Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Just so you know.

I'm blogging in two places.  This here is my personal blog.  It might be about the projects I undertake and all the things I see and the thoughts that I just can't keep inside.  I say might because it is far from fully formed and it may yet change again.

The second blog is one is based more around my health and fitness.  The two tie together of course, but I didn't want to fill this blog with logs of the exercises I do.  There is a very focus path for my other blog.  This one can just be me in all my ramblings and wanderings.  I like that.

Why mention it at all?  Well.  I haven't been posting all that much lately and the other blog is why.  I guess it is kind of like a new friend.  Eventually she'll get integrated into my life and I'll be back here old buddy.  No worries.  You are far from forgotten.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

A Wreath for the Season

This year's selection of holiday wreaths was underwhelming.  There were plain evergreen wreaths.  Wreaths with red bows.  Wreaths made out of ornaments and garland.  Wreaths decorated with fake berries.  Fake evergreen wreaths wired with white lights.  Some even come covered in fake snow.  And for all those options I really saw nothing that I liked.

Instead of settling, inspiration struck!  There was a very pretty garland with beads and snowflakes languishing next to a plain artificial 15 inch evergreen wreath.  I could see a beautiful wreath taking shape in my mind.  This year's door decoration was going to be fashioned by your truly!

First step: Gather the materials.  I bought a 15 inch artificial wreath, two 5 foot strands of beaded garland, 4 colorful jingle bells and 100 feet of color ribbon.  The ribbon has wires in the edges to help the resulting bow hold its shape.  And only about 3 - 4 feet of it were actually used in the making of my wreath.  Not shown are 6 wire ornament hangers; paper clips would do the trick too.



String the garland through out the wreath.  I try to make it look pretty random.  Enough slack was left in it to allow repositioning once it was hanging on the door.  The wreath also start looking better after a bit of fluffing and repositioning the branches.


Next step - attach the bells.  I took the ornament hangers and used one to attach each bell.   They could also be attached with twist ties or a bit of string.  The wires were wrapped multiple times around the branches to keep the bells from working themselves loose.


Last but far from least, the bow was fashioned.  I make a few attempts at this before I was happy.  The nice thing about having wire in the ribbon is that the bow can be reshaped until I am happy with it.   Also the knot in the center is pretty loose, but the bow isn't going to come undone because of the wire.  Once I had a bow I was happy with, I twisted two ornament hangers together, threaded them through the back of the bow and attached the bow were I wanted it on the wreath.


Within 20 minutes I have a unique holiday wreath!  The part I like best is that I can refashion this wreath however I see fit.  If I get tired of the teal ribbon (just an example - it is highly unlikely I will get tired of the teal ribbon), I can swap in a purple one.  If the garland fades in the weather?  New garland!  Hopefully this wreath will last me through the winter, but I'm thrilled with my first wreath making attempt.  I hope you enjoy as well!


Sunday, November 13, 2011

Menu Plan Monday: Turkey Towels.

The past year has been officially celebrated for both of my girls and I'm ready to get into the holiday spirit.  The THANKSGIVING holiday spirit if anyone is wondering.  This past weekend I changed over our house decorations from Halloween to Thanksgiving and realized the same thing I realize every year.

Thanksgiving is almost completely skipped over in the stores.  Each year I add one or two items to my Halloween decoration box (admittedly we have a Halloween problem in this house) and even more to my Christmas box.  But when it comes to decorating for Thanksgiving, I barely have any kitsch to put out.  This year Bean noticed that I put out special hand towels for Halloween.  As soon as I said Halloween was over she requested Turkey towels.  I was THRILLED.  She and I made time for a special trek out in search of Turkey towels.  And then we made a second trek...  Then a third!

We found more items with Santa on them than we could count, but there was not a single cute Thanksgiving item left on the shelves.  We did find a very unattractive table top turkey, but Bean looked at it and frowned.  Thankfully she was eventually content with a turkey t-shirt and some towels with fall leaves on them, but I am SOOO disappointed!  Next year I'm going to have to tackle the turkey towel acquisition starting in September.  It feels so wrong.

This week's menu:
Breakfast:
(Me) Egg on an English Muffin & Blue Machine
(Hubby) Oatmeal, Bananas & OJ

Lunch:
LO Mac & Cheese
Ham Sandwiches
Grapes
Lettuce Salad/Veggie Sticks

Monday: Chicken, Green Bean & Rice Casserole
Tuesday: Spaghetti
Wednesday: Grilled Fish with Carrots & Spinach
Thursday: Out to Chick-Fil-A on the way to Choir Practice
Friday: Beef Tacos
Saturday: BBQ Chicken
Sunday: Baked Potato Bar

Do you decorate you house for Thanksgiving?  When (and where) do you acquire your decorations?

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Yarn of the Day

As promised I have sent that silly yarn diet packing and a new age is being ushered in.  Well...  Maybe not a new age.  I guess really I'm ending an age so that I can return to the age before.  Let us forget the time of no new yarn and embrace the joy that is hand dyed fiber!

While in New Orleans, I made a side trek to a little yarn shop smack in the middle of the French Quarter.  The shop's name is The Quarter Stitch and it is really more than just a yarn shop.  The walls of the shop are covered in beautiful hand-painted needlepoint templates.  The windows are full of charms and ornaments in varying shapes and bold colors.  Yarn is clumped in baskets around the store, not really organized, but not overly chaotic either.  And then on the wall behind the register from counter to ceiling is a feast of colors.


Just looking at it made new projects jump to mind.  I perused the baskets, touching and imagining.  that is until I found MY yarn.  The second I saw it, I knew I was going to buy it.  Just looking at it made me giddy.  Right now I'm imagining stocking caps for my girls.  A thick cabled scarf.  Or simple mittens to keep my hands warm.  They really are never very warm.


The camera on my phone doesn't do this yarn justice.  The basement lighting is also not my friend.  *sigh*  But trust me this is the most beautiful yarn to ever break a yarn diet.  I swear it is.  For those who need the details, it's Malabrigo's Rios line, Merino Superwash.  The two skeins are from the same dye lot, but I'm not sure how similar they really par.  Just about every color I can think of is in there each blending into the next like a vibrant autumn unset.

And the way it was packaged up?  I have to give credit to the ladies at The Quarter Stitch.  I loved the yarn at the store, but I enjoyed discovering it all over again when I got home from my trip.  They had wrapped it up just like a gift.  And it was even more gorgeous the second time around.



And the best news?  I've gotten about 3 more inches added to Inchie's Baby Blanket.  Another 2 rows and I'm starting the border.  She'll have it before Thanksgiving (I HOPE).  Yeah new yarn for making the blanket grow.  I owe you one!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Little Monster.

I'm in so much trouble.  When I decided I wanted to be a Mom, I imagined these independent, clever children.  They would play on their own whiling away the hours until they needed a hug from Mom just to reinforce their awesomeness.  That magical hug would happen and they would joyfully go on with whatever pursuit they had imagined for themselves.

I know.  Dreams.  *sigh*

Somewhere along the way I also took it for granted that they would somehow understand feelings and be empathetic little creatures.  I can't even claim to have dreamt that one up.  It's too far fetched for even my dream state.  I tend to stick to dreams of waking up to a quiet house on Saturday morning or a million dollars being given to me by a long lost but very rich uncle.

Lately Bean has been carrying my lunch box into the house.  She likes that is purple and she loves 'helping' mommy.  Yesterday I got her out of the car, handed her my lunch box and went around to get Inchie.  I took it for granted that the lunch box would make it into the house unscathed.

Moments later the lunch box is getting kicked down the stair and around the driveway.  I'm pretty sure I growled calmly asked Bean to pick it up and carry it into the house.  I might have tacked a NOW onto the end of my request.  Somewhere in there threats of staying home while Inchie went trick or treating might have come out of my mouth.  In the moments after day care pickup, can Mom really be held accountable for all that she says?

Bean's brain kicks into the gear (or the threats worked, who knows) and she comes down and snatches up the lunch box.  As she head up the stairs she shouts over her shoulder, "Does this make you happy Mom?"

*sigh*

I'm getting sassed by my three year old.  Not just sassed but cut to the quick!  Time spent attempt to teach her empathy is turned back against me in a flash.  If she can do this at age three, what power will she weld at age thirteen?


