Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas 2012!

It's been a rough last few months of 2012 - hurricane, nor'easter, family drama, holidays, life style changes, sugar withdrawal, on and on. We made it to Christmas! It's a miracle, really. I am so very relieved to get this far. Presents have been opened, inappropriate remarks recorded on video while genuine expressions of gratitude and joy were missed (d'oh!), and the boys are content. Whew! They both got inexpensive tablets this year. I say "inexpensive" in a very droll fashion...as compared with, say, an iPad ($150 is certainly more affordable than $375. Ouch.)  Neither of the boys knew they were getting them. They have asked, pleaded, begged, cajoled and demanded them over the course of the year, but John and I held our ground. We still had NO plans to buy them...then black Friday hit. I bought a Kindle Fire at a very good price, for Max.

As I was wrapping gifts, it occurred to me that even though it was not technically a full blown tablet, Tyler would have a fit if Max got a hand-held device and he didn't (mind you, he has had MANY such devices, primarily for gaming, but I digress.) Panic! Sure he was getting a few pretty pricey video games and a trampoline, but I know my boy. He would fixate on the one thing he DIDN'T get and things would get ugly. So Daddy to the rescue! John ran out, 2 days before Christmas, and bought an Android tablet at BestBuy. He saved Christmas! My hero!

Now - after struggling with a still partly frozen turkey and a too small oven, I thought I would take a few moments to record lessons learned in the hopes we won't make the same mistakes next year.


  1. Do not get a turkey larger than 15 lbs. It will NOT fit in the oven properly.
  2. Thaw Mr. Turkey in the fridge for 3 days, not 2 - or it will still be a bit frosty.
  3. Start wrapping at least a week before Christmas so we can see how many gifts we have for each boy and make any necessary adjustments.
  4. Charge up any electronic devices BEFORE wrapping them. Max nearly had a cow waiting for his Kindle to be charged and configured today.
  5. Remove all twist ties, wires and other assorted parent proofing from toys before putting gifts under the tree.
  6. Do NOT wrap the plain brown shipping boxes even if the gift is oddly shaped. Kids want to see something cool as soon as that paper comes off. Crushing disappointment or confused comments tend to ruin Christmas videos. (I won't be posting those, I don't think.)
That about covers the major points. On the positive side, I highly recommend Kindle's new FreeTime app for kids. I installed it, set up a profile for Max and he has all this age appropriate content in an easy to navigate format on the Kindle Fire. I can even set limits to how much time he plays games or watches videos and leave the book reading unlimited. He can't spend any money without Mommy's help (password protected for new purchases) but so far, he is thrilled with the content that comes with FreeTime. Very cute apps!

OK. Time to see if I can get the turkey neck out of the cavity of our too big bird. It was jammed in there and stuck. 

Saturday, December 15, 2012

I believe I can fly...

Max is going through the "super hero" phase of his childhood. Tyler also went through this phase when he was four. Sadly, it lasted barely a year and he was on to other things. I still remember fondly that Halloween when he couldn't decide between Spider Man and Superman - so I bought both costumes. He was so cute...running all over the house in his cape yelling, "I superman! I fly!" *sniff*

Thankfully, I have a new tiny superhero to pick up where Ty left off. Max loves Spider Man, Wolverine, Hulk, Captain America, Kitty Pride (X-Men) and all the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. He wears Tyler's old Spider Man costume to bed (and yes, it is very tight on him since Ty was 4 and Max is 6.) Max will occasionally don a cape and run through the house, but he is all about the sound effects. "Jeeeeeeerrrrrooom! Zoom! Zoom!"

He has made up several super hero names for himself but spends most of his time drawing himself and his buddy Sean as their favorite heroes and villains doing epic battle. He also wants to take lessons in some kind of martial art. I am still pondering that one. I have a hard enough time trying to keep the boys from killing each other without training one to fight. Eeesh.

Yet, I am still enjoying the heck out of this time. Max and I have watched many hours of super hero cartoons and movies together. I hope he never grows out of this phase. I'd love to have someone to leave all my comic books to one day.

In the meantime, Santa is taking full advantage and has loaded up his sleigh with lots of hero gear for my little man.  He already has the most amazing Spider Man sneakers. Check 'em out!  I think this weekend we may watch either the first Iron Man movie or Captain America. With great power comes great responsibility, people. Max is on the job.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Elves and Hanukkah

Max came home from school the other day looking despondent. Turned out he'd spent the day hearing about the antics of "The Elf on the Shelf" from various classmates. Apparently these elves are little trouble makers. Max wanted to know why we didn't have an elf staying with us. Oh boy. I'd managed to dodge the whole "elf" phenomenon for years now, but it looked like our blissful elf-free existence was coming to an abrupt end. I told Max we had to lure an elf and quickly looked on the internet to see how it was done.

