Monday, November 30, 2009

Thanksgiving Recap

On this final day of November, I believe it is time to retire my list of Thankful Things that has been living in my sidebar all month long.  But I want to preserve my list so indulge me while I restate all that I have been and am thankful for these past 30 days.  Note, these are in reverse order of appearance...I wasn't thinking about decorating for Christmas on November 1st!
  1. decorating for Christmas!
  2. makes so many things easy
  3. online shopping
  4. safe travel
  5. my sister-in-law's cooking skills and acumen
  6. hugs and kisses from my sons
  7. photography
  8. my quiet time in the house before the family wakes up
  9. music
  10. my education
  11. temps in the 60's in November
  12. forgiveness
  13. that my boys still snuggle with me on the couch
  14. mocha lattes!!!!!
  15. the brief, albeit infrequent, moments of rational communication with my children...I can see those little adults forming in there
  16. Sunday night TV time with my husband
  17. Post-it Notes and Sharpies
  18. everyday options, choices and liberties
  19. my husband and our wonderful relationship
  20. freedom and those who sacrifice for it
  21. funny things
  22. boys, specifically my two
  23. my public library
  24. all the photos of me from the 80's that my friend posted on FB today
  25. the double-ended rainbow I saw yesterday and the feeling of amazement that followed
  26. deep, enduring friendships
  27. herbes de provence
  28. second chances
  29. laproscopic surgical procedures
  30. my woolly socks
I hope you had a wonderful, thankful Thanksgiving holiday!

      Tuesday, November 24, 2009

      Thanksgiving in a Random Sense

      In the spirit of fun and games, here is my Thanksgiving Random Dozen. Wanna play?  Answer the questions on your blog and link you answers here. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

      1. Are you sticking to traditional Thanksgiving foods this year, or are you being culinarily adventurous?  I am trying a new tradition..going to my brother & sister-in-law's home. We'll see how close they stick to tradition...I don't think they will stray too far.

      2. Tell me something concrete that you're thankful for. (Something you can literally touch, see, etc., not a concept like "hope.")  I am thankful for my husband and two sons.  They are the bright lights in my life.

      3. You knew the flip side was coming: Share about something intangible that you're thankful for.  The ability to change.

      4. Share one vivid Thanksgiving memory. It doesn't have to be deep or meaningful, just something that remains etched in your memory.  One year (when I probably around 8 or 9, my dad and oldest brother had a turkey eating contest...who could eat the most?  I don't remember who won but I do recall it got very competitive.

      5. What is one thing that you know beyond a shadow of a doubt is going to happen this Thanksgiving because it always does, year after year?  Easy...overeating.

      6. Do your pets get any left-overs?  I have cats and not so much sharing of table scraps.

      7. Does your family pray before the big meal? If so, do you join hands while seated, stand, repeat a formal prayer or offer a spontaneous prayer? Who does the praying?  Yes, holding hands, sometimes standing if it's a large group, seated if it's just the four of us.  Who speaks depends on who is present.  If it's just the four of us, we all repeat our family prayer together and then add our individual words of thanks at the end.

      8. Will you be watching football in the afternoon? If not, what will you be doing?  I am sure there will be football on a TV somewhere around me...but I likely won't be paying much attention to it.

      9. There are two distinct camps of people on this issue: How do you feel about oysters in the dressing/stuffing? That is so wrong...I can't begin to tell you all the ways it is wrong!

      10. Do you consider yourself informed about the first Thanksgiving?  Absolutely...just read 2 very detailed books with my boys.  I can spout details about the Wampanoag, Samoset, Squanto, Myles Standish, John Alden...should I stop now?

      11. Which variety of pie will you be enjoying? All of the pies...but must agree with Joyce about angel pie...for those who have never had this delicacy, you have no idea that your meal really has never been complete.

      12. Do you feel for the turkey?? (This is a humorous throw back question related to the 12th question in another Random Dozen.) I used to...I was vegetarian for 10 years...but tofurkey just doesn't quite do it like a real bird can!  Bring on the bird!

