Monday, December 20, 2010

Happy Merry Seasons!

Happy Holidays...

Merry Christmas...

Seasons Greetings!!!

Due to a strict financial budget, this is our Holiday Card to you (our beloved friends and family)! Hope you don't mind (hey, it's green, too!).

This Holiday Season brings together not only the close of the year, but the end of our first year of marriage, and needless to say - it has been a complete success (well, mostly).

The year began with us entering our third week of marriage, freshly tanned and warmed from the beaches of Jamaica (thanks to our ever-generous parents, Richard and Sam). Stephen was working for Andy in the "Home Remodeling" Business and I began the treacherous semester of student teaching. Luckily for me, Stephen has a lot of patience and understanding - because I was pretty much swamped planning, grading papers, perfecting my "Teacher Work Sample," and trying to find the elusive JOB (as anyone who has ever done student teaching very well knows). That is what we could consider the one "non-success" of the year - I, now nine months graduated - am still woefully unemployed. I mean, sure, I do a lot of substitute teaching, which can be fun, and stress-free (or stressful, depending on the day), and great teaching experience - but it's not a "real" job in most people's opinions. But I did graduate college, which was pretty exciting.

Stephen, on the other hand, has had great success with employment. He loved working with Andy, but we also love health benefits (no offense, Andy - and trust me, there are a lot of days where he wishes he were still working for you!). At Garmin, Stephen sits all of twenty feet away from his best friend, Aaron (dangerous planning on Garmin's part), and gets the joy of helping lost and confused citizens figure out the problems with their GPS units (for more on this topic, see the post titled "Global Positioning System" from September), which provides us with an income and plenty of humorous stories. There's also a pretty awesome job opportunity in the near future for him - so keep your fingers crossed for good fortune!

We took several trips, the first to Vancouver, Canada in May for, basically, a super-awesome-amazing-fun vacation (which involved seeing my favorite band, Our Lady Peace, TWICE in two nights!) For pictures, see my facebook page. The second trip was driving our best-friend/other-half, James, to Graduate School in Denton, Texas in August. It was hot. It was muggy. It was miserable moving all his junk (including winter clothing??) into a stifling apartment with no A.C. But it's love. It's what we do. Unfortunately, that trip resulted in our bestie living 552 miles away. So, we've enjoyed the pleasures of Skype, and the two trips he's made home. (In the future, don't be surprised if we strike up a "Scrubs-like" relationship and end up living together - he's J.D., for those of you who watch "Scrubs").

Our little house has made a lot of progress - we have a new wall in the basement/garage with a new door, a fully-completed main bathroom, a beautiful dining room floor (and even drapes on the windows! - because we did live for almost a month without those. In the grand scheme of things, it was so low on the priority list. For those of you unfamiliar with the "trials and tribulations" of pre-wedding-madness: The deadline of getting this house ready to live in before we got married got pretty tight. In fact, Stephen installed the toilet at 11:30pm the night he moved in (which was the Thursday before the Saturday wedding). Good times, good times...but we're glad we don't have to do that again).

So, all in all, it has been a successful and fun year. We've hung out with family and friends a lot and found that we pretty much rock at being married. Hopefully your year and your holidays are as wonderful and exciting as ours.

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and Happy New Year!

Vanessa, Stephen, and Anya

Christmas-on-the-River Date Night! Dec '10

Anya - always worth a laugh.

Sunday, December 19, 2010


pa-per-ing verb: 1. to be in the process of hating your life while in the process of accumulating research for a paper or while in the physical act of writing a paper. The infinitive is to paper (I paper, you paper, we paper, they paper). The gerund is I am papering. i.e. After I am done papering, I am going to start papering again so that I can write Merriam-Webster to add this definition to their "little collection of word meanings": And, I am not at all bitter that I am spending a beautiful Sunday papering. (Westbrook, James). 2. The act of celebrating the first wedding anniversary, due to the fact that the traditional gift of the first wedding anniversary is paper. (Waters, Vanessa).