Yahoo Answers had a helpful post that involved a bowl stuffed with tissues and a cracker left on a window sill. Sounded easy. When the elf arrives, he/she eats some of the cracker or sometimes will leave a note. One problem, Max hid the bowl so I...er...the ELF couldn't find it to take a bite. After some fast Amazon Prime shopping, we had our elf, her book and storage box here and ready to roll. Did I read the book first? No. I decided to wing it.

She left a note with her name (Snowflake) and mentioned she didn't care for crackers (ass covered) and set up shop on the sofa reading her own book and waiting for Max to come home from school. Done and done! Max was delighted. Now I...er...the ELF just had to remember to move somewhere new each night.  Time to get creative.

From my Facebook updates:

   Snowflake the elf magically appeared today. Max found her reading the book "Elf on the Shelf" here on the sofa when he got home from school. He flipped out! Then he poked her in the eye and said "These look painted! How can she see?!" Luckily Mommy is a fast spinner of tales. I haven't even read the book yet. Hope I am not making any mistakes. LOL

   Damn! I knew this elf was a bad idea. I forgot to move her last night. Just wrapped her arms around the parm cheese in the fridge. Let's see how long it takes for someone to find her. Heh heh! I hope Max wasn't bummed this morning. :/

   Me: Wow...Snowflake has a really mischievous look on her face. Max: What does misscheevous mean? Tyler: She's going to murder you while you sleep... Max: Mom?! Really?!?! (*facepalm* I'm amazed my hair isn't snow white after 11 years.) No honey, Snowflake isn't a killer elf. Max: Are you sure? She does look kinda creepy. -Note to self: Don't sneak the elf into Max's room while he is sleeping.

   Oooh! I just played the "elf" card to nip a tantrum in the bud. It worked! Maybe that elf on the shelf will be hanging around all year long. ;)

   Woke today to find a snowfort made of mini-marshmallows on the table and an epic snowball fight between Snowflake (the Shelf Elf) and Leonardo the Ninja Turtle in progress. Max flipped!

So that brings you up to date with the elf. On to other holiday happenings. From Facebook yesterday:

   Max: Mom? Why don't we do Hanukkah? Me: Uh...because we aren't Jewish, Honey. Max: Why? I want to do Hanukkah! Me: Well, maybe we can borrow your Uncle Mike's girlfriend next year and you can do Hanukkah with her. Max: No! I want to do Hanukkah now! They get presents every day! Me: Oh boy. Who told you about Hanukkah? Max: My teacher. Me: (under my breath...thanks Mrs. G.) I tried to explain how Hanukkah works, but it just made Max want to celebrate even more. Trying to figure out where I can pick up a Menorah real quick tomorrow and surprise Max when he gets home from school. Any thoughts? :D Maybe a dreidel and gelt too. He'd love that game.

   Starting tonight (shortly) we will be celebrating the 5th night of Hanukkah, thanks to Max and a friend. I suggested we also have some traditional foods but Tyler panicked and we have no potatoes in the house since I started making changes to my eating habits. So no latkes, sadly. Max and I had something else fried (a burger) to keep in the spirit of things. It's not kosher, but then again, neither are we. :D

So yes. Now we celebrate Hanukkah too. Why not? I know Max just sees it as an opportunity to get more presents. He knows how to work the system! I see it as a teaching opportunity to learn about other faiths and religious customs. Our new Menorah arrives tomorrow, but tonight at sundown Max and I watched a video on how to light it and which prayers to say when. He is looking forward to doing it for real tomorrow.

Oh and he got a new backpack for night 5 and Tyler got a Minecraft teeshirt. Max will probably raise a few eyebrows tomorrow at school when he shows off his Hanukkah gift. If you are curious, I'll post links below to the YouTube video we watched and a wiki on Hanukkah that I am using to teach about the holiday as well as show us how to play the dreidel game. Bring loads of gelt if you want to join in! *wink*

How to Light the Hanukkah Menorah

What is Hanukkah all about?

Sunday, December 09, 2012

We Three Kings

While digging through boxes of Christmas decorations today, Max discovered my old nativity scene - a hand carved but simply painted wood set from Pier One Imports gifted to me many years ago.  Baby Jesus has gone missing, but Max was having a ball playing with the shepherds, wise-men, Mary, Joseph and the animals.  It got me thinking about retelling the story of Jesus' birth.

After dwelling on all the facts I could recall, I suddenly realized I wasn't able to remember the name of one of the three wise-men. Balthazar, Melchior and...erg. What was his name? So I Googled "the three wisemen" and found a TON of stuff I never knew. Caspar or Gaspar is the third guy, traditionally; but they are never mentioned in any of the Biblical accounts. Heck, the Bible doesn't even say there were three men...just wisemen from the East. It is only because there were three gifts presented that people assumed there were three men.

