Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Dan in Real Life

It's rare that one sees a mainstream commercial movie that features people who make kind and wise choices, people who refrain from littering their speech with profanity, and those people also stay out of the bedroom. Dan in Real Life is that kind of rare movie. It is rated PG-13, but it's a very tame PG-13. In fact, depending on what your kids regularly watch, I think it's the kind of film that teens could watch with their parents to launch a good discussion (PluggedIn online always has good reviews that give a run-down of any content that some might find objectionable, and this review details all the whys of the rating).

Terry and I saw this over the weekend, and we both enjoyed it. It is a drama, so I was surprised that Terry mentioned a couple times that it was a good movie. I think that he appreciated the way it was presented, but also the subject matter. And there is some Steve Carell silly or physical humor throughout to keep the subject light.

Dan Burns lost his wife four years ago, so he's playing mom and dad to two teenage daughters and one pre-teen. The girl-drama is right on target and causes a few laughs (or in our case perhaps a nervous chuckle as we think, "It's coming for us--all too soon."). He finally finds someone who he is attracted to, but there's a complication. The viewers watch and hope for Dan to find personal happiness in his real life.

With two other recent family-friendly flicks under his belt--Evan Almighty and Horton Hears a Who--I might have to add Steve Carell to my favorite actors list.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Talking Shop(ping)

Last Friday I went to Target. Spring had finally sprung on Connecticut bringing temperatures above 70 on a consistent basis, and Amanda had only one pair of shorts/capris, because in September she had outgrown everything, so I gave them all away instead of storing them (Here's something I could have added to my Texas/Connecticut weather post: Seventy feels really warm in Connecticut, whereas my newly transplanted to Texas friend pointed out that at the 63 degree baseball game everyone was wearing their heavy sweatshirts and had pulled out their stadium blankets to keep warm).

My mission was to come away with several pairs of shorts, and to hopefully avoid the curse that happens when one enters Target, causing one to spend at least $150. I failed on both accounts.

I did end up buying two pairs of shorts, I think, and maybe a skort, and a couple cute tee's. Reminding you that it's the end of only the second warm week in Connecticut, I was disgruntled to find that most shorts did not have her size. This is because just like everywhere else in the world, on March 1 regardless of weather conditions, all of the long-sleeved clothes and pants are replaced by shorty shorts and tank tops.

So I was unable to buy the clothing I need for this particular time because of poor marketing. I know that the next shipment of the next style will arrive soon, and there's always the internet. An even worse problem is when your toddler or preschooler who can zoom through a size without looking back needs a couple long-sleeved shirts and a light jacket in March in a bigger size (since it's still going to be cool for months), and one cannot be found--anywhere--including online! I learned to plan ahead and buy one in the next size for Amanda, because one time when we lived in Portland, I was thrown at the mercy of a friend, begging to borrow something from one of her older children.

I know that it's not just those of us in the North for whom this is a social injustice. In September, Southerners everywhere will be snatching up those lovely wool skirts and sweaters. They look like Fall, but they will hang in your closet while you grab the shorty shorts and tank tops.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Spring?

This is the fourth Spring that we've lived in Connecticut. Would it surprise you if I told you that there are some differences in the weather in Connecticut and my home state of Texas?

In Connecticut . . .
  • We can never put away our sweatshirts. After two weeks of perfect 70 degree sunny days (which followed a chilly morning where we needed a light jacket), the forecast for the better part of the week is April Showers and temperatures no warmer than 61.
  • I know that although the calendar ushers in Spring on March 20, here in the frozen Northeast, my only indicator of Spring at that time was the advent of Katrina's Spring Reading Thing.
  • Because the weather goes from being inhospitable to rather lovely, the children revel in it. Because Kyle begins spending much time outside, and being outside means playing in the dirt, daily baths become the order of the day. If I was a better housekeeper, daily bathtub cleaning would also be in order, because he definitely leaves a ring.
  • Spring green really exists. I love watching the verdant green leaves come out on the lawns and on the formerly bare tree branches.

In Texas . . .
  • We always kept T-shirts and shorts or capris handy. Whether it's March or December, a week of season-appropriate weather was likely to be followed by temperatures topping 80 degrees.
  • The calendar is also not a fair indicator of Spring. By the end of March, we had likely already experienced many of those 80 degree days. When we visited family one February, I of course packed some short-sleeved shirts, but it happened to be particularly warm, and so I had to buy some flip flops to rescue my feet from all the closed-toed shoes I had brought from Connecticut.
  • Because the weather is always temperate in Houston, certainly as compared to other parts of the country, people become quite picky about the sort of day that will drive them outdoors. If it's 60 and sunny, but a little windy, the parks won't be crowded. They'll wait for 75 and not humid for the perfect park-day. 82 with a chance of thunderstorms? Better not plan a trip to the zoo, because it might rain. In the Summer it's always warm, but 92 is too hot to do anything but swim, so they'll be indoors then as well.
  • Texas is an evergreen state. While some trees will lose their leaves, they are so confused by the swing of temperatures that we never saw the explosion of new growth with the onset of warm weather.
We enjoyed our two weeks of Spring, and I know they'll be back. Yesterday we planted our vegetable garden (while wearing sweatshirts) in hopes that the sun will actually warm the plants and help them to grow. Come July, we'll hopefully be enjoying corn, broccoli (a first for us), tomatoes and peppers.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Back on the Bookshelf

An unintended result of writing reviews each Monday for the 5 Minutes for Mom column is that I don't write as much here about what I've read "just for fun" or what the kids are reading. I thought I'd do a quick update on books we've enjoyed over the past month or so.

