Sunday, January 31, 2010

Operation: Creation

Day 21: MAKE HOMEMADE PLAY DOH


I'm not a crafty person.  I don't scrapbook.  I don't make elaborate craft projects with the kids.  I don't make my own Christmas cards.  I figure, if you can buy it, why make it?  But I'm a good cook, and I'm an expert recipe follower.  So I'm sure I'll have no problem making homemade Play Doh. 

Maybe after that I'll sew the gaping hole in my husband's favorite sweatpants.  Ok, let's not get carried away.


It turns out I need to demote myself from Expert Recipe Follower to Sadly Pathetic I Should Stay Out of the Kitchen Forever Recipe Follower.  Our homemade Play Doh was a disaster!  I mixed up 2 batches, one on the stovetop, one in the slow cooker.  The former was undercooked and overly gooey.  The latter was overcooked and virtually unmalleable.  I don't think I can throw the blame on TWO bad recipes.  The blame must fall on me. 

I found the stovetop recipe on the internet, finding several versions that just varied the proportions of the same ingredients.  Maybe I chose incorrectly and should have experimented with the one that called for 1/2 cup of salt instead of 1/4 cup.  I couldn't get this stuff off my fingers!

Then there's the slow cooker recipe.  My slow cooker tends to cook faster than most recipes call for, and I thought I adjusted for that.  Wrong.  Another problem was that the recipe told me to knead the food coloring into the already formed ball of goop instead of during the cooking process.  The only thing that accomplished was staining my hands red.  I was left with a tye-dyed, crumbling mess. 

Both batches went directly to the trash.


PLAY DOH OR PLAY DON'T?


Yellow = undercooked stovetop
Red/White = overcooked slow cooker

Thank goodness I still had a couple of buckets of store bought Play Doh for the kids to play with while the stuff they created magically disappeared.  So much for my attempt at craftiness.  I'll stick to recipes for edible items.  I'm pretty sure I'm still good at that.
 

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Operation: Recuperation

Day 20: REST, REST, REST


Life has been so crazy this week that I pretty much just ignored the fact that I was sick and not getting any better.  But today is Saturday, so we have no obligations.  And we woke up to a couple inches of snow on the ground, so we're stuck in the house.  We're all hacking up a lung, and my glands are more swollen than a pregnant woman's feet.  So today I am going to allow myself to recuperate.  Movies and medicine.  Naps and nasal sprays.  Cuddles and cough drops.  Hot tea and tissues.  Slippers and Skype with the grandparents.  I'm on the road to recovery.


The road to recovery seems to be as unpaved as the snowy streets outside.  Despite the fact that all I did today was watch tv, read, nap, and watch the snow fall, I feel no better at all.  The kids haven't shown any improvement either.  They didn't even argue when mean ole mommy prohibited them from playing outside in the winter wonderland.  Let's hope a good night's sleep does the trick!

SNOW DAY

According to my yard stick, we topped out around 6 inches.  Not bad!  I'm crossing my fingers that we're all miraculously cured of coughs by tomorrow so we can go outside and play.  I love the feel of walking in unblemished snow.  As long as I can trudge through it before it starts melting and turning black as it collects on the side of the road. 

Friday, January 29, 2010

Operation: Intellectualization

Day 19: START A JANE AUSTEN NOVEL


I consider myself a pretty well-educated woman.  And I have no idea how I have gotten this far in life without ever having read a Jane Austen book. 

I got myself to the library the other day and checked out "Pride and Prejudice."  I chose this particular book because of a magazine article I recently read that made reference to what a wonderful man "Mr. Darcy" is.  Sadly, the image that came to my mind was Mark Darcy, the love interest in "Bridget Jones' Diary."  (Even though this is one of my favorite books, I don't think it will ever be assigned to AP English classes.)  I don't like that I've never been introduced to such a well known literary character that is commonly referenced in modern magazines.  Time to find out what the fuss over Mr. Darcy is all about!


I didn't get very far in the book, but I did start it.  And I now know why I've never read it before.  Any book originally published in 1813 is going to have some antiquated language.  Unfortunately, I'm one of those readers who finds the language a distraction from the story.  It's going to take me forever and a day to finish this book, but I'm going to do it.  When I do, I'll let you know which Darcy is the better man.

MY NEW KITCHEN FLOORS!

The floors are FINALLY finished!  And they are gorgeous.  I won't think about the footprint that trouble-making Little C left in the doorway (deep breaths) and focus on the fact that my floors are now done and walkable.  Awesome!

Operation: Undecoration

Day 18: TAKE DOWN THE OUTDOOR CHRISTMAS LIGHTS


Yes, it is January 28.  Yes, our Christmas lights are still hanging in our front yard.  Yes, my husband was supposed to take them down before he left.  Yes, the lights look tacky.  So yes, today I will unwind them from the trees, neatly stash them in their designated Christmas tub, and when my husband calls, I will proudly inform him that the Honey Do List that awaits his return is just a little bit lighter.



The lights are down, however, I was unable to get them into their tubs.  I have a good excuse though.  My garage is currently housing my couches and the floor crew's large buffing equipment, so I was unable to get up into my attic.  That part will have to wait for another day.  But at least I took care of the tackiness!

You may be wondering why this was such a challenge, especially when I promised not to turn something on my To Do list into a daily challenge.  Oh if you only knew the symbolism of my actions today! 

