Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Stepping back, looking forward

About a month ago, I decided to write a blog.  In making that decision, I set some pretty lofty goals for myself to make some changes.  The changes themselves weren't exactly lofty, but because I had been struggling to find the opportunity to do any of them for so long, just the idea of accomplishing one felt like a stretch.  Now that this first month has passed, I want to do a little review, a re-cap, to hold myself accountable to what I originally set out to do.  Maybe I'll continue to do this review monthly.  Maybe I'll be doing so well, or so poorly, that I won't find it necessary.  So what have I done?

Well, not all of my original changes have even been possible yet.  Gardening, painting walls, hanging more pictures, all projects for another time.  Seeing more amazing nature I suppose could have been possible, but I haven't made the effort to go out beyond the normal.  I did see a lot of pretty snow-covered things around the neighborhood.  But that's not what I was aiming for.

Keeping in more constant contact with friends and family.....  No, I don't think I've made any progress on this one, but I don't think it was a complete failure either.  Normal life has kept much of that in the forefront anyway, but additional effort has not been made.  Honestly kind of forgot about this.

Want to take better pictures.....This is not a happy topic for me.  I adore taking and sharing pictures.  We don't have a fancy camera, but it has done a great job the past few years.  It is now ready to take a ride to the farm.  But I don't want to go out and get another low-end camera that is going to do this again.  So I must wait.  And take dark, slightly out-of-focus, occasionally perfect, usually not, pictures.  This is just going to have to sit along with the other projects on the shelf.

Need to pray more....You know, this one has in fact seen some progress.  I am a part of a weekly prayer group at church with some very inspiring friends.  Thanks to God's work through them, I am getting better.  Much work to be continued, however.

Need to read more scripture....I made an attempt at this one, and it was not successful.  Happy I tried something, determined to find another way.

Want to bake more...nope.  And now that I am trying to eat better, this project gets shelved for a bit also.  At least until I have time to uncover healthy baking things.  Which leads me into...Want to cook more good meals...This is another that I think has made progress.  I'm not by any means doing anything gourmet or impressive, but I'm trying new things and just plain old cooking more, and getting out of the recipe rut.

Want to read...Not only have I read, I read TWO books in one month!  Without pictures!  And the group of friends I have joined in a book club are all very avid and enthusiastic readers, which will only encourage me more.

Need to exercise...According to the CardioTrainer app on my phone, which I adore, I have exercised 13 times in the past month.  That's not great, but it's better than it has been in the past.  And now that I have challenged my husband to join me in exercising more and eating healthier, I am guaranteed to do it more often, because I do NOT like to lose challenges with him.

What a busy month!  I haven't even mentioned my favorite part of all these challenges, which is writing the blog.  I love writing this blog.  Thank you to all of you who have read it and given me such encouraging feedback to continue.  I suppose I would enjoy the process whether anyone read it or not, but really it is so much more fun when I get to hear your experiences and feedback also.  Bring on February!

Friday, January 27, 2012

For my boys

This blog is a lot about me.  Sure, there may be some anecdotes about you guys now and again, but the whole purpose of this blog is to celebrate me doing things I want to do.  I know you support this endeavor, but just in case there is every any confusion, let me set the record straight.

To my amazing husband:  You married the person I was almost nine years ago.  And yes, while I agree that I have become oh so much better with age, as have you, there still were a lot of things about nine-years-ago me that were awesome.  So I'm trying to get to a blend of them both, kind of a Me 2.0.  I know that you like this idea and want me to continue, but just to be clear, this is not an escape from anyone or anything.  You know that more than anyone, I suppose, because you are a part of, or right next to, all of the activities that I write about.  Assuming that you read them.  Sorry, just couldn't resist that one.  A joke filled with love :)

To my beautiful son:  One day you might actually read this blog.  Such a strange thought today, but it won't seem strange for long.  And you'll probably read my Facebook posts too, because oh yes, I will be a friend, and I will know your password so that I can jump on in and check your stuff at any old time.  There will be SO many things you will see about you.  Some good, some frustrating, some funny, some sentimental.  And no matter how much I might talk about the challenge of parenting, there aren't enough years on this planet to talk about the joys.  Please don't think that any part of this whole me blog is any statement about wishing for a different lifestyle.  Knowing that you watch every single move I make and hear every word I say is the single most motivating thing for me wanting to better myself.  I want you to know who I am, not just as your Mom, but as a person, and I want us both to be proud of who that person is.