Wednesday, November 9, 2011

A Break from the Norm

Today is day 3 of my re-entry.  I'm over caffeinated, over tired and more than a little annoyed that time won't slow down and let me recover.  But more than that, I'm grateful for what came before.  The re-entry hurts, but to have never left would have been worse.

Six days ago, I boarded a plane to New Orleans.

By myself.

Without my children.

For completely selfish and personal reasons.

For the first time since I found out I was going to be a Mom, I took an extended break.  The Manic Mommies had organized their 5th annual Escape and I signed up.  Three days Two nights in New Orleans, sleeping in a posh hotel, eating meals requiring no planning on my part and experiencing life at my own pace.

Wow.

There were a few minutes where I didn't want to come back.  I missed my girls and my husband, but I also knew how re-entry would feel.  Leaving it all behind for just a few days makes the crush of everyday life feel almost debilitating.  But I'll adjust and I'll do it with a memory of how I'd like to feel more often.  A little less rushed and a little more present.  Experiencing this moment before worrying about the next.  Just a bit of added perspective to make the norm seem not so inevitable.

The things is...  I can slow down.  Life is fast and kids are demanding.  Then life is demanding and kids grow fast.  But it is up to me to put the brakes on from time to time and really relish the moments I'm living in.

My plane landed as my husband put my children to bed Sunday night.  I returned home to a cuddly husband, friends in my basement and a football game on TV.  For just a few more moments I enjoyed a slower pace and some quality time with people I love.   The break was good.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

While I wasn't looking

I haven't purchased yarn in over a year.  I'm not exactly sure of the last purchase, but thinking back the last memorable purchase was the beautiful teal sock yarn purchased for Inchie's baby blanket.  I bought it in May of 2010 well before Inchie was born. I love that yarn.  I love the blanket it is making.  I am tortured by this one stitch which turns three stitches into nine.  That stitch makes the blanket.  I'm so tired of that stitch.

And I can't recall a single yarn purchase since then.

*twitch*

I'm shocked.  I wasn't consciously on a yarn diet.  I don't have a yarn problem.  I have yarn.  I'm a knitter; these things go together.  I do remember dismissing a few purchasing opportunities under the oppression of unfinished baby blanket guilt.  You can't cheerfully work on a light hearted new project when there is a skeleton in your closet holding out a baby blanket you NEVER finished for your second born.  A blanket representing her status as a second class citizen...  There's just too much guilt.

But no new yarn?  None?  For 17 months?  Really?  How did I get here?

And worse...  How to I leave?  What purchase can live up to breaking a 77 week yarn diet?  Does such a purchase exist?

YES!

In fact, it will be the purchase to break the never ending baby blanket spell.  To show that blanket who's boss!  Times change.  Adding new yarn to the rotation will break the 3-to-9 star stitch spell.  The day will come when the blanket will come off its needles and be handed over to Inchie.  After 544 days, this NEW yarn will set me free!

And I solemnly swear to never make this mistake again.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Menu Plan Mondays: In Recovery


Last week was great.  The house was chaotic.  The schedules were loose at best.  I didn't make it to the gym one single day.  I filled my head with lots of fun techie dreams with little respect for reality.  Bean's birthday was celebrated multiple times with great enthusiasm and a touch of whimsy.  Inchie started WALKING.  The week was honestly a stellar success.

And if I hear myself say "Wow.  It's really been a busy couple of weeks" one more time, I may stop speaking entirely.  I'm beginning to feel like the Mom who NEVER has enough time and EVERYONE knows she never has enough time because she TELLS everyone she never has enough time.  First step to stop annoying myself?  Stop ACTING surprised that I'm busy.  It's not like this is a new thing.  The time has come to adjust and move on.

So how do I move on?  My approach has always been to do a little introspection (navel gazing if you will) and pick a few priorities.  Using those priorities I take a big black satisfying sharpie to my To Do lists and make some serious readjustments.  This week is one of those readjustment times whether I have TIME for it or not!

This week's menu:
Breakfast:
(Me) Pumpkin Raisin Muffins & Blue Machine
(Hubby) Oatmeal, Bananas & OJ

Lunch:
LO Chili (and whatever else I find living in my fridge)
Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwiches
Health Choice Entrees
Lettuce Salad

Monday: Chicken & Carrots in Cream Soup over Rice
Tuesday: Hot Dogs & Green Beans
Wednesday: Spaghetti
Thursday: Out to Arby's on the way to Choir Practice
Friday: Family Dinner
Saturday: Crock Pot Indian Food
Sunday: BBQ Chicken

Do you ever feel maladjusted to your everyday life? What do you do about it?

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Three Years.

Smooth sailing is not one of the ways I would describe my first year with Bean.  She was healthy and happy, but motherhood just didn't click for me.  The first few months were a blur as she and I recovered from pregnancy and delivery.  I read books and made baby food and kept nursing long after it began making me miserable.  I was striving to make the right decisions for her and find confidence in my abilities as her mom.  She grew more independent and I began feeling more comfortable.


The day she turned one I had to take half a day of paid leave.  Of all the milestones she passed, her first birthday was not the one I expected to knock the air out of my lungs.  I looked into her smiling eyes and loved her so much it just about broke my heart.  I dropped her off at day care that morning with  my husband.  As I headed back to the car, I sobbed.  Our relationship had changed when I wasn't looking.  I was deeply in love with that little girl.

Now she is three years old.


I love her so much it still makes me cry on occasion.  While moments of doubt and disconnect still plague me, I love being her mom.  Her interest in the world reinvents it for me everyday.  She is the single most infuriating person in the world because I see so much creativity in her defiance.  From determining common words are pronounced a new and interesting way to following instruction at the very edge of disobedience, she's fascinating.  When I'm not watching, her wit and humor still sneak up on me and take my breath away.

With Inchie's arrival on the scene, this year hasn't been easy on my three year old.  But she's hung in there and made the best of it all.  Especially getting to enjoy double toys while Inchie is still too young to fight back.  Those days are coming and part of me (the totally crazy part) is really looking forward to seeing how it all unfolds.

But for now, Bean is three.  I've loved the past three years and hope to savor what ever comes next for us.  I love you little girl.  I love you to the ends of the universe.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Kindle-tastic!

I have a Kindle.  I LOVE my Kindle.  It has changed my life.  You think I exaggerate.  You are WRONG!

But seriously.  My Kindle has been integrated into my life.  It goes with me everywhere.  The amount of time I spend reading has doubled if not more.  I don't have to spend time choosing books for a trip; they are already with me.  The ONLY drawback thus far has been the inability to check out books from the library.

That restriction is gone!!!!

My local library uses Overdrive for electronic media and the Kindle is now a supported eReader in Overdrive.  After being on the wait list for 2 weeks, today I checked out my first book.  The book?  Forever in Blue by Ann Brashares.  Don't judge.  I have a thing for young adult literature.  I've read the first 3 books.  This book has been on my list for a while, but I haven't been ready to pay $10 for the electronic version of it.

With a few clicks the book was in my list of Kindle title on Amazon.  I turned wireless on my Kindle and waited for the book to appear.  The only strangeness was the it wouldn't download the book over 3G.  I had to hop on WiFi and everything worked well.  Thank goodness for free hotspots.

And now I'm reading no poorer for my need to devour the written word.  This is an amazing and long awaited development.  Stay tuned for my review of Forever in Blue.  Any guesses on which will take longer, reading the book or writing the review?  *smile*


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

My Mom Guilt

While attempting to write this post, I completely diverged.  Using the phrase Mom Guilt opens a whole can of worms.  Or can of words if you will.  There is a rant on that topic to follow soon.  For this post I'm simply referring to a pang of guilt I felt looking at this little girl.


Isn't she adorable?

This is Inchie.  She is my second born.  My baby.  I look in her face and see humor and mischief and love.  I also see her sister.  My Mom Guilt gong sounds.

This little girl doesn't know what life is like without an older sister.  She has drawers full of not-so-lightly worn clothes.  Her board books come pre-chewed.  Inchie's mom was Bean's mom first.  Inchie will spend her life changing that.  Try as I might my expectations are being established every day.  I have fight to see this little girl as herself and not her sister.  And she will never get the undivided attention her sister experienced in her first 2 years of life.