Have you ever seen that episode of Everybody Loves Raymond with the cheese in the suitcase?  You see, Ray came home from a business trip and left his suitcase on the stairs, assuming Debra would unpack it.  Well Debra was sick and tired of Ray thinking his wife was his housekeeper, so she ignored the suitcase, waiting for Ray to unpack it himself.  The suitcase sat there and sat there because neither husband nor wife was willing to give in.  Finally, Ray stuck a block of cheese in the suitcase, figuring Debra would unpack it when the smell became offensive enough. 

Although my husband and I have never resorted to spoiled cheese, we have definitely had similar tests of stubbornness (and yes, many of those tests involved suitcases).  One of those tests seems to be those Christmas lights.  When he put them up in December, I warned him that he was going to be the one to take them down.  But one week led into the next with bad weather, busy weekend plans, and the fact that darkness always beats him home from work. 

Now my husband isn't home.  And I decided to take down the Christmas lights.  Essentially, I gave in and lost this stubbornness test.  I unpacked that suitcase with the putrid cheese.  But think about it...when hubby returns next week, would I prefer he take down those Christmas lights or spend that time hugging his children and cuddling with me on the couch?  Hmmm.

But I swear, next year he's doing it!

COUGH, COUGH GO AWAY

All 3 of us are coughing, and 2 of us saw doctors today.  We have a pharmacy of drugs, but the only thing that seems to help us through the night is our trusty humidifier.  Now can anyone tell me how to divide it between 3 rooms?

Operation: Appreciation

Day 17: MAKE A LIST OF ALL THE THINGS I’M THANKFUL FOR




When your husband is gone, your house is in disarray for reasons beyond your control, your kids are cranky, you just can’t shake that cough, and you haven’t been to the gym in 4 days, it’s difficult to feel appreciative. So that’s exactly what I’m going to do today.


I'm well aware that Thanksgiving is typically the time to list off everything we’re thankful for, but that never seems to happen for me. Whether I spend the holiday traveling, cooking, or missing family, there always seems to be too much chaos to be genuinely thankful. I realized this 2 Thanksgivings ago, so last year one of my New Year’s Resolutions was to keep a thankful journal. Every day in 2009 I wrote down at least one thing I was thankful for. (I highly recommend this project for all you pessimists out there.  Even on your worst days, there is always something to appreciate.)

Today, instead of focusing on the little things, I'm going to look at the overall picture and remind myself of all the wonderful big things in my life.  Now who's cooking the turkey?


My list could have gone on all day...and it did!  I just kept adding and adding.  However, when I realized I was adding things like Reese's Peanut Butter Cups in the freezer, Netflix, and my fake Uggs, I figured it was time to stop.  The Top 10 are the most important anyway, the things I couldn't live without.

The list helped me get through yet another long day.  When I found myself complaining that my floors are still not finished, the list reminded me how thankful I am to have a roof over my head.  When the kids were about to kill each other over a Matchbox car, the list reminded me how thankful I am to have those 2 beautiful kids.  As I listened to the cacophony of coughing and sniffed the medicinal malodor of menthol, the list reminded me how thankful I am that we are all generally healthy.  And when I mentally cursed my husband for not being here through all of it, the list reminded me how thankful I am for all the great things the military has done for us.  I truly have a lot to be thankful for.


CRAZY HAIR DAY

I wish schools had crazy hair day more often.  I LOVE spiking Big C's hair into a mohawk!  Thanks to his school, I declared crazy hair day at home too.  I used enough gel and hairspray in Big C's hair that the mohawk made it through the entire day.  Little C had pigtail braids like a blonde Pippi Longstocking.  And me?  The closest I've come to using product in my hair this week was the Vicks VapoRub that accidentally got in the way of my chest last night.  So my hair was naturally crazy.  Tomorrow is mismatched clothes day at school.  I definitely have that covered!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Operation: Meditation

Day 16: SET A TIMER FOR EVERY HOUR AND TAKE 3 DEEP BREATHS




I am a worrier. I hold stress in my upper back and shoulders. And I rarely allow myself to relax because there is always something that needs to be done. Sometimes it isn’t until the end of the day when I crash on the couch for a guilty pleasure episode of American Idol or House that I realize how tense my mind and body are.


Today I will set a timer for every 60 minutes. When the buzzer buzzes, I will stop whatever I’m doing, close my eyes, and take 3 deep breaths. Hopefully by the end of the day, I will be relaxed long before I press play on my DVR’ed episode of Grey’s Anatomy.


I’m going to need the meditation breaks today, as this is my third day cooped up in the house while my floors are being worked on. (They are finally finished sanding. Staining starts today.) Although both kids are suffering from a severe case of cabin fever, at least Big C has the luxury of going off to kindergarten for half the day. It’s my high-energy, nap-skipping, trouble-making Little C who's going to drive everyone crazy.  Deep breath, deep breath, deep breath.

Side note: Because of the staining process on my floors, I won't have Internet access for possibly the next 2 days.  I promise to catch up when I can!



So glad to be back online!!  Wow, living without the Internet for 4 days is ROUGH! Anyway, here's where I left off a few days ago...



Although I may not be as de-stressed as I would have been if I had had a 60 minute hot stone massage, I do feel more mellow, especially under the circumstances. And the timer accomplished more than merely reminding me to take deep breaths. It actually interrupted a few sibling squabbles that were miraculously forgotten by the time we all exhaled. (I’m considering periodically employing this technique, if for no other reason than the omnipotent timer quieted the fighting as effectively as a mute button.)

I don’t know if the hourly meditations helped me because the breathing was relaxing or because I was forced to take mandatory breaks throughout my day or because the exercise practically hypnotized my children. Whatever the reason, they did help to get me through a yucky day.