      Monday, November 23, 2009

      T-shirts Now Available...Supplies are Limited

      A thought came to me as I read a friend's blog about her desire for perfection and her ensuing frustration when it doesn't arrive.  I've been there.  Haven't you?  Driving myself crazy expecting, demanding even, things to work out to my precise specifications only to come away perturbed by my less than ideal outcome.  Why do we do this?  Time and again?  My husband points out (repeatedly, I am sad to say) that if I would, could just let things happen as they do and not force my expectant frame around them, I'd be alot happier.  I think this expectation of doing everything and doing it the best comes with the "mom territory". Most moms I know, at some point, deride themselves for not doing enough, not doing things well enough, not being ten places at one time, not juggling every ball thrown their way, (insert your favorite personal lament).

      That is not to say that you shouldn't have expectations, intentions of doing your best...just don't hang on to them after the fact and ruminate on the gap.  Let go. Learn to accept the good (read: what I expect) with the bad (read: what I didn't expect).  Cut yourself some slack for not getting everything exactly right every time.

      So my first step toward this end is the adoption of my new slogan:

       I like it.  Takes some pressure off straight away.  Feel free to adopt it as your own. Oh, and what size t-shirt do you wear?

      Sunday, November 22, 2009

      Training the Spirit as Well as the Body

      Tang Soo Do is a Korean martial art form. It is the type of karate that my sons practice. TSD focuses on what you typically picture when karate pops into mind: punching, kicking, and sparring. Before our exposure to TSD, I generally had a negative idea of karate for kids...courtesy of the evil dojo (a martial arts training school) led by the unethcial sensei (Japanese teacher) from The Karate Kid. But our experience has revealed that TSD also includes dimensions of self-awareness, self-control, humility and respect, good stuff to know at any age. And the boys' sensei and dojo hold no resemblance to the ones that Daniel LaRusso was up against.

      However, the boys' experience is like Daniel's in some respects. They have their own Mr. Miyagi, you know, the "wax on, wax off" guy. Their real life Mr. Miyagi is Mr. B.  Mr. Miyagi had Daniel washing and waxing his classical cars under the pretense of teaching him karate.  My boys aren't waxing Mr. B's car or painting his fences but they are doing Mr. B's bidding in class...repeating kick after kick, form after form.

      Just like Daniel, I thought all that "wax on" stuff was just movie metaphors and a means to getting Mr. Miyagi's paint to gleam.  I mean, how can you learn karate, or anything for that matter, without actually doing the thing you are trying to learn?  How can you master say, horseback riding, when all you practice is riding a bicycle?

      Well, there is some truth to the sensei's madness.  My oldest son recently tested for his TSD green belt.  As part of the test, he was required to break two one-inch thick wooden boards with specific kicks.  Just so you know, this boy is barely 60 lbs and they don't practice breaking in class...EVER. They don't really talk much about breaking boards, as far as I know.  I was nervous for him.  How was he going to break these boards?  When the breaking part of the test came, he positioned himself, focused his mind and ...THWACK...split the board right down the middle!  And then he did it again with a second kick!

      All of our faces, my husband's, my son's and mine, held surprise after the boards split.  Only Mr. B's face remained unfazed.  How did this happen without actually practicing with boards?  All of the air kicks and phantom opponents he has kicked over the past several months had primed him for the boards.  It's all about positioning, muscle memory,  and the ability to visualize an end result.  And belief. Training the spirit as well as the body. Wax on, wax off.  Mr Miyagi  and Mr. B knew.

      Sunday, November 15, 2009

      Flight Patterns

      We enjoyed tonight's sunset, marveling at the flight pattern that we live under. Wow.

      Saturday, November 14, 2009

      Bone Loss and Twinkies

      Tonight I had a date with my six-year-old. He chose the activities...breakfast for dinner followed by snuggly movie time on the couch. Wall-E was showing. This was a special "just us" time. He is a funny kid and has a unique take on things. Here is a random snatch of his outward monologue during the movie:
      Tinkerbell is the queen of Disney. She's the one who flies over the castle and shoots it with fireworks.
      Wall-E's watching a love show..eeww.
      Cool, the roach just went inside the Twinkie!
      What's bone loss?
      Wall-E is using a fire distinguisher to fly in space.  I wish I could do that.
      "Stream of consciousness" when referred to its use in writing is defined by (one of my fave websites) as "a special form of interior monologue and is characterized by associative (and at times dissociative) leaps in syntax and punctuation that can make the prose difficult to follow, tracing a character's fragmentary thoughts and sensory feelings."   I think the above sampling is a perfect example.