The Quickie
--Hate the name, loved the book. I don't know if I've read James Patterson before, and technically I still haven't read him. I listened to the audiobook. I have enjoyed every audio version I've purchased, but this was especially well-done, with a bit music in the background adding a layer of atmosphere, and Mary Stuart Masterson's deep voice narrating. Just when I thought that I had the plot figured out, it twisted again. It's a real page-turner.

Three Cups of Tea--We read this for our first stab at a semi book group (a book semi-group?). There were just four of us, and we don't have a rigid schedule, but I think we are going to try again with another book soon. I found the first 120 pages of this book impossible to get through. The story was fine, but the writing was odd--like reading Newsweek magazine: "I had fond memories of my childhood," Mortenson recollects. This same disconnect brought on by the fact that it's Mortenson's story written by journalist David Relin also leads to some details about the time and culture that a first-person narrator might omit. It really picked up after the first third of the book, and I'm glad I had the accountability of the book club meeting to encourage me to persevere.

Symphony of Secrets by Sharon Hinck was a nice light read. Amy is a single mother, professional flute player, and a Nancy Drew wannabe. When strange things keep happening to the concertmaster at her new symphony gig, she looks around until she uncovers the truth. She also has to navigate the uncertain waters of dealing with her teen aged daughter. If you are a musician or any type of "artiste," you will probably appreciate the inside humor and references.

Amanda can recommend:

A Practical Guide to Monsters--I think that this was the genesis of the Red Dragon Codex series (which Amanda reviewed HERE). I didn't realize it was in my pile of books, but when I came across it, she read it with a vengeance, wide-eyed and interested in every word.

The Anybodies and the Nobodies by N.E. Bode (just now doing some research, I see that she wrote the book that the Magorium movie was based on)--Amanda loved this imaginative books, and I just noticed that there's a third, the Somebodies, so I know she'll be thrilled to find that out. She had her nose stuck in each of these books until they were finished.

She loves it when all those padded envelopes and boxes full of reviewers' copies of books come to the house. She always asks, "Is it something I can read?" and if it's a children's book, it gets an immediate market test. If she goes for it (and then actually stays interested enough to read it), I know that it's a hit. She snatched up two books from a recent shipment:

Mother Goose Unplucked--This is no fairy tale. This is nursery rhymes for the older elementary set--giving the other side of the stories we all know and love--Little Red Riding Hood, Little Bo Peep, and more. The book also includes activities such as brainteasers, crafts, and recipes.

Science on the Loose
explores science in a wacky fun way. Fun facts are included along with experiments to entice any young Frankenstein.

I've crossed 9 books off my Spring Reading Thing list. I didn't read all of them completely--three were nonfiction books that I reviewed, so I read enough to get the gist of them, and one of the novels I quit about halfway through because it hadn't grabbed me, and I've learned to put aside mediocre books because there are so many great books just waiting to be read.

This is linked to Semicolon's Saturday Review of Books.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Destination Disney -- Disney Magic


Disney World is known as "the happiest place on earth," and I have to say that after spending a short weekend there, I agree wholeheartedly. There is something about Disney World--something magical.

Do you have an experience with Disney Magic you'd like to share? It could be the fuzzy memories of visiting the Magic Kingdom as a child. It could be the look on your child's face the first time he met Mickey, or just the reminiscence of a perfect family vacation.

Write your thoughts on your blog, then link directly to that post sometime this weekend (not your main blog page), and enter your link in the Mr. Linky below. You can also link back to a post in your archives where you discussed Disney magic.

If you link here, I would ask that you link back to this post or to my blog. You don't have to use the banner, but you are welcome to you if you'd like (Thanks to Jo-Lynne at DCR Designs for making the button and the banner).

If you don't have a blog or don't want to write up a post, feel free to join in by leaving a comment.

You can find out more about the origins of this carnival HERE, including the schedule for upcoming weeks.

Next weekend (starting May 2), I'd like to hear about your process for Planning Your Trip to Disney. How far in advance do you plan? When do you go and why? Are there books or websites you would recommend? What types of plans do you make in advance: reservations for meals? shows? a schedule for park day?


I'm glad you decided to join in. I hope you'll take the time to relive the magic by visiting the other participants, and as all the cast members at Disney say, "Have a magical day!"

Examining the Magic

My first trip to the Magic Kingdom was in 1978. I'm sure that there was some magic (maybe my dad will leave a comment sharing some of his memories), and I do remember not being able to sleep the night before we left, just like the kids (and parents!) in the commercial, but other than that my thirty-seven-year-old brain hasn't retained anything else from that eight-year-old's experience.

Most people would not expect a Press/PR trip to be magical. We met with over twenty Disney employees, while experiencing little bites of what Disney has to offer throughout the weekend. The Disney employees (or cast members as they are called) embody the spirit of Disney. They are what makes Disney magical. Whether it was the director of food and beverages for the whole park, the affordability expert, or the Epcot employees who used their red flashy light sabers to escort us to our VIP deck to view the Epcot Illuminations Reflections of Earth fireworks show, they were all proud of the work they were doing and staunch supporters of the mission and purpose of Disney as a whole.

Here are a few examples:

  • One of the other blogging moms observed that even those who performed crowd control at the parade did so with a smile on their faces.
  • While in the park, I observed our hosts and other employees, regardless of job description, picking up any trash that they saw while they were in the park. Cleanliness makes for a magic vacation.
  • Two of our moms had a hard time finding their way back to the hotel when they were leaving Epcot (since we were escorted around, we never really gained our bearings). A cast member walked them out. As they walked, they found out they he was a Dream Maker. That's a coveted role, and especially now in the Year of a Million Dreams. It's his job to surprise random guests with dreams come true--little and big. Disney World has employees whose job it is to lavish special surprises on their paying guests--how amazing is that?