THE REASON FOR DEEP BREATHS

This is my family room and kitchen.  We had the floors refinished in the living room, and new hardwood installed in the kitchen.  Right now this is the reason for my stress.  I'm hoping I'll be saying that this is the reason for my happiness in a few days.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Operation: Edification

Day 15: ATTEND AN ORGANIZED WRITERS’ GROUP




A million years ago I wrote a children’s book. After a year of rejection letters from publishers, I gave up, partly out of frustration, partly because we were moving to Japan, a location not very conducive to meeting up with other writers.


I have decided it’s time to revisit and revise the book. And if I hold any hope for publication, I need to fraternize with other writers. So tonight I will attend Writers’ Block, a writers’ group that meets once a month at Barnes and Noble.  Now I just need to dust off that manuscript and build up the courage to share it with others.


The writers’ group was great! I was slightly disappointed that only 4 people attended the meeting (including myself and my friend who met me there), but I learned some helpful tips. I overcame my fear of public speaking and read my manuscript aloud, something I’ve never done in front of anyone besides my husband and children. The other writers’ constructive criticism helped to offer new ideas and confirm the revisions I had already decided to incorporate. And of course I loved sitting around talking about writing for 2 hours!  Writers are strangely fascinating people.



I’m looking forward to next month’s group and hopefully meeting more writers.  In the meantime, I need to work on those revisions!


NEW JEWELRY

Big C made this necklace at the Y the other night when hubby and I went out on a date.  Yesterday he gave it to me, informing me that I'm allowed to keep it forever.  Thanks sweetie, I think I will keep it forever.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Operation: Delegation

Day 14: DELEGATE CHORES TO THE KIDS INSTEAD OF DOING EVERYTHING MYSELF




I’m not feeling well today. My head feels like it’s about to explode, I have a nasty cough, and my skin is crawling. (Great, just in time for single parenting to commence.)  I was planning to do this challenge today anyway, but what better day to delegate tasks than on a day I’ll hopefully spend resting.


Big C is 5 years old, Little C is 2. So they are more than capable of doing things that I find I’ve been doing for them. Cleaning their rooms, putting their shoes away, clearing the dinner table. The other day, instead of napping, Little C upended all 12 of her organizational baskets, leaving tiny toys and books scattered all over her room. What did I do? I cleaned the room. And why did I clean the room? Because it was faster than waiting for her to do it and because I organized everything the way I wanted them organized. No more. Starting today, she can clean up her own messes, regardless of how long it takes or if her My Little Ponies end up sharing real estate with her Dora paraphernalia.


Now let’s see who I can assign the task of running me a hot bath and bringing me some water and a magazine.


I realized today that, in my desire to be the uber-domestic engineer, I was not only unnecessarily running myself ragged, but I was also breeding perceived helplessness in my children.  Why in the world have I been pouring Big C's milk and laying out his pajamas?  Why have I been clearing Little C's dinner plate and putting her clothes in the hamper?  Maybe out of habit.  Maybe because I want things done quickly and correctly.  Or maybe I haven't yet admitted that my babies are growing up.

The best part of today's successful challenge?  I learned that the kids actually like being given more responsibility.  Big C told me that he was going to continue pouring his own milk every day for the rest of his life and that it made him feel like he was 18 years old.  But by then he'll move on to bigger and better things.  Like driving, dating, and going to college.  I'm so not ready for that.  For now, I'll just treasure his new love for milk pouring. 


A FAMILIAR SIGHT

That's all I have to say about that.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Operation:Capitulation

Day 13: WATCH “DAS BOOT"



My husband and I love putting the kids to bed and watching a good movie. For 10 years, he has been trying to convince me to watch the movie “Das Boot.” And for 10 years, I have declined. I think I’ve attempted to watch it twice, but it’s about a half a day long, complete with subtitles, and I’ve never kept my eyes open past the first 10 minutes.


I have an eclectic taste in movies.  I love cheesy romantic comedies, thought-provoking independent films, fast-paced suspense thrillers, mindless stupid funny movies, and cerebral dramas that end with the audience sighing WOW.  I do like a few military movies that hubby can recite verbatim, like “Saving Private Ryan” and “A Few Good Men.” But there’s an endless list of military movies that my husband just can’t get me to sit through. One of them is “Das Boot.”


Tonight, after the kids are put to bed, I will finally capitulate and watch “Das Boot.” Pass me a bowl of popcorn and my reading glasses, and I’m ready to go.  Now if I can just convince hubby to capitulate in return and watch "Mamma Mia!"


Mission accomplished!  I watched all 3 and a half hours of "Das Boot" in one sitting.  It was actually pretty good, and I didn't mind the subtitles at all.  I can definitely see why my husband loves this movie.  The greatest part of this challenge was that not only was I sharing several hours with my husband, but I was also sitting through an interesting history lesson with hubby's footnotes of his own military knowledge.  I certainly never thought I'd cheer for the Germans in a World War II movie!

I don't think I'll be watching it again anytime soon, but I'm glad I can say I've seen it.  My next military must-see movie: "Patton."  But first I'll be breaking out our dancing shoes for some quality Meryl Streep and Abba classics.


LEGOS AND GORMITIS

Big C's 2 favorite toys: Legos and Gormitis.  Don't ask me what Gormitis are, I don't quite know besides the fact that they are divided into a bunch of different tribes and they all have a quantifiable power.  Big C knows all the names, tribes, and powers.  All I know is that I find these miniature annoyances ALL OVER my house.  Hubby made this Lego fort today, bless his heart, despite the fact that Big C lost interest in the project about 15 minutes in.  (Sometimes I don't know who has more fun with the toys, my son or his father!)  Anyway, let's hope those Gormitis stay in this house for awhile so they're not strewn all over mine.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Operation: Flirtation

Day 12: FLIRT WITH MY HUSBAND



I have been married to my husband for almost a decade. Flirting with him ceased probably about 11 years ago. Once you get the ring, flirting becomes unnecessary, am I right ladies?