All these worries came to a head last weekend.  I bought the girls new hair barrettes.  Bean picked out two matching bows.  Inchie received two clippies as well, one matched Bean's and the other is a very cute little cupcake.  I gave them to the girls and went about my day.

Over the course of the next week, Bean did everything within her power to control Inchie's new clippies.  They appeared in Bean's hair.  Then I found them in her basket of hair ties.  Later she got them out and put them in her sister's hair.  That wouldn't have caused as great an issue had she not promptly pulled them back out.  Each time Bean was corrected she adjusted her actions to include her sister more.  And each time I got angrier until I heard myself screaming "Can't you just let her have this one thing!?!"  At a three year old.  Over a pair of hair clips.  I sent myself to timeout.

Yeah.  It's ridiculous.  I know.  That fact has not escaped me.  And my mom guilt has to be addressed.  But really?!?!?  When did I turn into a glass-half-empty kind of person?  What's up with the tale of woe over my baby?  I gotta snap out of this.  Inchie has at least one thing that Bean will never have, an older sister!  I'm not sure that all my younger sisters would agree, but I'm pretty sure an older sister is about the most awesome thing in the world to have.  Bean will also never be THE baby again.  We can't go back and I wouldn't want to.

But I can still look for ways to spoil my baby girl on occassion...  You know, just to alleviate the mom guilt.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Menu Plan Mondays: Flying Solo


Weeks like this one are few and far between at our house, but still fill my heart with fear when they do happen upon this. Maybe if it happened more often I would fear it less.  Some how I doubt that.

What is happening?  My husband in off schedule at a conference and I'm off schedule at off site training.  Both of these things combine to get the girls off schedule.  And life as I know it ceases to exist.  Cats and dogs living together.  Mass hysteria.  Add to that, Bean's Birthday Party is this weekend.  Yeah.  I'm nuts.

But I'm not weeping yet.  While I say this doesn't happen often, I do have to Fly Solo about 4 times a year.  Hubby works with the public and the public is not always available from 9am to 5pm.  Over the past few years, I've come up with a few coping mechanisms.

  • Lower my expectations.  There will be no overachieving this week.  Many things need to be accomplished, but perfect is synonymous with good enough right now.
  • Enforce what routine remains.  We have a bedtime routine.  Aim to keep it even if it is an hour late.  Clothes are picked out and bags packed at bed time.  Regardless of when bedtime is this makes getting out the door in the morning so much easier.
  • Accept help.  Every time I mention an upcoming trial, my best friend immediately offers to come over and lend two more hands.  On weeks like this, I make sure to say yes, loud and clear.
  • Embrace convenience.  The grocery store is full of frozen and prepared foods for a reason.  Some of them are very good.  Stock up!

This week's menu:
Breakfast:
(Me) Broccoli Cheese Quiche & Blue Machine
(Hubby) Oatmeal, Bananas & OJ

Lunch:
LO Chicken Alphabet Soup
Lunch Meat Sandwiches
Lettuce Salad

Monday: Ham & Cheese Pita Pockets with Carrots
Tuesday: Mac & Cheese with Broccoli
Wednesday: Pita Pizza
Thursday: Out to Panera on the way to Choir Practice
Friday: Out for Bean's Birthday - Chick-Fil-A (her request)
Saturday: Peirogies
Sunday: BBQ Chicken

How do you cope when your usual routine gets turned on its head?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

So little time.

Today there's been so much to think about I find it overwhelming to try to pick a topic to write on.  Almost paralyzing when it comes to formulating this post.  However, the kids are asleep and I'm in front of my computer.  I'm determined to put something out there.  To you.

Days are flying by.  At work I'm running out of days to tie up my most recent project.  The next project has already spun up and I'm still pushing the previous one out the door.  I wonder if this is what parenting little girls two years apart will feel like.  There's so much to finish, but at some point I'm done.  Very soon it will stop mattering what's left on my list.  The work is released and had best be good enough.

Invitations went out this week for Bean and Inchie's birthday parties.  I've already determined that this will be the first, last, only year that they get separate full blown family & friends birthday celebrations.  I love planning these parties (evidence of my obsession can be seen here), but with their birthdays being 3 weeks apart my efforts will be better spent on combined parties in the future.  Just this year, I want Inchie to have what Bean has had the past two years.  She may not remember it, but I will.  So I guess the second party really is for me.  I'm not telling Inchie that.

Looking at the calendar, the birthday celebrations overlap with a girls weekend away and Halloween.  Then a family photo session. Thanksgiving.  Bean's first theater experience (Rapunzel).  Date to the Symphony with Hubby.  Christmas.  New Years.  Wow.  I'm going to stop looking at the calendar now.

At lunch today, my young co-worker talked about the zombie parents out there.  He doesn't want to be one.  You look in their eyes and there is nothing.  Nothing more than the next reaction to the events they can't seem to get in front of.  I don't want to be one of those parents either.  I understand the look all too well.  There's just so little time.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A New Love.

I have fallen hard.  The simplicity!  The freedom!  The imagination!  Each day I visit and explore and dream.  The object of my affection?

Follow Me on Pinterest

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Making Changes.

In a Mindful Monday post a couple of weeks ago, I resolved to get my butt to the gym every day for a week.  To make this happen, I had a list that felt a mile long to accomplish each night.  It went something like this:

  • Clear the dining room table
  • Pack lunch for hubby and me
  • Go through the mail
  • Sort dirty laundry
  • Fold whatever's in the dryer
  • Transfer whatever's in the washer to the dryer and TURN ON
  • Load the washer and set the timer for the following afternoon
  • Pick out kids clothes
  • Pick out my work clothes and my workout clothes
  • Pack gym bag
  • Get to bed by 10pm

The list felt impossible.  Turns out it wasn't.  As I went along I missed a few things.  Bean got to dress herself one day.  I forgot socks another.  One evening the dryer was full of WET clothes.  I haven't a clue how that happened.  I think the funniest was the night when I gave myself a break packing lunches.  The next morning I remember to hop in Hubby's car to drop it off that the shop between the gym and work.  The shop shuttled me to my office.  The fault in my lunch planning didn't hit me until I was standing in the parking lot without a car at noon, very very hungry.  *sigh*

As the days have passed, I've kept up pretty well with the list and the goal of making it to the gym each morning.  The biggest lesson I've learned so far is not to trust my evening self.  If I let my evening self slide on the chore list, it really tends to tweak the morning me when she's unable to start the day 'right' because my evening self didn't do her job.  Grrr.

Having succeeded in my original goal, and honestly surpassing it by continuing, I've decided it is time to commit to a gym.  Tonight I purchased a gym membership.  I worry this is something I'll regret.  I'm already anxious about adding another little key chain scan card to my collection, especially one with a monthly fee.  However, the memebership goes month to month and I am into this for this month so it is worth it.  And they have a pool!  I love the pool.  My kids love the pool.  I'm super excited about going to the pool with my kids on the weekends followed by nice long naps for everyone.  Ha!  I can dream!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Who are you today?

Between critiquing the latest software test plan and reading Stop Saying Your Fine by Mel Robbins, I read this Motherese post centered on writing about the contradictions which make up a life. The exercise was to answer a prompt unrestricted for 5 minutes.  At least that was what formed the blog post.  I decided to give it a try.

I write.  At least I try to.  I'm still learning and often embarrased of how things turn out.

I edit as a write a lot.  Too much.

I listen to music when I want to tune out my surroundings.  My life.  The things that aren't in front of me.  Sometimes it works.

I get scared when I deviate.  I worry a lot.  I want to be the opposite.

I am a hard worker.  I do what I'm told.  I envy those who can forge their own path without requiring the approval of others.  I want to be one of those people.

I love carelessly.  I love that about myself.  I get hurt a lot.  I get disappointed.  I love it.

I wish I could dance or sing or play an instrument or shine like no one else in some wild way.

I create routines to make life more efficient.  I do this in my work, my house, my life, my family.  I lean on the routines to keep things okay.  The flow of a good routine is a reward, but the breakdown is much more fascinating.

