Reincarnated As A Mother

Thursday, December 31, 2009

A visit from the Big Guy...

Part of our family's Christmas Eve tradition includes having the grandchildren open up a present from Grammy and Grandpa. I'll not leave you in suspense-- it's always pajamas. This year, our lovely model Reese is showing off her new nightgown and the robe Grammy monogrammed with her initials. These are all of the cousins-- minus Kean and my little brother, Marc's kids who live in Austin, Texas. We missed them!!

We also let the kids open up their presents from the cousins. Look at what Kean got!!! His first trucks and a little fire engine. We've never really had such boyish toys in our house. Pretty exciting stuff.
Towards the end of the evening... guess who walked in the front door? The girly-ohs were pretty darn excited! Look how tiny Reese looks. I guess she doesn't just look tiny, she actually is. Did I mention I took her for her check up and she is only in the 3rd percentile for height and 5the for weight? How did we have such a munchkin? At least she is in the 200 percentile for personality!
Last year Reese cried when she saw Santa. This year she told us she's not "cared" of Santa anymore. And boy oh boy that was soo true. She talked his ear off and kept interrupting the other children with "just one more thing"...

What a fun tradition

Christmas Eve every year we do something I love. My family gathers together and since we always have a big feast on Christmas Day... we choose to do a dinner of hor d'oeuvres and desserts only for Christmas Eve. This year I made a Chocolate/Orange Ricotta Cheese cake, Chocolate covered cherry "mice" with the girls and a Christmas Tree cake I let the girls go crazy on---

Here we are at my mom's house before we all "dug on in"...
This is my dad holding Kean. Don't you love how their outfits are perfectly coordinated?
This is my big brother, Doug, his wife Dana (holding Kean) and one of the twins: Lindsey.
And here's the rest of the crew (almost)-- poor Derek-- my nephew who always gets mauled by the girls-- and that's Katie on the right (the other twin).
These are Dana's parents-- Ken and Nedra who are like a dear Aunt and Uncle to me. We've been getting together for special occasions since my brother married into their family.
And here's my mom and dad-- Dee and De in their new house!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Perhaps, I should say in the new party house.
Elly and Mark Moomey joined us again this year for the Christmas Eve festivities. Ron stayed home sick with a sore throat (I think he didn't want to expose Kean-- so thanks Ron).
And that brings us to one of the highlights of the holidays for me-- the annual Leavitt-Barker family pageant. Hopefully, it's not too irreverent. Let me interpret the pictures for you. Byron is the donkey bringing in Mary (Holland) and Joseph (my niece Morgan-- hey we have a massive shortage of boys in our family). By the way, Byron is almost always the donkey. Also known in Biblical terms as the ass. Tee, hee.
I know this will come as a shocker--- but guess who played baby Jesus? Yeahhhhh, we finally have a baby boy in the family to play Jesus.
Yours truly and Aunt Dana played the Shepherds. Reese, Greer and Katie were the angels. We always have more than enough volunteers wanting to be Mary or the angel. I guess it's easier to have a trio of angels rather than duplicate Mary's.
Elly offered to be the star. It's a good thing she works out. My arm would never have held up!
And here are the three Wiseguys-- I mean Wise men: Mark, Lindsey and Derek.
Grammy always reads the Christmas story.

I love this yearly tradition and won't let my mind go down the road and think about what it will be like when we are all adults trying to act this out.

Monday, December 28, 2009

A Dutch Christmas

Oy am I far behind on my postings! But a few days before Christmas, we had dinner with Elly, Ron and Mark and it was delish. Elly's a killer cook. Anyway, for those of you who don't know the Moomey's-- Elly is from Holland. And since our oldest is named Holland-- we kind of like Elly. They gave each of the kids an early Christmas present-- which they are proudly modeling: Dutch Slippers!

Kean did not get a pair. He already has the real McCoy. Elly and Ron brought him back tiny wooden dutch shoes from their trip this summer. Christmas pics are commin'.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...

My very brave mother had all the granddaughters over to her new house to make Christmas candy-- the good stuff-- homemade caramel, dipped cherry chocolates, turtles etc. Each of the girls are making "centers" for their chocolates--- Holland picked lemon, Greer and Reese both picked pineapple. Grammy had to help Reesey make her "marble" centers-- hers kept looking like little flat pancakes.

