Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New Year, New Goals (A Few Are New, Anyway)

So in my last post I told you about last year's resolutions and how I did with keeping them. I promise you, if I didn't have a blog, they would have been forgotten! I forgot some of them even WITH the blog. So anyone who says blogging is a waste of time is just plain wrong.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it, anyway.

So to recap, I'm going to continue with these resolutions, which have had a positive impact on my life in the past year:
  • Read the Bible and pray daily.
  • Get back to exercising 4 times a week.
  • Read a challenging book once a month.
  • Write every day and finish at least six short stories.
Because I can't just go easy on myself, here are a few other things I'm going to set as goals.
  • Clean up the playroom--and therefore the living room--every night before bed. Not as difficult as it sounds--cleaning up toys is much easier when there are specific places for everything. Plus Justin and the kids help, and many hands do make light work. I just have to remember to start the cleanup process sooner than 8:45.
  • Take more pictures. I scrapbook, and I want more material. I know you only get better pics when you take more of them, so I need to start using my camera more. And also that means I should post more pictures on this here blog. First up: pictures of this remodeling project I keep telling you about but haven't showed you in a long time.
  • As far as my eating habits, I need to eat more fruits and vegetables, and I want to start eating real oatmeal instead of sugary cereal with no fiber. I already make it for Justin, so it will be easy to make extra for myself. In fact, I plan to do this tomorrow morning, when he is home for the holiday.
I wish you and yours a wonderful 2009 whether you make any resolutions or not.

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Sunday, December 28, 2008

Review of 2008's Resolutions

Last year I made some resolutions, which I thought might be easier to keep if I called them suggestions. You can read that post here.

So of course last week I started thinking, "How'd I do on those resolutions?" It's impossible for me not to make resolutions--except for the year my only resolution was to recover from the crippling postpartum anxiety and depression--and now that I have a record of my resolutions on my blog, I HAVE to analyze my progress. I'm too analytical for my own good, not to mention self-critical (I'm always asking myself things like, "But was it REALLY my best?") This is not the best way to maintain good mental health, but as long as I keep it in perspective through positive thinking and prayer take my meds, I can use my tendency to push myself to accomplish some of my goals.

I've always said, if your child has to have some emotional baggage, you could do worse than to have a perfectionist. They'll drive themselves crazy, but they'll never lose a job, get pregnant out of wedlock, take drugs or do anything socially embarrassing. And they will ALWAYS make New Years' resolutions.

Here are 2008's resolutions and my assessment of how I did with them.

1. Read the Bible daily and spend more time in prayer.
How it went: I got bogged down in Jeremiah AGAIN (really, I should just skip him) and quit for three months or so. Then school started and I found myself waiting in my car for 15-20 minutes a day to pick Miss Pink up from school. I was enjoying reading novels, and then the thought came into my head, "I should really use that time to pray and read my Bible. I'm always saying I don't have time to do it, and here I have been given this extra time every day when I can't do anything else BUT read or listen to the radio." So I sort of took that realization as God taking away my excuses for not spending time with him. Maybe it was even a direct order; I certainly felt chastened enough to obey.

I've been prayer journaling with the book The Power of a Praying Parent and also with the book of Psalms, which are prayers themselves, and the results for my spiritual and emotional and family life have been amazing. I had a better Christmas because of it, too--listening to Christmas songs on the Christian radio station, and thinking about what Christmas means for my faith: I would get teary-eyed almost every day, and also I remembered to pray for people who needed help, when I might have forgotten otherwise. I'm not boasting about my spirituality AT ALL; I'm just thankful that I took the opportunity when it presented itself, and that I was able to ignore the CD of Blue's Clues that kept Mr. Blue quiet in the back seat.

2. Exercising 3-4 times a week.
How it went: Pretty well for most of the year. I'd say my average was about 3 times a week. I went 4 days a week many times during the spring and summer, dropped down to 3 x per week during the fall, and have been abysmal during December. I'm actually ready to go back, though.

3. Learn to make homemade stock: chicken, beef, and veal.
How it went: Mostly a bust. I made chicken stock a couple of times, with the bones of a leftover roasted chicken but then the next time I had a chicken carcass (it sounds awful describing it like that, but at least I didn't call it a corpse or something), I left it in the fridge for around two weeks, all because I was too lazy to throw it into a pot with some water and onion. I never tried to get beef or veal bones to make stock with them, either. I'm not too bothered, since the chicken stock was better than canned broth but you can buy stock in cardboard boxes and it's as good as what I made, if not better.

4. Read at least one book that requires Serious Mental Effort and goes outside my intellectual comfort zone every month.
How it went: Pretty well, which I expected since reading is something I live for enjoy. But this was the first time since I left grad school that I read for more than pleasure. I read histories, biographies, and historical novels set in the time of Henry VIII and his children, especially Elizabeth. I read classic novels I'd never read before, and discovered that I like Dickens more than I thought I would. I'll keep this resolution up in 2009.

5. Make music an important part of my life again, with the help of the iPod, of course.
How it went: Mostly a failure. In fact, the iPod needs to be charged and has needed charging for more than a month. I like the iPod when working out, but that requires fast music. I don't listen to other types of music since I rarely have a chance to just chill and listen to music instead of paying attention to the kids. I can't listen to music when I read--books or blogs--or when I write. Which pretty much excludes all my leisure time.

I did discover some new-to-me artists and I have other music I want to obtain, so it wasn't a total bust. I need to charge the iPod and listen to it instead of plugging into the TVs at the gym. Still, I won't make this a resolution for 2009 because I've decided it isn't crucial to my happiness.

6. Write every single day, even if it’s one sentence about that day or a thought I had.
How it went: Do comments on others' blogs count? If so, then I ruled. I didn't write a blog post every day, although for a month or so I did make myself write fiction 15 minutes a day, and I almost finished that short story I rashly promised to send those of you who wanted it. Then the holidays happened and I stopped. (Well, would you want to write about a woman who's contemplating committing adultery, at Christmastime? I thought not!) But I am going to do that again because I got much more creative when I was making myself write. I do some form of this resolution every year. You'd think I'd either get more disciplined with my writing or just quit. But for some reason I can't allow myself to quit, and at least I wrote a lot of blog entries, Bible studies for church, and let's not forget my immortal comments. ;-)

7. Scrapbook more “slice of life” type things that capture how we live now, rather than the same holidays every year.
How it went: I still did the major holidays and celebrations, but the scrapbook based on my "week in review" blog posts, with accompanying pictures, is unique in the way it captures the details of our current life that we would have forgotten in ten or fifteen years. I'll mark this one a success.

8. Serve a few meals on my wedding china, which has been used only once or twice since we got it over ten years ago.
How it went: I totally forgot about this one! It never even occurred to me to do this. And now that I realize it, I don't think the quality of my life was harmed by using regular dishes or (gasp!) paper plates all year. We did have some candlelight family dinners, thanks to Miss Pink's coaxing.

I have a couple of new resolutions to add but I'll save those for the next post. Tell me, am I totally nuts to be analyzing this so deeply? You can tell me what you think, because it won't matter. I'll make my little lists anyway. I can't change my nature that much.

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Saturday, December 27, 2008

Week in Review, 12/21--12/27

Hi, everybody! I hope your Christmas (or weekend, if you don't celebrate Christmas) was lovely. Ours was. I continued to be stressed about the state of the house--if you have lived in a house you are remodeling, you know what I mean--but I managed to keep it to myself because Justin WAS working as hard as he could, plus he had his workers come (paid for out of the company) and I really couldn't imagine how things would look if they DIDN'T push on through and get things done.

Things are shaping up nicely and although we're not done, Phase One is VERY close to being finished. (In case you're wondering, Phase One was the playroom itself which included the built-in cabinets and desk, the kitchen tile was removed, the wood floor in the playroom and kitchen which had to be installed, sanded, distressed, stained, and coated in polyurethane which meant we couldn't walk on it for hours, and the walls of the playroom, living room, kitchen, and hall were retextured with sheetrock mud and then primed and painted. Phase Two will be replacing the (even more horrible after all the remodeling) living room and hall carpet with the same kind of wood as the other rooms, and faux-finishing the walls.