I am learning what I want to do when I grow up.  I don't think there is a real answer for that question.  I want it to keep changing.

My five minutes is up.  I'm leaving these here.  Quickest blog post ever.  Fully formed in under 10 minutes.  I like it.

A Good Life.

The alarms sounds.  The bed is so comfy and warm.  A quick peak reveals at there are no 2.75 year olds jumping up and down next to the bed in anticipation of parental attention.  A deep sigh of relief.  The weather has begun to cool and the air in the room is crisp.  Revel in the quiet of the house for just a a few more moments.

Stretch.  Change into workout clothes.  Eat breakfast.  Grab lunch & gym bag.  Kiss Hubby.  Head out the door while the babies are still sleeping all snug in their beds.

The gym is awfully bright at 5:30am.  But pleasantly empty.  The grunting racket ball players are warming up.  No grunting yet.  Soon.  Corner locker 17 is empty.  What a treat!  The Rage Against the Machine pouring out of the weight room is too much this morning.  A couple of wrong turns and the cardio room reveals itself.

Ten minutes on the elliptical.  Two sets of strength building exercises.  Stretch.  Pack up workout clothes.  Shower.  Wash foot.  UGH.  Wash hair.  AH.  Wash Face.  EEUH!  Dress.  UH!  Primp. OMF!  Access.  YES!  Pack up the bag.  Wave hi to the racket ball players.  Back in the car.

Traffic is gloriously absent.  There must be a sweet spot between the early birds and those who punch the clock just in the knick of time.  Drive relaxed.  Acquire coffee drink.  Park in "my" spot.  There's a tree and a bench nearby.  Green grass.  So very calm.

My desk is just how it was left the day before.  Day old coffee cup in need of tossing.  Tests spread everywhere.  Schedule tacked to the wall.  Calendar forecasting the future.  The day divides nicely into three chunks of productive time.  Each chunk is allocated and planned as the day's goals are set.  The rhythm of today begins to reveal itself.

Email.  Trip to the cafe for water.  Chunk 1.  Snack.  Email.  Check Facebook.  Chunk 2.  Email.  Lunch.  Check Blogs.  Escape the desk.  Access the morning's progress.  Email.  Chunk 3.  Snack.  Email.  Check News.  Tie up loose ends.  Make notes for tomorrow's work.  Punch Clock.

Go Home!  Twenty minutes to decompress.  The worries of the day settle to the back of the mind like silt.  Time will come all too soon to stir them in a frenzy.  For now they lie still and organize themselves without interference.  The need to push and strive begins to fade.  The Mom begins to replace the Leader.  Deep breaths.  Thankful thoughts.  Relief.

Pulling into the drive at day care, Bean sees the car.  Her little face lights up.  She breaks into a run the car pulls to the curb.  Huge hug.  Today was a rough day for her.  Too little sleep.  Behaving is hard when sleep is elusive.  Mondays are always hard.  An extra tight hug.  A few extra kisses on the forehead.  The day's trials begin to fade from her little eyes.

Inchie squeals.  She's just caught on to the new arrival.  The squeals can't express all the joy.  She flops onto her belly and lays on the floor as if she's fallen asleep.  This is the ultimate compliment.  The excitement is more than her little body can hope to express.  More hugs.  More kisses.  Quick exchange on the day's proceeding with the day care.  Never quick enough for the girls.

Load the car.  Buckle up.  Bean wants the ABC song.  She asks by singing the whole song as its title.  Inchie has a hate on for her carseat or Bean's singing.  Arrive home.  Unload car.  Put away shoes.  Break for potty time.  Double check gates.

Dinner tonight is a new recipe.  Top Ten Tuna Melts get reborn as Tuna Patties.  Though it's a simple recipe, it takes too long for Bean and Inchie Underfoot.  Food's on the table.  Hubby and Auntie arrive just in time to get it while it's hot.  Maybe a delay in dinner isn't such a bad thing after all.  Everyone cleans their plates.  Tuna Patties are a success!

Bean heads to the bathroom to wash her hands.  She gets sent back when her hands are still dry 3 minutes later.  Things are a little too quiet and pull Mom into the bathroom.  Bean is directed once again to wash her hands.  "BUTICAN'TWASHMYHANDSBECAUSEIDROPPEDSOMETHINGDOWNTHEDRAIN" Huh?  Sobbing little girls who tell the truth when they've done something wrong get Mom's full sympathy and extra hugs and love on top.  Once the sobbing is reduced to hiccups, Bean confesses to Hubby.  "What'd you drop down the drain?"  "I don't know." "What'd it look like?" "Something I dropped down the drain."  *sigh*  Father Daughter Drain Dis-assembly.  One pair of fingernail clippers retrieved and sanitized for many more years of use.

Two Baths.  Two unfolded loads of miniature clothes.  Four different sizes.  Bean puts her underwear and socks away on her own.  Inchie's in bed before her basket is ready.  One more thing for tomorrow night's list.  Read one last story to Bean.  Say Prayers.  Wish Auntie good night.  Tuck in the last little girl standing.  Turn on Peter and the Wolf.  It's been a week since Bean has played chase and escape at bedtime.  Snores can be heard within 5 minutes.  A deep sigh of relief.

Clear dining room table.  Make Lunches.  Check day care log.  Sort mail.  Fold clothes in dryer.  Transfer load from washer to dryer.  Fill washer with tomorrow's load.  Set the timer to get it all going after morning showers are over.  Pick out clothes.  Pack gym bag.

The day is almost over.  Hubby comes out of his office.  How was your day?  What did you do?  Synchronize the schedule.  Plan to keep the house running.  Dream of vacations and new houses and easier days with fewer demands.  Kiss Hubby.  Go to Bed.  Read.  Relax.  Sleep.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Overwhelmed.

Just a quick note.  This blog has not been abandoned in pursuit of loftier goals.  It has also not been forgotten.  As happens periodically in my life, it has become victim to my overachieving meltdown.  Every once in a while as I work on growing and changing and learning, I bite off a little more than I can chew.  I chew vigorously and determinedly, but eventually I have to admit defeat.  As to what happens to the over-sized bite...  Of that we will not speak.  But everything stops as I reorganize and re-prioritize.  I'd say I'm in day 7 of the cycle.  I took the bite, choked on it, was overcome by sadness at have once again 'screwed it up', chided myself for being so over dramatic, actually admitted I was being over dramatic, forgave myself and started rebuilding my momentum.  It's building.  I'm feeling good.  I'll be back soon!

Friday, September 16, 2011

The Text: More about Me.

Then:

As a little girl, I wanted to marry my best friend.  She and I loved to plan out our lives together.  We'd have arguments over who was the husband.  I have a sneaking suspicion that it was usually me.  Our days were spent running around our nanny's yard and getting in trouble.  Fault always landed firmly on my shoulders even though we did the same things.  I believed that if only the grown-ups understood what we were doing their anger would just fade away.  Strangely it never worked out that way.

Now:
 
Twenty-five years later, I find myself married to my best friend.  He and I began planning our lives together a little over ten years ago.  We have arguments over how we're rising our two little girls.  I have a sneaking suspicion they're more in control than we are.  Our days are spent maintaining our family, house and careers and planning for the next unforeseen detour.  Perceived injustices chaff me especially when I see how easily they could have been avoided.  I believe that if I deal with others openly and honestly that's how I'll be dealt with.  Sadly, it doesn't always work that way.

The Between:

I'm still that little girl.  I look at my life and I know I can do better.  More.  Not better than my husband or my girls, mind you.  Not better than anything.  Just BETTER.  I still have a future I haven't explored yet.  This feeling isn't a fleeting one.  I remember it as a child when I wasn't being understood.  Then again as a teenager with big dreams of far off places.  Once again as a young adult after I started learning my own things about the way the world works.  And again as a woman realizing I wanted more than I could attain by myself.  Most recently again as a mother feeling alone and clueless in a sea of others' experiences and advice.