And then there is you, Hoosier.  Not to worry, you have not been forgotten, though I think we all know you spend a little more time watching and waiting for us than any of us would like.  You were the first baby of this family, albeit a fuzzy one, and even though you're not quite the crazy pup you used to be, you're still always going to be our first puppy.  As soon as this whole exercise topic improves, you will definitely benefit from that too, because there's a big world out there with all kinds of paths to be sniffed.

Even without enough exercise, time to read, time to cook, etc etc, I am definitely a much better version of me than I was nine years ago.  That version didn't have the three of you.  I had NO idea what was coming.  Wonder what the eight-years-in-the-future version of me has in store?

Friday, January 20, 2012

Success in spite of myself

When all was said and done, this recipe turned out to be a really good one.  But the process reminded me why I have fallen out of habit of cooking anything that requires more than 5 ingredients and/or 20 minutes to create.

Today was a pretty frazzled day at home with my son.  Add six inches of snow and a long commute for my husband, and that makes for a late and completely unenthusiastic dinner preparation.  But it was on the menu for today, the meat was already defrosted, and we had to eat, so I popped in two Tylenol and cracked open a  Diet Coke, and went to work.

Thanks to my sister-in-law for sending me this Weight Watchers recipe for Cheeseburger Casserole.  For full disclosure, I am not participating in Weight Watchers and did make some alterations to the ingredients, so I can't give a completely honest opinion on the taste of the dish according to the whole points thing.  But the dish I made was very tasty.

I mentioned before that I was reminded why cooking involved recipes is no longer common for me.  There are several reasons for that.  First, it's just really hard for me want to do this at the end of a long day, and between work and parenting, most days feel like a long day, no matter how enjoyable they might be.  Second, I seem to have forgotten how to prepare for events that don't involve a diaper bag.  When I started and actually read the entire recipe, I realized the potatoes were supposed to be already steamed and cooled before anything else could be done.  Rats.  So I got those going and did all the chopping and preparing of other things while I waited.  And waited. Oh yeah, and did I mention I didn't actually read the entire recipe before deciding to make it?  After cooking for what felt like an eternity, I looked to see what the recipe said for time estimations, and yep, it sure does take every bit of 90 minutes to finish.  Having 90 straight minutes to devote to anything is a rarity in my life.

The recipe calls for peeling the potatoes before slicing them.  While doing that I couldn't help but think of being in my Grandparents' kitchen in Norway.  Steamed/boiled potatoes are a pretty regular side dish in Norway, at least it was with my family.  My Mormor (Grandmother) had an amazing skill at peeling scalding hot potatoes in 5 seconds flat.  She poked it with a fork, held the fork in one hand and a knife in the other, and peeled off the skin like one would peel the skin off a piece of fruit.  I'm pretty sure to this day that she has no nerve endings in her thumb, otherwise that would be an impossible feat to accomplish.  But as I continually burned my thumb doing the same tonight, because I had no patience to wait for them to cool, I figured out that given another 30 years of this activity, when I'm a Grandma, I probably won't have any nerve endings in that thumb either.

Besides putting the potatoes in the oven before it had a chance to heat up to the appropriate temperature, the rest of the meal preparation was uneventful.  I substituted ground beef for ground turkey because it is what we had.  After reading a review (yep, took time to read reviews, but didn't think to read through the whole recipe) that said the dish wasn't cheesy enough, I opted to double the amount of evaporated milk and cheese to make sure that didn't happen.  And that worked out pretty well.  Sorry dieters, that won't work for your point system, but it sure makes it tasty.  Pictured here is my finished product, without the perfectly placed food bits and pretty green napkin.  The recipe will stay in the rotation, though I'll be honest, now that I know how long the prep time is, it probably will be a while before we see it again.

Are you going to make this?  Please send me a pic and let me know how it goes!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Try, try again

I had a really good idea.

Shortly after Christmas, I was at the library for the first time in about two years.  The last time I was there was to pay a $50 fine and give them a copy of the police report I filed after someone stole my keys, including the mini library card attached, and checked out a LONG list of books that they never had any intention of returning.  Since I haven't been reading much since then, it took me until now to get back there and get a new library card.  So I was at the library, and came across the Bible on CD.  Actually many CDs, 60 to be exact.   So I picked up the CDs, and decided I could put them in my car to use them during my commute.  That would be an hour a day more of the Bible than I would otherwise accomplish.  Surely this was the solution to my struggles of incorporating more time for reading the Bible.

