Friday, December 31, 2010


The kids are snug at Mammaw Donna's.

I have debated and debated, and finally, armed with caffeine from a hazelnut Keurig K-Cup and the gorgeous new necklace Shrek gave me for Christmas, I'm GOING!

I'm off to celebrate the New Year, or at least stay as long as I can.

All of you: BE SAFE. May 2011 bring blessings upon blessings with a bit of fortune thrown in as well!

Love to you, my readers,


Monday, December 27, 2010

A Whole Lot of Magic

We've been so busy with holiday magic that there just hasn't been time for a proper blog post. In fact, there isn't time now, because, even though I'm very tired, I'm the only one in the house awake. I must sleep when the family sleeps!

But really, our days and nights have been full of family and friends and fun. There have been gifts galore, every kind of dip and cookie imaginable and lots of places to be.

Tomorrow? Well, tomorrow I think I'll rest. I'll get up when all the kids pile into my bed for a snuggle/tickle fest. I'll be tired, but I'll have a spring in my step because I'll remember I have a Keurig now, and that the coffee I'll soon drink will make me feel like a million bucks. I'll make breakfast, check Facebook, break up fights, clean messes that will magically reappear and I'll remember to sit down and enjoy the beautiful chaos that is my life.

And I'll think about being a better blogger.... later!

For now, here are photos of the kids on Christmas morning. I love the one at the end: Colby discovering and cleaning up Santa's leftovers. I didn't get a still photo of the placement of Baby Jesus and the singing of birthday wishes, but it's on the new vid cam. It was pretty sweet!

I'll be back again soon. For now, I can't write; I have to live it out loud.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Ugly Sweaters on Beautiful People

Ah, Christmas Eve Eve. How I love thee.

I have always loved this day. It's such anticipation, such joy. The last-minute details, the making of memories and, this year, an ugly Christmas sweater party with good friends and family!

I made one last mad (kid-free!) dash around town this afternoon: nine stops in about three and a half hours. The OB says all is well, I'll "be miserable until it's over." But I'm OK. This baby is active and seemingly everywhere. Don't ask me how, but somehow he makes me feel like I can't breathe and that I'm going to pee my pants in the same second. But yesterday morning, around 5:30 a.m., as Colby made his siren wail for a sippy cup of milk and I looked over to see Dave had gone to work already and I was, indeed, the runner, I had a moment. A moment where I imagined not only Colby wailing, but maybe this babe too. And it hit me: soon my life will be ruled by the sleeplessness, the milk needs, the guttural truth of it all! (I have since decided we are getting a dorm fridge for my bedroom. If any of you have one laying around, please get in touch with me!)

Alas, I'm off topic. Basically, what I want to say is this: Christmas, I am ready for you. Come for me.... Second, I have a new skeleton key so that the Roberts can get back to a proper birthday party tradition for Baby Jesus tomorrow night! And third, I know of several families mourning the loss of loved ones. To all of you, may God bless you. May He hold you in the palm of His hand.

I am going into the magic now. I hope to see you, and your ugly sweaters, in the mist.

May you be blessed, may you hear Santa upon your rooftop and may you believe in the magic that is Christmas. Now quit reading this, get off the Internet and make some memories! Andddd...... GO!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

More Than an Heirloom To Me

My mom and Randy: first cousins always after 30 years apart.

Many of you know how much I value and cherish my family. I am quite certain that I would not be the person I am without the family I have. They are the color in my life and the people with whom I know I'll wish I spent more time with while in my final hours.

This past weekend, there was something of a Christmas miracle in my mom's family. One of her first cousins, Randy, has been pretty much lost to us in California for the past thirty years. He hadn't even seen his parents, my great aunt and uncle, for more than 22 years. In fact, he told me there was a period of 15 years when he didn't even talk to his mom! How does a story like that end?

Well, for him, it ended--or is it began?--like this.

It's been years of struggle with many different evils for Randy. In the recent past, he's been triumphing over these demons, getting back in touch with his parents and debating as to whether or not he could make that trip back home. A stranger overheard his lament, told Randy she had frequent flier miles built up and that they were his for the taking. She wanted him to go "home," if only for a visit.

And so, on Friday, after 22 years, my aunt and uncle welcomed their firstborn and only son back home. On Sunday, he met our extended family, many of whom he'd never laid eyes on before. He prayed, ate, unwrapped gifts and listened to old family stories with us. And we welcomed him with incredulity and open arms.

