Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas Blogging Hiatus

Christmas is almost here, and we all have so much to do.  I truly believe that Christmas is a time to spend with loved ones.  That's why I'm taking a brief blogging holiday hiatus.  I want to focus my full attention on my family.  No blogging, no Facebook, no Blog Frog, no email.  I'm going dark.  (So if you comment or email and I don't respond, please don't be offended, I'm just giving my computer a rest.)
To all you mil spouse bloggers out there, make sure you link up with The Young Retiree for Mil Spouse Weekly Roundup on Friday.  I won't be participating in the blog hop this week or next but I promise to be back in the loop the following week.
I want to wish you all a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year!  I'll see you in 2011!

Wife on the Roller Coaster Out.

All I Want for Christmas is the Puke to Stop

There's this weird stomach bug going around.  It started in my house last week with Big C.  He threw up twice in one day, and then was completely fine for 2 whole days before throwing up again in the middle of the night.  The next day Little C started hugging the toilet.  Again, she threw up a couple of times and then was completely fine.
Flash forward to 30 minutes ago.  I was thrilled to be able to attend Big C's 1st grade Christmas party today.  One thing about working again is that I typically miss these fun events.  But the school where I teach already started winter break so my schedule was wide open.  Little C hadn't thrown up since Sunday so I didn't think twice about bringing her.
But I guess I didn't learn my lesson from Big C's second round of vomit because Little C just crashed her brother's school party with puke.  I was mortified!  I've only met Big C's teacher twice: once at the parent-teacher conference, where I went over my appointment time and Little C ran around the classroom making a mess, and now this.  I don't think that teacher wants to see me ever again!
This is 1 of those occasions that I'll probably laugh at years from now.  I mean, seriously, the stomach bug couldn't have waited an hour to come back?  And what kind of virus takes 2 days off and then comes back for a grand finale?  Yes, I'm sure one day I'll get a good chuckle out of this.  But for now, I'm washing my hands until they bleed, disinfecting every nook and cranny of my house, and praying this crazy virus skips the rest of the Roller Coaster family!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Top 10 Roller Coaster Highlights of 2010

As the end of 2010 approaches, I've been thinking about all of the things that made this year unforgettable.

Here are my...

Top 10 Roller Coaster Highlights of 2010

10)  I finally found a physical therapist who magically cured my bum leg.  You might think it's weird that out of all the things that happened this year, I'm talking about a healed injury, but running has always been a huge part of my life, whether it was running for fun or training for and competing in races.  I pulled my hamstring 3 weeks prior to a half marathon last year, and the idiot that I am, I ran the race anyway.  I was so disappointed that I wasn't able to run it this year because of that injury.  Now I'm back on the treadmill and ready to train for that half marathon in 2011!

9)  Big C hit so many milestones this year.  He learned how to ride a bike without training wheels, lost his 1st 2 teeth, graduated from t-ball to baseball, played in his 1st soccer league, finished kindergarten, and started 1st grade reading at a 2nd grade level.    He now reads books to me!

8)  Little C hit milestones as well.  She ditched her binkies and potty trained herself (in the same day!), started tearing up the pavement on her Big Wheels trike, and started attending preschool where she learned how to recite her alphabet, color inside the lines, and recognize most of the letters of her name.  In 1 year, she went from my baby girl in diapers to my big girl in school.

7) I loved visiting my parents for a week over the summer.  My brother and his wife made the trip too, and I finally met my niece!  My family is spread out all over the country so getting together is never easy.

6)  I attended the Milblogging Conference and placed in the top 3 of the mil spouse award category.  Back then, my blog was a mere 4 months old, and as soon as I got there, I felt I was unworthy to be in the company I was in.  But I met some amazing people and learned A LOT.  Milblogging Conference 2011 here I come!!!

5)  I cashed my 1st paycheck for something I wrote!  After years of talking about being a writer, I finally made the effort this year to BE a writer.  I'm thrilled with the writing opportunities I've been given, and I can only hope they'll continue. 

4)  When Mr. Roller Coaster returned from deployment, we ditched the kids and spent almost a week in Jamaica.  It was the perfect way for us to reconnect and spend some much-needed time alone in a beautiful, relaxing setting. 

3)  I went back to work.  Despite the huge adjustment for our entire family, I'm so happy I made the decision to get back out into the working world.  As much as I loved being a Domestic Engineer, I needed something else.

2)  The Roller Coaster family successfully completed Deployment #2.  The deployment itself wasn't exactly a highlight, but you know me, I like to see the positive in everything.  The deployment was a great reminder of what a strong, supportive military spouse I am (and it gave me lots of writing material!).  And of course my husband's homecoming was the best part.

1)  2010 saw the birth of Wife on the Roller Coaster.  One of my New Year's Resolutions in 2009 was to start a blog, and I had no idea how it would transform my life.  That may sound silly, that a blog changed my life, but it has in so many ways. 

What are some highlights of your 2010?


Monday, December 20, 2010

Best Presents

 My husband has given me countless presents over the years, some more memorable than others.  For 1 of our 1st Valentines Days, he spent an afternoon at an Asian grocery store learning how to make sushi and then came home and prepared a sushi feast.  One Christmas he booked us a few days at the Grove Park Inn, a luxurious resort and spa.  And for 1 of my birthdays during our tour in Japan, he bought me a strand of exquisite Japanese pearls that will eventually be passed down to our daughter (which is extra special because she was born in Japan).  As much as I loved these gifts, I have to say that 1 of my all-time favorite presents from my husband is something much simpler than these.  It's a 10-year journal he found in a Japanese stationary shop.

