Friday, November 30, 2012


Natalie might not be the greatest sleeper during the night and we might still have to employ the ten minutes of "cry-it-out" once she is placed in her crib.........but there is one thing that is NEVER a battle in our house.





None of it.

As Natalie's sitter Rebecca once said when I picked her up and she was still noshing on goldfish, "she's been eating for awhile, snack time is never really over for Natalie."

That's my girl.  Like mother (and father, quite frankly) like daughter.

I outgrew Happy Meals by the time I was in grade school and as a growing preteen I was out-eating my much older brother at dinnertime.  Full disclosure, I had a hyper-active thyroid condition in my youth along with a heart murmur plus plain old genetics which all led to me being taller than my 5'6 mother by the time I entered sixth grade.  My body was on a metabolic overdrive all the time which caused me to sprout up, be super skinny and eat everything in sight.

Now that I am quickly approaching thirty my metabolism has obviously slowed down and having a baby certainly hasn't helped things, I definitely have to be more mindful of what I eat as well as how much of it I consume.

But even though Natalie is naturally a great eater there still are things that Craig and I have tried to implement in order to ensure she continues to be one.

First and foremost, she eats what we eat.  If we are having a scheduled, pre-planned dinner then she will not be receiving her own specially cooked dinner.  I am not a short order cook.  Of course there are those nights when we pull out all the Tupperware containers from the kitchen and have a buffet where she can have whatever she wants but if I'm cooking....that's what she's eating, at least in some form.

We don't make a big deal out of trying new foods.  I try to put three things on her plate that I know she likes and maybe one new or unusual food just to see.  Sometimes she tries the new food and likes it but if she doesn't, I don't make a big production about her not being willing to try something different.  I offer and if she says "no" then I say okay and suggest she eat something that she does enjoy.  Last night was zucchini, tilapia and spaghetti with a homemade alfredo-type sauce.  I put a little bit of everything on her plate along with some raspberries and she ate everything except the pasta to which she kindly refused.  What more can you ask from a toddler?

We also don't worry if she doesn't eat much at dinner.  She is a toddler.  Their bodies are growing at different times which requires more (or less) food on any given day.  I want my dinner table to be a pleasant atmosphere so I refuse to battle an almost two-year-old over food.  If she isn't hungry at dinner, chances are she will be when she wakes up in the morning.  She will not starve.

People are not cows and therefore we do not graze.  Natalie eats breakfast, lunch and dinner......with an afternoon snack built in after her nap.  If she is starting to get a little restless before dinner then she can eat a cracker but I don't let the snack cabinet get raided anytime she throws a fit.  There is also no eating in the car, but that's just been ingrained into my head from years spent living with an autobody repairman.

Do not engage with the terrorist.  There will be those days.  OH.  There are DEFINITELY those days when I swear her head turns all the way around and she is about to projectile vomit on me.  Natalie obviously has her not-so-sweet moments but Craig and I try to remain calm at the dinner table.  If she wants to throw her food we just calmly say "I guess you are done eating" and remove the plate from in front of her before continuing with our conversation.  I give her a few moments to collect herself and then ask if she would like to keep eating.  Sometimes the answer is yes and other times it is no.  Either way, I don't let her know that her negative behavior has rattled me.  In the extreme case where Natalie is complete unruly and unmanageable either Craig or myself will remove her from the table and sit in time-out with her on the foot of the stairs.

And now with that all being said and put out into the universe, let's see karma come back and bite me in the butt.  Ha.

But in all reality, these are the expectations that Craig and I have decided work best for us in our home.  Mealtime is a chance to get together in the evenings and connect with one another about their day.  I enjoy eating dinner with both Natalie and Craig and we want to preserve the sanctity of the family meal in our home.  So far this set of guidelines has helped us navigate what can sometimes be treacherous territory when it comes to feeding a small child.


So I'm a little late on the "thankful" posts, but better late than never, right?

I have an abundance of things to be thankful for in my life so I've tried to narrow it down just a bit to the biggest and most important.

First and foremost are my parents and the unconditional love they not only show me but my daughter as well.  I could write an entire post full of stories of their kindness, compassion, sympathy and dedication that they have shown to me in my lifetime but I don't have the time nor the Kleenex.  Some people in my past might have called my upbringing pretty "Leave it to Beaver" because my childhood was stable, secure and full of love and laughter.  I always knew there would be food on the table and seated at that table would be people who were looking out for my best interests.  I felt safe, cared for and cherished.  My parents also stressed the fact that without the deep love they have for each other....none of the rest of our family would have been possible.  They provided a wonderful model for a Christian marriage - God first, spouse second and children third.

Granddaddy holding his only granddaughter for the very first time.

Nonna and her granddaughter.

The three generations of women.

And without their model of how men and women should treat one another within a relationship, I never would have been able to recognize what I could have and build with this man.
We have really seemed to hit a stride this fall - life has been crazy with all the insane STUFF we've dealt with but we are solid.  We are good.  We have somehow managed to find a great balance of the marriage-family-work-personal thing and we are just chugging along.  He is by far my best friend which is why I knew I needed to marry him in the first place.

And without him and the life we built together, I wouldn't have this little munchkin.
Oh my dear, sweet little girl.  She truly is a joy in my life from her giggles to her love for baby dolls and even to her determined nature.  I am enjoying getting to know and understand this darling daughter of mine and even on the days when "NO!" is her favorite word, she is still a blessing in my life.

Our family portrait taken when Natalie was fourteen months old.

I have known these two ladies, Heather and Amy since we were all in grade school together.  Our friendship over the past twenty (eek! TWENTY) years has seen it's fair share of heartbreak, catastrophes, anguish, joy, celebration and tragedy.  We have attended each other's weddings, birthday parties and baby showers but we also have mourned the loss of a father and held vigil after the overdose of a brother.  The three of us are an interesting mix of bubbling creativity, organized realism and take-charge intelligence.  

They are MY Ya-Ya Sisterhood.

And this lady named Kate and I have literally known each other since we were born.  Our mothers met in a Bible study and then taught pre-school together as well.  All our childhood photos involve one another - me as the tall and serious brunette and she the petite and lively redhead.  And now there is a second generation of friends Natalie is ten months older than baby Audrey.  Kate and I have shared the woes and joys of motherhood, marriage and dealing with in-laws over margaritas and Mexican food.  I am thankful that I truly have her in my life because she gives great advice and always with a needed dose of humor and sarcasm.

And then THIS happened with Amy.  Because it's really not a kid's birthday party without a belly & duck face photo.

My dear, sweet Angelina Marie.  This is one of my most favorite pictures of her because it shows the intensity of her eyes.  Angie is such an interesting dog and certainly not one with mass appeal, but she is my girl and my comfort.  I'm going to sound like one of those crazy dog people (which I probably am) but she and I have a certain understanding and we really share a wonderful bond.

And here is Mr. Ajax.  I'm thankful that this guy ventured into our lives almost one year ago in January.  He is Craig's buddy and is almost always willing to put up with Natalie's shenanigans.  Like this morning....he dutifully sat in bed with her as she "read" him the stories and showed him pictures from her books.  He is gentle, sweet, peaceful and loyal.  And a good antidote for Angie's attitude.

In my life, I have been very blessed with the amount of travelling I've done.  I've been places, I've seen things and I've gotten a good antidote for the ethnocentrism that seems to exist here in the United States.  I know how lucky and privileged I am to live in a country where I have freedom, safety and independence from tyranny.  But I also have visited countries where they are equally as proud (and rightfully so) of their heritage, history and culture.  

