Tomorrow she would have been 28, my dear, sweet sister cousin: Rachel.  I don’t even remember when we started calling each other sister cousins, but it seems to me that whenever that became a way the three of us (Rachel, Rhiannon, and myself) identified our trio we always knew in our heart of hearts that we were more than cousins.

We shared a middle name;  we shared a birthday month (six years and five days separated us); we shared a horrific year at a private school (Rachel as a kindergartner and me as a 6th grader); we shared inside jokes; we shared groan filled shopping excursions that included hour long treks through Elder Beerman (a horrid department store); we shared a love of clothes, handbags, shoes, and bling; we shared a love of all babies; we shared a crazy family that we love beyond measure; we shared a youth full of daily summer pool trips, weekend shopping, Fourth of July traditions, Disney World trips, family dinners at Grandmother’s; we shared a relationship that picked back up right where we left off as soon as the three of us were together.

Rachel’s life might have been cut short last November, but it was a life lived fully.  Her parents, her family, her friends, and her sister cousins all knew she loved them and all loved her in equal measure.  She brightened every room she entered with her kind heart, contagious laugh, and gentle grace.

I’m so thankful for all the stuff we shared over 27 years and as crazy as it might sound I am thankful that I miss her so much even now, 10 months after her passing.  The ache I feel each day when I realize I can’t send her that funny text or talk to her about my latest Last Chance find just serves to remind me what a great loss I have suffered and what a great love I shared with my sister cousin.  And while I would give anything to have more time with Rachel, I rest assured in the fact that she knew I loved her and that some day I will see her again and we will then pick up where we left off.

Tonight Isabella told me that she had some good news about Rachel: “Mom, you don’t have to be sad.  I have some good news.  Rachel is in heaven, and because of Jesus she isn’t really dead.  She’s an angel now and she’s watching over all of us.”  Exactly the sort of thing I would have texted Rachel and exactly the thing I needed to hear on this, the eve of her birthday.

I miss you, my dear sweet leech, my precious sister cousin.

So, I haven’t posted here in FOREVER, despite penning thousands of posts in my head and I promise to get back to regular programming soon, but in the meantime will you indulge me in a couple shameless plugs?

Shameless Plug #1: If you know me at all you know I have been unhappy with teaching for, well, going on a decade.  I’ve stuck with it this long because I’m an idiot, I suppose.  Lately, I’ve been really trying to figure out what would be an ideal job for me.  I love to write, I love to read, and I love fashion.  I’m old, guys, so I know my chance of making it in the industry has all but faded, but that doesn’t mean I am willing to go gently into that good night of just resigning to my lot in life.  Recently, I became aware of a contest hosted by Lucky Magazine and Revlon.  Essentially, over several months they will be posting writing challenges on their site and readers can respond.  Then, there is a week or so of voting and then the next round begins.  At the end of the contest season someone will win $10, 000 and perhaps receive a contributing writing gig with Lucky.  Listen, I don’t really think I can win this thing, but the writing challenges are a great way to hone my writing skills, and it’s worth a shot, right?  So, if you would be a dear would you please cast a vote for me?  You will have to register with the site, but I promise it’s relatively painless AND if you have more than one email account you can actually register under the other emails, with a different password of course, and vote for me more than once/day.  This round of voting ends 8/11/11!  Thanks in advance!

Shameless Plug #2: In another attempt to branch out and see what else I can do with my talents and interests a coworker and I have started a fashion tumblr: Style Tutor.  (go ahead and follow us so you will be in the know as our site expands!) We are just in the beginning stages, so don’t judge it too harshly, but our ultimate goal is to provide a user friendly guide to fashion and style, no matter your body type, career, budget, interests, etc. with a little fantasy thrown in. If you have any suggestions or ideas for features you would personally like from a fashion site please comment below or email us at styletutors@gmail.com.  You can also follow us on twitter.

Okay, so shameless plugs are over, for now.

ПодаръциIt’s been a while since I’ve given any sort of update about the happenings in the Woolsey household, and by update with us I really mean the kids.  No one cares about good old mom and dad.  (We are fine, but more than ready for the school year to end, by the way.)

The kids…where to start?  

 Dean is 11 months going on destroyer of the earth.  Seriously, seriously…I know boys are rough adn tumble and into everything, but this kid is nonstop.  Just the other day he crawled on top of Isabella’s princess car in order to attempt to thrust a foot onto the couch arm so as to climb to new heights.  If the child is attemtping this now it’s only a matter of time before I go out back to find him scaling the wall.

No cabinet is safe at this point.  If there is something dangerous (razor) or poisonous (cleaning products) he is sure to unearth them and shove them in his piehole because everything must first passs the “Is this some manner of food?” test before he can move on to the next in a series of lifethreatening curiousities.

He has mastered the art of climbing the stairs and as of a day ago the tumble back down.  Much to his credit he has taken to heart every boys are tough talk we’ve had with him as he did not so much as make a peep as he fell end over end culminating in a scull crushing smack into the landing wall.

He says “Dadda and Dad” as well as “Momma”.  He is a big “talker” like his sister and is more than willing to go toe to toe with her in the who can talk the loudest contests they seem to have every afternoon on the drive home.

