Saturday, March 27, 2010

Day 2 -Complete!

I have made it almost 2 full days into my 21- day challenge. Not complaining is a little more difficult than I at first imagined. Hopefully I can keep it going, and not have to slide back down to day zero yet again. I am finding that I am much more conscious of my words before they come out of my mouth, but still thinking complaints fairly often. At least I am not spreading the negativity when I don't let the words escape, but I need to work a bit on changing my way of thinking all together. I don't think I am a terribly bad complainer under normal circumstances, but everyone has room for improvement. And maybe my challenge will serve as an example for certain members of my household.

Yesterday marked a momentous occasion in my life: I got contact lenses for the first time! I am not sure what has kept me from trying them for so long. Before Chris and I were married, I remember that I had an appointment to be fitted for contacts, but for some reason I canceled and never did anything else about it until now. I think it has been a combination of the cost factor and my sometimes reluctance/fear of doing new things. I have been increasingly sick of wearing glasses, and really, how I look in glasses. Eventually I do want the laser surgery, and maybe sometime in the next couple years we can find the money for it. But in the meantime, I am very excited to have become a contact lens wearer! I had to put them in at the store, which was much more challenging than I thought. It is going to take some practice for sure. Yesterday I wore them for four hours, today for six hours, and I will gradually move up to 14 hours a day. Today it did not take me quite as long to put them in. The sensation is a little odd, but they are not really uncomfortable at all. I feel sort of out of sorts when wearing them - I am so accustomed to my glasses. I did also order new glasses and sunglasses, and I'm excited about that too. For the past almost two months I have been wearing broken glasses, not to mention that these glasses have never really fit me properly, and I've had them for three years. Amazing what I will put up with for long periods of time! I am happy I actually did something for myself, especially something I have been wanting to do for quite some time now.

Today I did something else I've been wanting to do for ages - went back to the gym! I dropped my little girls off at Linda's and met my lovely friend Cathy. We walked and talked and did some weights and I loved every moment. I hope it is the beginning of a good thing, because I definitely feel the need to get back into regular workouts. Exercising with a friend is so much more fun than doing it alone. Cathy mentioned we should do a half marathon together, which I think is a fabulous idea, despite the fact that I have never been a runner. I know I can do it if I train properly. I love exciting changes. This is a good time of year for me. I usually feel motivated and happy during the spring, which is so nice after a dreary winter of wanting to hide under the covers and hibernate. I'm in the mood to get things done and shake things up a little.

Chris and I are talking about going on a trip, just the two of us, for our anniversary this summer. We are not sure where, the main requirement is that it is very warm. A couple places we have been considering are Puerto Rico and Las Vegas. I don't have a valid passport, and I'm not sure I trust that I would definitely have one by July, so we haven't been looking much at places that require a passport. We both want to go to Vegas, but I know it would be wicked hot that time of year, without benefit of refreshing ocean breezes. However, we could go to the Grand Canyon from there, which is something I have been wanting to do forever. Puerto Rico, on the other hand, would be nice and tropical, and I have also been wanting to go there for a long time; in fact, it was my first choice for our honeymoon (although I l-o-v-e-d Jamaica!). Plus we could visit the rainforest, which is right up my alley. We will have to see what kind of deals we can find for both destinations and take it from there. I am excited to think we could actually be going on a real vacation alone together. There is also the part of me that thinks nothing is worth doing without my kids. I know that is weird, and that couple time would be extremely awesome and beneficial to us, but I always want to share everything with my kids. I think I'll get over it though!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

I Know I Can Do This!

Today I slipped early in the day and complained about Chris leaving the radio on so loud in the van that I could hear it in the house when I started the van with the remote start. But I did great the rest of the day, and I know I am capable of getting through 21 days with no complaining. Tomorrow will be better!

This morning I had an eye exam, including an exam for contact lenses. I will be going back tomorrow morning - sans children - to partake in the contact lens class, and then I will be sent home with a pair of trial contacts. Because I cannot imagine a world without glasses, I am also ordering new glasses. I'm really excited about this, I've been wanting to try contacts for a long time.