Here's the cherry chocolates getting dipped..... yum!
Kean worked his tail off as you can see!
Once dipped, they were put in the garage to set. I can feel the pounds leaping to my hips just from looking at them.... That's Greer clear down there acting like Vanna White.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

A lesson in generosity

There are a lot of people I admire in this world-- and Susan Roghanni is certainly right up there. She is "Camille Beckman"-- the woman behind the lotion and cream empire. She let myself, my mom and my friend Mary K into her warehouse the other morning. She turned us loose on her stock room of "extras, seconds and discontinued items"-- and boy did we go to town. We loaded up on soaps, creams, body rubs, scrubs, sachets, shampoos, loofas, lip balm, body butter -- you name it-- in the yummiest of flavors and scents. We had so much stuff, we had to use two industrial rolling carts to carry the goods to our cars.
It's not for us- or you. I know, bummer. We were gathering very heavy gift bags for 13 familes. All refugees who have fled their home countries and have been given safe haven here in Boise. The families are from diverse places such as Congo, Iraq and Burma. They come here with the barest of belongings and the agency we work with sets them up in an apartment, tries to find them a job (a bit tougher during this economic downturn), gets them English lessons and then provides them with a spoon, cup, fork, pillow, blanket etc. for each member of their family. It's a very meagar offering-- but a start. My friends and I try to fill in the blanks with some of their other needs.
I can't think of a better way to teach my children that Christmas isn't all about Santa and opening presents. A family we adopted one year (from Congo) had a very sparse but clean apartment. What struck me the most was that the family had taken the ads from the newspaper (KMart, Walmart, Target) and hung them on the walls to decorate their home, like we would hang paintings or photographs. We've had a wonderful experience each year. And it sure brings home the message of how blessed we are to live in a country where we can live and worship as we please. Times might be lean for many of us this year but we have so many things to be thankful for. Just in case you need a reminder.

GiGi's big performance

Byron, Reese and I went to Greer's school yesterday for the big 1st Grade Christmas Music Program. Here's Greer with her very lovable teacher, Mrs. Janicek. Reese soooo badly wants to be in school-- can ya tell? My mom helped us embroider an apron for the girls' teachers. And they turned out sooo cute. Reesey had to help Mrs. Janicek open hers.

And here's a snap shot of the big performance. Gi Gi is on the top row, second from the right. I swear she looked at the camera (me) the entire show-- instead of her music teacher.

Monday, December 14, 2009

A Sticky Mess...

Okay, so our creations never quite turn out like they do in the magazines...

But we sure have fun trying!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

My, Aren't We Purty!

Obviously Byron had a bit too much fun playing around on Photoshop. I guess it's our tribute to Star Trek or our quest to be different. He, he... Last night, Byron stayed with Kean and the girls and I went to our church's Christmas Party. It was a night in Bethlehem and we were all to dress as the people did during Christ's birth. The building was decorated like a small market-- with shops and eateries and of course, a stable. It was in the words of the girls-- awesome!

Holland and Greer put their beds together to make a fort and then begged us to let Reesey sleep with them last night. When we went to bed, Holland was sleeping under the beds in the fort. At some point during the night, she kicked Greer to the middle and reclaimed her normal spot. This is how we found them this morn.

Don't know if it's like this at your house... but our house is on hyper overdrive with Christmas coming so fast. The girls are crazzzyyy. Reese has decided when she grows up she wants to be a reindeer. Greer told us when she was that age, that she wanted to grow up to be "a really big sea shell". We couldn't be prouder of our girls' career choices.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

All I Want for Christmas is...

If my last post was a bit too sobering for you-- here's a little dessert:
Holland told us what she's asking Santa for this year...
She wants him to take away the piano he brought us for Christmas last year.
Did I mention she hates practicing the piano?

