Friday, December 31, 2010

Hello

We just got back to NOLA after 5 incredible days here:


It was an amazing trip and I cannot wait to tell you all about it, but I am knee deep in Christmas tree needles and dirty clothes. Soon...I promise.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Failed Christmas Card Attempt #4

I thought that maybe, just maybe, there was hope for a photo of Luz and James on Santa's lap. Last year was Luz first year on Santa's lap and I think it was due, in large part, to the fact that James did not seem to mind. I figured that if he did not mind last year he would be just fine this year. Boy was I wrong. Santa set him off unlike anything I have ever seen. I could not even remove James' fingers from the death grip around my neck. It was awful. Luz was perfectly happy, if not a bit disappointed that she had to go solo.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Failed Christmas Card Attempt #3

When I started to take these pictures I sensed I would get the perfect Christmas card shot. Everything was perfect and totally unintentionally so - precisely the perfect scenario. The lighting was beautiful, they had on similar colors, and they both decided to wear their Christmas photo-worth hats that Aunt Moll knitted.

So, there is nothing wrong with the pictures really, but they are just not right either. James looks incredibly grouchy and pasty and I just don't think this series of photographs captures his essence, so I scrapped them.




Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Failed Christmas Card Attempt #2

I guess, technically speaking, this was the first attempt at the Christmas card. I took these pictures over Thanksgiving weekend, during a very quiet Thibodaux morning while the kids were feeling festive in their Christmas pjs. Unfortunately, it just did not work out quite as I had planned. This batch does not even really require an explanation, the pictures sort of speak for themselves. And check out James' hairdo - wow it was long!



Monday, December 20, 2010

Failed Christmas Card Attempt #1

There are quite a few of these waiting to be published, here is the most recent. It doesn't work for so many rather obvious reasons...

The tears:


The hand raised at precisely the wrong moment:


The string of saliva:


I have a few more of these to share over the next few days, including the loneliest Santa picture ever wherein Luz sits, so politely, while Santa's other knee is bare instead of supporting James' squirmy little self.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

First Cut

Despite getting totally sidelined by a nasty bout of strep throat last week, I finally completed a big project at work and have time to get organized before vacation. I am slowly starting to feel like my old self again and even managed to muster the energy to run this morning. There is no question that the past two weeks were some of the busiest in my life. As a result, I have shopping and cleaning and organizing and planning and packing to do - all in a very short period of time.

We have been busy, yeah, but we have had all sorts of fun. The most news-worthy, though perhaps less-exciting of the recent events was James' first haircut. It broke my heart but I got tired of seeing the daycare ladies put barrettes in his hair, hated watching him squint and constantly push his bangs out of his eyes, and realized I had a problem when I started putting Luz's headbands in his hair while he played.

He was totally upset the entire time (both of us were) but I managed a few shots with Luz's help.

The only person who cuts our hair is Aunt Sue so I had not idea what to do when I finally decided it had to be done. I opted for the very old-timey, Golden Shears, where my brothers used to get their hair cut. It is a true barbershop, the real deal:


The hair, immediately before the cut. You can see why I couldn't wait any longer:


On my lap and very angry:



And afterward, comforted by Luz and a paper bird and looking much more Jim Carrey ala Dumb and Dumber than Justin Bieber (at least according to Christian):


but at least he can see when he plays.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Hey There

It has been a crazy week around here at the Vaicius house. I am really looking forward to the weekend so that I can spend some time catching my breath. We have some fun Christmas activities planned, a quiet night out for dinner (and maybe even a movie), and I am looking forward to a long run on Saturday morning.

I am off to read and to bed. I am in the middle of The Art of Racing In the Rain. Do you love dogs? Is your dog under-appreciated? Read. This. Book.