When I was at Target a couple days ago, I bought Mathilda her first toothbrush and baby toothpaste. She loves having her teeth brushed! She smiles and laughs at herself in the mirror. Lucy is continuing her long stretch of wearing princess dresses almost 24/7. The last couple days she has been impersonating Princess Analiese from "Princess and the Pauper". A couple days ago, when I took the girls to school with me for my weekly volunteer work, she wore her Ariel dress and received lots of attention for it. Everytime someone mentioned what a beautiful princess she was, her reply was, "actually I am Lucy Margaret." I absolutely L-O-V-E that Lucy wants to wear a princess dress everywhere. Three is such a fun age. She is sassy as can be, but coupled with sweet and silly beyond measure. Bethany is reading Twilight. I think it is a bit old for her, but I will be impressed if she finishes. If she wants to take on a book of that length, I am not going to discourage her. I should probably re-read it along with her. As she goes along, I have been trying to get her to discuss it with me somewhat and to stop and ask questions when she doesn't understand something. Connor went to dinner with mom tonight while the girls and I were at dance. He will be starting soccer again next month, which I am both looking forward to and dreading. I hope the weather warms up considerably by then.

I have been reading quite a bit of the soul travelers 3 blog, which I have been following off and on for years. The Soul Travelers 3 are a family of three from California who sold their home a few years ago and started living a nomadic life. They bought an RV in Europe and do quite a bit of overland traveling with that, including lots of camping, and spend five months of the year renting a home in Spain. I love reading about all their wonderful adventures, and dream of living like that. It would be exponentially more challenging with four kids versus one, but still rewarding and lovely I think. They say they have no plans on stopping anytime soon, and seem to be genuinely loving their lifestyle. I know it is far-fetched and Chris would never go for it, but I would love to try living like that for awhile. I would want to wait a few years, at least until Mathilda is out of diapers. Sometimes I just feel very strongly that I want to live life differently. Perhaps moving frequently as a child set the tone for me, and nudged me toward wanderlust. I am torn as to which is better: change or stability. I remember being envious of the kids who had known each other since kindergarten and lived in the same house their whole lives. But at the same time, looking back as an adult, I am very grateful for the opportunities I had growing up and the traveling experiences. It is mind boggling to think how different life is for my children than it was for me. They have two parents and each other, first and foremost. They have only moved once, which, paired with switching schools was traumatic enough for Bethany. They have their own beds. They have so much stuff. I would be thrilled to travel through the U.S. for a month or two, but I dream of more exotic locales as well.

For now I will make do with whatever small trip we can muster up here and there. I am semi-planning a small trip for Spring Break. There are a couple problems. The first issue is that Chris is starting a new job and still uncertain whether he will be working during that time. If he does have to work, Linda has said she will be happy to come along with the kids and me. A family trip is what I really want, but I deeply appreciate Linda hanging around and making herself available until the last minute, and know we would have a great time together. The other situation is money. I have several savings bonds I will be cashing in to finance this little voyage, but I may have to go downtown in the next couple days to get a copy of my marriage license, since the bonds are in my maiden name. As far as other trips in the near future, mom and I will do something with the kids this summer. We also have a trip planned to Caseville again. Chris and I are considering using part of our tax return to take a trip, just the two of us. We will be celebrating our 12th wedding anniversary in July, and a get-away together would be a nice way to commemorate this special occasion. These little trips keep me going and satiate my need to explore for the time being.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Keep Trying...

Well I'm back to day zero on my no-complaint challenge. I slipped up again, this time by commenting that "Yo Gabba Gabba" is the most annoying show. But all in all I have definitely been more conscious of my negativity, and even my thought processes.

I am going to pick up a copy of "The Four Day Work Week" soon, it sounds quite intriguing. This Tim Ferriss guy sounds like he has some interesting ideas.

In other news, the so-called "Obamacare" has passed. Many people are vehemently opposed to it. I think probably it's mostly the people who already have health insurance who are so against it. I look forward to seeing how the situation pans out. This could be historic on the same level as the beginning of Social Security, or Medicaid/Medicare. At the post office on Saturday people were even standing outside with "Impeach Obama" signs, which were, by the way, emblazoned with Hitlerized pictures of Obama. Hmmm...really? George W. was/is a complete and utter moron (I think that is more of an observation or statement of fact rather than a complaint), and I don't remember being accosted with "Impeach Bush" signs at any time.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Stop Complaining!

I stumbled across another blog today, written by Tim Ferriss, author of The Four Hour Work Week. As I was browsing the site, I found a great post about changing your attitude, the-21-day-no-complaint-experiment. The basic premise is a challenge to stop complaining for 21 days. During this time, you wear a bracelet or rubber band on one wrist, and every time you slip up, you switch the bracelet or rubber band to the other wrist and start all over again. I decided to try this challenge for myself. Today was meant to be my first day, but I aleady slipped (I muttered about the nasty weather we are having today), so it looks like tomorrow will be my new first day. I am interested to see how this goes. As a general rule, I try not to complain too much, but I could definitely use some improvement. I will continue to blog about my progress.

