Sunday, January 31, 2010

I Forgot How Much I Missed Her

My Gram was a special lady. She is the grandparent I related to the most, and in fact she really was my favorite person growing up.

I remember spending time in her kitchen, making her special molasses raisin cookies and mustard sandwiches (don't ask) and more. She always had a cookie for me from her special cookie jar, and we watched Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune together whenever we were together. She was incredibly fast figuring out the phrases on Wheel of Fortune. Jeopardy, she wasn't so good at, but she loved watching it just the same. If I ever needed a hug, she was there to give it to me.

Even as I grew older, I still had a special bond. In college (once I had a car on campus as a junior), I'd drive down to her house every other week to do laundry at her house, chat, and then take her out to dinner. We had some truly special times.

She was the one who taught me how to hold a conversation while simultaneously listening in on a conversation happening two tables over in a restaurant. She was the consummate people watcher, and we loved speculating about the lives of people we saw and giggling at some of the oddities we noticed that most others didn't.

She passed away in 1999.

We knew it was coming, as she hadn't been very healthy for some time before that. She'd been in the hospital for major issues twice in the past year, including one where she begged us to just let her die (we didn't and she was later grateful).

One night, I called her to chat, and she just didn't sound like herself. I asked if she wanted me to come visit (she was about an hour and a half from me, but that was nothing). She insisted she was fine, but I didn't listen to her and I drove down anyway. Once I'd arrived, I asked what she wanted to eat. She told me she wasn't very hungry (which was VERY unlike her - the woman could eat anything anytime) and that she had only eaten a single cracker for lunch. I couldn't convince her to eat anything, but we settled into her guest room to watch a little tv before I headed back to my apartment.

She laid down and started zoning in and out a little. Our conversations were hard for her to track. I was a little concerned, but I let it go. Within a half hour, I remember her laying on the couch talking about poling a raft down the Mississipi and other nonsense. She was no longer at all lucid. I called 9-1-1 and an ambulance came to take her to the hospital. My family was in Minnesota at the time, so there was no one to help me but I made a panicked call to my mom. I somehow held it together until the ambulance arrived, but I remember sobbing then.

They saved her that night. She had congestive heart failure and wouldn't have survived the night had I not been there. That fact still sticks with me now. What if I hadn't gone to visit? What if I'd listened to her and stayed at home? I thank God that I didn't, as I don't know how I would have coped with the guilt.

Unfortunately, she never fully recovered from that incident and she died a few months later. She was my favorite person in the world, and I missed her. I still miss her, but I think about her less often now.

Today was different. At church, the reading was from Corinthians - "Love is patient, love is kind." That was the reading that I had the privilege of doing at my Gram's funeral. I didn't cry while reading it that day, but I've yet to hear it since and not cry -- with one exception. I chose it as a reading for my wedding in honor of my Gram, and I was dry eyed then.

Today? Not so much. Sitting in the chancel with the rest of the choir, I couldn't quite keep the tears from spilling over. Fortunately, it went unnoticed for the most part.

But for the remainder of today, I keep thinking about how much she's missing out on. She would have loved to see the wee ones and be a part of their lives. For her to have Mister Man read to her would have brought her so much joy. I can picture her teaching them to play Uno, with chocolate Easter Egg paper scattered on the table, just as she did with me - and I know she'd pretend not to notice them cheating as when I first learned from her.

She never knew my husband either. The last boyfriend of mine she knew she loved because he could get out of the car and run around to the other side to open her door before she could. She thought that was the neatest thing. While I don't know that my husband could quite accomplish that feat, he definitely has qualities that she'd admire.

We had a concert tonight, and "Rock of Ages" was sung. It was, of course, one of her favorite songs. And again, I was wiping tears away during practice, imagining her proud face in the audience watching me sing.

She was always there, from the day I moved into my first apartment in college where she helped my mom and me clean for three hours, including her climbing on a barstool to hang curtains, to walking for hours on end - long after she passed the point of exhaustion - through Disney World because she knew her grandchildren wouldn't want to leave until the park closed.

She had the best birthday gifts, the best hugs, the best everything.

And I forgot how much I missed that.

I wish she were still here. It's hard to believe that it's been almost eleven years since she died. My life has changed so much since I last received advice from her, since she last stuffed ketchup and sugar packets from the restaurant into her purse, since the last phone call just to say hi.

But at the same time, I can picture her smile and hear her voice like it was yesterday. And on days like today, the pain in my heart feels like it was just yesterday.

I miss you, Gram. You'd be so surprised by my life today, and you'd so enjoy your great-grandchildren. I wish you were here.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

You're Killing Me, Kid!

I have a Progresso giveaway going on here.


Yesterday, I had my fun quarterly girls' night out with some friends from when I volunteered at an animal shelter before I had children. As a side note, 312 Chicago is on my good list. Yum!

Needless to say, I had to catch the train to get downtown before I would normally be home on Fridays. Fortunately my husband was able to help out. The plan was for me to drop Little Miss off at his school in time for him to pick up Mister Man at his school in time for them all to get to Mister Man's vision therapy appointment. After vision therapy, Mister Man had the brand new Magic Treehouse book waiting for him at the library, so they were to stop there on the way home.

My husband's usual Friday? He worked at school on lesson plans and grading and such. Then he came home and hung out alone until I got home, at which point he'd help me put the wee ones to bed.

I packed a little bag for my husband, and as we were driving to my husband's school, I reviewed it with Little Miss.

Me: Alright, Peanut. Your dinner is in here, so make sure you eat that before vision therapy because there's no more food when you get home. You have your non-dairy pizza, and Mister Man has chicken and biscuits. I packed you some tangelos and carrots and a granola bar, too, if you're really hungry.
Little Miss: Can I have the tangelo now?
Me: No, you have to share it with Mister Man. Now, I also have your registration form and the check for school next year. Daddy has to take it into the office and turn it in, or you won't be able to go there next year. It's due today. I also put Mister Man's library card in here so that he can check out the book that's on hold for him. Make sure Daddy remembers to stop at the library to get that book and so you can get your fifth star upstairs.
Little Miss: I will. Mommy? She paused with an oh-so-innocent question.
Me: Yes, Peanut?
Little Miss: Is this why he chose to be a daddy instead of a mommy?
Me: Why Daddy chose to be a daddy? I'm puzzled but intrigued here.
Little Miss: Yeah. He's doesn't know how to do this stuff. That's why he chose to be a daddy instead so he doesn't have to learn how to do all the mommy stuff.

Oh. Ummm. Sure, yes. That's why he chose to be a daddy. Actually I couldn't respond. I was laughing so hard I had tears running down my face and almost had to pull over.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Just A Moment, Young Lady

I have a Progresso giveaway going on here. And who doesn't love winning free stuff?


I've had a bit of a busy week.

