Wednesday, December 31, 2008


As I come out of another year living through yet another one of my child's first years, I look back and recognize another year of just trying to keep up, just trying to survive, just barely scraping by. With Landon being my fourth child, I've come to allow myself a little leeway in "the year after" characterized by no motivation, a messy house, disorganization, projects gone by the wayside, lack of any menu planning, and other nice "comforts" all for the hopes of trading it in for the basic essentials of sleeping, eating, nurturing (others that is) and the most important, sanity. But now that my baby's no longer an infant (can you believe it?), and a new year starts tomorrow, I am filled with new resolutions.

A friend and I have been trading emails recently on the subject of intentionality. We've mostly focused on discipline, but in parenting, and I would add all of life, intentionality is key. It's hard to be intentional in many things, never mind everything. It requires a steadfast awareness of your life and all that you're putting your hands to and all that your mind thinks. On a day-to-day or even minute-to-minute basis, it's near impossible to have that kind of focus all the time. I fear though that we (and most especially me in this past year) have lost all focus and have given up intentionality in our lives.

in-ten-tion, -noun:
1. an act or instance of determining mentally upon some action or result
2. the end or object intended; purpose
3. intentions,
a. purpose or attitude toward the effect of one's actions or conduct

b. purpose or attitude with respect to marriage (from which the above definition is taken from) has eight different definitions for the word intention including meaning or significance and an interesting last one: the person or thing meant to benefit from a prayer or religious offering. All that to say, living with intentionality means living with purpose. No more living reactively, but actively living. Living with intention means consciously knowing your thoughts and understanding your actions. It's seeing where your energy is directed and how your money is spent. Living intentionally has the potential to eliminate bad habits, wasted time, lazy parenting and poor stewardship. It's about living a disciplined life.

The disciplined life is certainly something everybody should strive for, but when you're knee-deep in laundry, toys and dirty diapers and your to-do list is longer than Santa's Naughty or Nice list, it's hard to see where discipline comes in except for the occasional time-out or other behavioral management tactics. But discipline comes after deciding to be intentional and is the action of being intentional. We all know the saying, "The road to hell is paved with good intentions." It takes more than intentions to live a life with purpose; discipline is what follows intentions.

So how will discipline help me in this new year? Back to my resolution... Becoming more intentional in my living. This will require a new diet for my soul. Though I look at myself in the mirror and see the need for a physical diet, I want to go deeper and change my daily nourishment in more significant ways. First, my media consumption needs to be stemmed. For me, this means less internet - it is my foremost addiction and time-waster. I am a voracious researcher, and the internet is my personal library, and thanks to email and facebook, it is also a big part of my social network. This is not altogether a bad thing, but if I don't have discipline over this area of my life, more important things fall by the wayside all in the name of research or faux socialization. Second, my quiet time will become more consistent; my nightly choice of reading will begin with the Bible as opposed to my sci-fi or historical novels. Plugging into the omnipotent, omniscient Power (no, I'm not talking about the world wide web) is the best and only thing I can do in becoming more intentional. "Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith..."* Third, becoming intentional in my life includes my duties as a homemaker, parent, teacher and wife. More consistent meal planning, home organization and in-depth homeschooling are goals of mine in the coming year. This includes much more focused time with the children, concentrating on bonding opportunities. I also look forward to more date nights out with my hubby!

Now I know I will not remain intentional through every precious second of this coming year. I will have my lazy days, my sick days, my tired days, and my "I-just-don't-want-to" days - there will be plenty of those! I will fail as a mother, wife and friend in the new year. I will not be the kind of Christian I want to be, and God will not always be proud of me. But a resolution is just that: a decision meant to spur us to action; to transform in little or big ways so our lives become changed, hopefully for the better.

*Hebrews 12:2a

Monday, November 10, 2008

My Election Day Experience

A close friend of mine worked the polls in Ward 2 in Portsmouth, NH this past Election Day, to protect against voter fraud. He got a call around noon to be on the lookout for a tall guy, curly hair, blue jacket, with a MA license who was giving a story about living with his mom in NH, who had just left Ward 1 and was headed to Ward 2 to vote again. Sure enough, about an hour later, the guy showed up, went to the registration table, plunked down his MA license, and registered to vote. My friend stepped in and challenged his ballot. They went to the moderator (the guy in charge) and said my friend had to fill out a form to challenge it. They went to get the form, brought him the wrong form, went to go get the right one, and in all the confusion and going back and forth, someone else gave this guy his ballot, and he voted.

So, despite being on the lookout for this guy, spotting him, and taking the appropriate steps, his vote got counted anyway. Twice. And there is no doubt in my mind that he left there to go directly to Ward 3, 4, 5, etc. to vote again and again.

The worst part is, I asked my friend what would happen now. I mean, we had this guy's sworn affidavit that he was a legit voter, and presumably several more from all the other Wards, we had his ID, we could collect all the duplicate sworn affidavits and he would get prosecuted for voter fraud, right? I mean, it's a FELONY, right? You guessed it, my friend said that the police did not have the resources to follow up on every guy like this, and no, the chances of him being prosecuted were about the same as the chance of McCain winning if he called for a recount. It just killed me that this happens, and will continue to happen, as long as there are no consequences for the violators.