Since I was a kid, I've loved writing in journals.  I still have my 1st diary with its lock and key that I used to write about the boys I liked as I dotted my i's with hearts.  I kept journals sporadically in high school, but it wasn't until midway through college that I wrote regularly.  When I ran out of fancy journals given to me as gifts, I started using composition notebooks.  I now have a tub filled with dozens of journals, all numbered chronologically.  They are such a treasured collection that when I had to evacuate my home years ago because of a hurricane, that tub was 1 of the few possessions I took with me.  So when my husband gave me this 10-year journal, I was ecstatic.
Each page in the journal marks a day with 10 divisions, 1 for each year.  There's only enough room to write 3 or 4 sentences, but it's perfect because I no longer have the time to write the long passages I once did in my composition notebooks.  I've been writing in the journal for 3 years now, and each day I look back at what I wrote last year and the year before.  It's so much fun seeing how much my life has changed (or not changed!) over the years.  And when I finally reach the end of the journal, I'll have a decade of my life documented in 1 neat little book.  I can't wait to see where this journal will take me.
My journal wasn't an extravagent gift.  But it meant so much because my husband knew how much I would love and appreciate it.  And it's a gift that will keep on giving for 7 more years!
What was the best gift you've ever received?

Saturday, December 18, 2010

My 5th and Final Post for PBS's POV blog Regarding War

I've been a contributing writer for PBS's POV blog Regarding War since August.  The blog is closing at the end of this month, and I'm thrilled to have been invited to be a part of it. 
My 5th and final post, "Post-Deployment Reintegration, From a Spouse's Perspective," is up, and I'd love it if you left me a comment over there! 

Friday, December 17, 2010

Mil Spouse Friday Fill-In #25 and Mil Spouse Weekly Roundup #15

It's Friday so you know the drill!  Go visit Wife of a Sailor for Mil Spouse Friday Fill-In #25.  Post the answers on your blog, and then link up with her. 

Here are this week's questions...

1.  What is the best gift you have ever received or given? (from Jessica Lynn Writes)
My husband has given me countless gifts, but I think my favorite was a 10 year journal.  He bought it in Japan, and each day has its own page with separate spaces for 10 years.  There's only room for 3 or 4 sentences per year, but some days that's all I have time for.  I've been writing in it for 3 years, and it's so fun looking back and seeing what I was doing last year and the year before on that very day.  (It's funny this question came up because I was planning to write a blog post about that journal next week!)

2.  Do you celebrate holidays differently when your loved one is deployed/gone or do you keep tradition? (from The Albrecht Squad)
My husband has only been deployed during 1 Christmas, and my son was just an infant, so I basically just visited my parents and celebrated some traditions I had growing up.  As far as other holidays throughout the year, I definitely try to keep with tradition. 

3.  If you celebrate Christmas, do you put an angel, star or something else on the top of your tree?
An angel has topped our Christmas tree ever since my husband and I got married.  But this year the kids wanted a star so they picked one out and that's now our new tree topper. 

4.  What are your three favorite websites?
I won't be boring and say my own blog, Facebook, and gmail (even though those top my favorites list).  I love getting recipes from  When I'm writing, I always have open in another window.  And I couldn't have gotten through this holiday season without  Wow, I guess those are pretty boring too.  I just don't play on the internet for purposes other than writing, social networking, and shopping.

5.  On your man do you prefer... boxers, briefs or boxer briefs? Or commando?
What about thongs? No, seriously, I don't really have a preference. 
When you finish answering the fill-in questions, head on over to Empty Nest, PCS, and All the Rest for Mil Spouse Weekly Roundup #15 to link up one of your posts!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Wife on the Roller Coaster Meets G.I. Joe's Wife

Sarah over at G.I. Joe's Wife is hosting some wonderful guest bloggers while she enjoys her husband's R&R.  And I'm so excited to be one of those guest bloggers today.  Check out my post, "Homeless Christmas," and while you're there, go visit with Sarah and the other guest bloggers.
Happy Monday!

Top 10 Things I Plan To Do During My Christmas Break

I am a kindergarten teacher.  It's not a glamorous job, my paycheck is practically pennies, and I spend many unpaid hours working at home and buying supplies out of my own pocket.  But I can't complain too much because I do get paid to enjoy 2 full weeks off for Christmas break.

As I've mentioned before, it's been quite an adjustment going back to work after 6 years of being a full-time Domestic Engineer.  The holidays have hit me hard because I've struggled to find the time (and energy!) to do all of the shopping, wrapping, baking, and Christmas card writing I've always done during the day.  My nights and weekends are spent playing catch-up, and quite frankly, I'M EXHAUSTED!  But I have less than one more week of work before I can truly relax and take the time to enjoy the holiday spirit.

There are so many things in my life that I've let slide since I went back to work, so many luxuries that I miss.  But by the end of this week, I have the opportunity to get a taste of my former life as a Domestic Engineer (I'm sorry, but I just can't stand the term "stay-at-home-mom" so I will forever use the term DE).  So here are my...

Top 10 List of Things I Plan To Do During My Christmas Break

10)  Make a word wall.  I know this is work-related, but I've been wanting to make a word wall for my classroom since the start of school.  I have very limited wall space in my classroom so I bought a trifold board to make a portable word wall.  I just haven't found the time to make it.

9)  Shop online.  I'll have some Christmas money burning a hole in my pocket with plenty of time to figure out what I'm going to spend it on.

8)  Watch movies. I love movies. But even when my husband and I sit down to watch the latest Netflix, I'm paying bills or writing lesson plans. I want to cuddle up on the couch and watch movies from start to finish without the lights on or a pen in hand.

7)  Pamper myself.  Something as minor as taking a long hot bath with a glass of wine or painting my toenails is enough to make me feel like a new woman.

6)  Read magazines.  I have 3 magazine subscriptions: Parents, Real Simple, and Military Spouse Magazine.  I'm up to date on MSM (because really, you can read that magazine in 20 minutes).  But I'm months behind on my beloved Parents and RS.  I can't wait to tear out craft ideas and recipes for next year's Halloween!

5)  Exercise.  Please don't hate me, but I'm 1 of those people who love working out.  I used to go to the gym 5 or 6 days a week.  Now I'm lucky if I squeeze in 2 work outs a week.  Hopefully I can get myself back into a routine that will carry over after the new year.

