Sunday, February 28, 2010

Operation: Birthday Celebration

Day 49: CELEBRATE BIG C’S 6TH BIRTHDAY


If you’ve ever hosted a 6-year-old’s birthday party, you know very well the magnitude of the challenge I faced today. I wish I could bottle the energy of those kids and drink it every morning for breakfast.


Last year, Big C’s party epitomized chaos. Twenty-two 5-year-olds at Chuck E. Cheese’s, plus some siblings. I must be a masochist right? But how could I resist my little boy’s pleas to go to this magical land of rampant germs and runny pizza? After all, it was his first real birthday in the states. He was 15 months old when we moved to Japan, and 4 years old when we left. He didn’t even know such a wondrous place as Chuck E. Cheese’s existed. Until he saw American commercials.


This year we toned it down (at least quantitatively) with only 4 boys plus 4 siblings. However, I should have expected this party to be even more exhausting than last year’s considering the location. I can now attest that Chuck E. Cheese’s seems like a 2-hour full-body massage compared to a Laser Tag Party.

 
But as exhausted as the adults were when we left with our arms filled with presents and leftover cake, we were happy to know that we had accomplished the most important ambitions of a 6-year-old's birthday party.  No fights.  No tears.  No vomit.  Maybe some laser deaths, but no lost children in the dark, foggy labyrinth.  Even the younger siblings who didn't participate, including Little C, were more than content to pretend they were playing the video games in the main lobby without feeling left out.  And of course the primary goal: the kids all had a blast!
 

TACTICAL BLUEBERRIES

What more appropriate theme for a laser tag party than camouflage? 
(Gee, can you tell we're a military family?) 


Saturday, February 27, 2010

Operation: Mini Stay-Cation

Day 48: SPEND AN ENTIRE NIGHT ALONE WITH MY HUSBAND



I have to begin with a disclaimer. Today’s challenge isn’t much of a challenge. In fact, it’s going to be just about the most unchallenging challenge I can think of. But I feel justified in considering this my daily new “thing” because it’s something different, something I’ve never done before. Ok, well I’ve done it before, but not since moving back to the states. (Does that still count?)


My husband and I are going on a mini stay-cation. We’re not going to DisneyWorld. We’re not visiting local attractions. We’re not crossing state lines. But we are leaving the house. And not coming back. Until tomorrow.


Thanks to my in-laws who are in town for Big C’s birthday festivities tomorrow, we have free, overnight baby-sitters. So after seeing a movie that isn’t rated G, eating at a restaurant that doesn’t have a kids’ menu, maybe a couple of drinks in a dimly lit bar that doesn’t include the words “sports” or “cover charge,” we will adjourn to the fancy hotel room we booked for the night.


The last time my husband and I spent the night out while someone else watched our children was when we lived in Japan. If you’ve ever been to Japan, you probably know about their infamous “love hotels.”   You see, Japanese houses are typically not large.  But they seem even smaller because they typically shelter multi-generational families. Given that combination (and the fact that the walls are pretty thin), couples find that they desperately need some time alone. Thus the genesis of the love hotel.  When my husband and I heard about the love hotels, we decided to see what all the fuss was about. For purely investigatory purposes, you see. Just to learn more about Japanese culture.


Unlike the love hotels in Japan, I’m sure the hotel we’re staying at tonight doesn’t have individual stalls for parking in privacy. Or a separate entrance and exit so you don’t run into anyone you know. Or a board in the lobby displaying pictures of the beds in each room and a button to push when you choose the bed, I mean, room that you want. Or one of those suction tube things they have at bank drive-thrus (what are those called anyway?) in the room for the exchange of money. And I’m quite sure this hotel doesn’t have an option to either “Rest” (3 hour maximum) or “Stay” (for overnighters), a vending machine with adult toys, or a karaoke machine. (See all the valuable knowledge I gained from my cultural research?)


But it will be quiet. Our names will not be Mommy and Daddy. We will not wake up in the middle of the night to help someone use the potty. And we can sleep in. Who needs DisneyWorld?




GOOD WINE, GOOD READS, GOOD NIGHT

Friday, February 26, 2010

Operation: Perspiration

Day 47: ATTEND A KICKBOXING CLASS



As I’ve said before I love to work out. No really, I truly enjoy working out (please don’t hate me!). And I know my friends and family love that I love working out as well because I’m not such a nice person when I don’t work out at least 5 days a week.


After running a half marathon last year and pulling my hamstring, I’ve had to find alternatives to my usual workouts. It wasn’t until a friend dragged me to a spinning class a few months ago that I realized how boring my workouts were. Running, swimming, lifting weights. That was about it. And then along came spinning.


And then came Zumba. One of my first daily challenges was taking a Zumba class. Because that was so successful, today I decided to take a kickboxing class. Although I don’t think I’ll be able to lift my arms tomorrow, the class was fantastic.


A subsection of this challenge builds upon yesterday’s diversification challenge in that the kickboxing schedule required me to alter my unwavering morning routine.  I had to get out the door an hour earlier than usual, and if you’re a mother you know what a difference 60 minutes makes. My kids, creatures of habit like myself, thought I was nuts. The only way I got them out the door was by bribing them with a post-YMCA trip to Dunkin’ Donuts. (As a side note, I have to say that I wasn’t exactly playing fair because we were going there anyway to get Munchkins for Big C’s birthday celebration at school. Hey, you gotta do whatcha gotta do!)


So let’s see…running, swimming, lifting weights, spinning, Zumba…oh my! Do I think I’ll add kickboxing to my exercise repertoire? Probably not. This creature of habit needs that extra hour in the morning.


TIME TO SEPARATE YOU TWO

My kids fight.  All.  The.  Time.  Even something as simple as standing in close proximity to one other causes a butt-bumping, name-calling, eyeball-scratching brawl.  Maybe they should have taken the kickboxing class with me. 

Friday Follow

Time for Friday Follow again!!!



Friday Follow



I found so many fun blogs last week, so here I am again for another round of Friday Follow!

For those of you who are new, I'm a military spouse and domestic engineer (or stay-at-home mom to 2 silly kids).  I'm trying to challenge myself to do something new or different every single day and write about it in my blog.  Giving myself a daily goal has been an effective distraction from the crazy roller coaster that is military life.