I leave you with a snapshot from Saturday night. Christian looks very distinguished in his tuxedo. I look sort of drunk (it is that weird 'eye half closed' thing I tend to do in photographs):

Monday, December 06, 2010

The Grouch

I guess the total Santa freak-out of 2010 tipped me off a little...I just knew something was not right with James because he was extra clingy and not his usual, happy-go-lucky self on Saturday. I suspected he might be getting sick. Luz had complained about a scratchy throat earlier that morning and it was a busy weekend, so that part made sense - my kids tend to plan their illnesses at the worst possible times - Christian is gearing up for exams, I have a few projects to finish at work before the holidays, and there are tons of extra-curricular things going on.

Look at this face, so completely bummed out:


Ultimately fever surfaced and the rest of the weekend was spent quietly. We decorated a tree that was selected without any fanfare (Christian picked it up from Whole Foods on Sunday afternoon while the kids napped) and watched movies and stayed cozy and warm on a very chilly day. The kids recuperated somewhat but James still has a hacking smoker's cough that keeps him up at night (I miss the days when it was okay to give kids cough medicine).

If you are in the market for a tree that is in the 7 to 9 foot range, please check out Whole Foods. It is a great deal - every tree is $50 - and there is no haggling and hard-selling by some inebriated drifter looking to score a big commission. They will tie it to your car and promise to plant two trees for every one tree sold. I don't think it gets any better than that. Our tree is not particularly big and we contemplating going really big this year since we have the ceiling to accommodate it. I am glad we didn't because the first thing out of Luz's mouth was "wow, that is a gigantic tree". It is all relative.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Santa, 2010

Last year it was incredible...bolstered by her very brave little brother, Luz climbed right on to Santa's lap and the two of them sitting there, side by side, never looked happier. They could have stayed in that position for hours.

On Saturday I took Luz and James to see Santa and I hoped for the best. It was the same exact environment as last year, James talks about Santa incessantly, and Luz fully reconciled the fact that, though she wasn't wild about the idea of getting on his lap, she realized that she had to do it in order to send a clear message about exactly what she wanted to see under the tree on December 25 (she even had me google the barking, walking dog to double-check the name and brand).

When we arrived there was a bit of a wait and they busied themselves with Christmas crafts and cookies while I waited in line. As our turn neared James started to figure out what was going on, insisted that I pick him up, and commenced with the death grip. Luz never had this but there is something about the way that James can grip the back of my neck and opposite shoulder simultaneously...I am powerless. Needless to say, Luz dutifully climbed on Santa's lap, smiled for her picture, politely rattled off her list and excused herself smiling. James...well, I couldn't even remove him from around my neck...he was like a deranged lemur. And the screaming and crying...I am sure he scared away a few kids.

Here's what happned after Santa...candy canes (which make everything better) and the comfort couch...a place for kids traumatized by Santa and mom's to work on a Christmas card photo.


Thursday, December 02, 2010

Thanksgiving 2010, in Pictures

I put together a little video of my Thanksgiving weekend pictures. I lost image quality in a major way when I converted the stills to video format and I cannot quite figure out how to fix the problem. I used a very basic Windows tool to create the video and am now thinking I probably need to rely on something a little more sophisticated if I am going to complain about the quality of the pictures. I am just disappointed. I also uploaded the video without first adding a soundtrack and could not figure out how to add music without starting all over again. Oh, and I have no idea why Vimeo selected the still of Jack as the 'cover' shot. As far as I know it was totally random and, incidentally, very cute. Obviously I have quite a bit to learn about making movies.

Thanksgiving at White Plantation 2010 from Julie Vaicius on Vimeo.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Why I Stared Out Of My Window For 30 Minutes Today

Reentry is always tough after an extended weekend. I have developed a thick skin over the years and have a series of tricks I rely upon to make it easier on myself when I have to return to work/stress/the daily grind after a few days off. Extra iced coffee during the day, frequent breaks to talk to friends, a 'light' to do list so as not to feel overwhelmed or inept, and daydreaming. All of these things help, but there really isn't much you can do to brace yourself when you leave behind such lovely times.

I am not kidding, this is what color the world is on vacation:


It did not look anything like that outside today.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Giving Thanks

We just got back in town after 4 days of total relaxation. We visited with family we get to see too rarely. We took long walks in the cane fields and to visit the horses. We picked oranges and grapefruit...what happened to the satsuma crop this year? We ate delicious home-cooked meals and shared them with loved ones. We read books and magazines. We cuddled under blankets on a very cold, gray day and ran around in the sunshine in short-sleeved shirts.

