Monday, January 26, 2015

you know you're a mom of boys when... want to dish up bowls of soup for dinner but cannot find the ladle.

you've looked through every drawer. you've searched the cupboards. you pulled out the bottom basket of the dishwasher to see if it was hiding below. you crouched down to see if it somehow got stuck beneath the oven. ew. you wish you hadn't looked under the oven. you finally stop, stand in the middle of the kitchen and say out loud to yourself where could that bloody ladle possibly be?

exasperated, you turn toward the window and take a deep breath. it's no big deal; i'll just use a spoon. you notice something hanging from the tree in the yard. what in the world could that be? is that a baseball? you walk closer to the window, squinting, trying to decipher what you're seeing.

then it becomes clear. it IS a baseball! 

and look what's holding it!

apparently, soup ladles make the perfect "squirrel trap".

Friday, January 23, 2015

a treasure from two

harrison, age two

i was scrolling through old blog posts and discovered this gem, a never-published blurb about the phrases harrison was saying back in july 2009. he would have been 2 years, 3 months. at that point he had been through a few months of weekly speech therapy, provided free by the state because his expressive language was considerably below age level. if i recall correctly, he started speech at 17 months and graduated from the program at 20 or 21 months.

anyway, here's what i wrote back then:

little things harrison has recently said that 
crack me up, amaze me, catch me by surprise...

"good choice, mommy"
"that's amazing!"
"it's a booger, mommy"
"thank you god for dolphins"
"i want to see the horses"
"graham's a silly-willy"
"construction worker"
"see more bulldozers"
"harrison do it all by myself"

and here's a good memory from around that same time:

we used to go for walks around the neighborhood. i'd push harrison in the stroller and carry graham in the bjorn. we never made it very far because oh my word it was exhausting! one day after returning home harrison decided to take elmo for a stroll up and down the sidewalk. he knew what he was doing was pretty cute!

they call it the terrible two's but i didn't experience much of that. i have pretty fond memories of two. 

age three and half, though? forgeddaboudit!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

a real life conversation...

the white boys squeeze frosting onto cookies, new year's eve.

...about cookie decorating.

the scene: i was driving harrison and graham home from the park when i had the idea to host a bike day event for all our friends this summer.

bike day was an awesome experience for the boys during their preschool years. they attended a k-12 school for kids with special needs, but the preschool was integrated with typical kids. bike day was an annual event where every single student got to ride a bicycle (standard or adapted, with their own strength or with an adult pushing them) around the track.

music played. kids rode bikes. teachers smiled. therapists cheered. parents took photos and manned the bake sale. firefighters brought trucks, stayed to push or run alongside kids, and bought lots of baked goods. student volunteers from the middle school nearby walked over to help out. everyone was in good spirits. it was just a care-free, feel the wind in your hair, super fun day.

so anyway, i told the boys about my bike day idea and we started brainstorming the details about who we'd invite (everyone), where we'd have it (at the track behind our house), what music to play (bicycle race by queen of course), and what snacks to have (finally we reach the cookie decorating portion of this story).

so the boys want to cut out sugar cookie circles and decorate them like bike tires.

great idea, which was exciting to talk about for a minute, until the conversation turned into an argument (everything does with those two these days). it all went downhill so quickly that i couldn't figure out what it was they were actually fighting about.

until i heard this...

graham: NO HARRISON! WE HAVE TO USE SILVER FROSTING TO MAKE THOSE LINE THINGS!  (he's referring to the spokes of a bicycle tire)

harrison: [condescending, frustrated]  THEY DON'T MAKE SILVER FROSTING GRAHAM!

graham: [deep breath, big sigh, contemplative]  you just never know, harrison.

indeed, son, you just never know.

if you're reading this, consider yourself invited to white bike day! coming summer 2015!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

thursday thinks that make me think

i realize it's wednesday but, ya know, this is my blog so i can go wild and write a "thinking thursday" post on a non-thursday if i please. 


have you bought new underwear this year? - this was a must-read for me as it's something i struggle with (hint: it's not really about underwear). this quote in particular spoke to my heart: 

"But—in one of those great paradigms of life—it takes a little work to make time and space for the things that feed our souls, and we have to decide that those things—that we ourselves—are worth the effort."

mother yourself - perhaps i'd do better in the self-care arena if stopped calling it "me time" and started thinking about it as "mothering myself".