He also got to enjoy a "concert" from the Strahler family singers. Our last song was Amy Grant's "Heirlooms." And, I, at 8 months pregnant, knew I'd get choked up. I struggled the whole way through and am proud to say I missed only the last line.

"My precious family is more than an heirloom to me."

And now, photos of my own very immediate precious family, and of the Christmas activity we've been up to in just the past week!

The Roberts Family, 12/19/10

Lily and Max with their first Christmas gifts of the season.

My little man Colby looking so spiffy in his vest and tie.

Lily and Max with their homemade Froot Loop sprinkles, which were intended as teacher gifts. (Max ate his the next day....)

The four-year-old Rutter cousins, after their hilariously enjoyable preschool program.

Our beautiful Lily and Julia after their school Christmas program during which Lily was selected to play the triangle and Julia, the xylophone.

Me, momma-to-be-again, at 8 months pregnant. I am still chugging along!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Springing Baby Jesus

The Roberts family has a confession: We unintentionally prevented our own Baby Jesus from being born into our nativity scene last year. Not only that, but poor Baby Jesus has been estranged from his family for a whole year now! While the rest of His family was packed up and stored in the basement, He was left alone, but with us, in the dining room.

Let me explain!

As is custom in my family, we don't place Baby Jesus in the nativity scene until Christmas Eve. I've started my own little tradition with my family that we videotape the ritual of the kids singing "Happy Birthday" to Jesus in our Christmas Eve Mass finery as we place him in the barn with Mary and Joseph, the Wise Men, the angel and the animals. It's a great way to show the kids the true reason for the season -- that, more than anything, Christmas is about Christ's birth. It's also extra special for me because I'm lucky enough to be using a wooden nativity scene hand-crafted by my dear late Grandpa Strahler.

Well, last year, there was a bit of a snafu. We did our traditional trip to visit Shrek's stepmom Christmas Eve morning. Our trip ran a bit long, and we were in a hurry to get ready for our afternoon Mass, during which I sang with my family. When we got back home for a respite before the Christmas Eve party at my aunt's, Max was super whiny. He'd fallen asleep and woken up a bear, which isn't altogether out of the ordinary for him.

So we were hurrying a bit, gathering food, Christmas PJ's and the like, and I remembered we needed to do our traditional birthday party for Baby Jesus. Camera? Check! Kids in finery? Check! Baby Jesus.... Baby Jesus? Well, He was (and still is) easily viewable inside the glass window of the china cabinet. But, where was the key???

After a search, we found the key, broken into parts by one of the Roberts kids.

Sadly, there was no way to birth our very own Baby Jesus.... He was kept in limbo, the Blessed family waiting. And the Roberts family was sheepish. Poor Baby Jesus! To be stuck in the china cabinet on the night of his birth! To have the Wise Men ready with gifts and to miss His moment to shine!

But, then Max puked on his finery, Mammaw Donna offered to stay home with him and the rest of us went on our way for Christmas Eve tradition.

Annnndddddd? Well, It's been a year.

Baby Jesus is still in the china cabinet. We found a skeleton key that didn't work. But I hear a rumor that the local Ace Hardware has a skeleton key for sale. And today's mission, in an abstract thought in my brain, was to go buy that key and, hopefully, spring Baby Jesus.

Alas, the morning was busy, the afternoon a long choir practice, and then? I crashed. I felt green around the edges, landed on the love seat and didn't get up until I realized my kids were so hungry that even Colby was fetching his own string cheese out of the fridge. Shrek was away, hunting his one wife-allowed day of the "extra deer hunting weekend." (Really? REALLY?!?)

So, here I sit, thinking the Ace Hardware store might still be open, but unable to motivate enough to make that trip. But I will. And I hope it works. Because this is a new year, a new birth, and I want to reunite Baby Jesus with his Roberts nativity family.

I want to spring Baby Jesus! I want the Roberts birthday celebration tradition to resume.

I want to strive to keep Christ in Christmas as much as possible, and, for me, that means Baby Jesus making His miraculous appearance in the world and in my dining room nativity scene...