It was absolutely perfect and, thus, all that much harder to get back to reality. But, we have plenty of reminders of a lovely weekend and why we need to be thankful.

My camera battery died earlier tonight as I tried to download some of the pictures so I had to resort to Christian's 'point and shoot' to show you some of the goodies we collected:


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Wish He Was Here

Tomorrow is my dad's birthday. He would be celebrating his 65th year. He would also be doing everything possible to avoid opening presents and responding to birthday wishes with a 'right-back-at-ya' sort of, "Thanks, and Happy Birthday to you too". It was one of those comfortably predictable and endlessly entertaining eccentricities.

I generally do a great job of staying upbeat, of focusing on the positive, of not dwelling on the fact that there has not been a day in my life since he died when I did not miss him like crazy and wish he was here. Around this time of year my heart gets even heavier and it is for all of the obvious reasons - the holidays, his birthday, the change of seasons - I get it. I can't help myself though, I start to feel cheated and sorry for myself. I see a doddering old man shuffling hand in hand with his grandson and I think that it isn't fair. I listen to friends complain about the latest annoying thing their father did and it makes me smile, wishing I could have that experience. I think about all of the time I could have taken advantage of and didn't and a 100 lb weight sits on me. I remember that my siblings and I are now part orphan - well we are - if adults can even qualify as orphans - and it all makes me feel so very sad.

For the past year and a half or so I have, from time to time, watched old video footage that I shot of the kids. Immediately after my father died I scoured the library for footage with him in it. It is incredibly rare because he hated that sort of thing. I knew it and yet I kept watching and rewatching thinking maybe, just maybe, I got distracted and missed a frame that he is in. It haunts me now - these lovely, happy moments of my life. They would be so perfect - I think - if only I had just turned the camera a few inches.

So, in my self-indulgent attempt to make myself feel better about my sub-par videoing skill (or maybe my obsession with hindsight) I wrote a poem.

Camera Lens

I crane my neck sideways
and look arond the camera's tiny screen
just to try to see you
I am anxious and annoyed that you are not in the frame.

I can hear your loud, booming laugh just around the corner.
You are inches out of sight, watching your grandson roll on the floor
and when he finds his face in the mirror you think it is
wonderful and I imagine your smile, because I cannot see you.

I replay it again, hoping that your blurry image will come into focus
or you will appear in a frame you were never intended to be in, because
maybe then I would miss you less.


Here is a still from that video. I remember it like it was yeseterday:

Thursday, November 18, 2010

How Cute

Is this guy...






I just want to squeeze him.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Shanti?

When I was little I had a deep fascination with the Disney movie, The Jungle Book. I imagine that, after Christopher Robin, my first true crush was Mowgli. How could you not love his shaggy hair and ear to ear grin? I could not help myself, whenever he was on the screen I smiled. And then, at the end of the movie when he sees the adorable little girl from the man-village (Shanti) collecting water and he starts to fall in love, I could barely contain myself. In my 5 year-old mind it all seemed so incredibly romantic.

Luz is equally transfixed. She has the movies memorized, she knows the songs by heart and, most importantly, she too would like to be that girl collecting water.

Here she is reenacting the scene where Baloo scratches his back during one of my favorite numbers, "The Bear Necessities." In typical fashion, James follows suit:



Monday, November 15, 2010

The Park With Papa

I have enjoyed the dark, rainy day. It was a perfect day to be stuck up in an office, staring out of the window at the gray clouds, tending to paperwork. Sure, I would have preferred to be at home on the sofa, reading my book and snuggled up with the kids, but under the circumstances, it was relaxing.

We were lucky to have beautiful weather over the weekend and plenty of time outside. The #1 activity was playtime at the park. Papa-T proved his value as the world's best swing pusher and Luz proclaimed it the "best swinging of her life." Impressive. I don't know how he did it - James in one arm, pushing Luz in the other, the two of them constantly competing for his attention. He never once looked tired.