A year in reflection (spark notes version):

A most excellent Wedding Ceremony and Reception, with all of our friends and family. A blizzardy Christmas. JAMAICA (sand, sun, beaches, all the food we could eat). Relaxation. Adoption of Anya. Vanessa's Student Teaching in Dearborn, MO. Stephen's new job at Garmin. VANCOUVER (Our Lady Peace (twice), excellent hotel, excellent sights, excellent food). Housewarming Party. Driving Hamez to Texas for Graduate School. Front Porch "Bonfires" with friends. Working on the house (it never ends, does it?). Hamez coming home for Thanksgiving Date Night. Putting up the Christmas tree - together this time. DJing at our Reception Hall for a friend's wedding. Hamez coming home for Christmas Break Date Night. Celebrating being best friends forever!

Celebratory Activities: Piropos (where we ate more food in one sitting than any two humans should eat in one day (example: Stephen's prime rib was the size of a small child)), The Plaza (we went to barnes and nobles and "ooh'ed" and "ahh'ed" the pretty lights), we skipped going to The Cheesecake Factory because we were so full from dinner), and New Wii Games (Wii Sports Resort) on Saturday. Games, Movies, Relaxing, Spaghetti on our China, Eating Year-Old-Frozen-Wedding-Cake on Sunday. Okay, that last one's a lie - we didn't eat the cake - it was DISGUSTING.

Our General Observation: If the first year is supposed to be the hardest year of marriage, we are so going to own this institution.

December 19, 2009

Vanessa, Stephen, and Anya

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Sing it, Bing!

"Happy Holiday. Happy Holiday... It's the Holiday Season..."

I love this time of year. It's absolutely the best: trees decorated with sparkly ornaments and colored lights; Icicle lights swinging from the eves; pine scented candles; Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, and Bing Crosby crooning from the radio; snow; the neighbor's weird blow-up dancing yard decorations; peeking into people's houses to see their festive decorations, whether they be Trees or Menorahs. 

"...and Santa Claus is coming back; the Christmas snow is white on the ground."

We got one of those crazy snow storms last night, where it snows half an inch, but the wind blows it around like a blizzard. One minute the road's clear, the next there's a wall of snow flying at you at a million miles an hour and everything disappears outside of your windows. Stephen and I went to a wedding last night, held in the same place as our Reception. It was very cool to be at our reception hall almost at our first anniversary and witness the event without the stress of being in the limelight. Emily and Jordan's wedding was absolutely beautiful (Congratulations, again, you two! We're so happy for you!), and Emily looked beautiful, and we had a total blast playing "DJ." Well, I played DJ, Stephen did the actual DJing. 

It was so cold. The wind decided it did not care that I was wearing a wool dress, heavy coat, gloves, scarves, and cut right through it anyways, making me feel like I was sitting at the North Pole in my swim suit. But the snow was beautiful (from the inside, of course) and it made everything feel very "Holiday-esque" - which is my favorite. 

"When old Santa gets into town, he'll be coming down the chimney, down." 

Part of what Stephen calls my "obsession with the Holidays" stems from my strong dislike of change. I like stability, normalcy, and tradition. Every year for Thanksgiving, I want the same foods. Every year for my birthday, I want the same dinner and cake. Every year for Christmas, I actually get to relive all of the old traditions and keep things the same, so it fits perfectly for me. Our tree has the same ornaments as I've always been looking at, I smell the same pine scent, and listen to the same jolly songs. We do Christmas Eve with the Werners and Hamez: eating dinner, having dessert, playing instruments at Mass. 

"It's the Holiday season, and Santa Claus has got a toy for every good girl, and good little boy."

I remember my favorite Christmases. The first was when I was in 2nd grade. Santa brought me the Star Wars trilogy on VHS, and Grandma Mary and Papap got me Molly - my first American Girl doll. She was my favorite because she had glasses and braids. 

The other favorite, Uncle Jim brought Anya for Grandma Mary. I'm not sure it was actually Christmas, it may have been before. Grandma was sick with cancer, and she'd always loved yorkies. Little Anya (unnamed at the time) was so tiny and black and scared! Uncle Jim, Dad, and Papap had some how deceived Grandma into thinking she was getting something like a new recliner, or some piece of furniture. She was so happy to have that little runt climbing up her shoulder. 

I put up most of the ornaments - that is, until Stephen's mom brought over his box of ornaments from her house. He was like a kid! Telling me about all of his really cool ornaments (including a hot wheels one, and a tool box one), and how and where he would put certain ones on the tree when he was little. Like the gold star with his birth stone in it (topaz) - he said he would always put it in front of a yellow light so that the light would shine through. And, you can't forget his really cool snare drum and cymbal ornaments. 