  What about you?  What's your story?


Looking forward to meeting you!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Operation: Diversification

Day 46: TURN OFF THE TV AND READ


I am a creature of habit. I like predictability. I like knowing what comes next and planning accordingly.  I do not like surprises.  (And how exactly am I making it as a military spouse?!)


In a way, that’s why my husband, Mr. Spontaneity, and I complement each other so well. He brings me out of my comfort zone, while I help to show him the advantages of consistency (although he still doesn’t heed my advice about putting his car keys in the same location every day so he doesn’t have to frantically search for them every day.)


A large part of my daily routine revolves around the kids’ bedtime. They go to bed at 7:00. On the dot. If they happen to miss their bedtime because of extraneous circumstances, I rush through that bedtime routine like I’m fast-forwarding the commercials on my DVR.


I’m strict about bedtime because my munchkins are terrors the next day if they’re sleep-deprived. But really, in all selfishness, I do it for me too. I love my children dearly, but at the end of the day, I need some ME time. Maybe a glass of wine. Maybe catching up on emails. Maybe a big bowl of popcorn. But definitely TV.


Being a domestic engineer (read: stay-at-home mom), it’s not unusual for me to pass an entire day without having a face-to-face conversation with another adult. If the only conversations you have all day are with a 2- and almost 6-year-old, I assure you that all you want to hear at the end of the day is grown-up voices talking about grown-up things. Don’t get me wrong, I love talking about Cinderella and Star Wars and hearing the word “poop” 93 times a day. But at night I just want to see what Jack Bauer’s next near-death experience is going to be or drool in anticipation of the moment Sawyer will remove his shirt or fight frustration because House and Cuddy aren’t any closer to finally hooking up or vote on which of Simon’s wonderfully snide remarks is the most colorful.


As much as I love the escape of my favorite television shows, I love books even more. However, the only time I pencil reading into my schedule is in bed right before I go to sleep. But by that time, my eyes start drooping around 2 pages in, and by the 4th page my bookmark settles back into its place.

Therefore, tonight, after I put the kids to bed at 7:00 (on the dot!), I curled up on the couch with a cozy blanket and a bowl full of popcorn, and instead of reaching for my trusty remote control, I grabbed a book. And you have to understand that part of this challenge includes the fact that it’s both Grey’s Anatomy and Idol results night. (My husband thought I should take the challenge one step further and not DVR the shows, but that’s just insanity. Plus, I could watch them online anyway.)


Did I like this diversion from my regular nightly routine? Did I embrace the utter lack of consistency and jump into the crazy world of spontaneity? Well, I can say that I enjoyed the reading part while the reading part lasted. In retrospect, I probably should have done this challenge while my husband was gone. It probably would have met more success if my quiet reading time wasn’t competing with YouTube videos and a phone call from an old buddy. But I read a solid 30 pages of Eat, Pray, Love (and the font is really small), which is more than I’ve read all week.


As far as the spontaneity goes, I don’t think I’ll ever fully embrace it. I prefer to plan my spontaneity.

Capturing Shapes





A SQUARE OF CREATIVITY




A TRIANGLE OF IMAGINATION



A RECTANGLE OF STRESS RELIEF



A CIRCLE OF CURIOSITY


What will you capture today?


This post is linked to You Capture hosted by I Should Be Folding Laundry
This week's theme is Shapes. 


Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Operation: Stress Alleviation




 “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” ~~Winston Churchill


Day 45: RELEASE THE STRESS


As I mentioned yesterday, my glass has been half empty lately, but I’m working on altering my perspective. Part of my problem is stress, stress over situations that are beyond my control. (I hate to bring it up, but my furnace was leaking again this morning. Seriously?!) Since I identified part of my problem, it was time to brainstorm solutions.


My first method of stress relief was sweating it out. And I can tell you there was no stress left after a grueling yet rejuvinating hour of spinning class. (There may not have been any stress left, but there was certainly an abundance of muscle spasms and soreness.)


Next, I tried exhaling out the stress. For this method, I revisited my deep breaths challenge I did a few weeks ago. I didn’t practice deep breathing every hour like last time, but it sure seemed to help relieve the tension in my upper back whenever I did it.


Finally, after sweating out the stress and then exhaling it out, I decided to throw caution to the wind and dance it out. Yes, you read that correctly. I DANCED out the stress. And this was far and away my favorite stress-releasing tactic.


I love my wacky eclectic taste in music. I love that I can’t get through a run without P!nk or Maroon 5 screaming in my headphones. That I am instantly relaxed when I hear Nora Jones or Indigo Girls. That bands like Fleetwood Mac and Barenaked Ladies evoke vivid memories that make me smile. That I can’t help but get out of my seat and boogie when Lady Gaga or any song from the Mamma Mia soundtrack comes up in my iTunes scramble rotation.  Since music holds a place in my hierarchy of needs almost as sizeable as air and water, I figured I could use it to my advantage as a stress reliever.


So I cranked up Ms. Gaga, grabbed both pairs of kid hands, and danced until I couldn’t dance no more.  Then I collapsed on the floor, entirely too exhausted to care about the new river of water in my garage.  Mission accomplished.


My methods must have worked, at least outwardly, because when the furnace guy left this afternoon (the 6th visit from his company in the last week) he said, “Wow, you must be a very understanding person because I’d be PISSED if I were in your shoes.” If he only knew.


BOOGIE DOWN SISTA

When Little C's vocabulary started expanding, she was still saying gaga whenever she heard music.  But her gaga wasn't baby talk.  She was very clearly requesting Lady Gaga.  Just like her mother.

Photography courtesy of Big C, my blooming artist who would much rather be behind the camera than in front of it.  (Works out extremely well for Little C who would much rather hog all the attention.  A Mini Gaga in training.)