      And by the way, our date night was great.

      Friday, November 13, 2009

      Reuse and Recycle

      In the spirit of recycling, I am participating in the Flashback Friday spurred by Texan Mama and reposting an old post from several months back.

      This old post is actually timely for me today since I had a humbling treadmill experience.  I fancied myself a runner for the last several years until my gallbladder decided that it needed some attention.  Long story short:  running life halted while gall bladder had its little fit.  Gall bladder is now gone and today was the first day back on the treadmill.  Result:  one measly mile...walking, not running.  But that's okay. Small steps make the journey.

      And so on to the Flashback: Make Every Day a Race Day (Originally Posted May 3, 2009)

      Today was not the May 3rd I planned for back in January. I was supposed to be running my half-marathon today. My derailed training required me to spectate rather than participate today. That's fine, in fact, better than fine. I got the opportunity to provide support to some great friends who have done the same for me in the past. I got to watch people I care about do great things. I got to experience the race atmosphere again. I got to ride my bike in the rain like a kid.

      I got up at 6, loaded my bike in the back of the van and drove to a friend's house that was near the race route. We rode over to the route and stood outside under swollen grey clouds at mile 6 as the first runners came by. I cheered as several friends passed by and continued to cheer for countless strangers. The clouds burst around 7:45 and continued spilling out the rest of the day.

      Once the certain people I was there to see passed mile 6, my friend and I mounted our bikes and rode in the rain over to mile 12 to catch our running friends on the second part of the race. We cheered for everyone:
      "You're doing it!"
      "Keep it up!"
      "Way to go!"
      When each of my running friends came by, I either rode or ran alongside them as long as I could during their last few miles, giving them words of encouragement that I know they wanted and needed at that time. I met them each at the finish line and was so thrilled to see their satisfied faces of accomplishment. Even though I didn't run today, I am so happy for them. I had the best time watching it all unfold. Good on you, ladies!

      I wish I could have a race atmosphere around me all the time. It is a very energetic place to be. The crowd cheers for everyone, no matter how fast or slow you go. Sometimes you get louder, more impassioned cheers when you aren't performing so well. People love underdogs. No matter how perfect or awkward your stride is, the crowd loves you. Wouldn't it be great if everyday, in life, everyone really wanted everyone else to do their best, just like in a race? What if we all had our own personal cheering section to follow us around? What if you cheered a stranger on for doing what they do, challenging them to just do it the best they can? I can hear it now:
      To the grocery store produce worker, "Way to stack those melons! Awesome!"
      To the mailcarrier, "You can deliver that mail! You're doing it!"
      To the mom doing laundry, "You can sort those clothes! Keep it up!"
      I imagine my personal cheering section as I am unloading the dishwasher, "Go, go, go! Plates! Cups! Now silverware!!! You're the best! Don't stop now!" Gosh, they really love what I am doing here. I must be doing it right.

      Tap into your personal cheering section as you go about your day. Give yourself cheers for doing what you do. And do your best. As for strangers, you might be misunderstood if you actually cheered for the guy behind the counter. Maybe just a "thank you" would suffice.

      Wednesday, November 11, 2009

      Could I Borrow Your Eyeliner? I Used All of Mine.

      If you've checked out my list of thankful things just over to the right of this post, you've seen the reference to the "vintage" photos of me that a friend posted on Facebook.  I actually am thankful for them.  They brought back so many fun memories of a younger, care-free me.  Not that the older, care-full me is bad.  I like me now better than I liked myself then, you know teenage angst and all.  But these pictures captured some pretty silly, joyous moments and none of that pubescent perturbation (NOT what you think.  Look it up, weirdo) was peaking through.

      Like this one for instance...

      This is clearly the image of a self-assured woman-to-be, not a self-conscious woman-child. Confidence actually jumps out of the photo, as does my hair.

      And then, let's not forget this little gem...

      This was after a long day of clarinet sectionals and marching drills at band camp. What young girl wouldn't need to express her joy of a day well spent than to fling her body, Nestea-plunge style on the twin bed of her dorm room whilst wearing an all too stylish headband?

      And my personal favorite...