One of his favorite Christmases was when he was younger and in Michigan. He said there were so many people over at his Grandma Gazdag's house that it warranted an adult table and a kids table, and there were lots of cousins from around and across the street over, and even a THIRTY pound turkey. That is a lot of bird. 

"So leave a peppermint stick for Old Saint Nick hanging on the Christmas Tree."

Candy Canes. Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker. Carolers dressed in old fashioned garb. Ebenezer Scrooge. "You'll shoot your eye out, kid." Hot Cocoa with Peppermint Schnapps. Sugar cookies. Unmanageable traffic. Cards, cards, cards! Grandma Mary's Christmas tree and Grandma Gazdag's Christmas ornaments hanging on the (overloaded) tree. 

"It's the Holiday season, with a whoop-de-do and hickory dock, 
and don't forget to hang up your sock, cause at just exactly 12 o'clock, 
He'll be coming down the chimney, down."

One of my favorite Holiday traditions is going to The Plaza, eating some cheesecake and watching the carriages drive around in the soft glow of 280,000 lights. It's especially great when it snows. 

Every year since we started dating, Stephen has taken me on a Christmas date to the Plaza (we skipped last year - we had other things going on...the wedding...Jamaica...). The first two years we went to P.F. Changs (yummm I love chinese), then the third year we went to Piropos (and Stephen proposed). This year we're celebrating our first anniversary. We're going back to Piropos for dinner, then down to the Plaza to have cheesecake at The Cheesecake Factory and watch the carriages and people. On our actual anniversary, we're eating the top layer of our wedding cake - hopefully it'll be delicious, and not stale and disgusting. 

"Happy Holidays, Happy Holidays." 

This is why we got married in December, even if it was cold, even if there was a chance it would snow and ice and be -14 degrees, effectively stranding every member of our extended family, even if it's a busy time of year anyways, let alone adding a Wedding - we love, we adore the Holidays. What other way could make this time of year better? Celebrating being together, of course. Last Christmas was wonderful - getting married and enjoying our party, being newlywed (for a week), finally getting the time to relax after the worst and most stressful semester ever...but this Christmas season is shaping up to be even more wonderful. Just hopefully it'll snow just as much as it did last Christmas!

"While the merry bells keep ringing, may your every wish come true."

Ah, December. The ringing of the bells in front of Walmart, Home Depot, Target, and every other major chain in the United States...and the weird guy who brings a large bell and tries to beat the money out of your bleeding eardrums. (You'd think after I give him all of my spare change, he'd turn down the volume at least a bit) You don't have to give me a lasting headache to convince me I should give money to the needy - I want to. In the grand scheme of things, we have so much, it feels wrong not to give. 

So yes, shopping can be stressful. The Post Office and The UPS store are busy. Traffic sucks. Lines everywhere, are long, and time consuming. It's expensive. But, you get to hang out with family and friends, wear fun sweaters, listen to music that's only appropriate once a year, eat delicious food and drink warm, yummy drinks. There are two trees in my house adorned with multi-colored lights, delicate ornaments, old and new, with presents wrapped in shiny paper under them. Hopefully, in ten years or so, we can have twelve trees! 

All Anya wants is a new cow!

"Happy Holidays."

"Happy Holidays!" - Our (3/4-of-the-way-done) Tree!

Vanessa, Stephen, and Anya

(P.S. Tracy - doesn't this song just remind you of tap shoes and kick-lines?)

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Turkey Bone Sculpture

It's already December, and our BIG Christmas tree is up, and our little Christmas tree is up. There are even lights on the outside of the house and list of cookies and goodies to bake. However, even the Christmas Holidays are about being thankful for all the things you have. So, is this a late Thanksgiving post? Sure. Is it corny? Absolutely. It's like the acceptance speeches at The Academy Awards. It probably reads that way, too.

These are a few of my "thankfulness" things (they're also my favorite things):

Stephen. Without him, I'd be either homeless or living in a tiny room at my parents house (no offense Mom and Dad, but having my "own" house is much better, for all of us!)

My "little" family. Stephen, Anya, Hamez, and I. That is my happy thought.

My parents. Rhonda picked a great couple to raise me, even if I spent most of my adolescence trying to convince them otherwise.

