...because we all have our motley moments!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Our Nest

Many of you have been to my big 'ole house. In fact, I have admitted many times to just closing doors to clean rooms (okay, the dirty ones, too - have any of you been upstairs? No? Wonder no more!) and not letting anyone in if we are having company. Sad, but true. In the last year I have just been too busy with a new baby and 2 jobs to work on our nest. Ladies, these days have come to an end!

In the last month, I have been sorting out my ideas files (I have a file for each room in the house and when I find something I like in a magazine or catalog, I file it so I can find it later) and am ready. I think I am ready, at least.

In the next couple months (probably it will take all summer) I am going to attack the master bedroom. It's a huge room facing north with a lot of light. We have a king bed and a hodgepodge of furniture. White walls. Sheer curtains. It's totally uninspired. We have a baby swing for KOTJ. A book shelf crammed with books for all of us, kids included. Wooden, dark stained floors. A bunch of laundry baskets. A recliner, for when I couldn't sleep laying down while pregnant with KOTJ, now piled with clothes. Other junk. It has taken me 5 years of living here to figure it out...and I finally have a plan.

We spend a lot of time in this room. We all sleep here, but it's also where I sort the laundry, fold the clothes, dress everyone most of the time, read many books and magazines, etc. Lots of junk gets dragged in.

So, before I start buying fabric like crazy, any ideas? I need as much help as I can get with this one! BTW, Design Mom is hosting "Ask Design Mom" week. If you need inspiration for your nest get on over there, she is great!

One of Those Moms

I am one of those moms. Strike that, I wanted to be one of those moms. You know them. You've rolled your eyes at them, or maybe you've even started out as one yourself. MY CHILD was not going to watch TV. MY CHILD was never going to eat a McDonald's cheeseburger, and certainly not their french fries. I started out strong: I painted clouds on his nursery ceiling, bought a super spiffy food processor that could basically get juice out of a turnip, prewashed all of his clothes in Dreft, and then hung them on the clothes line to dry. I had grand visions of making cookies from scratch and then cutting them out and icing them. We would build entire villages or maybe a to scale size of Noah's Ark with the actual Bible in front of us for our blue print. What a great lesson for a preschooler! Then, I was handed a child.

I think that God was actually laughing out loud at me as he watched how this would play out. He knew that he would be handing me, the eternally nervous, uptight, Type A, accountant mom a squirming, charismatic, energetic baby boy. I fell in love with Alex at first sight. It was an instant, head over heals love for this child. I cannot imagine my life without him, but I am so far away from my comfort zone that I wouldn't recognize it if it knocked on my door. My child says hi to every stranger. Wait, there are no strangers to him. I, on the other hand, am super excited to greet someone AFTER they have said hi to me. I have to play it safe. Do they know me? Are they glad to see me first? Never mind the obvious safety factors of talking let alone hugging total strangers!

And I have news for you, my dear Florida friends. This is me relaxed. You should have seen me when we first got home. A lot of my reservations were left in Russia. We were in Russia at the height of the Bird Flu outbreak, and yet we were so tired of eating CBAPPO pizza. (CBAPPO is actually Sbarro Pizza in the Cyrillic alphabet.) We finally gave in and ate Roastix Chicken, and it was delicious. At least I would have died happy. Against my better judgement, I also bought a pastry from a street vendor, and it was some of the best food I have ever eaten in my life. My judgement might have been skewed by the sample shot of Vodka I tried in that gift shop, but what happens in Russia, stays in Russia, right? Several more of my mom rules were lost somewhere over the Atlantic on our flight home, and I have been loosing them almost daily ever since.

My grandiose ideas have also been laid to rest. Being the Type A personality that I am, I usually have a Martha Stewart vision for every project I start. Many times, I build the idea up so much in my head, that I am too overwhelmed to even start the project. In MOPS last week, Miriam warned us against living by her philosophy that, "Anything worth doing was worth overdoing." Amen Sister!

So, last year of Alex and I tried decorating Easter Eggs for the first time. I was so excited. I had been waiting to do this (and building it up in my head) with my child for about seven years even though Alex was only three. You should have seen the eggs I envisioned.

The eggs were boiled and cool. I had carefully put our art table cloth on the table, set out the mugs - one for each color. I measured the vinegar and laid out all of the tablets by each mug. I had one metal egg scoop for each of us. I am sure I had thought of some way to incorporate Jesus's death and resurrection into idle chit chat while coloring, but oops, I forgot the drying tray. "Here Alex, just sit here while Mommy goes to the kitchen. Don't put those tablets in your mouth." Walk, walk, walk..."Alex, what did you do? Where is the green...? OH NO!!!!!!"

I am pretty sure I cried, but not because I was concerned about my child's safety. I was mourning the death of yet another vision. I should be numb to it by now. Preschoolers do not operate on a Mom's MO. I was pretty sure he was safe, but for good measure, I did call poison control, AGAIN. For the record, all of my calls to them have been fine, and Alex has never had to take the dreaded syrup of ipecac. Here is a photo of him after we rinsed out his mouth. You can still see a little green if you look closely. I should have taken a before photo. Isn't he cute?

In closing, I must tell you that CVS has their Easter Egg Coloring Kits on sale this Sunday and Monday. Thanks, Rachel for the tip. A year has passed, and both of our wounds have healed. Actually, I think Alex thought the whole thing was funny. Nevertheless, I think we are ready to try this again.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Getting away...

Sorry this post is going up so late today, but we are busy packing for our mini-vacation that starts tomorrow. Maybe I should say we are busy over-packing.

Does anyone else have this problem? It seems like the shorter the trip, the more luggage is needed. And the food! Does anyone else out there pack a complete pantry for a three-hour drive like we do?

I've considered experimenting with packing as little as possible just to see what would really happen if we didn't take five varieties of sunscreen or an assortment of allergy medications (foreign pollen is the worst), but I think we'll wait until the little guy is at least old enough to drive to get his own emergency pizza-flavored goldfish crackers. Until then, I've gotta go finish packing...

Happy Spring Break and Safe Travels!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Serpent in the Freezer Section: Motivated by a Guilty Conscience

Wow...it's been so long since my last post, I feel like I should go to confession. Bless me, Father, for I have neglected my Motley blog. It has been 14 days since my last post...and I confess that guilt is sometimes my only motivator.

Like when my kids are practically clawing at my pajamas to take them outside to play: read in a high-pitched, urgent whine - "If we don't go out now, we won't have time to play before lunch, Mommeeee!"

Occassionally I need this guilt trip to get my teeth brushed, my shoes on, and my pajamas hung on their peg...okay, thrown in their heap by the bed...jeez, I must have something gnawing on my conscience!

Today (actually written Friday) is just "one of those days." I've had a couple of slow days this week, but nothing that involved pajamas past 8 AM. Today is an exception. Our little one is sick with a cold, so we had nowhere to go and nothing to do on our agenda today. It's been kinda nice, actually. Besides the constant whining to go outside.

I shopped online while the kids played in each other's rooms, occasionally refereeing a squabble when she threw a book at his head, or he pinned her behind the recliner by jacking the arm up and kicking the chair back at just the right moment...ahhhh, yeah. The slow days.

Back to the guilt as motivator topic, I swore I'd never use guilt to get what I want from someone else. Somehow, though, whenever I say that out loud, my husband gets this big smirk on his face...hmmmm. But now I seem to be using it against myself!

We're both trying to cut back on sweets. We have a bad habit of indulging in late-night desserts. Super-Premium ice cream is our weakness. We almost NEVER pass by a Ben & Jerry's scoop shop in our travels without stopping for a hand-dipped cone (B&J's are more common in the North East. We make the pilgrimmage to their Vermont factory every summer. Who can resist free super-premium ice cream?).

Anyway, Ben & Jerry's was on sale this week 2 pts. for $6. That's pretty good, considering that it almost never goes on sale. I am proud and bitterly disappointed to say I resisted temptation. Mostly for Paul's sake, but whatever works, right? I figured I would just feel really guilty for bringing home the forbidden fruit to my poor, weak Adam. I guess the grocery store is the Garden in this scenario and the sale ad is that wily serpent. So if I continue the biblical metaphor a bit, I resisted Satan in the frozen food aisle this week. Go Me!