Joyce and Michelle did an awesome job of sharing the magic with us.

When you see a magician's show, the slight of hand keeps you guessing. It's a marvel that you don't really want to deconstruct, because when you understand what's behind it, the magic disappears and the fun is lost. I spent three days hearing the stories of those who are most passionate about Disney--the employees--and after doing so, I'm convinced that the magic isn't an illusion.

Disney World IS magic.

Click HERE to read about others' magical experiences with Disney World.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

I'll Have it My Way

Because I've been getting some new visitors from all the links of my Disney Mixer Mom friends' posts, and Capessa's feature of my 10 Ways to Add Hours to Your Day, I thought I'd feature some older posts that offer a glimpse into the Snapshot personality.

This originally published two years ago on May 15, 2006. Have I changed? Um, no. I recently revealed my colon personality. I still enjoy a Duncan Donuts latte, and I still steer clear of their coffee.


I'm a control freak. I think I just have to admit it. I've always known that I was opinionated, but lately I am feeling a bit more rigid than that. I simply like things the way I like them.

Duncan Donuts is big up here in the Northeast. In Texas, not so much. In fact, Duncan Donuts is consistently voted the best coffee in Connecticut. I don't really care for it. It's a bit weak for me. If I'm going to drink coffee, I like it strong and flavorful, with half and half. At Duncan Donuts, they don't even have half and half, and you can't make your own coffee. They fix it for you. So, the fact that I would be irritated that someone else would try to fix my coffee, because they couldn't possibly do it just like I wanted, made me begin to think about my control-freak tendencies.

The other thing that got me thinking that I thought that my way was the only way, was when I was recovering from knee surgery. For a few days, I was pretty much bed ridden. Terry was a pretty good nurse, but I found myself irritated that he wasn't doing things "right" (meaning, my way). From the bed, I could see him cleaning the bathtub--wrong. Why should I care? He's cleaning the bathtub!

We had a discussion about laundry last night. I would be irritated when he tried to throw a load of laundry in for himself. As he pointed out, I shouldn't care, because it's his laundry and he's doing it. However, as the domestic engineer of our home, I see things in a broader scope. Yes, perhaps he has done a full load of laundry, but that load might include a dress shirt, T-shirts, socks, jeans and a few towels to round it out. It isn't economical, because the kids probably have a couple of darks that could have been washed and don't make a full load on their own, but again, why should I care? He's doing laundry!

So, in trying to get this on paper, I notice that I keep describing my attitude as "irritated," and realize I need to get over myself, and let these little things go. There's no reason to be irritated about those issues. The funny thing is that knowing this, someone would assume that I am probably a perfectionist about things, and the sad thing is I am not. I seem to have the negative side of being a control freak, and am missing the positive aspects of being organized and efficient that often go hand and hand with it. So maybe I should just give myself over to the lazy, lackadaisical part of myself who would not be bothered by the bathtub being cleaned by a toilet brush or jeans being washed with white Tshirts. Better yet, I should probably seek to be so efficient and organized that I stay on top of my tasks and am able to do them the way I think that they should be done. No one is going to be irritated by that.

And when I go to Duncan Donuts, I just order a latte, which they make just like I like it, for at least $1 less than Starbucks.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Covering Furniture Scratches


I don't participate in Works for Me Wednesday much anymore for a couple reasons. I think I'm all tipped out for one, and even when I do have a tip in mind, Wednesday seems to come and go before I know it!

But this week something worked for me that I just have to share.

Last month we did a small remodeling job and had our hardwood floors refinished. Moving everything around to prepare for that was a big job for me. Getting everything back in place--well, let's just say that I haven't gotten there yet. The dining room is sort of a parking spot for all of those boxes and nicknacks, and since it's tucked away, I have chosen to ignore it. When my sister-in-law was here a couple weeks ago with her daughter, she and Kyle spent time in there with all the stuff. This week I noticed that some of the nicknacks had apparently been used to bang on the dining room table! The corner of my dining room table now had that naturally distressed look that people pay so much for.

I remember once reading that mayonnaise could remove or repair scratches, so I decided to give it a try. It worked! I just rubbed mayo into the little dents. The dents are still there of course, but the discoloration is gone, so it's only obvious if you are sitting right there. After that I cleaned my table as I normally do so it didn't smell like a tunafish sandwich.

I recently posted 10 tips for Adding Hours to Your Day over at Capessa. Check them out! For more tips from other smart women, click over to Rocks in My Dryer.

Do you love Disney World? Are you still reliving the magical memories of your last trip, or perhaps planning or dreaming of your next/first trip? I've just started a new carnival that will appear here each weekend to help with Disney information sharing. Click HERE for all the details.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Destination Disney



The new twice-monthly schedule can be found HERE.

So, here's the story. Disney flew me to Orlando with some other great women bloggers and site-owners to tap into us as resources for disseminating information, and as a result we got a lot of information. We had more fun than we deserved hanging out with really sharp women, being treated like VIPs, seeing some great shows, eating good food, enjoying beautiful weather, and a well-appointed hotel.

And did I mention that we came away with information? Lots of information. We met with many Disney employees who knew their stuff and absolutely loved their jobs--from PR and marketing people, to hotel managers, to chefs. I am going to host a weekly Destination Disney as a means of conveying this information in manageable bites. Each weekend will have a theme.

It seems like everyone has either taken one (or more) trips to Disney World, or is dreaming about taking one. I'm hoping that this will serve as a great reference for people as they plan a Disney vacation, or maybe just a little way to hold on to the magic of your past trip.