Tuesday I worked in the office and didn't get home until somewhat late. When I got home, I had to go through the volunteer schedules for a museum exhibit we were hosting yesterday and today at Little Miss's preschool and finalize some arrangements, which took until bedtime.

Yesterday I left the house at 8:20 to get to school for the museum training. I worked there until I left to pick up Mister Man for language group. I then returned to the school until around 1:30 - when neither Little Miss nor I had eaten lunch. We got home in time to eat a quick lunch, then she napped for 45 minutes (yeah, that was fun to wake her up) while I typed up the instructions for the additional volunteers based on the morning experience. I picked up the carpool and dropped them at their houses before running to the chiropractor. Then it was back to the preschool for our family night, and then to Mister Man's school for a presentation on next year's school stuff. By the time I got home, it was almost 10, and I had to straighten the house before bed.

Today, I got up, got the wee ones up and off to school, and then I worked. Amidst answering calls from the school about issues with the exhibits, I got done what I needed to, and then I made dinner and fed the wee ones and got them into bed. Somewhere in there I snuck in a load of laundry.

And now? Now I was planning to relax. I was going to quietly sit and catch up on blogs and get some reading done and maybe watch a bit of tv. Ahhhh....

Silly me. I checked my email and saw a note from the principal at Little Miss's school with her article for the newsletter. Oh. Yeah. I have to write the articles for the newsletter tonight and lay them out. I forgot about that. Or maybe I just blocked it out. Either way, it's back to work for me. Annnnnd maybe tomorrow I'll catch up on some of that relaxation.

There's no rest for the wicked!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

I Wouldn't Change So Much...

Last chance for Disney on Ice tickets! If you live in the Chicago area, I'm giving away a family four pack to Disney on Ice for Februay 2!


So Sunday I was getting a massage (I'll pause here for a moment so you can all be jealous of my ninety minutes with Sofia). I love getting a massage, and it's especially beneficial when I've been spending a lot of time at the gym. Note that I say it's beneficial, not that I enjoy it most.

When I've been spending a lot of time at the gym, my IT Bands tend to get tight. And when they get tight, Sofia finds this and works to loosen them up. And she really works. She finds some way to work out the tension I gather there, but oh does it hurt. It hurts badly enough that my yoga breathing sometimes isn't even enough. It hurts badly enough that I finally had to ask her this time to lighten up on the pressure. It hurts badly enough that two days later, I can still feel where she worked on the IT bands. But when she's done there, I have regained so much motion and flexibility there. I know I need it. But ohhh does it hurt.

This time, I tried a new way of getting through the pain, as my breathing really wasn't cutting it. I thought about how nice it would be to be able to have the luxury of the time and money to get a massage like this on a regular basis so that my IT bands wouldn't be so tight on the occasions I did make it in. I thought about how nice it would be to get just a 30 or 60 minutes massage after every time I went running.

And then I realized that I'd need to win the lottery to do that. And that I'd actually do just fine going once a week. Or maybe twice.

I'd also hire a personal trainer to work with me once a week. I don't need someone all the time. And maybe I'd only work with a trainer heavily for a month or two and then go back on my own. I just need someone to get me over the hump with running again - make me finish that 5K.

But I wouldn't sell my house. I like where I live. I like my neighborhood and my friends and where we are. We don't need a bigger or "better" house. I would remodel our upstairs bathrooms and my kitchen, but that's about it for major improvements.

I wouldn't buy a new car, nor would my husband. He wouldn't quit his job or change what he does; he loves it, and it gives him purpose. I'd quit my job though (but really, you knew that already).

I don't have huge changes that I need to or want to make. I wouldn't go out and buy new clothes or take huge trips everywhere. I wouldn't start eating out all the time, and I'd still cook.

But you know what? I'd eat all organic foods. It would be more than just the berries. The milk, the meat, the fruit, the vegetables - they'd all be organic. I'd eat fish far more often, especially sushi. And I'd be doing the cooking, not hiring someone to do it for me.

I wouldn't go out and buy all new designer clothes or shoes. What I've got works just fine for me, thanks. The same goes for flying out some huge fancy hair artist for haircuts that cost hundreds of dollars. I would like to find someone who can cut my hair so it looks good and teach me how to do my hair so I can avoid more bad hair days than not, but I want to do the daily maintenance myself.

There are a few small treats I'd buy myself -- a good fancy camera, a laptop of my own, and ummm that's all I can think of right now. There isn't a ton that I need.

Even quitting work, I don't see myself as having a ton of free time. I'm already PTO president and could so easily dedicate more time to that. I'd like to get to the gym more often. And I really want to start volunteering at a therapeutic horseback riding center. That plus the normal things that need to happen, and my day is complete once you add in spending time with the wee ones.

And to be honest with you, I think that about sums it up. My day and my life is complete. I don't need to do all sorts of fancy things or have a huge amount of money to be happy or fulfilled. While it would be nice to have some "perks" that I don't now, they're not necessary for me to enjoy life. Winning the lottery wouldn't change my life. And I think that's a good thing.

Because, honestly, I don't think my IT bands could take Sofia too much more often.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Tasty Tuesday!

Last two days -- for anyone in the Chicago area with kids, I'm giving away a family four pack to Disney on Ice for Februay 2!


You'll be proud of me. I have pictures this week. Yep, actual honest to goodness pictures. And this has nothing to do with the fact that I made these treasures after the wee ones were in bed and not when I was racing to get food on the table. Nope, not a thing to do with it.

So. I make granola on a regular basis. I love my granola. In fact, I make it often enough that I keep two 32 ounce containers of plain yogurt (about the only way to avoid HFCS unfortunately) in the fridge to pour over my morning treat. Yum.

I've never made granola bars though. The wee ones love them, but for some uknown reason, they've always scared me. Silly, I know. But I decided to throw caution to the wind and make some for the wee ones. I modified my regular granola recipe slightly, and voila! I have granola bars. Tomorrow, I need to get a picture of the wee ones wolfing these treasures down.

Oh, and Jen, if you ask nicely, I'll make you some of these, too.

Homemade Granola Bars
3 c oats (not the quick cooking kind)
3/4 c coconut, flaked
1 c wheat bran - optional
1 c flax seeds (ground or whole, whichever is fine although I prefer whole) - optional
1 t cinnamon
1/4 t nutmeg, fresh ground
1/4 c olive oil
2/3 c honey (or maybe a little bit more)
1/4 c brown sugar, scant
1 c dried fruits, variety all chopped to be about the same size

(This part is totally optional) Place the oatmeal and coconut on an ungreased baking sheet and toast at 300 degees for about 10 minutes. This adds to the flavor but totally isn't necessary if you don't have the time.

Heat a heavy small saucepan over medium heat, and add the oil and honey (hint: if you're using a liquid measuring cup, put the oil in first then the honey atop it, and it helps the honey slide out more easily). Add the brown sugar, and heat until boiling. Stir for another minute, then remove from the heat.