My extended parents. Sue, Sam, and Richard. I could NOT have gotten better in-laws. You guys are so great.

My sisters. Megan and Samantha. They are the best. The absolute best.

Okay, my entire family. Grandma Rao, Papap, Grandpa Tom and Grandma paula, Grandpa Greg and Grandma Karla, all of my Aunts and Uncles and super-awesome cousins. I'm especially thankful for the time I get with them, because it's never enough. And I'm thankful for the time I got with Grandma Mary and Grandpa Rao, because it wasn't enough, but I'm glad I at least got what I did. Some memories are better than none.

The Werner's - who are basically family.

My "old" friends. Hamez, Brittanie, Tracy, Brad, Rachel, Carl, Josh, Shayline, Kendalynne, Kent, Matt, Adam, and about a billion more. You guys have been my rocks, keeping me sane in this insane world.

New friends. Rachelle (Matt couldn't have picked a better wife), Aaron, Haley, Jeff, Tristan, Nicole, Nate. I knew when I married Stephen I'd inherit a family, but it never occurred to me the great friends I'd get, too.

All my other friends, new, old, the ones I talk to frequently, the ones I talk to infrequently. (And Cecil, without whom I probably would have failed grammar, and gone completely insane in all of our classes)

My dog. Sounds goofy maybe, but she's been my best friend since the awkward-pre-adolescent years and has done nothing but love me and keep me company. And make me laugh. She's the perfect companion.

My health. (Let's face it, even though I'm sick all the time, at least I don't have some incurable disease. It could be loads worse, at least I can hear and see and eat and move).

My ability to read, and my fantastic taste in literature. Weird, yes, but it gives me the escape I need that even movies can't provide.

I complain a lot (at least to Anya and Stephen) that a lot of the movies I really want to see I will never actually be able to see. I love silent films, but most of them are lost forever, and I tend to focus on the tragedy of that, when really, I should focus on the fact that I get to see any at all, that some of the ones I've seen on dvd are my favorite movies.

My awesome supervising teacher from student teaching. Going into it, I thought, "I probably won't like this, and will have to find another profession. I have no idea what I'm doing." I think without Dorell, I may not have liked teaching, let alone loved it and decided for sure it's what I'm going to do (if I ever get a job). At the time (a year ago, in fact), I was freaking out and upset because I didn't get placed at any of the schools I applied for. Little did I know that God had a bigger, and much better, plan by placing me with the best teacher ever. Who would not only become a fantastic mentor, but also a really great friend. I could never thank her enough for all the help she's given me.

All of the opportunities I've been given, in music, in writing, in school, in education, in my entire life. Pretty sure my life's awesome. Can't really be more thankful for anything else.

Also, I'm really thankful for the holiday season. It's my favorite.

Stephen's favorite things (aka his list of thankfulness - have no fear, I'm a much more condensed writer than Ness):

My WIFE!!! And my "little'' family. Hamez and Anya have been a nice addition to me and Nessa.

All of my family. Mom, Dad, and Sam (I'm so lucky to have such great parents). Jenny and Chad and my two awesome nieces and my soon-to-be-here-unnamed Nephew.

My extended family. Grandma, Aunt Sara, Uncle Bob, Aunt Bonnie, Uncle Steve, Zeb and Angie. And my in-laws. They're pretty cool.

My friends. Ness basically covered all of them - they're awesome. And I like that that they're friends with her, too.

Have a job - even if I don't like it all the time. At least I'm not stuck working at McDonald's or Walmart.

Vanessa having sub work and being really good at what she does.

The fact that progress is always being made on the house. I.E: water and ice in the refrigerator door :)

Anya's list of "thankfulness" (yeah, we went there):

Cows cows cows cows!

Nessa and Stephen.

Fuzzy blankets.


A backyard to run in without being on a chain.

Places in my house to sit and look outside all day long.

So, it being the Holiday season, we hope that you have as many things to be thankful for as we do - we sure are very lucky. We could both be homeless, or living in a tiny apartment, rather than this awesome house that my parents let us rent. Or we could be sick. Or about a billion other things.

We hope your Holiday season is as wonderful is ours is shaping up to be! It is, after all, the most wonderful time of the year. Don't believe me? Just ask Andy Williams.

Our "little" Family.

Vanessa, Stephen, and Anya