Travelling has given me great perspective.  

And very good stories to tell when I am older.
June 2007: Sipping on summer beer in Munich.

August 2010: Standing in front of the Trevi fountain in Rome.

June 2007: Walking along the remnants of the Berlin Wall.

March 2006: My parents in the square of St. Marks in Venice, Italy.

August 2010: The kick-off concert of the European leg of the U2 tour.

March 2006: Standing under the plaque in room of the Vatican Museum that is dedicated to my great-grandmother.

March 2006: The island of Capri, Italy where my mother and grandmother spent their summers.

My life and my heart are full of love for good people, memories of good times, and lot of hope for the future.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Early Morning Worries

It's 12:38 in the morning and I am awake.

Exhausted and my eyes are thick and heavy but my brain is going 100 miles a minute.

I can't shut it off.

I've done all my usual "tricks" and nothing is working.

So I'm here.  I'm going to list out all my thoughts and my worries in the hope that physically sending them out into the universe will help quiet my head.

1. Family issues are stressing me out.  I take things too personally and look for the negative in every statement.  After being so hurt for so long, I am automatically defensive regardless of the situation.  It's not right and it's not healthy but it's where I'm at right now.

2. The if and when of a second child.  Craig and I talked about this last night over beverages and dessert.  Why do I want another child?  Is it just to have a second chance at a "good" pregnancy and postpartum period....because that's certainly a selfish reason to bring a child into the world.  I want Natalie to have a sibling and Craig and I most definitely have the capability to love and cherish another child.  But another child is expensive and there just never seems to be enough money....we're still dealing with his medical bills and then of course the prospect of another (unpaid) maternity leave is overwhelming.

3. The backyard is a hot mess.  Neither of us seem to have found the time, energy or inspiration to get out there and take care of the weeds and overgrowth that has arisen since the end of summer.  It's atrocious and ugly and embarrassing but yet I haven't done anything about it.  And then that little voice in the back of my head says "your parents NEVER had such a terrible looking backyard - you certainly aren't as good a homeowner as THEY are."

4. Speaking of which, I still have two loads of laundry in the washer and dryer that have been waiting to be finished, folded and put away since Wednesday.

5. Christmas, Christmas, Christmas.  I honestly try to put a lot of thought and effort into buying presents for people.  I want to purchase gifts that are significant and personal to the recipient but possibly because I DO put so much thought into the often is a huge source of stress.  I want to make sure that my gifts are well received and enjoyed.  And then there's that awkward moment when you buy a present for someone and they haven't gotten one for you or the other way around.  I know that the Christmas spirit isn't about keeping score, but it bothers me.  And causes me anxiety.

6. We go back to school on Monday and I'm absolutely dreading it.  I have Cross Country practice every day after school until 4:45 and Craig is starting up basketball games next week.  Back to the grind, I suppose.  We've had a lovely week off work and have truly enjoyed being around each other and spending time as a family.  It's going to be very difficult to get back into our hectic schedule.

7. Before Christmas hits I have to get Natalie's toys sorted into keep, donate and box up piles as well as clean out Craig's closet.  His family is very.....ahem......generous when it comes to gift-giving at Christmas and I know that I will be having to find room for lots of new items once the end of December comes about.

8. Church.  I miss having a home in which to practice my faith.  My family has been going to the same church since I was born and there just isn't any other parish that I've visited that feels like HOME the way St. Mike's does.  I get nervous going into new situations where I'm the "outsider" who doesn't know people and that's how I feel at a new church.

9.  Yikes.  When I list out all my worries it seems that I might have a General Anxiety Disorder of some sort.  Which, of course, makes me even more anxious.

10.  Both Craig and I have big birthdays coming up in the new year - I will turn thirty in August and he will be forty come December.  He has his heart set on a big vacation away to a beach for just the two of us.  I am assuming this means leaving the country and being very far away from Natalie.  This makes me nervous - both the prospect of being away from her AND paying for such an extravagant luxury.

11.  Obviously, I'm stressed about money, too.  Isn't EVERYONE stressed about money during the holidays?

I feel a little bit better, I suppose.  It's now 1:00 and I promised myself that I would vent all the frustrations and worries that I could in a span of twenty-two minutes.

Times up.

Hopefully this late night (early morning?) brain dump will do the trick and I'll be able to drift off easily into a very deep sleep.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Play vs. Education

I am a teacher.  My husband is a teacher.

My mother taught preschool and religious education while my father was an auto body repair teacher.

Craig's mother taught second grade and his dad was a high school basketball coach.

My grandfather was a college professor while my grandma taught Italian to students travelling abroad.

With all the emphasis on learning and becoming an intelligent and educated person that runs in our is actually the least I'm focused on right now with Natalie.

I don't worry about teaching her the ABC song or making sure she can count to ten before her second birthday.  We don't practice writing her name or identifying her colors.

All that stuff can wait.

Right now I want her to learn obedience and to mind when Craig or I ask her to clean up her toys or stop petting the dogs.  I want her to feel free to play creatively and without boundaries.  I want her days to be spent running, jumping and building confidence in herself.  She needs to figure out relationships with other children and how to successively navigate group dynamics.

My philosophy is that at this point in time, her learning must be organic and child-led.  She needs to show us what she is interested in playing with and learning about.  Right now she loves all kinds of animals, pretending  to read books, taking care of her babies, cooking in her kitchen and building with blocks.  Sure, we can incorporate counting and vocabulary lessons into her play but it's just not one of my priorities.

This week Natalie and I have rocked babies to sleep, read countless stories and built block towers taller than her only to be knocked down by an excited toddler.  "Boom!" she cries as the blocks scatter across the floor.

Ultimately of course I want her to be a lifelong learner but I just don't think you create one of those by shoving academics down the throat at such a young age.  Both Craig and I are intelligent creatures and value a good education.  But I want her to be passionate about learning new information and I feel like pushing too much too early would do more harm than good in the long term.

There will be time for learning letters and figuring out addition and subtraction.

But it's not now.

Today we play and sing songs.  We build towers and shush our babies to sleep.  We will dance around the living room and play chase through the kitchen.  We will throw balls and pat puppy dogs.

We will cultivate her creativity, her confidence and her curiosity.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Holiday Decor

This post has been about three hours in the making. 

It might go down as one of the most exhausting blog posts that I've ever created.

Apparently I filled up all my Blogger storage (or something like that) and had to create a Picasa/Google+ profile in order to be able to upload more photographs.


So I had to download Picasa, then create my profile or whatever and then upload pictures from my computer to the Picasa album.  THEN I could upload them from Picasa to this blog.

And of course my computer did it ever so slooooooowly.

Am I missing something?  Is this how everyone else has to do their pictures?  Am I just really behind on the Blogger times?

All the above, I assume.

Regardless.  Pictures are here.  Enjoy.

Before Natalie was born, I eschewed everything red, white and green for Christmas, instead choosing white, silver and turquoise.  

I was kind of a Christmas decorating snob.

But now that Natalie is here, I feel like I need to just embrace the fact that red, white and green is going to invade my house every year during the month of December.  So that's what we've done.  I've gotten rid of all the old turquoise decorations and we've stocked up on more traditional decor.  I think it will serve us much better in the future because I know once Natalie starts school, she will be bringing home copious amounts of red, white and green tinged projects and creations.


Usually Craig and I don't decorate the house for Christmas until the day after Thanksgiving while we watch the Aggie/Texas game but since that tradition is null and void this year....we went ahead and did the majority of the decorating on Monday and Tuesday.