I read the article on Wikipedia with fascination wondering where I had even heard the names of the three "kings" before. Or why I was sure that Balthazar was black, Melchior was asian and Caspar was a white guy (and no, he wasn't a friendly ghost.) Was it a movie or storybook from my youth? Church play? I have no idea! I've just always known the story.  I found it kinda disturbing to think that Matthew made em up to fit an Old Testament prophesy about kings bowing down before the new born Messiah. But that sort of thing happens a lot in the Bible - parables to teach, and not hard facts.

So I will tell the story as I remember it, and it will become part of Max and Tyler's collective unconscious to one day pass on to their kids. Why not? Showering a baby with gold, smelly oil and stinky incense - it's just funny. Those "wise" men must not have had any kids. Anyone knows a new mom needs things like diapers, baby sized togas and a nice baby carrier that is donkey safe. Honestly!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Shopping with Points!

Last year I bought the vast majority of the boys' Christmas presents with my Amazon credit card reward points. I guess it's now an annual tradition! After a feverish Cyber Monday shopping spree, the final bill was $11.68 after I blew all my points. Not too shabby! The boys are older and more sophisticated now, however, so their wish lists were full of expensive gadgets and games. "No boys, I will not get you both a cell phone just like Dad's. Who are you going to call?! Plus it costs $500. Get a job with HP and they will get you the same phone, m'kay?"

The quantity might not be very impressive, but I hope they realize you PAY for quality. We simply don't have the funds to pay for much, these days. John kicked butt on black Friday too. He got some great deals online. Good job, honey! It's nice having help with the shopping.

Now I just have to think of frugal yet thoughtful gifts for the rest of the extended family.  I may skip the annual Christmas card this year.  While it won't break the bank, I am just not feeling it this year. The holidays have started off rough with illness and family conflict. It's hard to muster holiday cheer. Plus I just don't have a great photo to use and I can't bring myself to use a box of generic cards.

Ah well. Gotta get ready to head out for a bit. Maybe I'll get a chance to write more later.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Pricks and Prods

Tyler is quickly approaching a difficult phase in his development. He has his first small cluster of pimples. He grows more surly and disagreeable by the day. His tolerance for his younger brother has all but vanished. Sometimes they play together so nicely, but most of the time I have to intervene to prevent a murder. If they both survive this transition, it will be a miracle.

In just over a week, Tyler will become a tween. Folks think teens are hard. No argument there! But this stage has it's own challenges. He feels too old for many things yet is too young for many others. He is frustrated by these limitations. Adults expect more from him based on his age but at the same time are always telling him "you are too young to understand."

Add in Tyler's own personal challenges (Autism Spectrum diagnosis) and you have the impasse I have currently reached. Most days I am able to talk him off the virtual ledge he seems to be perpetually teetering on. Other days, I regret to say, we resort to good old fashioned yelling and "go to your room and cool off!"

He has a bad habit of teasing his little brother and treating him with emotions ranging from disinterest to down right loathing. He picks and pokes until there is a final straw moment where even my sweet happy-go-lucky littlest goes off the deep end. In that instant I get the patented Tyler response of, "Mom! Max attacked me for no reason! I just touched his balloon and he punched me in the stomach!" Or some variation thereof.

Do I really have to repeat to Ty all the things he has done to Max all morning long to push him to this desperate act? Apparently so. Tyler seems to forget all those little pricks and prods, comments and asides, insults and injuries. Max doesn't. He can take a lot of abuse and shake it off. But everyone has their limits.

Max is a sensitive and intuitive little kid, but he is only just turned 6. He is entitled to his own emotions and he will stand up to his big brother fearlessly (then run for his life.) I can't expect him to understand everything Tyler is dealing with. Why Max has to leave the room to eat his tuna. Why he can't turn on so many lights. Why he has to wear headphones to play his games or watch videos on his computer. Why Tyler will just walk into the room and change his channel on the TV without asking. OK. That last one might just be rude. *wink*

Tyler senses that things are easier for Max. People like him, are drawn to him, and cater to him. Tyler, on the other hand, can be abrasive, stand-offish, rude, and off-putting.  People tend to notice that sort of thing and, over time, are less inclined to want to spend time around him. His grandparents are a prime example. Tyler complained this weekend that his grandmother was giving Max things to eat but he was starving. Tyler felt neglected and ignored. He wasn't, really. She did ask him several times if he wanted various things, but he only half paid attention or said no. She doesn't know that we spend endless time each day offering him various things until he finally tells us what he wants to eat. If you don't take that kind of time to push him, I guess he sees it as you not caring about his welfare.

You have to live with him and take the time to get to know his quirks. Tyler is a good kid. He cares about the world around him. He is smart, funny, witty and opinionated. VERY opinionated. He lacks those filters that most people seem to learn and build over time. He doesn't know how to tell a white lie. He doesn't understand why people don't want to hear "that." If he is curious about something, he asks. Rude? Why is that rude? I explain and he files it away. Sometimes he remembers. Usually not. Or he finds that particular social rule "stupid" and ignores it.

