Holly Jolly New Traditions

Holly Jolly New Traditions

Life is different this Christmas.

Henry and I decided it would be fun to start some holly jolly new traditions for the two of us as far as decorating for Christmas goes. It’s always been a big evening for us as a family and we want to keep it as an important part of our year, but do things in a new way! I mean, change is fun, huh?

After school on Friday, we headed to the Walmart in Dunwoody to take part in Clark’s Christmas Kids. If you’re not familiar, every Christmas, Clark Howard and News/Talk WSB join with the Georgia Department of Family and Children’s Services to provide gifts for the foster kids all across Georgia.

Henry has a job walking our neighbor’s dog every day after school and when he gets paid on Fridays, we separate his money into Spend, Save, and Give envelopes. He had $27 in his Give envelope and chose to use it to buy Christmas gifts for a child his age who may not have any gifts under the tree this year. Carefully, he looked at the lists of about 5 different 11 year old boys and chose Avery.

With list in hand, we set off to see what we could buy. He ended up with the Simon game that was on the list. Luckily, he caught that it needed AA batteries and he grabbed some of those, too. I can thank my Dad for him knowing to do that. Rock never shows up for a holiday where a battery-needing toy is given without a stash of batteries!

Once he paid, we dropped the list and gifts back at the table where dozens of people were picking up lists and dropping off gifts. If you’re in Atlanta and have a chance to see and participate in this, please do so. It’s such a gift — to these kids AND to yourself.

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Then we headed to the Big John’s Christmas Trees lot in Dunwoody. We LOVE Big John’s. They have the best trees and we’ve bought from them for years (even when we lived in Macon and Fort Valley).

It took Henry about 7 seconds to find our tree.

While I looked for the perfect one that spoke to me and that would hold all my beautiful ornaments and be just like all the other ones we’ve ever had, Henry found THE ONE.

It was about 5 feet tall with a big gap in the middle and a little scrawny. It was smaller than everything else out there and well, looked kinda sad. I kinda wanted to say, “Bless your heart,” to the poor tree.

I tried to talk him out of it, but he said with conviction, “Nobody else is going to buy this tree because it’s not as beautiful as the other trees and then it’s going to be lonely and sad and we’re going to get this one.”

Ok then! We grabbed Chinese food and headed home.

We were able to get the tree off the car and into the stand and into the house by ourselves. Really, Henry did it all, but of course, I gave advice and helicoptered until I realized he WANTED to do it by himself.

The tree stood perfectly straight on the first try, we placed it in the corner, and ate Chinese food while we watched Elf.

This morning, we lit and decorated and squint-tested the tree and you know? It’s possibly the most beautiful tree ever! (Oh, and Watkins the elf came in sometime during the night and toppled down the tree. I think he may have been drinking a little.)

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Our tree is small and mighty, but it holds so much love and hope for our future. It showed me that we can do it by ourselves, and that change, while a little scary, can be so much fun!

We’ve decked our halls and are thrilled with our holly jolly new traditions!

 

Wild Week in the City!

Wild Week in the City!

Last summer, Jason, Henry and I were discussing what we wanted to do for Thanksgiving and Christmas. We’d all been hankering for a trip to New York, but also to St. Simons or anywhere else, really. We decided that New York it was. We would go for the Macy’s Parade and take a whole week to make it the most amazing trip ever!

So of course, I started planning! We’ve been so many times, I knew what all we would do, but wanted to add some extra fun! I got help from so many friends and together, we made a super fun itinerary that pleased a mom, a dad, and a 10 year old boy.

This is long, so skip ahead or whatever!

Monday, November 24

Our favorite way to go to the city is to leave before the sun comes up and get there before people even leave for work! This was the earliest we’d ever left, though, on a 6am flight out of Atlanta. Yes, that means a 3:30 departure from our house. But? We landed in NYC at 7:50 and were in the hotel by 9. Boom. Full day in the city!

Jason had started a new job November 1, so he wasn’t technically off for the week. He spent Monday and Tuesday, day and night, in Long Island while Henry and I stayed in Manhattan. He would join us on Wednesday morning. So we got to the airport and said our goodbyes and went our separate ways. Odd…

Henry and I got to our hotel around 9 and surprisingly, our room was ready! We love to stay at the Hotel Metro, a Midtown hotel about half a block from Macy’s Herald Square, because of their family rooms. For about the same price as a Times Square room, we get two bedrooms — one with a queen bed and one with two doubles. Space for each of us! It’s close to Metro stations and a Starbucks! They have a wonderful bar and restaurant attached and did I mention how convenient it is? Win Win WIN!IMG_0856

It was strangely warm that day, so Henry and I ditched the coats and any extra layers and headed out. First stop — Times Square. We grabbed a hot dog, hit the M&Ms store and Toys R Us and took a bunch of goofy pictures.