"So when you think of it that way, it’s really simple. Take care of yourself the way a mother would. Be tender, be caring, think ahead, and see the whole picture."

burn the candles - a lovely reminder.

"Burn the candles. Not just when people come over. For you, because someone gave them to you. Open the wine and have a glass tonight while you fold laundry. Wear the perfume, the pretty scarf, the whatever that you have tucked in a box, too fancy for you."

kaizen: approach your goals gradually - this concept spoke to me...whatever change it is i'd like to make, the best way to go about it is probably slowly. slow but sure, right? 

"But since habit change should be for the long-haul, it’s worth pursuing methods that produce lasting results."

sell your crap, pay off your debt, do what you love - the tiny house movement calls to me on so many levels!!!!

"There is a massive liberation with this process, a cleansing of the old in preparation for something completely new, a fresh start that so many yearn for."

21 books to read before they hit the big screen in 2015 - i've already read numbers 9, 11, 15, 19, 20 & i cannot lie #5 too. the book i'm most looking forward to reading though is #1. and i want to do so before seeing the oscar-nominated film. 

happy thursday, friends (one day early).

Monday, January 19, 2015

banishing the winter blues

it's 2:15pm. the boys are home from school in honor of mlk day. they are curled up watching a movie.

we left the house at 8:30am to meet friends at a park. the kids played while my girlfriend and i walked laps. we were outside moving our bodies for two hours on this gorgeous day, wearing only hoodies/light fleece. over and over i turned my face toward the sun and said thank you for such a lovely winter day.

after lunch the boys and i rode our bicycles to the walking track near our house. they FINALLY got a chance to play with their christmas gifts! their new bikes have hand brakes and gears, an adjustment from the basic pedal bike. no surprise, they did great.

all that to say i feel very blessed to live where we have frequent breaks from the typical cold, dreary winter weather. most days, even if cold, are sunny and, in denver, you just cannot help but get outdoors to soak up some of those warm rays.

but even with sunshine and fresh air it's easy to get rundown in winter.

my facebook feed has been littered with shared links; friends posting articles about how to combat the "holiday hangover" and the "winter depression". just today i read two separate blogs that addressed recognizing and curing a "funk". most of them give the same tips - exercise, sleep, get outside, etc.

back in early autumn of last year when i first started going to marriage counseling my therapist told me i needed better self-care. he prescribed the tried and true exercise, sleep, get outside but also added think positive thoughts and spend time with uplifting girlfriends. i began doing those things (which i'd neglected for far too long) and it began to help.

so i was as surprised as anyone when i found myself lapsing back into a mild depression at the end of march 2014. my therapist sent me to our family physician to have some blood drawn and labs done.

the diagnosis?

basically, it had just been a long winter.

my body was very deficient in vitamins d & b.
the doctor wrote me a prescription for an extreme dose of vitamin d. he also gave me vitamin b shots.

now i help manage my mood by taking vitamins every day, with every meal.

vitamin d - 3x/day
fish oil - 3x/day
calcium - 2x/day
vitamin b - 1x/day

(every brand of vitamin/supplement is a different dosage so i take the amount of each that was suggested specifically for me by my physician.)

even with vitamin therapy i'd be lying if i said i wasn't concerned about this winter. i didn't want a repeat of last year. those "out of sorts" feelings - exhaustion, crankiness, a case of the blahs - none of it is fun. not for me or my family. thankfully, so far this winter, i've felt great! i have been careful to take my vitamins, get fresh air, exercise, plenty of sleep, eat healthily (although i totally binged on gluten-free cookies last week!!), and my negative thinking has been more under control. this seems to be the magic combination for my body at this time. 

if you are struggling with the winter blues i'd challenge you to make an appointment with your doctor to see if you might be low in vitamins/nutrients. especially if you are doing well with the other self-care suggestions and still feel sluggish. all things considered, vitamin therapy is a simple, inexpensive way to feel happier and more energetic.

i sure need every ounce of energy to keep up with my two active boys!!

movie's over...time to head back outside and make the most of this beautiful weather!