Each accomplishment quiets it for a moment.  In those times, I can rest and restore myself, get my bearings.  Time passes as I recharge and before long I feel the dissatisfaction awaken again.  It asks me to do more than I'm doing today.  Push a little harder tomorrow.  Search.  Absorb.  Modify.  Stretch.  Achieve.  Ignoring it is painful and pointless.  It is an insatiable thirst I was born with.  A thirst for more.  This thirst got me where I am today.  It defines the text I'm working from each time I take a look around at where I am.  As I've gotten to know myself, I've learned to accept this feeling.  Now I plan to capture the process of embracing it.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Mindful Mondays: Sweat It Out



One thing became clear to me last week.  I need to be more serious about taking care of myself.  As I tried to find time for me each day, I noticed repetitively that I didn't.  I worked away at my mom list and my work list and my chore list until they were able to be set aside and only THEN did I engage in Me Time.

Looking back at my original plan of attack, I did do each of the things that I had on my attack plan.  At least I did them most of the time.  I took my full lunch 3 days.  My timeliness was restricted to 2 days.  Ray took bedtime routine and rocked it even saving me on one of my nights when my temper got the best of me.  But as the week concluded I looked to my list and realized that I still couldn't get things knocked off it the way that I do all my others.

There was one item on my Me Time list that I did make progress on.  I've had 'Exercise for 10 minutes each day' on my list for MONTHS.  The actual goal that spawned that item is 'Exercise for 45 minutes 5 days a week'.  However I've become so frustrated about missing that goal that I started breaking it down a few months ago into smaller pieces.  I have yet to meet even the smaller goal with regularity and this week was no exception.  How is that progress?

Well, by the end of the week, I was actually clued into one of my Me Time problems that I didn't even realize I had.  I get up at 5am everyday to have time to exercise before my girls get up.  That's the plan, but the reality is that they beat me up more days than not and I abandon my exercise time to spend time with them.  This often has the double bad of making me late to work as well.  This is something I can do something about!

WHO: Me and My Hubby


WHAT: Make Exercise a Priority!

WHY: I feel awful.  My day job has me tied to a desk and I'm puttering around the house the rest of the time.  My intensity when I take my girls on a walk in the evenings is laughable.  AND it is showing!  I am running out of steam before I even enter the evening push at home.  This has to change.

HOW: I have a clear plan here.  I'm thrilled about it and looking forward to seeing how it works.
  • Garner hubby's support in the mornings.  I've had the goal of exercising each morning for months, but have I clued him in?
  • Get out of the house.  There are an infinite number of distractions within my house to stop exercise in its tracks.
  • Complete my daily prep in the evenings.  To support exercise time in the mornings, I have to stop playing catch up in the morning on the items I didn't get done the night before.
Do you exercise each day?  How do you fit it in your schedule?

Menu Plan Monday: More than Dinner.

Whew!  Last week was a rush!  We had a short week  but it was still more than I was up to planning.  I mean, I planned for it, but I still had some slip-ups - like planning to eat lunch out on the day I was without a car and forgetting to pick up out CSA share until the next day. Thankfully, I have some awesome co-workers who happily took me to lunch and lots of gracery stores on the way home for mid-week stocking up.

Not to mention we've had rain EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. in the past week.  I might just be losing my mind.  Tropical Storm Lee broke up over the East Coast and decided not to move on.  Everyday was gray and rainy.  Not just a little drizzle either!  Lightening and Flooding and buckets of water coming from the sky.  It was all pretty overwhelming as the week went on.  I was glad I had done my planning and shopping before the week started.  That helped a lot.

One area of concern this week was lunches.  I pack lunch for myself and my husband each day.  Well, I at least try to every day.  Between our changing work schedules and the sporadic availability of leftovers, packing lunch can be onerous.  There have been more than a few last minute lunches thrown together by packing an American cheese sandwich, a Ziploc of stale crackers and an over-ripe banana.  I'm proud of my ingenuity of producing SOMETHING for lunch, but I can't say it is something I like repeating.  Plus we inevitably don't have enough food to make it through the day when one of those lunches goes out the door.

This week I've added a loose Breakfast and Lunch menu.  At least now I've put an extra minute of thought towards what we are going to eat that week in our lunches and I'll have ample supplies in the house.  I can't say I dislike 10pm grocery store trips - the quietness of Giant at 10pm is awe inspiring - but requiring one every week stops being a treat.

This week's menu:
Breakfast:
(Me) Muffin, Cottage Cheese & Blue Machine
(Hubby) Oatmeal, Bananas & OJ

Lunch:
LO Ham Bone Soup
LO Spaghetti
Mediterrean Tuna Salad
Fruit (Watermelon, Strawberries, Bananas)

Monday: Crockpot Ham Bone Soup
Tuesday: Grilled Fish with Rice & Carrots
Wednesday: Spaghetti
Thursday: Chicken Tenders with Sweet Potato Fries
Friday: Family Dinner
Saturday:Dinner at Grandma's house
Sunday: Beer Can Chicken
How do you deal with Breakfast and Lunch each day?  Is there variety to your selections?  Do you with there was?  *grin*

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Lunch Box Challenge: Week 1


Holiday weeks are hard!

With no work on Monday, a car repair on Tuesday, a flooded office building cancelling work and off-site meetings, this week's lunch packing left something to be desired.  Actually lunch was packed everyday, but only eaten once by my husband and twice by me.  Thankfully the prepped but uneaten lunches were able to be saved for the next day.

One issue I have always had with packing lunches is keeping it interesting.  My general approach of late it to keep snacks the same and find a little variety in the main meal.  This has been accomplished more and more by going to prepared foods that simply require a microwave.

Morning Snack
6oz. Lowfat Yogurt with 1 Tbsp of jam
Granola Bar

Lunch
(Me) Healthy Choice Entree & leftover veggies or salad from previous night's dinner
(Hubby) Ramen noodles with frozen veggie blend and shelled edamame
Fruit (Apple, Banana, Grapes, etc.)

Afternoon Snack
2 Tbsp Humms
Snack bag of Pita Chips

This has been our lunch menu for about 2 weeks now.  It's starting to get stale, but I've really been struggling with what to put in our lunch boxes.  Lately I've been trolling for lunch ideas.  I'd love to find some veggie and bean based salads that I can make on Sunday and use to mix things up during the week.  We'll see what I can pull together for lunch next week.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Blessing in Disguise.

The evening started out so well.  Spirits were high as we pulled away from day care and prepared for a girls' night at home.  Dinner went smoothly, slightly rigged by serving pizza and strawberries.  Outside time was cut short after a monster spider took over the swing set.  Without my husband to wrangle it, Bean and I readily surrendered and backed away slowly with Inchie in my arms.  Several fits and timeouts later everyone was bathed and in bed.  I was dreaming of spending a few sweet hours in my basement, dealing with Project Office, catching up on my reading, watching re-runs of Buffy in the background.

Bean had other plans.

7:50pm "Mommy I need to go potty."
7:55pm "I like your book."
8:03pm "A mosquito bit my cheek."
8:04pm "My hand hurts."
8:10pm "Whatcha reading?"
8:11pm "I need a drink of water."
8:12pm "I need a drink of water because my cheek hurts."
8:13pm "I need a drink of water because my hand hurts."
*fake coughing fit heard in the distance*
8:14pm "I need a drink of water because I am coughing." *cough* *cough*
8:20pm "I have a book."
8:23pm "Mommy, may I read with you?"
8:25pm "I really need a sip of water."
8:30pm "Just one sip, Mommy."
8:45pm "Hehee."
8:47pm "I WANT DADDY!"
8:49pm "Hehee."
8:56pm drags pillow into the living room and lays down on the floor
8:58pm drags blanket into the living room and lays down on the floor
9pm "Hehee." and runs back to bed
9:10pm "Mommy, your book is pretty."
9:13pm "I still a sip of water."
9:20pm "Hehee."
9:27pm quietly sits in rocking chair and stars at me.
9:28pm runs back to room as my feet hit the ground.
9:30pm "Hehee.:

Mommy lays down with Bean.

9:32pm Bean falls asleep.

And Mommy thanks God for giving her a moment with her 2 year old asleep in her arms.