I would just like to say that every bit of this was my husband's idea. Apparently I am one of those people like my late paternal grandmother who could leave a house exactly the same for thirty years, down to a decorative cake of soap in a bathroom. Why change? I like the decor just as much as when I got it. If not for Justin, I'd probably be living in late-90s decor for the rest of my life.

And it wouldn't be that bad, would it?

Apparently I am still traumatized over the chaos I've experienced in the last week. When I was GOING to tell you that despite my apprehension, we had a lovely Christmas.

Here's a tip: small children do not care when the tree goes up, because time doesn't mean anything to them. We could have waited until Christmas Eve for all my kids cared. They loved decorating the tree, and only took ornaments off it a few dozen times.

Miss Pink left a sweet letter to Santa. (I SO wish I had a scanner.) "Dear Santa, I like you. I have bin good. I want a little horse set." She left him some pastries called butterhorns which he ate with a glass of milk while watching the Ultimate Fighting Championship. (That Santa--you thought you knew him!) We did forget the reindeer, though. I hope they didn't get mad!

My kids are allowed to open one gift on Christmas Eve. Usually, it's pajamas but my mom had already given them PJ's that say, "What Santa Doesn't Bring, My Grandma Will" (totally true, by the way). So they opened their gifts from their cousins and I honestly think Mr. Blue would have been happy if we'd stopped there. Justin and I wrapped until around 11:30. Okay--Justin wrapped and I put the rest in gift bags. But I shopped for it all, so I don't feel guilty for giving him more work. We did watch It's a Wonderful Life while we worked--I love that movie.

The next morning, we woke up around 7:20 when Miss Pink woke up. We had to wake Mr. Blue up, and he was a little cranky until he saw the presents. We had a nice time and by the time we'd eaten breakfast, it was time to get ready to go to my parents' house for opening with them and my brother and his girlfriend. And a FABULOUS Christmas dinner.

Every year I think Christmas could not be better, and every year it seems even better than the year before. For one thing, the kids are a year older. This was the first year Mr. Blue could look forward to Christmas, and Miss Pink was all about decorating cookies, making ornaments, and reading a different Christmas story every night of December (that was new this year). I had such wonderful Christmases as a child, and it makes me so happy that my children are having the same kind of childhood. They didn't receive any really expensive gifts, but what they got was well thought out and tailored to their interests and age, so they think they are the luckiest kids in the world. And why wouldn't they? They have so many people around them who love them. I'm glad I am able to give them that gift.

Miss Pink told me before the day, "Mom, Christmas isn't just about getting. It's about giving too. That's my favorite part."

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Saturday, December 20, 2008

99 Ways to Survive the Holidays

This list is on the front of the Christmas card I'm sending this year. Right now I am considering going down the list; I almost had a nervous breakdown yesterday. The wood floor is installed in the kitchen and there is dust on every surface from sanding it and the kitchen table is in the playroom and we eat our meals around the coffee table in the living room, but at least the living room walls are painted and the furniture is back in place instead of crowded in the middle of the room like it was yesterday. Also positive: we are putting the tree up tonight. And everything I need to buy is bought except for some gift bags.

I'm sure in a few years I'll have some fond memories of the year the house was being remodeled at Christmastime.

In the meantime, here are some suggestions for survival if anyone else is as stressed as I am.

1. Avoid the mall
2. Wear elastic waistbands
3. Meditate
4. Charge it
5. Hire help
6. Light a candle
7. Get a new family
8. Guzzle eggnog
9. Turn off the radio
10. Order in
11. Practice aromatherapy
12. Use paper plates
13. Break a resolution
14. Sleep in
15. Pray
16. Kiss under mistletoe
17. Swallow aspirin
18. Hide out
19. Eat chocolate
20. Take a deep breath
21. Bathe
22. Believe in Santa
23. Call in sick
24. Make snow angels
25. Pass the green beans
26. Stand your ground
27. Change lanes
28. Primp and preen
29. Bake cookies
30. Rent a movie
31. Clear the table
32. Glow
33. Feed the poor
34. Self-gift
35. Fake good cheer
36. Untangle lights
37. Stretch
38. Turn off the phone
39. Consider the alternative
40. Spray pine scent
41. Under-schedule
42. Shop online
43. Chow down
44. Whistle while you work
45. Take pictures
46. Start a diary
47. Wear reindeer sweaters [Ed. note: NO! DON'T!]
48. Take a walk
49. Take a hike
50. Take a chill pill
51. Drink good champagne
52. Ponder the needy
53. Go tropical
54. Hibernate
55. Eat more chocolate
56. Get a massage
57. Buy batteries
58. RSVP
59. Enter therapy
60. Dress in layers
61. Agree
62. Watch TV
63. Carry an umbrella
64. Learn the words
65. Do yoga
66. Disinfect
67. Have some coffee
68. Bite your tongue
69. Hoard cash
70. Up the dosage
71. Eschew poinsettias
72. Dance the night away
73. Find God
74. Giggle
75. Gossip
76. Re-gift
77. Apply pressure
78. Wash your hands
79. Stuff stockings
80. Use a tissue
81. Follow instructions
82. Kindle the fire
83. Join a choir
84. Moisturize
85. Flee
86. Flout etiquette
87. Get a babysitter
88. Apologize
89. Commiserate
90. Crank the heat
91. Soak overnight
92. Say no
93. Turn the other cheek
94. Drink water
95. Rinse and repeat
96. Redecorate
97. Read the manuals
98. Change the channel
99. Save the receipt

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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Christmas Meme

I've seen this on several blogs, but finally got it from MaryP.

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags?
Gift bags whenever possible. If I wrap a present, it looks like an armless person did it with her mouth. (No offense to armless people, who might even do a better job than I do.)

2. Real tree or Artificial?
Artificial. We always had real trees growing up and I do miss the smell, but I don't want to clean up all the needles. Plus Miss Pink would want to save them and Mr. Blue would hide them.

3. When do you put up the tree?
It varies. If Miss Pink has her party at home I wait until after her birthday to make room and make the house more "birthday-ish." The past two years we've put it up the first week of December. This year it's STILL not up due to the remodel. It WILL be up by Thursday if it kills me--or I kill Justin! ;-)

4. When do you take the tree down?
January 1 or 2.

5. Do you like eggnog?
No. Although I haven't tasted it in a long time--maybe I would change my mind if I tried it. But I doubt it.

6. Favorite gift received as a child?
The year that Cabbage Patch dolls were sold out everywhere, my mom found some for us. I was totally shocked.

7. Hardest person to buy for?
My dad. He has everything he wants, and doesn't want gadgets, books, or DVDs. At least he's stopped buying things for himself right before Christmas--that used to drive us all crazy.

8. Easiest person to buy for?
Miss Pink and Mr. Blue. They love every present they get (at least I hope this is still true.)

9. Do you have a nativity scene?
Yes. It's china, in one piece, and sits on my mantel away from little hands. Someday I'd like to have a larger one.

10. Mail or email Christmas cards?
Mail. That's this week's task, or one of them, anyway.

11. Worst Christmas gift you ever received?

You know, I've been very lucky. I can't remember anything bad. I WAS a little disappointed the year I was thirteen, when I asked for clothes and a purse and my brother still got things to play with. But that was just growing pains.

12. Favorite Christmas Movie?

It's a Wonderful Life. I plan to watch it on Christmas Eve after wrapping the presents, in front of a fire, with a cup of hot cocoa in my hand. Aaaahhhh...bliss.

13. When do you start shopping for Christmas?
This year I started in October, with some brand-new books and Beanie babies I found at a garage sale. My goal is to start earlier every year.

14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present?
No, although I don't see anything wrong with it as long as the recipient and the original giver won't ever know.

15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas?
Dressing. My evening meal is pretty much just dressing and gravy. :-)

16. Lights on the tree?
Yes. White.

17. Favorite Christmas song?
“O Holy Night.”

18. Travel at Christmas or stay home?
Home, definitely.

19. Can you name all of Santa’s reindeer?
Oh, yes.

20. Angel on the tree top or a star?
Neither--a gigantic bow that my mom makes for me, which changes according to that year's color theme. Someday I will get an angel, but I keep forgetting.