Put the toasted oatmeal and coconut into a large mixing bowl. Add the wheat germ and flax seed (also both optional, but they're yummy and healthy!), as well as the cinnamon and nutmeg. Mix well.

Add the heated honey mixture to a well made in the center of the dry ingredients.

Stir until well mixed. This is much easier and faster than it is when making the regular granola version. Add the dried fruits and stir again. I used raisins, craisins, and cherries for my dried fruits, and they work together very nicely. You can use one kind or many, but more than about a cup total seems to make it too fruity, at least for me.

Place this into a 13x9 greased pan. I also laid a piece of parchment paper on the bottom of the pan to help the granola come out in a single piece more easily. It worked well.

Slightly wet your hands (I figured this one out the hard way) and gently press down onto the mixture to ensure that it is flat and even. I found that I "had" to rearrange some of my fruit, as it seemed to all want to head to the edges and I wanted a more even distribution.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool overnight (or at least until totally and completely room temperature). Use a knife to loosen the sides, and then plop out the giant granola bar. Use a very sharp knife -- or in my case, as serrated knife, as I proved yet again that it's time to get my knives professionally sharpened -- to slice into the shape you desire. I made essentially 16 bars from this, but I probably could have made them a bit smaller or a different shape, and they would have worked out just fine.

And as for those little crumbs left over from the cutting? I just scooped them up into a bowl, and that was my breakfast... along with a little yogurt, of course.

And does anyone know how to remove the fingerprint Mister Man has apparently put on my camera lens? *sigh*

Enjoy recipes like this and more with Blessed With Grace and Tempt My Tummy Tuesday!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

My Good Egg

Quick reminder -- anyone in the Chicago area with kids, I'm giving away a family four pack to Disney on Ice for Februay 2!


Mister Man had a good week at school this week, thankfully. His school is doing a great job of working with him and coming up with solutons (in addition to what we're doing at home), and they appear to be working. Ironically, my lesson to him that he needs to think about wht he's doing and decide if he'd like it if someone else did it to him is what appears to be sinking in the most -- or so he says.

Because he's had five green days, he earned a Bakugan (love the $1.99 Aldi sales!). Because he (finally) had a full week of straight green days, he earned a trip to go see The Princess and the Frog.

That second reward has been hanging out there for awhile. In fact, it's been since before winter break, if I recall correctly. He had been so despondant and was convinced that he'd never see the movie. Give him a few more weeks, and he wouldn't have seen it -- apparently it's near the end of its run already.

When I saw him for pickup on Friday, he came racing towards me with a huge smile on his face, which I knew was a good sign. Mom! Mom! I had a green day today! My whole week was green! Mom, do I get to go see the movienow?

Yep. Most definitely. I would have canceled any plans I had to ensure that he got to see the movie he earned. Fortuntely, it didn't come anywhere near that.

He requested permission to call Grandpa, and I handed over my phone.

Grandpa! Grandpa! Guess what! I had a green day again today, and I get to go see "The Princess and the Frog" this weekend, and do you want to come with me to see it, too?

Uhhhh, ok. We can add Grandpa. No problem.

When we arrived home, he ran immediately up to Little Miss (who had been home taking a nap and thankfully my husband was able to get home before I had to pick up Mister Man so I didn't have to wake her tired self up). Little Miss! Little Miss! I get to go see "The Princess and the Frog, and you get to come, too!

Ummm, well actually I was sort of planning on definitely not taking her with us, since she's never been to a movie theater before but seems to swallow a jumping bean every ten minutes or so, which just doesn't seem like a good combination. And I wanted her to nap during the time we'd be going. And it was really his special thing.

Before I could open my mouth, however, Mister Man turned to me with his eyes pleading. Mommy, I can invite her to go with me to share my special treat, can't I?

And when he puts it that way, how can I say no?

When my parents arrived yesterday morning to take the wee ones to swimming lessons (it's "their thing"), not surprisingly, Mister Man invited my mom to join us at the movies, as well. Daddy had also been invited in the interim, but he was coaching and unable to make it.

My nice little treat with Mister Man -- a not too expensive $15 or so endeavor -- was suddenly not so little and not so inexpensive. Since when was a 1:05 show a $7.50 per person experience?

But everyone enjoyed it. There was a part where a star was created that made me cry. The wee ones were slightly scared at a few parts. (Really, Disney? It is necessary to be that scary in every G movie?) But the loved it. Little Miss saw her first movie ever, and she was just about completely still -- and quiet -- the entire time (except when she leaned over to ask me if she would be asleep in bed at that time because she was tired). And today? Mister Man has been telling everyone he sees about how he had a green week and how that meant he got to go see a movie and how he got to share his special treat with his whole family (forgetting that Daddy wasn't there, perhaps?).

I'm just hoping that this is motivation for him for next week and the week after. And I have to admit that I'm more than just a little bit proud that Mister Man didn't want to hoard his special moment and that he wanted to share it. He's a good kid.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Oh, Those Things They Say...

Quick reminder -- anyone in the Chicago area with kids, I'm giving away a family four pack to Disney on Ice for Februay 2!


The wee ones never cease to amaze me, and I never remember all the "good" things they say and do, although I try. We've had a few doozies the past few days.

When Little Miss was at the kids' area while I was working out the other day, she colored in a picture of the Super Sleuths on their scooter. Apparently her depiction of Pooh in his traditional yellow skin was marred by his blue shirt (instead of red. In her mind, this rendered him unrecognizable -- although Tigger with his orange and black stripes, was just fine. Above him, she wrote in large letters "Phoo." Close, Kiddo, but no cigar.

Little Miss also displayed her independence at the library. She refuses to let me help her select books, insisting that she can find them by herself. She talked nonstop in the car on the way to the library about the Froggy books she was going to select. When we got to the library, she skated right on past the "LON" section (the author's last name is London) and refused to acknowledge my hints. Instead I found her grabbing Berenstain Bears books from the bin, insisting that those were the books she was looking for all along.

Mister Man and I were on our way home tonight, and "The Fall of the House of Usher" came on the radio (yes, I listen to Old Time Radio on XM). He quickly figured out that this was a mystery and asked if I'd ever heard it before. I explained that I hadn't heard a radio version before but that it was a very famous story. His first question upon hearing that? "Mommy, did it win the Caldecott Award?" Uhhh no, but how on earth do you know how to even pronounce that?

We've had odd school schedules for the last week. Little Miss was off last Friday, everyone was off Monday, Mister Man was off Tuesday, school was back in session Wednesday and Thursday, and Little Miss wasoff again today. (Next year, we're so getting both wee ones on the same schedule!) Little Miss was starting to gloat that she didn't have school today to Mister Man who decided he was having none of it. "You may not have school today, but that's only because your school has its institute day on the wrong day. I had mine on Tuesday, and for my day off school, I got to spend the day with Grandpa. You only get to spend the day with Mommy." Well. That's telling her. I think.