I get tired of making excuses for/defending his behavior and trying to explain to family. I often feel our parenting skills are under attack. I get comments like "you should punish him more" or "you shouldn't let him talk/act that way" and many more. It makes me sad that people can't just love Ty for who he is. Why does he have to fit in your box in order to be loved? He's just a kid who wants to be "normal" and loved. It shouldn't be this hard, for either of us.

So, back to the challenges of being a tween. Yes, I have relaxed a couple rules and given Tyler more freedom. He needs to know I trust his judgement and I want to encourage his future independence. But at the same time, he needs boundaries. He can't do whatever he wants, when ever he wants. Ah the never ending battle of parenthood. Finding that balance.

Right now, I am off balance. I hope to find it again soon. Maybe I need to spend more time talking with other parents of kids with special needs. I could use some advice from someone who has been there and done that. I have a few friends with kids on the spectrum, but their kids are all younger than Ty. I'll have to work on this, I think.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

This is living...

After we checked out of Great Wolf Lodge week before last, we headed home to check on things. Now that some places around us had power, maybe we could tough it out. We could eat out, give up showering for a few days, have a fire in the fireplace and all sleep in one room to share warmth. Cozy, right?

No. It was so cold that Max was crying. After one night we packed our massive pile of dirty clothes and went to my Mother in law's house. She had recently gotten her power back. We stayed for 2 days, ran her washer and dryer almost non-stop, and were generally very underfoot. We forgot the bed in the guest room has a board under the mattress (used to be Great Grandma's room). I woke up bruised. Now THAT is firm! Ouch.

John was scheduled to go to a training class in Baltimore this past week and we had to decide fast what to do. Go with him or stick it out at home. Home was NOT an option. Nor was extending our stay with grandma. We wore out our welcome there.  Luckily John's company said they would make an exception and allow families of employees affected by Sandy to stay in the hotel and eat at their buffet meals. Baltimore, here we come?

John spoke with the event planner to see if they could get a room with enough beds for the family to sleep comfortably. He was ready to cancel his training and go to the last session they offer in December if they couldn't find space for us. The only problem with that other session is it's in Canada and he would miss Tyler's birthday. Not ideal. Less ideal than hauling the family to Baltimore and cramming into yet another hotel room for a week. But poor John was going to need sleep to survive those long days in training. It could get ugly!

Or not. Between the event coordinator and the hotel, they let us know the room had been upgraded to a "suite" and the coordinator was leaving some gifts for the kids to help keep them occupied. So nice! We started looking forward to our next little family adventure. What KIND of suite, we wondered. It's a super nice hotel with Jr. Suites on up to $4000 a night rock star type suites. We expected the junior variety. We got something pretty darn close to rock star level!

Living/Dining room with murphy bed down - master is thru the french doors
I mean, wow. You should see this place. I'll post photos. The view of the inner harbor alone is worth a pretty penny. The gift bags were super nice too. Games, Matchbox cars, playing cards, snacks...the boys were over the moon. Add a super nice indoor pool on the 7th floor, a nice rooftop garden space to play in, and super nice staff in the pub willing to make special order treats for the boys at lunch and they are ready to live here forever.

It's a 5-star hotel with 5-star gourmet food at every meal they serve to the HP folks. I am in heaven! The boys...not so much. They have more of a 1-star level palate. Hence the special hoops the pub staff keep leaping through to keep my boys happy. 5-star service. Gotta love it! Max actually ate chicken Florentine at lunch today. I was tickled! But he had to have fries with it. *sigh* Heh heh.

We've been so blessed through this trying time. I am so grateful to the hotel and HP for giving us a warm place to live this week. I feel so bad for families without options back home. We STILL don't have power at home. John turned off the water to the house before we left. He was afraid of the pipes freezing while we were away because life isn't interesting enough without adding a Nor'easter to the mix. They think it will prevent crews from working on the lines for a couple extra days. Ugh. I really hope the power is on by the time we get home. 2 weeks without is CRAZY! Yes I feel totally spoiled.

UPDATE: We got home Friday night to find the power ON! Thank you to whom ever worked to get Stanhope back on the grid. We appreciate your efforts! And special thanks to hubby's company who decided to send us a generator. It arrived this morning. Yep. We got our power back last night. Didn't I tell you my life was a sit-com? Get this... When the power came back on, our home alarm system also turned on. It immediately registered a "low temp" alert. Duh. 2 weeks without heat in the winter will do that to a house. The alarm company worker who logged the alert in their system put it in as a "medical emergency alert." The local police called the alarm company to verify the alert and ask for the home owner's cell phone number. Did the alarm company tell them it was a low temp alert? No. Furthermore they claimed they didn't have our cell number. Say what? You folks have had that number for 10+ years. The police, acting in good faith, broke into our house to look for someone in trouble. Other than a cold cat (Sparty is perfectly fine) they found the house empty. They secured the side door as best they could and left.