This post is linked to Words of Wisdom Wednesday hosted by Me and My SoldierMan.  Check out her blog for more words of wisdom.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Operation: Idealization

Day 44: DON’T COMPLAIN ALL DAY



I’m a wanna-be optimist. I would love to see the glass as half full.  And some days I do.  But I don’t think I’m a universal pessimist either. I guess you can call me an Indecisive Realist. I stare at that glass so intently to try and discern its fullness or emptiness until I either add something to it to make it closer to full or take a sip so it’s closer to empty. That way I have empirical evidence. And I don’t have to make a decision.  The glass is clearly, empirically either more full or more empty.  Indecisive Realism.


I feel like that glass has been leaning towards empty a lot lately. I tell myself it’s ok to wallow in a half-empty glass of self-pity when my military man isn’t around, and not only is he not around, but he’s not around to deal with things I don’t typically deal with. Like that testy furnace, the river of water flowing in my garage, and the HVAC employees who keep trying to charge me service fees every time they visit to fix what they screwed up.


Today I put an end to the complaining. I added a ray of sunshine to that glass so it was perpetually closer to full than empty. And because I am such a huge fan of empirical evidence, I put a half-full glass of water on my kitchen table to remind me every time I passed it to maintain optimism.


The result? I found that when I stopped the negative thoughts that popped into my head and added some sunshine to make that glass fuller, my mood truly felt a little brighter.  And because I was in a good mood, my kids were in a good mood.  And because they were in a good mood, I was in a better mood.  You see my point.


I can’t claim to be a card-carrying member of the optimist club yet, but I’m pretty confident that my application to the pessimist club would be unequivocally denied. And with that optimistic thought, I’ll now fill that glass half full with some wine.


HALF EMPTY OR HALF FULL?

What do you think?

Post It Note Tuesday







This Post It post is linked to Adventures of a Wanna-Be Supah Mommy

Monday, February 22, 2010

Operation: Collaboration

Day 43: HELP MY SON DO SOMETHING NEW


For the last month and a half, I have set and reached a goal every single day. And I’ve been pleasantly surprised to find that Big C, in all of his nearly 6-year-old wisdom and maturity, has willingly and enthusiastically joined me on this adventure.


When I decided to overcome my black thumb and plant an herb garden, he was right next to me transferring soil to the pots. When I focused on conserving energy, he was like the electricity police, practically issuing me a ticket every time I left a light on. And he hasn’t forgotten the day I set a timer and took 3 deep breaths every hour. Just the other day when I was beyond frustrated with my leaking furnace and lack of heat, Big C calmly asked, “Mommy, do you need to take a deep breath?”


The fact that Big C has not only been participating with me, but has been taking some of these lessons to heart made me realize that this project I created for myself is growing into something so much more than I intended.  It's gone far beyond simply satisfying my need to spruce up my life a little.  I’m actually teaching my children a lesson I wish I had learned years ago:

A world of opportunities can open up if  you just jump out of your comfort zone once in a while and embrace new experiences.


Today I wanted Big C to do something outside his comfort zone, help him embrace a new experience.  So I signed him up to read to therapy dogs at our local library.  As a kindergarten student,  Big C is only beginning to hone his reading skills, and when he gets stumped on several words in a row, he tends to give up.  The purpose of the therapy dog reading session is to allow children to gain confidence by reading to an audience that is calm, nonjudgemental, unlikely to interrupt, and more than likely to offer wet kisses as rewards. 


Big C was excited all day anticipating his time with the dogs.  But when we arrived at the library and were told that parents were encouraged not to accompany their children in the meeting room, Big C's enthusiasm vanished.  "You can do it," I prodded.  "Once you see those dogs you won't even miss me." 

Sure enough, Big C walked tall into that room, and 45 minutes later when I was allowed in to get him, his smile had returned.  And in the car on the way home, I couldn't help but smile myself as he asked, "When can I do that again?"

DISTRACTING LITTLE C

In my excitement to help Big C with an adventure of his own, I neglected to think about how Little C would react upon seeing the dogs in the library.  (After all, I've never seen dogs in a library, so for all I know, Little C was wondering if the Cat in the Hat would be next to walk through the door.)  The only way to distract her from the dogs and the fact that she wasn't allowed to play with them was to let her to peruse every single picture book in the libary.  Ok, I exaggerate.  But I certainly wouldn't want to be the librarian in charge of reshelving books tonight.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Operation: Anti-Paper Procrastination

Day 42: READ THE SUNDAY PAPER…ON SUNDAY



Every Sunday our newspaper is waiting on the lawn when we wake up in the morning.


Every Sunday morning I divide the paper into sections and go through the coupons and store inserts while I eat breakfast.


Every Sunday afternoon I pass by the neatly folded, still untouched paper sitting on the coffee table a thousand times, each time vowing to sit down and read it as soon as (insert whatever part of my day prevents me from actually sitting down).


Every Sunday evening after I put the kids to bed, I plop down on the couch to bond with my husband (if he’s home) or my DVR (if he’s not), spying the lonely unread newspaper in the corner of my eye.


And every Sunday night I go to bed without having read the Sunday paper.


Sometimes I manage to read 1 or 2 sections on Sunday, then another section on Monday, and hopefully by Tuesday I can finish it. But usually the newspaper hits the recycling bin on Wednesday, crushed by feelings of  inadequacy for not fulfilling its life’s mission of informing its owner.


I'm sure you can guess what I did today.  Yes, I read the entire Sunday paper!  Well, maybe I didn't read the Want Ads or the local sports section, and maybe I skimmed through some of the articles instead of reading every single word, but when I put that paper in the recycling bin this evening, I can assure you that it was laid to rest feeling no inadequacy whatsoever.


ALL IN THE FAMILY

Big C shows Mommy how it's done.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Operation: Wardrobe Examination

Day 41: TRYING ON CLOTHES DAY


Last year the weather abruptly changed from winter to spring literally overnight. One day it was cold and overcast, the next it was sunny and in the 60’s. Spring is my favorite season, and I looked forward to the weather-inspired wardrobe change. Then I opened Little C’s closet and…uh oh. The girl had exactly ZERO spring clothes. How did my planning gene fail to remind me that my children needed new clothes for the new season?!