At the breakfast table...
Mister Man: Mommy, did you know that Venus and Earth are sister planets?
Me: Umm, yes, I do seem to recall learning that at some point along the way.
Mister Man: Yep, and all the other planets are brother planets.
Ummm. Yeah.

And this morning, Mister Man came into our room early to complain about a noise he'd heard. My husband generously got up (probably because I was pretending to still be asleep) to show Mister Man that it was simply something that had fallen over in his bathroom. Mister Man nodded and went back into his room. A few minutes later, he came back asking what the buzzing noise was. I tiredly pointed towards the bathroom door and mumbled something about Daddy and the fan. And then I very clearly explained that I was still sleeping. So not two minutes later, guess who was back? Mister Man was desperately upset that he couldn't find Morgan Le Fay (one of his stuffed animals), and he couldn't start the play without her. I calmly explained his options of going back to sleep, starting the play without her, or quietly reading in his bed. "But Mommy! Those aren't the options I wanted. Can you rewind and try again?"

And I wonder why at 6:58 I'm seriosly considering shutting off the computer and going upstairs to bed.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Nope, We're Stayin'

Before I forget -- anyone in the Chicago area with kids, I'm giving away a family four pack to Disney on Ice for Februay 2!


It's a long story, but last night my husband finally asked me (in exasperation, I believe) if I wanted to sell our house and move to a different part of our school district.

Really, I just looked at him like he was nuts. I am so not selling our house anytime soon. I hate moving. Detest it. Actually, I would be totally cool with it if someone came and packed and unpacked for me, but I'm not spending that kind of money to move, so I'm sticking with the idea that I hate moving. That and I really like our house and our neighbors and our sidewalks and all those important things.

I stated when we bought this house that we were here until we downsized with the wee one out of the nest. Given the job market, this may not happen for another twenty years now, and I'm ok with that. All because I hate packing and unpacking to move.

And I'm pretty good at doing it, too.

I was born not too far from where I live now, and I've even had my dad drive me past that house. Oddly, it doesn't look anything like the few memories I have of it. We moved from there when I was three, which probably explains a lot of that.

We headed to Connecticut then, and I have all sorts of fun memories of that house. The three (no idea, don't ask why we had three) swingsets, the huge forest behind our house, the hills, the gravel driveway, the neighbors, the beach, the Christmas parties at the fire house. But I haven't been there since I was six...

because that's when we moved to Belgium. This is where I first started to get bitter about moving. I had a red plastic Mickey Mouse wallet when we lived in Connecticut. And it had money in it. If my memory isn't playing tricks on me, it had $8 in it. When we left the States, anyway. By the time I saw my wallet in Belgium, it was emptied. *sigh*

When we left Belgium, we came back to Illinois, but only for eight months or so. We were in a condo one floor up from my grandparents, which was pretty cool, but at eight years old, I started to see the problem with moving more clearly. Every time we moved, my mom made me throw out things. Sometimes I had a choice, but more often than not, I didn't.

And when we left Illinois after eight months and moved to Minnesota (still eight here), we had the interesting experience of living in a hotel for a couple months until my parents bought our house. While it was sort of cool to live in a hotel for awhile and have our own pool, it got old quickly. Most kids were in and out of the hotel, so we didn't have many lasting friendships (the exception was Leslie Smith Field who moved into the hotel while we were there and then showed up in my fourth grade classroom three days into the school year and was my best friend until she moved to Washington -- Leslie, if you ever find and read this, send me an email!). And of course, we didn't have most of our stuff.

When we finally moved into our house, I discovered another joy (not) of moving. There are times you have to redecorate. A lot. The bedroom I had in that house had belonged to a boy a few years older than me. The carpet was a chocolate brown (and not a pretty chocolate brown) with a weird dark animal "striped" wallpaper. I actually probably would have been ok with it, but my mom decided that wasn't good for a girl. And so we went looking for new wallpaper and carpeting. And ohhh I hate doing that. By the time my mom and I were able to find a wallpaper that matched a carpet sample that neither of us immediately vetoed, I ended up with light green carpeting and matching wallpaper with delicate white flowers woven into it. Raise your hand if you think this sounds anything like me. *crickets* That bedroom stayed decorated that way with the white wicker furniture until we moved, though.

We stayed in that house until after I graduated high school though. I next moved into a dorm room. And really, that's the way to move. You have one small carload of stuff that you have to unpack in a day. You live there for a year and then repack it all. That kind of moving I could deal with. Unfortunately, I now have no rooms that could fit into a single car, which is a minor problem.

After my junior year, I got an apartment in Evanston that was a tiny litle studio south of campus. And here was my next nasty surprise about moving. Not everyone is as neat and clean as you would hope. We got the keys, prepared to move in, and then spent the next six hours scrubbing every surface. It was N-A-S-T-Y. My poor mom and gram!

Fortunately, I found an apartment after college that wasn't so dirty. Then again, I also paid more for it. And again, I realized that in moving, you have to figure out what's important to you. I had thought that having somewhere to park my car (check) and being near the loop (check) were important. I unfortunately neglected to factor in the noise of living there. And the fact that being two blocks from Rush meant that I got more than my share of 3am buzzers from friends who wanted to crash in my apartment.

My next apartment was much further north in the city, and I remember waking up my first morning in that apartment hearing birds chirping. I loved it. Absolutely loved it. But here's where I learned another key thing about moving: set ground rules with roommates before you move in with them. Let's just say that after a year and a half, my (male) roommate moved to California. And that I was happy to see him go, especially after he scared off on early relationship when he answered the door (while I was in my room getting ready -- completely oblivious) in his bright yellow very tight boxers. And when I called him on it, he didn't see the problem. Yeah... gotta love friends from college who you don't know quite as well as you thought you did. Until suddenly you know them allllll too well.

After that apartment, I bought my very first own place. And while I loved where I lived, I discovered something else I don't like about moving. I had, shall we say, not the most scrupulous real estate agents at the time. I was young and apparently they thought they could try to take advantage of me. I'm still convinced that I paid too much money for my townhouse, but probably not by a significant amount, and I still made them offer less than they'd wanted me to. I think they were most disappointed when I was approved for a $450,000 mortgage (ok, seriously -- why and how, I have no idea; I could never have come close to affording that much of a mortgage, nor is my mortgage anywhere near that amount now!) that I wasn't interested in looking at homes anywhere in that stratosphere. Bye-bye high commission!

My next move was the next connundrum. When we sold the townhouse when I was pregnant with Little Miss (a two bedroom townhouse and two kids under two do not mix), we hadn't yet found our house. So we put our stuff in storage and moved in with my parents for a few weeks. Who could imagine that it would take that long to find a place? Ten months later, we finally moved out. Oh did I learn my lesson there. Next time (ok, so there won't be a next time, but maybe one of you can learn from my mistake) I am renting an apartment.