If my guilty conscience is the only thing steeling me against temptation, then I guess my mom knew what she was doing when she sent me on all those guilt trips. Thanks, Mom!

Thursday, March 26, 2009


This morning my Facebook status read, "Liz does not know what to blog about today. Suggestions?" I have lots of smart-alecky friends who suggested various topics, so I will attempt to cover each and tie them together somehow. We'll call it a creative test of my writing ability (or expose - that's for you, Pam - of my inability to write). 
1. Which bear is best? I would have to say Pooh Bear. (Bears, beets, Battlestar Gallactica) When I was a kid he was my favorite. I called him Winnie Pooh because I thought that was his first and last name. I was so happy when Pooh became one of Ethan's favorite movies because it's such a sweet, gentle story. Which leads me to...
2. ...a review of some cartoons. Dora freaks me out. Her head is huge. And those eyes! Who drew that and thought it was an accurate representation of a young Hispanic girl? I prefer the Backyardigans or even Olivia. I love how Olivia calls William her little brother and Ian her little "bother." The Backyardigans use their imaginations and travel to distant lands, which sometimes includes China, 
3. where paper was originally developed. Quoting from Wikipedia, "Cai Lun, an official attached to the Imperial court during the Han Dynasty, created a sheet of paper using mulberry and other bast fibers along with fishnets,"
4. which are, of course, used to catch fish. Fish can be cleaned, cooked, pulverized, breaded, fried, packaged, and sold at your local grocery store in boxed labled, "FISHSTICKS", 
5. which happen to be delicious on a bun with some cheese. I would use American cheese for this creation, as it is the best melting cheese, but my favorite cheese is provolone. A good sharp cheddar is enjoyable, too, as is Swiss, which is one of the healthiest cheeses, being comparatively low in fat and cholesterol. I try to stay healthy, by eating right and practicing martial arts with one of my young friends,
6. RKL. (I don't want to use her full name since this is in bloggyland for just anyone to read). RKL is 12 but don't let that fool you - she is a gifted martial artist, a devoted Christian, and funny, funny, funny. We have loads of laughs at tkd, although RKL thought Adam Putnam was the mayor of Lake Wales, so she might not be a good candidate for Jeopardy!,
7. one of my all-time favorite shows. Jeopardy! is AWESOME. I haven't watched it in quite some time because we turn the TV off at night before Ethan goes to bed. I did have the DVR set to record it every night - yes, I am that much of a geek - but rarely had time to catch up on old episodes. I miss it, though, even more than I miss
8. Micah's curls. Yes, ladies, I got my baby's hair cut for the first time last Friday. He had these gorgeous curls all over the back of his head and she cut them all off. I didn't want her to, but I was holding him and not really paying attention and before I knew what was happening, that beautiful blonde hair was all over the floor. I love it, though, and he strutted out of that hair salon because he knew he looked good. He looks like a little boy more than a baby now and he looks more like his brother than ever before. 
Whew! This is probably my worst post ever, but I did it. I incorporated all of the ideas my friends suggested on Facebook. Let's hope I get creative in the future and don't do this again!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Cooking Art

How do YOU feel about cooking? These are some great quotes I found about cooking. Do you identify with any of these?
"Perfection consists not in doing extraordinary things, but in doing ordinary things extraordinarily well." Cooking is an ordinary, everyday occupation, but when rightly done is not only easily performed, but becomes a delightful labor. "Miss Helen Louise Johnson

"Some people like to paint pictures, or do gardening, or build a boat in the basement. Other people get a tremendous pleasure out of the kitchen, because cooking is just as creative and imaginative an activity as drawing, or wood carving, or music."Julia Child

“I don't even butter my bread. I consider that cooking.”Katherine Cebrian, Artist, writer

"Cooking is like love, it should be entered into with abandon or not at all"Harriet van Horne

"My mother was a good recreational cook, but what she basically believed about cooking was that if you worked hard and prospered, someone else would do it for you."Nora Ephron

"Cooking is at once child's play and adult joy. And cooking done with care is an act of love."Craig Claiborne, Kitchen Primer

"Cooking is an art and patience a virtue... Careful shopping, fresh ingredients and an unhurried approach are nearly all you need. There is one more thing - love. Love for food and love for those you invite to your table. With a combination of these things you can be an artist - not perhaps in the representational style of a Dutch master, but rather more like Gauguin, the naïve, or Van Gogh, the impressionist. Plates or pictures of sunshine taste of happiness and love."Keith Floyd, A Feast of Floyd

“I can't cook. I use a smoke alarm as a timer.”Carol Siskind, American Comedianne.

“Cooking is an art, but you eat it too.”Marcella Hazan

"There is one thing more exasperating than a wife who can cook and won't and that's a wife who can't cook and will."Robert Frost (1847-1963)
I happen to love cooking. Good thing for my family, huh! I like picking out a recipe, going to the store for the produce and returning to make some yummy magic in the kitchen. If the meal turns out well - Hurray! If not, oh well. Better luck next time - scrambled eggs anyone?!

At MOPS a few weeks ago, we had a speaker talk to us about introducing art to our children. As I sat there, I realized that my creative outlet is cooking. I like to put colors together. When I balance out a meal with a protein, starch and vegetable together in a good color formation - I'm so happy! If the family actually eats it all - even better!

I've also taken some of the stress out of pleasing my little ones at the dinner table. If they don't like a certain meal, I tell them "Listen. My job is to give you good food to eat. YOUR job is to eat it." That usually takes care of any whining I might hear about the spinach on their plates.

Do you ever cook with friends? This weekend I got to cook with my friend Lucy. We have known each other for eons (since high school). Saturday night we concocted this bean and rice dish that tasted amazing! It was so much fun to make something so yummy. Then, we got to watch a great movie while eating it!

So, how do YOU view cooking? Seeing that it has to be done daily, how do you handle it? Does hubby help? Do you just eat out? Do you love it? Hate it with a passion? Tell us!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Slacker Mom

I didn't have my post ready for today. Those kinds of things just eat at me. I took the day off of teaching school to go to test for an additional teacher certification today. (I passed.) So, I have come back to school (to pick up my kids) and to write my post...my apologies for the delay.

I have started this post about 4 times and it's not really coming together. So, instead of struggling through, I have decided to post some FAILs from the fail blog. After seeing these, I feel so much better about myself.

And, to address one of my pet peeves, the automated answering system for businesses. VolP News has a great article.

An excerpt:

What to Press
Confuse, frustrate and game the system by pressing these numbers and characters.

Press zero. Pressing zero will often result in a direct route to a live person. Continue pressing zero until you're put through. You may need to try combinations such as "0#," "#0," "0*" or "*0."

Memorize prompts. If you're unfortunate enough to have call about the same issue on a regular basis, memorize the prompts that work for you.

Press the pound key. Skip to the next message or just confuse the system by pressing this character.

Press the star key. Again, the star key can open up system tricks or simply make the system give up on you.

Press everything. By pressing multiple numbers, you can trick systems into thinking you're on a rotary phone — or that you're crazy. Either way, you're in.

Go through the phone prompts. Sometimes it pays to work with the system.

Press any digit repeatedly. You may land in the wrong department, but you'll end up at beginning of line when you're transferred.

There are 50 good ideas, but you'll have to check them out by clicking here.

Have a great Tuesday!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Something Funny, Something Blue, Something Borrowed, Something Pooh

Hi Everyone and Happy Monday! I am really wanting to give you a funny post today to start your week, but I am really struggling to be light hearted.

Something Blue - In the last month, I have been deeply affected by four deaths. I have already posted about my friend's husband and my dear Aunt. While Alex and I were home for my aunt's funeral, we found out that one of my husband's former students died suddenly at 17, and the day after we got back home, my mom called me to tell me that one of her best friends passed away. She was only in her 60s, and there was no way for me to go home again to say goodbye. With all of this sadness, I can't help but be a little blue, but I am hoping to at least balance it out a little.