En route:

Swinging Luz:


Begging for Papa-T's attention:


Got it:




Shoulders:


Heading home:

Sunday, November 14, 2010

NOLA Weekend Family Reunion

The weekend was much anticipated as it brought the arrival of Nana and Papa-T, and cousin Robin, Scott and precious baby Luca from San Diego. We couldn't wait to meet Luca, who is just a few months younger than James and totally adorable. Despite not feeling 100%, she was totally charming and lovable. Needless to say, the weekend was rather busy and Christian was totally preoccupied with work so we did not see much of him. I am sure we sent Nana and Papa-T back to Atlanta completely exhausted because Luz and James would not let them rest - multiple trips to the park, chase around the house, rough-housing, you name it. When they left earlier today both kids were gloomy and James kept saying "Nana", as if he was convinced she was in the house but I was hiding her. It was funny but also sort of heartbreaking seeing his sad face.

They both perked up a bit after an afternoon 'nature' walk with Loki followed by a surprise visit from Kelsea. We ended the night watching Shrek. For some reason Luz had not ever seen it. She totally freaked out when she realized Farquaad killed Mama Bear and turned her into a rug. I was not at all prepared to deal with the buckets of tears and the utter disappointment.

Some pics - the first one was so easy that I pressed my luck and managed to get all three kids in the same frame - wow. Sure, they are not all looking at the camera, but at least nobody is having a melt-down, which is usually the case. Oh, and we are at Cafe Du Monde, of course.


Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Catch Up

So, I mentioned things were a little hectic around here and I think that is actually putting it mildly. This time of year is always busy - busy with work, busy with life - but it seems particularly daunting. I know the time between Halloween and Christmas passes quickly, so I am trying to avoid the usual pitfalls and stay organized and on top of things, and so far it is not working out as I had planned.

Maybe it will make some of you feel better to hear that I still have not figured out the weekday schedule. No matter how hard I try to keep it straight, I confuse Daisy Scouts and ballet days. I forget to look at the 'master' calendar on the wall in the kitchen for the reminders about what is happening in Christian's work world. I let events slip by unnoticed because I haven't calendared them correctly (or sometimes at all) and I still haven't figured out how to sync Google calendar with my Outlook calendar at work. On top of all of that, I have not bought (or even considered buying) a single Christmas present, I just remembered that I never sent thank you notes for all of my lovely birthday presents (received well over a month ago), and we cannot even seem to schedule a time for the alarm repair man and heater repair man to come to the house (yes, they are both broken). This is all just to say that I am rather disappointed about how disorganized I have been lately and I am feeling scattered.

Now, on to the more interesting things around here and a brief focus on some of the magic...

1. We no longer have any bottles in the house. Yes, James is officially off of bottles. It was heartbreaking because it was the only tool he had to calm himself - no thumb, no lovey, no nothing. It was a long time coming and it just took my friend, Jennifer, reminding me that her dad (our awesome pediatric dentist) no longer does the 'capping' procedure that children have to undergo when they have bottle rot because he does not like to use anesthesia. Enough said. I am happy about it and I genuinely do not think James misses the bottles - though it took about a week of asking about it and crying.

2. Luz no longer sucks her thumb. I am not going to lie, I bribed her, but she was ready. She told me she wanted to stop. She was no longer sucking it during nap time at school (and hadn't been all year) and was starting to understand that it was babyish and gross. This was another heartbreaker because she had a thumb in her mouth during her ultrasound picture. It was tough but we used band aids at night, sticker charts, tons of positive reinforcement and the big bribe (she gets to pick out any toy that she wants when we go to Disney World - did I mention that we are going to Disney - see #6 below). I am still a little worried about the implications of removing the thumb from her life.