21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning?
Morning. If you do it on Christmas Eve, there's nothing to look forward to the next morning!

22. Most annoying thing about this time of the year?
Crowded malls and traffic. Which is why I do almost all of my shopping on Amazon.

23. Favorite ornament theme or color?
I don't have a theme. I love all the ornaments my mom gave me every year since I was little. I can still tell you what they all represent. Now, of course, we carry on that tradition with my kids.

24. Favorite for Christmas dinner?
The traditional one: turkey with dressing and gravy; three or four vegetables; cranberry jello salad; rolls; various desserts.

25. What is your favorite thing about the holidays?
Time with family and remembering what Christ's birth means to us.

Let me know if you use this so I can come read it!

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Saturday, December 13, 2008

Week in Review, 12/7--12/13

Yay

1. On Wednesday, I went on a field trip with Miss Pink's class and another kindergarten class to the Dollar Tree. Earlier that morning, three classes had had their turn. Every child had brought $1.10 to buy an item someone would need (as opposed to ones they would only want) so it could be donated to the local charity. The kids behaved well in general, although I did feel a little sorry for the cashiers and the other shoppers (one lady observed while she was paying, "This wasn't really the best time to come in, was it?") And based on what I saw being purchased, the less fortunate will now be well supplied with toothbrushes, soap, shampoo, socks, scarves, and High School Musical pencils.

2. I was moved to give thanks for the praline pecans my husband brought home from a store called Austinuts. It was started, obviously, in Austin, but they recently opened in the Dallas area, and Justin's company made the special cabinets for the nuts and candies. He brought home a gift basket that we're giving away, and the sample I shared with him and the kids made my mouth sing for joy. The gift baskets make great presents. Especially if you're buying for me, but other people would probably enjoy them too. (Sadly, they are not giving me free stuff to promote their store.)


3. Miss Pink's birthday party was this Saturday. I can hardly believe she is six years old! Everything went well: the room looked decent (we borrowed a neighborhood cluhouse), the cake was pretty and delicious, and the kids seemed to enjoy the games. It was a Blue's Clues party, so we played "Pin the Picture in Blue's Frame" (don't ask me why the manufacturers couldn't do an ear or a tail) and a game of "Blue's Clues" itself. Miss Pink wore her Halloween costume as Blue and Justin was Steve's cousin. Everyone was impressed with his mad acting skillz and singing. We told him that if the cabinet shop doesn't work out, he can always go into children's television. ;-)
Putting together a birthday party is not my best talent, but it was worth all the planning and shopping and getting 17 balloons with Blue and paw prints on them filled with helium this morning (for $9.20! Yikes!) because my daughter had so much fun. She has told me over and over again how much she likes her presents, and she thanked and hugged all her friends who came. It's not hard to give when you get a reaction like that.

Happy birthday to my sweet six-year-old girl.


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Friday, December 12, 2008

Fantasy Living

For today's version of Philosophical Friday, you get two related questions for the price of one!

1) If you could inherit a comfortable home in any city in the world that you could use but not sell, where would you want it to be?

2) If you could inherit a vacation home anywhere in the world in which you could spend one month a year, but that you could never sell, where would it be?

I'm going to take the first question literally and pick a city rather than a rural area or small town. I'm a city girl, anyway, and I'd love to live part-time in London. I visited it during college and I would love to go back--and then I could pop over to Paris or anywhere else in Europe while there. Hopefully I would be able to afford to travel there more than once every 15 years, though!


With all the exotic options available for choice #2, I think I'll have to stay in the U.S. and visit Carmel-by-the-sea in Northern California. It's beautiful year-round and my husband would love to play golf at Pebble Beach!


Where would you like your second and third homes to be?

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Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Habit of Obedience

Today while I was waiting to pick Miss Pink up from school, the song "Mary, Did You Know?" came on the radio. I love that song. Except for the Kenny Rogers version. Anyway, this version was Kenny-free, and I let it soak into my brain as I thought about Christmas from Mary's point of view.

Miss Pink's birthday is tomorrow. She was two weeks old on Christmas Day, and I thought I might die from sleep deprivation. In all the pictures that year, my face can barely form a smile. The best part was that we didn't have to buy Christmas presents for anybody that year, because what could be a better present than a sweet little baby?

Remembering my first Christmas as a mother, my heart swells with empathy for Mary. Whatever she knew, I doubt she knew it with mystical, angelic certainty. During her pregnancy, she must have been confused and exhausted and more than a little panicky. Maybe she thought during labor, "Why on earth did I say yes to that angel?" She must have looked at her infant son with an instinctual desire to protect him from anything that would ever threaten him with pain--and yet her mother love was mingled with the knowledge that her baby was not like other babies.

Think about it: all of us secretly think our baby is the most perfect one ever born, but hers really was.

Why did she do it? She had a choice--God always gives us a choice. She could have said no, and the shame of being pregnant before the wedding would have passed her by. The months of waiting which ended in giving birth in a filthy stable would not have happened to her. Her life would have proceeded as planned, without the divine disruption that changed everything.

Instead, she answered "yes" right away. There was no hesitation, no "let me think about it." No, Mary said to the angel, "Be it unto me according to thy word." She said, Yes. I am yours.

Such acceptance, it seems to me, only comes naturally when it has been practiced. Mary's ability to say yes to the ultimate request was made possible by all the times she had said yes to smaller things. She had made a habit of obedience.

Remembering all the times I've complained and whined and fought against God's will for my life, I am even more impressed by Mary's obedience. Too often obedience is seen as passivity; it's considered boring to be an obedient person. But when obedience demands the greatest risk of all, we realize that it's much more difficult and valuable than it appears. And that it takes practice. A lot of practice (well, maybe more for some of us than others!)

Thank you, Mary, for being obedient enough to bear the Son of God. And may I be willing to follow your example--whatever path I am asked to take.

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Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Regular Exercise

This week I realized that I've done a pretty good job of keeping my New Year's resolution to go to the gym regularly. I don't say that boastfully at all--in fact, I'm pretty surprised at myself. For those who wish they could work out more often but are too busy, I understand why you can't, especially if you're a working parent. You come home tired at the end of the day, and you need to spend the last drops of your energy with your munchkins, not on the treadmill. But as a SAHM who spends way too much plenty of quality time with my kids, I figured that I had no excuse when I had access to a gym with inexpensive memberships and child care.

Of course, it's kind of disappointing to realize that I haven't lost any weight. I don't really HAVE to, but show me the woman who doesn't think she needs to lose five pounds, and I'll show you a man. (Kidding! If you have a healthier body image than I do and love yourself at your current weight, that's great.) Neither have I decreased my body fat percentage or even noticeably toned up. This is probably because I haven't pushed myself all that hard. One of my mottoes (I have many) is, "No pain...is good." I have worked up to increasing the resistance to level 4 on the treadmill and I can go 15 minutes on the elliptical machine now. One of these days I'll even be able to beat the senior citizens around the track! (Kidding again. I can totally lap most of them.)

Honestly, it's fine with me to only be moderately fit. I have no interest in running a marathon or even running at all. Another one of my mottoes is, "I don't run unless the safety of a child is involved." THEN I can haul butt. But I don't want to run for exercise. Runners always talk about how great it is and the "runner's high," but I've never seen one of them look like they're enjoying their run. They always have this grimace on their emaciated face, like it's a Death Run with armed guards forcing them to keep going beyond a normal endurance level. No, THANK you.

I'm most thankful that exercise has allowed me to stay in the same size of clothes while eating plenty of treats along with the healthy stuff that I do enjoy. Life without chocolate would be a life with no meaning for me, and if I have to sweat for an hour a few times a week so that my obsession and I can be together, well then, BRING IT ON.

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Monday, December 8, 2008

Week in Review, 11/30--12/6

Another week flew by--at this point I'm just hoping to survive the next couple of weeks until Christmas gets here and we can enjoy the time with family!

1. I had no motivation this week. None, zero, zip, zilch. I kept us fed and with clean clothes--that's it. The house is very dirty, not just cluttered. But I am okay with it. I am going to do a little at a time and get things back where they need to be--and if I don't get everything spotless, that's okay since no one is coming over until Miss Pink's birthday party is over this weekend.

Priorities. I haz them. Sort of.