And that brings me to my house today. The one that my husband suggested we sell. The one that has all sorts of weird quirks to it, like the wood on the side of my cabinets turning pink and the rose and black and white tiles in the maste bath and the lack of insulation in the front coat closet and the lack of lights in the family and living rooms, but it's my house. And I am so not moving.

Until I downsize. And who knows, maybe by then I will have forgotten all the reasons why I hate moving.

How about you? What are your moving horror stories?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Tasty Tuesday!

I have a fun giveaway for Chicago area families -- if you're interested in seeing Disney on Ice, go check out my review blog. A post is going up tonight (I'm off to write it now!).


Well, it certainly *is* Tuesday, isn't it? This is late for a Tasty Tuesday post for me, but I have a good excuse: apparently our internet was out last night. It was fine when I was working from home, but by the time I got back from yoga, the internet was kaput. Fortunately(?) today I was working from the office, but that also meant that I didn't have a chance to post anything earlier today either.

Never fear (as if you would anyway)! I have one of my favorite winter recipes this week. Angela had asked me if I had a good chicken pot pie recipe, and ohhh but I do. I realized that I had my chicken stew with biscuits recipe posted but not yet the pot pie. Although the recipes are fairly similar, there are truly different dishes.

Chicken Pot Pie

Pie Dough (one double crust pie)
2 c flour
1 1/2 T sugar
3/4 c unsalted butter, chilled
1/4 c shortening, chilled
1/3 c cold water
pinch salt

Put flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Cut the butter and shortening into small pieces and add to the food processor. Pulse mixture until crumbly and butter is in small pieces throughout the flour.

Working quickly, start the processor and add cold water until the mixture just forms a ball. Note that I RARELY use all the 1/3 c of water... only when it is very, very dry in my house and has been for a long time.

Turn out the dough onto a work surface and flatten into two disks. Wrap each disk in plastic wrap and refrigerate two hours.

Chicken Filling:
4 chicken breasts
1/3 c flour
3 T unsalted butter
1/3 c milk
1 carrot, medium dice
2 stalks celery, medium dice
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 bay leaves
3 c chicken stock (low sodium)
2 T parsley, chopped (tarragon and sage also make great additions)
2 c frozen peas (or fresh ones, but really... it's winter)
salt and pepper to taste

Poach chicken, then shred to bite sized pieces.

Heat heavy soup pot over medium heat and add 3 T butter. Add carrot and celery and saute until softened (4-5 minutes). Add garlic and cook 1 minute longer. Stir in 1/3 c flour to make roux, cooking 2 more minutes.

Pour in chicken stock and bring to a boil, then simmer 20 minutes until sauce is like a thick soup. Add 1/3 c milk and the poached chicken pieces. Season to taste with salt and pepper and add parsley. Add the frozen peas, and stir.

While sauce is thickening, make get the pie dough out of the fridge. Roll out the first pie dough into a 10 inch cirle about 1/8 inch thick. Place into a 9 inch pie dish.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Roll out the second pie disk into the same size circle. Using a knife or (my preference) a pizza cutter, cut the circle into 1 inch strips.

Spoon the chicken mixture atop the pie dough in the pie plate. Carefully pick up the smallest strip, and start making a lattice from one edge of the pie. Or be lazy like I am when they start breaking and just make any old fun pattern.

Place the pot pie on a cookie pan lined with a sil pat (yes, it sometimes gets messy). Bake uncovered for 50-60 minutes until the insides are bubbling and the crust is nice and golden. If the crust starts to get too browned, use some tin foil to cover the edges of it.

Mmmmm, yum. And umm yeah. I forgot to take a picture of this. To be honest, it was eighty percent gone when I thought about it, and it wasn't the most appetizing looking at that point. Sorry!

For recipes this yummy and more, visit Tempt My Tummy Tuesday with Blessed With Grace.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Take It Away!

Super powers are cool. Super heroes are cool, too, but really it's their powers that make them cool. Thinking about super powers, there are so many that I'd love to have.

First on the list has to be the power to control time. I'd finally be caught up on my to do list. I could go back and fix all those little oopses that happen on a daily basis. I could stop some really bad things from happening? How perfect would that be?

I'd also love the ability to be invisible. Those times I need to sneak into or out of somewhere and don't want to disturb anyone? Done. Some of those conversations that I'd soooo love to hear so that I better knew what was going on (especially with my wee ones!), I could finally be that proverbial fly on the wall. And just think of the April Fools jokes you could play while invisible....

Flying would also be on my list of super powers I want. It would be more fun than truly useful -- with the exception of reducing commuting times significantly. I love the sensation of falling, and I'd be able to indulge in it regularly with this special talent. And swooping down to save people would be pretty awesome, I think.

But super hearing? It is no fun. Apparently I've recently developed this power, and it's driving me batty.

When I'm sitting in the quiet of my house -- when it's truly quiet and no children are scurrying around -- I'll use the flipper to fast forward something on the DVR. And as I hit the button, I hear a high pitched "bee-bee-beep." I push the button again, and that same high frequency assails my ears. On the plus side, I've been watching a lot less tv lately. Fortunately, the sounds of either the dishwasher or the washing machine are loud enough to overcome it.

And at night, I lay my head down on my pillow and relax to sleep. And that lovely mattress warmer that I have, which I love so dearly, now keeps me from entering that blissful slumber. I've learned that the mattress warmer cycles on and off in its warming. I know this because I can now hear a very quiet humming of the electricity as it pushes heat into the wires.

My husband swears I'm nuts. He doesn't hear it, and he thinks I'm making it up. But no, I'm not. And I've decided that this is one super power that I would prefer to do without.

So what are your favorite (and least favorite) super powers?

Thursday, January 14, 2010

I Thought I Had More Time

There is a time in childrens' lives that every parent dreads. Ok, so to be honest, there are lots of moments that parents dread. We just continue to think they'll never come.

I reached a milestone this week that I thought I had years to reach. Years. Lots of them.

I had no idea that I'd be stumped by kindergarten homework.

Yes, that's right. I was unable to help my kindergartener with his homework. I couldn't figure it out, and even my husband is struggling.

This does not bode well for his grades in high school. *sigh* But I have to give myself a little bit of a reprieve. Space has never been my best subject. There are certain things that I just don't like and therefore never learned anything about -- Mister Man's obsession of dinosaurs is my other big disinterest.

This week, the kindergarteners are charged with watching the night skies. Thank you, teacher, who decided to do the space unit in January when it's freezing (literally) outside instead of waiting until ohhh I don't know, May!

Not only do they need to watch the night sky, but they need to identify it.

Moon? Check.

Big Dipper? Check. (Whoo, go me!)

Little Dipper? Uhhhh, yeah.

Casseopeia? Oh, please.

Orion? Are you kidding me?!

I've never figured out constellations. They just don't make sense to me. They are stars in the sky, and they're pretty. That's about as far as my stargazing knowledge goes.

