeks of December into January off from work, so it's a perfect time, actually. You know, when we moved into the house we are renting now, it was not a happy time for us. We were disappointed and disgusted with the situation we had just come out of - we were in a rush, and had to settle on the first house that was in a good neighborhood and that we could live in comfortably. I've been happy where we are now, but it never really felt like "home" - you know? I never even put curtains up - things like that. It just felt.... temporary. This feels like it's the right thing for us, like this is going to be HOME - hopefully for many years.
It's really quite funny/ironic how things fall into place. A little over a year ago, Trevor was still not even diagnosed with Asperger's yet and he was having so many problems in school. He was miserable, and we were miserable! We had lost our home and life just felt pointless. I was starting to really feel depressed over everything, but I have always tried to hold on to the belief that "everything happens for a reason." Eventually, I just had to kind of let go and leave it all to fate. And that is when things seemed to start working out. Trevor got his diagnosis and I started to learn a lot about Asperger's, which made things better at home, as well. We had him moved to a new class, which also helped. Eventually, we had him moved to the school he is at now, which has been an absolute miracle, as far as I'm concerned. And I look back on all this and realize that everything happened the way it was supposed to - and turned out for the best, even though at the time it would have been really hard to believe that it was! LOL
So on to some fun stuff! My friend Missy's daughter Molli turned 5 yesterday. She had a "purse-themed" cake and party the other day, so I made her this cute card, which I thought came out pretty damn good, considering I made it myself without a template or anything:

I think I told you all how I went out last Wednesday night with my dear friend An, and that we went to this fundraiser that she helped organize. It was at a private country club and was quite ritzy - I had brought $100 with me and quickly realized that I was slumming it! LOL There were pocketbooks for $350, T-shirts for $120, etc. Since the shopping wasn't looking good for me, I decided to throw $20 away on raffle tickets, figuring it was for a good cause anyway. I put most of my tickets into this cool blown-up balloon filled with scratch tickets - and guess what? I WON! I couldn't believe it, I never win anything! The woman finally dropped it off to me yesterday (she had called me Friday and assured me she'd drop it off over the weekend - she was kind of strange and acted almost annoyed that I didn't want to drive to Northboro, where she was, to pick it up - but whatever) and I went home last night and realized there were 40 tickets in this thing! Here it is all blown up and pretty: There were 30 $2.00 tickets and 10 $1.00 tickets. I ended up winning a grand total of $62.00. I was thrilled - it was fun scratching them and it was $62.00 that I didn't have when I started, so I felt like a winner! LOL

Well, wish me luck on packing and organizing my life before we move. I'll take pictures the next time we're there and share them with you. Peace!