Yeah. Our side door is totally busted in! Scary that someone could just kick in the door like that with very little effort! John was so upset his voice was shaky when he called the alarm company. They had better be ready to pay for damages! What if the alert went out earlier in the week?! Our house would have been open to anyone for days. Imagine. We get home to a cold EMPTY house. That would have been super swell.

Lastly, the cable and internet are still out. So we are using John's MiFi device. My super awesome quad-core, dual raid dream PC is dead. I was in the middle of backing up my data when Sandy took out our power two weeks ago. I have a nice UPS, so I was able to shut down normally. Now the silly box won't boot up. At all. Did I finish my data backup? No. I am using my laptop currently. I was able to get photos off my camera from the last 2 weeks - found a nifty tool on this thing for managing pictures too. I am praying the silly PC is just cold. Maybe after it warms up for 24 hours or so it will start up for me. Hey, I can hope.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Sandy? Can't you see? I'm the one in misery...

After two days of the howling mad fury that was hurricane Sandy and a night without power, the husband suggested we get the heck out of Dodge. You see, last year the freak blizzard around Halloween knocked our power out for a week. Now here we are looking at 7 to 10 days without power.  Why sit around and try to ride it out again? We already knew the contents of the refrigerator and freezer were a lost cause. I looked at the tense faces of our boys, considered my own incredibly stressed out state and the first hotel that came to mind was Great Wolf Lodge. Why not turn fleeing from the devastation into something fun and memorable for the boys?

John called the PA lodge to see if they had power and next thing we knew it was time to pack! John knew if we waited for a day or two (as most folks are inclined to do) the hotel would probably fill up with refugees from the storm and we'd most likely be stuck. Best to abandon ship before the deck vanishes beneath the waves!

I do feel guilty seeing the faces of folks on TV stranded by the storm with flooding and other damage, but I am super grateful for power, comfort and a cozy fireplace.

It took us three tries to get out of our own neighborhood. We had to keep turning around and trying other side streets to get to the main road through town. There were trees and power lines down everywhere we looked. The big billboard with the cute kid dropping an expensive cell phone into a toilet (an ad for insurance that we have pondered over and over) was blown down. Road signs ripped in half, a telephone pole leaning precariously over the road just waiting for the next strong wind gust to knock it over completely, homes with missing shingles and siding (like our own home) and even one home with a massive hole in the roof were just some of the signs of hurricane damage we saw as we left.

As I watch the boys leaping over the artificial waves in the wave pool here, I keep picturing images of Sandy hammering the coast of New Jersey and all our old favorite shore hangouts being washed away. I shake my head and smile reassuringly at the boys trying to embrace a sense of normalcy. I know I will look for ways to help friends and neighbors recover from the storm when we are able to return home safely.

Meanwhile I am praying for other storm victims. Huge thanks to all the workers and volunteers flooding in along with FEMA to help New York and New Jersey rebuild and repair after Sandy had her way with us. Stay warm and dry folks!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Temptation...

Trying to be healthy is HARD. 8+ weeks ago I started on a journey to change my life. I eliminated all sugars and most starches from my diet. No more baked goods. No more candy or soda. No more potatoes or white rice. Whole grains, in small doses, and loads of veggies and lean protein to keep me from being hungry. Nuts are my new best friend...as is beef jerky! No more chips, fries, breaded chicken, pasta...oh boy has it been HARD!

New temptations crop up every day. TV commercials for restaurants I used to love are my worst enemy. They are closely followed by my own family. Yes, my junk-food loving boys are driving me batty. I woke yesterday morning to a fresh box of Dunkin' Donuts sitting on the kitchen table. I would have been ok, if the box didn't have a clear cellophane lid to show off the pretty pretty frosted goodies inside. Owie! My stomach just let out a long squealing gurgle with actual PAIN. Ugh. I've wanted a donut for weeks now.

I dream about ice cream too.

Now we have Halloween on the horizon. Used to be my favorite holiday of the year. An excuse to consume pounds of chocolate and sugary goodies? Hell yeah! Sign me up! This year I sent the husband out to pick up bags of treats. I told him NO CHOCOLATE! Get things I won't be tempted to eat. At all. He did pretty well, until I saw the bags of sour patch kids. Oh noooo... I love those mouth puckering treats! *sigh*

So I find myself eyeing the stash on top of the fridge. Even gummy crabby patties sound good (any Sponge Bob fans out there?) I smell donuts. *drools*

Then, last night, John made pasta for dinner. We used to eat pasta several times a week. It's cheap and fast. Max won't eat it, so I'd make him a hot dog, turkey sandwich or fish sticks. We ate it so often that I didn't look forward to pasta nights anymore. I was so sick of pasta! Then I went without it for nearly 5 weeks and thought I would die if I didn't get some pasta! Luckily there is one brand that is "legal" on my eating plan. Dreamfield's low carb pastas. I made a batch of elbows and stole a packet of cheese sauce from a family size box of mac n cheese sitting in the pantry. It was heaven! And I ate way too much. Between the high fiber content and forgetting to take my Lactaid, I was in serious pain. But it was worth it!

