Saturday, December 31, 2011

winter break blogging, chapter ten, which just happens to be a top ten

... in which the author goes five for five on a yearly tradition, indulging in her love for lists.

My love for lists is apparent to anyone who knows me, and the first year that I really began blogging, I had the grand idea to make my own version of a Top Ten list at the end of December. What began in 2007 was repeated in 2008, and so when December 2009 came around, it seemed criminal not to continue the tradition. Back in 2010, the fourth annual list was written, and today I'm compiling the list for 2011. Without further ado...

The Top Ten Things that I Liked, Laughed At, Smiled About, or Generally-Remember-in-a-Fond-Way of 2011. 

10. Who am I? I'm a mom/blogger/writer/reader/teacher.
The year 2011 will be remembered mostly by me as a year of significant transition. I spent the first half of the year babysitting regularly and managing my tasks as family CEO while the coming changes loomed in the background. All summer, there was a feeling of dread in the pit of my stomach whenever I thought about how drastically life was going to change. Come August, I was crying regularly and my fear of change brought upon the very first panic attack I've ever experienced. (And damn, hopefully my last, because that was a doozy, I tell ya.) How in the world does this fit on a list like this, you must be asking? Well, after four months of this new round of life back to teaching preschool, I think I've finally found some balance, and that is enough to make me smile a little, at least. I'm not living the life I want to live forever, sure. But, for now, I'm happy to say that I'm still a blogger. I'm still a book reviewer. I'm still contributing to a fabulous site of local bloggers. And, I'll even be starting a new writing gig in the new year. I'm also a pretty darn good teacher, too, if I do say so myself.

9. Well, if you want my opinion...
I don't carry any illusions of grandeur that there are masses of people out there hanging on my every word here, but 2011 saw several opportunities being presented for me to act like a big time blogger and get some products and experiences for review-- from a fabulous day at Sesame Place to a couple of DVDs and movies for watching, from a few new and fun games to play tTo a live performance or two, and even more. I love that I've made some contacts at some great PR groups, and the offers that are sent are usually so perfectly tailored to my family's interests and experiences. And, there's that whole bit about sharing my opinion, which I think I have an innate talent for...

8. A girl could get used to this kind of treatment!
I'm not sure if anyone was aware of this, because you know, I didn't make too big a deal out of it, but back in March, I took a teeny little trip by myself and had a big of an exciting experience, that may or may not have involved a peck on the cheek from a shockingly charming celebrity. (Okay, it did indeed involve that, and it was the highlight of the weekend!) As a representative for 5 Minutes for Mom, I had the thrilling experience of attending a special junket for bloggers after previewing the movie before its theatrical release. And yes, that tall, thin, and charismatic man standing next to me is the (soon-to-be single again) Russell Brand, and yes, he is the celebrity who planted one on my right cheek, causing my entire face to turn beet red and the rest of the women in the group to squeal the very same words I had uttered to him moments before. (In case you ever meet him, try telling him you think he's hilarious and see what happens...) My trip and the requisite coverage on the movie and its stars appeared in a grand total of six posts on my blog, 5M4M, and 5 Minutes for Books. The links are at the end of this first post, if you're feeling like reading about the most incredibly surreal weekend of my life.

7. The press pass makes its joyful return.
After the extreme sadness of last year, I planned early to ensure that this year's National Book Festival wouldn't get overlooked on the September calendar. And what a fabulous time it was. Though we didn't get to take advantage of the new two-day format and I opted out of any interview opportunities, we did have some fun times on Saturday listening to authors and buying a few books. Then there was the meeting of the redheads, when Red became new BFFs with Julianne Moore, and the heart-stopping moment when I was only a few feet away from Mr. Tomie dePaola himself. Oh, for the love of books, what a wonderful thing this festival is! 