Besides his near obsession with me, his sister is probably his favorite person in the entire universe.  She makes him laugh just by walking into a room and if he hears her voice he immediately starts squealing and kicking his feet.  if you happen to be holding him at the time the death grip must come out or he will literally leap from your arms in order to speed crawl to her for surely she must be about to do the coolest thing of all time.

Dean is such a pleasant boy.  He is nearly almost always happy.  He cries when he is hungry or needs a little bit of mom time.  Beyond that he is content to crawl around looking for the next bit of trouble he can get into or cause!

Isabella is 3 1/2 going on 16.  Three is such a sassy age, isn’t it?  She’s more than mastered the sigh of discontent and the eye roll as well as the disgusted tone when talking to her father or me.  Just the other day she came downstairs, sighed deeply and dramatically and pronounced, “I cannot believe this is my life.”  Oh the troubles she has known…

The kid is smart as a whip.  I know every parent thinks that of their kid, but as a teacher I can tell you that simply is not the case, some kids are just plain dumb.  You know it’s true, you encounter them every day, some people just aren’t willing to admit it.  This kid, though, is scary smart.  It’s still not clear if she will use it for evil or good…keep us in your prayers.  She knows all her letters, knows the sounds they make and a million words that begin with each letter or contain the sounds they make.  She writes her name and spells both Izzy and Isabella with ease.  She knows Bible verse

Since I find myself posting so infrequently here, I thought it a grand idea to start another blog. 

I’m teaching Design II this semester; the students are creating and posting to their own fashion blogs throughout the spring semester.  They are required to post twice a week, so not to be outdone I’ve gone and started a fashion blog.  Currently I have three posts up, which is more than I’ve posted here in the last year or so.  If you feel so inclined head over to The Dictator of Style  (that’s me!) and check it out.

Dear Santa Claus,

How have you been?  Did you have a good summer?  How are your wisemen?  How is your sleigh?  Is it good?  Is it broken?  Did you have a good cookie?

I’ve been good…extra good!  I love my mommy and daddy.  I love them so much that I gave them my only son, a baby.  He’s been born. The angels named him Deano. He was born when mommy went to the doctor.

Do you have stairs at your house?  How about your momma?

Did it rain at your house?  I’m going to see my Grams and Sir. Grams and Sir have snow at their house, so I get to play in it!

Will you bring me a little bit of presents?  I want a big car.  I’m making a Christmas tree for you.  We are running out of orange juice, so please get us orange juice.  I’m going to see Jesus; Jesus, please!

We have cookies for you.  We will hide them today so you can find them tomorrow.

Love,

Isabella

Here’s a glimpse at what we’ve, and by we I really mean Isabella and Dean, been up to for the last two months…

As many of you know, Brian’s mom, Marilyn, was diagnosed with colon cancer in January of 2010 and passed away April 11, 2010.  Hers was a very swift battle that left everyone involved reeling from the speed of her disease.

On October 30th, 2010 Brian and I, along with several close friends, will be running the Undy 5000  (5k) in honor of his mother, my grandfather, and the family friends who have passed away from this devastating disease.

We know that running this race will not replace what we have lost, but we do hope the money raised will help heighten awareness and fund research so that one day no one will know the pain of losing a loved one to colon cancer.  If you are interested in helping us raise money for cancer research please follow the link to Brian’s page.  Most importantly, even if you don’t donate, please get all screenings at the recommended times; early detection might have saved Brian’s mom and could quite possibly save you or a loved one.

Yesterday, Isabella, Dean, and I were able to spend the day together.  We dropped off my parents at the airport and then proceeded to run a few errands.  One such errand took us to Buffalo Exchange where the Halloween decor was in full force.

As we waited for the clerk to pass judgment look through my clothes and decide which ones to buy, Isabella became fascinated with the various arachnids scattered throughout the store.  She was very curious as to why they would choose to decorate with spiders, so I explained that it isn’t uncommon for stores to start promoting holidays that are months away.  She thought that was silly since Halloween isn’t for another two months, but clearly the overall message was not lost on her as she began to worry about what she, brother, Mommy and Daddy were going to be for Halloween.

When we got home, Halloween costumes were still on the forefront of her mind, so we decided to play Halloween for a bit.  We, of course, could not leave Dean out of the fun!  Isabella had a blast, while Dean did not appreciate being stuffed into a costume that while for 6-9 months is quickly becoming too small.  He did, however, like being held by his big sister and may have tried to nurse her before falling asleep still decked out as a vegetable.

Good heavens; they are cute kids!

Let’s take a quick moment to review just how HUGE I was just a few months ago:

(37 weeks pregnant:  BLAH!)

(40 weeks: Induction day.  Can you see the RELIEF?)

It’s been nearly three months since Dean’s birth, which means its been six weeks since I was released to resume all normal activities, which let’s be honest the only activity I really cared about was a return to exercise.  Call me vain, but after gaining 30 lbs and being so miserable at the end I was ready to whip this mound of flesh into some semblance of shape.