I really tried to utilize vases and decor that we already had and then just add a little bit here and there.  I definitely was on a budget of some sort....and when I say "budget" there was no distinct number, but I knew that I didn't want to break the bank.

I found this printable through Pinterest and it's the "code of the elves" form Elf with Will Ferrell - one of my personal favorite Christmas movies.

I took a vase we already had, filled it partially with cheap ornaments from Garden Ridge and then hooked candy canes over the rim.

Another printable from Pinterest, this one is a verse from the Bible that relates to the birth of Jesus (and is also quoted in the Peanuts Christmas movie).  I gave Craig the basketball nutcracker last year and the candle is from Target.

Another close up of the ornaments in the vase.  Cheap and festive.


Here is the mantel - this space probably gave me the most stress and frustration.  It's such a large area but I didn't want to clutter it up and have it look messy.  This is what I've come up with so far.  I think the wreath we have is beautiful but unfortunately it is too small and doesn't have enough POP for that big rectangle.  I spied a large wreath with big red, silver and green balls on it at Garden Ridge but I think I'll wait until it goes on sale after Christmas to purchase it.

On the left side of the mantle, I pulled out a red vase that contained Valentine's Day flowers at some point and stuck in some silvery beaded branch things that I got for $1.99 at Garden Ridge.  In the vase on the right (again, which I already had) I threw in and layered some pinecones (already owned), silver beaded garland (already owned) and bright red and green ornaments (bought in a big box for $9.99 at Garden Ridge).  On either end are two sparkly green trees that we bought a few years ago from Target.  I also added in some Christmas pictures of Natalie framed in Dollar Store frames which I plan on updated each year with a picture from the previous year.  In the middle are blocks that spell out "Merry Christmas" that I bought at Hobby Lobby for $11 on sale down from $22.

At first when I finished the mantle I wasn't terribly impressed with myself to be real honest.   I thought it looked empty and childish - not nearly as beautiful and fancy as some you see on Pinterest.  But later that evening after we returned from the grocery store, I walked into the living room and saw the mantle lit up with the rest of the living room dark.......and it was beautiful and perfect.  Not too much but not too little - just right.


This one is Craig's baby.  He LOVES his Christmas village.  Since the redecorating of the living room, this brown Ikea bookshelf has been sitting in the entryway because I've been on the hunt for an old sideboard table to refurnish.  We lugged it back into the living room solely to display his village - we've got a fire station, a pub, a brewery, a collection of stores, a house and a ski chalet.  

Yes.  A brewery and a pub.  Don't worry - our collection also contains two police officers so the village is safe from drunken shenanigans.


We have two Christmas trees in our house.  Yes.  Two.  This small one resides on a table in the living room and holds our sentimental/family ornaments.  The other tree which is much larger is in the dining room which faces the street so that can be seen from the street.  That tree is decorated in silver, green and red exclusively and is where the presents are kept until Christmas morning.


Last year after Christmas, Craig and I hit up Target for some sales and found these two cute pillows for the couch.  Cheap and easy decor.....and fun for Natalie to throw off the couch as well.


I put together this little centerpiece because the green apples that normally sit on that silver stand just weren't very festive.  The red charger was a dollar at Garden Ridge and the berry twig things were $1.99.  The candle holders were $2.99, again from Garden Ridge (and I saw something similar for almost ten bucks at Target!).  I'll probably busy some sort of table runner after Christmas - possibly silver or white.

So that's what we've been up to this week.  Lots of cleaning and rearranging mixed in with shopping and playing.  Natalie has been wonderful.  Absolutely wonderful.  Only a handful of frustrating moments - most of them occurring when she is hungry or tired.  We have really enjoyed spending time with her this week and I'll be sad to go back to work on Monday.  

At least only four weeks until Christmas break, right?

Monday, November 19, 2012

Me + U = LUV

Do you remember those mixed tapes or cds you used to make for your friends and boyfriend in high school?

You know the ones.......with "Summertime 99!" scribbled across the front in Sharpie?

I've got one on my iPhone.

It's simply entitled........Craig.........and consists solely of songs that make me feel the warm fuzzies for my hubby.

Beyond cheesy, right?

In all actuality........we're in a really good spot right now.  Life is good.  We are managing the work-marriage-family balance and seem to be riding the tide instead of treading and gasping for air.

Not that we were ever in any real danger, but you know how LIFE can be sometimes.

The past few months we've certainly had some storms thrown our way.  Between the house flooding, volleyball season, the pink eye epidemic, and finally Craig's multiple illnesses and subsequent surgery to remove his gall bladder, it's been the perfect storm for what could have really been a tough time for our marriage......but we're good.

We are solid.

Granted, we are only two and a half years into this whole husband-wife gig but I think we've got a good outlook on who we are and in what our family believes.  We approach everything as a team.  There are no "his" or "her" jobs, there are only tasks to be done and two capable adults available to complete them (and one eager toddler as well).  I can rake and bag leaves on a Saturday morning while Craig trims the hedges.  Craig can switch laundry loads as I fold and put the clothes away.

We work together and honor each other's strengths and talents.

I think that's what has kept our heads and hearts in the right place this fall.  Neither of us keep score in our marriage or tally up the "who has done more for whom" points - that's not how life works.  Most of the time we're doing things 50/50 but there are times, weeks or even months where one of us can only handle 20% and the other has to pick up the 80%.

During my bout with PPD I was hovering at 20% (or less) capability for practically nine months.  I wasn't a good partner.  I wasn't a good teammate.  But Craig never batted an eye nor did he hold it against me.  It wasn't what he had expected to happen after the birth of our first child, but he saw through the disease and still somehow recognized his wife and the woman he loved.  He was willing to shoulder the brunt of the work around the house so that I could get on with the greater task of rebuilding myself.

And then there is the weeks and days surrounding September 19th and the anniversary of the death of Craig's father.  Physically Craig is present with our family and going through the motions of our daily life, but emotionally he is distant and aloof.  There's always something darker lurking behind his otherwise bright blue eyes - a hidden sadness with a tint of anger.  I put aside my own mindless frustrations and complaints and I listen to what he has to say.....and sometimes more importantly, what he doesn't say.

It's a give and take.

So with having said all that, here's what I've compiled onto my cheesy mix playlist that reminds me of my husband.

This Year's Love by David Gray: The final song played at our wedding.  Just the two of us slow dancing in a quiet room as our guests filed out and waited to blow bubbles on us as we boarded the golf cart.  It's peaceful and soothing.  Quiet and solid.

Home by Edward and the Magnetic Zeros: A folksy song perfect for a road trip down 35 or better yet, an isolated backroad at sunset with the windows rolled down.  My favorite lyric includes this little gem "let me come home; home is where ever I'm with you."  Why yes, yes it most definitely is.

Make You Feel My Love by Adele (or Garth Brooks): Just reminds me that I'm not alone.  Even on the darkest of days after Natalie was born, he was right there in my corner - never fighting my battles but always believing that I would come out victorious.

Breathe Me by Sia: There was a certain cold January night many years ago when I made a trek out to Lewisville at 11:00 in the evening to help put my dear friend back on track.  We weren't engaged or even dating but I knew in my heart that he was the one.  I saw both of us as such ridiculously flawed human beings, each struggling with demons but perhaps if we could each see ourselves as the other saw us, then maybe we could slay the dragons together.

You Are the Best Thing by Ray LaMontagne: The last "official" song at our wedding.  Because he is.  And I am too.

Ho Hey by the Lumineers: "I belong with you, you belong with me."  Yes.  I agree.  Another folk style song that we sing along with in the car.