Wrong. Ten years fly by, and suddenly you find that the only topics of conversation on rare date nights are kindergarten homework assignments and adventures in potty training. How did that happen? Wasn’t it just yesterday that we were shooting darts and closing out the bars?


As card-carrying members of the YMCA, our family is entitled to Parents’ Night Out. One night a month, we have free baby-sitters for 3 hours. And tonight is our night. No kids, just husband and wife. And tonight I am banning any and all talk of the children.  Come 6:30 PM, let the flirtation begin!


I am sad to admit that my flirting skills have been buried deep within piles of 2 kids’ worth of diapers, years of dirty laundry, and a decade of marriage. I can’t even proclaim to have made any attempts at flirting, simply because every time the thought crossed my mind to toss my hair and giggle, I just felt silly. But at least I was able to curtail my instinct to talk about the kids. I had to stop myself mid-sentence a few times, but I was ultimately successful in that goal.


Despite the lack of flirting, it was a great date night. We discovered a Japanese restaurant that transported us halfway across the world the instant we opened the doors. The sound of Japanese being spoken was like sweet music to my ears. The nostalgic atmosphere, the outstanding sushi, and the grown-up conversation were all I needed to wipe away the dust I’d been breathing in all day from my floors being sanded and the sound of cranky kids who were cooped up on a rainy day for too long.



FANCY FURNITURE

Like I said, my floors were sanded today.  And unfortunately, because it's Friday, this is what my family room will look like throughout the weekend until the crew returns on Monday to stain.  Thank goodness for bean bag chairs! 

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Operation: Calculation

Day 11: CALCULATE MY MONTHLY BUDGET




Do you have any idea what you’re spending your money on each month? I don’t. Not exactly. Should I? Heck yeah!

I pay the bills, I balance the checkbook, and I check the online bank account almost every day. But I couldn’t tell you how much my power bill increased this month or how much I’m spending on groceries or gas. Time to find out.



We have lived in the states for about a year and a half after 3 unforgettable years in Japan, and somehow it’s still a huge shock to see our list of monthly expenses! Bills, bills everywhere!


When you live overseas, you’ve got it made, especially if you live on base. Other than the 4 months we lived out in the cho, we didn’t have a mortgage payment, and we paid no utilities except for phone and cable.    Almost anything you might need, lawn equipment, carbon monoxide detectors, loaner furniture before and after a PCS move, even plants (which of course my Black Thumb immediately killed), were provided for you.  We even landed a brand new oven when we were awarded "Yard of the Month" (thanks to those free lawn mowers and weed wackers).

If a toilet overflowed, you called the housing office. If you couldn’t read the Kanji on the remote control for your air conditioning unit, you called the housing office. If your refrigerator wasn’t cooling your Asahi’s to your liking, you called the housing office. And within hours of these phone calls, a smiling Japanese man was ringing your doorbell, removing his shoes, and fixing whatever grievance you could conjure, bowing as if it were his pleasure to fix your toilet, pantomime the various features on the A/C remote control, and servicing your fridge so that your Japanese beer was properly chilled.  Ahh, that was the life.


Friends who PCS’ed before us warned me to save money while in Japan because life was different in the states. But we didn’t heed their advice. We were too busy traveling to places like Thailand and Korea and purchasing Japanese furniture at USO auctions to even consider saving the extra money we were earning overseas. And I have to admit that I don’t regret it. I wouldn’t trade my step tansu or the beautiful cherry blossom wood block print or the memories of the amazing sites we saw and food we ate for all the BAH in the world.


But I digress. I could reminisce about Japan for days (and beware, I’ll probably continue to find reasons to incorporate Japanese reveries into my daily posts). What I really meant to say is that my monthly budget is successfully calculated.



PEEK-A-BOO

I guess I had budgeting on the brain because we are currently working on some home improvement projects.  We decided to tear up the nasty carpet in our family room in order to install laminate floors.  To our surprise, we discovered that underneath that nasty carpet lived shiny hardwood floors!  Ta Da!  So tomorrow, instead of a crew installing laminate floors, a different crew will be sanding and staining our gorgeous "new" hardwood floors.  Woo hoo!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Operation: Beautification

Day 10: APPLY MAKEUP, STYLE HAIR, DRESS LIKE I’M NOT A MOMMY, PAINT NAILS




As a domestic engineer, I find that I have Mommy uniforms. Unless absolutely necessary, I don’t wear makeup, and I eschew the hair dryer at all costs. I work out almost every morning, so my AM uniform is sweatpants. After I shower off the endorphins, I grab for my trusty PM uniform: jeans. By the time my husband gets home from work, I’m usually back in sweatpants thanks to sticky 2-year-old hands (fingerpaints, applesauce, you name it, my daughter touches it), splattered dinner ingredients, or simply my desire to be comfortable.  Unless I have special plans late in the day or it's date night, my poor husband doesn't see me wearing anything but Mommy uniforms. 


Furthermore, I used to paint my toenails with verve, either because of athletic superstition (I swear I only swam well when my toenails were bright red) or when it's summertime and my feet are more exposed. But now, thanks to winter shoes, Mommy neglect and a highly chlorinated pool at the Y, my toenails have only the remnants of a paint job from about a month ago. And my fingernails, don’t even ask about my fingernails.