Another Anniversary

It's been 18 years and my heart still hurts. Yesterday, December 7th, yes, Pearl Harbor Day marks another anniversary, one that's very personal for me. It's the anniversary of the day the helicopter crashed at my old TV station in Raleigh/Durham, North Carolina. I lost 3 very dear friends. 3 friends who I think about often and wonder what their lives would be like today if they had lived.
There were four guys-- all of them engaged to be married-- flying home from covering the State Football Championship playoff game. Chopper Jim was engaged to my roommate, Diane. They were one week away from their wedding. Then there was Bart, the photojournalist (cameraman) I loved to work with, Tony-- one of our sports guys and Rick-- the Satellite truck engineer who normally drove home but hitched a quick ride that night to get home earlier to his fiancee'. All of these men were exceptional human beings. That's the best way to describe them. You know the old saying that the Lord always takes the good ones-- that couldn't be more true.
Our helicopter had just been through routine maintenance the day before-- the helicopter I flew on several times a week and was scheduled to fly on later that morning. Just outside of Raleigh, the ball bearings in the rotors seized up. The chopper fell from the sky, the equivalent of falling from the top of a 150 story building.
The impact was so severe, the helicopter shattered into pieces. Chopper Jim did his best but in the end, he maneuvered the chopper so it landed the hardest on his side. Bart, the cameraman, was a big guy-- about 6 foot 7. On impact his seat in the back was torn from its bolts and hit Tony's seat in front so hard it pushed Tony through the windshield. Bart, Jim and Rick all died instantly, but somehow, Tony survived. I can't remember how many feet from the helicopter he was propelled-- but when he came to, his clothes were down around his ankles. He had bloody cuts all around his face from going through the window and several broken bones. It was cold and the leaves were off the trees in the forest-like area where they crashed. He could see a light through the trees and starting dragging himself toward it. He finally made it and when he knocked frantically on the door-- the poor woman inside wouldn't answer. (Who blames her-- a half naked man, covered in blood banging on her door in the wee hours of the morning?)... she called the police.
My phone rang at 3:30 a.m. I'll never forget and I still have to re-start my heart whenever the phone rings in the middle of the night. I remember getting the news and immediately praying for strength and a way to somehow find the courage to go in and wake up my roommate and dear friend, Diane (Chopper Jim's fiancee'). We'd stayed up awfully late that night putting the finishing touches on our fancy dresses for WTVD-TV's black tie Christmas Party the next night. We later figured we'd gone to bed just about the time the helicopter crashed. So here it was a few hours later and I was waking up Diane.
I clearly remember those moments as if it was yesterday. Diane went through several of the steps you'd expect-- denial, anger, physical pain, emotional trauma and finally numbness. It was a horrific experience. Jim was the love of her life and she was his. We spent the next few days cancelling a wedding and planning a funeral.
I talked with her on this, the 18 year anniversary, and we both feel like that experience changed who we are, how we act and how we think. I'm not sure I can ever put it into words but it seems like it was the precise moment I graduated from feeling young, invincible and carefree to feeling like a true adult-- an adult with cuts and bruises on the soul that never quite heal. I've had other trauma and trials since then-- but December 7, 1991 is the day I was forced to grow up.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Better Late Than Never...

I had so much fun on my quick trip to Arizona... I wanted to "journal" my adventures. First up: Jan and Meagan Klingler. The Klingler's are Byron's Mom's cousins-- and even though they are not that old-- Jan and Ken are second parents to Byron and I. We always stay with them and I always get spiritually rejuvenated from my talks with Jan. Meagan, if you'll remember, came up to Idaho and took care of the girls for one of the weeks while I was in the hospital. My main reason for going to Arizona was for my friend Bianca's memorial service. She passed away this summer (we talked on the phone to each other while we were both in the hospital). She was one of the most courageous women I know-- she died of Cancer after battling it for 7 years. Her parents held a Memorial for her in their backyard-- the same place she had been married just 10 years earlier.