Something Borrowed - My good friend Jody (Holy Chicken Cacciatore) forwarded me this email several months ago. It is hilarious! I also have a really funny one about a Bishop, but this one is far less offensive. I have been saving it for just the right time.
  1. When you are sad --I will jump on the person who made you sad like a spider monkey jacked up on Mountain Dew!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  2. When you are blue -- I will try to dislodge whatever is choking you.
  3. When you smile -- I will know you are plotting something that I must be involved in.
  4. When you're scared -- we will high tail it out of here.
  5. When you are worried -- I will tell you horrible stories about how much worse it could be until you quit whining, ya big baby!!!!
  6. When you are confused -- I will use little words.
  7. When you are sick --Stay away from me until you are well again. I don't want whatever you have.
  8. When you fall -- I'll pick you up and dust you off.
  9. This is my oath...I pledge it to the end. 'Why?' you may ask -- because you are my FRIEND!

Something Funny and Something Pooh - Didn't you know they would go together? Some of our motley moms are doing this crazy thing called potty training, so this one is for you. When I first started potty training Alex, we only had three pairs of underwear. I would put them on him after nap, and when they were all wet from accidents, we would go back to diapers. One night, after he had just peed in pair #3, I decided we would just take our bath a little early. Since he didn't need to pee anymore, I decided to let him run around naked for a few minutes while I was running the bath water. He was probably only 2 1/2 years old at the time. He came running into the bathroom saying "Look Mama, Look!" I couldn't wait to see what he was excited about, and we both ran into our dining room. I could not have been more surprised to see a pile of pooh on my carpet! I didn't even know this was a possibility! At that moment, I had many thoughts, but the one I remember most is that someone should have warned me that this could happen.

If you happen to be blue today too, I would like to try to leave you with some inspiration. When I was going through all of our infertility treatments, I was chronically sad, so I decided to read Philippians until I figured out Paul's secret. If he could write the book of joy from a jail cell, surely I could be joyful too. One of my favorites from that book is this, "Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel." ~ Philippians 1:12. I wasn't always able to be joyful, but I was determined to use my sorrow for God's good. Another one of my favorite quotes is from Michelle Kwan, "Falling's part of the game. It's like my dad always says: 'No matter how good you are, the ice is still slippery.'" If you are blue, this is my wish for you: may your struggles bring God glory, and may a good friend show up on your doorstep with either chocolate or raw cookie dough!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

My child will NEVER do that...

Do you have a list? You know, the list of all of the things you've seen other people's kids do that you vow your kids will never do. I have a list, although, I must say that it has gotten much shorter now that I actually do have a kid and I've realized that I don't have quite as much control as I thought I would. I have also had to modify a few things. For instance, let's take an easy one. Instead of, "My child will NOT do drugs," my list now says, "I will not condone the usage of drugs nor will I make it easy for my child to do them."

This week I was reminded of one of the things on my list. Our son sat down at the dinner table to a sandwich my husband had picked up at Subway, and as he was pretty tired anyway, he began to wail because the sandwich had lettuce on it. Now, he actually does like lettuce most of the time, but for some reason he was quite offended by the green stuff that evening. I didn't really notice why the lettuce was so horrible, however, because instantly I was transported back in time to my college days...

I worked as a server in a pretty nice restaurant during college to make ends meet. I have some great memories of those days, but I also added several items to my "list" as I served many families with small children who weren't always so well behaved. One day in particular, a woman came into the restaurant with four or five children--probably her own plus a few friends. Looking back, I can remember her pretty clearly. She seemed tired and stressed, and really, who wouldn't be as the chaperone of that many children without a little help? At the time, though, I was a teenager and I didn't have my Mommy-Vision just yet...

I took the table's order, and one of the little boys (who also looked pretty tired) ordered a cheeseburger WITHOUT mustard. Okay, whatever. I placed the order with the kitchen and noted that there was to be NO MUSTARD on the burger...alas, that was not to be. I took the food to the table of hungry kids and their strung-out grown-up, and I asked if there was anything else I could get for them. Suddenly a wail erupted from the cheeseburger boy. The wail became a screaming fit. We were in serious tantrum territory, and the mother turned to me and said angrily, "I TOLD you NO MUSTARD!"

Conditions deteriorated from there. Apparently simply scraping it off was not an option--there would still be mustard residue and the child hated it that much. She was angry, he was beside himself, and I was shocked. The mother asked to see a manager, and she complained about me. She must have been pretty convincing, because I was given a talking-to later that day over the mustard incident. Who was at fault here? I don't really care. All I know is that the one thing I really learned that day was that I wanted no part of being a mother who would allow a temper tantrum over a condiment.

Flash-forward to the present, our table is set, and our son is staring in dismay at his lettuce. My well-meaning husband reaches over to help, and says, "Here, do you want me to take it off?" Snapping into reality I said, probably with a little too much force, "NO!" I pointed at my two-year-old, "YOU deal with it!" There was a little stunned silence (which did stop the tantrum, by the way), and then I explained myself. All parties understood, and we showed the little guy how to "fix" his sandwich so that he could eat it. Dinner continued, and disaster was averted...this time.

Since then our little darling has delighted in dissecting his meals and separating the ingredients. We may have created a monster, but at least he's not a wailing monster. Mission pretty much accomplished.

What about you? Any stories behind your expectations for your children? I would love to hear them!

Have a great day!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Third Dan

There have been 4 things that have dramatically changed my life. The first and most important was accepting Jesus as my Savior. Then there was becoming a wife and mother. The other thing was getting my black belt. It's more than just a piece of cloth I tie around my waist. It's an identity, a way of life. It's hard to explain the allure of martial arts to people who don't do it, unless you're talking to teenaged boys, that is, but I'm going to try. 
Last Friday night I tested for my third degree (dan) black belt. I can't tell you a lot about black belt testing because it's super-secretive - they put black paper over the windows so no one can see in and no one who isn't already a black belt is allowed to attend - but I will tell you that my testing lasted a little over 4 hours. I had to defend myself against an attacker with a (fake) knife and I had to spar 2 people at once, during which I started hyperventilating and couldn't breathe no matter how hard I tried to suck air in, because my allergies have been killing me lately. (By the way, what is UP with this pollen??? Karly, be glad you're not here. It's half an inch thick on my car.) I tried to break 5 concrete blocks with my hand but only got through 4 of them. I keep finding new bruises on my body and I'm still sore and tired from this abuse.
Why do I put myself through this? Better yet, why do I pay people to do this to me? It can't be worth it. Can it?
I sacrificed a lot to get this last belt. I met with my instructor Monday and some Friday mornings from 10-noon for about 6 weeks, in addition to attending 2 classes Monday night, 2 classes Tuesday night, 1 class Thursday night, and 1 class on Friday. I also do kickboxing twice a week to keep my cardio up. I practiced forms (a series of tae kwon do techniques put together in a set pattern), push-ups, and sit-ups almost every day for 6 weeks. My children and my husband sacrificed, too. Since I was at class all the time, my husband rarely got to exercise and had to get the kids fed and to bed several nights on his own. (Yeah, I know, poor him, but really, he's terrific and pitches in constantly, so I did feel guilty leaving him alone with them so much.) My kids went with me to those morning training sessions, which wasn't too bad but they were pretty much on their own, since I was busy doing jump kicks and learning how to get out of a throat grab. At night when I was going back to class, my eldest son would ask, "Where you goin', Mom?" "To tae kwon do, baby." "Oh. (pause) Bye!" Sometimes he wouldn't let me kiss him good night. I felt guilty. A lot.
I like sports but I'm not good at them. I messed up my shoulder playing softball for my church, if that gives you any indication of how coordinated I am. For some reason, though, martial arts works for me. I think it's because except for sparring, which is only a very small part of tae kwon do, martial arts is about battling yourself. Black belt testing is a mental game. Sure, it's hard physically, but it's more mental than anything. Are you going to quit? Your body is begging you to quit. Are you going to give in? The door is right there. You can walk through it and never come back. No one's going to stop you. The Grandmaster is telling you what moves to perform, but you don't really have to do them. Sparring two people at once? That's nuts - just quit. When she comes at you with that knife, don't bother. It's fake, anyway. You have to push through to get that belt. You have to say, "This matters to ME." Not to my instructor or my husband or those other black belts sitting up there. It matters to me. 
And that's why I do it. That's why it's worth it. It matters. It's mine. I earned it. I'll be honest - I never had to try very hard in school. Not even when I got to college was it much of a challenge. But I have to try in tae kwon do, especially to get a black belt. I have to work harder than I ever have and it's empowering, especially now, as a stay-at-home mom, when there's not much to show for the things I do day after day. Another thing - no one made me get a black belt. They made me go to school, church, college, work, but I chose tae kwon do. I chose to work hard and become a third dan. It's all mine and it's worth every drop of sweat and every tear (yes, I cried, and you would, too, if you couldn't breathe) and every bruise and every minute of practice. 
Maybe I'm speaking a foreign language to you. I might not have done very well explaining why it's totally worth it to get a black belt. So I will end with this. I started by telling you the 4 things that have changed my life. As it turns out, those 4 things are interconnected. God sent me to tae kwon do. I firmly believe that. There I met Todd, who became my husband, with whom I have two darling children. Being a black belt helps me be a better person, Christian, wife, mother. Plus, there's always the endorphins. :)

