Boots, Diet Coke and Other Stuff that Make Me Smile

As I lay in bed last night, wide awake, listening to that January northwest Ohio wind do its thing outside, I realized that today is the last day of January and I had yet to blog this month. Not that anyone noticed or even really cared (except maybe my twin nephews. Love you guys!), but I do like to write and blather on. And once upon a time, I made a goal or a resolution or something or other to at least blog once or twice a month and pending this post I would have failed. And I so hate failure, especially mine. Although I know that you must sometimes fail to succeed, I still don’t have to like it.

So I mentally went over the past month, pondering what topic I should wax upon today without seeming whiny or bitchy or depressing. The whole point is to make someone smile as they read along. If I get one smile, it’s all good. I don’t do January resolutions as my birthday is in February, so in my book, the new year doesn’t actually start for me until then. I don’t have a rock star life style, so nothing extra-exciting on that end either. Religion? No. Politics? Definitely No. What then?  I went back to the smile. What makes me smile? I like it. So here it goes, this last day in January, the five things that make me smile the most (at least today anyway).

2013-01-31 07.33.09Cute Cards from My Kids
My daughters make me smile on a daily basis. My girls also make me want to pull my hair out on a daily basis. My kindergarten daughter has proved to be challenging. One day I’ll hear words like “Do you have the biggest butt at your work, Mommy???” as she barges into the bathroom while I’m squeezing into my jeans or “Your hair looks ugly” as the stylist finishes a new hair cut or “You look like a witch” after I finish applying eye makeup, pour out of her mouth. I can hardly wait to hear what she comes up with as a teenager. She’s quick to repent though and when the “what did you say?” comes out of my mouth, she’ll tell me “I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings” (you didn’t, sniff, sniff) or “you’re pretty Mom” (too little, too late). She can also be very kind and loving when she wants to be. Last Friday I had surgery to remove my gall bladder. She’s been very caring and concerned. She’s brought me cards home from school every day this week telling me how much she loves me and how I’m the best mom in the world. These little notes and the ones from my other daughter from days past hang on my cubicle walls and on the mirror in my bedroom. They always put a smile on my face.

2013-01-31 08.28.22Cappuccino and Diet Coke
Yes I am predictable and have certain rituals. One of those being that every morning I walk down to the corner Shell station and get two 20 ounce Diet Cokes and in the winter a yummy Cappuccino (today’s blend is chocolate-covered strawberry). I know both these addictions will not help the cause of my yet-to-be-set resolution to lose weight, but oh well. I can’t seem to give them up. And sure I could save money by getting a twelve pack or a two liter or whatever, but I like taking my walk and talking to the girls that work there. I always have a smile on my face when I leave.

2013-01-23 20.10.08

Boots, Sandals and Handbags
Shoes, shoe, shoes. Yes! I love my shoes. In the winter, it’s the boots. In the summer, it’s the sandals. And purses? You can’t have enough of those. A dear friend of mine always gets a new purse at the beginning of each season. An awesome idea, that I have joined her in. A new bag on a dreary day, makes my days. Pulling on a pair of black, knee-high boots paired with some skinny jeans and long sweater almost always makes me feel happy. It’s like hey me — You look good? Trendy? Fashionable? Passable? At least not like a frumpy mom?  Who am I kidding? (Well obviously, I’m trying to kid myself! Duh!) Anyway I like wearing them, so who cares what everyone else thinks! (Me? Shut up you irritating, little, downer voice in my mind).

reviewsA Great Review
If you don’t know, I write romance novels. Well, I wrote two anyway and am working on the third. The first, Take a Deep Breath is published and the second, Take Your Time, will be out there soon. Getting lost reading or writing a good romance is a sure way to make me smile. Romances always have a happy ending. Count on it. As an indie (that’s the new cool word for self-published) author, I always have misgivings and doubts about my talents as a writer. So whenever, I get an email or someone posts a review on Good Reads or Amazon and gives my book a great review, I can count on a smile to be pasted across my face for a good ten minutes or so (until I scroll down and find a review where someone hated my book). So the review thing is definitely a double-edge sword. On my writing loops, most authors advise not to even bother reading them. Somehow, I can’t help myself. I’m drawn to see what others think. I confess that I am a needy writer seeking approval. Yes, I said it (wrote) it. I’m an approval junkie. Sigh. Maybe that should be my number one would-be resolution for this year.