Beautiful Day by U2:  By far our favorite band and this will not be the last time you see them listed in this playlist.  This particular song was our recessional from the wedding and ohmygoodness it WAS a beautiful day.  The weather was perfect, my dress looked fantastic and we were surrounded by all the people we love.

Somewhere Over the Rainbow by Israel Kamakawiwo'ole: Another wedding song (picture my bridesmaids walking the aisle) but it was a favorite of mine since introduced to it by one of my college professors.  It's peaceful, wistful but yet deliberate at the same time.  Plus it has the line about "dreams really do come true" which is fitting for both Craig and me.....having the life and family that we have was something that neither of us ever pictured for our futures.  Until we met each other, of course.

If I Ever Leave This World Alive by Flogging Molly: Have you seen PS I Love You?  I cried the ugly cry the first time I saw that movie.  Long story short - a young woman is widowed by her adorable Irish husband but he leaves her all these letters that help her through the grieving process.  When I originally saw the movie I cried because I had no one in my life that loved me enough to do anything sweet like that for me.  It might seem a little strange to include a song from a movie where the main plot line includes a husband dying but there's a line in the song that goes like this: "I'm alright, I'm okay.  Though you have gone from my life.  You said that it would, now everything should be alright."  In my practically constant state of worry about anything and everything, Craig always tells me - it's going to be alright.  And it's always true.  It is always alright.  And in the terrible event that I am left here on this Earth alone and without him......his words will still ring true - I will be alright because I loved him and he loved me.

Blackbird by Sarah McLachlan: Originally a Beatles song but covered acoustically by Sarah McLachlan and played at our wedding as I walked down the aisle.  As I've written about numerous times on this blog, I was quite the hot mess before I met and married Craig.  So I guess that's why the lyrics "take these broken wings and learn to fly.  All your life, you were only waiting for this moment to arise" spoke to me.  I truly believed that I was such a terrible and broken human being that I was undeserving of any kind of love.  Craig showed me otherwise.

Home by Phillip Phillips: Yeah, it's getting to be a little bit over played on the radio (which is why I mostly listen to my iPod or Pandora) but I like the guitar, the folksy-ness and the message.  It's easy to sing along with in the car, or in Craig's case, to play the drums on the steering wheel along with the beat.

All I Want Is You by U2: Our first dance.  The lyrics are framed in our bedroom.  But it's true....forget all the jewels, the riches or the privilege in the world - I just want him.

I Won't Give Up by Jason Mraz: I think this song actually came out about a year ago but I've just now found it through Pandora.  My favorite part is the title - a healthy marriage doesn't just happen; it takes work and dedication.  Things will get hard and ugly in life and I know that at times Craig and I will have to put in extra effort just to make it through the day, the month or the year.

I Will Wait by Mumford and Sons: Both of us have really fallen in love with Mumford and Sons because there is soul in their music and lyrics.  I think what gets me about this song, especially the "I will wait" part is that Craig did.  He saw me evaporate before his eyes and he waited patiently (most of the time) for me to return to him.  Plus.....all of Mumford and Sons music reminds us of what will be our next European adventure - England, Scotland and Ireland.

Faithfully by Journey: Just because it is a gloriously cheesy 80s ballad.  And good to sing out loud in the car.


I did not plan on this being such an enormously long and involved post.  My apologies!

What kinds of songs would you put on a cheesy mix tape (or playlist) for your significant other?

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Sunday Daybook

For today - Sunday, November 18th

Outside my window.....the streets are calm and dark.  The children have retreated to their warm houses, away from the cool breezes that have finally blown our way.

I am thinking.....of faith and the direction I want to lead my family.  What does faith mean to me and what kind of role do I want it to play in our lives?  I have far more questions than answers but at least the questions are a step in the right direction.

I am thankful.....for pain medication that can take the edge off the migraines that I've been struggling with lately.

In the kitchen.....I've got a huge list of food to purchase for Thanksgiving as well as meals during the week since we are off from school until next Monday.

I am Aggie shirt (Gig 'Em & so glad we BTHO Bama) with black Under Armour shorts.

I am creating.....Pinterest boards for Christmas decor and activity inspirations.

I am with my mother and Natalie tomorrow morning for a family my mother "adopted" for Christmas.  After we are meeting up for lunch with one of our favorite people from my mother's Catholic youth minister years.

I am wondering.....if I should make a doctor's appointment for these migraines because they are getting more frequent and much more debilitating.

I am reading.....I've tentatively started Little Bee again, hoping that I can get further along in it.  I get right to the chapter when the wife discusses her husband's suicide and due to my husband's family history....I simply cannot go any further.  Suicide of a husband and father is too close to my heart at this point in time.

I am hoping.....that snow comes our way this winter.  Natalie + Angie & Ajax frolicking in the snow = the cutest thing ever.

I am looking forward to.....I don't know.  I really don't.  I typed that statement and felt a twinge of anxiety flare through my chest.  About what, I'm not quite sure.

I am write through the blahs and the frustrations and just put words out there, imperfections and all.

Around the house.....Natalie stayed in her pajamas all day while Craig and I meandered about putting up Christmas decorations.  We ended our night with her playing pretend with her Little People nativity scene.  My favorite part was when she made the donkey eat from the fake food.......complete with lip smacking sounds.

I am pondering.....haircuts for myself and for Natalie.

A favorite quote for today.....
"Round my hometown, memories are fresh
Round my hometown, ooh, the people I've met
Are the wonders of my world, are the wonders of my world."
Hometown Glory by Adele

Not the most thought-provoking or necessarily insightful when put onto paper (or the interwebs) but this song has been floating through my head for the past week.  As I drive through my own hometown, things are a-changing.  Buildings are ripped down and homes demolished - all in the effort to improve the highway system and relieve the large amount of traffic congestion.  I get that.  I wholeheartedly agree that something had to be done to fix the freeway and interchanges.  But to see the destruction of the restaurants that I frequented after a Friday night football game or that movie theater where I had my first kiss with Justin?  Breaks my heart.  I feel like a little piece of my childhood is lost with every piece of land that turns into a roadway.  

I know.  Dramatic much?  Probably.  But when things have looked the same for 29's hard to accept the drastic change.

One of my favorite things.....the Florence and the Machine radio station on Pandora.

A few plans for the rest of the week:  Thanksgiving celebrations obviously.  And football watching.  Most likely some Christmas shopping.....but definitely NOT on Black Friday.

Not Your Father's History Channel

Maybe it's the fact that I've been sucked back into the academic world of teaching history to seventh graders but I have been a big time History Channel nerd recently.  

They have had some AMAZING series on lately, starting with The Men Who Built America which chronicled the rise of the mega-businessman through the Industrial Revolution of America and ended finally with the break up of monopolies by Teddy Roosevelt.

This week started Mankind - The Story of All of Us which tells the story of man from the most primitive of times but yet how each generation and civilization built upon one another to form the world we know today.

It's all rather fascinating and I'm really enjoying geeking out over it.

Because let's be honest........I'm a nerd at heart.  I think people at work have always kind of seen me as the young, (possibly) pretty volleyball coach who also teaches PE but never really as the intellectual powerhouse that I can be when it comes to history and math.  One day at lunch.......and I can't really remember HOW we got onto the topic........but we were discussing Germany, Berlin and how it all was divided after World War II with the Berlin Wall through the city and the much greater Iron Curtain that was shielded over most of eastern Europe.  

Again.  I really don't know how it came up.  Possibly vacations people have taken to Europe or a place that a teacher lived?  I guess it's not really that important.