4)  Spend quality time with my kids.  Since I returned to work, I feel like my kids have been short-changed on their mommy attention.  It seems all I do with them lately are the necessities: homework, baths, meals.  My kids need to see the fun mommy again, instead of the stressed-out-I-need-to-get-work-done mommy.

3)  WRITE!  I have so many ideas on my Brainstorming Bulletin Board (yes, I actually have a corkboard in my family room covered with ideas scribbled on Post-It notes), and I want to turn those ideas into blog posts. 

2)  Read at least 3 of the novels in the stack of books that have been piling up on my nightstand for the past 4 months.

1)  Sleep.  Vegetate.  Sleep.  Vegetate.  Sleep.  Vegetate.  Sleep.  Vegetate.

Do you have any big plans for your Christmas vacation?

Friday, December 10, 2010

Mil Spouse Friday Fill-In & Mil Spouse Weekly Roundup

Time for another Mil Spouse Friday Fill-In hosted by Wife of a Sailor!  Post your answers and link up at her blog.

1.What do you see your life like in 10 years?
I don't see it as much different than it is now, except with older children.  I'm sure I'll still be a military spouse, still a teacher, still a blogger.  Although I could be completely wrong.  Maybe my husband will be a civilian, I'll be a best-selling author, and we'll be living in a mansion in California where I'm overseeing the Hollywood production of my 1st of 5 novels.  Hmm, who knows?
2.What do you like most about your job?
Getting to act silly.  I spend my days with 5-year-olds, and silliness is practically a job requirement. 
3.What are three things you do every day, no matter what day it is?
 Eat chocolate
Tell my kids I love them
4.What would you do with an extra five hours in your day today?
Get a massage (big surprise there, right?) and go to the movies by myself
5.What is your favorite Christmas (or whichever holiday you celebrate) cookie recipe (please share!)?
I don't typically bake, but I do dust off my cookie sheets for the holidays.  I have a lot of favorite cookies, but the big favorite in my family is Brickle.  I make it for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and any event during the year that I need to bring a dessert.  It's super simple and freezes well.  In fact, we like to eat it still frozen. 
40 Saltine crackers
1 cup (2 sticks) butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 12 oz package chocolate chips
Chopped nuts (I like pecans)
Preheat over to 400.  Cover rimmed cookie sheet with foil and spray lightly with cooking spray.  Place saltines in a single layer on foil.  On stove, melt butter and brown sugar.  Bring to a boil and cook 3 minutes, stirring constantly.  Remove.  Pour over crackers.  Bake 5 minutes.  Sprinkle chips on top.  Leave until melted and spread chocolate over baked mixture.  Sprinkle with nuts and push into chocolate a little.  Refrigerate for at least 4 hours and then break into pieces.
Don't forget it's also Mil Spouse Weekly Roundup!  This week's host is Ines over at The Few, The Proud, The Wife.  Make sure you visit her and link up one of your posts from this week.


Thursday, December 9, 2010

Is It All in My Head?

I'm home from work today, cozying up on the couch being lazy.  Strep throat is circulating through my classroom, and every other person I know has a sinus infection.  Am I next to fill my script for antibiotics?
I barely got through the work day yesterday.  I was exhausted.  My head was pounding, and my students' excited Christmas spirit only made it worse.  By noon I had already lined up a substitute teacher and a doctor's appointment for today.  I couldn't wait for a day on the couch to recuperate.
But then a weird thing happened.  As I taught my class after lunch, I miraculously felt better.  Was it all in my head?  Were my symptoms psychosomatic?  I spent my morning ticking off my symptoms to co-workers and listening to them tell me I looked terrible.  The sinus pressure increased.  A student came back after missing 2 days of school explaining that she had strep.  Suddenly I had a sore throat.  But by the time I had arranged for my sick day, I was already feeling better.
Now today I don't have a headache anymore, and my sore throat disappeared after I ate breakfast.  I was even contemplating going to the gym and canceling my doctor's appointment.   I almost feel guilty for calling in sick.
Am I really sick? 
Or did I simply need a personal day to recover from all the holiday craziness? 
Maybe it's just the holiday preparations that's making me so tired. 
Maybe talking about being sick made me actually feel sick.
Maybe just thinking about a day off made me feel better.
Maybe I needed an excuse to take a mental health day and enjoy some quiet time alone.
Maybe the only prescription I need is some simple R & R.
Regardless of the reason, I'm going to thoroughly enjoy my day off with my fanny parked on the couch while the kids are at school.  And I'm not going to feel guilty about it.
Do you ever take a mental health day off from work?  Do you ever feel guilty for doing it?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Top 10 Christmas Movies

Now that I've shaken the bah humbug funk, I'm ready to get into the holiday spirit with Christmas movies!  I love them all: the classics, the cheesy, and the ones that bring me back to my childhood.  There's nothing like cuddling up by the fireplace with a bowl of popcorn and a Christmas movie.

Here are my...

Top 10 Christmas Movies
10)  A Christmas Story
9)  National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation
8)  Polar Express
7)  Love Actually
6)  Scrooged
5)  The Muppet Christmas Carol
4)  It's a Wonderful Life
3)  A Charlie Brown Christmas
2)  Elf
1)  The original Dr. Seuss cartoon version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas

What are your favorite Christmas movies?

Monday, December 6, 2010

School Bullies: Does It Really Start This Early?