A Perfectly Clean Room
For me walking into my home to find a perfectly neat, orderly room is the ultimate happiness. With everything in its rightful place, the counters wiped, sinks shining, carpet vacuumed and every surface dusted. Chaos and clutter gone. I can ease back on my couch with a good book, a glass of wine, some soft music and no guilt over something else needing to be done. Now that is pure bliss. And a regretfully, it is only a dream. As you can see, I don’t have a picture for this smile. This state of home-happiness happens once in a blue moon and lasts about as long as a lunar eclipse. The chance to snap that photo has alluded me as of yet. But someday when the members of my household (myself included) finally get on that “let’s clean this place up” bandwagon at the same time, I’ll be sure to capture that moment with my iPhone.

What about you? Tell me… What makes you smile?

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Fun (?) At The County Fair

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Fun Times!

Our week-long County Fair ended last Thursday. I am still recuperating from the fun of it all and trying lose the extra five pounds I gained from the vast array of “treats” I indulged in, because ‘Hey, it only comes around once a year…”

The county fair is kind of a ‘big deal’ around here. All the school kids in the county actually get an extra day off school just to attend even though they already have the entire weekend including Labor Day to go. The reason being that in a farming community a good portion of the kids are in 4-H or FFA and are showing animals that they supposedly need to take care of (I’m not implying the animals aren’t actually being cared for, but I saw a lot of parents in the barns ‘helping out’ including myself – I’ll get to that in a bit).

When you live in the of nowhere there aren’t a lot of big events to look forward to – we aren’t exactly a cultural mecca, but that’s OK. The fair in and of itself really is kind of, well almost fun.This past fair has most notably been one of our family’s best which is in sharp contrast to last year’s experience, which while it could be considered a “learning” experience wasn’t one of our better fairs.

You see last year was my  daughter’s first year she was old enough to be in 4-H and take an animal to the fair. She was so excited! At the previous year’s fair, she’d gone through the various barns trying to figure out what animal she’d want to take. She landed on rabbits. This was fine by me. I could actually help her with this project, they were small and cute. Perfect and when I found she could take a breed rabbit and not actually have to breed it, I was even happier with her choice. So that spring we got her first rabbit and all the accompanying rabbit stuff (more stuff than you would think). She spent the next three months, doting on and spoiling the little guy.

A month and a half before the fair, my husband treated the bunny with Frontline as a flea preventative while he was treating all our barn cats. Unfortunately, for the rabbit, my daughter and my pocketbook, Frontline is toxic to rabbits. After several weeks of giving him IV fluids, hand feeding, and vet visits, the poor little guy went to rabbit heaven. My daughter was devastated because now not only was her little pet gone, she also couldn’t show at the fair. The deadline to have the project rabbit in her possession had already passed, so even though she got another rabbit, it wasn’t eligible to go to the fair. My heart broke for her as she watched all her friends and club mates show their rabbits. She handled it well though, and I was proud of her.

This year we didn’t make the “one” rabbit mistake again. We had a whole garage full of the furry beasties. She took both a market and a breed project. We actually had two litters of rabbits. They are quite cute. She ended up taking five to the fair and coming home with two first place ribbons, a third place, fourth place and fifth place ribbon and the Reserve Champion Breed Rabbit. She could not have had a better experience. You couldn’t wipe the smiles off any of our faces the whole day.

But the fair drug on for four more days after the rabbit judging. We did the rides (or the girls did and I stood watching and sweating in the hot sun – still better than being subjected to the Freak Out, Orbiter or Zipper – although I might not have gained those extra pounds if I had). We played the carnival games and the girls brought home a gold fish, which died three days later (after I bought fish food, etc.). We visited the smelly rabbit and poultry barn two to three times a day (I swear it is the chickens stinking up the joint) and watered, fed, and cleaned bedding. I started questioning bringing five rabbits to the fair by the second day when my daughters watched the rabbits, while I scooped…umm…used bedding. And we ate the junk food (I mentioned that once or twice didn’t I?) – shakes, funnel cakes, fries, cotton candy, caramel corn, pop corn… I’m starting to get hungry just thinking about it. Good thing it doesn’t come around again until next year or I would weigh 500 pounds!

Do you go to your county fair? What’s your favorite part?