2. Mr. Blue is completely obsessed with The Wonder Pets show. I find myself singing, "What's gonna work? TEAMwork!" and "This is sewious!" even when the kids aren't around. (And as I twittered the other day, I'm worried about Ming Ming Duck. She needs speech therapy.)

A positive aspect of this obsession: the kids begged me to buy the Wonder Pet's snack of choice: celery. And they actually eat it for a snack. Amazing.

3. We went to Santa's Breakfast at our town's community center on Saturday to make some family memories. It's the kind of thing I always think, "Oh, we should do that" and forget about until it's over, then feel guilty because I worry that our kids are not going to grow up with any Meaningful Holiday Traditions. But I bought the tickets in advance ($3 and $4, so super cheap fun) and although my husband was rather Scrooge-like at first, even he had to admit that it was fun. After we had pancakes and sausage, the kids saw Santa and I got pictures of them sitting in his lap. It was much quicker and more personal than going to the mall. Mr. Blue had been unsure if he wanted to do it, but when he saw the very nice Santa with a kind voice, he went right up and climbed onto Santa's lap.

Then the kids painted an ornament and Miss Pink also made a beaded candy cane and got her face painted. An hour and a half later, we were back home with some genuine Christmas memories. Go me!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Philosopical Friday

With all the themed participatory weekly posts out there like "Works-for-Me-Wednesday" and "Friday Fill Ins," it occurred to me that I could call my posts that answer questions from the book If... "Philosophical Friday." But I'm sorry, I cannot call it Filosophical Friday because that would cause me physical pain.

Anyway, the questions are more hypothetical than philosophical, if that difference matters--although some of the answers may reveal your philosophy of life. I don't know; I don't know enough about philosophy. It's too deep for me.

Here's the next question.

If you could have stopped aging at any point of your life up to the present, how old would you want to remain?

I remember using this question as an icebreaker for our small group, and most people said they wanted to be young and relatively carefree (i.e. no kids) but still old enough to have a responsible job so they could have money, etc. So they agreed they'd like to be 25 or so.

Not me. I'd like to stay right where I am. I love being in my early 30s. I have more confidence and optimism than I've ever had, and I don't care nearly as much as I used to about what people think of me. I have good friends, an amazing husband, and the best kids I could ask for. When I was in my early 2os, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life, I cried a lot, and I frequently agonized over whether I should go ahead and have a baby. (Answer to my younger self: yes, you nitwit. On one level, you will never be ready, but it's the best thing that will ever happen to you.) Plus, since I didn't know what I wanted to do with my life, I didn't have a full-time job or the disposable income that comes with it.

So being 33 isn't so bad. I wouldn't mind staying here as long as Mr. Blue gets out of this annoying screaming stage.

What about you? Would you like to be younger or are you happier at your current stage of life?

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Thursday, December 4, 2008

Keeping My Fingers Crossed

All day I've been dying to blog about the possibility that opened up for me today. So of course I had no opportunity to write about it until bedtime.

But now I can! Today at the gym I started talking to the woman on the stationary bike next to me. She mentioned that she teaches for a homeschool co-op; she was an art teacher before she had kids, and the co-op hired her to teach their kids once a week. Obviously it isn't much money because it's only once a week, but she really does it to get her "teaching fix" as she put it.

I get that--I really do. For those who don't know, I taught a couple of years, then worked at Sylvan Learning Center while I went to grad school. I love to teach. It's in my nature; it's who I am. Here's what I don't like about the job: rebellious kids, paperwork, clueless parents, and long meetings. I always knew I wanted to be a SAHM, so it wasn't a question what I would do when Miss Pink was born. But when people ask me if I'm going back to teaching, for five years I've said, "Not if I don't have to!" Because whenever things got hard, I'd ask myself, "Would I rather be back in a classroom of eighth graders trying to teach them YET AGAIN the difference between 'their' and 'they're'?" The answer was always, "H-e-double-hockeysticks, NO!" and I'd go back to my screaming toddler with a renewed sense of gratitude. Because at least it was only ONE rebellious child, and she is mine and I love her with all of my heart, which somewhat lessens the desire to throw her off a cliff, and besides I am bigger than her.

So, no, I was not wanting to go back to teaching for a long time. This remained true even when I had Mr. Blue and we were up to two children and one mama. I can still take 'em, so I was good.

Lately, though, the "teacher" part of my brain has been partly reactivated because I've been doing some volunteer tutoring at Miss Pink's school. I just love working with kids in small groups. So I began to think of what I could do to get in a classroom part-time--and I thought I might start subbing at the school, which is so awesome that I would LOVE to be teaching there, but that couldn't start until Mr. Blue starts kindergarten. Because if I have to pay a babysitter out of sub wages, it wouldn't be worth it.

Anyway, to get to the point, this woman I met today said she thought I should check with the director about teaching for the homeschool group. It was her idea, not mine. I asked her if she thought they'd be interested in a creative writing workshop and she said yes, they love classes like that. I got so excited I almost fell off my bike (not really.) I have always wanted to do a real workshop but due to (stupid) standardized tests there really isn't time to allow the kids to really work as writers. I am trying not to be too excited but I am going to talk with them about the possibility of teaching it for the fall. It's good that I'd have that much time to prepare the curriculum.

Of course I know that I only want to do this if it's a good fit for me, but--the possibility of teaching something I've always wanted to, in a low-stress environment with a small group of kids, in only an hour or two a week so I can do it without putting Mr. Blue in day care--it's SO exciting to think that this is a possibility, if not with this group, then maybe with another. I think it really is true that when you're open to new possibilities, you never know what will come your way.

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Tuesday, December 2, 2008

My Halls Are Decked (At Least Partly)

Well, I've succeeded at Officially Getting into the Christmas Spirit. It's always a relief when I manage to do it. One year it didn't happen until around December 20, and even I was worried. Of course, that was one of the years when we went on the Mandatory Ski Trips of Too Much Family Togetherness, which I do not have time to discuss today.

Here's how I know I'm ready to start feeling the Christmas love.

1. I start writing and talking in phrases with too many capital letters. (See above paragraph for examples.)

2. I'm mentally planning all the holiday goodies I'm going to bake. Let's just say that with everything I want to make, I need to be giving a LOT of the bounty away, or Mrs. Claus won't fit in the chimney.

3. I perked up quite a bit when Justin's side of the family decided that the adults wouldn't exchange gifts this year. Look, I'm not really a Scrooge, but gifts are not my Love Language (I wasn't kidding about the capitalizing) and the thought of planning, buying, wrapping, shipping, and let's not forget affording all of those gifts when like everybody else we're in a financial crunch--and doing it all by myself because that is apparently why men get married, not that I'm bitter after eleven years!--well, it was a relief, that's all. I will happily buy gifts for the kids and I'm making a photo book for the grandparents as I write this. And then I only have one Amazon order, one trip to Target (or an online order if my items qualify for free shipping) and one trip to Starbucks to make and that's it.

4. I'm listening to the Christmas music station in the car. I only change it on commercials and if "The Little Drummer Boy" comes on. I hate how that song gets stuck in my head. Ironically, I have a little drummer boy of my own this year. I'd rather listen to him than that song, actually.

5. Last year I read somewhere about reading a different Christmas story every night of December. And then I forgot about it until most of the Christmas books were checked out of the library. But yesterday at the library someone had left out a book titled "A Story a Day Until Christmas" and so we can do it this year! Mr. Blue was more interested in wrestling with Daddy, which is what they usually do on our bed, but you've got to start sometime. And Miss Pink enjoyed it.

5. I can't put the tree up for a couple of weeks because Justin is trying to see how much of the floor he can get finished. I told him he has until the second week of the month, and then it is going up no matter what. since the tree is the main part of my decorating. I just have never been able to get myself to put up a lot of other decorations. Today, I started getting out the Christmas hand towels and the candles and putting the china Nativity scene up on the mantel. (I just looked at the front door wreath which is on a shelf in the garage, and it needs serious help. I think insulation from the attic fell down on it. Yikes.)

So here I am, making a list and checking it twice obsessively, looking forward to good baking smells and the shining eyes of children, to ancient carols and new memories. Hoping to make it a December to remember.