We'll kick it off this Friday. You are invited to post anytime this weekend and link it up. This week's topic will be fairly general. I'm calling it Disney Magic. You could write about your memories about your first trip to Disney, or the last. You could write about a touching Make a Wish story you've heard about, or the look in your child's eye when he first saw Mickey Mouse or Cinderella. I'll be sharing some Disney magic of my own.

Over the next weeks and months, I'd like to hear your thoughts and experiences with the planning part of a Disney vacation, Disney on a budget, shows, hotels and resorts, and separate posts about each park.

If you'd like to plan ahead, here are the first few topics we'll cover. You are welcome to put in the permalink of an older post, perhaps from your last trip to Disney, or pull it from your archives to repost it, or write a new post addressing this topic. If you don't have a blog, I'd love to hear your input in the comments.

I'm trying to dig up some prizes for the first couple of weeks as an incentive to jump in and share your information.

Disney Magic -- the weekend of April 25
Planning Your Trip to Disney -- the weekend of May 2
Disney on a Budget -- the weekend of May 9
Disney Hotels and Resorts -- the weekend of May 16
Disney for Adults -- the weekend of May 23

The schedule through the rest of 2008 can be found HERE.

You can grab the banner at the top of the post (just right click and save to your own hard drive), or you can use this smaller button in your posts or on your sidebar:


Fellow attendee and new friend Jo-Lynne designed them for me. If you think that they are as cute as I do, check out her new blog design service DCR Designs.

See you back here on Friday as we all share our thoughts on the Magical World of Disney.

The new twice-monthly schedule can be found HERE.

Busted

When Kyle got up Monday morning, he came downstairs and was happy to see me. His "Mommeee" greeting and big hug started off my day with a smile. He then began the roll call as does most mornings asking, "Where's Daddy?"

"Daddy's at work," I answered as I do five days a week.

"Oh, I didn't bring Blankie because I thought Daddy was here," he told me.

"Oh, yes, because that's the rule, right? Blankie stays in your bed."

"Well, I have two rules," he explained. "If Daddy's here, Blankie has to stay in my bed, but if you are here, I can bring her downstairs in the morning."

It seems like Daddy whipped the family into shape while I was gone last weekend, but with me back at the helm, the backsliding has begun.

Monday, April 21, 2008

10 Ways to Add Hours to Your Day


I am pleased that Capessa will be sharing my article for the next two weeks. It's a great site featuring topics of interest from real women.

10 Ways to Add Hours to Your Day


Control the Computer

1. When you think of something you want to research online, jot it down in your planner. I often log in for a specific purpose or two, but then forget why I’m there. When I remember, I end up logging back on and losing more time with general surfing.

Regulate the Remote

2. Watch TV on your own time. Use a DVR to record shows you like and watch them later. Not only will you save 10 to 15 minutes per hour by skipping commercials, but you also don’t have to drop everything when the show comes on which makes better use of your time.

Surrender Sleep

3. Too many unfinished to-do’s result in stress, which often causes insomnia. If it takes more than ten minutes for you to fall asleep, get up and complete one of those tasks that is on your mind. You might be able to fall asleep with a clear conscience, and if not you still reduced your responsibilities for the next day.

Re-think your Routine

4. A “quick trip to the store” consumes more time than you think. Consolidate errands whenever possible, which will save you time (and gas).

Pass up the Phone

5. Multitasking is a must. Fold laundry, put away dishes, or file papers whenever you’re chatting on the phone.

Click through to Capessa to read another five tips (one more in each of these categories).

If this is your first time here, welcome to my blog. I hope you'll join me regularly and join in the discussion as I write about
  • parenting struggles and successes (Amanda is nine and Kyle is almost four),
  • travel (coming up--lots of insider Disney tips from the PR Press trip I took last weekend),
  • my love of books,
  • my faith,
  • and how I try to balance it all.
You can click HERE to go to the home page of my site to read more of my posts.

Back to Reality

Last week was Spring Break for my kids. Monday started off a little rocky, with a very emotionally charged 3 1/2 year-old who erupted in tears at each little pitfall. Since all of that started before 6:30 a.m., by 10:00 a.m. the unscheduled week was starting to look interminable.

But things turned around.

Spring weather finally arrived here in Connecticut, so we met friends at the park on two of the days, ate ice cream twice, and went to Panera once.

By Thursday, I was appreciating the lack of structured to-dos: Staying in our pajamas until noon 10:30 a.m., letting the children gorge on TV (and me on the computer and on books). . . .

Friday morning I left bright and early for a wonderful weekend at Disney** and Terry took over the household responsibilities. I arrived late Sunday night and slept well in my own bed with my own husband.

This morning brought me back to reality. I had to get my daughter up for school (another tween behavior she is honing is wanting to sleep late), make sure the backpack was ready to go, pack a snack, and get her out the door to catch the bus. This afternoon will be her first soccer practice of the season, so when she gets home today, she will have fifteen minutes to eat a quick snack and change into her soccer gear before we have to leave for practice. For another month we still have BSF, so when I pick her up from practice, we'll go directly there, which doesn't leave much time for homework, so she'll have to get up early tomorrow to finish it.

We still have two full months of school here in Connecticut, but this taste of the slow life has me yearning for summer vacation already.

**There will be more on Disney later, including some group pictures that the professional photographer who was following us around Magic Kingdom took. Yes, we had paparazzi.

I am figuring out how to get across all the information that we got while we were there. We met many employees and got some great information. I think that I'm going to have "Destination Disney Weekend" themes for a while until I get all the information out, and I'm even thinking of posting about specific topics and opening it up as a carnival so that all of you can share your Disney knowledge as well.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Disney--Friday Night

I think that there are 16 of us here, plus 3 Disney people, and our PR contact. We started off the evening a bit tentatively--some had prior connections and stuck together. By the end of the night, we had all mixed and mingled to some extent. The conversation has been rich and varied. I am learning so much about business and blogging and the business of blogging from these smart, savvy women. I'm just drinking it all in.

