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.


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.


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."


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


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!


Saturday, December 13, 2008

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


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.


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?


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.


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 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.


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?


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.


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.