We had a busy weekend, full of birthday parties and time with friends and family. I am feeling truly blessed at the moment. My friends are awesome and  Chris and I have had a string of good luck that has been truly burden-lifting. I am so thankful for all that I have, especially the people in my life.

In other news, my kids never fail to make me smile and fill me with pride and laughter. Friday afternoon Linda and I took Lucy and Mathilda to lunch at Coney Island. When we were paying the bill, Lucy was offered a balloon. She said "No thank  you. I am a grown up and I'm married already." Also, she was wearing her Belle dress. She wore it everywhere we went Friday and Saturday. Sunday she switched to her Ariel dress, which she is wearing again today. I love taking her errands while she is wearing a princess dress and crown. This kid could not get much cuter. Yesterday, Mathilda pulled herself up to standing for the first time. She was quite proud of herself. Connor has been improving greatly in his Lego-building skills. He can now follow the directions and put most of his Lego stuff together on his own. Bethany continues to be a huge help to me. Every single day she does so much with Mathilda and in general is just incredibly helpful. Yesterday she wrote a few songs on the computer. After school today she told me she wants to start writing a book.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Funny Girls

This morning on the way to school, "Hot Stuff" came on the radio and I turned it up really loud. Mathilda was going wild! She really loves music. Bethany & Connor were cracking up. I couldn't see her since her seat is facing backwards, but they said she was dancing and doing the robot. I could see her car seat bouncing a little. When Chris plays drums or piano she bounces around wildly. While she is in her exersaucer, she goes bananas yelling and bouncing - with or without music. She has the deepest chuckle, it reminds me quite a bit of Connor when he was younger. Tickling her is such fun, she laughs so loudly.  I have even caught her tickling her own feet and laughing out loud! She is saying "mama" and "dada" quite regularly, and she has been heard saying "baby", "Lulu", and "ta-da". And last night she slept in the pack in play until 6 a.m.! This is a huge accomplishment for her.

Sometimes Lucy says the most amusing things. This morning she saw me sprinkling some Benefiber in my cereal and she said, "what on earth is that?".  Last week I was getting her bedtime movie ready for her, and asked if she wanted to watch Little Einsteins. Her response was, "I'm not sure I'm interested in Little Einsteins right now." When she is angry with me she sometimes tells me I'm "ruining her life". Lately she has been talking about Caseville often and asking me when we are going back. There are so many more I wish I could remember right now. She is such a funny little three year old.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Playing Hooky

Bethany had a pretty special day today. Her Meema had an extra ticket to an Irish music concert at Orchestra Hall this morning, and asked if Bethany might be allowed to miss school to go. She hasn't had too  many absences this year, so we agreed. Last night she slept over and Meema took her shopping at Macy's. She was so excited about all her new clothes, she had to call and tell me about everything before bed. The concert included Irish dancing, which is pretty neat since Bethany is currently taking Irish dance lessons. I think she felt very grown up, going to the symphony and then to lunch while everyone else was at school. And she looked so cute when she came home, wearing one of her new outfits. I am so grateful that my kids have such awesome opportunities to do cool things!

When Bethany came home, it was time for her kid pick dinner. Every Thursday, the kids take turn choosing what we have for dinner. The only real rule is it has to be something we cook - no carry out. She chose Chinese food. Due to time constraints, we went with frozen Chinese food purchased from Kroger, but it was all really yummy and generated some interesting conversation about Chinese culture. After dinner, I dropped Bethany off at Lakeshore High School for a Girl Scout swimming event.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Memories and Sleep Deprivation...All in the Name of F-U-N!

Oh, what a weekend we just had. We started the weekend with a bittersweet sleepover. Bethany's best friend is moving over 2000 miles away, and we were blessed with the opportunity to have her over just days before the big move. While Bethany was ecstatic to spend some time with her BFF, she was devastated when the time came for her friend's father to pick her up. The family is hoping to return to Michigan in the near future; in the meantime, Bethany will have her first real pen pal. Memories of my own 2000-mile move in the third grade have come flooding back to me. It's funny how our past lies dormant inside us until something happens to make us remember.

Like Bethany's friend, we moved rather abruptly. Also like her family, we could only take what would fit in our car; the rest went into storage. And another similarity - we moved in with my grandparents, just as her family will be doing. I was eight years old. We were living in Arizona with my mom's boyfriend. As it turned out, the boyfriend, who was also from Michigan, was a fugitive. The law caught up with him and hauled him back to Jackson State. For whatever reason, my mom decided to follow him. I think she was afraid she wouldn't be able to make rent on her own. She was so happy living in Arizona. What might have happened had she decided to stay on without him? She would have saved herself years of heartache with the boyfriend. But I might not be here, with my beautiful family, had we not returned to Michigan when we did.