So when I get dressed today I am going to pretend I am not a Mommy. I will wear makeup, I will style my hair, I will don something other than jeans, I will not be wearing sweatpants when hubby walks in the door, and I will paint both my toenails and fingernails. Red carpet here I come!


Success! Makeup: check. Styled hair: check. Khaki pants: check. Khaki pants still on upon hubby’s return from work: check. Toenails and fingernails painted: double check.  I am officially a domestic goddess.


I had to exercise great willpower when it came to changing back into my uniform in the evening. First, oil splashed up on my shirt while I was cooking.  But instead of giving up and reaching for my comfort clothes, I simply started a load of laundry and put on a new shirt. Then, hubby called to say he was going to be late. Oh man, I thought, I have to postpone the sweatpants. And even more difficult was when the kids’ bath time rolled around and a tidal wave crashed on me. (Little C promptly blamed it on her Dora loofah.) But I’m proud to say that I was not wearing a Mommy uniform when greeting my husband. And it did not go unnoticed.

It definitely felt nice to look nice, but the events of this evening made me wonder how long I can keep this up.  I'm quite certain I will regress back to my grungy ways the next time hubby goes on a trip and the only people I have to impress are 2 little people who don't really care what I look like.  I am just not destined to look like Bree or Gabby in "Desperate Housewives."  I mean really, what true domestic engineer wears a cocktail dress while cleaning the toilet and unloading groceries?  I guess I'm not that desperate.


YOUR SISTER WEARS COMBAT BOOTS

This is what happens when you leave your children alone to play dress-up.  Sadly, I think Little C needs to outgrow her night-time Pull Ups before the Navy will allow her to enlist.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Operation: De-Actually-ization

Day 9: REFRAIN FROM USING THE WORD ACTUALLY




Do you actually have any idea how often we say the word actually? Actually, we say it a whole lot. Whether we use it as a transition or for emphasis, the word is everywhere in our daily conversations and ridiculously overused.


My obsession with the word actually began a few weeks ago after my mother talked on the phone with Big C, and she mentioned how frequently he said actually. So I started noticing how often he said actually. Then I started noticing how often my husband said actually. Then I started noticing how often actors on tv said actually. Then I started noticing how often I said actually. It’s like talking to someone who has a big hunk of spinach stuck in her teeth. You can’t help but focus on it every time she opens her mouth.


Today I will not say the word actually. This might actually be a good test of its actual usefulness. I wonder how hard it will actually be. Ok, I’m starting right now.



I failed my mission today. I allowed 2 “A” words to slip out. And when I analyzed when and why I used them, I realized that the word had absolutely no purpose in my statements. I said it simply out of habit.



Remember when we were younger and we drove our parents crazy saying “like?” (I guess that question makes me seem either really young or really old, depending on the age of the reader.) “Like, Mom, that is so lame.” “I am, like, so hungry.” “Like, that book is, like, so awesome.” Well, actually is my new like. It’s almost entirely superfluous, and it’s, like, so irritating.


However, I am not the only one carelessly throwing out the A word. I noticed the A word over a dozen times in conversation today, heard it 5 times on television, and read it 4 times in email correspondences. All superfluous. But I think I've gotten the obsession out of my system. Now I can move on, hopefully to completely ignore future A word droppings as I would ignore that spinach stuck in my friend's teeth.



A MOMENT TO TAKE IT ALL IN

The weather was gorgeous today!  It was the first day I could enjoy the sun without the windy cold chafing my face.  So as I sat outside waiting for Big C to come home on the school bus, I sat in a patio chair to absorb some Vitamin D.  Loving this sneak preview to Spring.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Operation: Cultivation

Day 8: BUY A PLANT AND KEEP IT ALIVE




All you Green Thumbs may be questioning such a simple task. But I don’t have a green thumb. Actually, it’s not just that I don’t have a green thumb. I have a black thumb. I have killed every plant I’ve ever owned: indoor plants, outdoor plants, heck I couldn’t keep a basil plant alive in my kitchen. My proclivity for plant manslaughter has even led me to ban my husband from giving me flowers for special occasions. What’s the point? Spending all that money only for me to kill them? (He buys me books for Valentine’s Day. Don’t think I can kill those.)

So today I will turn my black thumb green.


INTRODUCING SPIKY & SPARKY

Thanks to the helpful crew at the Home Depot nursery, I am now the proud owner of a Golden Pothos and a Cactus Garden!  According to my new friends at Home Depot, who likely think I'm a complete idiot for having absolutely no knowledge about plants, the pothos is nearly impossible to kill.  The cactus garden requires a bit more care, but I couldn't resist.  It's just so darn cute!  (Plus, Big C promised to help me take care of it.)  Spiky the Cactus Garden (named by Big C for obvious reasons) and Sparky the Pothos (named by me for no reason whatsoever) are resting happily in our dining room and seem to be adjusting well to their new home.

We'll see how Spiky and Sparky are holding up in a few weeks, and if all goes well, maybe I'll allow my husband to buy me flowers for Valentine's Day.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Operation: Inactivation

Day 7: WATCH A MOVIE WITH MY KIDS WITHOUT MULTI-TASKING




My children consider movies special treats. I try to reserve them for emergencies: rainy Sunday afternoons, nights when I co-op baby-sitting with friends, or recovery from busy weeks. But sadly, I usually use the kids’ special treat as a special treat for myself. It’s my chance to get things done without interruption. Whether it’s catching up on laundry, creating my weekly grocery list, or returning phone calls, I never manage to sit still to enjoy the movie with my children. Today, I am going to give the washing machine a rest, save the grocery list for later, and turn off the ringer. I can’t wait to snuggle with my kids and watch a movie through their eyes.