      The dramatic high school parking lot makeup application shot. Everything was bow, the height of my hair, all I needed was just a little more eye makeup. This conjures feelings I haven't felt since I last watched "The Breakfast Club". Gotta love the 80's.

      If you'll stop laughing at these pictures for a moment, I'll get back to the point of this thankfulness about these pictures. I am thankful that I can laugh at myself. And now you can get back to laughing at me too!

      Tuesday, November 10, 2009

      More Mac n' Cheese Please!

      I have two boys and I thought that we have been a busy family. The boys are in elementary school and have extracurricular activities. I thought that our schedule in the past was full. But now, as all the Fall activities are now under full swing, I see that we really were not that busy in the past. How could we have been that busy...if we actually had been, we wouldn't have time for the new commitments that somehow have been squeezed into our weekly routine. I realize that while we were sprinting around town getting to scouts and karate on time last year, there was only one child's schedule to contend with. My youngest was just along for the ride last year, with only one activity of his own. He played baseball in the Spring, but now both boys are active in karate, scouts, and piano. And the my oldest has added band and chorus. Not to mention their homework demands have grown this year too. And then there was the optional science fair which my science guys of course opted for. How do people do this?!!!

      I have prided myself on the fact that we have had family dinner almost every night of the week since my oldest was born. Now I find more often that our dinners are enjoyed slugged down in shifts and the meals are less home-cooked than I prefer. The kids are happy...the more mac n' cheese the better as far as they are concerned. But while my husband rushes in and I rush out the door to take our carpooling shifts to the boys activities, I wonder where this will lead? Will we like it when we get there?

      I would go on and blog a bit more about this, but we're on our way to piano lessons. Gotta go!

      Wednesday, November 4, 2009

      I Have a Mouse in My Hand and I'm Not Afraid to Use it!

      I sit right now doing something I have never done before. I am simultaneously working on two computers. Yes, I am blogging right now on this one. And there is another computer right here, on the same desk, on which I am doing computery things. I know that's not really a word, but I am multitasking in this way because I have taken on a new role in our household. I am now the official Chief Technology Officer. I gave myself this job when I decided that it was time that a second computer in the house have internet capabilities. Sounded like a good idea a week ago. Get the kids' computer internet-able so my laptop wouldn't be exposed to the hazards of two boys, so my external hard drive wouldn't be haphazardly thrown to the floor again and my hubbie and I wouldn't have to volley for internet time. Like I said, that all sounds good. Right?

      So with some encouragement from a techie friend, I trot down to BestBuy and acquire my very own wireless PCI adapter. Oh sorry, did I fall into my techie jargon? I apologize to you non-techies, that's just a card that makes your computer talk to your modem without the encumbrance of all those annoying cords. (Foreshadowing...a little bit of knowledge only makes you dangerous...) So I install the software and the card with no problems. I download the most recent Mozilla Firefox browser. I setup shortcuts on the desktop to my kids' fave and only parentally-approved websites. I upgrade our virus protection. In less time than it takes me to decide what to cook for dinner, I get all this done and the kids are happily playing on It really looks like I know what I am doing and have earned my new CTO title.

      Then, it starts...the error messages. Actually, the one error message but it comes repeatedly. It slows down the computer's processing. It is annoying. So I run another full virus scan, just in case. But all is clear. (As an aside, all of this techie talk should be very impressive to the reader. I am NOT, repeat NOT a technical person. But it is amazing what you can do and learn by simply reading and being a bit brave with your computer.)

      Anyway back the suspense, I Google and I now know what wuauclt.exe means (I won't bore you with those details, but it has to do with the operating system...WINDOWS!!!!) Guess what? Now I get to uninstall my new wireless adapter. The kids cry when their new internet privileges are put on hiatus. I upgrade to the most recent operating system (WINDOWS!!!!) (This is in CAPS to show you that I have been yelling my frustration at WINDOWS for the last several days). I reinstall my wireless...and I still get the mean error message. I call tech support. The wireless people point their fingers at the Windows people. And I can't even get through to talk to the Windows people to know where their fingers are (ahem).