One of the teachers asked for a little bit of clarification on the separation of Germany and how the wall came to be and all that.

Oh boy.

I launched into a lecture about the division of Germany after World War II between the UK, the Americans, France and the Soviet Union.  I talked about how the Soviets only joined up with the Allied forces because in Stalin's mind, we were the lesser of two evils with the much greater evil being Hitler.  I explained how the city of Berlin was in the Soviet's side of Germany and had to be divided up as well because the Americans were leery of giving complete control of that strategic city to the Soviets.  Then there was the part about how all the East Berliners were fleeing to the west side of the city because, you know.....democracy > communism, which of course made the Soviets angry so overnight they laid out barbed wire throughout the city, thus trapping the East Berliners in the eastern portion of the city.  I went on through the building of the wall, the no-man's-land in between and the numerous escape attempts and even the airdrops the Americans made in an effort to deliver food and other necessities to the beleaguered East Berlin captives.

As I sheepishly wrapped up my diatribe on what happens to be one of my most favorite subjects, I noticed that everyone was kind of staring at me....many in bewilderment and amusement.

The lady to whom I had been speaking said "you are the coolest nerd I've ever met."

I beamed.

Yes.  I am a nerd.

And in closing to my nerdiness.....I found this today on Pinterest.

Bah Humbug

I cleaned house today.

Both figuratively and literally.

It's been MONTHS since I have really BEEN on Pinterest, if you know what I mean.  But since the holiday season is officially upon us come Friday, I figured I better get things situated and ready for the onslaught of crafts, baking and decorating.  I deleted a TON of pins that are just outdated or not really conducive to my life right now.  I also separated out my Halloween/fall items from my Christmas stuff so that I don't have to search through 47 different pictures of decorated pumpkins just to get to the sticky bread recipe I make on Christmas morning.

Around the house Craig and I were able to clean out the storage closet under the stairs and we figured that if I was already in there cleaning.......why not go ahead and get out the Christmas stuff?!

Oh my goodness.

So we have one Christmas tree decorated (with Natalie's help) in the living room and the Christmas village is also up on the bookcase behind the couch.  I've got a list going of things we need to purchase (or make) for our big grocery and decor shopping trip on Tuesday morning (also known as PAYDAY).

I also solved one of my biggest problems during the decorating process  - you know, the problem that occurs when you're unpacking boxes and going "where in the world does this go?" I've decided that this year after we've got everything situated and looking pretty in the right spot........I'm taking a picture of all the major spots for decor in my house so that I can remember what it all looks like put together.

Genius idea, right?

Or possibly a little bit over-zealous?

Whatever.  Either way, it's happening in my house this year.

But back to Pinterest.  Since I was getting the decorating bug pretty hard while simultaneously having the urge to purge, I cleaned "house" through all my boards and really eliminated superfluous items and only kept things that I would actually need or use.

Do you want to know a secret though?

I HATE decorating for Christmas.

Seriously.  If it was up to me, we'd put up the Christmas tree and be done with it.  But oh no, not Craig.  He has his village, TWO trees and he's like the Griswalds when it comes to lights outside.  And even more so now with Natalie.

I just don't like the feeling that my house is out of order which has to happen in order for Christmas decorating to happen.  God bless her sweet heart, my mother would decorate the ENTIRE house during the holidays and although as a young child I enjoyed helping my own house it just causes me stress.

So we don't do an extreme overhaul but the house will be festive.

I'm more excited about taking Natalie to see Santa.....

Well.....wait a minute.  Let's talk about that Santa guy right quick.  I personally, was terrified of him as a small child. And who can blame me?

"What's that Mom?  You want me to go sit on that strange guy's lap and tell him what I want for Christmas?"

I mean.....come on......think about it.  Don't we generally teach our children NOT to talk to random strangers, much less sit on their laps?  Regardless, I was scared of Santa and if Natalie becomes frightened too.....I'm not going to push the issue with her.

I totally understand the fear - quite frankly I still don't like strangers and have a very hard time talking and interacting with people that I don't know all that well.  I mean, I DO it without coming across as a total imbecile (I hope) but that doesn't mean that it comes easily or is comfortable for me.  Making small talk in an unfamiliar situation is definitely a struggle for me - which is possibly why I like being here and writing in this safe little spot.

Anyways.  We're going to do the Santa thing and probably the ICE sculptures at the Gaylord hotel since the theme is Madagascar this year and Natalie loves animals.  I'd like to do some sort of baking or craft with her as well.

But first I need to get through Thanksgiving with the in-laws.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Paranormal Monitor

I should have known it was going to be a rough night just from the looks of the this picture I took of the monitor.

Toddler girl was fighting the good fight and absolutely refused to go to sleep.

Little did we know.........the ear infection had invaded our house once again.

Creepy, right?

She was just laying quietly in her bed.  All I could hear was her pudgy hands playing with the sticky tabs on her diaper.  Just staring defiantly up into the monitor, like she knew that Momma was on the other side.

This picture might have to go in the baby book out of sheer ridiculousness.

Friday, November 16, 2012


Although Natalie's ear infection seems to have gotten better (she's at least sleeping through the night again) she has developed a rattling cough and super runny nose.  It could be the congestion from this ear infection breaking up or it could be due to the quick change in weather (80s last week, 60s this week) but whatever the reason..........she's a little miserable.  A little whiny.  A little more prone to temper tantrums over the tiniest things.  She's not running a fever so technically, by the standards of health my mother held while I was growing up, Natalie is fine to go to day-care with Ms. Rebecca.

But I'm not going to lie or mince words here........

This is where being a working mom (and coach) really sucks.

This is where I sit and wonder why on Earth I am working such long hours.

And for what?

The kids?  Perhaps.  They are lovable little buggers at times.

The paycheck?  Possibly.  We couldn't live our life without it.

The fulfillment?  Most of the time.  I enjoy what I do and I know that I'm good at it.

Volleyball season was hard.  I felt like I was missing out on a lot of her life.  And now that we've switched over and Daddy is working more hours I thought that this would be the perfect time to reestablish the Momma-Natalie relationship and have all that fun bonding time that I missed during the season.


First person she asks for in the mornings when I get her out of bed is "Dada."  When we get home from school at 5:00 she is itching for Dada to come home.  If she is upset the only person that can comfort her is Dada.

I feel like a failure.  I feel like all the Attachment Parenting propaganda was true - since I didn't co-sleep, baby wear, quit my job and stay home, or breastfeed long enough I failed to establish a secure relationship with my daughter.

There.  I said it.  That's my greatest fear.

Judge away.

My fear is that I've sabotaged my relationship with my daughter forever because of the Postpartum Depression I suffered in the very beginning.  And then I think....maybe if I parented her "right" (whatever THAT is) from the start maybe I wouldn't have had PPD at all.

And then I realize that I'm falling every so quickly down the rabbit hole.

This is what bothers me about "parenting experts" and all the books and theories that are out there about the "right" or "best" way to raise a child.  When you propagate that THIS way is the BEST or ONLY way to successfully parent a child...........if that plan doesn't work for your family or child, then what happens next?  Are the parents and children doomed to failure?  Are all hopes of the children going to college dashed?  Will there be no fun family reunions over Thanksgiving and Christmas?  Should we call the local jail and get the orange jumpsuit ready?

I guess I could psycho-analyze myself and say that all this anxiety stems from me wanting desperately to do things RIGHT and follow the rules so that everything goes according to plan.

