Tag Archives: gifts

And That’s a Wrap

From Family 2011

I’ve gone more than seven months without blogging here. Gee, you’d think life has been stressful or something…

Gladly, the stress in our home has been mostly distributed among the adults. Micah and Sophie are happily unaware of the majority of our family stress, although I’m sure they feel it from time to time, especially on days when Rochelle and I are not at our best.

Regrettably (and gladly, I suppose), we are aware that a huge source of unnecessary stress in our home comes from clutter, disorder and excess physical belongings. They distract from our spiritual needs, they cloud our thinking, and they impart their chaos to our thoughts. I’ve been aware of this growing problem for many years now, but only recently has it become so acute that I began contriving a solution and countermeasures.

As long as I can remember I’ve had a fondness for simplicity, a longing for a concise collection of belongings that could be easily transported, sorted and organized. Of course I haven’t always lived that way very well. I tend to hang on to things that I may need one day. Just in case. I love to be prepared, but preparedness isn’t about excess, it’s about necessary necessities.

I remember with great fondness my mission time in Mexico and my time living in small spaces as a student at SCAD. Moving from place to place required no more than a couple of hours to pack, and most (if not all) of my belongings could be carried by me alone. I sorely miss that mobility, and now my goal is to get my entire family into a position where we know what we own, why we own it, and how each item of our belongings is essential to our goals and priorities.

This will be a slow process, and one that I hope to share with you along the way.

If you’re interested, I highly recommend a book that I read recently called “Simplify” by Joshua Becker. I believe it is for Kindle only, but it is inexpensive and can be read from any Kindle reading application, even in a Web Interface that Amazon provides.

If you do not wish to pay for the book, you should still check out Becker’s website. Most of the ideas in his book are outlined in ample detail in his many blog posts there. I should warn you that I find his tone regarding simplification to be a tad overzealous at times, often coming off as a bit preachy. Rochelle didn’t feel preached at when she read Simplify, but I did in a couple of places. So if you’re not one to be preached at, perhaps just following our adventures here with my sporadic blog posts will be sufficient.

Although, in my excitement I can’t promise I won’t preach at you either. Simplification is something that I believe we should all strive for.

That is our great endeavor this year. It isn’t a new year’s resolution, but it is a change in our home that began with the new year.

The rest of our family news will be covered in greater detail below, but suffice it to say that we’ve experienced a wonderful close to 2011, and we are all looking forward to 2012.

In the latter half of 2011:

  • Micah started at a new school.
  • Sophie saw a neuro-ophthalmologist.
  • We flew out to visit my parents in Arizona.
  • Rochelle and I got new shoes.

Books We are Reading

Brian

Hurray! I’m reading again. My main Christmas gift this year was a new Kindle Touch. Since I got my Kindle, I’ve actually read several books. Most of them have been small, free books (just to get my reading muscles warmed back up after such a long period of minimal use), but I did read The Hunger Games, book one. I enjoyed it, but I can’t say it was one of my favorites. The story was excellent, but I wasn’t able to connect with the characters, and the first person perspective paired with the present tense writing style didn’t agree with me. I think I’ll enjoy the movie, and I plan on reading the next book in the trilogy soon.

Currently, I am actually attempting to finish nine books that I’ve started in the last year. The one I started most recently on my Kindle is The Frog Princess. I’m not going to recommend this book to anyone except the most curious. It’s not horrible, but I’m only a third of the way through and I am going to have to force myself to finish it. I want to finish it, but it’s not the best writing for me.

If you really want to keep up with my reading, I log all of my progress on books I am currently reading, rate and review books I’ve read, and I even keep track of books I intend to read at a site called Goodreads. Here’s the link to my profile page there: http://www.goodreads.com/brianhaddad

Rochelle

Rochelle has always read a ton. She is currently knee deep in her twelfth read-through of the Harry Potter series. I think she’s on book 5 or somewhere thereabouts. I lose track of how many times she’s read them and which book she is on.

For Christmas she got all 8 of the Harry Potter movies on Blu-Ray. We’ve been watching them since we got back home from our little vacation, and so far we’re halfway through the sixth movie. I haven’t read the books, so I’m trying to enjoy the movies just as they are, but I can’t help but notice inconsistencies in the characters and holes in the plots – all of which Rochelle assures me is the result of the movies being inaccurate. I plan to read the Harry Potter series once the ebooks are released later this year.