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Sunday, November 30, 2008

Week in Review, 11/21--11/27

Last night I looked at my calendar and thought, Where did November go? It was just Halloween and poof! Here we are starting the last month of the year.

I had Internet access this week (we left on Tuesday and came back Saturday night), but I didn't post because I couldn't think of anything interesting to say. But in retrospect, there were plenty of highlights for the week.

1. Justin's sister and her husband have 13 acres of land and three horses. Miss Pink is currently horse-crazy, so she was ecstatic at getting to visit the REAL horses. I'll post the pictures as soon as my SIL emails them to me. Miss Pink's slightly older cousin gave her some outgrown cowboy boots, and that was all the incentive she needed to dress like a cowgirl for the next two days. I've lived in Texas all my life and have never owned a pair of boots or ridden a horse, so all this is new to me, but more power to her.

2. The other thing that kept my kids occupied (besides their cousins)? Eight-month-old miniature schnauzers! I'm convinced that when we do get a dog, this is the kind we want. They were so sweet and loving. Mr. Blue never got warmed up enough to actually pet the dogs, but he'd talk to them and let them sniff his hands. At one point he said, "Don't bite me, okay, Jacques?" totally expecting the dog to understand. Miss Pink loved the puppies so much that sometimes they growled at her, which we explained meant, "Back off--I've had enough!" I think she would have carried one around like a baby all day, if they'd let her.

3. We had a delicious Thanksgiving meal at Justin's aunt's house. I didn't know both his brother and sister's families were going to be there this year until we were traveling. (This is because my husband forgets to tell me things.) So it was a nice surprise to spend time with all the nephews and nieces we don't get to see very often.

4. I breathed a sigh of relief when we opened the door of our house, though. I'm a homebody and any time I'm away for a week, I start itching to get back to my familiar routine. It was painful to wake up at 6:30 this morning, but I'm glad to be back in the saddle again.

Although don't plan on seeing me in cowboy boots any time soon.

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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Week in Review, 11/16--11/27

What happened last week? I seriously can't remember! Here's my best attempt at capturing the week.

Yay
1. I'm loving the "Week in Review" scrapbook I've been working on. It's so simple because I've already done all the work of writing these posts for it. However, I've learned that I don't take nearly enough pictures. That will be a New Year's resolution for 2009.

2. Mr. Blue is turning into quite a drummer. Justin gave him some real drumsticks (Justin used to play) and now he drums on the floor, his stepstool, or plastic chairs--anything except real furniture, and he's obeying that rule really well. It actually doesn't bother me much, although his sister complains. He wants us to sing and no matter what we sing, commands us to "Sing faster!" Rock on, dude!

Nay
1. We had our flu shots. The whole experience wasn't that painful--it hurt most in the wallet.

2. Miss Pink gets scared every night at bedtime. Every single night we go through the bedtime routine of tucking her in, bedtime prayers, a drink of water from a bedside cup--and she starts whimpering about being scared about the end of the world. I can't be totally sure it's not going to happen, but I do my best to reassure her and give suggestions ("Think about happy things, like horses and your birthday!") Between you and me, she's not exactly faking it, but she's convincing herself to be scared. Therefore, I'm not letting her stay up with us since that just means she'll be tired the next morning. It always ends in us having to send her back to bed with her crying. Every single time I feel like an uncaring mother, but she falls asleep within five minutes, so I guess it could be worse. I need to remember one of my parenting mottoes: "It's only a phase--it won't last forever."

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Monday, November 24, 2008

We're leaving for Louisiana tomorrow morning, and guess what I'm doing? If you guessed "packing," you're wrong! Instead, I'm reading blogs while simultaneously uploading pictures onto Shutterfly. But I have a reason for that part--while I'm in La. I can start making the photo books the grandparents are getting for Christmas. (Don't worry, they don't read this blog. I think!)

Also, I need to charge my iPod and the batteries for the camera.

Clothes, schmoes. I need to make sure my technological gadgets are ready to go!

Due to the unforeseen combination of "stuff to do" and hormones from hell this weekend, I haven't yet finished the short story. It's so so close to being done, and you should get it in your email inbox this week.

I also need to work on last week's week in review before I forget what happened last week.

Here's a funny story about Mr. Blue that HAD to be blogged. Last night we were in the living room--I was reading, Mr. Blue was playing drums on a plastic chair, and Miss Pink and Justin were watching TV.

Suddenly Mr. Blue had a request to make. "I wanna watch dat belly show," he said.

Puzzled, I asked him to repeat the phrase, because I sure didn't understand what it referred to. He repeated it clearly, with a funny little grin on his face.

Justin said, "Oh! A while ago, I turned on the TV and that show about the Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders was on and they were doing their routine."

Showing their bellies, you see.

"Do you like to watch the pretty girls?" Justin asked him, and Mr Blue got an even goofier look on his face and growled, "MMMMMMMM."

That is the same sound his father made while we were standing at our wedding altar. I am not even kidding.

The ladies' man



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Friday, November 21, 2008

Holiday Stress

Recently I read an anonymous blog post in which the writer said it bugs her that people get stressed about the holidays. She felt that a lot of the cause of the stress is that people don't acknowledge that the holidays are coming until they are right on top of them. She said that she had mentioned to someone the other day that it was 34 days until Christmas. The other woman looked like she was about to smack the blogger. The blogger seemed to feel that this was an unreasonable response to her (unasked-for) countdown to The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.

Well, it may be unreasonable, but I shared the feelings of her acquaintance. I wanted to reach into the computer and smack her, myself. Especially since she announced she had already planned her menus and decorated her house. I think that if you are blessed enough to be an excellent planner who gets all her shopping and decorating done early, good manners dictate that you keep it to yourself. Just like if you are lucky enough to have a baby who sleeps through the night at one month, for heaven's sake, don't rub it in to the rest of us suffering souls. Or at least don't be surprised if people talk about you behind your back.

Part of my stress comes from Miss Pink's birthday being in mid-December. I can't give all my attention to Christmas until her birthday has been celebrated. And I refuse to put up any decorations or listen to Christmas music until after Thanksgiving, because Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays and I want to enjoy it, not skip ahead to Christmas. It's fine with me if you are ready for Christmas in July, but I'm not. I really don't get in the spirit until December 15 or so.

At least I don't host the family here (our house isn't big enough, and our families like to have us come to them) or cook the whole dinner by myself, or have a Christmas party, or--what the heck do I even DO for Christmas? All of a sudden it sounds like I have an easy time, and I'm just a big whiner.

I've actually gone ahead and bought a few things, which is more than I usually have done by this time. I have a list of what everyone is (probably) getting. Except for the teachers and that one niece...you see how my brain works. I want to have it all figured out in advance, including how to pay for everything--aaaarrrgggghhhh, it's driving me crazy.

Deep breath. All I have to do in the next few days is: a) go buy that tool set for Mr. Blue unless it's already been sold (there was only one and he was with me when I saw it); b) order the birthday party decorations for Miss Pink's party; and c) eat lots of lovely Thanksgiving food and refuse to think about how many days there are until Christmas.

That is, if any anonymous bloggers out there don't insist on reminding me.

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Thursday, November 20, 2008

Whew! I'm glad that's settled.

I talked to Miss Pink's teacher today and she confirmed my feelings that she totally knows what she's doing and thoroughly understands kindergartners (I agree with those who pointed out that curiosity and talking about body parts is usually normal; I just didn't know if that was the case here without being there).

The teacher told Miss Pink that she did the right thing in telling her, and then she let me know that she had talked to the little boy, who was ashamed of himself as soon as he showed Miss P the picture (which wasn't explicit; she said it was basically a "squiggle" of some sort). The teacher talked with him that that was something we don't talk about in school. They were learning the names of body parts and apparently it reminded him of other body parts. So the thing that I was concerned with isn't an issue--I didn't want her to be be the target of that kind of talk all the time.

Anyway, I wasn't all THAT worried even though it probably sounded like it, but I'm glad I touched base with the teacher and that Miss Pink knows she can tell me and her dad anything and we will take appropriate action (or inaction as the case may require). The only other thing I have to say is, God help the boy who ever harms one hair on her head, because her daddy is FIERCELY protective of his girl. And I don't think that's a bad thing for a girl to know.