The other day I was packing Big C's school lunch, and I asked him what he wanted in it.  I was shocked when he asked me not to pack his favorite fruit snacks.
"Why not buddy?" I asked.  "You love them." 
"Because this boy always tries to take them from me."
At first I was surprised.  Then I was sad for my son who would rather give up his special lunch treat than confront this classmate.  And then I was ANGRY.  How is it possible that bullying starts as early as 1st grade?!
Big C told me more about this boy and their interactions.  I learned that this boy regularly makes fun of Big C and rounds up his buddies to join in on the jokes.  I told Big C to laugh it off and try not to let the jokes bother him.  I told him not to sit near the boy at lunch.  I told him not to stoop to this boy's level by making fun of him in return.  And I told him that he needs to continue keeping me informed and to go to the teacher if the boy ever gets physical.
I didn't know what else to say.  I've read articles about bullying, but honestly, I never paid close attention because I figured I'd have years before I'd have to worry about it.  To think of my boy struggling with a bully at 6-years-old absolutely blows my mind. 
I wanted to tell him to retort with a snide comment of his own.  I wanted to tell him him to gather up his own friends to make fun of this kid.  I wanted to tell him to be tough and stand up for himself.  I wanted to tell him not to be vulnerable so he won't be prey for bullies that will only get meaner as he gets older.  And I wanted to tell him to get this kid's phone number so I could call his parents and tell them to shake some manners into their child!
But as much as I wanted to say these things, I didn't.
I want to teach my children to have the confidence to solve their own problems while at the same time maintain communication with me.  But that's much harder than it sounds.  I don't know if I said the right things.  I don't know if Big C is following any of my advice.  I don't know when I should write a note to the teacher.  I don't know how far this bully will go.  I don't know how Big C will handle it.  I just don't know. 
What do you think?  Has your child ever been bullied?  What advice should I give to my son?  At what point do I need to get involved?

Saturday, December 4, 2010

It's Beginning to Look Alot Like Christmas!

It truly is beginning to feel like Christmas!  I attended my staff Christmas party last night.   I finally put my Christmas tree up today.  And as I write this on a cold Saturday night, it's snowing!  I'm finally getting into the Christmas spirit!
I'm also feeling the Hanukkah spirit. I have a student who is Jewish, and I love being able to learn about another holiday through her and her family.  Her mother is coming to my class next week to read stories about Hanukkah and share some traditional foods and customs.  It's times like these that I truly believe that being a teacher is so much more than teaching my students because they educate me as well.
What a wonderful time of year!
Do you have your Christmas tree up yet?  If you're Jewish, what are your favorite Hanukkah traditions?

Friday, December 3, 2010

Mil Spouse Weekly Roundup #13

It's Mil Spouse Weekly Roundup again!  Make sure you go over and link up one of your posts with Taryn over at Maine-ly Taryn for Roundup #13!


Thursday, December 2, 2010

Blog Frog!

Attention Military Spouses!
I joined Blog Frog several months ago, but I haven't been very active.  In all honestly, I didn't really get it.  However, because I'm trying to get more involved, I decided to start my own Blog Frog community: Riding the Roller Coaster. 
So if you're already a member of Blog Frog, I'd LOVE it if you joined my community!  And if you aren't already a Blog Frogger, I hope you'll sign up and join my group.  We can help each other figure it out along the way.
Just click on the icon in my right sidebar and meet me there.  Start a discussion, add to one, whatever.  Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Top 10 List of My Children's Quirks

We all have our quirks.  Everyone has those endearing idiosyncrasies that make us a part of who we are.  My kids are no different.

Big C is an inquisitive yet cautious 6-year-old boy, and Little C is a rambunctious, impulsive 3-year-old girl.  As I watch them grow, I love seeing their personalities develop and their quirks become more pronounced.  Some are cute.  Some are funny.  Some are downright mind-boggling.  But they're all small parts of what make them who they are.

Here are my...

Top 10 List of My Children's Quirks

10)  Big C can't sleep without the blue blankie from his infancy that he dubbed "Long Tag."  We tried to put a second identical blankie into the laundry rotation, but even at 2 years old, he knew better.  He only snuggles with the original, the blanket with the longer tag.  "Short Tag" still sits in his dresser drawer for emergencies.

9)  Little C refuses to wear anything in her hair.  She has long, beautiful blonde hair that hits halfway down her back.  Grown women pay hundreds of dollars to have hair like hers.  Yet she refuses to let me put any barrettes, bows, or clips in it.  (And I refuse to cut of my own quirks!)

8)  Big C uses the word "actually" incessantly.  He was telling me a story the other day, and I think he used actually in every sentence, sometimes twice.  (But to his credit, have you ever noticed how overused that word is?  If you listen to grown-ups talk, you'll hear it constantly.)

7)  Little C will only allow Mommy to put her to bed, and she has a strict routine.  Brush teeth, bedtime story, potty, 3 kisses, 3 hugs, 3 high fives, 3 knuckle bumps.  If anything is out of order, she freaks out, and she either ends up crying herself to sleep or we have to start the routine all over again.

6)  Big C has not 1, but 2 cowlicks on the back of his head.  By the time he was 4, I was already using styling gel in his hair. 

5)  Little C refuses to sleep under the covers.  She is the reason I'm sweating at night because we have to bump up the thermostat so she won't freeze.

4)  Big C will only try new foods on "New Food Monday."  He is the world's pickiest eater so last year I told him he had to try a new food every day.  But when he learned how to spontaneously vomit at the dinner table, I needed a new plan.  Hence New Food Monday.  He knows every Monday he has to try a new food.  But if it's not Monday, forget it. That's why that boy ate PB and J on Thanksgiving. 

3)  Little C adamantly refuses to wear anything that constricts her belly.  This quirk began as a baby when she threw a fit whenever I strapped her into her carseat.  Now, she won't wear pants with buttons (bye bye adorable jeans and pink butterfly camouflage pants!).  And I can't dress her in cute dresses and skirts because she won't wear tights.  I realized just how rebellious she can be when she came home from school one day with holes ripped in her tights.

2)  Big C is obsessed with "Waffle Time."  A couple of years ago, back when I was a full-time Domestic Engineer and my kids weren't in school, I allowed them to eat waffles with a tv show.  It started as a bribe because Big C refused to eat breakfast and by mid-morning he was starving and I couldn't convince him to eat.  Now that I work and he's in school, "Waffle Time" is now a special treat on the weekends.  And he doesn't let me forget it!