Rochelle is also on Goodreads, and she too keeps track of books she liked, books she plans to read, and sometimes even books that she is currently reading (unless she is reading something that she’s read before). You can visit her profile there at: http://www.goodreads.com/rochellehaddad

How the Kids Are

Micah

From Family 2011

This year Micah started going to a new school. For his first two years here in Maryland he attended a school just outside of the military base where we live. The school was mediocre at best, often causing more problems than it solved with new policies and rules.

By the end of his second grade year there, Rochelle had nearly reached the limits of her patience dealing with the school, and to her great delight a new public charter school was granted permission to operate on  base.

Unfortunately, the new school, called Imagine Andrews, does not yet have a dedicated, official school building (they are imagining they have a school building). For this year they are stationed in a run-down, hastily remodeled maintenance building at the edge of one of the base golf courses. By next school year they hope to complete construction on an actual school building, complete with a much needed cafeteria, gymnasium, playground and additional classroom space.

The curriculum seems to be challenging Micah so far, which is good. There are several problems, since it is a new school being run by a new faculty in cramped conditions, but we are doing our best to remain positive and supportive of their efforts.

Micah, along with the rest of us, was excited to go back to Arizona to visit his Grandma and Grandpa Haddad. Amazingly, neither of our children showed any concern that Santa wouldn’t be able to find them in a different home.

Micah came home with plenty of cool gifts, including some fun games and projects, Lego sets, spy gear, and some books. He doesn’t know it yet, but his toy collection is going to be drastically reduced under our new policy of simplification, and we are going to help him ensure that his toys are limited to the most versatile, fun toys that he can find. Of course, we aren’t going to be totally oppressive with this, but it will be good for him to be discerning and thoughtful about what to keep and what to get rid of. I learned a lot as a child when my parents would make me dump my toy collection on the ground and think hard about what to keep. I’m hoping he’ll remember the activity with the same fondness that I do now.

Sophie

From Family 2011

Sophie is doing especially well. Every day she shows us new ways that she is smarter than we previously suspected, and she is developing an awesome sense of humor, along with a sharp attitude.

As mentioned above, she did have to see a neuro-ophthalmologist. It started when her last MRI in November generated some concern. We do not yet have any real reason to worry, but there appears to be some thickening in an area that her doctors are sure is merely scar tissue. It is not unheard of for scar tissue to thicken a little, even a few years after surgery. However, there is a possibility that this thickening could be a type of tumor growth.

Some of you have been lucky enough to see Sophie recently, and if you’ve seen her recently it’s likely she’s shown you her “eye trick.” She recently learned that she can roll her eyes up and point them in two different vertical directions. When she showed her doctors, they decided to send her to a specialist (the neuro-ophthalmologist) to see if the anomaly could be related to a new tumor growth.

With this new specialist, Dr. Avery, Sophie was a little angel. He was particularly impressed with her every step of the way through the appointment. He assessed her vision with one of the most in-depth eye exams I’ve ever seen, always amazed at her intelligence, cooperation and maturity. He couldn’t stop raving about how well she was doing.

Near the end of the examination he informed us that she would need eye drops to dilate her pupils. He said that it would “S-T-I-N-G a little” and that there was usually a lot of “S-C-R-E-A-M-I-N-G” with other children. Rochelle and I looked at each other, then told him that he didn’t need to spell it out with her. We explained to Sophie that Dr. Avery was going to put some drops in her eyes that would sting and hurt a little, but that it would go away fast.

I had her rest her head in my lap and helped the doctor hold her head still while he applied the drops. She barely budged, and didn’t complain even a little. Dr. Avery’s amazement was complete. He couldn’t recall precisely the last time he had seen such a cooperative, brave patient.

In the end, Dr. Avery concluded that the eye issue is a result of the original tumor and swelling that she had two years ago, though there was no visible sign that it was a direct result of the swelling (apparently you can see that sort of damage quite clearly even years later on the back of the eye). He was certain that there was no evidence that this eye problem was a sign of any new tumor growth, which came as a great relief to us all.

Sophie especially loved the trip out to Arizona, and had been talking about seeing her uncles, aunt, cousins and grandparents for several weeks beforehand.

For Christmas she also got some craft items, some books, a few toys and her favorite: a pink Nintendo DSi. She may not look terribly excited in the photo above, but she plays it nearly every day, and has a particular fondness for a certain princess game.

Sophie’s next MRI is in February (on Valentine’s day) and we will likely post an update after we get the results.

Until Later

Especially now that we have something specific to write about, and since its process will help me feel more organized about life in general, I expect to be a little better about blogging. But alas I’ve never successfully promised to be better about blogging, and I’m not going to make any promises!