We had VIP seats right at the water's edge for the Epcot fireworks show. We were so close we could feel the heat from the fire.




Today we began at 7:30, and I think we are going strong until 4pm, at which time we have a break until dinner, then we will see La Nouba Cirque du Soleil show and back to the hotel. A special last-minute addition to the agenda is that we are going somewhere no one has ever been before. It's something brand new opening in the fall that no press has even seen. As one of the Disney employees said, we are scooping the New York Times.

I got a glimpse of Minnie at Epcot in the Character Galley, but no character contact yet. Is it crazy to say that I'm looking forward to our character breakfast on Sunday? We are also going to the Block Party Bash today, which I think will be fun, since I'm a big Pixar fan.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Greetings from Disney World!

I made it!

I woke up very early to get to the airport for my 7:45 a.m. flight. I didn't sleep well last night, but I'm here, and I'm going to have a magical time.


I am staying at the Disney Beach Resort Hotel. When I got here, I went out on the beach and had a sandwich and rested and read for over an hour. It was wonderful.



I was lounging out there on that stretch of beach. This is the view from the balcony of my room.

Then I changed clothes and went to the fitness center, and used the elliptical machine and the treadmill for about 35 minutes or so. I figure that since my schedule and my children are my chief excuses for not working out that I should take advantage of it.

Now I'm going to clean up a bit and meet the other Mommy Bloggers and the Disney folks and the Blue Suit Media folks in the lobby at 4:30 for a reception. We'll all get to know each other (I think that people will be trickling in) before heading over to Italy in Epcot for dinner.

I haven't seen Mickey yet, but I'll keep you updated. We are slated to attend a character breakfast on Sunday.

It's the International Flower Garden Show and Expo this month.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Blogger Autoposting

Yes, you "heard" me right! Those of you who use Blogger can now set posts to autopost. It's one of the features in draft, so if you sign in to draft.blogger.com, you will see your regular dashboard and you can write a post, and change the day and or time under "post options" and it will autopost. I imagine that it will soon be a part of regular blogger, but regardless, it's open to all as long as you sign in that way.

Free blogging service, WITH autoposting (the one thing that blogger lacked)? Works for Me!!

For more tips, click over to Rocks in My Dryer.

The Golden Years

My grandmother will be 88 years old in June. When I visited Houston last weekend, I stayed with her on Friday night. When we went to bed, she said, "Sleep as late as you want."

Unfortunately, whether I'm with my kids or not, 8:30 a.m. is about as late as I can manage sleeping (and late is usually closer to 7:30 a.m.). With the one-hour time change, that moves everything back an hour as compared to Eastern Time, so I wasn't worried about sleeping too late. I woke up around 6:00 a.m., but did take advantage of the ability to lounge in bed a bit, until I heard Mimi talking to her cat. I got up and hopped in the shower. When I got out, I smelled bacon frying.

"Good morning, Mimi."

"Well, good morning. Nubbin (the cat) kept going back there, wondering why you were sleeping so late. I hope he didn't bother you." (Remember I was up by 6:30, and in the kitchen well before 7:00 a.m.)

We sat down to a full breakfast of eggs, bacon, and biscuits. She's 87 years old, and she's eaten breakfast like this almost every day of her life. Bringing a bite of eggs to her mouth with her right hand, she said, "I was born left-handed. When I was churning butter, I would dance and dance around the churn, so Granny put it up on the table, so I'd have to stand still on a chair when I did it. I guess I was still dancing, because I fell off the chair and broke my left arm." Her arms waved in the air much like that flailing young child's probably did, although now those arms were covered with age spots. The eyes still had a mischevious twinkle, although they were now surrounded by sagging eye-lid skin and deep wrinkles that eight decades had added.

"So you had cows?" I asked, encouraging her to continue.

"Oh, yes. We had lots of cattle, and crops, too. You know we lived in Quanah, Texas, right near the Oklahoma border. In those dust bowl years it was so dry. Bubba and I would take all the cattle down into the riverbed to graze, because there was still grass there.

One time we were down there and there was a mama buzzard going back and forth to her nest, bringing food to her babies. We saw a coyote, and Bubba was worried that it would kill that mama and her babies would die. So, he clubbed it. We tied it up to the horse and dragged it all the way back to the house. We were so proud of that coyote, but Daddy made us drag it all the way back to the riverbed."

She continued to smile and laugh as she told the stories. One led to another--why they were always late to school, how she got a spanking for asking "How's Peg Leg?" when her parents returned from the doctor with her brother, who had gotten a compound fracture when one of the farm carts ran over his leg, and their move from Texas to Mississippi.

"I don't know if Daddy was able to sell all that dusty land, or just give it away, but we moved to Mississippi where Mama's people were. We stayed for a while in town--we were finally town kids!--in the Mississippi Delta. When Bubba and I started to school, they put us both back a grade, because we had just come from a one-room schoolhouse. We had kids as young as four--if you wanted to send your kid to school at four, they wouldn't stop you--and all the way up to the grown ones. But they ended up putting us back where we were supposed to be when they saw that we knew more than some of the town kids."

She laughed again. That led to stories about her brother and uncle who taught school after qualifying right after high school by passing a test, and how they tried to warn her that she wouldn't like it when she decided to study education in college. She taught school for thirty-five years, and loved every year of it, so I guess that they were wrong.

In between the smiles, she would get wistful, thinking of all that she had experienced, "I wouldn't trade anything for those years. We didn't know we were poor. We just enjoyed what we had."