I clearly remember my mother’s twice yearly tradition of making her reluctant children try on clothes in order to determine what she needed to buy for us. I’ve mentioned before that I have a terrible memory, but I will never forget the agony of Trying on Clothes Day, the torture I endured all for the sake of being properly dressed. I’ve also mentioned before that I was (am) a tomboy. So, while most girls might have swooned at the prospect of revamping their wardrobe, promises of new clothes held little incentive for me to get through the evolution without incessantly whining.


Today life came full circle. I have officially turned into my mother. Yes, I subjected my children to the same torment of trying on clothes as my mother did all those years ago. But now I get it.  I understand why my mother had no choice but to torture us. Big C is finally at an age where he still fits some of the clothes he wore last year, and a friend gave us a Hefty bag full of hand-me-down clothes for Little C. Clearly I need to know what fits and what doesn’t before I embark on a shopping spree.


How did the kids handle the stress? Better than anticipated. Little C, my girly-girl (don't know where she came from), could have kept going all day, as long as every now and then I stuck a princess shirt into the rotation. And Big C, well Big C inherited a lot of my DNA, so let’s just say I worked as quickly as possible.


ANOTHER HOT DATE

Last night my hot date was groceries.  Tonight, a ginormous bowl of popcorn.  This was my incentive to get through Trying on Clothes Day: knowing that once the kids went to bed, I had a bowl of popcorn and a loaded DVR waiting for me. 

Friday, February 19, 2010

Operation: Liberation

Day 40: ALLOW MYSELF TO ENJOY TIME ALONE WITHOUT FEELING GUILTY


As a military spouse, I do a lot of single parenting. And single parenting is exhausting.


I rarely pamper myself, and the moments I do have to myself come at night after the kids go to bed and I’m usually too tired to do much other than watch a mindless television show.


Even when I do take time out for myself, I can’t seem to shake the guilt. After all, being a mom is my full-time occupation; I can’t step out on the job. A couple of weeks ago, when my husband was actually home, I went to the movies by myself. And as enjoyable and self-indulgent as that was, the kids were always on my mind. I imagined them wondering why their mother was being so selfish as to go to the movies without them. I unsuccessfully tried to push the guilt aside while mopping up the Dear John induced tears.


But you know what I realized when I got home that day? Not only did my children not miss me, but they were thrilled to have that time alone with Daddy. I felt guilty for nothing. Heck, I probably could have stayed for another movie, and no one would have thought twice about my absence!


Once a month, the YMCA offers a free Parents’ Night Out, and for 3 blissful hours, my husband and I can go on a date while the kids frolic with 48 of their closest friends. Well, Parents’ Night Out was tonight, and when I signed up, my husband was supposed to be home. As luck would have it, he was called away on an unexpected trip (lovin’ that military roller coaster ride!), and he’s not here for his own date night.


My first instinct was to cancel. But then I thought, “No. I’m already signed up. It’s free. I’m going out.” So I did. Want to know where I went? To the commissary. You may say that’s sad, but in my eyes, going grocery shopping without the kids was almost as dreamy as the massage I was this close to scheduling. Almost. Ok, not quite. But I didn’t feel an ounce of guilt, and that’s all that matters.


MY HOT DATE

On the way to the Y, Big C asked, "Mommy, are you going on a date by yourself?"  Nothing like a 5-year-old to make you feel pathetic.  Thanks Big C.

So Thankful For My Awards!!

I'm so excited to receive more awards!

I'd like to thank Heather at This Is the Story of a Girl & JG at Me and My Soldierman for the Beautiful Blogger award.



And thank you Miss Jody at Miss Fancy Pants for the Just Because award.



I love reading your blogs.  Thank you ladies!

(By the way, I think I'm supposed to list some random interesting facts about myself upon accepting the awards, but I recently posted them and I haven't become more interesting since then.)

Follow Friday

This is my first Follow Friday!



Friday Follow


hosted by Midday Escapades.

Welcome to my world!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Operation: Avocation

Day 39: GAME DAY!


Our gas furnace decided to start spurting scalding hot water all over my garage the other day. And for the past two days, while I waited for three different experts to attempt to determine the root of the problem, I had to turn my heat off. When your house is a frigid 58 degrees, and you aren’t allowed to leave that frigid house because you don’t want to miss the guy who will help to make your house not so frigid, you need distractions.


To keep everyone’s minds off our chattering teeth (and a toddler’s overwhelming desire to play with the oscillating space heater), I designated today Game Day.


Bingo, The Ladybug Game, Hi Ho Cherry-O, Connect 4, Memory, Candy Land. I don’t think I’ve ever played so many board games in such a short period of time (or at least without a bottle of wine playing along with me).


Big C had a blast, but Little C was a little harder to please. Two-year-olds definitely aren’t qualified to play anything that 5-year-olds are interested in. But once I figured out the rotation of distraction method, I was essentially able to keep both kids occupied simultaneously. Once Big C lost interest in one game, we rotated it to Little C (to play by her own rules), while we rotated to the next game in the marathon. Granted, it wasn’t fun for me to clean up those cherries from Hi Ho Cherry-O or the checkers from Connect 4 with one hand while setting up the game pieces for another game with my other hand, but it was a small price to pay to keep Little C from running off with our Candy Land men or eating the Bingo balls.


By the end of the day, I was all gamed out. But Big C wasn’t. So thank you to pbskids.org for getting me out of playing one more game.

Capturing Kisses

Capturing Kisses...

Of the Eskimo Variety...




Of the Brotherly Love Variety...


 

Of the That-Is-Just-So-Darn-Cute Variety


What will you capture today?


This post is linked to You Capture hosted by I Should Be Folding Laundry.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Operation: Minimization

Day 38: CLEAR OUT MY EMAIL INBOX


If my email inbox were a real mailbox, I’d have credit card offers and LL Bean catalogs fluttering down the street because they would no longer fit inside the mess of mail.


I am not a packrat by any stretch of the imagination, so why in the world do I still have that forwarded email about why the 80’s were great sent from a friend in 2008? Why do I still have that email my mother sent me months ago with the website for cheap racing swimsuits instead of bookmarking the page? Why do I have so many messages starred instead of just reading and trashing them? And oh my goodness, why haven’t I responded to all of those emails from friends?