Movie night didn't exactly go as planned.  It started off perfectly.  My husband converted the couch to a bed and laid out cozy blankets.  The kids made bathroom runs.  I popped up a huge batch of popcorn.  And we all snuggled together to watch "Ratatouille." 

17 minutes into the movie, my husband's work phone rang.  21 minutes in, Big C wanted water.  22 and a half minutes in, Little C wanted milk.  47 minutes in, the popcorn was annihilated, and Big C wanted yogurt.  48 and a half minutes in, Little C wanted yogurt.  By the time the movie was wrapping up, my husband was asleep, I was toasting a mini bagel for Big C and retrieving more yogurt for Little C (which she rejected once I opened it), those cozy blankets were the source of a tug-of-war, and I had missed most of the movie. 

At least I can tell myself that it wasn't my own inability to sit still that led to the failure of today's mission.  What is it about watching a movie that induces hunger?!  I guess the next time I attempt movie night, my revised goal should be to park a mini fridge next to the bed and inform the kids that their short order cook is taking the night off.


PORCELAIN GOD

I am now a slave to the Porcelain God.  I forgot to mention that the day I took Little C's binkies away, she decided to potty train herself.  Seriously, she potty trained herself!  For the past couple of months, I've allowed her to prance around the house naked because it was the only time she attempted to use the potty.  But the other day was the first time she actually dropped her drawers and did it herself.  She also decided that day that diapers are beneath her.  And she hasn't worn a diaper since. 

So now I visit the bathroom dozens of times a day.  Sometimes the visits are false alarms, probably Little C's way of determining just how quickly Mommy will jump when she yells, "Pee Pee Pottyyyyyyy!"  And somehow, she's only had 1 accident in 3 days.  I'm overwhelmingly proud of her.  I never thought I'd brag about my daughter waking me up at 3:30 AM to use the bathroom, but I am.  At least she's not screaming for her binky.  She seems to have mastered both transitions flawlessly and isn't looking back.  Maybe next I should teach her how to pop popcorn and toast mini bagels.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Operation: Invigoration

Day 6: TAKE A ZUMBA CLASS



I like to work out. In my youthful prime, I was a competitive swimmer. In my adult life, I have competed in 2 half marathons, one 10k, more 5k’s than I can count, 2 open water swims, and a handful of other random races. I’m a regular at the local YMCA, and recently I’ve discovered spinning. However, I have never Zumba’ed. I have no idea exactly what Zumba is, but I’m pretty sure it involves dancing. As the World’s Biggest Klutz, I typically avoid any fitness classes that require coordination. So today’s Zumba class at the Y should be interesting. My plan is to arrive early to make sure I get a good spot in the back where no one can see me.


Zumba is fun!!! And wonderfully invigorating. There must have been 40 people crammed into that aerobics room dancing their hearts out. I had trouble keeping up with the dance moves at first, but I quickly got the hang of it (for the most part). From my view in the back, I discovered to my great relief that I wasn’t the most uncoordinated person there. And by the end, I was feeling downright graceful!



I definitely plan to take another class. I loved the music, I loved the fast pace, and I loved that no one was taking themselves too seriously. It may not have been the athletic challenge that a spinning class or a 6 mile run is, but it was a fun change that got my blood pumping. And next time, I’m moving on up. No need to be in the back of the room with a limited view of the bubbly instructor. I might even work up the nerve to join the smiling woman in the front row who had absolutely no idea what she was doing, but sure was having fun trying.



HANDS ARE FOR HOLDING

I look at this photo and can't believe how large my son's hands have gotten.  Little C still has those adorable, stumpy toddler hands.  But Big C is looking more and more like a little man.  I don't even want to think about what this picture will look like a year from now, 2 years from now, 10 years from now because I don't want to think about the day when he won't want to hold my hand anymore. 

Friday, January 15, 2010

Operation: Elimination

Day 5: TOSS UNUSED TOYS AND OUTGROWN CLOTHES



My kids have more toys than Santa’s workshop. And they have clothes hiding in dresser drawers that will never fit them again. Time for Spring cleaning a few months early! I’m looking forward to a big pile of toys to donate and clothes to pass along. Not to mention the extra space I’ll have to organize all of their art supplies, puzzles, and other toys with little itty bitty pieces that I keep stepping on. Now I just need to convince my children to share my enthusiasm.


I truly did not anticipate the magnitude of this project. I spent almost 2 hours just on my son’s room! Big C wasn’t too fond of the overhaul, but he loved the fact that ultimately Mommy cleaned his room. Luckily, Little C’s room recently had a makeover when we traded in her crib for a bed, so it wasn’t as cluttered as her brother’s. I was able to get rid of a drawer full of her old clothes and refill it with toys.


By the time we were finished, the mountain of donations wasn’t exactly as high as I had envisioned. In fact, most of the toys and books that Big C actually agreed to relinquish ended up finding their way to Little C’s room. But it’s done. I even shifted enough stuff around that I was able to remove a nightstand that was shoved in Big C's closet to house more forgotten junk. That made space for his bean bag chair in his new “secret room,” where he can close the curtains and plot his latest ploy to drive me crazy.