I don't clearly remember whether I was upset about moving back to Michigan. My mom's brother Kevin and his then-girlfriend-later-wife-now-ex wife took the bus to Arizona so they could drive us across the country. He and my mom took many of our belongings to the flea market to sell before the trip. I remember my babysitter, Vicki, coming over to see us off. I remember a long, hot, uncomfortably crowded car ride, and even sleeping in the car at least one night. With four of us in the car, we couldn't have had much stuff with us. I don't know if I had any toys at all. How odd to think that I had essentially nothing in the way of material things. I did, however, have a pet hamster who made the journey with us. I vividly recall being very self-conscious about starting a new school well into the year. To make matters worse, my uncle's dog bit my face and I had nasty stitches for my first day. My mom and I shared a twin bed in my grandparents' spare bedroom until the boyfriend was released from prison. I think the whole prison thing was pretty embarassing, and I was careful not to share that information with anyone. At that point, the three of us moved into a rental house together. This meant yet another new school. After going about a year without our stuff, we finally had a truck deliver our belongings from storage. I remember standing outside and watching that truck coming to the house, and being disappointed that there was even less stuff in it than I had thought. We were poor as always and my mom had to take out a loan to pay for the delivery.  It has been a long while since I've thought much about that time of my life.

Aside from Bethany's sleepover and my little trip down memory lane, we celebrated Connor's birthday over the weekend. My boy is now seven years old, which is utterly unbelievable. So we cleaned like crazy to prepare for his birthday party on Saturday afternoon, which included both family and friends. Four friends stayed the night. I was not expecting this to be a problem, as Bethany has had that many girls sleep over and they caused us no grief whatsoever. But these boys did not want to go to sleep. They had fun, which is the most important thing, especially because Connor had been looking forward to his birthday sleepover for months, but did they ever wear us out. Lucy also came down with a bad cold that day, and did I mention it was spring forward for daylight savings time too? Sunday was rough.  I think my body will be catching up for awhile.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Bucket List

I have no desire to ever go sky diving or bungee jumping. But there are many things I'd like to accomplish and experience in my life. This is my partial bucket list, in no particular order:

  • Become a Foster Parent  I have long wanted to be a foster parent, and one day when my kids are a bit older, I hope to really do it. When I tell people I want to foster, they usually say it would be too hard to give the kids back. It would be hard, but I think I could do it. There are so many unfit foster parents out there, I'd like our home to be a safe haven for a few kids. Reading White Oleander definitely helped convince me that I really want to do this. 
  • Participate in the Breast Cancer 3-Day  A few years ago, I signed up to walk in the Breast Cancer 3-Day. I wanted to walk in memory of my dad's sister Caroline, who died of breast cancer before I had the chance to meet her. But unfortunately I did not raise enough money to participate. I'm glad I helped generate many donations to a great cause, but I'd like to try again and actually go through with the walk. This will have to wait until at least next year, when Mathilda is a little older and I can dedicate a lot of time to training.
  • Get Contact Lenses and Maybe even Lasik Surgery  I'm tired of wearing glasses. I've been tired of wearing glasses for a long time. I don't like how I look with glasses. One of these days I'm going to order some contact lenses. Of course, it would be nice to have vision insurance first, but that may never happen. Eventually I would also like to have Lasik surgery and never worry about needing glasses or contacts again. 
  • Live Somewhere Outside of Michigan  My mother gave me the gift of wanderlust. She took me out west to live as a child. Now that I'm a grown up, I'd like to live someplace else again, at least for a little while.
  • Scuba Dive  I don't know if I can conquer my fears for this one, but I would really like to explore under the sea at least once in my life. I may have to settle for snorkeling, but maybe sometime I will have the courage and opportunity to scuba dive.
  • Take my Kids on a Major, Life Changing Trip  My real dream is to take my kids on a trip around the world. I know it is possible because I have read about many other families who have done it. Money and practicalities will be hard factors to overcome. I hope to at least take my kids to volunteer in a third world country.
  • Master Sewing  My aunt gave me her old sewing machine a few years ago and I discovered that I really enjoy sewing. I really don't know how to do much of anything though, and I'd love to learn a lot more.
  • Learn to Knit or Crochet  I have been wanting to do this for ages. 
  • Donate my Hair  This one will be happening very soon, as soon as I grow my hair a little bit more and get myself a haircut.
  • Go on a Zip Line  This one really scares me, but it looks like so much fun too! I hope if I ever have the opportunity, I'll be brave enough to give it a try.
I'll definitely be adding to this list! I hope to refer to it often and actually start checking things off.