Saturday, January 17, 2015

we are not ourselves by matthew thomas - a book review

this fictitious epic spans sixty years, telling the life story of eileen tumulty.

in 1951 we find nine-year eileen, the daughter of irish immigrants now living in queens. the book walks us through eileen's childhood marred by her mother's alcoholism, the young adult years marked by her fierce ambition and determination to escape her station and finally an adulthood filled with a constant unsettledness, marriage, difficulty getting pregnant and, most profoundly, the harsh realities of her husband's early on-set alzheimer's disease.

this is not a happy book but it is an honest depiction of one woman's life. there are definitely joyful moments but the hard times seem to outnumber the good. i found the trials thrust upon eileen to be depressing but the dignity with which she walked through them was inspiring. there's a quote in the book, "it was time now to be smart - smart and strong. she wondered whether she'd ever have a chance to be foolish and weak" (page 513). this is eileen's essence; she always had to tend to the needs of others.

on the other hand there were times when eileen was foolish. there is a sentence on page 417 that describes eileen's college-age son, connell. it says, "the problem was, he didn't know how to be anybody but himself, and he wasn't sure what that self was yet, so he studied other people for traits to grab and fashion a personality out of." i found this sentence to be exactly true for myself at the same age. isn't that what most of us do to some extent in our twenties?

that sentence also defines eileen, except she was almost unforgivingly slow in discovering who she was so that even in her adult years she was still on a quest to be someone other than herself. the way she went about that was to have more - a bigger house, a nicer neighborhood, a better car, a mink coat. her inability to be content irritated me. she possessed such great qualities - a loyalty to her frail husband, a tireless work ethic, she was good friend - but deep down inside she never felt good enough. i had sympathy for her; she's had to deal with a lot in her life.

i guess that's a good recommendation for this book, right?

the author created a character and wrote her story beautifully so as to illicit a range of my emotions (sympathies, sadness, anger) even though i didn't always like her as a person. i'd say that's what good writing is supposed to do and matthew thomas has done it well.

without revealing too much, there is a poignant scene at the end of the book where, at age 59 (if i've done my math correctly) eileen finally "gets it". this realization unfolds in such a lovely way. i found myself, for her sake, wishing it had happened sooner. in this one scene, with just one sentence, eileen redeems herself in my eyes and i was able to walk away from her story feeling hopeful.

but better late than never.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

new year, new budget

the tracks i made while snowshoeing last weekend.

last september i told you about our $175/week challenge, where jeremy and i limited our weekly purchases in an attempt to stockpile money away for the future.

it worked for a little while. it was really hard, but we were actually able to save quite a bit of cash!

but then the holidays rolled around and... well, you know how that goes. 

listen, nobody's perfect! it's so easy for me to carried away in all the holiday hoopla! i did better with holiday spending than i have in years past, though. i was more aware. i made conscious choices about how to use our money instead of buying whatever, whenever. here are a few things we did right:

 - we didn't go overboard with christmas gifts for the boys this year (in my opinion). they each got a bicycle, a game, a book and a stocking filled with small things (like much needed underwear and socks). the bikes were a necessity, actually, as both boys had outgrown their old one. we would have purchased new models in the spring anyway so we decided to make that their christmas present, thus combining a "necessary" purchase with a "gift" purchase. and while the bikes were not cheap, we purposefully chose a less-expensive brand and ordered online instead of buying from the local bike shop, saving us about $250.

- even though we were watching our spending we let the boys each choose one service/giving project for us to do as a family. harrison chose to support an 8-year old in uganda. we bought school supplies, hygiene products and a toy for a boy named calvin. we also wrote letters and included a picture of our family in hopes that calvin will write back to us. graham chose to buy toys for the jeffco action center, a local charitable organization. each of the boys used some of their own money to purchase the needed items. it was a fun, and very special, thing to do together during the holiday season.

 - jeremy and i discussed all the year-end expenditures that would be above and beyond our budget. thanksgiving dinner, teacher gifts, christmas presents, the start of the ski season including lessons for the boys and an increase in gas costs due to extra drives to the mountains, and TMI: i really needed a couple new bras!! ...all these things were planned. so, yes, we were spending more than our budget BUT it wasn't frivolous at least from the standpoint that we had calculated for them in advance.

the holidays are over now and it's time to get back on track with the budget, which we are adjusting up to $200/week. we found $175 to be too strict for our family. frankly, i think $200 is still going to be difficult but we'll try it out for a while and see how it goes.

here are some of the things that have helped us stick within our budget: 

 - make a meal plan each week and stick to it. i don't bother too much with coupons or sales...just the simple act of planning out what we will eat each week saves us money. mostly by preventing last minute grocery store runs or, worse, trips through the drive-through.