I trust that you’ve learned to be satisfied with my ineptitude at blogging, and I should likewise be more forgiving with myself.

It is our deepest and greatest hope that all of you have transitioned safely and happily into 2012. We look forward to making sure we blog at least once this year, and we also look forward to your emails, Facebook posts, phone calls, text messages and old-fashioned paper mail.

Advertisements

6 Comments

Filed under Celebrations, Exciting, Holidays, Sophie PMA, Vacation

Christmas is Coming

From Family 2010

While there may have been no excuse for my negligence in posting here during the month of September, I hope that all of you know by now that I do not post normally during November. November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), and I have participated for the last three years (and finished a winner every time).

Be sure to visit our Family 2010 album as the year is drawing to a close. There you will find photos from our recent date (no kids!) to an ice skating rink at the Pentagon Row in Pentagon City. Also be sure to visit our YouTube channel where you can see three videos that were uploaded since the last post.

Books We are Reading

Brian

I just finished NaNoWriMo. Give me a break. I’m still looking with guilt at my unchanging pile of books to read, and every day I feel that I inch closer to actually reading one. However, in the short term I really want to see if I can edit my NaNoWriMo novel into something bearable to read.

On a nostalgic note, I’d like to add that I’ve been enjoying playing an updated version of an old game I loved when I was younger. Nintendo recently re-released GoldenEye 007 for the Wii. It was originally one of the best Nintendo 64 games ever made, and they did a wonderful job refreshing it for the new system. If you ever played and loved GoldenEye 64, you must try it on the Wii.

Rochelle

Rochelle is currently re-reading “Reading Lolita in Tehran” for the third time. Reading has been relatively routine for her during the last several months, so she doesn’t really recall anything worth sharing. Keep watching this space for something interesting though, because I still haven’t been reading squat.

How the Kids Are

Micah

From 020

For the time being, I am giving up on trying to get Micah to write anything for this thing. Maybe it will be a summer only event. Until then, I’ll just fill you in on what he’s been up to.

He won three awards at school today. One for attendance because he thinks we’d sell him if he ever skipped school, one for being nice (while he is nice most of the time, we are a little surprised he got that one), and one for getting a 4.0 (the one in the picture, where he’s posing with his teacher, Ms. Reynolds).

He is both excited for and dreading Christmas, mostly because he really, REALLY wants a Nintendo DSi, but we’ve made it very clear to him that they are way too expensive for us to get right now, and we constantly remind him that he has a history of abusing electronics, and we wouldn’t want to let him have a DSi unless we knew he could handle it without breaking it. Plus, he manages to convince himself every year that he’s getting coal (and someday we’re going to get it for him as a prank, but when he’s older and won’t be scarred for life). Overall, he’s absolutely sure he’s not getting a DSi, but he’s still holding on to a last shred of hope that Santa will put one under the tree in spite of all we’ve said.

What he doesn’t know is that we have had a DSi for him sitting in my closet for over three months. We’re really excited about giving it to him, and we REALLY hope he doesn’t break it. We also got him a certain Pokemon game that he wants. I’m going to try to get good video of him getting this gift, because we’re sure he’s going to freak out. We are hoping for a reaction like this kid (YouTube Video), but it’s probably going to be more like this kid (YouTube Video).

I was going to just let you be excited with him, but in this case I decided to take you on our journey as the parents who are waiting as patiently as we can to give our child a gift he really, really wants.

Sophie

From Family 2010

No news for Sophie. She’s still just being cute. She now finds interesting words to append, “ies” to the end of (“pearsies for pears, “friendsies,” and many more). She has become quite a funny little girl. She even gets a lot more jokes now, and her little, “I get it” laugh is super cute.

Sophie has learned how to button buttons, and she helped extensively with the tree decorating (which happened almost two weeks late this year).

A long while back, when Sophie was learning not to be afraid of water, we used to have her lie down in the tub with a little water and we’d move her around “like a mermaid” (in her own words). I took a video with my phone, and finally posted it to YouTube. Yeah, it’s got a naked girl in it, but it doesn’t show anything she’d be too embarrassed about later in life, I hope.

She has had a strong interest in letters recently, learning to spell her name and recognize most of the letters in her name. Of course, when she spells her name, she goes through the, “S – O – P – H – I,” then she gets distracted by the “H, I” and continues with, “J, K, L…” She recognizes the “S” the “O” and the “P” most of the time, though sometimes “corrects” herself and says that the “O” is a circle (which it is, but not when that circle is being a letter).