Today’s challenge was to sift through my inbox and make friends with the Delete button. I read. I replied. I printed. I bookmarked. I trashed. I have to say it was liberating. And what a beautiful sight it is to see my entire inbox in one page (and it doesn’t even cover the entire screen)!


Will my inbox still look this pretty tomorrow? Probably not. But one day of email liberation is better than nothing.

Wordless Wednesday

INDEPENDENT READING TIME

(If only this had lasted longer than 90 seconds!)



This photo is linked to "Wordless Wednesday" hosted by 5 Minutes for Mom

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Operation: Communication

Day 37: WRITE AND SEND A SNAIL MAIL LETTER


When was the last time you wrote a letter? I don’t mean typing an email and hitting the send button. I mean picking up a pen, handwriting words on a piece of paper, folding it in an envelope, and waiting for the mailman to remove it from your mailbox. Other than writing thank you notes, I can’t remember the last time I wrote a real letter.

Yesterday I wrote a letter to myself. Today I’m going to write a letter, a real old-fashioned letter, to someone else.  How very early 1990's of me.


A REAL LETTER

I don't talk to my grandparents as often as I should.  And years pass between visits.  But I know they love hearing from me.  So I hope they enjoy the letter they will receive in a couple of days. 



This post is linked to "Tackle It Tuesday" hosted by 5 Minutes for Mom.

Monday, February 15, 2010

DIGRESSION OF THE DAY

I am out of sorts today.

My husband returned home from a short trip yesterday. No matter how short his trips may be, his returns are always an adjustment. While he’s gone, I do things MY way. I serve dinner on my time. I use the computer when I want to. And there’s a fourth less laundry. When he returns, I serve dinner at a different time every night depending on when his car pulls into the driveway. I have to share the computer. And after he dumps the contents of his luggage into the hamper, I have a mountain of laundry double the size as usual.

By the time it was my turn on the computer today, I had already completed my challenge. (Usually I post the challenge in the morning, then the results at night.) I'm off my schedule, out of my routine.  I am out of sorts.

Tomorrow we’ll start to get our groove back, and by the end of the week, life will be back to blissful normalcy. But today, I’m out of sorts. Ever feel that way?

IS IT MY TURN YET?

Sharing the computer with 2 men?  It's NEVER going to be my turn!!!

Operation: Elucidation

Day 36: WRITE A LETTER TO MY FUTURE SELF TO READ IN 10 YEARS


The other day, the C’s and I made a  time capsule that hopefully we can wait 10 years to open. But after I sealed it, I realized that everything in the time capsule revolved around them. I’m not saying I should have included trinkets belonging to me or my husband (because I honestly have no idea what I could come up with in that department), but I feel like I should have stuck something in there to remind us what our lives were like in the year 2010.

So today I composed a letter to my Future Self. I felt a little schizophrenic writing as if Future Self were a separate person, but if I think back to my Past Self 10 years ago, I hardly recognize her.  So there’s a distinct possibility that Future Self will be a different person.

Mostly I was overcome by curiosity thinking of that Future Self 10 years from now. Will she have wrinkles and gray hairs sprouting? Will she still be living in this house? Will her babies still want to hug her and share their favorite parts of their days? Will her husband still be in the military?

The 2-page letter was basically a description of our lives in 2010 for Future Self to use as a comparison. Typed it up, printed it out, and stuck it in that last inch of space in the time capsule (good thing I didn't bury it in the backyard).  I wonder what Future Self will think of Present Self. I’ll be sure to let you know 10 years from now.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Operation: Love Celebration

Day 35: SPREAD THE LOVE ON VALENTINE’S DAY


I’m not a big fan of Valentine’s Day. I don’t go gaga over bouquets of flowers (you spend all that money only for them to die). Chocolates don’t impress me either (not really a novel gift for someone who eats chocolate every day). And those cutesy stuffed animals and balloons? Come on, stuffed animals and balloons are for kids.

I’ve always viewed V-Day as a glorified Hallmark holiday. Does that make me unromantic? Am I the Valentine’s Day equivalent of Ebenezer Scrooge?

This year I’m going to look at Valentine’s Day from a different perspective. Instead of seeing the holiday as an excuse for couples to spend money on dying, fattening, and childish presents, I’m going to see it as the holiday for celebrating love. That’s what it’s supposed to be all about anyway, isn’t it? And I don’t think it has to be solely about romantic love. I love my family. I love my friends. Maybe Valentine’s Day is just about making sure they know it.

(But of course a large part of the holiday is about romantic love, so I plan to share a V-Day date night with the hubby after his timely return from a trip this afternoon.)

What does Valentine’s Day mean to you? Do you love the flowers and the chocolates or are there other V-Day traditions you prefer? Regardless of how you choose to celebrate, have a wonderful day! And remember to spread the love.

REMEMBER THESE?

Do you remember exchanging Valentine's cards in school as a kid?  Making sure you bought the perfect cards for all your friends?  Using your very best handwriting for the boys you especially liked?  Counting the cards at the end of the day and taking note of who wrote a message beyond just signing their name?  Having kids is like reliving the past.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Operation: Encapsulation

Day 34: MAKE A TIME CAPSULE


Have you ever wished you could remember all the things you thought were cool 10 years ago? Me too. So today I’m going to attempt to create memories by making a time capsule. I can’t wait to see what the kids and I will find to put in there! Maybe some of the kids’ artwork or clothes they’ve outgrown. Now I’m kind of wishing I hadn’t mailed Little C’s binkies to her baby cousin (translation = trashed them).

I have no idea if we’ll wait 10 years to open it, but even if we only wait a year, I think it will be fun to see what surprises we left for ourselves. What would you put in your time capsule?


Big C jumped into this activity with both feet. Before I could search through Little C’s room to find significant items that were small enough to fit into our capsule, Big C had completely filled it, proudly exclaiming, “We’re done Mom. Let’s seal it!”

Upon further examination, I disapproved every single item Big C had chosen, reminding him that he probably wouldn’t want to pass even a few days without his Navy SEAL action figure and that Little C wouldn’t be thrilled to lose her precious Swiper the Fox. Back to the drawing board.