Time Musings

Missing Tooth

As I walked along our deserted country road this warm summer evening, holding my five-year-old’s hand, my mind wandered back through time. Last week she lost her first tooth. This afternoon she told me how she got to cross the road all by herself to get the mail, looking both ways to make sure no cars were coming of course. And in less than two weeks, she’ll start kindergarten. My eyes water already at just the thought of watching her climb aboard the big yellow bus and disappear out of sight.

I only have to close my eyes and I feel her tiny fingers wrapped around one of mine, her soft cheek pressed against my breast. I can hear the little sighs and gurgles she made as slept in my arms. I can smell the sweet pea shampoo in her freshly washed hair. I can see her little legs carry her across the living room, one shaking step at a time to reach my outstretched arms.

I try to wrap my mind around that elusive concept of time. Some days the seconds drag by in excruciating slowness. Yet in this moment it feels as if the years raced past me. Some days I wish I could pull a brake and slow time down and other days I want that fast forward button to take me some unknown place in the future that has to be better than the now. Some days I greedily wish for more time and other days  I wish it away.

Time…60 seconds in a minute, 60 minutes in an hour, 24 hours in day, 7 days in a week, 356 days in a year…The math adds up the same every time, yet in my mind I still struggle and wonder how that can be.

I try to live in the present. Not think too much about the past or skip too far to the future. I know I only really have this moment and then its gone. The moments turn into memories and if I contemplate too long I’ll miss it and the next time I look at my daughter, she’ll be leaving for college…

Watch Me, Mommy! Please!

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Watch Me

“Mom! Mom! MOM!!!!” the girls call to me in unison getting progressively louder.

“What!?” I ask slightly irritated.(To be fair, I am deaf in one ear, so when I am absorbed in something, I really don’t hear them.)

“Watch me!”

They then proceed to show the their cartwheels, dance routine, play or cheer for the tenth time in the last hour.

“Great!” I smile and return to my book, laptop, gardening, laundry or whatever else has preoccupied my mind.

“Mommy!”

“What?” I ask again cranky.

Watch us! Please!

They then start their routine over.

I sigh. Smile wryly and silently ask God for patience.

Does this sound familiar? Or is it just me? Have you ever noticed when you start talking on the phone,, pulling weeds in the garden or reading a good book or writing a blog article, that all of a sudden your children take a special interest in you? Their neediness moves into overdrive, questing for my undivided attention to the point of almost rudeness. As an introvert I need to have a little “me” time to escape into my thoughts and recharge. A time where I don’t have to answer questions or find lost shoes or help with chores or make a PB&J sandwich. I long for interrupted alone time, but lately this time has alluded me. Pushed to my limits of patience, I become a bit “grouchy” and a little “snappy” with them.

Don’t get me wrong. I love spending time with my girls. Working 40 hours a week in my day job, they miss me and I miss them. I enjoy their company, yet also enjoy my own company. I need to find the balance between “mommy” time, “work” time and “wife” time (yes, my husband wants me time too – go figure) and “me” time. My head throbs trying to work it out so everyone gets their “piece” and there is still enough left over for me.

In the past I tried getting up extra early in the morning to carve out that time. Lately though, insomnia’s knocked right on my door around 3 AM, so I’m just falling back asleep when the early alarm goes off. I’m not sure how to solve this problem and am not likely to figure it out this evening as…guess what?

The girls are calling me. They need help feeding their rabbits, getting a Popsicle from the freezer and…

Any ideas? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

Crackle! Boom! Bang!

July Fourth. Independence Day. The Fourth of July. America’s Birthday. My favorite holiday! But why?

1. It Happens In The Summer (my favorite season)
Hot weather, flip-flops, tank tops and sunscreen.
The blustery coldness that bites through bulky layers of sweaters and coats is a distant memory and the colorful foliage of autumn has yet to remind me that gloves and scarves are just around the corner.

2. No-Recipe, Simple-Ingredient Food
Grilled burgers, hot dogs, water melon, ice cream, sweet corn.
I don’t have to follow a complicated recipe only to find half-way through I don’t have one of the ingredients or worse calls for an ingredient I’ve never heard of. I love the simplicity and taste of no-fuss picnic food. No menu planning or hours of cooking prep required.

3. No Gifts, No Cards, No Decorating
I don’t have to buy anything on July 4th. The holiday doesn’t involve Santa or the Easter Bunny or any holiday hero for that matter. I don’t have to figure out what gifts to buy or spend hours wrapping said gifts. I have no pine needles to vacuum or holiday letters to write or carols to sing. I don’t need to buy costumes or candy. It is one of the cheapest, relaxing holidays of all.