I love cuddly sleeping babies.  I don't have cuddly babies particularly when they are sleepy.  Beyond the first two months, my kids have slept in their own beds each night and I've slept in mine.  But tonight Bean fell asleep with her head on my shoulder and her hand stroking my fingers as she fell asleep.  I laid there for 15 minutes loving the relaxed little girl snoring in my arms.  Oh how I love that little girl.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Lunch Box Challenge

The Lunch Box Challenge has been posed by The Happiest Mom and I think I'll take it as my needed motivation for the next month.  Right now I'm 2 weeks into a new resolution to pack lunch for my husband and myself at least 4 days a week.  I can feel my commitment faltering.  Maybe if I post about it the priority will remain high to get it done.  My lunch budget sure hopes so!

Thankfully day care provides Bean and Inchie with great wholesome lunches each day.  I'm not yet on the hook for packing their lunches.  However, someday it will begin and practice makes perfect.

Challenge starts for me tomorrow.  I'll let you know how I do on Saturday!

PS - A Giveaway is going on at The Happiest Mom for a slew of awesome lunch support items.  Check it out!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Mindful Monday: Me Time


I can't say my Appreciation Edition of Mindful Mondays went as well as I could have hoped, but I did remember and give it a try on more than a few occasions.  Small things I was thankful for - my daughters asleep in their beds before 9pm, a clean bathroom, having resources to address our car issues before they're too late, being able to wear my dress shoes again for the first time in two years.  Noticing these things and taking a moment to be thankful felt wonderful.  I can definitely understand how there is something to being thankful for what you have as a way of improving your life.

The catch is that they weren't really small things.  War is being waged in our house nightly to get our 2 year old to go to sleep; most of the time I think she is winning.  Some part of the bathroom is cleaned everyday in an attempt to keep ahead on the housework.  Car repairs are planned for in our yearly budget; it's taken us over 6 years of planning and adjusting to get a grip on our finances.  Pain in my feet, legs and back during my first pregnancy forced me to retire all my dress shoes; while I'm not sure I'll ever get back into heels, well thought out dress shoes might be back into rotation.  Each of thing I was consciously thankful for was something I'd worked for mixed with a bit of luck or timing.  Small things continually slipped by unnoticed which was really what I was hoping to change.

I can see that being thankful for the things in your life is a constant process.  I imagine it takes practice before it becomes a habit or way of thinking.  With time, it will change your whole outlook, but more than a week is needed.  Prompted by that line of thinking, this week's goal is a bit more active.

WHO: Me.

WHAT: Planning some time for me each and every day and set goald as to what I want to accomplish in that time.

WHY:  Really?  You need to ask?  But seriously, I don't take enough time for myself.  Some days I don't take ANY time for myself.  I've been noticing my temper growing shorter with my two year old and my attention being not so focused at work.  Both of these get more pronounced when I'm neglecting me.

HOW: Notice how I didn't just say "Take Me Time"?  I've worked this goal before, or some lesser variant of it.  Too often I take Me Time, but I don't do anything with it.  I turn my brain completely off and vegetate.  While that is an important activity, it should not be the default activity during Me Time.  As I find my Me Time this week I'm going to refer to a list of wants and determine what it is *I* want to do during that time, how I would most enjoy it.  Some actions include:
  • Take my full lunch break.  At my current workplace, we are required to include a 1 hour lunch break in our daily schedule.  This means that we are required to work 8 hours each day, but we really have to schedule a 9 hour day.  As such, there are many (too many) days there I sit at my desk and eat while working or surfing the internet.
  • Be on time to work. Being late to work just means I have to cut in on my lunch or evening decompression time to make up for it.
  • Swap off bedroom routine nights with my husband.  Really this one should be a no brainer as it is one of the most frustrating times of the day, but too often I'm sending him off and manning the battle stations myself.
  • Make a list of activities to which to refer.  There are always things I want to do, but never make time.  Take a 15 minute walk.  Shop for new shoes.  Clean off the top of my dresser.  Paint my nails.  Read.
What would you do if you found 30 minutes of quiet unscheduled alone time in your day?

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Menu Plan Monday: Top Ten List

Last week went well.  Better than I'd expected for being the first week I formally planned our menu in over 2 months.  I followed the plan until we hit Friday at which point I realized that my schedule was not right.  I knew it wasn't right when I learned on the way home from work that three people were at my house waiting to eat and I wasn't there to let them in.  Oops.

Thankfully I was my job to host, but not to cook and everyone else was on the ball.  Needless to say I've done a little more double checking this week in hopes of not leaving anyone stranded on my back deck.  At least we had really night weather this week for them to enjoy while they waited for me!

In my MPM First Edition, I alluded to a Top Ten Meal List.  This is the list of ten meals which I can prepare from memory in well under 30 minutes with two hot'n'tots underfoot.  The list got made 5 months after Inchie was born and I'd been back at work for two months.  I realized that with one child I had been able to be a a bit more ambitious during weeknight dinners.  We had favorites like Chick Pea Burgers or White Chicken Enchiladas which I'd make from scratch starting when I walked in the door after work.  With the addition of the second child, I learned that microwaving Spaghetti O's was an accomplishment some nights and I was bothered by how much Bean liked Spaghetti O's, more than Mommy's crazy dinners.

So I responded the way any sane working mother would. I got totally overwhelmed most nights while trying to make dinner and sobbed on the phone to my husband who promptly ordered me out of the kitchen and brought home take out.  THEN, after a month of sobbing, I made my Top Ten Meal List.  Without further ado, here's the list:
  1. Spaghetti (with or without Meat)
  2. Broiled Fish
  3. Burgers
  4. Pita Pizza
  5. Grilled Chicken/Pork
  6. Tuna Melts
  7. Chili/Soup
  8. Stir-fry
  9. Chicken Tenders
  10. Crockpot
And yes, Crockpot is a meal.  Anything that can be thrown into a crockpot the night before and refrigerated until the morning when I put it on the counter to cook is fair game.  AND often easier than even the simple meals I can prepare.  Any prep I do at night or on the weekends keeps these go-to meals from being the most droll dinners.  Without it I would be very bored of these 10 meals by now.

This week's menu:
Monday: Labor Day - Burgers & Corn on the Cob
Tuesday: Grilled Chicken & Roasted Sweet Potatoes
Wednesday: Stir-fry
Thursday: Tacos with Corn Salsa
Friday: Crockpot Ham Bone Soup
Saturday: Seafood Kebabs
Sunday: Beer Can Chicken
Do you have a Top Ten Meal List as well?  What are your go-to dinners?

Friday, September 2, 2011

The compliment.

Today had me whipped before I even walked out the door.  The girls are sleeping better and we ate at home mot of the week.  Those are usually my two number one exhausters, but I still hit the wall today.  It was a big day for me.  A huge milestone for the product that I work on and a not insignificant milestone for my project.  Both milestones met successfully even if they both consisted of a frantic push right to the end.

Somewhere during all of it, we got to discussing previous designs gone wrong.  We all have them.  You can't be an innovative software designer if you don't push the envelope or yourself a little too far once in a while.  One of my designs I was most proud of has never been implemented.  I tried for two weeks before schedule pressure arrived and I had to abandon my approach for a more ... sedate one.

For this design, you get a bunch of data in.  It is all compressed and you don't know what you've got until you start reading through it.  The data always begins the same but takes on different formats and contains different information based on what was in the common fields.  The idea was to instantiate a generic class which would add attributes and methods to itself dynamically corresponding to the data it parsed.  When the parsing was complete, the original instance of the class would have been customized to manipulate all the fields of the data without extraneous attributes or methods and also without knowing anything about the original data.

If you followed that, I can tell you that my language of attack is python and you can do what I wanted to want in python (dynamically adding attributes and methods to a class instance).  I just couldn't make it work in the time that I had.  My initial design was not so well articulated and I tried to tackle it by dynamically changing my inheritance structure.  That is as yucky as it sounds and it blatantly didn't work.  I tried other even wackier things during my two weeks, but was inventually encouraged to pursue a different design.  At the time, I was unable to get buy in for my approach and my moved on.

In talking about this today, another developer called my initial design elegant.  I was almost speechless.  To me having something I design be referred to as elegant brings tears of joy to my eyes.  I strive to write clean, intuitive, and yes elegant, solutions.  In my corporate environment I've settled for writing things that I can make work before we run out of budget.  I look back as some of my projects with embarrassment when I have to explain them and a bug which has been discovered within to the uninitiated.