Today’s adventure made me wonder how in the world my children have managed to accumulate such a vast amount of toys. Where did they all come from?! And when did toys manufactured for 5-year-olds surpass my 30-something-year old cognitive abilities? Despite my best efforts, I have NEVER been able to transform Bulkhead into a tank or Optimus Prime into a truck.  And speaking of Transformers, I swear the inventor didn’t have children. The man spent way too much time inventing and not enough time cleaning up the millions of detachable pieces that may look cool but too often get entangled in dust bunnies under the bed and stab the bottom of frustrated moms’ feet.


On a positive note, during the cleansing process, I found that missing yellow binky. I also found a pink one that went AWOL months ago. (It was part of the forgotten junk that was hiding in the nightstand.)  I think all binkies have officially been recovered.



LONG TAG

This is "Long Tag," Big C's most prized possession.  Long Tag's story began when Big C was a baby.  He developed an attachment to one of his blue blankets, so attached that we ordered an identical one as a backup.  He must have been about 2 when he realized that the blankets were not identical.  You see, he liked to soothe himself to sleep by rubbing the blanket's tag.  And the backup blanket had a longer tag than the original.  Soon, Big C was rejecting the original "Short Tag" and begging for "Long Tag."  Now, years later, Long Tag has seen better days.  It has traveled to 4 different countries, it's been peed on, it's been sewn, and it has more holes than swiss cheese.  But Big C still can't live without it.  (And Short Tag sits in a dresser drawer, patiently waiting to be used as a backup.)

By the way, I tried teaching Little C her brother's method of tag rubbing since she owns the pink equivalent of Long Tag.  But she is still missing her binkies.  Last night was a bit bumpy, ending in a 5:30 AM wake up call for me, but naptime today was rough.  Tomorrow is another day.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Operation: De-Pacification

Day 4: SAY BYE BYE BINKY



Today my daughter is under the impression I’m mailing her binkies to her baby cousin. I had to choose between this fib and convincing her to leave her precious “bees” under her pillow for the Pacifier Fairy. Since it would take her all of 1.5 seconds to find those binkies under her pillow and promptly stuff all 5 of them in her mouth like a squirrel hiding its nuts, that option would kind of defeat the purpose. So we’re going cold turkey. Sayonara suckers.


I had every intention of weaning Little C off the pacifier by the time she turned one. The experts say not to implement this kind of transition during other major life transitions. Well, the experts clearly don’t know anyone in the military because, in our lives, transitions hit like machine gun fire.


When Little C was 9 months old, we PCS’ed from Japan back to the states. No way was I taking away the pacifier before that trip! (In retrospect, I probably should have. Not only did she hardly sleep the entire flight, but she entertained herself by tossing the binkies over the seats and befriending the kind strangers who retrieved them. I spent more time in the airplane bathroom washing those stupid binkies than she spent sucking on them.) Whether it was enduring a PCS move, saying farewell to beloved friends, packing Daddy up for one trip after another, or hopping in the car to visit family, it was always something, some reason not to take away that crutch.


Now that she’s approaching the 2 and a half year mark, I can no longer make excuses to avoid chucking the binky (besides the fact that I treasure a full night of sleep). Thank goodness she is only a part-time addict. Since she was a baby, I offered the pacifier only during sleep time. I am patting myself on the back for that now because the de-pacification process is only affecting bedtimes.


As far as the success of today’s challenge, I’d say it went better than expected. Little C plunked her binkies in a baggie and decorated it with stickers next to her cousin’s name. Naptime didn’t happen, but she’s been skipping naps all week so I don’t contribute that to binky withdrawal. After about an hour of intermittent screaming “No Nap!” and false claims to need the potty, I gave in and took her to Target to buy her the “Cindy-rella” underwear I promised her. And knock on wood, bedtime was flawless. Not so much as a whimper! We’ll see where my optimism is at 2:00 in the morning.



                                                      
We are mysteriously missing a binky.  Somewhere in our house is a yellow pacifier with a lion on it.  I wouldn't put it past my conniving Little C to have hidden it somewhere for surreptitious future use.  Let's hope I find it before she does.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Operation: Application

Day 3: COMPLETE A JOB APPLICATION



I have been a domestic engineer for the past 5+ years. (Yes, that’s a fancy way of saying stay-at-home mom.) But now I’m contemplating my return to the workforce to actually use that Master's degree I worked so hard to earn. First step is the application.


Ok, so filling out a job application is much tougher than it used to be!  Online application; scanning and attaching college transcripts, resume, and recommendations; short essays?!  I was foolish to believe I could complete the application in a single day, especially on a day my obstinate daughter chose to skip her afternoon nap.  But I was able to complete the majority of the application today so I consider today's mission a majority of a success.  Just need to stay motivated and keep working on it. 


The application made me wonder if employers consider domestic engineering work experience.  I'm required to provide a reference from my last employer.  Maybe I should list my home phone number with my children's names as references.  After all, they have been my employers for the past 5 years.  I'm sure my future boss would love to hear from my 5-year-old son, who would surely share great tales of my ability to make his bed, launder his Tranformer underwear, prepare his gourmet peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and battle with his Gormiti and Star Wars figures.  (Let's just hope they don't call on a day I put him in time-out for punching his sister or take away a coveted magnet on his daily responsibility chart for not clearing the dinner table.)  And I know they would hire me on the spot upon hearing from my 2-year-old daughter as she chants, "Mommy good.  Read Diego book.  No pants.  Pee pee on potty."  What do you think?