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

An Attitude of Gratitude

Tonight, I am trying to switch into recovery mode. I'm not gonna lie. The Monday/Tuesday/Wednesday loop of my life lately has been kicking my ass. I'm dragging in major ways. So what I'm thinking is this: I'm going to fake it until I make it. That is to say, I am sick of the waa-waa-waa-I'm-exhausted me. I like the calm, peaceful, grateful me so much more.

And so, tonight, I am writing a gratitude list to aid in my transformation back into the real me. In no particular order, I am grateful for:

1) The driver of the car that slowed rather than hitting me this morning after I made a really dumb split-second driving decision with all of my most precious cargo in the van.

2) The warm gas fireplace hissing in the corner of my living room and my beautiful live tree flashing from the other.

3) The early bedtime Dave and I have established for the kids. They go to sleep and are still tired by the end of the week, so we must be on target.

4) My Crock Pot that makes the M/T/W loop just barely possible. I often make breakfast, lunch and dinner at the same time in the morning on work days, which cuts down on the intensity of "the witching hour" of 5:45 p.m. or so when my hubby gets home with three hungry, tired kids. (I usually roll in around 6:15...)

5) My mother, who stopped in on her "break" between jobs today, called me and asked what she could start for supper because I had not had time for said Crock Pot this morning. (The beef and noodles hit the spot!)

6) The fact that all of my Christmas work is nearly done, given the second fact that I haven't seemed to be able to focus on it for more than twenty minutes at a time lately.

7) My husband finally changing my oil in the van tonight. He had to head back into work at 8 p.m., so it will be forever before he's back home, work and oil change complete....

8) My endless supply of fresh water, which I'm chugging all the time since I'm so thirsty. I really feel for these women in poor countries who are parched and pregnant, working in the fields up until delivery and then back in the field within days with newborns strapped to their backs. Really. And I think my life is tough. Give me a break. Or rather, give them a break, for pete's sake!!

9) I'm grateful for the option of sinking into a hot bubble bath with a cuppa dark chocolate cocoa after I finish this post. Although, come to think of it, my sleeping form in my bed sounds even better. And, really, who wants to read the headline, "Exhausted 8-months-pregnant mother of three drowns after slipping into bubble bath"?

10) And finally, I'm thankful for Roberts 4.0 kicking and growing like crazy. Kid, you're getting extremely heavy. I feel like I'm heading to the bathroom every thirty minutes just to get rid of a half cup of liquid, but you're worth it. You are worth it all.

There. Isn't that better? It really is. It's much better reading and writing than telling you how tired, disenchanted, sickly, comatose and indifferent I'm feeling right now.

For an added bonus, I'm going to add a photo sequence to make you laugh. Remember that gingerbread house? It is no longer....

I tell you, the gingerbread house came down much faster than it went up. But I daresay it brought as much joy.

And really, isn't that what matters most?

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Gingerbread Dreams

Lily and I were among the lucky women and girls in my family invited to the lovely home of my Aunt Dawn and her family today for a Gingerbread House Party. It really is a beautiful home (see Exhibit A above,) and a it's a joy to be a guest there.

Today's task was to celebrate Christmas in a crafty, delicious and creative way. Each girl, with an adult helper, decorated a gingerbread house. Any of you who know Lily know that this is her dream come true! She had a blast, and I had a blast helping her!

Not only did she get to eat sweets and make them into something beautiful, but she got to spend time with her cousin-sister, Julia, and other little girls in the family.

Her house turned out very sweet, complete with Santa waiting near the chimney, street lamps, a fruit-by-the-foot sidewalk and a lovely exterior Christmas tree.

We Strahler women also had several practice sessions in preparation of Christmas music performances we have coming up in the next two weeks. My only regret was not having a camera handy to capture the sweet little girl faces peering curiously into the room as we rocked out Amy Grant and Josh Groban songs as only a group of Strahler women can.

Thanks, Aunt Dawn, for your wonderful party talents and excellent hostess ability. We really enjoyed celebrating Christmas the way it should be celebrated: with family, good food, wholesome crafting and yummy treats!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Ebb and Flow

I had a marathon day yesterday, which seems to be par for the course lately. After getting Lily on the bus, dropping Max at preschool and doing some much-needed housework, laundry and cleaning of the van in the morning, I was a bit exhausted. I think sweeping out the van at 31 weeks pregnant in 22-degree temps might have been the kicker.