To try to end on a somewhat happy note, another guy came in, with a CA driver's license that had a NH address on it (I have told this story many times, and am still waiting for someone to explain to me how you get a CA license with a NH address, but anyway...). Again, my friend stepped in and challenged this guys ballot too, and and the guys started hemming and hawing and weaving his tale, getting more and more agitated, and finally, in mock outrage, said "uhh...I...I...I feel intimidated, I'm leaving." and left without casting his ballot. Mark at least one small victory for the good guys.

It made me think a lot about our system, our democracy, and how worthy of protection it is. I am definitely going to be more involved next time around, hopefully doing the same thing my friend did, trying (not always successfully, but trying nonetheless) to secure free, accurate, trustworthy election results. Just casting my ballot is not enough for me anymore.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Birthday Party after Party after Party...

It's tough enough when it's just one person's birthday in this family - we not only have the private family birthday party on the actual birth day, but then there's usually an extended birthday party at Grandma's house and then very likely a birthday celebration with friends. And of course, this year you can't forget the small uneventful birthday celebration at preschool co-op (both boys attend once a week) which included yet another rendition of "Happy Birthday" and cupcakes. But when there's two birthday boys, it's another whole scenario. By the time October is over, we're about birthday'd out - sick of cake, weary of the birthday song, overwhelmed by children and ultimately tired of all things festive. And we're so happy to have another one to celebrate before Christmas arrives this year! :-/

This year's birthdays brought many great times for the boys though, and we do admit to having some fun through the whole process. Jayce's birthday was first, and for his special day, he chose to visit Cedarland AMAZEment Action Playcenter down in Haverhill, MA where they have a huge maze, slides, bounce house, sandroom, games, small indoor rides, and more. It was hugely entertaining to all the children, and since it was a Wednesday evening, we even had the place all to ourselves for the most part.

Reagan's birthday was a few days later, and he chose to go bowling which is always a fun, family-friendly activity that leaves me sore and feeling very old. But I did come in first and totally beat Mike so I guess it was worth it! :-)

The boys' official birthday party was held at The Children's Museum of NH where we had many, many families (did I mention many?) join us for a wonderful time of celebrating and then exploring the museum which was recently opened just a couple blocks from us. They have some great exhibits, and the boys had a great time with their friends.

This one's for you, Grandma Joyce!

Here's a video sample of the birthday party along with Reagan enjoying the museum. I've purposefully edited it with no nice background music so you can get a small glimpse into the chaos we've endured this month (lol):

And in the midst of all the festivities, we "celebrated" our 13th anniversary. (I put celebrated in quotes, because there really was no celebration to speak of what with all the other celebrations going on - I fear it will be like this for many years to come!) But, oh, the blessed joys of parenthood! :-)

Monday, November 3, 2008

Meeting Peter Tork

Peter played at the Chicken Bone in Mass. A fun little place filled with loud music and lots of people. Peter walked around and talked to people before he had to play while we sat and ate dinner...or what I tried to eat, I was too excited!

Peter played with his band, Shoe Suede Blues. They play mainly blues and rock with a mix of Monkees songs. Surprisingly, Peter played Auntie Grizelda and played Daydream Believer twice. Overall, I wouldn't mind owning one of Shoe Suede Blues cd's.

Anyway, I had a lot of fun. Peter signed autographs afterwards. I walked up to him, all smiles and just kinda speechless, but Denise helped me with that. :P After my card was signed, I started to give him a "polite" hug. Then he said, "No, no, let's hug hug like regular human beings." Then he gave me a real tight hug. He was so nice. I wasn't so nervous as with Micky. Well, two Monkees down, two to go...well, one, since Mike doesn't tour anymore. I should just go to California and track him down, ok I won't. It's highly unlikely they will have a reunion tour though. I think it'll be fun meeting Davy Jones who stands at 5' 3" boots.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

$6 for a Trail Map: Priceless.

Getting lost in the beauty of nature is great if you've planned it that way, if you have your pack of supplies to survive in the wilderness, and if you're prepared for whatever comes your way. However, getting lost in nature with your entire family with only a jackknife and a cell phone is a different story. And when your family includes a tired, cranky 4-year-old and the weight of a sleepy infant in a backpack carrier while traversing mountainous inclines...oh, and did I mention that while all this is happening, the sun is sinking inexorably toward the horizon?

Yesterday we headed up north to go see a waterfall, something Michael was intent on doing with his day off. I was all for a little adventure, albeit a family-friendly one, so I didn't mind in the least that we would drive 2.5 hours north, picnic in Conway and then head to Pinkham Notch where we would find the easy kid-friendly one-mile trail with its only boast of adventure being a small swift-running stream on our way to beautiful Glen Ellis Falls. It was a gorgeous sunny warm day, and our spirits were high. Unfortunately, the hike started off all wrong: though I questioned Michael's confidence in the direction he was leading us (Hon, maybe it would be a good idea to get a map?), we started on a trail that had the sensible name of Glen Boulder Trail. With a name like that, it only makes sense it would lead us to Glen Ellis Falls, right? Well, without a map, we couldn't tell that the trail we actually began hiking was a much longer, hazardous route with an unpronounceable name that eventually hooks up with the trail we initially thought we were on (though we never did get to the aforementioned intersection).