6. Laughter makes the hours go by.
A lovely feature of our school is that each classroom has two teachers, and this co-teaching model has so many benefits for the teachers and the students. For much of my previous stint working there, I taught with the same person, for seven years in fact, and it was a match made in educational heaven. I was quite anxious about returning to teach with someone different this year, but one thing became apparent very soon. My new co-teacher and I can laugh and laugh, and this has come in handy on a regular basis when otherwise I would want to spend any moment of downtime during the day shedding a tear or banging my head against a wall. I'm happy to sit at our respective spots during naptime and joke around about the wackiness that is our workplace! 

5. A graduation, a family vacation, and an anniversary make for a very merry month of May.
My beautiful and incredibly smart stepdaughter graduated high school in Florida in late May this year, and all the stars aligned for us to take an extended, two-part vacation down there as a whole family. We were able to spend some relaxing time with her, witness the beauty of the Gulf's Emerald Coast, and enjoy the thrills of a resort that had five different pools to choose from. I was so happy to be a part of this wonderful occasion, and I did shed a tear or two when she walked out onto the grass with her graduating class. 

4. Howdy, camper!
With our camping supplies steadily building over the last year and a half, we happily packed it all up for one big trip this year, even opting to be a little wild and crazy and leave a day earlier than planned. Cape Henlopen has quickly become our go-to camping place, after our dear friends have included us in their annual group camping trip two years in a row. (I'm keeping my fingers crossed that we get called back for next year, too!) It's so easy for me to relax there, completely contrary to what I predicted before our first family camping trip in 2010. This year, we joyfully piled into our big old tent, and built fires that were so very hot, and got so dirty it took a week for our feet to be fully clean again. I honestly can't wait until it's warm enough to go in 2012! 

3. He's a complete clown, and he's received plenty of training, too.
JAM was lucky enough to attend another session of the most unique summer camp our town has to offer- Circus Camp! There, he spends his days with the most awesome "counselor" around, a man who all of our children adoringly call Circus Greg. Circus Greg is the perfect adult to work with JAM- patient, understanding, and encouraging- and JAM has the utmost respect for him. Three two-week camp sessions, a few one-day mini-camps, and even a couple of parent/child circus class sessions are now under JAM's belt, and I know that these are the highlights of his year. I can't wait until Red and Pudge are old enough to attend, too, for our entire family is certainly made for the circus! 

2. School days for everyone!
My return to the working world coincided (not coincidentally, of course) with the beginning of both Red and Pudge's school careers. They are both attending the school where I teach, Red in kindergarten and Pudge in his first year of preschool, and though the beginning of the year was a bit rocky for all of us, they are now both absolutely loving it. Between a curricular approach that is allowing them to learn through hands-on experiences and a whole lot of play and a fabulous social environment, these two have blossomed in their own incredible ways these last few months. Red is beginning to read and write independently, and Pudge could stand at the door of the school all day long greeting one hundred or so children by name. It's an amazing thing to be able to see them in this world throughout the day, and I'm so, so grateful for their experiences. 

1. Time away, you say? We'll say okay!
This year allowed for a few more times away for hubby and me. A night out with friends here and there was nice, and during our trip to Florida, we were even offered free babysitting for a night so we could go out with hubby's daughter and her boyfriend on our thirteenth wedding anniversary. The biggest bit of time away came in July when my wonderful mother-in-law and father-in-law came to stay at our house with the three wackadoos, while hubby and I jetted off to Pennsylvania to live like college kids in a big old house filled with a bunch of other folks, several kegs and a whole lot of fun. There was swimming without anyone clinging on to me, there was hot tub sitting without anyone whining for a turn, and there was alcohol consumption without any worry of having to take care of little ones' needs. Just hanging out with hubby in a low-key environment for a few days was amazing, and we're already looking forward to this coming July when we get to do it all over again.
Okay, it's easy enough to ignore the frustrations and challenges of the year when compiling a top ten reel of highlights. Life around here is never all sunshine and rainbows, that's for sure, but it definitely feels good to reminisce on some of the happy times when the year comes to a close. May 2012 bring an abundance of joy, a wealth of laughter, a heap of peace, and a ton of love to us all!

Ready to raise a glass of champagne,