At any rate, I had time for lunch and a quick rest (no nap though) before picking up Lily early from school and shuttling all three kids to "well-child" check-ups. Colby, though, wasn't well. He's had a runny nose for months and started fevering up in the waiting room. Turns out he had another ear infection, but what better place to peak than in the doctor's office waiting room? (Good timing, little man!)

All three kids also had flu shots, which was NOT fun. But it's done now, and I'm glad!

Luckily, my aunt Karen met me after we finally got done at the pediatrician's office. I had an OB appointment (the one I had to reschedule upon arrival last week). She took the kids for ice cream and snacks while I consumed two whole magazines in that doctor's waiting room and finally got in to see my favorite doctor in the practice. (Thanks, Aunt K!)

With that out of the way, I returned to my spot as driver of the Mommy Express and drove out to my mom's for dinner. By the time I left there, I was seriously exhausted. When we got home, I was annoyed Shrek didn't seem to hear us come up the driveway and so didn't come help carry in.

Upon entering the house and dropping the fussy baby and the 645,643 other things in my arms, I said, "Next time, I'm going to lay on the horn so you'll come out and help me!"

Shrek's response? "Get over it!"

Oh man! Was I ever mad!!! This has got to be one of my least favorite things to hear him say. It's annoying as ^%$#, and I've decided I won't speak to him if and when he utters it. So I resolved last night that he wouldn't hear my voice again, at least not in deference to him. I huffed around, straightened the ever-in-need of straightening first level of the house, and then realized Colby needed meds and quick, before he fell asleep.

So I dosed him up with both ibuprofen and Omnicef as he sat on Shrek's lap. As I was headed back to the kitchen, I heard "Oh no! We've got a puker!" I rushed back in with the biggest cup I could grab, and sure enough! Colby was puking, a lot, on himself and on his daddy.

Karma bites! Poor daddy isn't as hardy as momma, and I could tell he was really wanting to flip out, but he couldn't. The two of us, faced the SECOND time in one week, with a predicament: puke all over the place and no one to help us but ourselves.

And then, just like the magic that it is, we were allies. His rude snap at me forgotten, my calm his only hope.

And that's marriage, or what marriage should be. It's being able to be mad without striking like a snake. It's being able to be civil, when civility is the last thing on your mind. And it's completely deserting your red-hot anger when you must: when one of your kids is puking, and there's no "i" in team. It's the ebb and flow.

And sometimes that ebb and flow is a long one: weeks or months of lukewarm, or even downright cold, relations and then - wham! - the love is back and better than ever. But sometimes that ebb and flow proves itself in seconds, as it did for us last night.

I'm happy to report the night wasn't as bad as it could have been. Colby is much better! I spent most of today taking care of the boys and doing a fair amount of lounging. Let me tell you something. I'm exhausted. Really. I'm so low-energy and short-of-breath today that I just might have a touch of that bug myself. But I think, more than anything, I'm just trying to catch my breath because I almost always push myself too far. I'm a hard-headed, busy-bodied perfectionist with the world to do. I will never be bored.

I am so glad it's the weekend. I'm ready to regroup.

But, more than that, I'm glad for my husband. He may not be perfect, and sometimes he's just a pain in the ass. But he's mine. And I am not letting go.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

I'm So Crafty...

I just saw this graphic on the Internet and couldn't help it. I had to use it!

I really am so crafty that I make people! All of my little people I've made so far are doing all right. Poor Max, I'm assuming with a weakened immune system from his recent surgery and fast, picked up that nasty stomach virus. It hit him at about 2:30 a.m. and was so bad that both he and daddy ended up taking showers! Meanwhile, I was on the floor with Clorox wipes and then a scalding hot bucket of bleach water. Unfortunately, I'd been up late creating a 2010 family photo book for Christmas (see, told you I was crafty!), so I'd had only a couple hours sleep. It was a long night. Luckily, I got one more burst of sleep between 5 and 7 a.m.: just enough for a nearly 8-month pregnant lady to function, I guess.

Alas, the emissions have stopped now, and, so far, there are no signs of other crafty little people (or big people) picking them back up. I really hope we're done with it.

And so, while there is more I'd like to write and do and even though I got a decent nap today, I must close. I must NOT continue to waste time on the Internet, try to catch up on my work, think of Christmas projects I just have to do tonight, familiarize myself with my new vidcam or even prepare for morning rush. Forget it! I'm going to bed.