As I checked out the binder of CDs, I confirmed the due date with the librarian, and when I commented that I probably wouldn't finish them all in three weeks, she made a comment that is both true and bothersome.  She said that I could just renew it, because she was pretty sure there wouldn't be a big rush on people wanting to have it as well.  While I know that is true, there is never going to be a long line of people out the door to check out 60 CDs of someone reading the Bible, I guess I just found it disheartening the way she said it with such a snarky tone.

But off I went with my massive binder of Bible CDs.  I have a 6-disc player in my car, so I loaded up all but the first.  (The first slot is reserved for the Wiggles, and a certain someone who regularly rides in the back seat would not be pleased if that was removed.)  For a week, both to and from work, I listened.

I had problems.  There are many versions of the Bible, and this CD compilation happened to use the King James Version.  I doth have-eth a very difficult time-eth understanding-eth this version.  So listening to these CDs required pretty strong concentration, and many times I missed the point of the words I was hearing because it was almost being spoken in a language I can't understand.  I also found myself drifting away to unrelated thoughts as the reader went along, and while I got the gist of where in the Bible we were, what story was being told, I was definitely missing the message.  And there really is something I missed about sitting and reading the words on the page, re-reading and absorbing the verses as I go along.

After a week, I stopped.  I knew that for me, this wasn't the right way to do this.  But I struggled with giving in, because I have not been able to find a consistent way to continue reading the Bible.  I read portions on Sundays.  I read portions at the occasional small group or Bible study.  But beyond that, I struggle.  I was reminded today at church, however, that reading the Bible from cover to cover is not what saves me.  Reading the Bible shouldn't be a "to-do" on my checklist.  Until I can find a way to spend meaningful time learning and applying the messages in that book, just reading it to read it is pointless.

So I'm returning the CD's this week.  Maybe the librarian was wrong, and there actually is a person out there who wants these.  They, most likely, need these more than I do, because this just didn't work for me.  I don't know what to try next when it comes to this topic.  But I bet if I stop trying to do it myself, stop listening to the words and start hearing the message, it will be a good start.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

For the Birds

I wouldn't really say it's a hobby, but another "like" of mine that has fallen to the wayside in the recent past is feeding the birds.  We don't have any fancy birds around here.  I attribute that to an abundance of forest preserves around our neighborhood.  If you had miles of open and quiet paradise, why would you want to hang out in my little plot of world with noisy kids and smelly cars?  Or noisy cars and smelly kids.  Either way.  But even if it is just a collection of house sparrows, I love watching the birds out the window.  And when it is warm enough to have windows and doors open, the twittering of birds in the morning and evening is one of my favorite sounds.

It has become an unfortunate habit that I'm very diligent feeding the birds for months at a time, and then when we run out of seed, many months go by before I start up again.  It's not that I don't want to.  I look longingly at the empty feeders almost daily.  I just let it fall to the bottom of the priority list.

Once I fill the feeders, it always takes several days for the birds to come back. I envision a funny little scene where the elder birds are perched in a nearby tree, feathers ruffled and squawking.  Then the younger whippersnapper birds come over, an argument ensues, with the elder birds saying "She can't be trusted!" and the younger birds responding "But it looks so good!"  And the younger, rebel birds always win out, as they eventually come back and empty the feeders within a day or two.

So today, a new finch feeder to replace the one ruined in last summer's storm, a large bag of birdseed, and a new pack of suet have been lovingly
set out in the yard.  This blog has been motivating me to keep up with the "likes" I have left behind, so I hope to at least keep feeding the birds through the winter.  I can't keep upsetting the elder birds, otherwise they'll probably start eating up all the springtime vegetable seeds in the garden just to spite me.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The sun is setting on diaper days...

Could it be?  Really, truly?  I can't even believe we have reached the point where diapers are becoming obsolete in our house.  Potty training is going great.  We're not quite done yet, but we are much closer than we've ever been.  Check one more thing off my son's master list that he no longer needs Mommy or Daddy for.  But there is no sadness with me of this part of parenting going away.  More time for trains and trucks, I say.