For Sophie’s gifts, you get to be with her on her journey. I’m not telling what we got her, but it’s going to be good.

Oh, and in November we took Sophie in for yet another MRI. Things are looking great in that little girl’s head. No new tumor growth, and her brain is finally starting to look more like a normal one (some of the cavities that expanded when the fluid built up and where the tumor was may never go completely away, but they are minor and hardly noticeable now). Also, the one year anniversary of her surgery is this Saturday (the surgery was on a Friday last year). We are full of gratitude this year for all that happened last year and we are looking forward to spending the holidays with that beautiful little girl again.

As for what lies ahead, we still don’t know. We’re waiting to get an appointment with the man who can help determine what to do from here. We’ll let you know as soon as we know anything.

Until Later

Well, that’s it for this month. Shortly after Christmas I’ll make an effort to get all of the videos and photos we take posted. Thanks in advance to all of you who may or may not have sent or are sending gifts, money or love. We appreciate all that you do as our cherished and beloved family, friends and blog readers.

Leave a comment

Filed under Exciting, Holidays, Milestones, Sophie PMA

Christmas 2009

From Holidays 2009

In an elbow-slapping twist of irony, our car wouldn’t start this morning. The significance of our misfortune is that I wanted to write this post, and Rochelle wanted to go out. I feel bad for her, because she really would have had a good time going out, and I gave it my best effort to get the car running. Unfortunately I’m no mechanic, and the mechanic won’t be open again until Monday.

The benefit of this is that we get to reflect back on all of the many blessings we received this holiday season. Within one week Sophie went from having brain surgery (Friday, 18 December) to opening presents (Friday, 25 December). We were blessed with gifts from heaven and gifts from friends, Santa and family. So, despite our heavenly perspective on the way 2009 closed out for us, I’m going to share the most worldly aspect of the season with you. Here are some of the cool gifts we received.

Rochelle got one big gift from the kids and me. She has been needing a good set of knives for a while, and I recently read some reviews about a line of Victorinox knives that inspired me. So, she got kitchen knives. Of course, she didn’t only get this one gift. Her main gift was received and opened long before Christmas. She got a Barnes and Noble Nook. We pre-ordered it shortly after it went on sale in October, and it arrived around the beginning of December.

Christmas this year took me back to my childhood (in a good way). One of my favorite shows and characters when I was younger was Darkwing Duck, and Rochelle got me the volume one set on DVD. I also got a GameBoy game and a Lego set. It was a pretty rad Christmas for me, dude. 😀

All this nostalgia has really made me realize how much I wish I had kept all of my old toys. Come to think of it… I don’t remember getting rid of my old toys. I think my parents did that for me at some point (or at various points in my upbringing). I think I shall attempt to box up my children’s most iconic toys in anticipation of them becoming all nostalgic like I have been for the last year. At times I can use eBay to track down the things I once had, but many of my old toys are going for over $30 for an opened, damaged toy with parts missing that I got for less than $10 brand new. Especially the Darkwing Duck toys I had. They are extremely difficult to find.

In addition to the Children getting gifts from Santa, the family also received a super-cool gift from Santa. We got Wii Sports Resort. It’s a lot of fun. If you have a Wii, you should check it out. Also, the family got a big board game that you spread out on the carpet. Oh, and we got the Kung Fu Panda movie. Sophie likes it. She says, “panda.”

If you’re not using a dial-up connection (ehem, Grandma) and you’ve got some time, you should head over to our YouTube channel where you can watch a mind-numbing 14 videos of us opening gifts and enjoying Christmas. If it’s easier for you, I’ve assembled all fourteen of them into a YouTube playlist that can be accessed via this link.

How the Kids Are

Micah

From Holidays 2009

Micah has been enjoying my Darkwing Duck cartoons, although we recently set up and loaded the new MP3 player that Santa brought him. Now he listens to the Darkwing Duck intro song and the Pokemon TV show theme over and over again (despite the fact that I loaded almost two dozen fun songs on there). He’s also been reading the Pokemon book we got him, and he likes it when I take out and fly the little remote-controlled helicopter his uncle got for him and me to enjoy together.

Tonight, fifteen minutes after we put the kids to bed, I had to go check on Sophie (who was calling my name from her room). As I passed Micah’s room on the way to check on Sophie, I saw light coming from under Micah’s door. Upon peeking inside, I saw him lying awake on his belly with his feet toward his pillow (obviously not the position of someone who has the intention of going to sleep soon) listening to music on his MP3 player.