We had planned for a while to meet up and hang out with my friend Neil who lives in Queens. He had found a cool exhibit going on at Discovery Times Square that Henry was so excited about. It was an interactive Avengers exhibit that takes you through intelligence files of the Avengers or something. I didn’t fully understand but Henry thought it was the bee’s knees!

Henry and I met up with Neil after the Avengers exhibit at John’s Pizzeria for some lunch. The pizza was excellent, the beer was cold, and the company was fun! Afterwards, all three of us went and walked around the area. We hit Bryant Park and the NYC Public Library (which Henry thought was really cool) (I thought there were way too many steps considering we woke up at 2:30am).

Afterwards, we headed to Grand Central Station to look around and get a snack at Junior’s. There, Neil treated us to cheesecake and real chocolate egg creams. Uh, I thought the egg cream sounded disgusting until I tried it and now I think about them at least once a day because hello deliciousness!IMG_0875

Henry and I headed back to the hotel where he promptly went to sleep — at 5pm — and I didn’t dare wake him. I wasn’t far behind!

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Tuesday, November 25

Tuesday morning, we slept in a little. We met Neil at Macy’s to head up to the UES for breakfast. Because Jason and Henry are such Seinfeld freaks, he thought it would be cool to go to Tom’s Restaurant. Tom’s is the restaurant they used as the facade for Monk’s Cafe on the show. Since Jason couldn’t go, it was just us and Henry thought it was way cool! We had pancakes and eggs and a typical (but delicious) diner breakfast. We plotted out our day and set out for more fun!

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Since we were up on the UES, we went to the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine. Oh, it was absolutely beautiful! Henry was in awe on the inside of the cathedral and even more so outside when a few peacocks walked by. In the city. Peacocks. Just seemed odd!

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Walking back over towards the main road, we walked through Columbia University. It was beautiful, too. I was freaked out being at a university where people weren’t decked out in orange and blue, saying War Eagle to each other, though. I did feel my IQ points jump up a little just being on campus!

We took a cab down to The Met where Henry enjoyed the Egyptian exhibits and the Knights exhibits. It’s one of the museums I’d never been to, so I was excited to see the Tiffany windows and the Death Becomes Her exhibit.

Lunch was at Alice’s Tea Room, a place I’d wanted to go for a while, but apparently it’s not as awesome in real life as it is online. Lunch was good. The wait was horrible. And Neil and Henry thought it was girly. Oh well…

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We moseyed down to Rockefeller Center where Neil was meeting someone to take pictures later. We did some run-throughs so he would know the best places to take the pictures over near Radio City Music Hall.

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Henry and I headed back to the hotel and had a little bite to eat and crashed! A winter rain/sleet storm was predicted to come in overnight and Jason was already planning to come into the city earlier the next morning than originally planned. Sleep came easy after a long day in the city!

Wednesday, November 26

Wednesday was a very lazy day. It rained buckets, was cold and painfully windy.

Henry and I got up super early and threw on clothes so I could meet Catherine, a mom who lost her daughter to Group B Strep earlier in the year. I take every chance I can to be able to give real life hugs to fellow bereaved moms. Braving the elements was nothing compared to the early days of grief that she was facing. We quickly scooted back to the hotel to warm back up, though!

Jason came straight to the hotel from Long Island and we decided that we would ditch our plans to go to the Statue of Liberty that day. The only thing worse than walking around in the city in wind, rain, and sleet, would be going on a boat to an island in the wind, rain, and sleet!

The three of us took advantage of a day of rest. We napped, had lunch next door at Playwright Bar and Lounge.

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We went the half block over to Macy’s to goof off and then napped some more! Dinner was also close to the hotel at Liberty NYC. I highly recommend this restaurant — it was excellent!

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Back to the hotel we went to hit the bed early and get our plan of attack for the Macy’s Parade the next morning!

Thursday, November 27

Up EARLY for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. This has been a goal of mine — to go back and be a spectator — since I participated in the parade in high school. So of course, I jumped out of bed like it was Christmas morning! We bundled up (not enough) and headed out at 6:30am. Yes, the parade starts at 9. No, we’re not insane. We got a sweet spot at the corner of 38th and 6th, right on the fence. Front row, baby!

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We sat. We waited. We met the people next to us who were absolutely amazing. We watched protestors get tackled to the ground and arrested. We complained. We squeeeeeed when we could finally hear the parade coming!