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Busy Mom's Devotional


When one says "Mom," does it ever need the adjective of "busy" to qualify it? Women today are often managing family, work, hobbies, housework, friends and other relationships, carpool, sports. . . . the list goes on and on.

For me, staying tied in to my faith helps me balance all of these elements, and hopefully with a better attitude. Regular Bible study, prayer, and devotional thoughts of other moms in the trenches fuels my resolve.

Lisa Bergen's The Busy Mom's Devotional fits the bill in so many areas:


1) Scripture included -- this removes one more obstacle. All you need is the book, but you will get God's word, not just someone's perspective on it, which is also important.

2) Real insight -- some Mom devotionals just don't cut it for me. They seem too cut-and-dried for me. Lisa Bergen draws some wonderful spiritual applications from her life and provides the reader with some real meat to chew on and process.

3) Good format -- because of the format, the weekly devotional works well. It's not too much, not too little.

4) Brain dump -- I've often used this technique myself. When I'm praying, my to-do list often interferes with that conversation with God I'm trying to have, so I keep a little pad nearby to write them down. Lisa Bergen provides a place in the book to dump those thoughts before you commune with God. Great idea.


You can find out more about Lisa Bergen's writing and speaking at her site. If you sign up for her newsletter, you will be entered to win one of three books (Just sign up, and then send her an email with "I just enrolled" in the subject line). She's also working on starting up the Busy Mom's Devo blog, so stay tuned.

If I've convinced you that this is a book you want to add to your collection, you can buy one on amazon now (and if you win one, you can pass it on to a friend).

Monday, April 14, 2008

Dreaming of Disney


Now that I have my first April weekend trip behind me, I'm officially dreaming of Disney.

I leave Friday morning. The itinerary is hush-hush, which is fueling the excitement. Today I did a little travel research. I'm usually a research junkie when it comes to vacations, but since the schedule is out of my hands, I'm just going with the flow.

Here's what I do know:

I arrive into Orlando at 10:30 a.m. A Disney "cast member" will meet me at baggage claim and take me to our hotel. We are staying at the Disney Beach Club Resort. Our first event is at 4:30 p.m., but I'll have free time until then. Right now, my plan is to relax by the pool. I think that we are having dinner at Epcot Friday night, but other than that, we won't know our itinerary until we check in, at which time we'll get the schedule. See, isn't that exciting?

I also know that we will finish by noon on Sunday and then have free time and a park pass. I don't leave until 6pm, so I will have a few hours. That will give me the ability to fill in the gaps of the weekend with whatever I want to do.

My parents took me to Disney World in 1979. I'm sure that my memories are mostly fueled by photo albums, but I know it was a good time. I went to Disney Land with my grandparents sometime between 1984 and 1986. I remember riding Space Mountain, which seemed so scary to me years before at Disney World, and wondering why I thought it was so scary. I'd like to ride it again and see what I think.

I know that most of you (along with everyone else in the free world) have been to Disney World in the last twenty years, so you will have more updated information for me. So I'm asking your opinion:

When I clicked over to the Disney site and watched the intro video, my heart beat a little faster. I'm happy to be a part of the Year of a Million Dreams. Here are some of the links I found that hyped me up about being there without my kiddos.

On my solo adult trip to Disney, what should I be sure to see or do? Rides? Shows? Tell me about it.

Links:
DisneyWorld for Adults 2001

Disney World: Who Needs Kids? (a single man tells why he loves Disney on MSN Travel)

Downtown Disney travel guide

Disney for Adults
(a woman chronicles her trip to Disney for her husband's 42nd birthday)

Coming Home

I enjoyed my weekend trip to Houston for a friend's wedding. I went alone. Because it was a bit cheaper, I chose to take a connecting flight out of a nearby smaller airport, at which it is also easier to park and drive. I just considered it part of my trip.

It was hot when I got off the commuter flight to Newark. I don't know what the temperature was outside--probably an above-average 70 degrees--but the airport was stifling. I stretched my flight-cramped legs as I walked through the three legs of the terminal to see what the dinner offerings might be. I wanted something cool, healthy, and filling. I returned to Au Bon Pain, where I had noted the Mediterranean Veggie Wrap as a promising option.

The sandwich did not disappoint -- salty pungent olives and sun-dried tomato hummus spread on a wrap filled with tomatoes, cucumbers, feta and field greens. I also found a nice spot in their dining area by a window. As I relaxed, my thoughts turned to my kids:

"Amanda would have loved to sit at this table with the high stools."

"Kyle would have loved to watch all the vehicles going by this little corner of the airport--the inter-terminal tram, buses, service trucks, vans, and even those luggage carts."

I did enjoy traveling alone. I appreciated the slower pace and the opportunity to have uninterrupted chats with my family. I was able to sleep a little late, and check my email and drink my coffee in peace, but in the shower I found myself humming a song from the Wiggles CD that is currently in heavy rotation in our car.

"I want another cuppa Dor-o-thy's lovely rosy tea. . . . "

"Please. . . try something different (another cuppa rosy tea)."

On my return trip from Newark, I had the opportunity to take a $400 travel voucher in exchange for giving up my flight. The problem is that I had already been in the airport for over two hours, and the next flight was six hours away. I actually could have driven to Hartford in far less time, which Terry suggested, but since I was about to get on the flight that would take me home, I went ahead and boarded.

You can take me away from the kids, but you can't take the kids outta me--annoying Wiggles music and all. When I once again regain full control of my car stereo, I will miss it.

I wonder if my dad felt the same way early Sunday morning as we prepared to leave to catch my 8:00am flight. "Here--there's a banana and a breakfast bar in the sack. Do you want an apple, too?" I don't know when my dad ever packed my lunch, but here he was sending his thirty-seven year old daughter off on her long day of travel with a bagged breakfast.