But this week, I'm spending my time staring at a constellation map and comparing it to the sky. Then I turn my map around and squint to see if that helps. I turn it a bit further and then sigh in frustration.

Did I also mention that we're in a new moon phase, which means there isn't much of a moon to see? At least that makes drawing the moon easy. And thankfully, we don't have to draw the other constellations, just say if we could see them or not.

Tonight I was exceedingly grateful that it was cloudy. We walked outside, saw no stars, turned around, and I know we got the answers right for once!

What was the first homework that stumped you?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Drip Drip Drip Drip

I always have a to do list - as I'm sure most of us do - but somehow, I never seem to get to the bottom of that list. In fact, rarely do I make it

It has finally dawned on me why I seem to wake up, start my day, and then turn around to see that it's suddenly bedtime. It's all the little things that I have to do around the house to make it function properly.

This is a perfect example. This morning, I opened up the dishwasher, and I saw what my family had left for me.

When the dishwasher is turned on with dishes strewn about like this, inevitably one or two gets turned over, and ick gathers in it during the wash cycle. Other dishes quite simply don't get cleaned.

And let's not forget the dishes that don't fit into the dishwasher and are instead sitting on the counter atop the dishwasher.

(On the plus side, they aren't in the sink. I can't stand touching dishes when they've been sitting in the sink. They gross me out, and my husband knows I refuse to do anything with them if he puts them in there. He's slowly learning to avoid this.)

I sighed when I saw the mess. And then I spent the next fifteen minutes unloading and reloading the dishwasher into some semblance of order so that all the dishes would get clean. Note that even the dishes that "didn't fit" are now neatly arranged in the dishwasher. Note, too, that there is even room for additional dishes. Huh.

And then after I redid the dishwasher, I found all the books that were strewn about the house and put them back on their appropriate shelves. Then I resorted the laundry (we have three hampers so each type of clothing can go into its appropriate hamper and I merely have to toss a full hamper into the washer - or so it happens in an ideal world). Next up was taking down all the Christmas decorations that my husband hadn't noticed when volunteering for the job, digging out the Christmas boxes, and unpacking and repacking them so that all the forgotten decorations somehow fit. None of this was on my to do list, of course, but it all needed to be done so that there were no children crying when a certain book was "lost," no white shirts that suddenly came out of the wash pink, and our house was fit for post-holiday entertaining.

I think it's the life of moms that there is the perrenial to do list simply continues on. I have great faith that someday I'll complete that to do list, but until then - if you'll excuse me - I see some Legos on the rug here that are going to get eaten by a cat or lost if I don't put them in the Lego bin soon.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Tasty Tuesday!

After church this weekend, a friend of mine stopped me to tell me that she'd made one of my recipes (they're in a fundraising cookbook) and had really enjoyed it.  As she told me about it, my mouth started watering, and I realized it had been a long time since I'd made this one myself. Granted, I haven't made it in the last twenty-four hours, but I'm hoping this is my reminder and impetus to do so.

And yes, I promise this is another easy one!

Chocolate and Caramel Tart

1/3 c butter, softened
2 oz cream cheese, softened
1 c flour
1 T powdered sugar
2-3 T cold water

In a medium bowl, beat together the butter, cream cheese, and flour. Add the powdered sugar and only enough water as is needed to hold together the dough.

Shape into a flattened ball. Cover with plastic and chill for 30 minutes. Roll out on a lightly floured surface until large enough to fill a 10" tart pan with a removeable bottom.

Caramel Filling
1/3 c butter
1 14 oz can sweetened, condensed milk (NOT evaporate milk!)
2 T packed brown sugar

In a medium saucepan, combine butter, condensed milk, and brown sugar. Stir over medium heat for about ten minutes or until mixture is pale and thick.

Remove from heat and cool slightly. Spread evenly over the crust, and let stand ten minutes until set. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Chocolate Filling
1/3 c butter
1/2 c granulated sugar
3 oz semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
1 egg
1/3 c flour
2 T dark cocoa powder
powdered sugar for dusting

In a small saucepan, combine butter and sugar and heat until butter is melted and mixture is warm. Remove from the heat and stir in the chocolate until melted. Add the egg, flour, and cocoa, and stir until well combined.

Spread over the caramel filling and bake 28-30 minutes or until just set. Cool in the pan. Dust with powdered sugar just before serving.

When I make this, I pretty much finish one step and start the next one, and the timing works out fairly well. This is so good and so rich, but sooo worth it!

Enjoy this and more with Blessed With Grace and Tempt My Tummy Tuesday!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Not Quite Fit For Tasty Tuesday...

The wee ones and I enjoy our baking, and it's fascinating to watch them become enthralled in all aspects of it (with the exception of the time each item spends in the oven, but I do vaguely remember making cookie dough and then running off leaving my poor mom to scoop out all the cookies and bake them, returning only in time to sample the wares).

Whenever we bake, the wee ones want to know what the next ingredient is. They want to smell it and touch it and taste it. And for the most part I let them.

They want to put the ingredients in by themselves, and for the most part, I let them do that, as well. Mister Man is actually getting fairly proficient in scooping out level cups of ingredients.

They're both getting pretty good at cracking eggs, as well. I would never have let them try, but a cooking class I took once had a teacher who kept insisting that she could teach four year olds to crack eggs with one hand. And to be honest, the wee ones generally do a pretty good job with the eggs. They're more prone to become nervous that they're going to spill the egg and have me take over than they are to get shell into the batter.

This of course, is the exception. Little Miss actually cracked the egg and had it break apart and land almost entirely on the counter. For this instance -- and for this instance only -- I used my hand to scrape it off my clean counter (I clean the counter with wipes before and after every cooking and baking endeavor as a matter of course) and dumped it into the bowl.

After we had the dough all mixed up, we had to roll it out. This is generally a job that I do, but the wee ones are becoming more and more adept at using the rolling pin. While I finish things off and make them smooth, they're doing a pretty good job of making it flat.

And for this recipe, we had to roll the dough, use the cookie cutter, roll out more dough, use the cookie cutter, and repeat. It only took one rerolling of the dough before the wee ones were finished with it, and I finished rolling and cutting all 80-some shapes.

And to think I'd originally considered doubling the recipe.

The finished product was proclaimed wonderful to eat by the wee ones, and they even convinced my mom and my sister to try them (they liked the biscuits, as well). Fortunately, we were able to save the majority of the treats for the three dogs currently staying at my parents' house.

And yes, the recipe is completely edible for humans. It's basically a peanut butter and oatmeal cookie. I don't like peanut butter (I know, weird, right?), but everyone who tried to cookies enjoyed them. And the dogs? They gobbled them up!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Well, Ya Can't Argue With That Logic

Tonight, as I put Mister Man to bed, I noticed that his plastic shark that sits above his bed was glowing in the dark. I pointed it out to him, and he quickly grabbed it and started to shove it under his covers.

Whatcha doing, Kiddo?

I need it, Mommy. I need to have it. It's my weapon against monsters.