      Out of desparation, I perform a full system restoration back to one full week prior to my appointment as CTO. This means, all that I have installed (and uninstalled and reinstalled) is wiped away clean as if the old CTO were still at the helm. This fixes the error message issue but now I am back to square one with no internet on this second computer. Arrgggh!! So I do what all good executive level management would do. I delegate the problem. I email all of this info to the old CTO (aka my husband) who actually happens to do this kind of thing for a living. Problem should be fixed by evening and I can happily write my next blog post on either one of our internet-able computers I so choose. I think I am going to like this new CTO job afterall.

      Monday, November 2, 2009

      Let the Thanksgiving Games Begin!

      I already started a bit of giving thanks on my blog earlier to day with my morning post. Then it was brought to my attention that Leah at South Breeze Farm hosts a month long challenge whereby you post something you are thankful for each day. Since I already have one day down, I might as well see how far I can go with this in the month. So I've started a sidebar list of my thankful things. You can do it too. Just go to South Breeze for the button and start your list.


      November is the month of gratitude. As I wake this morning, looking forward to the next holiday to come, I think of what I am grateful for today. There is so much. And so many people, the first of which are my parents. Where to begin? They are far from perfect, flawed like us all. But through the shear number of years, they have experienced so much and have moved through it all to get to a place where they are grateful for every day they spend together and with those they love. They recently spend many days here, nursing me after a surgery, playing with my sons, chauffeuring them to karate, scouts, school and more. They were tireless, taking on my duties like a young couple.

      My gratitude to them extends much beyond these past few weeks. While there were times when I may not have felt this way, I am now at the point in my life to recognize the sacrifices and struggles my parents endured to raise my brothers and me. It wasn't easy. Issues abounded. It was a family with all the requisite flaws. We have the scars to prove it. But through it all, their love for all of us and each other endures. And truly they are the example of living a life of gratitude. Each day, better than the one before.

      Sunday, November 1, 2009

      Just One More Day of It..

      Halloween is over but indulge me for one more day. We had our annual Halloween party last night and I must share with you the fun we had. About 4 or 5 years ago(I have lost count) we, along with a few neighbors, began our Halloween tradition of a pre-trick or treating dinner at one of our homes followed by the sugar solicitation. The party has grown in number and fun each year. The first year I believe we had 3 families amounting to 11 people.

      Last night there were at any given time 20 adults in our cozy kitchen and 14 children in the basement. Our late '60s home doesn't have the open floor plan that you would think best to accommodate such a gathering, but it was intimate (read shoulder-to-shoulder,but in a good way) and a great time.

      The fare is generally the same each year: the host's best chili offering with all the fixins', lots of delicious appetizers brought to share, chicken nuggets and homemade mac n' cheese, apple cider for the kids and liquid cheer for the adults. Dessert is enjoyed wrapper by wrapper after trick-or-treating.

      Our neighborhood is a real gem. It is a mix of young families all the way to retired couples and widows. Only about 1 out of 10 houses keeps their light on for the trick-or-treaters. So the outing requires lots of walking between "treats". We usually hit only about 10 houses. This may not sound like the ultimate Halloween experience with a big candy haul. But we love it. There is very little traffic so our goblins can run happily from house to house (wearing glow sticks of course) while the adults stroll behind watching it all unfold. There is even one lovely neighbor lady that invites us all in each year, fawns over the children's costumes, gives all the kids holiday-themed stuffed animals and allows the adults to rest their weary feet for a few moments. It all seems very Normal Rockwellish to me. The best part to me is that our kids do not know the overwhelming spectacle that Halloween can be. I'll keep it quaint as long as I can.

      This year was especially enjoyable since Halloween fell on Saturday. There was no thought of ending the evening early to get home to bed on a school night. We even convinced ourselves that "falling back" the time would actually help. No thought (or any one that was really enforced) to limit the candy consumption. We let the kids stay up way too late, eat way too many treats, and play and laugh until they could barely keep their eyes open. They loved it. And believe or not, the price we paid today in cranky kid-mood was not too bad.

      It gets easier and more fun each year as the kids grow up. So as long as they still want to spend Halloween with their parents, we'll keep having this party of neighbors and friends. And when the kids are older and want to go out with their friends and their plans no longer include us, I hope that we adults still get together and comfort each other about the fact that our children are growing up. In the meantime, we can all enjoy the memories of...

      Fire Ant circa 2004Sticky Frog circa 2004 The 2005 CrewCowboy and Wild Cat circa 2006The 2008 CrewAnd the most recent, 2009