It comforted me to know that just as Dad as still taking care of me, I will still feel the responsibility of parenting my kids thirty years from now. I can only hope that they will still let me.

Friday, April 11, 2008

My Spring Fashion Fling


When Big Mama announced that she was having a Spring Fashion Fiesta, I got excited, because I had already been taking pictures of some of the fashion changes I've been trying to incorporate. However, I left town on Thursday afternoon without uploading the pictures to blogger, thus I have a lame-o fashion post with no pictures. I can add them or do a new post on Sunday evening, but I want to participate, so here it goes:

My new fashion piece is the blazer. This Fall and Spring I've purchased 3--one brown corduroy, one lime green corduroy, and recently a cute fitted denim one (by Bill Blass at TJ Maxx for only $16.99, which caused the checker to exclaim, "Now that's a Maxx Moment!"). On a day in which I am leaving the house, I am usually wearing jeans or casual khakis with a blazer over a long-sleeved T-shirt, or a button-down shirt.

Another new fashion piece that I've consciously tried to incorporate is the "shirt that needs to be ironed." For too long I just would not buy this item (or if I bought it, it just hung in my closet), but since I am a little "blessed" up top, the button-down top is a nice slimming look for me.

In Connecticut, jeans are worn year-round, but I do have a number of pairs of capris that I pair with T-shirts on warmer Spring/Summer days. My new fashion item for this category is the long short or the short capri--that goes right below the knee. I believe it's called the skimmer. I have two new pairs, which I bought specifically for my trip to Disney--one dark denim and one olive green.

I suffer in the footwear department, so I'm not going to talk about it. I can't buy cute cheap shoes at Target or Payless generally because I wear a size 9 1/2 and my foot tends to be narrow, so the bigger the foot, the wider the shoe, and when I went up from a size 8 or 8 1/2 (sometime in my adult years), it became hopeless. I wear a short boot with my jeans when I'm trying to look nice, otherwise I wear tennis shoes, specifically some very cute Polo rose pink sneakers I just bought. I am also a fan of the flip flop, but generally a more sandal-y type as opposed to the rubber thong.

Thanks for reading. I think that you can get the picture, even without photos.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Tooting My Own Horn

I'm a "words of affirmation" kind of gal. My husband is not, and so he doesn't always express his appreciation for me in the ways that I need him to. I am also lazy not very self-motivated, especially when it comes to housekeeping, and so I have learned to toot my own horn.

Yesterday I had to work especially hard. Our new furniture for our new rooms was delivered. We had forgotten to move the two pieces that would be in the way, and the delivery instructions clearly said that they wouldn't do it. I called Terry in the morning and reminded him that we forgot to do it, but that I'd take care of it.

After they came, I rearranged the furniture that we did have in there, moved the TV and reconnected all those wires and cords, and tidied up. It was looking good.

Terry came home, asking as he walked in, "Did it come? How does it look?"

He walked around and nodded a few times, and then was going to head upstairs to change clothes.

"You can't muster more of a reaction than that?" I asked. "Some enthusiasm for all my hard work?"

"It looks really great. I like it."

When he came back downstairs, he said, "So did the guys move the other furniture?"

"No, I moved the furniture. I told you that they weren't going to move it," I reminded him. "So I moved the furniture before they came, and I set everything up after they came."

I had decided to just to be happy letting my aching back applaud me for a job well done.

But then I remembered my faithful blog readers--you'd like to see some pictures, right?

Before:
After:

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Stress is Part of the Job

Permissions slips to be filled out and returned. Lunches to be made. Chest tightens. Stomach clenches.

Daughter on the bus, with lunch and signed permission slips. Deep breath, some loosening.

Phone rings--business to take care of--time running out to get Kyle ready for school.
Son is going to be late for preschool. Tight. Mind battles the nervous response, "It's just preschool, Jennifer. Don't worry."

Leaving preschool. A little looser.

Tightness in my chest results as I remember Terry's repeated question over the last week, "Have you done the taxes?"

I take a deep breath and call today "Tax Day" as I fill in the blanks with my handy helper TaxCut, which will hopefully result in a refund.


The weight on my shoulders, which results in the constricted chest, will lift when the taxes are completed. It will soon be replaced with packing stress--for solo trips this weekend and next weekend. The packing stress will grab hold in flashes, as I recall what must be done in order to successfully manage the escape, but the general chest-tightening will remain: Homework projects to oversee, discipline to stay on top of, phone calls to return, clutter to banish. . . .

It never ends. Maybe I should patent a paper clip that will bundle all the stress--putting one one stressor on top of the other with only one at a time affecting me. I could apply accounting principles to it (By the way, I'm not an accountant--just a general know it all):

Last In, First Out (LIFO)--That "big thing" that is consuming all my thoughts, time, or attention will remain at the top of the pile. It's always out, although it will take some time before it's filed away for good.

I also employ this strategy when I am trying to get a handle on everything. Forget all the things which I've neglected for the last month--I'll just take care of the new things on my pile first. This is the answer to my stress problems when I have a lot going on. First thing I think of--that's what I do. "Oh yeah, Amanda's permission slip." I tackle that even though it's not due for a few days, and I still haven't deposited more money in her lunch account, which she needed yesterday.

First in, First Out (FIFO)--This paper clip would be amazing--just put the next "to-do" on the bottom of the pile. I would get to it systematically as I deal with one task at a time, just taking them off the top of the pile and moving on.

I think if I could manage this, I wouldn't have to worry about the big weight on my chest, but unfortunately I don't think my brain works this way.

Katrina posted a great strategy for dealing with worry yesterday. Sometimes just talking about it makes me feel better (it's sure a lot easier than actually doing something about it). What's stressing you out today?