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Little Adventures

We like to go on little adventures from time to time. The lastest was a beach trip that we dreamed up the night before. Anna Maria Island happens to be our favorite place when we just want to hang out on the beach and chill.
My hubby becomes a different person on these little trips. Suddenly, the cares of the world are insignificant and we concern ourselves with the fun things that the day will bring. If the trip takes a couple of hours in the car - that's OK. It gives us a chance to talk about things that take some time.
When we're at home, there are so many distractions. The phone, laundry, cleaning, projects, and whiny kids are all things that keep us from just relaxing with each other. One of my goals in life is to make our home more comfy to rest in, but for now the little trips are working for us.
In case you like to do the same, I have found a good deal for the month of May. It has become a tradition of sorts for us to go to Daytona Beach for Mother's Day. You see, the Hilton at Daytona Beach has a Florida resident special every year that I have not seen advertised. For $109 plus taxes, you can get an oceanfront room right on the beach at this really nice hotel. If you want to save a few bucks, for $99 you can get an oceanview room and for $89 you can get a room overlooking the city. The only other expense is the parking charge they have, but I think you can find less expensive parking across the street (we just pay the parking charge for convenience). If you go Mother's Day weekend, it's pretty quiet. If you go Memorial Day weekend it's pretty busy.

What we like about this hotel is that it is right on the beach and next to the Ocean Walk Village. Once you park your car, you really don't have get back in it until you leave. They have Johnny Rockets, Bubba Gump, Coldstone, Starbucks, pizza, mexican food and smoothie restaurants. There's also a movie theatre and surf shop there too. Most weekends showcase entertainment on the outdoor amphitheatre.

The Hilton has 2 pools (one of them being indoor/outdoor) and a hot tub. One thing that is nice is that is has CHILDCARE! Yes, CHILDCARE! You can pay a fee and the kids can play in their super nice kid area for as long as you want. This is especially nice if the parents want a quiet dinner out.
Well, here are some pics from year's past. I have enjoyed posting this blog immensely because I got to look at these pics and remember the great times we've had!

When I only had one!

A funny ride!

Smile pretty!

Surf's up!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Things To Remember

I am laying in bed while my dear sweet husband is downstairs with THE Princess making something in the workshop. Our little King of the Jungle is nestled in next to me sleeping. It's dusk and our bedroom windows are opening with the cool breeze wafting in. I can hear faint sounds of people at the park down the street and the crickets are chirping. Giggling from downstairs. My baby breathing deeply in sleep.

I try to keep moments like these. Tuck them away in my memory for another day and time. When I need to remember. These times will change. My children will grow.

I try to keep a running list of some of the things I want my children to know. I found part of that list, written in the margin of a magazine and wadded at the bottom of my purse this week. (I am nothing if not organized.) My girl turns 4 tomorrow. 4. Where did the time go? My darling, I hope I am passing on some of this wit and wisdom to you.

Jesus loves you.

Smile. Everyone is more lovely when they smile.

If you don't know the words to a song, just sing the word "watermelon" over and over. It will make your mouth look right. (Trust me.)

Don't feel you have to change or be different to be acceptable. You are just right.

If there are no paper towels to dry your hands on, just fix your hair a bit. It works every time.

Learn the secret whistle and use it to find me when you can't see me. (Note to self: teach children to whistle.)

Put off plucking your eyebrows, shaving your legs, and coloring your hair for as long as possible. Once you start, you can never stop.

Choose your attitude when you wake up every morning. Fake it if you have to.

Always carry 2 hankies, one for show and one for blow.

Hold hands.

Learn how to make a "specialty dish." Something complicated that you can cook perfectly. (Trust me on this one, you'll use it more than you think.)

Knowing how to make a cup out of a piece of paper is a life skill.

You always have time to tell someone that you love them.

Tell stories.

Cut a pie in 7 pieces, thus creating the perfect-sized slice of pie.

If a member of the opposite sex is getting fresh and they don't understand the meaning of "no" then stick your finger down your throat and throw up on them. (This has never failed.)

Nothing you ever do will make me not love you.

Have people over, even if your house is messy and especially if it is dusty.

Sing songs. Silly, serious, off-tune. Sing loud. (And not only in the shower.)

Keep cut and serve cookies in your freezer for unexpected guests. (Plus, it makes it seem like you were just baking when they stopped by!)

It's always worth it to tell the truth. It's not always easy.

When you are a parent one day, remember that what your kids think of you is more important than what your friends think of you.

Life is hard. I am always on your side, even when you don't think so.

When you go to a new place to eat ask what their specialty is. Then try it. (Don't order sushi at a steakhouse.)

Stop, drop, and roll is for when YOU are on fire. 911 is for when someone else is.

If someone says something mean or hurtful, say "thank you." It works well to end a conversation. (Heaping coals of fire on their heads, I say.)

Kiss your husband on the lips, everyday. (Watch out, I'm wearing my business socks!)

Duck the brick is a fun game. (No one ever gets hit with the brick more than once!)

You can love someone deeply, and not marry (or have sex) with them. The longer you wait, the better you will like it. (I am gonna wait a few years on this one, girls.)

At any job, you can be replaced. You will never be replaced by your family.

Play tricks. A few or our family favorites are: plastic wrap over the toilet seat, salt in the sugar bowl (covered with a thin layer of sugar, in case anyone checks), fake dog poo in the bottom of the coffee cup, a spinner that shoots water at you when you lift the toilet lid, and toothpaste in oreos.
Especially when you are tired and worn out, do something nice for someone else. It's worth it.

You will always, always be my baby. Always.

What wisdom will you be passing along?

Monday, March 16, 2009

"Behold the Turtle...

...He makes progress only when he sticks his neck out." - unknown

I have been thinking about turtles a lot lately because my Aunt Mariam loved turtles. Last week, my cousin sent me a box with two turtles from my Aunt Mariam, one for me and one for Alex. Aunt Mariam was actually my great aunt, my Grandma's sister. She was born in 1919, and would have turned 90 this year. Two weeks ago, Alex and I flew home for her funeral.

When I was little, we lived out in the country just a few miles down from Aunt Mariam’s house. Their farm was named Seven Oaks Farm, and I loved playing there. The big Oak tree in the front yard always had a swing of some sort to play on, where I spent wasted countless hours of my life spinning and swirling. In the back, there was a garage and the cob house. To the right was a big red barn and to the left was a black raspberry patch. Aunt Mariam had about 100 cats in the cob house. Ironically, I am sure she watched Bob Barker everyday on the Price is Right but never had a single cat spayed or neutered. Even though the cats were too afraid to let you pet them, I spent hours upon hours trying to catch one.

I loved picking black raspberries with Aunt Mariam. If you have never had them, you are missing out. They make the best jelly, but they have lots of thorns. I remember wearing long sleeves and long pants in the heat of summer so we wouldn’t get scratched. Aunt Mariam would also tell me about the big black snakes that lived under her porch, but thankfully, I never saw one. I also loved helping her with her laundry. Finally, sometime in the late 80s, Aunt Mariam got a new laundry machine – a new wringer model to replace the old one she had.

For snacks, Aunt Mariam would have Fig Newtons, or on special occasions, she would make us ice cream cones. My cousin Josh and I would always have her make ours with a curl on top, just like Dairy Queen. For Halloween, she would always have those little pumpkin candies.