(Dear Lord, please let me stay in it. Please keep those ickies away!)

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Deck the Halls

I've had a great weekend of friends, family, snow, shopping, decorating and getting reacquainted with my hunky husband. Life is so good, but I am exhausted.

So I'm going to serve you this photo of my loves in front of our decorated Christmas tree: today's biggest accomplishment. Thanks to my mom, I have a camera on loan to use until mine comes back from its second attempt at repair. (Thanks, Mom!)

Won't be long 'til Christmas, and we are almost ready! I hope to have at least a week or so to just relax and enjoy it!

Friday, December 3, 2010


I've come full-circle today. I woke up in a very different mindset and mood than I'm in now. I was moving in a fog. I was not myself. This week and its events all combined to make me feel a bit emotionally dead. Sounds terrible, but I think I was getting there. I have had trouble getting anywhere on time, trouble making decisions, trouble seeing the forest for the trees. I was a lesser version of myself, one that had been pushed, pushed, pushed. More than anything, I was on autopilot.

After I got Lil to the bus stop, readied the boys, cleaned a bit and and took off, late, to my OB check-up, I was told at the receptionist's window that the OB was stuck in surgery and I could either wait a long time or reschedule. I should have had some kind of reaction to this. But I remember thinking, matter-of-factly "Oh, of course, he's stuck in surgery. Of course, he can't see me." And I did have a fleeting thought of well wishes for the woman/women he was operating on, that all would be okay, that all had gone well. But, by and large, I didn't feel anything. I rescheduled, bundled the boys back up, ran a couple errands and headed home.

Oh, I also stopped at Tim Horton's for the second day in a row for a medium cafe mocha and Timbits. (Thank you, Tim. Sometimes, you are my only friend.)

I got home, gathered some packages, hit the Web for a quick break. And the boys played. They played so well together. The sun started to shine, and something let go of its hold on me. I felt the heaviness of the morning fading. I put on my shoes, picked up clutter throughout the house and proceeded to vacuum the hell out of it.

And cleaning is the right thing to do to bring me out of a funk, or lack of a funk, or whatever that ambivalence I felt can be called. I thought it and then posted it as my Facebook status: "When the going get tough, the tough get cleaning. (I am Erin, daughter of Deborah, daughter of Joanne.)"

I think it's just in my blood. It's what "my people" do. We feel the weight of the world, realize we can't change it all and then focus on shining up our corner of it as best we can. I may not be able to solve the world's problems, but I can solve my own. Or at least fight the paralysis they can bring.

So I shined up the place, ate a late lunch with the boys, caught a short nap and carried on. I hosted my mom, my sis and my sis' kids for dinner and then joined the "deer camp women" and children at a good friend's house to relax. It took a couple games of Catchphrase, some yummy snacks and three wine glasses full of cranberry ginger ale. Hours of self-reflection. By being gentle with myself and allowing time for the cloud to pass, I'm sitting here in a much different place.

I'm fine. This deer camp will go down in the record books, the girls and I will come up with an epic "dear" camp of our own. Moods will come and go. Packages will be lost and found. The world will go on, and so will I.

I'm happy to be back in the land of the living, to feel my blessings and to yearn, in earnest, for my warm bed. I'm thankful for my challenges, my ups and downs, my wisdom in being able to help myself to stay grounded but to not go under.

The mind is a powerful thing. And, thank goodness, so is a Kenmore sweeper...

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Hangin' In (30 Weeks)

Well, my husband has finally reappeared this evening, but will be leaving again very soon. It's been a long three days without him, but I'm hoping the next three will get better. I'm done with my work week, the house isn't too shabby and there's snow on the ground!!! (This, alone, makes me happy.)

I'm ready to try to relax a bit during the next couple of days, although I feel a need to tackle Christmas projects while I'm still feeling human. There have been times this week where I have NOT.

I'm missing my camera big time, and hoping it is waiting on me, along with about five other packages, at the post office in the morning. Sorry, Mr. Postman, I've been too busy to come 'round and collect my goods!

Truth be told, I'm pretty exhausted, but still upbeat, for the most part. I'm just checking in tonight. So let's take this as a raincheck-snowcheck?-for a better post later. Hopefully, with new, clear photos...


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