                                                            SLOW COOKER CRAZE

My 2nd daily photo...my sexy slow cooker is my new best friend.  Thanks to the cookbook, "Make It Fast, Cook It Slow" by Stephanie O'Dea (her blog is on my list), I now prepare as many meals as possible first thing in the morning and use my typical dinner time preparation in the evening to spend more time with my kids.  Fast, easy, yummy.  Last night's recipe: Chicken Parmesan.  Tonight's recipe: Creamy Beef Over Noodles.  Oishii!!!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Operation: Documentation

Day 2: TAKE A PICTURE EVERY DAY FOR A YEAR.

I realize this is an ongoing challenge that will not end today, but the hardest part of any goal is deciding to do it, right? So today I’m deciding to document this wonderful new year through photography. Plus, this will hopefully add some color to my blog.


THESE BOOTS WERE MADE FOR MATCHING


I love my fake Uggs. I love matching fashion with my 2-year-old daughter. I wonder if we’ll look at this picture in 10 years and share a good chuckle over wearing such ugly foot attire.


But in 10 years, she’ll be a tween. She'll be raging with hormones and mood swings, and she'll probably hate me by then.  So instead of finding the humor in our matching ugly boots, she might just shriek that this photo is proof that I have been depriving her of haute couture her entire life (because they are clearly Ugg impostors and our jeans are clearly off-the-rack). Or she’ll rip it up to destroy the evidence that she ever deigned to dress like her old, fashion-challenged mother.  Or, and this might be the worst offense, she'll refuse to even share the moment with me because spending time with a parental unit just isn't cool.


These visions almost convince me that the Terrible Twos aren't so bad.  Almost.


I will continue to enjoy dressing my toddler like my very own mini me.  I need to do it while I still can.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Operation: Articulation

Day 1: START A BLOG. 

Simple, I know. But I’m taking baby steps, sticking a toe outside that comfort zone to test the waters.  Plus, it’s going to take me all day just to figure out all the bells and whistles on this website.

I also wanted to lay down my rules of engagement. (You’ll soon learn that I’m a very rule-oriented person.   Hmmm, future challenge there?)

Rule #1: I am not here to dole out advice. I don’t have nearly enough knowledge or experience to offer any sound advice to my fellow military spouses out there. But I’m hoping to share other blogs on my page to point you in the right direction if that’s what you’re seeking (that is, once I figure out how to do that).

Rule #2: The purpose of this blog is neither to bash the military nor profess my undying love for it. Remember, it’s just background noise.

Rule #3: I do not have a political agenda, and I’d appreciate it if you kept yours to yourself.

Rule #4: My proposed format is as follows: I will begin each day by announcing my challenge. (If I wait until my day has started, I am much more likely to reconfigure something I've already done and call it my daily challenge.  Kind of like adding a task to your to-do list after you've completed it just so you can cross something off.  Come on, you know you've done it!) And I will end each day by sharing whether or not my mission was a success, a failure, or was aborted due to extenuating circumstances.

Rule #5: I am open to suggestions (within reason). Feel free to drop me a line with ideas about what I should challenge myself to do. However, please keep in mind that I don’t drink coffee, I’m not in the market for a pet, and I am adamantly opposed to plastic surgery. And let’s keep it clean folks. This is a family blog.

I think that covers it.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Just the Beginning

I am a military spouse. When it comes to challenges, need I say more?

The term "military spouse" has a dual definition. It means that my spouse is in the military. But it also means that my spouse is the military. I am essentially a bigamist. First I married my husband. Then two years later, I married the military.

I have a love/hate relationship with the military. As a spouse, it is doing everything wrong. It doesn't communicate. It is unwilling to compromise. It doesn't remember Mother's Day or my children's birthdays. It doesn't care that I finally unpacked that last box when it informs me that it's time to pack it up again. Basically, it dictates almost every aspect of my life without asking my permission. And unfortunately, it is unresponsive to couples’ counseling.

On the other hand, my second marriage has improved my life in ways I didn't even know needed improving. Being married to the military has forced me to find my inner strength and independence. It has put me through assertiveness training and taught me to embrace change. And possibly best of all, it has shown me the world (who would have thought I would ever live in Japan?!) and introduced me to friends I will treasure for the rest of my life.

Since becoming a military spouse, I've had to sweat the small stuff: late night phone calls, unexpected separations, missed holidays, and misplaced and unironed uniforms. I've also had to sweat the not so small stuff: the premature birth of my first child that my husband came way too close to missing, the birth of my second child in a foreign country, the stress of single parenthood, the perpetual postponement of a career, and a 6-month deployment to Iraq. But in spite of it all, I can honestly say that I can't imagine life any other way.

Military life is a roller coaster ride. It is jolting and unpredictable and breathtaking. And sometimes it makes you want to throw up. Because I won’t be getting off this ride anytime soon, I need to find ways to stay grounded. This brings me to the reason for creating this blog. I need distractions. Distractions from those late night phone calls, unexpected separations, missed holidays and misplaced and unironed uniforms. Therefore, I am going to challenge myself to do something new every day.

When I say new, I basically mean activities that fall outside my comfort zone (which isn’t saying a whole lot considering my comfort zone is about as expansive as my living room). Nothing drastic, like say, getting Lasik eye surgery (oh how I wish I had the guts to do that) or closing my Facebook account (because that would really be drastic!). And nothing as mundane as the tedious tasks on my to-do list (I promise not to claim that a commissary run with both kids qualifies as one of my daily challenges...although that is a challenge). My goal for each day is a happy medium between the two.

How long will this challenge last? I don’t really know. As with everything in military life, I’ll take it day by day. My hope is that my self-imposed challenges will provide enough of a distraction that the roller coaster ride will simply become the background noise in an otherwise stable and relatively normal existence. And who knows, maybe I'll learn a thing or two about myself in the process.
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