It started off nice and easy - the kids were enjoying themselves immensely. Jayce, being the Boy Scout wanna-be, was doing great as our "leader"; he insisted on being out front and leading us along the rocky trail that continued to rise up and up and up. With the highway always on our left, we knew with the noise of traffic that we couldn't get too far away from civilization. Our first clue to being on the wrong trail was when we hit a steep rocky incline that we all scrambled up while I grumbled, "This does NOT seem to be very family-friendly!" (In retrospect, that may turn out to be the understatement of the year.) About an hour into our hike, which seemed more like mountain marathon training, I finally listened to my gift of fear, as Mike likes to call it, and made everyone stop and assess our position as we clung precariously to the granite cliff face. We were about 1000 feet above the highway at this point with no clue where this trail led (OK, it was clear that it continued UP, a direction I was no longer interested in pursuing!). The sun was starting to set, Reagan was whining and tired, and I was concerned, to put it mildly. I began having visions of the police interviewing witnesses at the visitor center saying, "Yes, I saw a family of six enter the woods, but they didn't look as if they were going too far - after all, they had nothing but the clothes on their backs! Did you say they're missing? Oh, that's so sad."

Notice Jayce at top of climb
in Superman stance

The beauty at 1000 ft. up

After Mike put a call (who knew cell phones worked up there?) into the local sheriff's office to find out if they could give us some idea where the trail actually led (they were of no help, btw) and I put many calls into Heaven to ask God to get us all back to our car safely and securely, we decided to turn around and head back along the same steep, rocky trail. I was not thrilled about having to go back, but I was definitely not willing to continue going up a mountain trail with no end in sight; at least the steep, rocky trail was familiar. Mike earned a big red 'S' on his chest, as he scooped up Reagan in his arms, while still schlepping 30 pounds of baby and gear on his back and started scrambling back down the trail, leaping from rock to rock like a crazed mountain goat. We did actually make it out of the woods before darkness fell and found a map which not only helped us to see where we were and where we should have been (nowhere close!) but helped us to understand how many people die every year on their way up Mt. Washington due to sheer stupidity.

After our "brisk" exercise (thank goodness I skipped the gym that morning!), we decided to drive back to where Glen Ellis Falls was located and walk the 100 ft. down to the site. We sure as heck were going to see a waterfall after all that! It was beautiful, we got some good pictures and the kids enjoyed seeing their first waterfall, but in the end, I decided it just hadn't been worth it. {sigh}

Lessons learned: always pack for the worst when heading into the wild no matter how short or easy you think it will be, always have your cell phone on you (and pray it works!), and always, always, always have a map!

Signing off,
Crystal & Michael

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Meeting MD & the Big E

So, on September 11th, I headed out to my dad's house and eagerly awaited the day to come. Micky Dolenz was playing at the Big E in Mass and I couldn't wait. So the next day we (being my dad, Denise [my dad's girlfriend] and I) drove about an hour and a half to our destination. We drove right in and surprised there wasn't long lines for the Big E, although it was sprinkling, it was also the first day of Big E. We arrived there around 1:30ish, I don't really remember. I was sort of oblivious of time. Micky was playing at 3pm. We walked around, admiring how big this fair was...hence 'Big' E. Also realizing how many hot tubs could be sold in one place. Well, after a snack or two we sat down within the benches of people waiting for Micky to come out. This was all outside on a decent sized stage by the way. I looked around noticing most of the people who were there looked liked they watched the Monkees when they were kids or just old folks who wanted to enjoy some music. I'm pretty sure I was the only teenager there.
Before Micky came out, the cutest little girl sang a couple songs. Then the real show began. I had camera in hand. They introduced Micky as he ran out onto the stage.

He started off with "That was Then, This is Now". I've never been fond of 80's music, but it's Micky Dolenz so I didn't complain. The he did few other great Monkees songs such as "She", "Last Train to Clarksville", and "(I'm Not Your) Steppin' Stone". In between, he would tell us little things and would make a joke, which were pretty hilarious. Oh! His siter Coco was Also there, she sang "Different Drum" by Mike Nesmith. She was really good. It was fun to watch him and his sister together, you could tell they were close.

After the show, they announced that Micky will be signing autographs and taking pictures. I had no idea! But dad did and brought some trading cards for me to pick so Micky could sign. A little white tent off the right side of the stage Micky sat while people lined up to see him. We headed over there and by this point I was shaking like a leaf. It's like I had all-of-a-sudden-restless-body syndrome, I couln't stand still! I finally got up to the table. He said "Hey, Darlin'". I handed him my trading card, he took it and looked at it like he hadn't seen it before, then signed it. I then immidiately got into the picture line. Micky was very quick. After everyone had taken a picture with him, he waved goodbye and left.
Micky was playing again at 8pm that day. We stayed and walked around looking at vendors until two of Denises friends came to see Micky that night (they are Monkees fans too).