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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

WT--Fill in the blank

I knew I'd have to deal with something like this, but I didn't know it would be so soon.

Today after school Miss Pink told me that a boy in her class drew a picture of her with parts showing that shouldn't be showing, if you get my meaning. Justin was nearby and I called his attention to what she was saying. We asked her if she had told the teacher and she said yes. She started to cry a little (probably because our faces were so serious) and we comforted her, telling her she hadn't done anything wrong, in fact she had done exactly right by telling the teacher and us. She didn't know how the teacher had dealt with the boy. After we loved on her and told her we would talk to the teacher, she was fine and went back to playing in the back yard.

They are in kindergarten. MAN. I want to go back to the days when figuring out how to soothe a crying baby was my biggest problem!

I emailed the teacher, choosing my words carefully because I have been on her side of the desk and I didn't want to come across as accusing her of not doing her job. In fact, I said, "I'm sure you already handled this" but that we would feel better if we checked with her that the situation was being handled appropriately. That was after school was over so she won't see that email till tomorrow. I have every reason to expect, from the kind of teacher she seems to be, that she will answer me and it will all be sorted out.

I have no idea what the school will do or what I should expect them to do, except that I don't want the boy to do it again. I wish I could protect my children's innocence forever, but sadly that cannot happen.

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Birthday strike-out meme

Here's how to play: Go here. Copy the text that goes with your birth month and strike out the parts that don't apply to you. It explains how to do the strikeout at the top of the page on the meme site, in case anyone is like I was (until fairly recently) and doesn't know how to use those html tags. It's okay, there are other people like us out here in blogland. You're safe with me. ;-)

Let me know if you do this so I can come see your results. I think this was written by someone who doesn't know English that well, but I had fun analyzing my personality.

My month is: July.

Fun to be with. Well, I like to think so.

Secretive. Not at ALL. I can keep a secret when it's absolutely necessary, but not my own secrets. I'm an open book.

Difficult to fathom and to be understood. Nope. See last sentence above. And if you don't understand me, I will go to great lengths to make myself understood.

Quiet unless excited or tensed. Probably true; however, I'm excited or tense a lot of the time. ;-)

Takes pride in oneself. No--not that I'm especially humble, just that I don't go around thinking about how great I am.

Has reputation. Uh...doesn't everyone have some sort of reputation?

Easily consoled. Yes. Hug me, tell me everything's going to be all right, and give me some chocolate, and I'm good.

Honest. In the sense of "I don't lie," yes. However, I find it hard to be honest if it will hurt someone's feelings or potentially make them angry. I'm working on growing a spine.

Concerned about people's feelings. Yes. Almost to a fault; it's the way I was raised.

Tactful. Yes, I'm pretty good at not lying but sparing someone's feelings.

Friendly. Yes, but I sometimes find it hard to strike up conversations if I'm out of my comfort zone.

Approachable. While I don't think I put off a "leave me alone" vibe, I'm not a people magnet, either.

Emotional, temperamental and unpredictable. Emotional, yes. Temperamental? Depends on the time of the month. Unpredictable? No way. No matter what I'm feeling, there will probably be tears involved. ;-)

Moody and easily hurt. I was pretty moody when I was younger. I still get my feelings hurt more easily than I should. It goes with caring too much about others' feelings.

Witty and sparkly. I don't know what "sparkly" means, exactly. I've been told I'm witty. It feels weird to agree, though.

Not revengeful. I don't seek revenge at all.

Forgiving but never forgets. This is true; I don't forget, but I try really hard not to hold it over your head.

Dislikes nonsensical and unnecessary things. Yep. Although everyone's definition of "nonsensical and unnecessary things" is different.

Guides others physically and mentally. I don't know what this means, especially the "physically" part. I certainly do a lot of guiding my children. I try with my husband, but sometimes it doesn't work.

Sensitive and forms impressions carefully. Yes.

Caring and loving. I hope so. I feel like I do.

Treats others equally. As much as possible. I know it's not always possible with my children--they need different things at different times.

Strong sense of sympathy. If I have gotten to know you at all, yes.

Wary and sharp.

Judges people through observations. I do form impressions of people from watching their behavior and listening to them. I do try not to be judgmental.

Hardworking. I used to be, but I can be appallingly lazy these days.

No difficulties in studying. Did the person who designed this quiz know me in college?

Loves to be alone. I wouldn't say I love to be alone a LOT, but I do need a certain amount of alone time and I am much nicer to be around when I get it.

Always broods about the past and old friends. Not that often, but I do get to thinking about my past. This is helpful when you write fiction; you can rewrite things that happened.

Likes to be quiet. Yes. Unless there's a really interesting conversation to join.

Homely person. I take it this means "homebody" and not "ugly."

Waits for friends. If they're running late? I wait about 30 minutes, but I can't stand waiting longer than that.

Never looks for friends. I can always use more friends.

Not aggressive unless provoked. Very true.

Prone to having stomach and dieting problems.

Loves to be loved. Doesn't everyone?

Easily hurt but takes long to recover. If you apologize and treat me nicely, I'm fine.

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Monday, November 17, 2008

Week in Review, 119--11/15

You sweet readers--how kind you are to agree to read my short story. And here's how I show my gratitude: I didn't work on the story at all this weekend. I am such an ingrate. But I pinky promise I will finish it in the next few days. I am on the last scene so I should be able to overcome my perfectionism and wrap it up. And no, there is no deadline for your comments. That would be hypocritical of me in the extreme, since it took me three months to write, from sheer procrastination. (Really it was six years of procrastination; that's a heck of a long maternity leave.)

Anyway, look for it in your email inbox and feel free to pester me if you don't get it this week.

Here is this week's week in review. It felt like a long week for some reason.

Yay
1. Mr. Blue likes to put his pajamas on at any opportunity. We go to the store and return home; the pajamas go back on. I don't know why I find this endearing, but I do (he's my baby!) He is also getting pretty good at dressing himself with some help. Quite a contrast from his sister, who would let me dress her while she lays there like an infant, if I would do it.

2. However, Miss Pink has learned to tie her shoes by herself. The process involved months of intermittently showing her how--her trying, failing, and getting frustrated--me saying, "Oh well, it'll just take some more practice--and then her teacher tells the class they all need to learn to tie their shoes--and boom, just like that, she figures it out. Maybe her teacher could tell her to stop putting junk under her bed?

3. The playroom cabinets are in! A floor-to-ceiling bookcase for adult books, an entertainment center with bookcases on both sides for the kids' books, games, and decorative items; and underneath, TWELVE cubbies with removable bins for toy storage. Also a desk with cabinets above it and a file drawer--I'm getting giddy just thinking about it. I may actually end up with more storage space than stuff to put in it--which is just fine with me.

4. Miss Pink's school had an awards assembly for the first nine weeks, and she received a ribbon for never being tardy (which I am secretly claiming because you know who gets them out the door on time) and a bracelet inscribed with one of the school character traits which she has been an example of: Respect. She was thrilled, of course. She said, "I didn't know I was so respectful, but I guess I am!"

Nay
1. Mr. Blue has been pretty challenging this week. He whines, throws tantrums, snatches things from his sister just to upset her--and he's discovered the fun of "bad" words, which in his mind all have to do with bodily functions. Today he was calling me a "poopy turkey." Hey bud, I'm not the one who wears diapers.

At least Justin and I don't use actual bad words around the house. That would be difficult for this preacher's kid to explain to his Sunday School teacher!

2. There are weeks when I have a lot of energy, but this was not one of them. Sometimes you just have to get by with the essentials, you know?

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Friday, November 14, 2008

Me, new and improved

Blogging tonight because I spent Mr. Blue's nap time doing the budget instead of writing or reading blogs. Also because my husband keeps watching parts of horrible movies (Center Stage 2: Turn It Up--wth, dude?) and Miss Pink is treating it as her personal mission in life to keep tickling me.

Now the kids are arguing. Which is about 90% of the time, these days.

Can you tell it's been a long week?

At least I have chocolate chip cookies in my stomach. That covers a multitude of wrongs. Back to what I was going to blog about...