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The parade in person is absolutely nothing like what you see on television. There’s a lot of behind the scenes scheduling that is too long to share in this post, but that makes it not flow well in person. But… if it’s a bucket list item, it’s one of the most amazing things you can do! In fact, put it on your bucket list right now! You’ll be glad you did.

Yes, I cried like I always do. Yes, my boys laughed at me. Yes, it was totally worth it all!

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Of course, Henry got too cold and then overheated (frostbite?) and almost passed out. He was fine, but jeez, kid, can’t we go to a parade without you falling out?

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It was snowy and drizzly and by the time it was over, we were done. D.O.N.E. Done. We hobbled back to the hotel on frozen numb feet and grabbed lunch at the hotel. And then napped.

I had made reservations for Thanksgiving dinner at Rock Center Cafe. We walked up to Rockefeller Center and had a glass of wine (and Shirley Temple) at the bar. Our dinner was amazing. Best filet ever, maybe! It was fun to eat on the skating rink level and see people enjoying skating while we dined.

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But we were exhausted. We detoured through Times Square to see it all lit up before going to the hotel!

Friday, November 28

Breakfast was at Andrew’s Coffee Shop. You may remember this restaurant from our last trip.

Stupidly, we decided to walk to the Intrepid Museum. It didn’t seem like it was going to be THAT far, but it was extremely cold and windy and well, it was dumb. But, in spite of that, this may have been the highlight of the trip for both Jason and Henry. Boy or girl, I HIGHLY recommend this museum as part of your visit.

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The Intrepid Museum is not only an aircraft carrier with many aircraft on board, but it also houses a submarine, a space shuttle and the British Airways Concorde. Tickets aren’t cheap, but I can say with certainty that they were worth every single penny. It was really all worth it just to see Jason’s excitement while he sat in the Concorde’s cockpit jump seat!IMG_1245

After the Intrepid, we took a cab over to 5th and Central Park and walked down 5th Avenue back towards the hotel. A stop at Tiffany (I got a ring), Saks, Louis Martin (Jason got a watch) and the Lego Store and we were done for the day.

We headed back down to the hotel and decided to eat at the Korean restaurant nearby. None of us had ever eaten Korean and it was to DIE for! Like the egg cream, I think about Korean almost daily. Must find a good restaurant near us!

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Saturday, November 29

We had breakfast at Andrew’s again. It’s so close to Hotel Metro and delicious, it was hard not to!

Afterwards, we took the subway down to Chinatown. Jason and Henry had wanted to find chicken feet to eat but luckily, they didn’t. I was already planning to gag and be dramatic the whole time. We did find a little grocery store and went in and bought all kinds of little treats! I found some black bean treats that were divine. I need to find out how to get more!

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We lunched in Little Italy at Caffe Napoli where Henry had meatballs the size of his head!

We walked to Lower Manhattan to the 9/11 Museum and Memorial. This is also a must-see. I had been to the Memorial, but not the museum. Jason and Henry hadn’t been to either. I wrote about the trip and strange events HERE.

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Being me, and well, us, we went back to the hotel after that because Georgia and Georgia Tech were playing and Auburn and Alabama were playing. So we ate hotel appetizers in the room and drank overpriced beer for the evening!

Sunday, November 30

Our last day. Like we like to get to NYC early, we like to milk the last day for all it’s worth. Our flight is out at 4:30pm so we have all morning plus lunch to goof off before having to head to the airport. And with it being the weekend after Thanksgiving, we plan to give ourselves plenty of time in the airport.

We grabbed breakfast at Tick Tock Diner in The New Yorker Hotel. I had nutella french toast and almost had to go to the hospital due to the awesomeness coma I was in!

All Henry wanted to do the whole trip was go to Central Park Zoo. We didn’t tell him where we were going, but took him there for our last morning! It is always so fun to see the zoo. Such a strange site to be standing in the middle of it with huge city buildings all around.

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Afterwards, we went to FAO Schwarz and back to our hotel to get our things.

It’s always hard to say goodbye to our favorite city, but seeing the city shrink behind us as we drove to LaGuardia was super hard this time. I don’t know if it was because we had been there for a full week or just because it was magical. But there’s always next time… which I’m already planning!

Reservations for Two at Waffle House

Reservations for Two at Waffle House

I had completely forgotten that Waffle House does this fun little thing on Valentine’s Day until our friend posted a link to reservations on Facebook. I looked and our “home” Waffle House (yes, we have one that we call our own) didn’t participate, so she said to come to her “home” Waffle House.

So knowing that Jason would be out of town (save the spears, he bought me a Tiffany pearl bracelet), I made reservations for two.

A date with my Henry.