We all got front row this time, there weren't that many people there. I feel bad for Micky knowing that he used to have literally thousands of teenagers after him. Lol, I got my 10-year old cousin into the Monkees and she loves Davy. Anyway, we saw Micky play again, and we got his autograph again...and we..or more like I got my picture taked with him again. I was so excited!

On the way out, all of us stopped to see this cow entirely made out of butter. It was awesome.

My dad and Denise told me they're going to bring me to see Peter Tork, because next month on October 24th he will be playing in Mass. So, stop by next month to hear my story about meeting Peter!! This has definately been a Monkee-tastic year. :]

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Landon's Firsts


For the sake of far-away relatives and grandparents, we've decided to post a few pics and videos of Landon who continues to grow like a weed. (Actually, 'weed' does nothing to describe Landon as it conjures up images of long, lean growth, and Landon is growing more along the developmental lines of a baby whale.) He's quite the bruiser! Since there have been so many firsts lately (in one week, he learned how to crawl, sit up, kneel and even once pull himself up to a stand!), we thought you might be interested in seeing some of them here. So if you can get past the boredom of watching family videos, do enjoy the pictures and videos of him...

First feeding at around 7 months

Mike picked up the camera to tape Landon falling asleep (or trying to anyway). Why are videos of babies falling asleep so cute and funny??

Bath Time

Here he is rockin', rollin' and clappin':

Hangin' by the Pool

With Lauryn behind the camera, Landon "crawls"...

Hammin' it up...

Landon hip-hoppin':

Our Smiley Guy

And now for the pièce de résistance...

Landon's Silly Face

The Ortlieb Family

*We will be posting individual postings on the other children as well so watch for them soon!

Friday, September 5, 2008

The Great Debate

Recently, a friend of mine started a debate on facebook that I couldn't resist in joining. With a couple of months before presidential elections, you might think it has something to do with politics. Or both of us being women of faith, you might think it's about religion. But alas no, neither of those factor into our debate (though possibly by the end of things, they will). Rather we have hit upon the Dunkin Donuts vs. Starbucks debate. Just in googling DD vs. SB, a gajillion sites come up with titles like "Coffee Wars" and "Battle Brews". Apparently, this debate strikes a cord with all coffee drinkers everywhere, and people become very passionate about their preferences. In my research, the two monster corporations look remarkably similar, at least, on paper. Their target audience is a bit different though.

"What separates us from other experiences is the extra care we take to create an all-encompassing experience for your coffee moment," says Brad Stevens, vice president of marketing for Starbucks.1

"We're for the people who lead very busy lives, with places to go and things to get done," says Frances Allen, brand marketing officer for Dunkin' Donuts. She adds, "Our customers are not really there to sit and relax and read a newspaper and spend an hour over latte."1

Another difference would be where they obtain their coffee beans and at what price they sell them. Both seem to have high quality beans and both use [some] fair-trade coffee, but "
Starbucks always known for its environmental friendly attitude has made the growing of coffee beans into a cause."2 And anyone who has been to both locations for coffee knows about the price difference. DD beverages cost about 20% less than Starbucks'. Taking a quick look at both nutritional information charts (DD's & SB's), both offer beverages with similar caloric counts. But what strikes me as polar opposite between the two companies is the origin. DD started as a small coffee and donut shop in Massachusetts (very American) while Starbucks started in Seattle with inspiration taken from the old Italian coffee bar tradition offering Espressos and Cappucinos.2

"It tastes like a crappy cup of coffee...
it is a crappy cup of coffee."

"No! It's the world's BEST cup of coffee!" ~ Elf

Anyway, enough about statistics, origins, retail prices... This really comes down to individual tastes. Though I am a tried-and-true, "blue-blooded" New Englander hailing from the state where DD was born, I prefer Starbucks. Personally, I don't appreciate the burnt coffee-scented toxic fumes that drift out of every DD I pass by. I also find SB's customer service to be top-notch, and as far as the exorbitant price, I've received enough free drink offers from SB (thanks to that great customer service) that I consider it a horse apiece compared with DD. Before you label me a traitor however, know that I do not consider myself a coffee connoiseur. I don't drink coffee everyday nor do I look to it as my drug of choice for energy, speed, etc. In fact, I drink decaf. Worse, I drink flavored decaf - nothing akin to black coffee in any way, shape or form. So when I take the time to brew my own coffee from home or am looking to get a quick cup of coffee from a drive-thru, essentially I am looking for a yummy, relaxing, dessert-in-a-cup kind of coffee. I do not consider myself to be the average joe leading a crazy, busy life for whom DD is looking to serve. I am not a utilitarian coffee-drinker. If I have the opportunity to sit and relax with a book while drinking an exquisite (and yes, expensive) frou-frou drink, then I will take it in a heartbeat. My coffee experience is just that - an experience. I totally understand and sympathize with those who don't have time for a date with their coffee - and why I only find time to drink coffee outside the home a couple of times a month.