Directly behind their farm was the grennel hole in the Kaskaskia River. My dad and his sisters spent many summer days swimming in the grennel hole when they were young, and we spent many nights fishing on that river bank.

She and Uncle Owen lived just a few miles away from Camp Kelso, a small, ancient family camp that probably defined the word “rustic”. I would go to church with Aunt Mariam across the street, and go to Bible school there in the summer. The church was filled with aunts and uncles, cousins and my grandparents. I have so many fond memories of seeing them all together. One of my favorite parts of camp was getting a snack at the confession stand after each night’s service. I didn’t realize it was actually called a concession stand until I was a teenager.

All of these things were comforting to me, largely because Aunt Mariam was a sweet, gentle, caring person. I know the Bible says we have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God, but I cannot imagine Aunt Mariam ever sinning. She never complained, never gossiped, and strangely enough, we were never in trouble at her house. She was just like 1 Corinthians 13:4-5; she was always patient and always kind. She was never rude or self-seeking or easily angered. She was my living example of Jesus.

I left Aunt Mariam’s funeral, determined to be exactly like her. Never again would I yell at my child, I vowed. I would never complain or raise my voice to another living soul, and I did great for about 20 hours. I have finally decided that if God wanted me to be exactly like Aunt Mariam, I would have been Aunt Mariam. I am different from her because that is the way he made me. I would still like to be more patient and more loving. I can always strive to do more, but I cannot measure myself against her. I was especially pleased to see that my turtle from Aunt Mariam was a turtle of patience. I do hope to be persistent like a turtle and slowly every day work to being a more patient mom and wife.

My Grandma passed away a few months before we got to meet Alex, which caused me great sadness. I am so thankful and blessed that Aunt Mariam got to meet him. Here is a photo of us at out welcome home party. Aunt Mariam would keep the pictures of Alex in a photo album with all of her grandkids right next to her. I am so lucky that God let me be in her family.

Goodbye Aunt Mariam. To say you will be missed is an understatement.

Sunday, March 15, 2009


It's always the same place. I'm sitting at a desk, looking around the room, trying to find a familiar face, but no one seems to know me. Realization hits--I'm in a classroom. It feels like a college classroom. Usually there is a periodic table on the wall or maybe a graph on the chalkboard. Gradually the details return to me. This is a class. A class that I am taking. Why don't I know anyone? Because I haven't been coming to class. I check my calendar. I've waited too long to withdraw without this going on my transcript. I don't even recognize the professor. Maybe I could talk to him...take the final and still pass the class...he could withdraw me himself...why did it have to be Chemistry again? How am I ever going to learn a semester's worth of material in time to pass the final that he's saying is tomorrow?

I'm worried about my transcript. How will it look to have this horrible grade sitting there? Will I get fired from teaching if I fail this class? What about my degree? Wait a second, my degree. That's right. I did get my degree. They wouldn't let me teach if I didn't have one. Wait a minute, I don't teach anymore. What's going on here?

Abruptly I wake myself from this nightmare and gasp with relief. Indeed, I did graduate from college. Years ago. I have had my career, and I'm staying at home now with our little boy. So, why did I have this dream? Why have I been having this dream at least once a week since I finished school?

This little scene has been popping into my subconscious rather frequently lately, and I decided to do some introspective psychoanalysis. I think that perhaps my mind is reminding me of something that I have known for years but have chosen to do little about: I am a procrastinator.

My procrastination hit it's peak during my college years when I realized that, indeed, if one consumes enough coffee one can function for a continuous 24 hour period. Therefore, why should anyone prepare in advance when a project can easily be done within hours of its due date? This actually worked for me, believe it or not, in my language and literature classes. I did very well although I was a bit tired most of the time. Science and math were not too forgiving, however, and I do believe that is why my dream always centers around those classrooms.

Why on earth am I talking about this on Motley Moms? Well, this dream continues to rear it's ugly head now because I'M STILL PROCRASTINATING. I still have unfinished projects that I'm putting off until later. I prepare for my toddler Sunday School class the night before. I run to the store late at night to get things I need for the next day even though I have had ample time to do it earlier in the week. I'm even typing this blog a lot later than I should be.

And I'm a mom whose son watches every move that I make.

If I'm not careful, those late night trips to a 24-hour Wal-mart for trash bags and diapers are going to become group project poster board expeditions. The word "now" won't mean anything to him if it doesn't mean anything to Mommy.

How do I break a bad habit that has taken me a lifetime to perfect? And how do I teach my son to use his time more wisely? Do you have any words of wisdom?

Have a blessed Sunday, and sweet dreams!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Soccer Mom: Truth, Lies, and Labels

According to Wikipedia, the term "soccer mom" was popularized the year I graduated from high school. 1996 was an election year, and the demographic of women voters deemed "soccer moms" was being targeted by Bill Clinton as the most sought after group of swing voters. An article in the Washington Post described the soccer mom as "the overburdened middle income working mother who ferries her kids from soccer practice to scouts to school," usually in a minivan, station wagon, or SUV. "Busy, harried, stressed out, and overburdened" were all used to describe the soccer mom demographic.

I remember thinking around that time, "I will NEVER be like that!" I even developed an aversion to minivans, just to be sure I avoided the soccer mom stereotype. Car companies agreed. After courting the "soccer-mom" image for several years, in 2003, the car manufacturer Nissan repositioned its Quest minivan as "stylish, sexy and desirable."

Well, after driving our 13-year-old Camry for the past 8 years, stooping and hefting two off-the-growth-charts babies into their car seats and shoving groceries around the crevices of the stroller in the trunk, a minivan is starting to look pretty good. My practical side is beating out my sense of pride.

And our son will play in his first-ever soccer game this morning. He's very excited. I'm organizing the team snack schedule this season and providing snacks for this first game. Luckily there is also a terrific "soccer dad" at my side, helping KID 1 learn the basics, getting him to practice, and rooting from the sideline right along with me.

Becoming a soccer mom is a gradual process, but I'm determined to define the label and not let the label define me! This soccer mom is fun, stylish, sexy, and desirable! Now where's my minivan?

Thursday, March 12, 2009

What About Yo Frennzzzzz?

I think I've posted before about how blessed I am, that I really am living a charmed life. My husband is great and I have two adorable, sweet, healthy boys. I have family nearby who are almost always on call to provide free babysitting and I am involved in a tae kwon do school that nurtures me physically, socially, and spiritually. Oh, and I go to a wonderful church, too. My life is terrific, really. One way God has always blessed me is through friendships. In high school I had a tight-knit group of friends from both my church and my school. Even though most of these friends and I rarely talk anymore, having them still kept me out of a lot of trouble when I was younger. In college I had friendships that were even deeper and more beneficial, and I even had those kinds of friendships once I graduated and started teaching, especially with my two roommates, both of whom were in my wedding. I kept some of these post-college friends even once I married and had children, although some of them are single or married without children. My bestest friend lives in Vero and while we have a hard time catching each other on the phone, we visit pretty regularly. Another of my besties lives here in LW and thanks to AOL Instant Messenger, we talk pretty much every day. She and her mom also babysit my kids from time to time. Another good friend of mine is a nurse and has regular weekdays off, so sometimes she'll come over and we'll take the kids to lunch then play video games or watch TV on DVD while they nap. She's 10 years younger than me, but we get along fabulously. Facebook has made it easier for me to keep in touch with my current friends and people I haven't talked to or seen in decades. In addition to these wonderful people in my life, I now have my newest friends - my Mom friends. I see them at MOPS, at the playpark, and at playdates at various homes. This was the missing link, the piece of life puzzle that I didn't even know was missing. I admit that it's hard for me to make new friends and that when I first had Ethan, I didn't think I needed Mommy friends or MOPS. Boy, was I wrong. The friendships I have made through MOPS have given my life a new fullness. It's great for my kids, too; they now have playmates and other adults to love and who love them. So thank you, all of you. Thanks to those of you who knew me in high school or college, those of you who were in my wedding and saw me through the post-college/pre-Todd years, and most of all, just for today, thank you to my Mom friends. You all make me feel a little saner and a little less alone in the craziness of 24/7 childcare. And thanks for loving my kiddos, too.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Sodium Nitrites... what is that?