Soon, on nights when he doesn’t have school, we’re planning on becoming a little more lenient on his bedtime routine, but for now the rule is that when we tell him to go to bed, the lights should be out and he should be trying to fall asleep. He’s been really good about it for a long time now (only occasionally do we find him still awake when we go to bed a few hours after his bedtime), but the temptation to listen to the Pokemon theme and the Darkwing Duck song over and over again was just too great to resist. When I asked him what he was doing, he said, “I, uh, um. I was, um. Uh. Well, I … um. I was just, um.” This vocal performance was the tune to his dance routine, erect on his tiptoes and teetering from side to side like a street performer on stilts. I cut the performance short (as he was obviously failing at attempting to formulate a suitable lie to justify the situation) and I informed him that the rule of turning the light off and going to sleep when we send him to bed was still in effect and that his next offense would bring the immediate confiscation of his MP3 player.

Micah also got a cool Nintendo hat that we picked up in the Nintendo World Store in NYC, two Pokemon books, some Lego Star Wars figurines with magnetic stands for sticking them to things, the first three Pokemon movies on one disk, and a Superman action figure.

Sophie

From Holidays 2009

Sophie is doing really well. I am obligated to inform you that her recovery from brain surgery is going well (in the photo above her wound looks worse than it was at the time, and a week later it looks much better still) and there has still not been any word from the lab on her biopsy report. This is most likely due to the holidays. I am sure that the report is complete and sitting on the desk of someone who is on vacation. As soon as I have the results, I will let people know. At the latest, you can look for our normal January post (should come around the middle of the month) and I will include the results there.

If you saw our Christmas YouTube videos, you know that Sophie really had a good time opening presents. She was tired because we did it first thing in the morning, but she had fun (and got really proficient at getting at the goods under the wrapping paper). Perhaps her favorite gift is the new Tinker Bell movie we got her.

I believe I’ve mentioned before that Sophie “likes crying.” Every time she hears or sees crying (or something that she believes looks like crying) she says, “I like crying.” Even after she’s been crying for a while, the first thing she says (usually) is, “I like crying,” or, “I crying.” In this new Tinker Bell movie, Tinker Bell actually cries. This makes Sophie extremely excited. We’re still puzzled about why she loves crying so much, but we never would have dreamed that Tinker Bell would actually cry in this new movie.

From Santa, Sophie received two boxes of her very own Duplos. She likes the one with the little animals the best. She had been getting into Micah’s Duplos for so long, it was getting to the point that she needed some of her own. She loves playing with them, and because we don’t let her play alone in her room yet, her Duplos are all over the house. Now it’s Micah’s turn though, as he plays with her Duplos all the time but doesn’t ever pull his own out.

She also got a bunch of other various Tinker Bell products (not too many), a set of Disney Princess board books, two puzzles, a Grover doll and an Elmo/Cookie Monster ball (from Sesame Street). She loved all of her gifts, and she is terrified of the remote-controlled helicopter that Micah and I got.

Until Later

Well, between the time that I began writing this in the morning and now, the car issue has been resolved. We replaced the battery (it was getting old anyway) and the car works great now.

I want to remind you that the Christmas videos aren’t the only way to see our Christmas morning. I posted a few more photos to the Holidays 2009 album that you should check out.

Also, I wrote two posts on my other blog that you may want to read. The first one is a short, text-only story about a special feeling I had Christmas morning. The second is a post with lots of embedded videos (and almost no text – it’s not dial-up-friendly though) that I think are funny.

Finally, as you may already know, my NaNoWriMo story this year was another winner, and this time I actually liked what I wrote (mostly). Once again, I’m self-publishing the book. I wouldn’t dare encourage anyone to purchase the book I wrote in 2008, but my 2009 book is actually something that (if you find the premise interesting in the least bit) I think it’s worth paying the money to read. I could be horribly wrong, so don’t get upset with me if you buy it and don’t end up liking it. All I’m saying is that I’m proud enough of it to deliberately provide you with the link to the e-store where it will go on sale later this month. If it seems like your cup of whatever you like to drink, I would like you to consider making the purchase. I get something like five whole dollars (not Euros, unfortunately) every time someone buys it at my e-store, and two or three dollars when they buy it on Amazon. So don’t buy it on Amazon. 😀

OK, thanks for enduring my shameless self-tooting pitch, and thank you for taking such a sincere interest in our family. We are forever grateful for your prayers, thoughts and smiles. We love you. We really do. ‘Till next time.

1 Comment

Filed under Holidays, Normal Life