1)  Little C loves being naked and will find any excuse to take all her clothes off.  A drop of milk spills on her shirt?  She strips.  A dot of yogurt on her leggings?  Off go the clothes.  She has to poop?  That's right, she's pooping naked. 

What quirks do your kids have?  What quirks do YOU have?


Monday, November 29, 2010

Too Many Toys!


Last weekend I took the kids to Toys R Us so they could make their wish lists for Santa.  And with those lists in hand, I spent my Black Friday playing Santa online.  I'm proud to say that my kids will be very pleased come Christmas morning. 
But as excited as I am to see the excitement on children's faces, I can't help but wonder how much these toys are really going to be played with.  You see, I keep meticulous records.  I write down everything Santa brings each year as well as how much it cost Santa to produce them.  Looking back at last year's gifts, I realize my children are hardly, if ever, still playing with those toys.  Once coveted toys quickly became nothing but clutter.
The Diego train track I bought for Little C last year takes up prime real estate in her room when assembled, and even when it's not assembled, it fails to fit nicely into the storage it came with.  She played with it a handful of times, and it is now in my "Garage Sale" tub in the attic.  Huge Transformers Big C swore he couldn't live without now collect dust in his closet.  Despite this, I still spent my Black Friday buying Little C a collection of My Littlest Pet Shops that I will likely step on whenever I walk into her room and Big C a Bakugan character that comes with a million tiny pieces that I'll likely find hidden under his bed.
To add insult to injury, popular toys now require technology.  Big C has a Tag Reader, which I think is a fantastic concept.  A large pen reads books, initiates text-related games, animates illustrations, and even tracks your child's usage.  However, all of this requires internet downloads and yet another USB cord added to all the other electronic cords entangled in a drawer in my family room.  And sadly, after about a year of buying books exclusive to that system, downloading them to the reader, and replacing countless batteries, the Tag Reader now sits untouched on his bookshelf.  But despite this, I somehow found myself purchasing a Tag Junior Reader for Little C, for which that process will soon begin all over again.
Children's toys these days make my head spin.  Should I be buying Little C that Tag Reader or another electronic educational system?  Should I feel guilty for not buying Big C that Nintendo DS that all his friends have or be proud that I bought him a Star Wars Science Kit with live creatures instead?  Should I buy the kids a new game for the Wii we spent so much money on but rarely use or should I continue to buy them gifts like Play Doh and Lego sets that require active imaginations instead of a television? 
I know I shouldn't stress too much now over my children's Christmas gifts because I know that 1 day soon they'll be asking for cell phones and iPads and whatever gadget is all the rage at that second.  One day soon I'll be monitoring their text messages and apps instead of their Tag Reader progress and their science projects. 
So for now, I'll continue to buy my kids all those toys that too soon end up in my garage sale pile.  I'll embrace the clutter of Dora Play Doh sets and intricate Lego contraptions.  I'll introduce Little C to her 1st USB cord and internet download.  I'll help Big C with his science experiments and feed his sea creatures long after he's lost interest.  But this all means something a little bit more.  It means I can still eavesdrop on Little C playing Mommy with those Littlest Pet Shops and Big C having battles with his Bakugans.  It means I can encourage Little C's desired independence with her Tag Reader and Big C's wish for more one-on-one time with me through the Star Wars Science Kit. 
And when they're tired of that, I'll throw them on their new Tinkerbell scooter and big boy bike to get some fresh air and exercise!
What is Santa bringing your kids for Christmas this year?

Friday, November 26, 2010

Mil Spouse Weekly Roundup #12

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving yesterday!  I know I did.  And now I'm spending today recovering from all of yesterday's overeating!
In between eating leftovers and shopping all the Black Friday deals, don't forget to link up with Life of the All American Army Wife for Mil Spouse Weekly Roundup #12.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Wife on the Roller Coaster Meets Married to a Sailor

I'm so excited to be a guest blogger today at Married to a Sailor: The Journey of a Navy Wife!  If you've never visited her before, she's a must read mil spouse blogger, especially her posts about OPSEC and PERSEC
So go check out my post about why I'm thankful for the military, and while you're there, stay a while and visit with my friend Christina!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Another PBS Post

I know everyone is busy getting ready for Thanksgiving, but I wanted to share my latest post for PBS's POV Regarding War blog.  I hope you can check me out and leave me some love!
What Does Veteran's Day Mean to You?

Top 10 Little Things I'm Thankful For

Thanksgiving is almost here, and like most people, I'm thinking about all the things I'm thankful for this year.

I started composing a top 10 list of things I'm thankful for, but the list was generic and predictable.  Of course I'm thankful for my husband, my children, my family and friends, our health, and steady paychecks.  These are the obvious big ticket items, the things I am grateful for every year, the things that are always on my mind as I sit together with my family for our Thanksgiving feast.

So I started my top 10 list over because I wanted to think of the little things I'm thankful for, those things that often get forgotten.  There things may not be as important as those big ticket items, but they sure have made my life easier and for that I'm grateful.  Here are my...

Top 10 Little Things I'm Thankful For

10)  I'm thankful for online shopping.  Crowded malls make me feel claustrophic, and long checkout lines unnerve me.  I now do most of my holiday shopping from home.

9)  I'm thankful for healthy fast food menu options.  I swore I'd never resort to fast food on days that are too busy for a home-cooked meal, but some days I just have to give in.  But at least fast food is no longer synonymous with junk food.

8)  I'm thankful for grocery shopping without the kids.  I think I shave a good 30 minutes off my weekly grocery runs when I don't have to deal with kids running off and knocking cereal boxes off the shelves.

7)  I'm thankful for current fashion trends that allow comfortable work clothes.  Boots that feel like slippers, leggings that feel like pajama bottoms, and oversized sweaters that feel like blankets: the perfect teacher uniform.

6)  I'm thankful for Friday nights with a Netflix movie, a bowl of popcorn, and a bottle of wine.  Sometimes that's all I need to unwind after a busy week.