And with all that said and debate aside, while at home, I actually purchase and brew Gevalia
coffee as they were nice enough to give me a free coffeemaker.

P.S. Please indulge my curiosity and take the poll regarding DD vs. SB on the left-hand side of this page. It'll be fun to see what the results will be!

2.Taken from and condensed from

Monday, September 1, 2008

12 Feet - Takes Up More Space Than You Realize

Over the years as our little family has grown and been added to, we've recently come to a certain realization of how much we've actually expanded. I know that society-at-large has already figured out that we have a "large" family just by the looks we got when I was pregnant with Landon. Anytime I mentioned this was not my first excursion into motherhood but my fourth, I started seeing the "crazy" looks - you know, that look that clearly tells you they think you're crazy and have you ever heard of birth control? I would expect that maybe a 5th or 6th pregnancy would warrant that kind of reaction, but I guess with 'the average family with children' consisting of 1.86 children, a 4.0 seems a bit high...and not as admired as one's GPA.

Anyway, as we have morphed into a 4-child family, we have had to rearrange our minds for all that that entails. The kind of space we take up, food we eat up, resources we use up, etc. has been a clear indication of how many more people make up this family than I am used to. Examples of this are: one pizza no longer feeds our entire family; a 1000 sq. ft. house can only hold so many beds, toys, books and baby stuff; our minivan is almost full to capacity; our crawl space storage is four times too small (thank God for friends with large barns!); four chairs plus a booster chair does not equal six around the dinner table. So the other day when I had to order two more chairs to fit around the table, it struck me how much larger my family is than I've made room for! I actually have a hard time remembering we are a six-person family. Of course, when you factor in the medical evidence of brain-shrinkage per pregnancy, I guess that's not so surprising.

I know that as the children continue to grow and become even bigger consumers, I will have to continually adjust my expectations as well as our budget. When the boys are each eating their own large pizza, I will look back fondly and remember when two pizzas were enough to feed our entire family. Such is the life of a bigger-than-average family...

Friday, August 22, 2008

My Life In A Blog

So here I am again! NTS camp was awesome! I had stayed in a dorm with two other buddies and had a schedule everyday, but didn't feel overwhelmed at all. In fact we had a lot of free time. I got to meet some great bands, like the Tommee Profitt Band and Group1Crew.

Every morning and night we would have worship music lead by Micah. We had team competitions three times during the week, it was so hot outside. We were the Gold/Yellow Team, I got tons of complements on my yellow top hat!

Also, I went to Soulfest this year for the first time. I got to see Ten Shekel Shirt and Jars of Clay, but TobyMac was the highlight of the evening.

I think this year has been the most adventurous for me. I've been to Arizona for the first time in March, I went to New York for the first time, I've met two bands that I love, tonight I'm going to see Entrain, tomorrow, I'm going to see Brian Regan and on September 12th I'm going to see Micky Dolenz!! (YEE!) My life is usually not as exciting as this. I'm enjoying summer while it lasts. Oh, but I do love fall until the first snow fall. I get all warm inside just thinking about hot apple cider and cider doughnuts...mmm. Anyway I must go, it's lunch time for me and I'm missing What Not to Wear!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Convenience - the current American Idol?

I've been thinking a lot about environmentalism/conservationism lately (it's hard not to do so these days!) and mulling over my options, I guess you would say. In the world today, we have so many options to "save the world", but they all seem to have a price tag attached (literally and figuratively). We have energy-efficient hybrid cars, cloth diapers, natural medicine and homeopathy, alternative forms of energy, more earth-friendly materials, recycling programs, organic food, local farmer's markets, etc., etc. But most of these wonderful alternatives have cost us and will cost us thousands, if not millions, of extra dollars. So many of my friends have sacrificed certain things in their budget in order to afford to shop organic or take advantage of energy alternatives. And none of these seem to be very ummm....convenient. Take cloth diapers, for instance - certainly not as convenient as sticking a disposable diaper onto a baby and a few hours later being able to simply throw it away without another thought. Convenience has become quite an idol in today's society, it seems. And I'll be the first one to admit it is certainly one of mine. It's much more convenient to do my one-stop shopping at my local Walmart superstore than visit the local farmer's market every week (which coincidentally is conveniently located right down the street from me) and the local dairy farm to purchase my milk and eggs. It's way more convenient to load all my groceries from said Walmart into plastic bags to tote home with me (and promptly throw away) rather than purchase earth-friendly tote bags to use every time I go shopping. Isn't it more convenient to just take a pill to cure some disease than actually lead a healthier lifestyle with exercise and diet (I won't even get into diets right now!)? Is preventive medicine easier and more convenient than reactionary medicine? Of course not! Let's sue Mickey D's for the "food" (I use that term loosely) they make rather than just choosing not to eat it! I'm sure it's more convenient for the US to keep buying oil from overseas rather than researching and implementing more and different alternative energy resources.
There is nothing so easy but that it becomes difficult when you do it reluctantly.*
Not being environmentally conscious up until now has come with a considerable price tag as well and has helped get us into this place, the veritable rock and hard place. Convenience is our god, and we keep throwing all of our money and common sense into the mouth of this god. Unfortunately, this god is an unfeeling, greedy, unmerciful god who keeps everything and gives nothing. Diverting some of our money to things not-so-convenient may be a small step, but it is significant overall. So I've been trying to get out more to the farm and buy local at the farmer's market. I not only see this as helpful to the environment, but it's healthier for my own family. I'm just starting to work on the idea of not being so dependent on plastic (why? you may ask - that's another topic for a different day) and looking into alternatives for disposable diapers (bad past experiences prevent me from committing to cloth just yet), but I like using naturopathic doctors and homeopathic treatments, trying out new all-natural drugstore products (natural deodorant is my newest thing which is amazing to say the least as I've always been an antiperspirant girl, but so far so good) and enjoying being a Mothering magazine mom. I don't know if it's the age (in my thirties), the life stage (being a mom) or the fact that the world seems to be getting crankier with our treatment of her, but I don't think we can afford to let convenience reign supreme. After all, we were given orders from the beginning of creation to take good care of her, and no matter how much I search, God never mentions convenience.