After serious deliberation, the 3 of us gathered the perfect agglomeration of memories:

  • Outgrown Batman Underoos
  • Legos
  • An invitation to Big C's upcoming camoflauge themed 6th birthday party
  • Schoolwork, coloring sheets, and fingerpaintings
  • A Size 4 diaper from the last package Little C ever wore
  • Outgrown pink Spongebob pajamas
  • Yellow hair rubberbands
  • And of course pictures 
We somehow managed to jam everything into the capsule with not an inch to spare.  Then the kids decorated a brown paper grocery bag, and we sealed that sucker up.  I contemplated burying the time capsule in our backyard, but with our migratory lifestyle, who knows how long we'll live in this house.  (And even if by some military miracle we are here for 10 years, with my terrible memory I'm likely to remember the time capsule in the backyard mid-flight to our next destination.)






Friday, February 12, 2010

AWARDS!

I wanted to send a big thank you to To the Nth, who deemed me worthy of 2 fabulous bloggy awards!



 The First Award is the “Best Blog Award.”     


As a lucky recipient of this award, I am obligated to pay it forward to recently discovered blogs.  Since I'm new to the blogging world, this wasn't an easy task.  All I'm doing these days is discovering new blogs.  But here are 7 bloggers that topped my list, in no particular order.

1.  Julie the Army Wife
2.  I Heart Change
3.  New Girl on Post
4.  Household 6 Diva
5.  Exploits of a Military Mama
6.  Sometimes Life is Messy


The second award is the "Beautiful Blogger Award."
In accepting this award, I must abide by the following rules:

  • Thank the person who gave you the award.
  • Paste the award on your blog.
  • Link the person who nominated you for the award.
  • Tell seven interesting things about yourself.
  • Nominate seven bloggers or fewer.


This is about as interesting as I get:

1. I am not a girly-girl. I’ve been a tomboy all of my life, maybe because I was always following my big brother around or maybe because I was an athlete. In middle school, when all of my friends were wearing makeup, giggling over boys, and signing up to play the flute or some other dainty musical instrument, I was too busy training at swim practice, doing more chin-ups in PE class than those silly boys, and banging on the drums. (Yes, I played the drums, and I’m still mad at my 12-year-old self for quitting just because the boys made fun of me for being too much like them.)

2. My memory is atrocious. My 5-year-old son has a better memory than I do (and he proves it whenever he whoops my behind in the game Memory). I think that’s why I love to write and take pictures. Journals and photographs remember the things that I don’t.

3. As soon as I pop open a can of soda or beer, I turn the tab to the left. It started as a method of identifying my drink at a party. Now it’s a subconscious habit.

4. My mother is Dutch. She tried to teach me to speak Dutch when I was little, but I lost interest and she didn’t want to push it on me. I wish she HAD pushed it on me. And I hope my children learn more Dutch than I did.

5. When life gets crazy and I need to disappear to my Happy Place, I think of sitting on a beach in Phuket, Thailand with a fruity cocktail, a juicy novel, my husband without his work phone attached to his hip, and a free baby-sitter.

6. I have always wanted to go sky-diving, but someone would probably have to push me out of the airplane because I wouldn’t have the guts to jump.

7. Never in a million years did I think I would end up as a military spouse. I’m inflexible, unadaptable, a diehard planner, and before we PCS’ed to Japan, I had never traveled outside the States. And I like to eat dinner at 5:30. But it’s been 8 years now, and I think I’m hanging in there.


Operation: Renovation

Day 33: SPRUCE UP MY BLOG


Every now and then I like to change things up. Not major things (the military takes care of that for me). Just minor aesthetic things. My hair color. My lipstick. My nail polish. Sometimes I look in the mirror and think, “I need a change.”

I feel like I need a change. To my blog, that is. Today I’m going to spruce her up a little bit. I’m not particularly computer savvy so I’m hoping my attempts at a makeover won’t result in deleting my entire blog. Any tips? Is there anything I should avoid? Anything I absolutely have to change?

There are about 5 million free blog backgrounds available for the taking.  And I think I previewed about 4 million of them!  But I now have a new background (that coincidentally looks strikingly similar to my shower curtain), as well as an extensive list of back-ups for the next time I feel the urge to change. 

So far I'm loving my makeover.  And unlike the last time I transformed myself from a blonde to a brunette, I have no intention of going back to the original.

TO BE A KID CLIMBING TREES AGAIN

Do you remember when you were a kid climbing trees?  I remember like it was yesterday.  When did yesterday become a couple of decades ago?

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Operation: Individualization

Day 32: SPEND QUALITY ALONE TIME WITH EACH CHILD



Big C had Mommy all to himself for 3 and a half years before Little C came along and ruined it all for him. Unfortunately, Big C doesn’t remember those 3 and a half years. All he knows is that his little sister, the high maintenance bundle of energy, monopolizes most of Mommy’s time and has been doing so for as long as he can remember.

I honestly don’t know how women with more than 2 children do it, how they spread themselves between all of the children so that none of them feels overlooked. I often feel guilty for focusing so much of my attention on Little C and using Big C’s age and abilities to leave him to his own devices. I remind myself that when he was his sister’s age, it was all Big C all the time and now it’s Little C’s turn. But I still can’t help but feel like I’m neglecting my son.

Today I am going to spend quality alone time with each of my C’s. So allow me to excuse myself while I start that quality time right now!


The determining factor of success in this challenge was Little C’s willingness to entertain herself. So I can thank her accommodating mood for today’s achievement.

I read books to each child instead of reading to them together. I helped Big C formulate his extensive birthday wish list and then we picked out his party decorations at Party City. I colored with Little C as we discussed letters, numbers, shapes, and colors and then we worked on puzzles.

But my favorite part was right before lunch. While Little C molded unidentifiable sculptures with Play Doh (no, not the homemade kind), I snuck away with Big C to play Gormiti.  Did you know that if you sprinkle Good Guy Dust on Bad Guys, then they are safe enough for mommies to play with? That is very important information to know.

Spending time alone with Little C is easy.  She has me all to herself while her brother is in school. But squeezing in the time with Big C is much more challenging. I’m so glad I made that time today. And I know Big C is too. 