But for a few minutes today, something I wrote was considered ELEGANT.  It warns this little developer's heart and gives me hope that I haven't completely gone off course with my life.  This code comes from somewhere.  And in that place a little hope still lives that the next thing I implement will transcend my usual rush and be a little greater than the last great thing I managed to do.  Maybe even elegant...

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Project Preview: My Office.

I am Margot and This is my office.  *sigh*

At least it is supposed to be my office.  In actuality it started out as a guest room.  If you look in the lower right hand corner, you can see the bedpost.  With the arrival of our second child, I had to give up my spacious office on the first floor of our house and move here.  I am good with the move, but I haven't able to figure out what to do with all the stuff.

You see, I'm kind of a hobby whore.  I love to create.  In this picture alone there are enough craft supplies to keep a grade school class busy for MONTHS.  Well, months if the class wasn't too big.  Towards the end you'd have to be creative - hehee - but that is kind of the point.  Hobbies I am currently fluent in - sewing, knitting, crocheting and anything that involves cutting and gluing papers together.  Something I'm merely flirting with?  Disaster?  NO!  Scrapbooking!  Be concerned.

So there.  I've admitted it.  I have a problem.  Or an office.  Or a studio.  I can't really tell the difference these days.  I look into this room and find myself paralyzed by the overwhelming mess it has become.

However, the problem runs deeper than that.  Do you notice was it missing from this 'office'?  My computer.  My sewing machine.  About half my yarn.  Numerous craft supplies.  And windows to the outside world.  The last item I can ignore, but the rest...  Not so much.  I need a place where I'm surrounded by creative crafty goodness.  It need not be perfectly organized, but I need it to be manageable; I need it to stop getting in the way of fabricating my dreams!

So this is my project for the next 2 months.  I don't have a lot of time, but I have enough time to tackle this.  I am making the time.  Next step?  A plan.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

More on Why.

You want to know why I'm writing.  So do I.  What is it that I have to say?  Why do I sit down each day at my computer and post another entry?  Do all these posts relate?  To each other?  Is there a method to the madness?

I have so many reasons.  Today I was reminded of one more.

Right now, I am in the throws of being a busy working mom.  My kids are very young and it takes all that I have in me to make it through the day without breaking down into a sobbing heap.  My kitchen floor is always sticky.  The chair in the living room is still filled with the items I tossed aside after Inchie made a break for the stairs last month.  Residue from dinners past is pasted to Bean's chair at the table.  The joy of hugging my girls when I pick them up from day care is too quickly replaced by frantic dinner preparations, bedtime rituals and nightly chores to get us ready for the rapidly approaching tomorrow.

Worker me is slightly more put together.  I have a pile of paperwork that needs filing, always just below the last thing I can get to on the list.  My to-do list changes daily, sometimes hourly.  On a good day, I only have one or two items left for the following morning.  Co-workers know I stand by my word and behind my work; they just know it might take 2 hours longer than I estimate.  Emails of lower importance go unanswered for days.  I can make a project sing, but I have a hard time recovering with I stumble.  I worry that I stumble too often.

And all the while I know my kids are growing up.  While I am sentimental about that process and all that I'll miss when they're grown, I see something more, something larger to fear.  As I invest myself in my children and my work and my house and my marriage, I have an unanswered question that resides in the back of my mind.  It sits there and lurks, waiting for quiet vulnerable moments.  Moments like this one.

What about me?

With all the nurturing and producing and planning, I have little time for the care and feeding of me.  I worry that I will turn around one day and be lost.  To far removed from myself to recognize where I am, much less how to get where I want to go.  All my energy long since invested in other people or other people's projects, I won't know what to do with myself.  Adrift in a sea of another's milestones and accomplishments.

Ever since I began making my own decisions I had clear goals.  Move away from home.  Graduate college.  Build a career.  I was in the middle of that one when I met my husband.  With him came more goals.  Become a family.  Buy a house.  Raise babies.

That's where I'm at now.  Oscillating between 'Build a career' and 'Raise babies'.  I figure I'm going to be plugging away at these goals for many more years with a big helping of 'Find balance'.  No where in all that is Find a calling or Nurture my soul or even Achieve happiness.  Somedays I'm not sure who I am.  So I write this blog in the moments when I'm not mom, I'm not project manager and I'm not dear.  I'm just me.  Somewhere in all this is the care and feeding of me.  I hope your enjoy my journey.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The First Marinara

Each week in August our CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) provided us with a small shopping back of tomatoes. Over the past few weeks I've become an expert at blanching tomatoes. I've even made some decent restaurant style salsa in the blender. Having concocted a salsa I love, I'm turning my attention to marinara. For my first attempt, I'm taking these 4 lovely ripe tomatoes and turning them into marinara...

 

WITH NO RECIPE!

Yup.  You got it.  I'm winging it.  I cook a lot and I know what's in marinara, so how hard can it be?  Ha!

I began by blanching and peeling my tomatoes.  This is the step with which I'm the most comfortable.  I don't like eating tomato skins so they simply must go.  Blanching the tomatoes seems to have the added positive effect of removing any blemishes and bad spots as I'm peeling the skins off.  Once peeled I coarsely chopped the tomatoes and set them aside.

Taking inventory of all the other produce littering my counter top, I found bell peppers, okra, onions, scallions, jalapenos, cilantro, banana peppers, cucumbers, zucchini and basil.  While I like lots of ingredients in my recipes I limited myself to the bell peppers, onions, scallions and basil.  I diced and sauteed the first three ingredients in olive oil, added the basil, minced garlic, low sodium chicken stock and my tomatoes.  The resulting mix looked promising.


After simmering for an hour, I got impatient and took a potato masher to the bubbling mixture.  Another 2 hours and I ended up with a think chunky good smelling sauce.


Just enough for my Monday night dinner!  While it was adequate, I was underwhelmed.  I think my first mistake was adding the bell pepper.  The second...  leaving out the salt.  However, I can say that adding some Parmesan cheese really brightened up the flavor.  Last but not least, seeding the tomatoes might also help.  There were a lot more seeds than I expected

All in all, I'm happy with  my first attempt as marinara.  I'll be trying again next week.  My goal is to find a recipe that I like enough to can a bunch of it for later this winter when I'm no longer overwhelmed in fresh produce.  Maybe another good start would also be to do some reading of existing marinara recipes!

Do you have any suggestions?

Monday, August 29, 2011

Mindful Mondays: Appreciation Edition

Last week I spent a lot of time noticing how much time I spent multi-tasking. I've read the reports that there is no such thing as true mutli-tasking, but I sure do put in a valiant effort.  Numerous times I caught myself doing things like scheduling appointments while cooking dinner or answering emails while writing up a design paper.  Even composing this post is taking me extra time because the TV is going in the background drawing my attention.

While I did not succeed in being a unitasker, being aware did allow me to limit needless switching between tasks whenever my mind slowed down for a few breaths.  When I wasn't 100 percent engaged in the task at hand, my attention quickly veered towards anything else.    Taking a deep breath and ignoring the temptation of the next item on the to do list really helped me get my bigger tasks done and done well.  I also found plenty of time to take care of the little tasks.  Overall, this week was a good experience and I'm definitely on the road to getting back to my overachieving self.

WHO: Me

WHAT: Appreciate the good things.  There's big things like job, family and health, but those aren't the ones to which I'm referring.  This week it is time to appreciate clean sheets, a hug from a friend or hitting a green light.

WHY: There is so much in my life to appreciate.  Just this week, I experienced a earthquake and slept as a hurricane passed over my house.  I'm okay.  All those I love are okay.  My house is unscathed.  The weather outside can only be described as the calm AFTER the storm.  It's been an amazing week.  But I did say that these are not the things I'm focusing on.

One of my reasons for starting this blog is to spend time noticing and recording all the great things that surround me.  However, too often, I look at my life through critical lenses.  There's always some task I haven't finished.  My kids stages are marked my their difficulties instead of their triumphs.  If only that recipe came out looking like the picture in the book.

HOW: I know when I'm being critical.  Lately, I feel the tickle of the critical eye as it stares back at me in the mirror.  I'm more critical of myself than anything or anyone else.  This week when I feel that tickle, I'm going to turn my attention outward and onward.  I'm going to look around me and focus on all that I have.  I'll make lists if I need to, just as long as I pause for a few moments a day to see what is right in front of me and appreciate it for its presence in my life.