* Terence, Roman comic dramatist (185 BC - 159 BC)

Thursday, July 24, 2008

What Would Martha Do?

What is it about the human condition that it's only when we come to our wit's end about something is when we actually do something about it? This week I've admitted to having the "House Blues" - you know, that state of living when you wish you put your house on the market "as is" with everything still in it so you can just walk away scot-free? I would love someone else to come in on a regular basis and clean my house (what do they call those people? Oh, right, maids...), but it goes beyond that now. I've come to a startling realization actually: I can be as creative, organized and systematically clean as the next Martha Stewart (ok, I may be stretching that a bit), but my children are no mini-Marthas. In fact, I believe if you were to look "children" up in the dictionary, the definition would read something like, "little whirlwinds of destruction and chaos." Anyone remember a character by the name of Taz in Bugs Bunny cartoons? Ok, well the real definition is "a person between birth and full growth." Hmmmm...why does that sound like a lot of us? Anyway, I think that defines them perfectly! So no matter what the state of my house soon after a thorough cleaning and organization spree, it is dirty and unkempt ten minutes later. I have thrown up my hands, retreated into a state of denial and ended up living as much as possible in the cleanest corner of my house just for peace and sanity's sake. After living like this for a couple of weeks or so (you can only go so long like this before needing some heavy duty sedatives to continue the denial), I've come to another realization. Simplicity is best. Ok, I actually knew that before, but simplicity in this case means getting rid of stuff - lots of stuff! Mainly toys at this junction as it is my biggest nuisance. If we're not crunching something under our bare feet or vacuuming something up, the visual clutter it creates is enough to start looking for some Paxil (no, I don't have any, but it doesn't keep me from looking sometimes). So this week has been major clean-up week. The boys don't yet know that all the toys they see in boxes and bags are not actually staying in the house, but they do know something is afoot (no pun intended). And after explaining where these toys will end up (in other deserving children's arms), I don't think they'll mind too much (or at least for very long). And peace and sanity can once again reside in the Ortlieb home.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Single-Parenting and Saturdays

So after having a conversation last night with my girlfriends (yes, this is Crystal writing, NOT Michael! lol), I realized how much single parenting has been a part of my life up until now. And though I would not compare my lifestyle over the past 16 years of my life with a single mom raising her children on her own, I can definitely feel her pain. I started off raising Lauryn on my own up until she was 3.5 years old when Michael and I got married (and have you ever dealt with a 2 year old on your own with no end in sight??). But even after the wedding, Michael was on a four days on/three days off schedule at a children's group home in Portsmouth - the same schedule he had when we were dating. This essentially meant we had a weekend relationship. It was tough, but after finding a job elsewhere with more normal hours, things started to settle down a bit. And then Boston entered the scene - the big, fabulous city of Beantown full of multiculturalism (Chinatown a couple blocks away, the North End on the other side and the Irish - oh, those Irish! And don't forget the Mexican shop in the building where Mike brushed up on his Spanish.) with a college-town air and Patriot-pride (yes, Red Sox and Celtic pride as well). Michael really enjoyed working in Boston, however that meant a very long commute with very little time at home. It got even worse once he decided to enter law school, working a full-time day job and attending full-time school at night.

Three years and two baby boys later, Michael found himself finally working closer to home, in fact only a couple blocks from our house, and enjoying the proximity to his family. I can't begin to tell you how much we enjoyed it! It was the first time the boys were actually able to spend some quality time with him and get to really know him. After graduation from law school, he was once again looking for a job and was forced to make the return to Boston. After some temporary assignments down there, Michael finally "set up shop" in Hampton recently as an attorney with his good friend and associate, John. And he is loving it!