3. James is learning new words every day and is incredibly curious and still totally fearless. He can repeat just about any word, identifies most objects, can tell us (for the most part) what he needs, and is finally grasping that he doesn't always get what he wants. His disappointment when told 'no' is unlike anything I have ever seen. He has two responses - 1. throw himself on the ground and scream or 2. cradle his head in both hands shaking it back and forth as if to say, 'how could you'. It is both incredibly entertaining and annoying at the same time. He is also constantly working on potty training with the lure of skittles and big boy underpants. He still doesn't totally get it but I am optimistic it will click for him soon. In the last week he has had two pretty intense falls precipitated by climbing on something he is not supposed to climb on. His mouth filled up with blood on both occasions and I thought he knocked out teeth. Do you know how tough it is too look inside a toddler's mouth for the source of an injury. My fingers are crossed that he did not do permanent damage.

4. Luz is no longer the shortest kid in her class, she has become slightly more adventurous (I think this is thanks, in large part, to James), she loves school and learning (it has to be different from when I was there), and is a most patient and loving older sister. I try to recognize that she needs space and time to play without James following her every move but I am not always good about providing it. I have started to let her skip her weekend naps so that she can have an hour or two of playing and/or uninterrupted time with me and Christian. She sets a beautiful example of how siblings should behave and is a lovely role model for James. I hope this groundwork is the foundation for a close bond all of their lives. And one more thing, she loves chores and helping me - wiping down the table, clearing the dishes, unloading the silverware from the dishwasher - this is a dream come true for me...someone else around the house to help with housekeeping!

5. It is November and both kids have had their flu shots, so has Christian. I am working on it.

6. We are going to Disney World between Christmas and New Year's!

7. I ran a 1/2 marathon, my 3 one, and I think I am ready for another full but for all of the reasons above am not confident I can add the incredible training regiment to my life.

8. Daylight savings time has ended (I am one of the few people that actually appreciates the time change - I like that it is actually light outside when I wake up at 6, at least for a little while), the temperature has cooled off substantially and I am starting to see Christmas decorations in stores and commercials on tv. I am not going to lie. I LOVE the holidays.

So, even though things are crazy, I am trying to be mindful of the beautiful stuff and not get bogged down in the details. True, James desperately needs a haircut (okay, there may be more behind this one than a logistical issue), I haven't packed a cold lunch for Luz in 2weeks and, yes, the house is not really as neat and clean as I would like it to be (don't even get me started with the interior design), but none of those things are matters of consequence, right?

This stuff is the important stuff:


Luz and James feeding the ducks in Audubon Park



Post duck-feeding picnic on the porch

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Hi, We Are Still Here

We have been racing around on overdrive here at the Vaicius house lately and, as a result, I have had very little time to indulge in picture taking and blogging. Rest assured, things are good and when it slows down a bit I hope to get back into a more consistent blogging routine. There are plenty of stories to share and bits and pieces of Luz and James' lives that merit discussion, but I just have to find some free time to fill you in. Unfortunately, for the next two hours I will be reviewing documents and trying to stay awake...wish me luck.

In the meantime, here is a sweet pic of the kiddies just for you (incidentally, this was taken by Christian earlier in the week prior to the incredible cold snap - which happened to coincide with the demise of our upstairs and downstairs heaters - oh yeah - it made for an uncomfortable weekend):

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Ladybug Girl & Bumblebee Boy

We just got back from a fabulous night of trick or treating and fun at Aunt Margot and Uncle Walker's house. It is the best Halloween celeration in the city - the streets are blocked off so trick or treating is care free, the houses are decorated and yet very kid-friendly, and there are tons of people out having fun. Luz says it is her favorite holiday of the year. Christmas still tops my list but I definitely have a soft spot for Halloween.

Unfortunately, Jamesy has not quite been his usual, jovial self since he got the flu shot late last week. So, as it often goes in life, we were all ready for fun and James was just not having it (or having as much of it). I had very little luck capturing their costumes (they are dressed as characters from one of Luz's favorite stories) simply because James was not feeling cooperative. So, here's the best I could do:





I have more pics to share soon but I am looking forward to propping up my feet (13.1 beautiful miles on these guys yesterday left me feeling sore), having a glass of wine, and watching the end of the Saints game.

Happy Halloween!