Late last night I caved again. I made Dreamfield's rotini and used low fat Velveeta this time. I even cut up a couple low fat hot dogs into the mix (Sheldon style.) It wasn't a donut or candy, but it filled that hole of deprivation I was feeling. I still can't believe I was up at 2am making mac n cheese like an addict falling off the wagon. Once again, I am paying for it today. Ouch. But it was so so good. Almost worth it. And this time I didn't eat the whole box. Progress!

I still want a donut, but I told myself no sugary treats until I see 100 lbs gone. Maybe by then I won't care about sweets any more. Maybe I will have that "nothing tastes as good as thin feels" attitude! Hey, I can hope.


Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Low Carb Warrior

First off, I have not joined the cult of mayo and bacon (love you Atkins devotees tho - you go get that bacon!) The eating plan my nutritionist put me on is a blend of low carb/low glycemic diets that the clinic calls Metabolic II. I am allowed some carbs. The list is pretty short and specific and includes a lot of what I like to call bark and twigs. I don't dig bark or twigs. ;)

Because the clinic is SO popular, I wasn't able to get an appointment with the doctor or do the assessment testing until December. They offered to have me see one of the staff nutritionists right away to kinda get me moving in the right direction. I decided I didn't want to just sit around for 4 months until a "doctor" could look me over and tell me I was fat and just HOW fat I am. Duh. I have mirrors. I just wanted to DO something.

The nutritionist was reluctant to put me into a specific eating plan without those tests and numbers in front of her. I get that. There is a science to it. But I'm glad she took a chance and gave me some guidelines to get me started. She told me not to worry about doing the math right now. Forget counting calories. Just eat what's on the sheet of paper, try to keep carbs to less than 10g per serving and see how it goes. Read my labels! Lots of good lean protein would help keep me satisfied.

Have I counted any calories, so far? Nope. Have I strayed from the rules? Twice now. That so called sugar-free ice cream was still 18g of carbs per serving. Eeep! But damn, it was so so good. I finished the container and didn't buy it again. Today I got 2 sausage mcmuffins with egg...the plan was to toss the muffins and just eat the 2 eggs, cheese and meat. The cheese melted totally into one side of the muffin! So I tossed the top half and just ate half the muffin with the rest. And I feel guilty as hell! Will one english muffin derail me? No. I just see this as a lesson learned and I will buy some more low fat cheese slices for those times when the damn buns steal my cheese.

Are the changes working? You bet your sweet bippy they are! I've lost 20 lbs in 5 weeks. I got into the van to drive the boys to school this morning and my stomach is no longer touching the steering wheel. It's been years that I've had to have the seat all the way back and the wheel up high so I could fit. Good thing I am tall! I was also able to climb the half flight of stairs in my split level without stopping half way to catch my breath. That hasn't happened in a long long time.

Exercise is a critical component that is currently missing from this lifestyle change of mine. I still struggle with pain and arthritis, back issues and bad knees. I am still using a cane for short walks and my walker for longer jaunts, but I have hope now that maybe being lighter will allow me to move more easily. I see physical therapy in my future if we can work things out with our insurance plan. They are so damn picky about where you can go and I don't want to be driving all over the state just so a therapist can hurt me.

So do I miss sugar and starch in my diet? Hell yes! All those people who told me the cravings would stop after 2 weeks or so...well, they totally lied. Heh. But I understand why they do it. I dream about cake. I dream about buttery croissants and chocolate chip muffins and mashed potatoes and rice. I want CANDY!  Thank goodness for diet soda and sugar free jello. I never would have lasted this long without it.

The clinic has a staff shrink that I saw a week or so ago. The nutritionist thought I had "issues" with food. Ya think? When eating is all you can do for fun, you eat. I was eating my pain. Eating to get some enjoyment out of life. Eating away my depression. Eating because I was bored and there are so so many tasty things to eat out there. Eating became the focus of my days. I just finished breakfast...hmm. What should I have for lunch?  It's sad, but true. When you can't go anywhere or do anything, eating fills the time. But like illegal drugs or alcohol  it doesn't make anything BETTER. Just worse. So the doc is going to help me move past all those things that make me want to eat to feel better. The jury is still out on that one.

Over all, I am in a good place, mentally. I still feel motivated. The cardiac issues were a set-back, I must admit. Finding out I have 50% blockages in both major blood vessels leading into and out of my head is a scary thing. My heart has a little damage too, but the doc says none of those things caused my problems. These things are manageable with good diet. I have that covered! It's just good to know about these things so I can be careful and having them monitored going forward. The vasovagal syncope is still a mystery. One trigger seems to be the sound of loud yelling, I discovered. So...no fighting around me! M'kay? Unless you want to help scoop me off the floor. I plan to continue my usual conflict avoidance tactics. The shrink tells me that's normal. Nice to know there is something normal about me. Ha!