 - use grocery store points to get a discount on gas. this might be the easiest way we've saved...and the biggest! our grocery store allows us to collect fuel points. in november we were able to use them for $.30 off each gallon and in december we saved $.40 off each gallon. it sounds a bit silly but jeremy and i go to the gas station at the same time, use one pump, and fill both our tanks in one transaction so we can get the most savings. we estimated saving approximately $13 (based on gas prices at that time) each time we filled up. i'm ashamed to say i never used fuel points to fill up before we began budgeting. think of all those wasted dollars...

 - do not go to target! do i need to explain this further?

 - along the same lines of StopGoingToTarget is this: i don't look at catalogs; they go straight into the recycle bin. i don't browse online. i immediately delete tempting emails that announce sales or deals. if i need something (like a new bra) i go purchase it but i do not go to the store to "look around". i discovered most of my shopping was ultimately to COMBAT BOREDOM and aren't there better things that could do that? like reading a book. or going for a walk. or playing a game with my children. or actually cleaning my house??

 - i try to always remember our goal - we are saving for a down payment on a house! when faced with a spending decision i weigh it out against the idea of a new house. which do i want more? in fact, jeremy bought me a thoughtful, very expensive christmas gift and i did not open the box for more than a week because i was deciding how much i wanted/needed it. (jeremy was not offended by that). i really grappled...should we return it and save that money instead?

our current budgetary questions are:

1) how do we fit personal training sessions for me into our budget? even though i quit going to my pilates classes in september in order to save $30/week it's become clear i do need some sort of fitness class...something to help me stay accountable in that area. pilates was $120/month. i've asked my trainer if he'd be willing to meet with me twice and provide workouts for me to do on my own the rest of the month. the cost of that is $100. less than pilates but still a significant amount to spend each month. we'll see how it goes.

 2) how do we squeeze the cost of lunch for jeremy and the boys on skiing saturdays into the budget? lunch on the mountain is very costly. we've tried packing a brown bag lunch but that isn't something jeremy is interested in doing again. they burn A LOT of calories skiing and a sandwich doesn't cut it. the solution we are going to try this coming weekend is to make a soup or stew (something hot and filling) and pack it in thermos'. we did spend $75 on 3 thermos' - a pretty big investment! - but we've spent that amount for our family to eat lunch at the resort so we'll see if this thermos idea works out. if not, at least they can still use their thermos' to take a hot lunch to school and work.

ultimately i did choose to open my christmas gift from jeremy. i'm typing this blog post on a beautiful macbook air, a luxury that was definitely not in the budget.*  i think jeremy is secretly hoping i'll use this lovely laptop to write a book...a best-selling book...a book that will hit it so big he'll be able to retire! he's thinking more about rolling in the dough than shelling it out. like everything else, i guess we'll just have to see how that goes!

so what about you? did you struggle with spending during the holiday season? do you find your shopping to be nothing more than a boredom-banishing activity?

*it should be noted that although the laptop was outside the budget we could still afford to buy it. jer paid cash for it. we don't buy anything (inside or outside the budget) unless we can do so without going into debt. 

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

books i read over christmas break

my reading life goes through peaks and valleys. during the autumn months books had a difficult time holding my interest. one novel in particular, big little lies by liane moriarty, an author i've enjoyed reading in the past, was checked out from the library on two separate occasions and yet i still haven't finished it. in fact, i never got farther than the first few pages. i'm hoping the third time will be charmed. 

over christmas break, however, i went through a reading growth spurt. five books in fifteen days! here are my thoughts on them...

love with a chance of drowning by torre deroche  

this is a memoir written by a young australian woman who leaves home to live in the states, promising her family she will return in one year and not fall in love with an american man. one of those promises was broken and the other was bent. it's her adventurous tale about choosing to face her greatest fears (because it was the only way she could be with the man she loved) and how conquering those fears helped her to understand who she is and how she wants to live her life. 

it was a quick, easy and captivating read. it made me want to go on a year-long sailing expedition. except for the part about not showering for weeks at a time. 