Here's Sherry (Bianca's Mom) and one of my bestest girlfriends in the world, Stacy. The memorial was beautiful-- Sherry gave a moving tribute, there were talks, musical numbers and then dancing and lots of eating. Bianca would have loved it!
The next day my girls-- we like to refer to ourselves as "Vintage Moms" (thanks Karen-- we missed you) met for lunch at Macaroni Grill. That's Maria on the left--she was the first of our group to get married. She's a shrink-- and we all love to burden her with the drama in our lives and listen to her calm, sage advice. And that's Anita behind me. She and Stacy are like sisters to me. We talk way too much and they know just about everything about me (and they still love me :).
We all went to see the new Twilight movie-- New Moon. It was fun. We'll leave it at that. Stacy brought us all these special chocolate bars-- half of them had "Jacob-- the hunky wherewolf" and the other half had "Edward-- the leading Vampire who wears more lipstick than a Revlon model. If you look close, you can see the credits behind us.
Finally, on Saturday night, Stacy and I went to the big KPNX - Channel 12 reunion. There were some 275 people there that had worked at the station (NBC in Phoenix) over the years. It was a total BLAST!!! Some of these folks I haven't seen in 10 years! Below-- starting on the left is Mary Kim Titla (she was a reporter), Victoria Schriener (a producer and one of the reunion organizers), Stacy (who worked on the assignment desk) and me.
Me, Cheryl Parker (a reporter at the station for many years-- the party was at her house-- no strike that-- her estate), Mike Deac (doing his best impersonation of Grizzly Adams. Mike was our Operations Manager) and Lin Sue Cooney. Lin Sue is the main anchor and a legend in Phoenix. She's as nice as she is beautiful-- and my little brother has had a crush on her since day one.
That's me with Jim Penland and Terry Juntti-- two photographers who have retired and are both living on the beach down in Mexico. Terry hasn't changed one bit-- he's as handsy as ever.
Let's see.. that's Shelly Hansel on the left. She was our weekend or morning weather person. She's living somewhere really cold and had a baby about a month before I did. So I'm not the only one my age still dealing with diapers. Next is Chuck Emmert-- he was our chief photographer and one of the coolest guys ever. Second from the right is Rick Debruel-- one of the nicest reporters in television. He retired three days after the party. And on the end is Steve Filmer-- he was our consumer reporter. Chuck, Filmer, my producer, Krista and me used to sneak out monthly for what the boys dubbed "The Princess Lunch Program". Ah, the memories.
Here's Stacy, Kim Stafford-- who was my producer-- the producer for the Investigative Team-- she's awesome, Cathy Downing and Tim McSpadden-- from the Promotions Department. If you can't tell, we were one close group of friends. I was at Channel 12 during the time that everyone refers to as the Golden Era. It was an amazing time to be in television. Of course, lots has changed now and most of us have been smart enough to get out...
This is Juliette Falevitch. Everyone LOVES Juliette. She is the one who sent me the huge box of gourmet brownies (that I shared with everyone who came into my room) while I was in the hospital. Juliette was also constantly at Bianca's side during her last few weeks of life. Juliette also just got engaged. We're all so excited for her.
Anita Luera on the left was our 5pm producer. LJ worked in promotions and Sue Green was our Senior producer. Anita and Sue have jumped ship and work in the Arizona State University's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism. LJ's a very busy mom.
This is Mitch Truswell-- he was our weekend anchor. Carrie Lake was his co-anchor until she went over to the Fox station where she's the main evening anchor.

Sorry for the sticky thumb print below. On the left is Ron Hoon "the Hooner" who was our morning anchor. He's now at Fox. Steve Filmer, me and then Sean McLaughlin. He was our main weather anchor, left to go be the weatherman for the Today show on Weekends, then came back to Phoenix and is now the main news anchor at the CBS station.

This is a picture of Gary and Kim Stafford (when I first arrived at 12-- Gary was the Chief Photographer and the Photographer for the Investigative Unit. Kim, was my producer. And that's Catherine Anaya on the right-- she was one of our weekend anchors-- then she came to my same station in LA where she anchored weekends or mornings (my memory sucks). Now she's the main female anchor at the CBS station in Phoenix.

Ahhh, and here was the person I was most excited to see-- Chris Jolly (the Jolly Llama). Chris was one of my very favorite photographers in the world and was responsible for a lot of the creativity in many of my pieces. We have spent a chunk of our professional lives-- together-- sitting in a van, an editing room or on location. He came to my unit in LA and worked with me there too-- and is like a brother to me. That's Julie Watters on the right. She was a reporter at KPNX and was working with Chris on the day he lost his leg. Long story-- but Chris losing his leg was one of the main reasons why I took the job in Phoenix over Philadelphia. And of course, Phoenix is where I met the love of my life-- Byron. So you can see why Chris-- we all call him Jolly is so special to me!
Once again, sorry for the smudgy lens. This is Julie Pascente on the left. Her husband, Steve was one of our Sports Anchors. He was killed in a car accident covering the Cardinals while I worked at the station. Julie and Cindy Bloch on the right started the Steve Pascente Memorial Foundation to among many things-- help widows and widowers and their children deal with their grief. I became pretty close to these women working on the golf tournament and other events. Julie surprised me in the hospital this summer and Cindy called me weekly.
And as we were walking out at midnight (sorry Stacy)-- we ran into Bruce Cooper. Coop is one of our sports guys at Channel 12. It was so good to see him. You might remember, Coop's son, Marquis was one of the NFL football players killed in the boating accident in Florida several months back. I was so glad he came.
If you stayed with me this long, you're a real trooper. As I mentioned, Stacy and I left around midnight-- and we were probably considered party poopers. The party was supposed to go until noon on Sunday!