4. Fireworks, Baby!
The holiday culminates in an amazing display of colors, sounds and vibrations. I love fireworks. Watching the girls practice cart wheels, dance and twirl their glow sticks as they wait for dusk to fall and the fireworks to start. The look of pure joy on their faces when the first one shoots into the sky and explodes to a chorus of Oooo’s and Ahhhh’s from the crowd. When my step-son was about four years old, he grabbed my father’s cheeks and turned his face toward his. “Look, Grandpa! It’s a masterpiece!’ Yes indeed, they are!

What about you? What’s your favorite holiday?

What’s For Supper?

“What’s for supper?” is probably one of the most asked (next to can we get a puppy?) questions in my house. The answer to this infamous question, however, almost always seems to elicit tears, tantrums and time outs. How could the answer to such a simple question cause such emotion? Girl drama? Sibling rivalry? Picky eaters? Bad cooking? I wish I knew.

Typically the conversation starts as soon as I pick the girls up from the sitter after work is. Someone will in ask the first question that leads to the turmoil: “Is Dad home tonight?” You may wonder how the presence of my husband could lead to the supper argument.  Well, my husband currently works swing shift (hopefully not for much longer) and every other months works nights. So, there is a 50-50 chance that he won’t be home or won’t be home until after supper. If I answer “no” he’s not going to be home the conversation goes in one direction and in another if I answer “yes.”

Let’s travel the “no” path first. If dear old Dad has to work, the girls immediately want to go out to eat. Crying and whining will pursue if I answer that one in the negative. If I answer in the affirmative, there is short-lived cheering. Why? Because inevitably one of them wants to go to Wendy’s while the other wants Taco Bell? Can we compromise on Subway? No way? Why? Because she always gets her way? or She got to pick the place last time? Sigh. So we head home for Mom’s cooking. Something quick and simple like spaghetti or hamburgers are my usual go-to’s. If the kids have dance or choir or bible school or some other activity within 30-45 minutes of arriving home I typically end up with the processed food alternative like ramen noodles, mac & cheese, spaghetti’o’s or grilled cheese. The kids are happy and we’re out the door. I realize I should be a better meal planner, make meals ahead and freeze them or use the crock pot. That typically requires foresight though. It seems whenever I get in the groove to make a recipe or some other healthy, delicious meal I am lacking some key ingredient. I figure it is some cosmic sign I was not meant to be a chef.

My husband on the other hand is a great cook and actually enjoys cooking (imagine that?) So while I feel bad the girls eat processed foods some evenings, I figure half the time they are eating yummy, healthy food courtesy of their father. So why the fuss then? Here’s where the pickiness comes in. It doesn’t matter what he cooks the automatically don’t want to eat it. It is the weirdest phenomena. So let’s now go down the “Dad is already home path.” This means Dad is cooking supper. I hear an audible groan from the back set the second I confirm their culinary nightmare, that yes Dad is home. The oldest will start, ‘What’s for supper?”

“I don’t know,” is my usual response (and in most cases I really don’t.)

The youngest will start crying and moaning, “I don’t want what he’s fixing?”

“Me either,” the oldest will pout.

“You don’t even know what he’s fixing yet.” I try to reason with them.

BBQ
BBQ Ribs – Yummy!

“It doesn’t matter,” they both agree. They are determined to not like it. To be fair, my husband likes to try new recipes. He has French and Mexican cookbooks he goes to for recipes. Most recently he’s tried several new BBQ recipes (yum! yum!). Nine times out of ten the cuisine is excellent (except when I am trying to count those weight watcher points.) Yes, there was that time he was in his “Master and Commander” recipe phase (hard tack, lobscosse…), but we won’t go there.

We both want the girls to eat what’s fixed for them (there are lots of hungry children around the world, etc.). Here is where the showdown starts. The girls can be very stubborn about putting unknown food in their mouths and refuse to even taste a new dish. At least take “a no thank you bite” I encourage. The look at me as if I asked them to drink poison. The alternative is to let them have a peanut butter sandwich instead. This usually satisfies the youngest child, but throws the oldest into a tizzy. You see, she doesn’t want that either. I tell her she must not be hungry enough. She insists she’s starving. I then tell her this isn’t a restaurant and her father and I are not her short-order cooks. She’ll become exasperated, land in time out and eventually eat the peanut butter sandwich. The youngest on the other hand typically lands in time out, because she takes one bite out of said food and is “full” at least until ten minutes after the dishes are cleared and then she become hungry for ice cream or a cookie. Good times!