Thirteen years into our marriage with a house, a dog and four kids, this is the first time we feel Mike's presence on a more permanent basis. Landon is the first baby able to enjoy and get to know his father daily, and the older boys are very attached to him and enjoy playing cards, games, sports, etc. (which is certainly not a hobby of their mother's) with him immensely. They look forward every night to Mike's arrival, and Mike is experiencing what our world looks like at 5:30 instead of 7:30 pm (a very different world indeed and sometimes possibly to Michael's chagrin!). It's an amazing feeling to have a husband who comes home now on a nightly basis and helps with supper or plays with the kids, gives the kids a bath or puts them to bed; someone who can pick something up from the store in time for supper or have time to repair something around the house before bedtime (thereby leaving our weekends a little bit freer); the ability to go out for a date night weekly or even a girls' night out for me; someone to share in the responsibilities of parenthood, home ownership and life in general.

Those who know me and see or talk to me frequently would say it hasn't seemed too hard on me, and I would agree that one gets used to what one is given - essentially, you do what you have to do. But I would be wrong if I said I never had moments of sorrow or heartache when I saw other families able to eat dinner together on a nightly basis or able to take walks through the neighborhood together or when my own children wondered where their father was or asked incessantly when Daddy would be home ("On Saturday, Honey."). I'd fear those times when I or the children would be sick or got hurt and it was just me to take care of everybody or dread those hellish days when nobody was happy or cooperative and it's just me in charge. It has been tough, but you tend to not realize it until certain moments - moments when you just lose it and want to jump a plane to Bora Bora. And when things finally do get better and you find yourself on the other end of the long tunnel, you wonder how you ever got along alone without help. I have to say I've been blessed in regards to the community around me who have helped to remind me that I have never been and never will be alone. They have been with me through lonely days, crazy busy days, chaotic hellish days and even labor, delivery and postpartum days. They have cleaned and organized my house, taken care of my children and cooked us meals. They have offered Michael and I support, security and encouragement time and time again. Thank God for family and friends!

I certainly don't want to give the wrong impression that my husband was never there for us or unable to provide us with the essentials - love, food and shelter. It's really quite unbelievable what he's been able to accomplish the last few years while being a full-time employee, student and husband and father. I couldn't be any prouder of him, and he continues to prove to me what an amazing individual he is. I think that's what made us miss him so. I'm just saying my heart goes out to all those who are single parents or married to military personnel - I really don't know what you do in order to survive, but I do know how: you do what you have to do. And you just hope that's enough.

Friday, July 11, 2008

'Ello Friends!

As you can see I added some of my most favorite blogs. For those who know me well, you could probably guess the Velvet Strawberries one is my favorite. I absolutely love her website!
Anyway, I just wanted to say that I will (hopefully) be keeping up to date with new and exciting things happening in my life, for example I am going off to NTS camp next week! I'm quite excited...except for the 10-hour bus ride there and back (without my most precious ipod!) I don't know if I can handle a week without listening to the Beatles or Monkees. Speaking of Beatles, I recently fell in love with their song Real Love. Heard of it?? It's pretty good. But, I could have a million things more to type about music, and feel like I have a million things on my mind at the moment. Here are my (mostly random) thoughts:
  • When am I finally going to finish that skirt and blouse??!
  • How many more vintage hats do you think could fit in that tiny room of mine ?
  • I really need to stop biting my nails.
  • Where in the world am I going to go to college?
  • Were you ever scared of going to college or even driving??
So, it was actually fun typing my first post, and hopefully there will be more to come. And I hope this wasn't too boring or got you confused, because I tend to do that to people. Oh, and here is a picture of my new haircut for those who haven't seen it yet... Yours truly,

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Surprise Sweet 16!

This past weekend we celebrated Lauryn's Sweet 16. Now it was a bit belated as she actually turned 16 in April. "Why two months later?", you may ask. Well, I wanted it to be a huge surprise for her as well as warmer, nicer weather than what we usually get in April which is pretty cold and windy most years. It started off with asking Lauryn whether she wanted a big party for her 16th or a nice gift. She chose the gift which ended up being a very nice digital piano. She was ecstatic and has since been playing Monkees songs, Harry Potter songs and whatever she can play by ear. However she bemoaned the fact every now and then that she never received a party. What she didn't know was that I had started planning her birthday party about a month before her actual birthday.

I knew I wanted to do something special for Lauryn for her Sweet 16 party, but I just couldn't figure out what. Like most absolutely brilliant ideas, it struck me from out of nowhere that it should be a Jane Austen-themed party. Her current favorite movie is Pride & Prejudice with Kiera Knightly, and non-reader that I always imagined her to be, she even picked up the book and started reading it, early 19th century English language and all. So it was settled. Now for the actual details...

Per the motto of professional real estate agents everywhere, it's all about location, location, location. So where to have the party? I started researching the local area which is chock-full of historical properties to see if there was something remotely like a regency-style home. What I didn't realize is that in America there was no such thing as a Regency Era. But finding a home built in the 1700's was not too hard around here, and so we settled on a beautiful Georgian mansion called the Moffatt-Ladd House in Portsmouth, NH. Now that the place was booked, I worked on researching the fashion of the period and then scoured ebay for months looking for the perfect (and hopefully, inexpensive) regency-style gowns. I succeeded with the perfect part of the goal (not always the inexpensive), and I couldn't wait to see the girls in them!