I am terrible at doing any kind of series. I keep forgetting that I'm supposed to post on that day. But here is an effort to revive the questions from a book called If.

If you could permanently alter one thing about your physical appearance, what would you change?

That's easy--I'd get rid of my cellulite. I'm not overweight, but I still have cellulite and I hate it. It's the one time dimples aren't cute. Even liposuction doesn't get rid of it, either. So I can only get rid of it in a fantasy world.

What about y'all--what would you change?

(Justin is now watching Sabrina--a step up as far as movies go, and I wouldn't have thought it would keep Mr. Blue's attention, but there are no kids screaming--so far, so good.)

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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

I have a favor to ask

If you've noticed that I haven't been commenting as much on blogs, you might be right--I'm not sure. I'm not sure because I am still reading but I haven't been spending as much time commenting this week. I set myself a deadline for a story and I have to finish it by Sunday night. I'm pretending I'm back in college and it's due Monday morning. It's the first fiction I've written since Miss Pink was born. I have to force myself to work on it every day, but gradually the pieces have started to come together and every day I find out what happens next, and I find myself happy to be writing again.

I wasn't going to ask this until the story was done, but what the heck. Email me if you would like to read it and I'll email you a copy next week. I don't want to post it here for the whole world to see, but I could use some readers to give me constructive criticism. By which I mean, you can criticize anything in the story as long as you don't tell me it stinks like warm cat puke. By which I mean, as long as you are reasonably nice, I can take criticism.

On the other hand, if you read it, you have to PROMISE to give me more detailed feedback than "I liked it." Please tell me what worked and didn't work for you, anything that distracted you or made you lose interest, ways to make the main character more likable, potential changes in the plot. Those kinds of things.

To give you a taste of what it's about: it's about a stay-at-home mom who finds herself attracted to her best friend's husband. (I always feel I should add a disclaimer that it is FICTION and in no way based on my life. Especially if you are my best friend.)

I'll leave you with a Mr. Blue anecdote which totally sums up a two-year-old boy's relationship with his mother.
Me: You're so sweet.
Him: No. (smiling)
Me: Well, I think you are. (kissing him on his neck)
Him: No, I don't want to be sweet.

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Monday, November 10, 2008

I'm Back!

The scrapbooking weekend WAS wonderful. We stayed in a big farmhouse that holds 25 or so guests, with four scrapbooking rooms, plus the dining room, kitchen, fitness and spa rooms, and a TV area with a couch that connected all the bedrooms. Oh, and the family who owns it has a private wing.

On Friday night, we got there around 6:40 and dinner was at 7. The owner is a fabulous cook--she used to be a chef for Marriot, but this was no bland banquet food. She hires an in-house baker for at least some of the desserts--the Cafe Mocha chocolate cake was my favorite, but the carrot cake was excellent too. They offer a continental breakfast to tide you over until the hot brunch at 11:30, then snack at 2:30 (chips and cheese dip and homemade cookies), then dinner. I am surprised my non-stretchy pants still fit. My other favorite dish was the sausage, egg, and tater-tot casserole, which I got the recipe for and I will share with you as soon as I try it.

Not all of our group of 6 knew each other. I already knew Lisa, who invited me, and another woman who was Miss Pink's preschool teacher two years ago. Each of them had invited a friend whom I knew to speak to, and there was another lady none of us had met. But we all bonded like crazy. I didn't get much scrapping done that first night because we talked so much (shocker, I know!) Lisa's friend Button (her name is a long story) said she thought I was quiet until this trip--and now she knows better! We laughed a lot and also there were some "therapy moments" in which people shared difficult things they've gone through--amazing how close you can get so quickly in such an intimate setting. Lisa and I stayed up till 2 or so both nights talking. It has been SO LONG since I've done that. Fortunately I was able to sleep in the next mornings. OH! And I got a pedicure, for the first time in a year and a half. That makes me feel so pampered.

I did get a lot of work done on my "Week in Review" album which includes all my weekly blog posts with some random pictures from the year. I'm pleased with it so far. When I finish it, I'll show you some sample pages.

And I am totally going back next year. They can have Vegas; I'll take the farm!

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Friday, November 7, 2008

Leavin' on a Jet Plane--Scratch That--in a Tahoe

In about an hour I am leaving on my First Ever Weekend Away with Girlfriends. I do mean ever, not just since the kids were born, but I have needed it since the kids were born. While you are in the stage of having small children, it is usually difficult to leave them for travel unless you have to, and there were a lot of different reasons why I couldn't, mainly: breastfeeding; no money; Justin not able to take off work so I could go; girlfriends also having said difficulties so they couldn't go anywhere either.

But now the planets have finally aligned and I am out of here for a weekend. SQUEE! I am SO excited!

So where are we going, you ask? NYC? Las Vegas? Mexico?

How about--a small town in lovely East Texas? [said in a cheesy game-show-announcer voice]

Yes, I have been invited on a trip to a bed and breakfast two hours from here. I have never heard of the town, but since we are not going to paint it red, the town doesn't matter. We are going to be there to scrapbook.

I TOLD you I lead a very glamorous life.

I kid, but it actually sounds lovely. The house is set up to accommodate groups of scrapbookers, and the rooms have multiple beds. All the meals are included, and there is a hot tub, TV room, porch swing overlooking the pond, etc. A masseuse and nail tech will be on site on Saturday (I'll skip the massage, but I AM getting a pedicure, Lord willing.) Apparently there is a lot of yummy food and candy and homemade hot chocolate, so I am bringing my stretchy pants. My friend said it is a lot like a slumber party, which sounds fun since I haven't slept over with friends for so long (at least without my kids.) If it turns out to be cliqueish like some of the slumber parties of my girlhood, at least I have some good friends who'll stick with me so I won't be the outcast. I hope to watch at least one chick flick too.

And of course I am going to scrapbook. I'll be putting the Week in Review posts into an album which I will take pictures of for y'all to see--since without you reading this blog, I never would have written this record of the little moments of our life.

My only regret? I wish all of you could come with me.

And that we could go to New York together, too. I want a designer knockoff bag. It'll look great with my stretchy pants.

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Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Playroom Addition Update #3

Now that the election's over, we can turn to other topics here at Hairline Fracture.

Yes, I know that sentence made no sense, because I have never turned to the election on this blog, and I'd like to keep it that way, if you don't mind. There was an election, and it made history. There. Now I have proved that I notice current events, and that I know the world doesn't revolve around MEEEEEE.

It doesn't?

Anyway, here's what's been going on at our house. Last time I updated, the siding was up but unpainted. Well, guess what?

Here's a closeup so you can see the color better.


Inside, the plan was to insulate and hang sheetrock. Of all the things Justin knows how to do, sheetrock is one of the things he dreads, right up there with wallpaper. He can do both but he'd really prefer not to. We're not going to have wallpaper in the room, but sheetrock is not an option, so he hung the sheetrock. And then we got a little extra money, and he decided to hire a sheetrock guy to tape, bed, and (help him) texture. It turned out to be a good decision, because it took three days to finish, and obviously it would have been longer if Justin had been working alone, and it would have SEEMED way longer if I'd had to listen to him complain about it.

So the sheetrock got done instead of Justin getting bogged down doing it, and we helped the guy with some work, which he needed. A win-win situation.

The only bad part was when they scraped the existing texture off the walls in the hall. The walls were going to have to be repainted to match the new color going up in the living room, kitchen, and playroom, and they needed a new texture because...because...well, I don't actually know why except that the living room was going to have a lightly troweled texture on it and I guess Justin thinks the texture has to match since the hall adjoins the living room. Whereas I wouldn't care, if the color was the same. (My motto is, "Whatever's easier. Unless what's easier is significantly more expensive, in which case, do whatever's cheaper.")

In this case, scraping off the texture was easy AND cheap, but it created a lot of dust. More dust than I would have believed possible from that tiny hall. They put plastic on the floor but the dust literally filled the house and rested on every possible flat surface. It even went under the closed doors into the bedrooms. I spent the next two days dusting everything and I suspect I will still keep finding dust for weeks. All of our allergies got worse (aaaa-choo! Excuse me!) but since Justin suffered the worst I won't blame him. After all, I got some nice-looking texture just waiting for paint.
Not that--that is the playroom, which still needs to be textured (tomorrow. And no scraping will be involved.)