HOMEWORK IS YUMMY

Another activity Big C and I did together was his homework.  He had to make 10 sets of 10 pieces of cereal and then count to 100 by 10's.  Thank goodness for Apple Jacks because I don't think this assignment would have been quite the same with Banana Nut Crunch.

(And those Apple Jacks?  Yeah, they're mine.  I'm usually a pretty healthy eater, but I have a weakness for junk cereals.  Big C discovered my hidden stash of Apple Jacks, and I had to tell him that I bought it just for his homework assignment.  Of course I let him eat the cereal after he painstakingly counted out a hundred pieces.  And of course he declared that he wants Apple Jacks for breakfast tomorrow.  Do you think he'll believe me if I tell him there are only 100 pieces in each box?)

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Wordless Wednesday









A MOMENT OF PEACEFUL SIBLING LOVE
(even if it was a Mommy-enforced round of the Quiet Game)



This post has been linked to:
"Wordless Wednesday" hosted by 5 Minutes for Mom

Operation: Evaluation

Day 31: GO BACK AND EVALUATE A MONTH’S WORTH OF GOALS



Yesterday was my 30th day of challenges. So basically I accomplished 30 New Year’s Resolutions in 30 days! Not bad if I do say so myself.

With any attempts at goal-setting, one must periodically step aside and evaluate those goals. I thought today I’d take that step back and think about the last month. What goals did I achieve that I’d like to continue on a long term basis? Which goals did I fail but was proud to make the effort?

New Year’s Resolutions are tough, and usually I don’t bother (maybe that’s why this year my resolutions are working overtime). They say the average date that people tend to abandon their New Year’s Resolutions is February 13. That’s in 3 days. So how are you doing on your resolutions?


So here's an update on my last 30 days of goals:

1.  Start a blog: I'd call this a continuing success.

2.  Take a picture every day: Still going strong.

3.  Complete a job application: I didn't finish it that day, but I've since submitted it.  Next up...job search.

4.  De-pacify Little C: Baby girl hasn't asked for a binky since!

5.  Toss unused toys & clothes: Successful, but still trying to get rid of more toys.

6.  Take a Zumba class: Haven't been to a class since, thanks to illness and weather, but I intend to go again soon.

7.  Watch a movie with my kids without multi-tasking: I wasn't successful that day, but I've done it since and hope to snuggle up with the kids again soon.

8.  Buy a plant and keep it alive: Bought 2...Sparky and Spiky are growing every day.

9.  Don't say the word actually: I still say it all the time, but at least I don't use it as frequently as I used to (although I'm still VERY aware when other people overuse it!).

10.  Dress like I'm not a Mommy: Unfortunately I gave up on that the next day.  Doesn't help that hubby is rarely home these days.  Still wearing jeans and no makeup.  The kids don't seem to mind.

11.  Calculate my monthly budget: Still watching the budget to see where the money is going.  This is one that my husband needs to do!

12.  Flirt with my husband: Hmmm, that one fell off the radar just like not dressing like a Mommy.  Again, I need hubby home to flirt.

13.  Watch "Das Boot": Hubby already warned me that my next military movie to watch is "Patton."

14.  Delegate chores to the kids: This one is still going well.  It's wonderful relinquishing responsibility!

15.  Attend a writing class: My next class is Monday.  Now I just need to complete my assignment before then. 

16.  Take 3 deep breaths every hour: The C's and I loved this one!  I haven't continued the meditating every hour, but I do find myself telling the kids to take deep breaths when they're throwing a tantrum.  Sometimes it even works.

17.  Make a list of everything I'm thankful for: I actually (doh, actually) look at the list every now and then on my rougher days.

18.  Take down the Christmas lights: This one had a deeper meaning because it was more about throwing in the towel in a stubbornness match with my husband.  Since then I think we've both given in a couple of times, which is much nicer than waiting to see just how long that packed suitcase will sit in the car.

19.  Start a Jane Austen book: I have 100 pages left in "Pride and Prejudice" and I'm actually (wow, actually again!) enjoying it.  What next?  Hemingway?  Faulkner?  Think I'll sneak in a Janet Evanovich novel before I embark on my next classic.

20.  Allow myself to recuperate: That upper respiratory infection was kicking my behind, and I'm so glad I forced myself to rest.  I'm finally feeling human again.

21.  Make homemade Play Doh: That was a disaster.  But I intend to try again with a different recipe.

22.  A day without Facebook: It's funny, but since that day I rarely get on Facebook anymore.  Guess I replaced my FB addiction with a blog addiction!

23.  Don't yell at the kids: Sadly, that lasted just the one day.  I need to revisit that one.

24.  Reorganize my closets: They still look great, but hubby needs to go through several boxes of junk before I'm fully satisfied.

25.  Give up Diet Pepsi: I didn't succeed at this one, but I have succeeded in cutting down my intake.  I'm now averaging 1 a day instead of 2.  That's better than nothing.

26.  Participate in the Blizzard BlogHop: That was so fun!  I "met" a lot of really great bloggers out there.

27.  Go to the movies by myself: That was fantastic!!  I plan to do that as often as possible.

28.  Plant an herb garden: My herbs haven't sprouted yet, but I don't think they're dead.  That's an accomplishment in and of itself.

29.  Take the kids roller skating: This was fun, but very challenging without hubby's help.  But I envision lots of Saturday afternoons at the skating rink in our future.

30.  Conserve energy: This was just yesterday, but I'm still conscious of lights left on and water running.  This is definitely a long term goal.

So that's my last month in a nutshell.  Can't wait to see where the next 30 days will take me!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Operation: Conservation

Day 30: CONSERVE ENERGY



My last gas bill was astronomical. My power bill wasn’t much prettier. Even my water bill was higher than usual. I realize the weather has been colder, and the heat has been working overtime, but it made me think about my energy conservation habits (or lack thereof) and the contributions those habits have made (or not made) toward saving.

Yesterday my husband was upstairs packing for another trip. When he was finished, I walked through the rooms to make sure he didn’t forget anything. I found that the only thing he forgot was to turn off the lights. Between the husband and the kids, EVERY SINGLE light upstairs was on, including bathrooms and the hallway. That needs to change.