5)  I'm thankful for my blog.  I'm rapidly approaching my 1 year blogoversary, and I can no longer imagine my life without it.  Between the writing itself, the freelance writing gigs the blog helped me get, and the wonderful people I've met I've met, blogging has been such an amazing experience.

4)  I'm thankful that I'm finally starting to adjust to my new life as a working mom.  The transition back to work from full-time Domestic Engineer was much more difficult than I expected.  But I think I'm finally getting into my groove.

3)  I'm thankful for my physical therapist.  After suffering through a tough hamstring injury for a year and a half, I'm finally pain-free and running again.  And I'm particularly thankful that last week was my final therapy session!

2)  I'm thankful that I'm getting over my Bah Humbug Funk!

1)  I'm thankful that my husband will be home for the holidays this year.

What little things are you thankful for this year?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Military Family Appreciation Month

Last week, as I quietly enjoyed my lunch break at work, one of my co-workers started complaining about the lack of appreciation she receives from the administration for her work as a teacher.

"When was the last time we got a compliment instead of criticism?"  she asked the other teachers in the room.  "It sure would be nice to hear a 'good job' or 'your efforts are really making a difference' every now and then."

Some other co-workers chimed in with their own complaints, and by the time I packed up my lunch bag, they were embraced in a group hug as they shared their mutual discontent.  I watched them pat each other on the back.  And I walked away.

I didn't know if I should be heartened by their united support for one another or saddened by their need for approval.  Personally, I don't carry out my job with the expectations of a pat on the back.  I asked for this job. I signed a contract detailing specific responsibilities. I perform those duties to the best of my ability day in and day out.  And I'm self-assured that I'm doing a good job.  Is it nice to hear from my boss and my students' parents that my efforts as a teacher are appreciated?  Absolutely.  But I don't expect it, and I don't base the energy I exert to my job on whether or not anyone will notice.

I feel the same way about being a military spouse.

President Obama signed a proclamation designating November as Military Family Appreciation month.  This is the month in which "we celebrate the exceptional contributions of our military families, and we reaffirm our commitments to these selfless individuals who exemplify the highest principles of our Nation."  (Read entire proclamation here.)  Although I welcome the sentiment, I have to wonder what it really means, other than something the President can check off his long list of issues to be addressed.

Despite the fact that we are 3 weeks into Military Family Appreciation Month, not a single person has expressed appreciation for me and my family.  But quiet frankly, I had completely forgotten that I was supposed to be appreciated this month until I read another blog post about it.  Despite Obama's statements that "Behind our brave service men and women, there are family members and loved ones who share in their sacrifice and provide unending support" and we "have a national commitment to support and engage our military families," I really don't think the general public has any idea of the challenges military families go through.  And because I don't think most people are aware of these challenges, I don't think Military Family Appreciation Month means a whole lot to anyone. 

I'm not resentful of the general public's lack of appreciation for me and my fellow military spouses and their families.  I'm not angy, I'm not sad, I'm not discouraged.  Just as I was ambivalent toward my co-workers' rantings, I'm not quite sure how I feel about Military Family Appreciation Month and the fact that it has passed by largely unnoticed. 

I don't expect appreciation for my job as a military spouse.  Just as I signed a contract to be a teacher, I signed a proverbial contract when I married the military.  I chose this life.  I have certain responsibilities that are expected of me, and I perform those duties to the best of my ability.  And I'm self-assured that I'm doing a good job.  Is it nice to hear from other people that my efforts as a military spouse are appreciated?  Absolutely.  But I don't expect it, and I don't base the energy I exert to this job on whether or not anyone will notice. 

Maybe my co-worker was on to something after all.  Not the complaining part, but the group hug part.  Maybe we military spouses and families should use what's left of this Military Family Appreciation month to share one big giant hug of support and pat each other on the back.  Or at the very least, offer each other that simple thank you we may not be getting from anyone else.

 So to all you military spouses out there...

 I thank you and your families for all that you do, for all the challenges you endure and all the sacrifices you make.  You are the ones who are silently serving, and what you do truly makes a difference.  Happy Military Family Appreciation Month!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Mil Spouse Friday Fill-In #22

It's Friday again so time to link up with Wife of a Sailor for Mil Spouse Friday Fill-In!

Here are this week's questions...
1.  If you had to be shipwrecked on a deserted island, but all your human needs - such as food and water - were taken care of, what two items would you want to have with you?
My iPod and a filled Kindle.  I would go crazy being stuck on a deserted island without music or reading material. 
2.  If you were a salad, what kind of dressing would you have?
Chipotle ranch.  Nothing boring or fat-free.  I need some flavor and spice in my life!
3.  If you had to live on a ranch, what kind of animals would you raise/own?
Wow, I think I'd rather live on a deserted island.  But if I had to live on a ranch, I guess I'd own a ton of dogs.  I think the most obvious answer would be horses, but I don't know a whole lot about horses.  I love dogs, especially big ones, so I'd have Great Danes (which are almost like horses!) and labrador retrievers.  And I know they're not ranch animals, but I'd have ferrets too.  I've always wanted a ferret, and if I lived on a ranch I might be able to convince my husband to own some if I kept these stinky critters outside.
4.  If your life was portrayed as a movie, who would you choose to play you and your significant other?
Reese Witherspoon and Matt Damon
5.  What was the last thing you put a stamp on (envelope, duh, but what was in the envelope)?
Bills and a birthday card for my grandmother
And mil spouses, don't forget to link up 1 of your posts from this week with Abbey at Trading Diamonds for Dogtags for Mil Spouse Weekly Roundup!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Bah Humbug Funk