Ummm, ok. There's only one problem with that, Mister Man.

What's the problem, Mommy?

Welllll, there are no monsters. You know they aren't real.

You don't know that for sure though.

Well, yes, actually I do.

How do you know that for sure, for sure?

Probably because mommies tend to know these sorts of things.

But you don't know this!

I think I do, Sweetie.

But Mom! What if God decides that he needs a little more noise in the world and so he decides that it's time to create some monsters?

Oh. Well, ummm. So if God wanted more noise in the world, creating monsters would be his solution?

Maybe. You never know what God is going to do. So I'm going to keep this shark as my weapon just in case.

He's sort of got a point there. I'm just glad he doesn't have to do the old fashioned catechism, as I can see him giving the poor priests fits with his questions and logic.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Gunning For Mom Of The Year

I'm a good mom. Generally. Most of the time. In fact, I have people say nice things about my parenting skills sometimes.

But I have a secret.


Sometimes, Little Miss asks me to read a book, a certain book. A book that involves Thomas the Tank Engine, and I groan. Now, this isn't an ordinary Thomas book - that cheeky engine who loves to be a helper. No, this is a book that comes from the genre invented by someone who has no children.

This is one of those books that has sounds. Every third word, there is a picture, and a corresponding button that Little Miss is supposed to push that makes a "cute" sound.


Since Little Miss doesn't know how to read (yet!), nor has she memorized where the sounds go, she simply starts pushing them as soon as I turn the page. Then she can't hear what words I read. So she makes me repeat it. Except then she starts pressing the buttons again. And my headache begins.

Sometimes I tell her that Mommy has to work and so can't read to her (even when I've finished working for the day). Sometimes Mommy hides the book for a few days to get a respite. Sometimes I decide that naptime needs to be moved up by a half hour, and unfortunately that means the book can't be read right then. Now that Mister Man reads fluently, sometimes I ask him to read it to her -- and then I go hide elsewhere.

It isn't that I don't enjoy reading to her. We read regularly, and we read all sorts of books (except Barney that I banned from the house). We read together, and we tell stories about what we think the books could be about.

But ohhh those books that make sounds.

The good(?) news is that the batteries are starting to run low. I say this because when batteries in a sound activated toy start going, the sound quality deteriorates (further). That oh-so-adorable noise of Thomas's broken whistler now sounds like fingernails on a chalkboard. The cheerful peep of James is quite mournful. And the thrumming of Harold the Helicopter sounds ... more like paper ripping. And that might be generous.

I keep praying that the batteries will finally conk out. And I keep hiding that book, but somehow it keeps appearing on the bookshelf.

Do you think she'd notice if it was permanently "lost?"

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Goal 1? Accomplished!

Soooo I wrote last Saturday about my goals for the new year. One of the big ones was figuring out what I was going to do about work and just doing it instead of letting the inertia of time carry me along and complaining about it.

I finally made my decision yesterday. I had a plan of exactly what I wanted to do and knew why. In fact, I even wrote the resignation letter, prepared to present it to my boss.

After making my decision, I felt such a sense of peace. I could feel the worry sliding away. There's a book I'm reading where a character's partner describes his attitude towards work as, "I just don't care." It serves him well -- he does his job and does a good job at it, but all the icky things around the job that regularly drive us nuts? He just doesn't care anymore. I wish I could get to that point, but the fact is that I do care. I care way too much, which is why work/life balance is such a challenge for me.

But after making my decision? Calm. And I didn't care about the outcome. I knew I had backup, and I was fine with it. I had nothing to lose.

So today when I had my one on one meeting with my boss, I asked for a leave of absence to spend some time with the wee ones.

Surprisingly, my boss completely understood. When I said it would be at least two months, I could see him blanch a little bit, but he was game. I have an approved leave of absence, and I'm thrilled.

To be honest, I was surprised that it was as easy as it was. In fact, I had a trip to the chiropractor this afternoon because the right side of my neck tensed up so much that I currently (this is after the chiro) can't bend my head forward or to the right. I was expecting it to be more painful, and I detest creating scenes.

I'm not starting the leave immediately, and my boss is grateful that I'm staying to finish up a few critical projects. We still need to figure out the details of it - how do benefits work, what paperwork do we need to fill out, when will I be coming back, and the like.

That is actually going to be the biggest challenge.

My company has moved to a new model of HR where it's all online. Have a question? Search the HR FAQs. FAQs don't answer your question? Open up a case and tell them about it... so they can point you to the FAQs you already read.

But me? I don't care. I have my leave. I have my time, and I haven't made a commitment one way or the other.

For the next two to three months, I'll be able to practice being a stay at home mom, knowing that I have my job waiting in the wings if it doesn't work out. If I'm wrong and need the mental stimulation of the job, it's still there. If I discover that we can't survive only on my husband's salary, I can still regain mine. If I find that the wee ones do better when I'm not around, I can go back.

But right now, I'm not focused on that. I'm thinking about the time I can spend with the wee ones and the energy I can focus on Mister Man for the next couple of months.

Pass the bon-bons, would you?

Monday, January 4, 2010

Smoked Brie Potato Gratin - Tasty Tuesday!

While this isn't the most interesting recipe I've made this week (technically, that one wasn't for humans), I realized that I'd promised on my other blog to post a recipe I tried with my Brie. And I know me. If I don't do it now, I'll forgt!

This was one of those recipes where I fell in love once I ate it, but cooking with Brie wasn't something I would have thought to do on my own (much like the meat puffs I made one night that were a HUGE hit but I can't quite bring myself to post here).

As always, so easy, so yummy... and so staying in the rotation.

Smoked Brie Potato Gratin

1 1/2 lb potatoes (I used baby reds unpeeled, but feel free to use the big Idahoes and peel them)
2 T oil
1 t garlic, chopped
1/4 t nutmeg, grated
8oz Brie
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Melt the butter in a nonstick pan over medium heat. Add the oil and garlic, and cook for a minute until fragrant. Add the potatoes and cook for two more minutes.

Pour in the mlk, and season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Heat the mixture to a slow simmer and cook for ten minutes, stirring occasionally.

Remove from the heat, and pour half the mixture into a shallow oven proof dish. Slice the smoked Brie lengthwise about 1/4 inch and layer on top of the potato mixture. Pour the remaining potato mixture over this and place the baking dish in the oven for fifteen minutes until bubbly and golden brown.

Personally, I cooked it a little longer. And I saved some of the cheese to place on the top layer, too. I also used a mandoline to make sure that I had very thin and very even slices of potato, which I think made a difference. This was wonderful, and so much more complex than your "normal" potato au gratin.

Enjoy this and more over at Tempt My Tummy Tuesday with Blessed With Grace. And head over to my other blog for an Alouette giveaway (it's small but fun!).