Out of the Box

Some of the most rewarding events or accomplishments in my life have been prefaced with fear and discomfort. Here are a few that particularly stand out:

  • White water rafting in West Virginia   A natural-born athlete I am not, and I admit I did not prove to be a natural rafter, but I went on some pretty scary rapids and survived. I was quite nervous about this endeavor, and had legitimate fears of drowning or perhaps having my body bashed mercilessly against huge rocks. Despite my fears, I enjoyed being on the river, swimming in the warm water, taking in the beautiful scenery that I would have never otherwise seen, and having a rustic picnic on the banks of the river (ie: no bathrooms). As much fun as I had on my white water rafting adventure, I don't particularly think I'd like to do it again, unless it was on lower grade rapids.
  • Pregnancy Photos   When I was pregnant with Lucy, I was contacted by an acquaintance who was starting up a photography business and asked if I would be willing to have some belly shots taken. I consider myself to be fairly modest and this was way out of my comfort zone. But for some reason, I said yes. And as a result, I have some beautiful pictures that capture a really special time for me. Lucy was my third baby, and although I really wanted another baby, I don't think I ever thought it was actually going to happen. Although that pregnancy was marked with extreme sadness with the downhill turn in my Grandma's health and ultimately her death, I also remember being profoundly happy about our little bun in the oven.  I'm glad to have photos to commemerate that moment of my life.
  • Finding my Father   In 2004, I found myself glued to the television, watching news updates about the Tsunami that hit Indonesia. People were sitting on the beach soaking up the sun one minute, and the next minute swept out to sea. The message that I was struck hard with was that life is short and you never know what is coming next. Not long before this catastrophic event, I had been blessed with some information that could potentially change my life. An online acquaintance put out an offer on a cyber world forum that I frequent - she said she would be willing to help locate people, having some inside information from her place of employment. I contacted her and enlisted her help in finding my father, someone I had never met and knew very little about. With only his name, approximate age, and the name of the university he had attended, she found him. I had dreamed of finding him my whole life, but my fear of rejection had held me back. Finally I had in my hands my father's address and phone number. And it sat in my inbox for a long time. My fear overwhelmed me, paralyzed me...until I watched the horrific events of the Tsunami, which I credit with giving me the courage to write a letter to my dad. Once I made the decision, everything happened very fast. Not long after sending that letter, I was shocked to receive a phone call from my father. Just after my 30th birthday, we met for the first time, and five years later we have a rewarding relationship for which I am so grateful.
  • Visiting Family in a Foreign Land   When Chris and I were in college, we had the wonderful opportunity to go on a school sponsored trip to London, England. When my Grandpa learned of our trip, he insisted we visit his niece, who was living in England at the time with her Australian husband. I had never in my memory met this woman and felt uncomfortable contacting her. I am definitely not an extrovert, and I dislike calling people I don't know well. While in England, Chris and I ended up having a couple days with no scheduled excursions, and I really did not want to disappoint my Grandpa. So I made the phone call, and this stranger agreed to have us visit the pub she and her husband ran about an hour outside the city. Chris and I went to the train station where Paddington Bear famously got lost, bought our tickets and ended up having the best day of our trip. We were treated to a personal tour of an incredible town we otherwise would not have visited, and as an added bonus, we all drove to Stonehedge, a landmark we did not think we would have a chance to see. My long lost cousin had just lost her brother and only days before had returned from his funeral in the U.S. She was going through a bad time and had also been reluctant to meet up with us, but our visit ended up being a much needed diversion for her.
  • Riding Every Ride  I am not a roller coaster lover. In fact I don't much like amusement park rides at all. I get motion sickness, not to mention my fears of ride dysfunction and freak accidents. However, in high school I went to Cedar Pointe with a few friends, and by golly I rode almost every ride in that park. I really don't know what was going through my head at the time, but I swallowed my fears and did it. And I had loads of fun. I'm glad I did it that one time, because I doubt I'll ever do anything like that again. Much like white water rafting, it was a one time experience I'm happy to have under my belt, but I have no desire to do it again.
  • Driving  When I was 15, I struggled through Driver's Training. At 16, my mom took me to Secretary of State and I got my license. And then I never drove. My mom was a nervous wreck, which now that I'm a parent I completely understand. So it wasn't until I was about 20 or 21 that I really started to drive. A very patient and brave co-worker at my summer job started taking me driving on our lunch hour. She never yelled at me or acted like she feared for her life. I began to relax and soon bought my first car. I am forever grateful to that kind co-worker. Fifteen years later, I can't imagine my life without driving.