And I feel this more so with Natalie than with any other thing in my life.  When I say that she is my greatest accomplishment, I don't mean it in a creepy living-through-my-child or my-life-revolves-around-my-daughter kind of way.  I mean that I fully understand the immense importance that God has placed upon me in raising my daughter.

This is serious stuff.

This is a little girl's life and future that for right held in my hands.

Do I respond with grace and compassion or anger and frustration..........

Do I hold fast to the expectations and boundaries that I feel are appropriate for our family or do I give in to the exhaustion that goes along with dealing with a temperamental toddler and just let her do as she pleases.............

I feel as if everything I do (or don't do) directly affects her mental and physical well-being and that it's my job to live in a manner that will set her up for success later in life.

For example, Craig and I were eating dinner the other night with Natalie after a high school basketball game.  It was late, she was not so hungry but a little wound up and definitely sleepy.  I was just anxious in general.  Part of it was having been around his family at the game, another part was the late evening and Natalie being squirmy and some of it was just me being me.

Craig handed Natalie his iPhone to keep her occupied during the last few minutes of dinner so that we could eat our dessert and then pay the server.

My stomach ached and my brain frizzed out on me.

No, no, no, no, NO.  This is against the rules.  The rules say that our toddler does not play with electronic gadgets such as iPhones to keep her occupied.

I was practically twitching.

Because in my mind, it wasn't just Craig getting through the last few minutes of an already frustrating dinner with a toddler.  To me, we had just shown her that obeying the rules and behaving appropriately isn't important and that if she behaves badly during dinner, Daddy will reward her with getting to play with his phone.

And it's all downhill from there.

See how quickly things can escalate in my head?

I know I'm irrational.  I know that I blow things out of proportion.  And I most certainly know that when I am tired (like I have been all week) my brain begins to play tricks on me which can result in the ramblings you just read.

But be assured that I'm okay.  I'm just really ready for a week long break.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Sick Day

So....volleyball season is over.  Like I told the girls, I will miss spending time with them, but not getting to school at 7:15 and leaving at 5:45.

But life has not returned to any sense of normalcy yet.

Craig and I went to PF Chang's for dinner before seeing the newest James Bond movie, Skyfall.

Which, on a side note....was AWESOME.  I know that the creative forces behind the franchise caught a lot of flack for casting Daniel Craig as the new 007 but I think it was a genius decision.  I highly recommend it.

And on a second note, apparently Craig "isn't that into James Bond" which I found out AFTER seeing the movie when I wanted to watch Casino Royale on Saturday night.  I feel that this is the sort of information that we should have discussed during our premarital counseling.

Alright.  Back to our weekend.  About 45 minutes before the end of the movie, Craig's mother texted and said that Natalie was running a low grade fever - hovering around 100.  We finished the movie and Craig called his mother but by then Natalie had settled down and was sleeping.  But as parents we still had a decision to make - pick up our possibly sick daughter or let her sleep over at Grandmama's house.  Quite frankly, it was a tough choice to make.  I don't want to pass my sick kid off on anyone else but at the same time....she was SLEEPING and one of my major rules is - DON'T WAKE A SLEEPING BABY.  So we decided to let her stay asleep at Grandmama's house and if there were any more problems, Craig would go pick her up.

Which is precisely what he did at 12:30 that night.

Saturday and Sunday were spent at home, trying to get her fever to break.  We would give her the Tylenol and she would cool down but then right before her next dose, she would be burning up again.  The fever never rose over 101 so I didn't think an Acute Kids appointment was necessary.

Until Sunday evening, that is.  Since volleyball season is over and basketball season has begun, I'm on Natalie sick duty if the case arises.  Last year taking a day off from work wasn't so bad because I taught strictly PE and there were four other coaches there to help take care of my classes.  But this year I'm teaching two sections of Texas History which have definite lesson plans that need to be taught.

So I was in a bind.  I didn't want to send her to Ms. Rebecca's house possibly feverish and definitely cranky ESPECIALLY with the new baby boy that has joined our little daycare group.  I didn't want to be called out of class at 10:00 to come get a sick little girl and then have to scramble at the last minute to get my classes covered.  BUT I also didn't want to stay home with Natalie and then have her be perfectly fine and have nothing wrong with her.

I laid it all out for Craig and convinced him that we should probably take her to the Acute Kids place near our house.  And it's a good thing we went because the little miss has an ear infection in her right ear and lots of fluid in the left.

So we've been home today.  Playing and staying in pajamas well past the time that is appropriate.  My mother came over and brought lunch and then sewed up my aging Cabbage Patch Doll Ellie who is well past her prime.  Natalie watched carefully as Nonna fixed Ellie's "boo boos."

She took a great three hour nap followed up by lots of chasing, giggling, coloring and playing with her baby dolls.  After a Sunday spent being mentally attacked by the "she doesn't love you because you had PPD" was exactly what I needed.

And then this evening happened.

In the span of practically an hour, my child.............

- ate her father's deodorant and declared it "yucky."

- tried to bite my face mid-tantrum

- slipped bottom first into the sink and then proceeded to turn the water on all over her.

I daresay she is feeling much better, don't you think?

And about that face biting incident.  Let me expound a bit.  She was at the top of the stairs and wanting to carry a large bag DOWN the stairs.  Mmm.  Not gonna happen twinkle toes.  I took the bag from her while explaining to her that she could get it back at the bottom.

Apparently my logic did not compute with her plan and a mini-tantrum commenced.  I picked her up and was trying to calm her down while, again, explaining my thought process.  (Usually if WE stay calm during her meltdowns, she calms down rather quickly.  Well, as of right now at least.)

She tried to hit me and I held her arms back and said "No hitting Natalie.  We do not hit because that is mean and it hurts Momma."  Which is our mantra for pretty much everything discipline related.  Short and to the point.

So what was her next choice?  She came at my nose like Hannibal Lector in Silence of the Lambs with her mouth wide open, ready to chomp down.

I couldn't help it.

I put her back down at the top of the stairs and collapsed into a fit of giggles.  Her reaction was priceless - she knew that she SHOULD be getting in trouble for her actions, but she couldn't quite figure out why Momma was laughing hysterically.  She just kind of stood there with her eyes wide while wringing her hands awkwardly.


And that's life with a toddler.

Friday, November 9, 2012

For the newbies...

1. Don't underestimate the power of a solo trip to Target.  The baby is fed and slumbering peacefully?  The hubs is resting on the couch flipping through sports?  GO.  TO.  TARGET.  Don't ask questions, don't think twice, just wave good-bye and zip on down the road.  Trust me on this.  Target is a safe haven.  While perusing the candle and other assorted home decor aisle, there will be a moment when you hear a baby wail from across the store and instead of your heartbeat picking up at the thought of having THAT crying child in the store, you will revel with relief in the fact that this one time - IT'S NOT YOURS.  You don't even have to buy anything, although if you have the will power to resist all the various and lovely sundries Target has to offer, I would gladly shake your hand in awe and admiration.  Just slow down when you're in there - pick up the books and read the back covers, close your eyes and inhale all the candles and don't forget to hit up home decor and talk yourself into that one teeny, tiny little piece of fabulousness that the shelf in your living room is just crying out to house.

2. No one is on their best behavior at 2:00 am.  Not you.  Not your husband.  And certainly not that bouncing bundle of joy that is awoken like an angry little monster begging to be fed, rocked, cuddled, snuggled, fed again and that finally falls asleep on your chest while you're sitting up against the pillows with the nightlight JUST out of the reach of your fingertips.  Ignore your husbands ignorance and insensitivity at this time.  Pray that he ignores yours as well.  Exhaustion plays tricks on your mind.  Words, phrases, statements and tone filtered through an exhausted mind can turn into insults, tirades, anger and venom.  Not to say that your thoughts and feelings (and the hubs as well) aren't important and that communication isn't vital to a healthy marital relationship and parenting partnership......but perhaps all grievances should be aired when one or both parties aren't drunk with exhaustion, fatigue and frustration.  So.......maybe when the child turns five?