As I was putting out the trash this evening, I noticed that my neighbors have not only put up their Christmas tree, but they have started to put their outside Christmas lights up.  Seriously?  Are the holidays that close that I'm seeing Christmas lights already?!
I love the holidays.  But Christmas trees before Thanksgiving?  That's too much pressure!
The holidays always stress me out.  Call me a perfectionist, but after the idyllic holidays of my childhood, I desperately try every year to produce the best possible holiday season for my family.  For Thanksgiving, I start baking and freezing weeks in advance and then cook for 3 solid days before the big day.  For Christmas, I stage family photos for cards, I take the kids to Toys R Us to make their wish lists for Santa, and I wrap and hide and/or ship presents all in time for Santa's arrival.  But the stress of preparation all seems to fade away as I watch my family enjoy the fruits of my labor.  It's all worth it knowing I have reproduced my own idyllic holiday season.
But this year is more stressful than ever.  I'm working now.  In years past as a stay-at-home mom, I had my days free to cook and shop and prepare to my heart's content.  Now I have no idea how I'm going to get it all done, and I'm panicking!  I don't have 3 days to cook for Thanksgiving!  I haven't taken a family photo for Christmas cards yet!  My kids haven't written their letters to Santa yet!  I haven't even considered what to buy everyone for Christmas!  I haven't bought wrapping paper!  And now I have to find presents for my students, my assistant, my co-workers, my boss!  When will I get it all done?!
How will I ever make this the perfect holiday season?!
I have no idea.  And that puts me in a bah humbug funk.
To my neighbors who have already decorated their Christmas tree and strategically placed it in their front window for all to see, I say bah humbug.  To my friend who told me the other day she has already purchased and wrapped all of her Christmas presents, I say bah humbug.  To the holiday stress that hits me whenever I walk into a store and hear Christmas music, I say bah humbug.  And to this downer blog post and my bah humbug funk, I say a big fat bah humbug!!!!
So my fellow bloggers, I'm asking for your help and encouragement.  Please tell me it will all get done!  Please tell me I'm not the only one who stresses over the holidays!  Please give me some advice to get out of this funk!  Please tell me I'm being a self-pitying Scrooge who needs to snap out of it and enjoy this holiday season instead of stressing!
Thanks...I'm done venting now.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Top 10 Bloggy Friends I'm Passing Awards To

I love getting blogging awards.  I've received several since starting my blog, and at first I was pretty diligent about paying them forward.  Unfortunately, I've become a major slacker in the awards department.  So today I wanted to combine a top 10 list with the handing out of awards.

First, I want to thank the lovely ladies who recently gave me awards on their blogs.  A big thanks to the Empress at Good Day, Regular People for the Excellent Award.

And another thank you to Athena over at Our Crazy Life for the Versatile Blogger award!


There are rules associated with blogging awards, like sharing random facts about myself, but I'm not a big fan of rules so I'm not going to follow them.  (Maybe that list of random facts will pop up in a future top 10 list!)

The bloggers I'd like to give both of these awards to all hold a special place in my bloggy heart for various reasons.  Whether they write about parenting or military life, whether they make me laugh or make me think, they are all bloggers I love reading and who have influenced me in some way.  Because they are all equally deserving of these awards, please know that the numbers below are simply for listing purposes, not because I'm ranking my love for them.  Let's say they all tied for 1st place.  So here are my...

Top 10 Bloggy Friends I'm Passing Awards To

8) Ann Marie at Household 6 Diva

6)  The Empress at Good Day, Regular People

5) Nicole at Mrs. Muffins

Go visit my friends, and you'll soon find out why I love them all!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Mil Spouse Friday Fill-In

I love Fridays! 
It's been awhile since I've participated in Wife of a Sailor's Mil Spouse Friday Fill-In, but it's such a fun meme, and I wanted to join in this week.  Here are this week's questions...

1. Were you named after anyone?

Nope.  My brother inherited my father's middle name, but I inherited nothing.  That's alright though because I don't think I'd be too thrilled with the options.

2. What color, if any, are your toenails usually painted?

Red, mauve, or purple.  Right now the red is chipping, and I'm feeling a purple mood coming up next.

3. How do you flush a public toilet? Hands? Feet? Something else?

Definitely foot.  Those handles are filthy! 

4. When you were a little kid, which TV character did you have a crush on?

Kirk Cameron from Growing Pains.  I had pictures of him all over my wall, right next to New Kids on the Block.

5. Let’s say you had to lose one of your five senses (sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell). Which one would you choose? Why?

Smell.  As much as I love the aroma of scented candles and freshly baked cookies, I don't think I could do without my other senses. 

And if you're a mil spouse blogger, don't forget to link up with My Marine and Me for Mil Spouse Weekly Roundup #10!


Thursday, November 11, 2010

Veterans Day

"When our perils are past, shall our gratitude sleep?
~George Canning

I've been trying to write a post about Veterans Day for about a week now.  But despite the fact that this holiday means so much to me and to other military families, the words just weren't flowing.  There is so much to say about this special day, but I can't seem to find the right words.

When I first sat down to write about Veterans Day, I started wondering what the true meaning of a veteran is.  After asking friends, I realized I'm not the only one asking this question.  Is a veteran someone who once served in our armed forces?  Is a veteran someone who is currently serving?  Is a veteran someone who served our country in both times of war and times of peace?

I also wondered what exactly Veterans Day means.  Of course this day holds a special place in the hearts of military families.  But what does it mean to the general public other than a day off from work?

In my quest to find the answers, I stumbled upon quote after quote about Veterans Day.  But I wanted to share one in particular that seemed to sum it all up:

"A Veteran is someone, who at one point in their life, wrote a blank check payable to the United States of America for an amount up to, and including, their life. That is beyond honor, and there are way too many people in this country who no longer remember that fact."

So what is a veteran?  What does Veterans Day mean?  A veteran is any man or woman who has worn a uniform, past or present, in times of war or peace.  These are the people we are honoring on Veterans Day, the people we need to thank for their service to our country.  Veterans Day means so much more than simply a day off from work and sales at the mall. 

As we celebrate this Veterans Day, I hope you take a minute to thank a service member.  Whether that person is your grandfather, your husband, your neighbor, or someone you see in uniform at the mall while you're shopping those sales, they deserve our thanks and appreciation for the sacrifices they have made and continue to make for our country.  They are true heroes.