Now, let me start of by saying that I am absolutely NO AUTHORITY on health related issues. I'm a Mommy by profession and I am constantly learning as each day passes.

Have you ever wondered about this thing called sodium nitrate that is put in cold cuts, hot dogs and other food products? What in the world is it? Well, I decided to google it. When I did, all sorts of stuff came up and I tried to sift through it and then took a little break. My brain started to hurt.

The general gist of it is that it is a preservative and should be avoided if possible.

One of the sites I found (supermarket guru) says:

Sodium Nitrite helps prevent the growth of Clostridium botulinum, which can cause botulism in humans and is also used alone or in conjunction with sodium nitrate as a color fixative in cured meat and poultry products (bologna, hot dogs, bacon).

During the cooking process, nitrites combine with amines naturally present in meat to form carcinogenic N-nitroso compounds. It is also suspected that nitrites can combine with amines in the human stomach to form N-nitroso compounds.

These compounds are known carcinogens and have been associated with cancer of the oral cavity, urinary bladder, esophagus, stomach and brain.

Research in Sweden found that Swedes who ate on average 3 ounces of processed meat each day had a 15 percent greater chance of developing stomach cancer than those who consumed 2 ounces or less.

The Cancer Research Center of Hawaii and the University of Southern California reported in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute (2005;97:1458-65) that they studied 190,000 people, ages 45 to 75, for seven years. Those who ate the most processed meat (bacon, ham, cold cuts) had a 68% higher risk of pancreatic cancer than those who ate the least. "Most" was defined as at least 0.6 ounce processed meat, 1 ounce beef or 0.3 ounce pork per 1,000 calories consumed.

Dietitians suggest that you can help reduce the possible cancer-causing effects of sodium nitrite by consuming protective antioxidants before meals, such as vitamin C and vitamin E. But, remember, no vitamin offers 100% protection.

Now this is different from the Listeria concerns that we have regarding cold cuts and hot dogs.

Listeriosis is an infection caused by eating food contaminated with the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes, with an estimated 2,500 persons in the US becoming seriously ill and 500 of these resulting in death each year.

The disease affects primarily pregnant women (who are 20 times more likely to become infected and develop a severe illness), newborns, and adults with weakened immune systems.

The symptoms include fever, muscle aches, and sometimes gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea or diarrhea. If infection spreads to the nervous system, symptoms such as headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance, or convulsions can occur.

Infected pregnant women may experience only a mild, flu-like illness; however, infections during pregnancy can lead to miscarriage or stillbirth, premature delivery, or infection of the newborn. Healthy adults and children occasionally get infected with Listeria, but they rarely become seriously ill.

Listeria is killed by pasteurization and cooking; however, in certain ready-to-eat foods such as hot dogs and deli meats, contamination may occur after cooking but before packaging.

OK. Got that? My brain is really hurting now.

I guess if you really want to be careful what you should do is buy sodium nitrate free cold cuts and heat them in the microwave to kill any Listeria that might be lurking in there. Mmmmmmmm.

Just be a vegetarian.

In case you are wondering what Boar's Head meats don't have sodium nitrites, I've attached the list for you at the top. You can also call them at their Nutrition Line at 800-352-6277 and they can send you info. This is a link that Boars Head has regarding nitrites http://www.boarshead.com/nitrites.php.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Slowing Down

Somedays I don't know which way is up. Seriously. I just seem to spend all my time spinning my wheels. I add more to my "To Do" list than I cross off. I juggle a lot of stuff.

Just like every mom I know.

One thing that has really been life changing is to make time just to be with my kids every week.

A couple weeks ago, I took my planning period and went to help with THE Princess's class study on Dr. Seuss. After reading The Foot Book, THE Princess and her classmates rolled up their pant legs and got their feet painted.

Then, they listened to the story being read again, acting out with their feet what they heard.

There was a lot of giggling. Paint went all over the place, but mostly on the paper.

This was a rare moment where THE Princess didn't mind getting dirty (painty, actually). We cleaned up by giving each child pedicures (tubs of warm soapy water to soak their feet in) while they waited to have their feet scrubbed clean.
Last week, we made no-cook play clay. It's easy and fun. THE Princess mixes hers in a zip-top baggie to minimize the gooeyness. KOTJ and I mashed it up with our bare hands. Our recipe makes a great kid-sized amount and the more you mash it, the better it is.
[Play Clay: Mix together 2 tablespoons water, 1 tablespoon oil & as much food coloring as you like in a cup. Mix 6 tablespoons flour and 2 tablespoons salt in another cup or bowl (or baggie). Dump it all together and smoosh! ]
In another turn of events, KOTJ has discovered our dog's water bowl. He has taken to dumping and playing in the water about once a day. I just keep a towel nearby and let him splash it up!
I'm trying not to sweat the small stuff.
What fun stuff have you been up to lately?

Monday, March 9, 2009

Happy Birthday Old Gal!

She's fabulous. She's fifty. She doesn't look a day over 17, and she has more plastic in her face than Joan Rivers. She's Barbie! Fifty years ago today, she was first introduced to America, and she has impacted our society in more ways than ever imagined.

I love this Barbie fun fact that I found at this web site (The Facts of Barbie), "If Barbie was human sized, she would stand 5 foot 6 inches tall, weigh 110 pounds, and have a 39 inch bust, 18 inch waist and 33 inch hips." In a culture where so much pressure is placed on size, looks and weight, I think it is safe to say that many of us have a love/hate relationship with the Barbie's of our world. As a mom of a very busy boy, I am so tired that I would rather spend 5 more minutes sleeping than primping, and let's not even mention the gray hairs and stress eating!! I myself feel especially glamorous on days when I actually blow-dry my hair and put on jeans instead of sweats.

In honor of her birthday, I think we Motley Moms should create a pact concerning beauty.
  1. If you show up at a play date with oatmeal in your hair, I promise not to roll my eyes when you say it is a beauty treatment.

  2. When you decide to go on Atkins to loose the pregnancy pounds from your five year old, I will not bring cookies, brownies or anything but celery to Bible studies, girl scout meetings and/or all play dates.

  3. When you decide that Atkins isn't worth it and you love your curves, I will be the first to hand you a Mallomars or other confection of your choice.

  4. When you FINALLY decide to cover your gray, I will smile and agree that "it must just be your new shampoo."

  5. When you show up to MOPS without concealer, I will tell all the other mom's that you are just going "Goth". I'll say, "It's the latest rage in Hollywood. Katie Holmes is showing it off on the cover of People."
I am not sure if it is because I am older or wiser, but I am happier now with my looks than I have ever been. Maybe its just that I am too tired to worry with such things, or maybe my vision is just bad enough that I can't see the crows feet and wrinkles. I was in high school in the late 80s and early 90s, so my hair was under a lot of pressure back then - the perms, the Aqua Net, the rat-tailed combs. I haven't had a really bad hair day since I quit spending so much time trying to make my bangs defy gravity. That was also about the time I got married. I wonder if the two are related.

I hope you all have a beautiful Monday. May you get enough beauty sleep today, and if you are really lucky, maybe you will have time to blow dry your hair. If you didn't have enough Barbies when you were little, you can purchase a re-issue of the original at Target this week for only $3. I actually never had a Barbie, so I think I might get one today and see what I have been missing. Maybe she will inspire me to put on more makeup than just lip gloss.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

21st Century Mom

How on earth did our parents parent us without the Internet?

I depend so much on sites like Babycenter.com and WebMD.com for answers to the questions I have NOW, like "Is it normal for him to...," and, "What should I do if..." I keep our family's calendar (which is pretty much our son's social calendar) on our computer, and I have that calendar synced to Google Calendar so that I can schedule playdates when we are away from home. I have immediate access to all sales ads so that I can instantly compare diaper prices when necessary, and if I don't have a coupon handy I can usually find one somewhere in Cyberspace. I shop for toddler clothes and children's books with just a few clicks of the mouse, and if I'm wary of purchasing that new tricycle without knowing anyone else who has one, I just check into the product reviews that others have provided. Can you imagine what life was like in the olden days before Amazon.com? (I was alive then, but it all seems like a big blur...)