the storied life of a.j. fikry by gabrielle zevin

this is a novel about a man who owns and lives above a small town bookstore. the past few years of his life, both personal and professional, have been tough but he discovers an unexpected surprise in the bookstore and it changes things for him.

a.j. fikry says "you know everything you need to know about a person from their answer to this question: what is your favorite book?" although i agree with him to some extent i'd hate to answer that question! how can anyone name one favorite book?! i enjoyed this book, especially how each chapter begins with a book review written by mr. fikry; for mostly classic literature and poetry he considers a must-read.

again, this was a quick, easy read. it was a heartfelt story with a couple small twists to keep it interesting. there was one "twist" that wasn't developed as deeply as i would have liked but it was a side story and not all that important to how the main storyline resolved. even still, the fictional characters in this book inspired me to want to be a better reader.

the girl with all the gifts by m.r. carey

this is not the type of book i typically like but i found myself sucked in and thinking about the story long after i finished it. so i suppose that's the best recommendation i can give! it's a thrilling drama set in post-apocalyptic england. melanie, the main character, is a young girl who lives in a cell. she is removed from her cell to attend school, as long as her hands, feet and head are severely restrained to a wheelchair. the gripping, powerful story builds from there. 

at the beginning i kept reading to try to figure out who melanie is and why she had to be to closely monitored. after that was revealed i kept reading because i just had to see how it was all going to turn out! although every page of this book held my interest and i do recommend it as a good read, there are some gory, graphic scenes. so use caution if that type of thing bothers you. 

the good girl by mary kubica

i read an online review for this book although i have surfed the blogosphere and cannot for the life of me find where i read it. sigh. that review quoted this line from the book:
"I've been following her for the past few days. I know where she buys her groceries, where she has her dry cleaning done, where she works. I don't know the color of her eyes or what they look like when she's scared. But I will."

that was enough to get me interested. i don't want to ruin the story for you so i'll leave it at that and hope it peaks your interest too. of all the books i read over the break this went the fastest, completing it in less than four hours. i was able to predict the ending fairly early on but still enjoyed reading to see how it would all unfold. 

11/22/63 by stephen king

i've come to realize there are some big time stephen king fans. they've read every single thing he's ever written...they've been reading his books since they were in middle school...they think he is the king of all authors (pun totally intended). but that is not me. i am not at all intrigued by scary stories. i have no desire to fall asleep (or be kept awake) with deranged characters and freaky plots running through my brain. i saw one movie adaptation of a stephen king book when i was younger and have purposely avoided the author ever since. 

until i started seeing reviews for 11/22/63

it seemed everyone was reading it and loving it. so i downloaded the e-book for my nook and started reading it sometime last year. i got about a quarter, maybe a third, of the way in and stopped. i can't say exactly why. the story seemed too big to be read on the nook, figuratively speaking. anyway, a couple weeks ago as i was headed to check out the rest of these books i happened to walk by our library's sale table and saw 11/22/63, all 842 pages of it, setting out with a $3 price tag. i decided $3 was a great deal for such a huge novel and brought it home with me, wondering if it might be easier to get lost in the story if i was holding the paper version. turns out i was right.

11/22/63 is a fascinating time-travel story about a high-school english teacher, jake epping, who is asked to venture back in time to stop the assassination of president john f. kennedy. he does indeed chose to walk through the "rabbit hole" and discovers what actually happened back then and what might happen to the future if he changes things. he experiences the norms of 1958, keeping on the periphery of life for awhile until settling in a small town where he accepts a job, builds relationships and eventually finds the love of his life. all the while he tracks the movements of lee harvey oswald in order to determine if oswald acted alone or if the conspiracy theories about kennedy's assassination were true.

it was evident king did an immense amount of research about oswald and jfk, that aspect of the novel was intriguing and thrilling - will jake stop the assassination? what will the future be like if he succeeds? i was impressed by the storyline and how the author carried certain themes seamlessly from beginning to end. the plot and the characters were deep and detailed and rich. ultimately, though, there is a romance that unfolds throughout jake's time-travels and i found myself wondering less about the assassination and more about whether or not love will withstand the test of time. 

so that's it. from a reading standpoint i'd say it was a successful christmas break! let's see how long this "peak" will last...