Sunday, January 3, 2010

I'm Easily Amused

Ok, I apologize for the lack of pictures. My camera's battery is completely dead at the moment, so you'll have to pretend. My plan is to charge the camera overnight, so fingers crossed you'll get to see pictures tomorrow! ** Pictures have been added.

My husband and I spent the last several days in the Tampa area, as Northwestern was playing in the Outback Bowl. We had a great time there, and man is it cold back in Chicago now. There were several very bizarre things that we saw while there, however, that just made me giggle. And my husband a little bit, too.

My dad was nice enough to drive us to the airport. Of course, this meant that we got to the airport about an hour and a half before we needed to. My dad is a bit of a nervous nelly. It did give my husband and I plenty of time to eat before our 6:30pm flight though.

Having never been to the Macaroni Grill, my husband requested that we eat there. I was fine with that, and we were quickly seated with menus in hand. As I scanned the menu, I noticed a couple of menu items with a chef's hat next to them. I verified at the bottom of the page and saw that the little chef hat means it's a restaurant favorite. I also saw an icon for the more healthy fare. Next step, I checked for all the items with the healthy icon.

Then I checked the next page. And went back to the first set of pages. That's when I started giggling. There were two icons on the menu, but for whatever reason, there were no menu items that correlated with it. Silly, but it made me giggle. And no, I didn't take a picture of this one, although I later regretted it.

The following night, my husband and I went to the hockey game (they were playing the Habs, and the Habs won in overtime - yay!). During the first intermission, we hung out in the mezzanine with our companion who joined us, as he was in search of food. I looked to my left, and I saw someone who was just not ready to buy a new jersey, although he really ought to have. Apparently the man kept growing and growing (out, not up), and he eventually put a slit into the seam of his jersey on the side so that it "fit" once again. I couldn't keep my eyes away after noticing it. Creative way to ensure that your wardrobe expands with you.

And lastly, my husband and I were walking in the area near our hotel when my husband discovered a Penthouse Club. Granted, I know Tampa is somewhat famous for its many and randomly located strip clubs, but I wasn't expecting to walk past one.

My husband first joked that we should stop there for lunch (we were headed for a restaurant at the time) and have a steak. I laughed it off. Until we got closer and realized that there was actually a steak house in the Penthouse Club.

And even better? Said Penthouse Club is immediately next to and sort of attached to an Extended Stay America hotel. I actually think it's a brilliant bit of marketing. You've got your business traveler staying in Tampa for an extended period of time, knowing few people and bored once he finishes his work day. But look! There's entertainment mere steps from his door. It's just too perfect.

Ironically, I didn't take too many other pictures while I was there. We were having too much fun. Except for the pouring down rain during the bowl game. Fortunately, we both had ponchos by the time we made it into the stadium (boo to the stadium for not selling them inside, the stores near our hotel that were sold out, our hotel gift shop that was sold out, and the merchandise stands outside the stadium that weren't selling them).

However, my poor purple Pumas were soaked within the first two minutes of exiting the cab at the stadium. By the time we got back to the hotel, I had a solution. I simply removed my shoes and socks (which were also soaked through), plugged in the hotel hair dryer, and proceeded to dry my socks and shoes. It worked. Slowly, but it worked. Then again, maybe that's a picture I'm glad I didn't take!

I hope you had a great New Year's as well -- and no, I don't need to recap the bowl game, thank you very much.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Add Me To The Bandwagon

It's that time of year, and I've seen so many resolutions that people have offered up in the past week. Generally, I shy away from resolutions knowing that they tend to be quickly broken and so often forced - if you're to believe what you read from the "experts" every year around this time.

Last year, my resolution was simple: to do something just for myself once a day, no matter how small that thing was. It could be reading a chapter in a book or having a piece or chocolate or snoozing the alarm clock - whatever tickled my fancy. I didn't do horribly at this, but I definitely wasn't focused on it after awhile. It was too vague in some ways, although the intention was right.

This year, I've spent a lot of time figuring out that really what matters is being happy, so I'm concentrating not on the nebulous goal of "being happy" but rather on some of the concrete things that I think should help to push me further in that direction on a regular basis. Fortunately, it's not like I'm *un*happy now the majority of the time.

My first resolution is that I need to either fish or cut bait. I've complained previously, both here and to friends, about how I don't enjoy my job anymore for a number of reasons and how I'd love to quit and stay home. Yet I haven't submitted my resignation. It's really hard to walk away from a job in this economy, as I've pointed out before. But no one wants to hear someone complaining about something and not doing anything about it -- including me. This year, I either need to a) fix my job, b) quit and stay home or c) deal with it and say no more on the topic.

Secondly, I want to spend more time doing things and less time thinking about how much work they're going to be. (Ok, so this one is somewhat nebulous. Deal with it.) I'm the queen of making commitments and then procrastinating because I know how much work it's going to be. Then I actually do whatever it is that I've committed to, and it's never so painful as I've made it out to be in my head. I'd rather just be done with things and avoid the stress.

Along those lines, I really need to organize a couple of key things:

The first is the office in my house. It's become the repository of Things That Don't Really Have A Home, and whenever the cleaning ladies come, more items migrate in that direction. I have a folded up Northwestern rug that I received for Christmas three years ago sitting on an old entertainment center. Both need to be removed. I have a volcano science experiment of Mister Man's sitting on the same entertainment center, and I should really just do it one day. The list goes on and on -- I have a plan of what I want to do in that room, but there is probably three or four days of solid work to be done in that room to get everything sorted and organized, and to get that entertainment center cleared off enough that I can get it donated elsewhere to move in some appropriate furniture instead.

I also need to organize the wee ones' baby books. I have notes here and there on many of their firsts, and more are in my head (such as Mister Man's first words of "NO NO NO NONONONONO" when we were in the hospital day three of four at seventeen months for rotovirus). None of this is captured in a baby book, and I want to do this for them as much as for me. Ditto on photo printing and arranging. I have photos starting with a 2001 trip to Seattle that are still sitting in digital format on my computer. You can only imagine how much work I have ahead of me on that one.

The other big thing that I resolve to focus on is not saving things. I tend to be a collector of things rather than a user of them. I've only recently started to figure out why it's so hard for me to "waste" something special - ignoring the fact that some things are only good for a certain amount of time before they're worthless (witness me doing my marathon free coupon day earlier this week for items that all expired on December 31). Again, being able to take pleasure in things - and I'm talking about everything from "fancy" linen replacement napkins that I received as a sample from a vendor in 1998 (literally) to gift cards to restaurants to bath salts. The pleasure I get from them shouldn't be in the receiving of them but in the enjoyment from using them.

It's ironic, but all the things that I am resolving to focus on are items that create stress in my life. Why I allow those areas the power to put stress on me when it's all in my control is beyond me. But I think I really just need to deal with them. All.

So cross your fingers for me as I hold my breath and ask for a leave of absence when I return to the office on Tuesday. Hey, it's a step in the right direction, right?

So what are your resolutions for 2010?

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