Time to pick up the boys. I see a salad in my future. Extra spinach.




Thursday, October 04, 2012

Technology Rant

So my cable company, in their infinite wisdom, has decided to "upgrade" their service. What are they doing? They are making it so you can't view their programming on ANY channel without one of their cable boxes attached. So, no connecting the cable straight to a TV for just the basic level of service. And no using our home-brew DVR setup. We are using an old PC of mine with a TV tuner card and this neat software called Beyond TV to record all my favorite TV shows. It will all stop working as of 10/9.

Nice that they time this for right when the new season of programming on the major networks is starting. Le SIGH. Now I don't know what we're going to do. I know what our cable company is trying to FORCE us to do. They want us to upgrade our cable boxes to ones with the DVR built in. For a buttload more money each month in rental fees. Yeah. No thanks.

So I guess I am just going to cross my fingers and hope I can catch my shows online. Many of them are not available as streaming. Gah! Fine. The universe wants me to give up my TV habit too. FINE. I will give up TV.

I can live with just watching old reruns on Netflix. Sure. I can do that. I gave up sugar, didn't I?

.
.
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*screams*

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Health Scare

My life seems to be a serious of ironic cautionary tales. If I can't live as a good example, then I can be the one they point at and say "Don't do THAT!"  There is value in that, I think. Heh.

Now that I have diffused the seriousness of the situation with a bit of humor (I always do that), I would like to comment on the irony of my life at this moment. Nearly 3 weeks into a new healthy lifestyle change and I have a "cardiac event".  Something about the vagus nerve and dangerously low heart rate followed by waves of dizziness, nausea, all over flop sweat and a general feeling that I was on the brink of death. Not a good feeling. My cardiologist was concerned.

So yesterday I went in for my second appointment to have a serious of ultrasounds and to have a Holter attached...this nifty heart monitor that I am currently wearing. It's charcoal grey. I would have preferred black, as black is more slimming, but I digress.

Just to make life more interesting, instead of waking up to a vasovagal response, I woke yesterday feeling like death for a different reason. My heart was pounding out of my chest. Resting heart rate was 117 for over 2 hours after I got up. I barely got through showering and dressing for the doctor. I was feeling weak, my muscles barely responding and I didn't know if I would make it to the car. My heart rate slowed a bit in the car ride to the doctor's office, but the ultrasound tech commented on how fast my heart was beating during the test. Hopefully it helped. If I have any blockages, I figured they would stand out.

The doctor didn't come in after the test (which I took as a good sign) and after the tech attached this nifty monitor, I limped home. I didn't know how I was going to get back into the house. Thank goodness John was there to help. I made a bee-line for bed and passed out. I woke periodically to use the bathroom, but ultimately I slept for 16 hours! I felt like I had run a marathon after having my heart rate that high for so long.

So now I am awake and feeling loads better. John thinks I am fighting off a virus. The boys are all in varying stages of sick too. Maybe so. I hope so. 24 hours of heart monitoring and I basically slept the entire time. Heh. I don't know if the data from this thing will be useful, but I do have one more test on Friday. Since I can't run on a treadmill, the doc is going to chemically raise my heart rate and do some tests. After yesterday, I am scared to have my heart rate go up again. Ah well. If something bad is going to happen, having it occur across the street from a hospital with a cardiologist in the room is the place to do it, I guess.

4 hours and 12 minutes until I can take off the Holter. Max thinks my wires are cool. Tyler thinks it's creepy.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Love and Hate

I read a quote once that really resonated with me. "The opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference." -Elie Wiesel

I've spent a lot of time ruminating over that quote and it is an ultimate truth. I see relationships fall apart and the couples expending so much energy spouting hate at each other. So much emotion. Do they really hate each other? They were deeply in love once. I think the love is still there, but it's been twisted and corrupted. If you no longer love someone, why would you care what they think? How they feel? What they are doing? You wouldn't. See? Indifference. You couldn't care less. You just want them to be gone from your life so you can find happiness elsewhere.  Hate is a waste of energy and emotion. You have better things to do with your time.

So my message is this... if you are considering breaking up with someone, ask yourself - do you still care what they think? How they feel? What they are doing, and with whom? Then think about their answers to those same questions. Love is, after all, a two way street. You can have all the love in the world for someone, but there can't be a relationship if they don't feel the same way. Are they indifferent toward you? Do your feelings no longer matter? Do they hurt you?  Then stop wasting your time and find someone who will cherish you.

I firmly believe there is someone out there for everyone (and often more than one someone.) The search for love should never stop until you find the one who makes your life complete.