I gained the same amount of weight this time around as I did with Isabella, but, for me at least, this pregnancy’s weight did not pile on nor did it come off in the same way as the first.  Perhaps those differences can be attributed to age, gender of the baby, my fitness level before and during the pregnancy, stress, or the unknown, but all I know is I sprinted home from my six week’s post-partum appointment and promptly popped in Gillian Michael’s No More Trouble Zones and never looked back.

I also downloaded the Couch to 5k app and have been faithfully following the 3 day/week running program.  I had been running during this pregnancy, but at 36 weeks I was told to cease all unnecessary activity, so when it came time to start running again I thought it wise to start out slowly.  Six weeks later I know this was a really smart decision as I’ve not suffered any injuries and have been able to easily follow the program.  I dare to say it’s been a little easy since I already have years of running under my belt, but I like that I am injury free, am getting stronger, and most importantly, I love being able to cue up the music, turn on the app and Nike+, and mindlessly run while someone else dictates what I am doing and for how long. 

 In fact, I wish someone would create a marathon training app that would do the same thing.  Not that I am in any kind of shape to run another marathon yet, but I’ve got my eyes set on one late spring of 2011 or mid fall of 2011.  (It all depends on if I can talk Melissa to run Chicago with me! )

The other thing factoring into my get “hot” again pursuit is the fact that I am successfully breastfeeding this time around.  Everything I’ve read says it is okay to exercise regularly, but I think I am still a tad trepidatious about exercising as rigorously as I would like on a regular basis.  If I felt truly free to exercise as I wish I would probably be at my pre-pregnancy weight by now instead of 5lbs away.  Those 5lbs have been lingering for a few weeks now, so I suspect that a few of them, at least, are settled in my milk jugs and won’t disappear until the little one stops suckling at the teat.

I also want to try Gillian Michael’s Making the Cut diet and exercise program, but I fear the diet will mess with my milk supply.  It’s not  so much a “diet” in the sense of really restricting calories as it is a “diet” that helps you eat for your metabolic type with the purpose of helping you shed fat to showcase the muscles beneath.  For my metabolic type I would still consume 1200 calories, which I’m not even sure I actually consume on a daily basis, so it isn’t like I would be starving myself, but I would hate for nursing to end because of my vanity so I am being responsible and holding off on this part of O.G.H.A. until Dean is weened.

But really, who cares about any of this, if there aren’t some before and work in progress shots.  Please bare in mind that no miracles have been performed in the six weeks since I began exercising again, but nonethless I think you can see that some small change is being made.

Before:

(This is a few days after my six week appointment.  Isabella and I were playing princess.  That look of displeasure is less about playing dress up and more about the dismal state of affairs that was my gut.)

Work in Progress:

(I guess that goofy expression in the first work in progress picture is my way of saying what did you expect, it’s only been six weeks!  I know the arm shots are silly, especially given I really don’t have muscular arms, but I wanted some sort of documentation of how they look now so I can compare them after I do Making the Cut.  Plus, this wouldn’t really be a great blog post if there weren’t some pretentious pictures!)

There are times I am sitting on the couch with myBrest Friend secured around my waist, Dean latched onto a boob, and Isabella sitting as close to me as she can without actually sitting on me with her thumb in her mouth and her other hand seeking out the seam on my shirt’s collar that I am pretty sure my heart will explode at the wonder of being completely at home with two little ones using my body for sustenance or comfort.

There are times Dean is crying (screeching really) because he is hungry or has just crapped himself and Isabella is yelling out, “I have to go potty.  I have to go potty!” that I am pretty sure I will lose my ever loving mind.  How is it possible they can sync up their evacuations?

There are times we are in public and a sweet elderly couple will comment on our beautiful children, Isabella and Dean, that it makes me remember to slow down and really take in the splendor of their infancy and toddlerdom because all too soon I will be the wrinkled lady commenting on someone else’s beauties.

There are times I am so exhausted that I want to hop in my car, check into a hotel, and not come out for a week.

There are times I am consumed by horrible thoughts of accidents, childhood cancer, death that I can hardly breathe.

There are times Dean smiles at me so big or Isabella walks by on her way to her next adventure and shouts, “I love you, Mom!” that I want to stop time and live in a world where I am always their center.

There are times I am wracked by the guilt of not staying home with my babies that I can only hope and pray I am the only one who will be scarred for life.

There are times Isabella and Dean are sleeping that I sneak into their rooms to touch their soft heads, kiss their chubby cheeks, and say a quick prayer of thanks for being entrusted with their lives.

There are times being a parent just seems too much: too much poop, too much snot, too much barf, too much laundry, too much whining, too much correcting and correcting over and over, too much pushing aside what I really want to do to play the “castle game” or once again whip out a boob, but then I contrast that with a life without kids and what I come up with is a life that is too empty: too empty of sweet kisses and hugs, too empty of impromptu snuggles, too empty of that new baby smell, too empty of watching a child wake up to the wonder of the world, too empty of watching your little one bravely hurl herself off the side of the pool all the while trusting you will catch her and help her once more return to safety, too empty of little coos and his little head burrowing into your shoulder, too empty of seeing your parents hold and marvel at your children.