I was not expecting to be able to keep the party a surprise so successfully. After so many phone calls making plans, emails to/from friends' parents and friends speaking to and emailing Lauryn, I thought maybe this was going to be a tough one to keep quiet. After all, Lauryn is homeschooled and here most of the time. It wasn't easy to plan with Lauryn in the same house. One of Lauryn's friends who lives in Arizona made the delightful decision to join us for the weekend. So on Friday, Bri showed up and absolutely shocked Lauryn.

Coincidentally, the post came at the same exact time as Bri, delivering Lauryn's invitation to her own party with the included schedule of Events:

Schedule of Events


4 pm - Arrival
5 pm - Dinner
6 pm – Evening entertainment
Late – Retire to sleeping quarters


10 am – Break our fast
11 am – Vintage
Millinery Arts
12 pm – Light afternoon lunch
3 pm – Take te
a at Moffatt-Ladd House, Portsmouth
5 pm – Tour
Maria Tufton Haven Ladd’s Home
6:30 pm – Bid Farewell to Friends

Regency-style dresses will be provided for you for the day, but please do bring your most favored flat dress shoes to wear to the party as it is only fitting to be in our finery as we visit and take tea.

This was the official start of the party.

The rest of her friends showed up a couple of hours later, and they had a blast picking out and trying their regency dresses. After that, they all created custom-made bookmarks (going with the whole book theme of Jane Austen) and then tried to play Pride & Prejudice the board game. I say "tried" because it was so confusing and complicated that after about 20 minutes of "play", they gave up, and that was ok because it was dinner time anyway where we ate pizza followed by opening gifts then singing "Happy Birthday" while Lauryn blew candles out on her "topsy-turvy hat cake" created by our dear friend, Jill. The evening ended with our must-have movie, Pride & Prejudice followed by a sleepover where most everyone took part in the traditional way of curling their hair by rag curling.

Saturday morning started off with strawberry and chocolate crepes and then a hat decorating session to match their dresses (we called this Vintage Millinery Arts). The girls were brilliantly creative, and their hats came out wonderfully! They then proceeded to prepare for the upcoming tea party by getting dressed, doing their hair and looking very Bennett-like.

Arriving at the Moffatt-Ladd House, the girls stepped into a garden wonderland tucked into the middle of Portsmouth. A beautifully decorated table with teacups, china, wrapped favors and edible delicacies awaited them. We were greeted by beautiful English country music played by Erin's dad (with the flute) and dad's friend (with the hammer dulcimer).

With my extraordinary talent for making it downpour on all outdoor events I plan, I had been praying all week for good weather with no rain. Being the end of June, we certainly did not expect very cold temperatures. We were right across the street from the water so we were continually misted by a very cold sea mist, but at least it didn't rain! The tea party was hosted by a local tea caterer who specializes in storytelling such as reciting the history of tea or talking of local folklore as in ghost stories. Since Lauryn and I love to watch Ghost Hunters together, I chose this program of ghost storytelling while we sipped hot maple tea. Yum!

The girls' party favors consisted of brown paper-wrapped books (all authored by Jane Austen, of course) adorned with ribbon and paper fans. They had fun learning about "Fan Language" and practiced how to "say" things with their fans. Food consisted of chicken vegetable braid (recipe by Pampered Chef - Lauryn's favorite), fruit and cinnamon chips with chocolate mousse dip (also by PC), cucumber w/dill cream cheese sandwiches as well as apple boursin tea sandwiches and last, but not least, strawberry-banana punch. Also served was orange ginger scones, lemon fruit tart, chocolate-covered strawberries, chocolate ganache cake and a variety of yummy teas. Everything was delectable!

My dear friend Raluca who is a professional photographer had fun taking the girls pictures throughout the garden. After our tea party, we were happy to escape inside to the warmth of the Moffatt-Ladd House where we were taken on an interesting guided tour of one of the oldest mansions in Portsmouth.

This party was such a wonderful and exciting event to create and plan. Everyone directly and indirectly were so excited to be involved. The girls commented on this being one of the best birthday parties they had ever been to, and I know Lauryn will never forget it. A big thank you goes out to Erin for all her help and creativity as well as Jill for making such wonderful and yummy cakes. Thank you Raluca for making everyone look even more beautiful through the lens of your camera. Thanks to Bri for flying out and visiting for the short weekend - Lauryn's face was priceless when she saw you. Thanks to Greg and RP for playing music fit for even Mr. Darcy. Thanks to Roxie for an enchanted (and slightly spooky) tea party. And thanks to Stephanie and all those at Moffatt-Ladd who so generously allowed us to come and pretend for a day. Lauryn and I will be forever grateful for everyone who made this a birthday weekend to remember.

One cannot have too large a party.
~ Jane Austen