Here's a closeup. The texture is very subtle.

It's going to look gorgeous painted with a beautiful glaze on it. Because in addition to all the OTHER home-improvement stuff my husband can do, he also knows how to faux-finish things. Can you believe it? I seriously do not know how I got so lucky.

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Sunday, November 2, 2008

Week in review, 10/26--11/1

Yay

1. The Impressionist art exhibit. (Next time I won't wait until the last week to go.) I can't wait until the kids are old enough to go with me. There is a fabulous art teacher at Miss Pink's school. Right now they are learning about abstract art--specifically Kandinsky. (!) She has also done a picture in the style of Matisse, which I can't wait to see.

2. Speaking of art, Miss Pink is a prolific artist. You should have seen the pile of paper that came out of the drawer where I let her keep her drawings. The pile covered half of her bed. If it were up to her, she would keep every scrap of paper she has ever drawn on or found anywhere EVER, but since it's not up to her, we go through the papers when the drawer won't close properly. I let her keep 50 papers (there had to have been 250 pieces of paper to start with). It was so hard for her to decide but she did it. And the pieces she saved are really good (I got the best of the best for the scrapbook.)

3. Today Miss Pink said she wanted her "usual diet." And what would that be, I asked. "Candy!" she yelled. "Um, just because you ate a lot of candy on Halloween doesn't make it your usual diet. That would be your UNUSUAL diet," I said. And amazingly, she knew what I was talking about and agreed. [A five-year-old who talks about her "usual diet" is pretty darn unusual, in my mind.]

4. While getting ready for church, Miss Pink and I sang "You Ain't Nothing But a Hound Dog" together. THIS kind of thing is why I had children.


Nay
1. I was going to make an apple crisp on Saturday night (with ice cream, even) but my parents wanted to take us out to eat so I didn't and now I wish I had some. It is on the to-do list this week for sure.

2. The time change did us no good at all. All of us woke up at 6 at the new time and couldn't go back to sleep, since it felt like 7.


I have a busy week. Dentist on Monday, hair appointment on Tuesday (I voted early), Study Buddy volunteering at the school on Wednesday. And on Friday I leave for a girls' only scrapbooking weekend at a bed and breakfast. Woo-hoo!

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Saturday, November 1, 2008

Halloween Fun

I think this may be the quickest I've ever put photos up after a holiday! I am becoming a real blogger, slowly but surely. I've heard that to make your blog appeal to more people, you need a lot of pictures. I guess I need to work on that. I'm not a gifted photographer like the Pioneer Woman or Dooce.

We had a fun time. On Thursday we (and by "we" I mean "Justin") carved a pumpkin. It was the first time we've done this as a family. How lazy AM I? I mean, Miss Pink is almost six! But they really enjoyed it more now that they're old enough to participate. Well, actually Mr. Blue didn't want to touch the pumpkin goop. But he liked looking at the pumpkin. And Miss Pink got in there and scraped all the gunk out.

Miss Pink chose the design, opting for a classic jack'o'lantern face, which I'm sure her father was grateful for. The candle inside was vanilla scented, so when I went out last night to blow it out after two hours of being lit, the pumpkin kind of smelled like pumpkin pie.


As I predicted, Mr. Blue refused to wear his puppy costume. Fortunately, I had bought the suit for $6 at the thrift store, so I wasn't too upset that he didn't wear it. Being a mean mom, I did wrangle him into it for some pictures. He didn't scream, but since he wasn't happy, this picture is as good as it got.


He ended up wearing a football jersey and some camo pants. Justin said he was going as a redneck. If I'd had something to black his tooth out, I would have. But we don't own a John Deere hat or a miniature can of Skoal, so it wouldn't have been authentic.

After the kids and Justin came home with their haul (I stayed home to hand out candy and watch What Not to Wear, in order to look at pretty clothes I won't be able to squeeze into if I keep eating the candy) I let them eat their fill--or at least I was going to. Miss Pink wisely stopped when her stomach started feeling a little weird. It turns out two year olds won't stop on their own, so because I didn't want to clean up vomit at 2 a.m., I took his candy away and then they actually went to sleep in spite of all the sugar in their systems.

It was a happy Halloween for all!


*Also, thanks to Blog Antagonist for setting me straight about the Pixie stick poisonings that I mentioned in yesterday's post. Here's a link to the sad but true story of the man who poisoned his son. I really shouldn't just spout off the top of my head like that without checking my facts--although as the article said, there have been cases of foreign objects in Halloween treats, the incidents are few and far between in comparison with the fear of them. Still, I can see why only a few years later my mom wanted to err on the side of caution. However, Miss Pink loves Pixie sticks and I let her eat some last night. The only ill effects were the expected hyperactivity from downing pure sugar!

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Friday, October 31, 2008

A Biblical Halloween

I was all set to post pictures of our jack o' lantern but it turns out Justin took the camera with him today. I'll wait and post the pictures when I have some costumed kiddos to show off as well. That is, if Mr. Blue consents to wear his costume. Even the promise of candy has not dispelled his misgivings about it. I'm disappointed because I thought he'd love being a puppy dog. No matter what, Miss Pink (who, confusingly, will be dressed as Blue the dog from Blue's Clues) will let me take pictures of her--she's a ham when the camera comes out.

I'll write about Halloween instead. It was never a big deal in our household when I was a kid. We dressed up and trick or treated, and I know we carved a pumpkin (at least some years), but beyond that, my mom didn't decorate the house or anything like that. Back then, it seemed that holidays were a lot more low-key, you know? My parents thought that buying us a costume and taking us around the neighborhood was plenty of effort on their part, and to tell the truth, I feel the same way. I admire the cute decor, but no way am I going to the effort to decorate the house. I barely get the house decorated for Christmas, so don't expect me to go all out for the lesser holidays. Martha Stewart I am NOT.

At least my kids will have normal costumes, though. As you might remember, my dad is a pastor. My parents weren't against the idea of Halloween, but some churches are. When churches started having Fall Festivals to substitute for the "evils" of asking for candy while dressed up, our church got on the bandwagon and had a festival with all the little games for the kids, a cakewalk for the elderly people, and so on. (It was before bounce houses, though; man, that makes me feel old.) I guess the church leaders were in a dilemma about costumes, lest someone's kid come dressed as Freddy from Nightmare on Elm Street. But instead of saying "No gory costumes, please," their solution was to ask us to come dressed as Bible characters.

Yes. Bible characters. Way to limit the participation to church members only. Plus, there's not a lot of variety in the way those people dressed. Bathrobe, towel tied around your head: how was anyone supposed to know if you were Moses or Elijah?

But my mom threw herself into those years like never before. I cannot remember one single costume during the years when we trick-or-treated, but I remember the Bible costumes. One year I was Queen Esther, with an embroidered robe that really came from Israel (gasp) and a scepter made from a foam ball glued onto a dowel and spray-painted gold. Trust me when I tell you that this was major for my non-crafty mom to accomplish. She even had me practice walking regally and curtsying. I won the costume contest that year.

The next year, perhaps inspired by the win the year before, Mom decided my brother and I should be Joshua and Caleb. I don't even remember minding that I went from being a queen to dressing up as a dreaded BOY. We wore the bathrobe-looking outfits but the real glory was the grapes we carried. The scepter was spray-painted brown and each of us carried an end, and in between hung a bunch of grapes. Each grape was a balloon wrapped in purple crepe paper, and all together they made an impressive bunch of grapes. (I don't know why she couldn't have just gotten purple balloons. Perhaps, like the bounce houses, they didn't exist.) We won that year too.

After that, I don't think they required Bible character costumes any more*, perhaps realizing that when a pastor's wife sets herself to out-Bible everyone else, she's going to win at all costs, even the cost of her children's Halloween memories. Because seriously, I don't remember having a really cool costume any other year. But the important thing is, I remember getting a lot of candy, even if I'm still bitter about my mom taking away any Pixie sticks I got in case they turned out to contain LSD, which I have since learned is a total urban legend.

But my mom's paranoia is another story for another time.

Happy Halloween, everyone!


*this might not be accurate; my brother or my friend Leann may be able to correct me here.

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