Last night I took Internet parenting to a new low (or high, depending on your perspective). We have been having BATTLES in this household over dental hygiene. Our son doesn't mind the toothbrush, he just doesn't want to use it in the way it was intended. I have had too many dental issues to allow our son to follow that same path, and I watched a graphic 20/20 episode that involved baby root canals (you've got to be kidding me) so I was feeling pretty desperate to convince him to take care of his teeth. I considered showing him those same videos of screaming children that I had seen, but that could easily back-fire in a few years, so...

Thank you Youtube.com! Do you believe that there are parents out there who seriously take videos of their kids brushing their teeth and then post them to Youtube? I don't know that I would have ever thought of that, but no complaints here! I found a "playlist" of toothbrushing sessions (as well as clips from Sesame Street and a strange but effective clip from a French cartoon). Our son sat with me watching the monitor, and I handed him his toothbrush. Suddenly we were no longer concerned with the chore of cleaning those teeth, it was a toothbrushing party with toddlers from around the world! There was one unfortuneate incident that involved spitting at the screen (thanks, strange French characters), but otherwise this was the easiest and most effective teeth cleaning session that we have had since those little pearly whites started pushing through his gums.

Hey, I will take help anywhere I can get it! Do you have any secret weapons you use to parent more effectively?

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Tick-Tick-Tick-Tick...Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrring!!!! - All the Ways I Love My Timer

I love my Big Timer. Its uses go beyond the typical timeout session or cooking project. Our timer is a motivator, a time-saver, and a non-negotiator. I've decided it's a device I simply can't live without! I also have a Timex digital watch with a timer...it's great, too!

Here are a few ways we use the timer around here:

  1. Bathroom Monitor: I've mentioned our son's propensity to linger in the bathroom, water running, for upwards of an hour. To curtail these little bathroom binges, I brought the timer into the bathroom, set it for 5 minutes, and invited him to "race the timer!" He loves a challenge, so this worked great. Some kids may need additional incentive to beat the clock (M&Ms, stickers, extra time at the park) or consequences (timeout, lose some playtime, do a job - the bathroom usually needs straightening after they've been in there too long, so let them clean it up!) A timer can also help during teeth-brushing. I'm considering getting a timer dedicated to the kids' bathroom!

  2. Cleanup Countdown: The kids love racing the timer during cleanup. I set the timer for 3 minutes and we race around, putting things away and picking up trash. If they are good workers, at the end of 3 minutes they earn one M&M and we set the timer again. Even our 2-year-old loves this method of cleaning!

  3. Centertime Sentry: I often set the timer during playtime for 15-20 minutes. At the end of that time, the kids clean up their area and find something else to do. If they're really playing nicely and want more time, I give it to them, but more often than not, they're ready to try something new when the timer rings. It's really just a reminder to clean up their mess before moving on.
  4. Quiet Time: I set my digital timer for 55 minutes every day for our 5-year-old's quiet time. He doesn't take a regular nap anymore, but we all need a break from each other after lunch and storytime. Our 2-year-old naps, I like to put my feet up and read or sometimes nap, and our 5-year-old is required to lay still and quiet until his timer beeps. He usually prepares a huge stack of books for his quiet time, but only gets about halfway through them before he's snoozing! If he's still awake when the timer beeps, he can get up and play quietly.
  5. Computer Timer: For those of you with kids old enough to play on the computer or video gaming systems, the timer can help you set limits for your child and stick to them.
  6. Potty Training Timer: I love my Timex digital watch. It reminds me to get my toddler to the bathroom. I call it my "potty watch." I'm very forgetful and it's so easy to simply forget that my toddler is wearing underwear and needs to go potty. While they're learning, they don't always identify their urge to go, so getting them to sit on the potty every 25 minutes or so can help in the early stages of potty training. This is another good use for a bathroom timer, especially for the resistant toddler: set it for 2 minutes. If she hasn't done anything after 2 minutes, but you know it should be about time for her to go, let her try again in 10-15 minutes.

Any other great uses for your timer?

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Bi-Polar Me

I'm not really bi-polar. And I'm not making fun of those who are. I just feel like a crazy manic-depressive sometimes. Seriously. I go from high to low in a matter of seconds. The other day at MOPS a friend was talking about her daughters and how they are so dramatic - how they'll be laughing and playing happily one minute and in the depths of despair 10 seconds later. I laughed, thought about how happy I am to have boys because they're not quite so dramatic (yeah, right), then thought, "Oh, God, she just described me!" And I'm not a 4- or 6-year-old girl! In fact, I've always prided myself on NOT being a Drama Queen or a high-maintenance woman. I'm not easily offended (one of my favorite jokes is, "What do you do when the dishwasher quits? Slap her!"), I rarely cry, I don't like shopping, I would rather watch UFC than "American Idol." I'm not a "girly girl." But, as it turns out, I am extremely emotional and you would think I would've been clued into this years ago when I started taking MEDICATION to keep me at an even keel. But no, I kept on with the delusion that I am strong, tough, intelligent, and above silly womanish emotionalism. To illustrate how wrong I was, a typical conversation in my house:
"Ethan, it's time to go potty."
"Come one, let's go potty."
We go into the bathroom, Ethan stands in front of the toilet. "Ethan, pull your pants down and go pee."
"Noooo! They're not pants! They're shorts!"
"Okay. Pull your shorts down." He does, he pees, he puts the seat down. All is well. I am a good mom, I didn't lose it with him, he did what I asked.
"Ethan, pull your shorts up."
"Nooooo! It's not shorts! It's a Pull-Up!" I roll my eyes. He finally pulls them up, steps on the stool to wash his hands. Only, he doesn't wash his hands. He plays in the water, refuses to get soap. Yelling ensues. Smacks on the hiney. Threats of a time-out. 10 minutes later we leave the bathroom, he's crying, my blood pressure is somewhere around 200/180. This is what I'm thinking: I hate my life, I'm the worst mother ever, I shouldn't yell at him, Oh, God, forgive me for sometimes not liking my child, I'm a horrible mother, etc., etc., etc. 
Cut to 4 hours later. Both boys have napped. Ethan and I have "played Play-Doh" in the kitchen together for 30 minutes. We go to Walgreens to pick up aforementioned medication. We have to sit in line for a while, but that's okay because the boys are in the backseat, cracking each other up. This is what I'm thinking: You know, I am so blessed. My children are healthy, happy, cute, and fun. My husband is a good man. We have a house, 2 cars, plenty of food, a great church. I am livin' the life!
Give me 5 more minutes in line at Walgreens, though, and I'm inconsolable.
So, yeah, my cover is blown. I'm emotional. There. I said it. I may not cry or love shopping, but I can be reduced to screaming or elation by 32 pounds of preschooler. 

Wednesday, March 4, 2009


My Oxford American Dictionary defines a milestone as:
1. a stone set up beside a road to show the distance in miles to a given place
2. a significant event or stage in life or history

My life as a mom is filled with milestones of both kinds. Using MapQuest I can get the exact mileage from my home to the pediatrician's office, but it's better measured by time it takes to actually drive there once your sick child is strapped into the car seat with an appropriate comfort toy, pacifier, dose of Tylenol, and sometimes a DVD cranked up for viewing. A distance could also be measured by the amount of stress and anxiety the length of the trip might produce in relation to timing it to coincide with a toddler's nap time. This measurement means more to me than actual miles to my destination.

The other kinds of milestones are significant in the life and history of my child as she grows and develops. Early on I couldn't wait for her to sleep through the night. That milestone couldn't come fast enough. Other milestones have included: standing, crawling, walking and now climbing everything in sight; drinking formula every 3 hours to eating baby food and now getting her to eat anything at a given meal; sleeping in her pack-n-play's bassinette, to her crib, and now to her toddler bed; and cooing, crying, babbling, sounding out a word or two to full blown phrases and declaratory sentences often given in an imperious tone then sweetly adding please when prompted.

As a first-time mom I have often found myself voraciously reading parenting books and magazines to see when these milestones "should" occur, asking experienced moms when their children reached them, and praying my child was reaching each one "on time". However, two years into this parenting thing, I've finally come to grips with two facts: each child is unique and reaches a given milestone when he/she is ready and able and that I shouldn't wish away the time it takes for each one to occur because as they are reached my responsibilities change and often increase. For example, when she was not walking yet, I longed for that time so I wouldn't have to carry her around so much. Once she began walking, I had to step up my vigilance and child proof the house.