I picked him up from Primrose, completely oblivious to what we were doing and headed over to the Waffle House. I was feeling rather frumpy because I got caught in the sprinklers at work and had frizzy hair and no time to go fix it at home. He was grumpy because he thought we were going somewhere lame.

When we arrived he was surprised because the whole place was transformed into a romantic restaurant.

White tablecloths. Red candles in crystal holders. Silver trays of candy on the tables. The signature round globe light fixtures were draped in red to create a wonderful atmosphere. And the blinds were pulled so it was dark inside.

Cooks and waitresses were in nice white shirts and plain red caps. Extra staff was on hand, greeting customers and taking their names from the reservation list.

In the corner was a prom-like photo backdrop.

We were seated at the bar (our choice, to let other couples have booths) so we could watch our filet mignon grilled cheese and hashbrowns (scattered and covered) being cooked. photo 1

photo 2We ate slowly and talked about our days. He’d had two Valentine’s Day parties so I could tell he was crashing from all the sugar highs!

Two grilled cheese later for him, and two cups of coffee later for me, we were all done.

They brought us dessert – two delicious cake balls – and a glass of sparkling cider in champagne flutes. What a lovely touch!

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Our friends came in so we chatted with them for a few minutes before we got our prom pictures taken!

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We snapped one with my phone, but they took one to put in a commemorative sleeve with a mini Polaroid camera. This served two purposes, obviously. One, to give us an instant photograph. The other, to teach my child how to shake a picture to make it develop. (Thanks, Waffle House, for the science lesson)

We left while watching couple after couple file in, some dressed in sequins and suits, some in jeans and t-shirts. Young and old. Regulars and first-timers. Parties of two and parties of eight (4 couples) had a great time.

It was a fabulous evening for me and my funny little Valentine.

I might just ditch the husband again next year for a Valentine’s dinner with Henry again!

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**I was not compensated for this post, nor am I a spokesperson for Waffle House. But now I want a waffle.

Believe…

Believe…

Henry, pushing his hot dogs aside: I’m not very hungry.

Me: Are you ok? Do you feel bad?

Henry, shyly: I’m um, I’m just not hungry.

Me: Are you nervous? 

Henry: Maybe a little. 

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The night before, Henry asked very simply, “What will you do if I get coal for Christmas?”

After questioning him about what he said, he very sheepishly explained that he’s afraid that he’ll be punished if he only gets coal for Christmas from Santa.

He’s afraid he’s not been good enough for Santa to visit with toys.

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We make an appointment to see the Santa at Phipps Plaza in Buckhead in September. People go crazy to get an appointment with him because he’s (not to be completely snotty) the best. He’s the Bentley of Santas.

We scurry out of the house after work to make it down to the mall for a 7:45 appointment. It’s a mad dash, this year complete with forgetting Watkins, our trusty elf. Luckily we had time to turn around and grab him so he could see his boss for a few minutes.

Our evening started with rushing and anxiety and lots of shuffling…

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There were finishing touches put on the list. It’s hard to narrow down all your “wants” to five things that Santa’s allowed to bring you when you’re eight. The line got shorter. We were last. The last ones of the night…

Twinkles in eyes got brighter and under my hand, his heartbeat got faster.

It was his turn.

Meet Santa. Sit. Smile for the camera.

Then there was whispering, smiling, talking to Watkins. There were a few winks from Santa in our direction.

And then the awkward goodbyes.

That included the shot that reminded me that he believes.

He truly believes.

And that’s what makes Christmas magical, friends.

On Being A Mom

On Being A Mom

Well, it’s Mother’s Day. **heavy sigh**

For those who are new, Mother’s Day begins what I consider the Season of Ick. It starts the spiral of remembering every minute of Charlie’s birth, life and death. The season ends on Father’s Day. Convenient, huh?

I’m a mother. A mother three times over. One pregnancy ended at 13 weeks. One pregnancy ended well and then tragedy struck. One pregnancy brought me the sunshine and the moon and the stars that twinkle over a country sky.

For as much as I’ve lost as a mother, I’ve been blessed a million times over.

Henry, in spite of his normal kid antics, makes me happy to be alive every single second of the day.

His laugh fills my heart and soul with joy that I never thought I could experience, especially “after.”

When we walk, he still instinctively reaches up to hold my hand, even when I walk him to school and go on field trips with him.

You know? I have a lot more to say but there’s something much more important I must do now.

I’m going to just stop writing this post and I’m going to snuggle. Because one day he won’t want to snuggle anymore and I’ll be able to write all about that. But for now?

I’m gonna soak up all the snuggles.

Happy Mother’s Day!

 

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