I’d like to think I’m more diligent about turning off the lights than my husband is, but I admit I don’t pay much attention. So today I’m going to pay attention, not just to the lights that don’t need to be on, but to all the other ways my family and I can conserve energy. Any suggestions?



I think I have some improving to do. I must have walked into my kitchen a half a dozen times today thinking, “Why is this light on?” and having no recollection of leaving it on.

Part of my problem is that I’m a multi-tasking scatterbrain. Throughout the day, my thought process goes a little something like this: I’ll put the waffles in the toaster and while I wait I’ll start a load of laundry and after that I’ll bring the dry laundry upstairs and then I’ll lay out clothes for the kids but oh man the humidifier is still running and I really need to clean that today and then oops the waffles are burning better run downstairs but first I'll move that dump truck out of the hallway…and on and on until my day seems like one long grammatically incorrect run-on sentence. My point is, when I hop from room to room to room in the span of 7 minutes, it’s easy to forget to turn off the lights, especially when I had every intention of returning to that room “in a second.”

But in general, I did find some areas of improvement other than turning off lights. I took a shorter shower and didn’t fill the kids’ baths as high. I reminded the kids to turn the water off while they brushed their teeth and washed their hands. I washed fewer dishes by hand, because yes, running the dishwasher uses less water than hand washing. I washed several loads of laundry, all back to back so the dryer was still warm for the next load (I read somewhere that that helps dry clothes faster, but I don’t know if that’s really true). I turned down the thermostat to Borderline Frigid when I wasn’t home. (I was planning to teach myself how to set the thermostat, but my schedule isn’t exactly the same from day to day so that probably wouldn’t help me.) Heck, I even reused tin foil, cleaned up with dish towels instead of paper towels, and used fewer squares of toilet paper! I’m conserving all over the place!

THE MESS TABLE

My husband built this table for Big C.  Originally, it was his Train Table, starting out with a simple figure 8 Thomas train set and growing into the entire Island of Sodor.  When Big C outgrew Thomas, the table became his Lego Table.  I spent hours neatly organizing a gajillion pieces of Legos into stackable containers that sat in the corner of the table.  Now, I don't have any earthly idea what to call this monstrosity.  Should we call it the Pile of Junk Table?  Or how about the Chasm of Misplaced Toys Table? No wait I've got it: the If-You-Don't-Clean-Up-That-Table-Now-Everything-On-It-Is-Going-In-The-Trash Table.  Yeah, that fits.

Big C has WAY too many toys.  And the sad thing is that he's at that age when he wants more, more, more.  Case in point, do you know what he said to me today? 
Mommy, no one is greater than God....Except Santa.
Out of the mouths of babes. 

Monday, February 8, 2010

Operation: Recreation

Day 29: TAKE THE KIDS ROLLER SKATING FOR THE 1ST TIME



The last time I went roller skating was when I was a camp counselor during a summer off from college. I was holding a child’s hand in each of my own, and another child was dragging behind me, hanging onto my shirt. When the little girl behind me fell down, she neglected to release my shirt, and I went crashing down with her. But I didn’t want my full body weight to crush her, so I shifted in such a way that I fell beside her instead of on top of her. That shift strained something in my knee, leaving me on crutches for the next several weeks.

Wow, that was many, many years ago. I figure it’s time to get up on those skates again, this time with my C’s in tow. Let’s hope I can leave the rink without crutches this time.






Roller skating with a 2- and 5-year-old for the first time was, let’s say, interesting. Big C spent the hour either hugging the wall or yanking my arm out of its socket. I contemplated prying his death grip off my hand and just giving him one big shove, but I’m pretty sure that would have traumatized him enough that I’d never get him back in skates ever again. He literally crawled off the rink when it was time to go.


Little C, on the other hand, wanted nothing to do with me and practically skated around the rink by herself. She walked right onto that rink unassisted, without bothering to look back to see if I was following. She held my friend’s hand but wasn’t interested in mine. If it wasn’t already a half hour past her bedtime, I think she would have kept going and going, like the little Energizer bunny that she is.

Isn’t it amazing how dissimilar your children’s personalities can be? How is it possible that the C’s were derived from the same 2 parents, yet they are so ridiculously different? Tonight’s adventure epitomized the kids’ distinct personalites. Big C is the cautious one, the perfectionist who avoids engaging in activities unless he knows he can master it. (Hence the fact that when he finally decided to start walking at 15 months, he was running.  I swear he waited that long just to make sure he got it right.)  Then there’s Little C, my grandstander, my daredevil who jumps into a pool regardless of whether or not someone is waiting for her at the other end. (Hence the fact that she started walking at 10 months and potty trained herself before she was 2 and a half.)


Anyway, overall, the roller skating was a fun experience. And I walked out of the rink with no crutches.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Operation: Germination

Day 28: PLANT AN HERB KIT

A few weeks ago one of my challenges was to buy a plant and keep it alive. And I’m proud to say that, despite my Black Thumb, the 2 plants I lovingly brought into my home (Sparky and Spiky) are thriving.

Today I’m going to take that challenge one step further by actually planting something. That means soil and seeds, as opposed to simply placing an already living plant inside a pretty new pot. For me, the most logical plants to grow are herbs since I cook so much (and for some reason, the commissary NEVER has fresh basil).

I don't think I've planted anything since I was a kid.  Kids love to plant things don't they?  Maybe I'll employ the help of my own kids.  I need all the help I can get!  Now let's get dirty!



I am now the proud mama of 5 herb plants: Basil, Parsley, Cilantro, Chives, and Thyme. According to the herb kit, they should germinate in the next 10-15 days. Can’t wait to see them start to sprout!


The best part about this project was getting the kids involved. I had no idea that Big C would have been so interested in planting herbs. And even Little C’s little hands helped transfer the soil into the pots as she squealed with delight. (Although that could be attributed to the fact that I was actually encouraging her to get her hands dirty instead of scolding her for it.)


MY NEW BABIES

My husband asked me if I labeled them in any way so I knew which herb was in which pot.  Oops!!  Of course if they grow as they should, there's no need for labels.  Now grow little herbs grow!
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