So my mommy inquiry tonight goes along these lines. I want my children to have a healthy relationship with food, to try new foods, eat healthfully and eat until they are full and only when they are hungry. So, do we force them to try something they might not like? Do we make them eat everything on their plates? Do we banish junk food and fast food? I just don’t know. Let me know what you think…

Old Lady Bikes and Cry Babies

My Old Lady Bike
My Old Lady Bike

This evening the blustery winds of Northwest Ohio finally died down and the warm sun came out.The two weather occurrences haven’t convened at the same time in quite a while. And so after a long week of dreariness the girls and I decided to take advantage of this gift and take a bike ride together. A great idea so I thought. My ideas always start out as great you know.

As a young girl I have fond memories tooling around on my banana bike with my sister and friends. The wind in our faces, the sun on our backs we popped wheelies and rode with no hands. We took our bikes everywhere. I remember saving up my babysitting money to purchase a powder-blue ten speed bike with the word “Trans Am” written on the frame and racing handle bars. I thought I was so cool on that bike until only a few years later when I got my coveted driver’s license. I don’t know where that bike is these days. For awhile I did have a mountain bike, although I never did ride it on any mountains or for that matter any trails of any sort. I pulled it out of the garage last summer when my oldest finally learned to ride a two-wheeler without training wheels. Unfortunately, only one of the hand brakes worked, the front tire was flat, the gears rusted and the seat a little wobbly. I persevered though and via a you tube video actually replaced the tube in the tire and fixed the breaks. I greased the gears, but was never able to get the seat to quit twisting around as I tried to ride.

This year, I decided to give up on the high tech, biker bikes, and got myself an old-lady bike. Yes, I bought one of those bikes I used to make fun of my mom for riding. Now they are called cruisers though and seem to be making a come back in stores. I am happy with this simple bike with coaster breaks, no gears to change and a nice cushy seat for my much bigger bum:) Luckily, my kids aren’t quite old enough to be embarrassed by me yet! They were eager to take a ride with their dear old mom. So we headed out. My nine-year old took the lead, ringing her bell with a smile and a wave. Next, the five-year old, struggled to get her bike with training wheels up over the driveway onto the road. I brought up the rear.

A smile on my face, the kids laughter in my ears, the ride started off, well, great. We decided to head for the local park about a mile away. All was well except for the bug that landed on the little one’s arm as we rode. A slight bout of hysteria ensued, but I quickly flicked the bug off as I rode past and circled around behind her again. All was well again. As we neared our destination, I congratulated myself that we made it without crashing or crying or whining. Of course the journey took a bit longer than anticipated as every time a car neared the youngest pulled over or stopped dead in front of me until it passed. Safety is good, but I had to reminder her that stop suddenly isn’t such a good idea because mom might accidentally slam into her and fly over the handle bars. That visual seemed funny to her somehow. I don’t think I got much of a work out with all the stopping and starting, but the girls were having fun racing and riding and laughing.

We got to the park and the girls swung on the swings, slid down the slide, crossed the monkey bars and threw rocks in the pond. It was a wonderful evening together until it was time to ride the mile home. The littlest decided her feet were too tired to ride. After a little prodding and a lot of idle threatening we finally headed for home. She rode her bike as slowly as possible. It was at this point I realized riding a bike slowly is not easy. It is hard to do actually, I kept wobbling and having to put my feet down. So I made the mistake of passing her. Here is where the cry baby part comes in. The screaming tantrum began. I circled back around behind as I’d planned to do all along. I only passed her to avoid running over her. She decided she was done. She got off her bike and took off her helmet. She was done. At least until I called her Dad to come get her. Then the waterworks began even more, but also the determination to make it home on her bike. She had her helmet back on and was pedaling toward home. I heard my husband say something about he’d come and get her if he had to, but I needed to work on my authority with her… What? I thought to myself (well I may have thought some other words too). OK. Nevermind, she’s going now I tell him and tuck the phone back into my pocket. We’re off again. She’s riding through puddles and trying to pass her sister. The tantrum tirade is over until we hit the slight incline less than a quarter mile from home. She starts the crying, whining again, but with a push makes it over the top. The oldest has given up and pushes her bike home as she can’t got that slow… All great ideas…

Remind me again why watching TV is so bad?