Right now, I'm headed off to appreciate my snack as I appreciate the surprise day I got to spend at home alone.  Multi-tasking at its finest!

Menu Plan Monday: First Edition


I've been menu planning for a few years now.  As my family has grown, my job changed and my cooking focus shifted, my planning has evolved.  Most recently, meal planning occured on the first weekend of the month.  In my kitchen hangs a calendar white board that lists all the family obligations as well as the proposed meals.

Lately I've encountered two problems with this.  The first is that it takes me over an hour to make the monthly plan.  When I don't get it done on the predestined weekend, my motivation for complete it on subsequent weekends is pretty much nil.  About 60% of the time, I'm making up my meal plans on a weekly basis.  Secondly, I have to make a shopping list each week based on the planned menu, the contents of my pantry and the leftovers in the fridge.

Given all this, I'm joining Menu Planning Mondays on I'm an Organizing Junkie.  I like the idea of piggy backing on others great ideas for weekly plans as well as preserving my menus to reflect back on in subsequent weeks.

For this week's menu, I'm leaning on my top ten meal list (more on that later).  Nutritious, delicious and all ready in under 30 minutes (with the prep I do on the weekends to make sure week night dinners stay under 30 minutes!!).

Monday: Spaghetti with Homemade Tomato Sauce
Tuesday: Grilled Pork Chops with Sweet Potatoes & Salad
Wednesday: Tuna Melts
Thursday: Stir-fry
Friday: Burgers & Fries
Saturday: Family Dinner Out
Sunday: Wedding Reception

What do you have planned for dinner this week?


Monday, August 22, 2011

My First Blog Hop

My blog is only a few days old.  It seems strange to toss it out into the world expecting to the fly on its own.  HOWEVER, if no one reads my blog, does it really exist?  Too deep thoughts for a Monday...

A friend linked to this Blog Hop from her new Blog, so now I'm giving it a try.  Enjoy!

Mindful Mondays: Take it One Task at a Time

Mindful Mondays has been sowing up on The Happiest Mom blog lately.  They are her focus to help shape her week.  I like the idea of having a theme for my week.  Something new to focus on each week, to think about when reflecting on it passing.  So...  Here goes!


WHO: Me

WHAT: Devote my full attention to one task at a time.

WHY: I am a multi-tasker.  Alton Brown would love me.  However, lately I fear my great asset is becoming a calamity.  I feel frazzled and I think my work is suffering.

HOW: Always the hardest part, right?

This week I'll set aside a time to take care of the miscellaneous.  I already have routines in place to schedule my little to-dos in my planner as they come up on the days when they seem most likely to get done.  Usually I take care of these list items on the side while tackling the larger task of the hour/morning/day.  Too often, these little tasks interrupt or present themselves at just the right time to support a righteous bout of procrastination.

Instead of allowing them to side track me.  I'm going to schedule a time each day where I will deal with them.  Then the larger items on my list will get the undivided attention they deserve.  My hope is that the slight decay I'm detecting in my work will disappear and, maybe, just maybe, I'll notice a speed up in my progress on larger tasks.

Wish me luck!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Peace.

I estimate I have 45 minutes before someone needs me.  Both girls and my husband are down for afternoon naps.  It is 2:05pm and they've been asleep for about 15 minutes already.  Time is ticking.

Things I hope to have done...

Load of Laundry Folded
Blog Entry Posted
Bills Paid
Bathroom Cleaned

State I'm in now?

The laundry is 1/2 way there.  This post is getting closer to being done by the key stroke.  The bills are next to me and glaring.  Bathroom cleaner is upstairs.  Episode of Buffy is on TV.  Drink has been refilled.  I can do this.

When is it my nap time?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


Wow.  I encountered this video on Defining Motherhood and just about started sobbing at work.  Some days are harder than others and I'm been attempting to ignore how hard mine have been feeling lately.

It's awesome to have a wonderful life.  It's amazing when everything you've worked hard for comes to fruition.  It's also terrifying.  I read a book a few weeks back where the character was taught to dream big and be sure your dreams last until the final days of your life.  I wonder if that is where I stumble right now.  So many of my dreams have come true that I'm running low on direction these days.

But returning to the video...  What would I go back and tell myself?

Your babies know you love them.
You will find the strength.
Trust yourself.
Trust your partner.
Ask for help when you need it.
This too shall pass. All too soon.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Book Review: The Hunger Games Trilogy


Why I picked it: A few months back I got a Kindle.  For a while I was only reading free content.  Amazon kept recommending the first book in the trilogy to me. Eventually, the cost didn't bother me so much and I bought it.  After reading the first book, there wasn't a second thought given to buying the rest of the trilogy.

What it's about:  The stage is set in a place called Panem.  It is North America without the US.  Within Panem, there is a central Capitol where all the money and power lies.  Supporting the Capital are 13 districts.  One district was destroyed  after rebelling against the Capital.  Each year, the Hunger Games pit 2 children from each of the remaining 12 districts against one another to fight to the death for the Capital's amusement.  And as a reminder of who's really in charge.  The book is set at the start of the 74th Hunger Games.  Simply put it is about a girl and her fight for survival.

My Rating: 5/5

Where it took me:  I was Katniss Everdeen.  As I read, I understood her decisions and made them with her.  She got my pity and my respect.  I loved those around her.  Seeing them through her eyes, I got to know them and wondered about them when she was focused elsewhere.  These books took me to her world where I could experience a life I hope to never actually live.

Even more, my heart and soul ached thinking about the world Suzanne Collins created.  Themes on desensitization, war, gluttony and power stood out.  But I also read love, loyalty, compassion and hope.  As I think about the book more objectively, each character stands as a commentary of some quality and the positive and negative effects it can have on the wearer.

In the month since I bought the first book, I haven't completely pushed the story out of my mind.  Upon finishing the third book, I had to go back to the first one and start all over again.  I'm so glad I did!  Reliving their stories a second time I learned more about the characters I barely registered the first time through and began to see the depth of the story.  I'm giving the books a rest for a little while, but I'll definitely be revisiting them again in the not so distant future.  Maybe once I go more than a day without thinking about them.

Super Anxious.

Just to put it out there...  Writing this blog is making me anxious.  Knowing I'm putting bits of myself out on the internet.  Eventually someone will see this page.  They will read what I've written.  They might judge me.  What will they think?

I'm working on letting all that go.  The POINT of blogging is to get readers, to be noticed, to put a little more out than you did the day before and just maybe get a little back in exchange.  At least that's what I think all this is about.  I'll stretch my comfort zone a little more each day.

And I'll end up somewhere.  I don't know where, but I do look forward to ending up there.  Let's see where this goes.


Friday, August 12, 2011

Poor Dear.

Last night my littlest girl, Inchie, was diagnosed with a double ear infection.

Today I’m getting schooled on how different my girls are.

In Bean’s 2.75 years of life she has had 8 ear infections and 3 bouts of sinusitis.  One night she’d wake up crying in the middle of the night, a very rare occurance.  The next day we’d get the call from day care that she woke up from her afternoon nap with a slight fever.  We’d sneak her in the last appointment of the day at the pediatricians.  One dose of antibiotics later, the fever would be gone and she’d be back to her usual self.

Those ear infections did not prepare me for this.

No warning, Inchie woke up from her afternoon nap with a fever.  I couldn’t get her into the doctor’s before closing.  She got a little Tylenol and took an evening nap.  I expected her to sleep a little while, her fever there but not bad, and wake up to eat dinner and have a normal evening.

I didn’t get what I expected.  Inchie woke up with a temperature of 103.2 degrees.  Ray was home so I made an appointment at urgent care, ate dinner and headed over.  Three hours later we returned home. Inchie’s temperature was headed back in the right direction and we were armed with a meager supply of antibiotics.

She woke up a few times during the night.  Two doses of antibiotics and she’s still running a fever.  After her morning nap, she ate part of her morning bottle and then threw it back up on me.  This is HARD!

And I’m feeling particularly sorry for myself.  This isn’t my first baby.  I should know how this works.  I’m an expert right?!?