3. Baby OxyClean.  Babies poop.  Frequently.  And although little tiny baby clothes are absolutely adorable, I just didn't have the budget to go out and replace every single outfit that my darling daughter had a blow out in.  Baby OxyClean has helped me to scrub poop, spit up, blackberries, more poop and even maybe a coffee stain or two out of my own clothes.  Spray it generously

4. Buy a portable baby swing.  There is a ton of crap throughout the aisles of Babies R Us, each item seemingly shouting "buy me or your baby will be stupid, sick and unsafe" at you, placing the fear of God (or the CPS) into your soul.  When they're really tiny, they don't need much and most of the larger items you can find at your local Goodwill or neighborhood garage sale (just check that it's in good condition and douse it in bleach when you get home).  One of the most lifesaving items that we were gifted at one of our showers was a basic portable baby swing.  Initially I was disappointed because it looked kind of lame and didn't have all the bells and whistles that the one on our registry had.  I sorely underestimated the intelligent design of a portable baby swing.  It's one o'clock and I haven't showered yet?  Just strap her in and carry that sucker into the bathroom and plop her in front of the glass door to my shower.  Natalie was kept entertained by the solo bright fish hanging down but yet still comforted by the fact that she could see Momma.  Most brilliant plan ever.

5. Repeat this phrase: "She will not graduate high school ______________________" and then fill in the blank with whatever newborn or baby activity is frustrating you at the moment.  For example, the most frequent one that came out of my lips was "waking up in the middle of the night for a bottle."  Or how about the "by crawling across the stage - she will learn to walk eventually."  And then you'll turn around one day and she'll by zooming down the hall screeching gleefully wearing only a diaper and slinging her sippy cup full of milk all across the tile and you'll think to yourself.........can you be tiny again?

6. Off Duty Hour.  There are articles and pictures on Pinterest out there that wax poetic about how a mother's job is never really done and how even though it's a 24 hour job, it's the most rewarding blah, blah, blah.  You know what?  There are some days that I am quite happy to plunk my child down into her daddy's lap for her night-night routine so that Momma can be off the clock.  I go into the bedroom, turn on the lamp and click over to Bravo to catch up on Real Housewives.  And I don't worry.  I don't feel guilty.  I don't stress.  I don't do much of anything.  8:30 is my off duty hour.  Whatever laundry or other household chore didn't get done during the day.........isn't getting done.  Sometimes I even have a glass of wine and read a book or blog.  Whatever it is that I'm doing, the most important thing is - I'm NOT doing anything for anyone else but instead doing something exactly for me.  It might sound a little selfish but I work very hard during the rest of my day and I'm just the type of person who has to have down time before bed in order to truly get a great night's sleep.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Compulsive Counter

Last night while playing with Natalie and her kitchen toys, I noticed something disturbing.

Well, not NOTICED as in.......never knew it before, but more like a habit of mine became painfully obvious.

I don't even know if I would call it a habit, more like a compulsion?

I count.


I can tell you how many zoo animals Natalie has in her Zoo Talkers collection.
Thirteen......originally twelve but then Bear went missing and we bought Flamingo to bring it back up to the "right" number for me and of course Murphy's Law states that as soon as you replace something, you find it so Bear was located and now we're up to thirteen.

I can tell you how many pieces are in her kitchen collection.
Six milk bottles
Two old plates, two old saucers, two sets of old silverware, two new plates, two new bowls, two new cups, two new sets of silverware
Three spice bottles
Three potatoes
Two cookies
And so on...

I can tell you how many of each kind of block she has in her collection and which one is missing at any given time.
Two purple bridges
Two orange triangles
Three small pink bricks
Two long green bricks
Equal numbers of small hot pink and yellow bricks
Two long turquoise cylinders

I know that right now we are missing a monkey from her train and an egg from her kitchen.

Whew.  And that's just the tip of the iceberg.  Everything is counted.  Everything is listed.  Everything has to be accounted for in my world.  I know how many pens should be in my desk and how many pads of different colored paper sit in my organizer.  I wouldn't say that I have a "photographic" memory but I remember things.  Everything.  Where things are located.  What people wore.  How I felt at any given time.  A conversation.  What I am supposed to do next week on Thursday at 4:00.

My brain makes me tired.

My penchant (or obsession) for everything organized and structure has always just been a quirk of mine.  Something people always pick up on and think is kind of cute, but a little weird.  Never anything that truly impeded my life but instead helped me be prepared for everything and anything.

But now I'm starting to see it in Natalie.  And it terrifies me.  This can be an exhausting way to live.  Anxiety sparks up anytime something is missing or out of place.  Shutting off my brain is nearly impossible.

I can't stop counting and keeping an internal list of everything that she has.  No wonder she feels the compulsion to clean and pick up.  I couldn't just sit on the floor and PLAY with her last night.  I used my time with my daughter to count her toys and make sure that everything is accounted for.

My chest has tightened up just thinking about it all.

I guess the good news is that I recognize the pattern.  I am relatively self-aware and hopefully since knowing is half the battle, I can wage the rest of the battle by trying to shut down the compulsive side of my brain that says to count, organize and clean.

At least when it comes to afternoons spent playing kitchen and babies with Natalie.

But my desk at school?  You can bet I'm keeping track of my colored InkJoy pens....7th graders can be sneaky little boogers.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012


I used to joke with my parents that the only reason they decided to have children was to have free child labor.

Now I wasn't so much a joke as the absolute truth.

That's why we've decided that Natalie has been living off our paychecks for FAR too long and it's high time that she start pulling her weight around the house.

Just kidding.

Kind of.

But in all honesty, she isn't too young for chores and it's never too early to start teaching young children about helping with a generous heart and gracious attitude.  I want Natalie to learn that she is a contributing member of our household and there are tasks around the home that she must help perform in order to one day become a functioning member of society.

Now.  She's not out mowing the lawn (yet) or ironing my dress pants (that's next week) but there are plenty of small tasks that Craig and I have taught her how to do.  My hope is that if we start her on "chores" early enough, they will become part of her daily life and routine and she will never know a life without helping unload the dishwasher or hauling laundry up the stairs.

Granted, I'm not under any delusion that she'll always do these tasks with a wonderful attitude....but all that will matter is that the work is done, right?


So without further ado....Natalie's chore list, as of 20 months old.

- Pick up and put away toys in the play room.  Usually this action is accompanied by the Barney "Clean Up" song but she does a great job all on her own.  She knows where the blocks, Little People and kitchen stuff does and we hardly ever have to fight her to get things straightened up.

- Pick up and put away dirty clothes into the hamper. I tried this one out the other day out of sheer laziness.  I told her to pick up my socks and put them in the basket in my closet.......and she did.  So while I straightened up the bathroom and made the bed, she picked up all the dirty laundry lying around our bedroom and plopped them all in the hamper.

- Help load and unload the dishwasher.  This gets a little tricky and hard to manage because there are some sharp knives and breakable bowls that get washed in our dishwasher.  Luckily our kitchen isn't too big so there is always someone close by to help actively monitor the progress.  She is great at picking up HER dishes and the smaller plastic cups and Tupperware that won't break or get damaged by little hands.