"As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them."
~John Fitzgerald Kennedy

What does Veterans Day mean to you?  Who are you going to thank today?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Wife on the Roller Coaster Meets Her War, Her Voice!

I know I've already self-promoted myself once this week, but I'm so excited that my post The Lasts was featured on Her War, Her Voice today!
Her War, Her Voice is an amazing website written by 2 mil spouses who have been through it all.  If you take a look around their site, you'll find their unique interactive book for kids coping with deployments.  They also have tons of resources for military families, blog posts about deployments, and free coloring pages for kids.  So even if you don't head over there to read my post, please go and visit Melissa and Chris.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Top 10 Do's and Don'ts During Parent-Teacher Conferences

Parent-teacher conferences are fraught with anxiety.  Parents are worried about what the teacher is going to say, and teachers are worried about how the parents are going to react to what the have to say.  But typically these conferences are benign conversations between adults who only have the child's best interests in mind.

After conducting 23 conferences with the parents of my kindergarten students and attending 2 conferences for my own children last week, I've accumulated some tips on how to make those conferences go as smoothly as possible.  Here are my...

Top 10 Do's and Don'ts During Parent-Teacher Conferences

10)  DON'T walk into the conference with the preconcieved notion that your child can do no wrong.  No child is perfect, academically or behaviorally.  Be prepared to hear both positive feedback and suggestions for improvement.

9)  DO come prepared with a list of questions if you have any.  Conferences are rare opportunities to voice concerns with your child's teachers regarding anything from your child's progress to classroom procedures.

8)  DON'T worry!  The teacher isn't out to criticize your parenting skills.  Relax.  The conference is for reviewing your child's performance, not yours.

7)  DO offer suggestions concerning your child's learning style.  Everyone learns in different ways, and if you have any insight into the ways your child learns, the teacher would love to hear it.

6)  DON'T bring your child and siblings to the conference if you can help it.  I brought both of my kids to Big C's conference, and I so wished I hadn't.  Little C was misbehaving, and Big C was eavesdropping.  Not only was their presence a distraction, but I went over my allotted time because of their constant interruptions.  (And yes it was quite embarrassing that I am a teacher myself, and I violated this rule!)

5)  DO inform the teacher of major transitions at home.  The deployment of a parent, an impending divorce, a new baby.  These are all emotionally charged issues that the teacher needs to be aware of because they could potentially affect your child's performance in school.

4)  DON'T ask to discuss another student.  Yes, your child may have issues with a classmate, but teachers have an obligation to protect personal information about each and every student in their class.  If your child is being bullied, absolutely address that in the conference.  However, don't ask for specifics about the other child.  Chances are the teacher is already aware of the situation and is doing everything she can to fix it by communicating with school administration and the other child's parents.   (***As a side note, if the bullying continues, document everything your child tells you and keep the teacher updated.***)

3)  DO ask the teacher if you can contact her with any further questions.  Some teachers don't, but I give out my email address for parents to contant me with any concerns.  I would rather email or call a parent on my own time than have mini-conferences during the day when I should be teaching my class.

2)  DON'T go over your designated appointment time.  Most teachers have to keep to a strict schedule on conference day.  If you go over your time, the next parents are losing out on their time (and the teacher may be losing out on her break time).

1)  DO thank your child's teacher for the effort she puts into your child's education.  Most parents have no idea how many hours teachers work outside the classroom or the money they spend out of their own pockets to enhance their students' overall learning experience.  Something as simple as, "Thank you for all that you do" or "My child loves your class" goes a long way in reassuring teachers that their efforts are appreciated.

If you are a parent of school-aged children, do you have any other advice?  If you are a teacher, do you have anything to add to the list? 

Monday, November 8, 2010

Check Me Out on Mamapedia!

Just wanted to share that I'm featured at Mamapedia today!  It's a post that was already on my blog so you may have already read it.  But I'd love it if you had a minute to leave me some love over there.  Thanks!!!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Thank You Daylight Savings

I had no idea that daylight savings time ended today.  I mean, I saw it on my calendar, and I knew it was coming, but for some reason it just didn't click.  After living in Japan for 3 years, a country that doesn't observe daylight savings, I guess I still haven't adjusted to this American tradition that I never quite understood.  At any rate, while most people were reseting their clocks before heading off to bed last night, I was in my own little world where daylight savings doesn't exist.
I woke up this morning and smiled when I saw the clock read 7:15.  The highlight of my weekends is the ability to sleep in without the disruption of my alarm (and yes, these days 7:15 qualifies as sleeping in).  I got out of bed and went about my morning trying, as always, to make the best use of the time I have off from work.  I made my Wal-Mart run wondering why it wasn't as crowded as usual.  I drove home wondering why the roads were so empty.  I put away my groceries wondering why Big C wasn't back from his sleepover yet. 
It wasn't until I turned the tv on a few hours later and saw the time on the cable box that I remembered it was the end of daylight savings time.  And I was ecstatic.  Finally, my wish had come true...I was just given the gift of an extra hour added to my weekend!
I'm glad I didn't know we were gaining an hour when I woke up this morning because I probably would have wasted that hour in bed.  I'm also glad I didn't know last night because I probably would have stayed up an extra hour and drank that extra beer.  Nope, that extra hour was truly a gift because it was unexpected and unplanned.  And I used every second of that gift to do what I always say I'm going to do if I had an extra hour in my day: write, write, and write some more.
The best part?  Because Big C was exhausted from his sleepover and because I didn't allow Little C to take a nap, they were more than happy to go to bed at their "normal time."  Little did they know that "normal time" was actually 6:15 instead of 7:15.  (Yes, I am a mean mother who tricked her kids into going to bed an hour early!)  We'll see if I'm still patting myself on the back tomorrow morning when they wake me up at 5 AM. 
What did you do with your extra daylight savings hour?

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