Monday, April 07, 2008

I'm a Colon

I love these personality tests. When I saw it on Musings of a Housewife, I had to do it. I can think of a few of you who will love this one, too.

You Are a Colon



You are very orderly and fact driven.

You aren't concerned much with theories or dreams... only what's true or untrue.



You are brilliant and incredibly learned. Anything you know is well researched.

You like to make lists and sort through things step by step. You aren't subject to whim or emotions.



Your friends see you as a constant source of knowledge and advice.

(But they are a little sick of you being right all of the time!)



You excel in: Leadership positions



You get along best with: The Semi-Colon



So which one are you? Post in the comments and let me know. It's only 5 questions long. I flip-flopped between a few of the choices, but I guess this is fairly accurate (Brilliant? Definitely!). Seriously, truth over dreams--yes; not subject to emotions--yes, I'm afraid so. Orderly--maybe in some ways, but not in the way of housekeeping unfortunately.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Paper Clips

A Time magazine article published in 1965 gave the results of 100,000 paper clips that were tracked in a study:
The findings: only one out of five was ever used to clip one piece of paper to another. Of the 80,000 others

19,413 were used as chips in card games,
15,842 were wrapped in tissue for use as typewriter-key cleaners,
14,163 were bent into grotesque shapes during telephone conversations,
7,212 held ladies' stockings in place,
5,434 picked particles of food from between teeth,
5,309 cleaned fingernails,
3,196 reamed out pipes,
2,431 tightened screws, and
7,000 plain disappeared.

You probably don't think a lot about paper clips. I didn't either until our pastor used them as an illustration for a sermon last week. He drove home the fact only 20% of paper clips even have a chance of fulfilling their purpose. In his mind, this was a sad thing, but I put a positive spin on it. Something invented over 100 years ago to hold papers or fabric together is now more likely to be used in a different way--as a replacement, or a stand-in, for many other products which makes it even more useful.

Moms are like paper clips. We've been around forever. We don't really have one purpose that supersedes all the others. After a child comes into our home, our purpose changes. We may have been a devoted wife, a powerful lawyer, an avid gardener, a meticulous housekeeper or a gourmet cook. Does becoming a mother wipe out those purposes? No, but it is more likely that we will be used in an unglamorous way such as cleaning out fingernails.

Does the poker chip paper clip lament that it's not holding together a stack of mortgage documents? I think not.

Moms have feelings. Paper clips don't.

But perhaps we can learn from them. Embrace the multi-faceted role to which we've been entrusted. Invent a few more roles to insure our adaptability over the years. We'll always be mothers, but our roles will definitely change over the years, and if we are only fixated on one part of our purpose as women, we'll be replaced.

The one thing about paper clips that really stood out from the study was how many of them got thrown away or lost. All week I've seen discarded paper clips everywhere--on the floor (keep watch, you'll see them in unlikely places too), in drawers, in the car. It's a reminder to me that a lot of people feel that way too.

Who can I pick up? Who can I restore to her proper use?

People do this for me all the time in reminding me who I am, what I'm here for, and most of all that I serve a God of second chances.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Curtains on Broadway

Last year when my sister-in-law was here we saw Wicked on Broadway (and John Stamos saw it with us). I still think it's one of my all-time favorite shows. I wasn't sure how I was going to top the experience of sitting two rows in front of Uncle Jessie and seeing a really spectacular show.

I ended up getting second-row seats to Curtains for a great price by using a Playbill.com discount code. At first we thought that we might be too close, but we were actually in a great spot to see everything, including a little spittle from overarticulated dialogue and rippling muscles from the strenuous dance moves.

The show was a lot of fun--to watch, and apparently to perform.

After the show was over, we fought the crowds to get to the restroom. When we left, I took Dana around to the stage door where the actors exit, and we waited. All of the principals (about nine in all) came out and signed our programs and chatted a bit. Finally, the most well-known actor, due to his TV experience and the fact that he won the Tony for best actor in a musical for 2007 for this role which he originated--David Hyde Pierce--came out. And I took his picture signing Dana's program:



Yes, I topped last year's experience.

What will I have to do next year?

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Tackling April Fool's Day






Tackle It Tuesday Meme
Click here to get the banner code and start tackling.


Tackling a big project to post on 5 Minutes for Mom each week for Tackle it Tuesday is a big job for Janice and Susan (Not that they have anything else to do--running several websites and taking care of two newborns and two older children). When I've gotten inspired, I've offered to take up the Tackle on the 5M4M site for them.

You may remember that we had some work done on the house, followed by having the floors refinished on the whole main level, which meant that we to remove everything from the whole first level of the floor.

Everything -- every toy, every piece of furniture, every toy, every book, every pile of papers. So they got stashed in the basement and the great dumping ground of the universe -- The Guest Bedroom. Last week, I knew that I was going to have to get it all completely cleared out, because my sister-in-law and her daughter were going to be here on Monday.

I took a picture of the before, and I even emailed Janice and said, "Do I have a Tackle for you! It's a mess now, and I know that I will have it finished by Monday, because I have guests arriving."

I did indeed get the room cleared out. Dusted. Vacuumed. The bedspread neatly smoothed.

But I forgot to take an After picture.

I forgot, because I sort of forgot about posting the Tackle.

This morning when I got up just before 6:00 a.m. EST, I was going to send my husband a quick email, and I saw Janice's plea in my inbox:

Subject: Help!!

"Did I get it wrong? Were you going to post the Tackle today?"

Ooops.

So, I unwittingly performed my first April Fool's gag. I think I'll make it my last.

I quickly corrected my effort, but not before stressing out Janice in the early hours of April Fool's Day.

You can see my before picture (and trust me on the after) over at today's Tackle it Tuesday.