Once the diapers are packed away, I feel like a small part of my credibility and influence in the cloth vs. disposable discussion will be lost.  I'll just be another mom talking about how we used to do things in the good ol' days.  So I want to share my experience one more time while I’m still “current.”

I’ll start this with a disclaimer.  Everyone has very strong opinions, whether a parent or not, about what is or would be the best way to do anything and everything for a child.  And once you are a parent, you will hear them all.  So I know that just because I think today’s cloth diaper opportunities are the swellest of the swell does not mean it is so for everyone.  So therefore I only present to you the reasons why they were the best choice for us.  And sorry, but there are many.

1.     I know at least five other Moms, and I’m sure at the moment I’m just forgetting a few more, with children close in age to mine who L-O-V-E using cloth diapers.  So for my small scientific data set of acquaintances, 100% of the people who use them had a positive experience.
2.     Diaper rash. Or should I say, the lack thereof.  My son may just be blessed with very tough skin, but  I doubt that.  His daycare wouldn’t let us use cloth diapers, and he got more diaper rash with disposables than he ever did with cloth.
3.     Money savings.  Yes, it is costly to buy your full set to start.  If you make the decision to use cloth before your first child and can register or request them for shower gifts, then money becomes less of a factor.  Even if we had to buy them all ourselves, and even though we had to buy disposables in addition for daycare, I am positive we still saved ourselves quite a bit of money. And if it is in God's plan for another baby to ever grace our home, the start-up costs are, yep, free.
4.     They are not gross.  They really aren’t.  You have a kid, you are going to be dealing with bodily fluids no matter what.  And these are built so well and are so user friendly, they are no more gross than dirty disposables.
5.     Laundry.  Again, you have a kid, you are going to be doing a lot more laundry no matter what.  An extra load every two-three-seven days, depending on how many diapers you have and what stage of life your diaper-wearer is in, is easy.  And yes, you have to buy special detergent.  We bought a six-pack before our son was born on Amazon.com, and it lasted 2.5 years.  Not a big deal.
6.     They are easy.  No more diaper pins, no more plastic pants (though those kind are still available, just not my cup of tea), no saggy elastic.  We used BumGenius All-In-Ones, and if you put the liner in the shell right out of the dryer, then putting them on is exactly the same as putting on a disposable.
7.  I am proud of reducing our contribution to the landfill.

   I welcome any comments, questions, testimonials you would like to share.  I could keep going on and on, and on, about this topic, but I will save the keystrokes for another day.  In the meantime, I am off to happily wash some new tiny child underwear.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

I really like New Year's Day

As I put away the Christmas decorations today, I came upon the thought that I really enjoy New Year's Day.  But probably not for the reasons most other people enjoy it.  With a two-year-old in the house, there's really no such thing as partying for New Year's Eve, and there certainly is not any sleeping late the following morning.  This year I did make it up til midnight, thanks to a movie that ended at 11:30.  But I like New Year's Day because of the restart.

First, the Christmas decorations.  I don't love decorating for Christmas.  Pulling out all the boxes, figuring out where to put all the normal decorations and furniture to make room for the Christmas stuff, wishing we hadn't been so careless when we packed everything away last year.  I do like decorating the tree, but beyond that, I guess I'm kind of a scrooge.  But, I admit, the end result is nice.  However, putting it all away, though hard work, feels good.  All of the sudden there is more space, less clutter, and everything goes back to where it belongs.  And so does our day-to-day life.  The chaos is over, normalcy is back.  Whatever normal is in this house.
(Totally unrelated vent, I really get frustrated by glitter and Styrofoam.  They have their purposes, I get it, but MAN do they get annoying)

Anyhow, the other thing I really like about this day is the calendar.
The clean, empty, unscheduled, beautiful calendar.  I am completely dependent on one, I can't remember birthdays, appointments, fun plans, anything, unless it is on the calendar.  I have one on my phone, which I use to log appointments made away from home, but I go home and put it on the wall calendar anyway.  And usually our calendar is full of birthdays for friends and family, church events, social events, doctor's appointments, park district classes, etc. etc. etc.  But on this one day, before I have had the time to transfer everything from last year to this year, it is blank and simple.  I suppose there is something nice about wondering what the year will bring, but mostly I just like it because it is empty.

But in a little while, I will start to fill it up with birthdays and anniversaries, and any plans already scheduled for January, and thoughts can go back to all our blessings.  Happy New Year to all.