Now I'm trying to simply enjoy each milestone as it happens and journaling it as her unique history.

Not-So-Guilty Pleasures

What do you like to do when you have "Me Time"?
Do you watch TV?
Listen to music?
All of the Above?

Well, lately I've been working out. It's been a lot of fun actually because it's when I get to watch one of my favorite shows in peace. I just walk/jog on the treadmill for about 45 minutes and that's about when the show ends. Perfect. It makes me laugh like crazy and that's what the other people at the gym probably think of me - crazy. Since I have those ear phones in, I can't hear if I'm laughing out loud or not. Do you think I care anyway? Not really.

I really don't feel guilty at all because I'm doing lots of cardio (which is a healthy thing to do). Now if I was sitting at home eating Bon Bons and watching TV, I would feel pretty yuck about that. I'd think, "Shouldn't I be doing something productive instead of just sitting here watching junk?". So the exercise thing is the absolute best thing in the world to me right now.

Now, I know this is just a phase and I'll get sick of it after a while, but for now, I'll just go with it.

Oh yeah, the other thing that is really cool is the Pandora application on my iphone. Every song is a total surprise, and great. I love that.

I suppose all of this is just another example of how I like to escape reality for just awhile.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The Standoff

My hubby and I get along most of the time. We do not see eye to eye on the laundry, however. He believes the following things about laundry:

  1. There is only one load, everything. Sorting is irrelevant.
  2. Everything should be washed with hot water and lots of bleach. The more bleach the better.
  3. Folding and putting away clothes is a waste of time.

And, he doesn't want to change. He doesn't care if he has a pink shirt or bleach stains on his pants. I, on the other hand, don't particularly like these "side effects" on my own clothes.

Luckily, I don't mind doing laundry. And because I am mildly OCD about organization, I like to have separate baskets of white and colored laundry. I don't mind carrying it downstairs, washing it, drying it (or hanging it out to dry when I have time), taking it back upstairs, folding it and putting it away. In fact, normally it doesn't faze me at all to do this. As long as I carry something every time I go up or down, the laundry pretty much stays caught up.

That is until I put my husband's clothes away. Our room has a very small closet. Seriously small. So we have a couple of wardrobes for our clothes. I put the clothes away, folded, and stacked. And my husband roots through his and makes a huge mess. Some fall on the floor. Now, being that he is freaky over germs, he feels that these clothes must be washed again or left on the floor until they are dirty enough to wash again. Which means, immediately.

This has made putting his clothes away, quite frustrating for me. I asked him to at least try not to unfold and make such a mess. I begged. I may have yelled. Okay, I yelled. And, nothing happened.
So, last summer, I stopped. We had reached a standoff.

I started stacking all his folded clothes in our Pack-N-Play. To my chagrin, he actually liked this. He could root around and nothing would hit the floor. I even stopped folding them. (Really, what is the point when he just messes them up?) My folding time was cut in half, at least.

For awhile, we were both happy. Until, he started to drop clothes all over the floor when he was looking for something. I then moved the Pack-N-Play into the hallway so I didn't have to look at it. This, too, seemed better. Out of sight, out of mind. It wasn't a mess I could see, so I felt much less annoyed by it.

But, by last month, it was all I could take. Clothes were everywhere. I was constantly being asked were this pair of pants were or that shirt was. I was finding clean clothes in the laundry all the time. Clean as in they had just been washed. Dirty because they hit the carpet during his daily search for clothes. There were no matched socks.

I stopped letting people go upstairs. I was embarrassed of the mess. Not my husband, he didn't care! In fact, I debated about taking a picture of the Pack-N-Play filled with clothes. But, frankly, it put me over the edge. I started thinking that I was going to need powerful drugs just to be able to write about this situation.
So I gave in and I ended up sorting, hanging, and folding all the clothes and putting them away properly.

I thought I would teach him a lesson. Make him see the error of his ways. And do you know the only comment I heard after everything was neat and clean was, "Hey, what did you do with the Pack-N-Play? I liked that thing!"

I thought about taking my own life at that point. Seriously.
Anything ever backfire on you?

Monday, March 2, 2009

Happy Casimir Pulaski Day or Why is Everyone in School?

OK - the following information was copied directly from Wikipedia:

Casimir Pulaski Day is a holiday observed in Illinois on the first Monday of every March to commemorate Casimir Pulaski, a Revolutionary War cavalry officer born March 4, 1747 in Poland as Kazimierz Pułaski. He is known for his contributions to the U.S. military in the American Revolution by training its soldiers and cavalry.

The day is celebrated mainly in areas that have large Polish populations. Chicago has the largest Polish population of any city in the world, save for Warsaw.[1] This is a separate holiday from the federal holiday, General Pulaski Memorial Day, which commemorates Pulaski's death at the Siege of Savannah on October 11, 1779.

Illinois enacted a law on June 20, 1977 to celebrate the birthday of Casimir Pulaski and held the first official Pulaski Day celebrations in 1978. The bill was introduced by Senator Leroy W. Lemke, a Democrat from Chicago. Chicago celebrates Pulaski Day on the first Monday in March with an annual parade. Cook County government (which includes Chicago) and the Chicago Public Library also close on this holiday.

I thought about paraphrasing it into my own words, but I really don't have the energy. I love Camimir Pulaski Day! I loved getting out of school when I was a kid, and I loved having my husband home with us. I know it says we started celebrating in 1978, but I don't remember getting out of school for this until I was in high school. I wonder if it just took that long for the memo to make it to down-state Illinois? In case you were wondering, there is a Fort Pulaski in Savannah which is pretty cool to visit, and is named after our hero. To quote Paul Harvey, "Now you know the rest of the story."

Sunday, March 1, 2009

So simple...so effective!

So many days I feel like I'm barely treading water in this sea of motherhood, and some days I feel like I'm definitely drowning. But there are days when the stars align, all of the pieces fall into place, and I think, if only for a brief and fleeting moment, wow--maybe I'm getting the hang of this mommy thing after all.

When it comes to discipline and our two-year-old, most days I am hanging out at the bottom of the pool, but this week something changed. We had a new addition to our household: a timer. Not a digital beep...beep...beep...timer, but a ticktickticktickRIIIIIIINNNNNGGGG timer. I've used digital timers for a while now to help me keep track of, well, time, but I felt compelled to grab one of the rotary models while on a trip to Wal-Mart the other day. I believe it was divine intervention.

Time-outs are often laughable around here. I won't go into detail, but imagine those episodes of Super Nanny that involve time-outs, and it's not too far from our reality. There is something about the ticking timer, however, that has revolutionized the time-out in our household. We've used digital timers before, but most of the time we forget what's going on before the cute little beeps begin. Our son wasn't too impressed with it, either. Two days ago, we had a time-out worthy situation, and my son ran to the corner wailing. I wound the dial on our new timer, placed it on the bookshelf, and continued what I had been doing. After two minutes of high-pitched crying, a resounding RIIIIIINNNNNGGGG filled the air. My son abruptly stopped what he was doing and turned to look at me. I gave him the post-time-out talk and went into the other room. He followed me, a confused look on his face. "Mommy, time out?" He said. I responded, "Your time-out is done. The bell means it is done." He had a little conversation about the bells with himself, then seemed content to accept what had happened.

The remarkable thing happened the next day when we found ourselves in the corner again. I set the timer, he did his usual, and when the bell rang, he turned to me quietly, listened to me, and conversed with me about his actions. He then hugged me, apologized, and went off to play. Most importantly, he didn't repeat his time-out worthy behavior for the rest of the day. To quote Pam's friend Jody, "Holy Chicken Cacciatore!" This thing works!

But it doesn't just work for punishment discipline--at one point I needed our son to wait, and that is not something he is fond of doing. I set the timer, it ticked, then the bells rang. He waited. No whining, no taking matters into his own hands...he just waited. This little white plastic box of dials and gears is amazing.

So, I am happy to report that I have a new tool to use in my quest to train our son in the way he should go. Now if I could just figure out how to carry the ticking device around in my purse without attracting too much suspicious attention...

What about you? Do you have any amazing tools? I would love to hear about them!