- Help set the table for dinner.  This one started the other day and in a very limited and controlled setting.  She can put up butter knives, forks, her plastic plate and napkins......and that's about it.  But it does give her something to do while I'm finishing up the preparations for dinner.

- Put away Tupperware.  Her favorite and the absolute easiest task for her to complete.  Maybe it's because I'm lazy or possibly due to the fact that she's grown out of the "must get into every cabinet that I can" phase, but the Tupperware cabinet is totally unlocked at all times.  Since Craig and I both take our lunch to school every day, we accumulate TONS of dirty (and then clean) Tupperware throughout the week.  Natalie knows exactly where all the pieces go and she shuttles all the lids and bottoms to the cabinet.  Now let me go on record and say this - my Tupperware cabinet is NOT organized by any means, but I'll deal with a little bit of mess if it means that Natalie learns a new task and I have one task taken off my hands.

- Get out and put away dog food.  Our girl loves her puppies.  She also loves routines.  And one of those routines involves feeding the pups in the morning and the evening.  The dog food is kept in a Rubbermaid container with a spout on a lower shelf in the pantry.  She can go to the pantry, get the container off the shelf and carry it to me (or Craig) standing at the kitchen island.  Her job continues with picking the dog bowls off the ground and handing them to me and then returning the container after the food has been doled out.

- Clean up spills with towel.  This is one that I totally did not teach nor anticipate.  The other day when she spilled the tiniest bit of milk onto the floor, without provocation from Craig or myself, she ran into the kitchen, grabbed the towel hanging on the side of the sink and then ran back and wiped up her spill.  Craig and I just sat in stunned silence.  I'm not sure whether to be proud or terrified of her penchant for cleanliness and order.

- Wipe down the table after dinner.  Give her a Wet One and Natalie will go to town on the space in front of her chair after dinner is over.  She will also attempt to wipe her own face and hands, but she's not nearly as successful with that.

- Put trash into the garbage can.  Again.  This one originated out of laziness combined with the fact that Natalie is pretty adorable when she knows she did something good - she claps and cheers for herself.  Craig was the one that really got her going on trash detail this summer when he would be wrapping up his baseball card orders and he would have her pick up all his trash.

I'm really hoping that by putting this stuff out into the universe that karma isn't going to circle around and bite me in the butt by having my child boycott all helpfulness that I just seemingly bragged about.

And on the bragging note....I'm really not.  I'm just sharing with you stuff that we've found works for us with our daughter.  Most of these chores that she does started out by her showing an interest in and a desire to help us around the house.  And then from there, it was easier for me to engage her in the task than to try to keep her entertained in something else while I finished working.

Perhaps the overarching theme is that I want my daughter to feel productive, competent and successful.  But she won't learn how to encompass any of those traits without us as parents providing opportunities for her to try new things, carry responsibility and contribute to the family.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Book Club

Before the end of the school year last May, I was asked by a fabulous former co-worker of mine to join the neighborhood book club for the upcoming fall.  I screamed and hugged her while shouting in her ear that I had always wanted to join a book club.

Not the sort of thing that usually makes women jump up and down with joy, but what can I say?  I'm a nerd at heart.

But in all honesty, I always figured that people didn't think to invite me into their book club because I am a coach and therefore couldn't possibly be a rabid reader?!

Or maybe that's just my own insecurities.

Regardless, I'm three months into the book club and I am absolutely LOVING it because not only is it a fun night with great food, wine and women that I enjoy being around....but it has also forced me to pick up books that I would never choose on my own.  

Quite frankly, I've surprised myself by having found the time to get these monstrous books read and digested but then again, Craig and I did spend about two days in the hospital plus a weekend of "bed rest" for him so I did have time to sit around and get caught up on reading.  

I've still got a stack sitting on my nightstand and bookcase that I'm ready to devour this winter.  What is it about cold weather that makes me want to curl up with a good book?

But this is my quick and completely biased review of what I've been reading this fall.

Book Club selection #1: Anything by John Irving

This one was long and complicated but I'll try to boil it down for you in a few quick points.
- Father and mother have two sons that die in a car crash which devastates them both.  A few years later they decide to have another child, a daughter against the wishes of the mother.
- When the daughter is four years old, the father hires a young man from his alma mater to be his writing assistant for the summer.  He chooses a boy who looks eerily like one of his dead sons.
- The mother has a summer affair with the boy before running away from the family and leaving the daughter with her philandering husband.
- The boy will never go on to marry because of his intense obsession with the mother.
- Years later the daughter has grown and she is a world famous author who forms a friendship (kind of) with her mother's teenage (now grown) lover.

And that's kind of where I got bored.

Apparently John Irving is a favorite of many of the women in Book Club.  Unfortunately, I cannot share their same enthusiasm.  None of the characters in this book were the least bit redeeming.  They were shallow, unrepentant and morally repulsive....and John Irving is a tedious writer.  Too tedious for my taste.  Sure, you can vividly picture the scene in your head and almost feel the emotions radiating off the page but if you don't particularly care about the people and how they are reacting to their own poor life decisions.......well, all the descriptive words in the world aren't going to hold my attention.  I plodded through the novel but I had to force myself to read for an hour a night just to get through the dang thing.  I'm nothing if not a dedicated (or is it stubborn?) student.

Book Club Selection #2

- Boy falls in love with girl who happens to be the daughter of famous authors who have developed an entire book series on "Amazing Amy."
- Boy's mother becomes stricken with cancer and boy moves girl from New York City to Missouri to help care for his mother.
- Girl disappears on their fifth anniversary leaving no trace.
- Boy is implicated in the murder but maintains his innocence despite a mountain of circumstantial evidence.

And that's all I can tell you because anything more would give away MAJOR plot lines.

I had no idea what I was getting myself into with this author.  Although the book was deliciously salacious and had plot twists and turns at every moment.........I also felt like I was in a schizophrenic nightmare the entire time.  If you ever have wondered what goes on inside the head of a sociopath, this is the book for you.  It was a little jarring and creepy but very good.  It's like all the best crime shows on ID....on steroids.

Book Club Selection #3

It's set in Berlin (one of my favorite cities) during the end of World War II.  The city is full of women because all the able-bodied men are off fighting the Fuhrer's war.  Sigrid is a young woman living with her bossy mother-in-law while working as a stenographer all the while trying to ignore the loss and devastation around her.  But she's got a secret lover.....who has secrets of his own.

I cannot recommend this book to you enough.  Oh my goodness.  It might be almost 400 pages, but I read it in two days over this weekend.  Granted, I am a total World War II nerd (complete with a trip to Berlin AND a concentration camp) but it was compelling, heart wrenching and moving all at the same time.  I cried and worried and had to take mental breaks.  I'm not going to lie.  It's some heavy stuff.  But good.  Powerful.  Cleansing in a way, I suppose.  Delicious and captivating for sure.  This is a good one for the Christmas holidays - not because it's uplifting or anything of the sorts, but because it's cold and dark and foreboding.  Great for a cold winter's night.

Birthday gift from a friend

A young woman leaves a halfway house of sorts, having been a ward of the state for her entire life.  She has only one great talent - the knowledge of an old Victorian flower language which she then uses to help out a local flower shop.  By working in this shop she reconnects with her past and then is thrust into an uncertain future.

This was another one that I read in only a few short days.  It's an easy read but one that will touch your heart.  Not going to lie - I cried at the end of this book as well.  

So there you go.  What I've been up to lately.  All in all, I've been pretty pleased with the Book Club suggestions and looking forward to even more new books!