I feel blessed that I found my love. How do I know he loves me? Because he cares. He shows me every day in so many little ways. I hope he feels the same from me. I care more than I could ever express with mere words.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Scary Movies

Tyler asked me a few weeks ago when he would be old enough to watch a scary movie. Good question son.  I've been thinking back, trying to remember my first scary movie. I recall watching various Saturday monster movie programs when I was a kid. Double features like Mothra vs. Godzilla and Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman...they were not scary to me in the slightest. Really, they were cheezy, at best; but I loved watching them. I was 10 or 11. I don't know if Tyler would like those old fashioned monster movies. He is a little more sophisticated in his tastes than I was at his age. He is very particular about what he likes.

I can't remember which "scary" movie I saw first. They all sort of run together. I do, however, remember the first movie that SCARED me. I mean, really and truly made me want to hide my face and gave me nightmares for years. I have no idea what it was called. I remember it was about this unattractive fat girl that everyone made fun of. They tormented this poor girl to the edge of madness. Then she was in this horrific accident that nearly killed her and basically destroyed her face. Because of the extensive reconstructive surgery, her jaw is wired shut for a long time. She loses a ton of weight. Then the plastic surgeon does multiple surgeries to repair her face. In the end, she is transformed into this slim but psychotic beauty. She vows revenge on all the people who tormented her. That's when things turn crazy scary. The stuff she does to those people! This one girl gets buried alive in a box. That scene has haunted me all my life. If anyone recognizes this movie and can tell me the name, please post a comment.

I don't want to watch it again! I just want to make sure my kids never see it. Ha! But seriously, I have given some thought to which movie would be a good "scary movie" introduction for Tyler. I think he might get a kick out of some of the old Japanese monster flicks. They are the origin of Pokemon, after all. Nothing too creepy or potentially psychologically damaging. Just cheap thrills with tons of extras running away in panic. With popcorn.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Trial and Error

Tyler surprised us yesterday with a sudden request to try Subway. Subway?! Really?!?!?! Apparently all those commercials about getting what you want had gotten to him. He wanted a lettuce sandwich. Yep. Just bread and lettuce. He didn't find any of the other "stuff" appealing. So, five dollars later, he had a 6 inch lettuce sub in his hot little hands. I held my breath as my notoriously picky child took his first bite...and promptly spit it out.

*sigh*

But hey! He tried something new. That is always a momentous event. His verdict was that the bread was too "strong." John had agonized over which type of bread to pick and finally settled on Italian. I am thinking the honey oat would have been more mild, but I know Ty would have freaked out at any sign of actual oats on top of his bread. We'll see how many months go by now before we can convince him to try something else.

Meanwhile, today was Max's turn to shock and surprise. He wanted to try a TACO. You could have knocked me over with a feather when the boys announced they were headed to Taco Bell. Mmm...crunch wrap supreme for Momma!

Max arrives home with a taco in his hot little hands - beef and lettuce only - and I held my breath again as he took his first bite. He liked it! Kinda. After a few bites, he ended up dumping out all the lettuce and most of the beef. He likes the shell the best. I told him I think he would really like nachos. He nodded sagely and said  "next time."

Oh boy! There will be a next time!

Stay tuned, gentle readers.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Basking in the Glow...

Max went shopping with his Dad a couple months ago. They came home with a shirt the likes of which I haven't seen since circa 1986 or so. It is this amazing shade of neon chartreuse. Yesterday he was standing by the back door looking down at a beam of sunlight as it struck his chest, completely mesmerized. "Mom! Am I GLOWING?!"

Yes, Max. You sure are!

The photo doesn't capture how bright this shirt really is!
That is closer! See?! He's glowing! :D

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Just for Donna...

I know you are one of my very few loyal readers who still remains, vigilantly looking for any new posts. So as a reward, I give you - Max's First Pony Ride! OK. I think it's technically a horse, but he called it a pony ride, so I won't argue with Max.

He was having a ball! Until the Emu attacked...

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Be warned...sick and whiny

I try not to complain too much. I leave the complaining to the rest of my family. I seriously try to maintain an upbeat attitude, most days. If I have nothing good to say, I stay quiet. But today has just pushed my bitchy buttons. So here is a little background...

It took us like 9 hours to drive North and visit my parents last Friday with stop and go traffic on all major highways (normally the drive takes 4.5 or 5 hours tops.) There were a good number of rest stops in the first half of our drive, but I didn't need to go then. The last half, not so much. So I held it. I know, Jerry Seinfeld has always said that's a bad idea. I was hurting bad by the time we got to my parents house. Saturday morning (here is where things start to get icky, so you might want to skim) I woke to cloudy urine. It stayed cloudy all day and into Sunday. Luckily our drive home didn't take as long and I made sure to go when I needed to, mostly. But I felt like I needed to go...a lot. By Monday my urine was pink and it was getting painful to, er, empty things out.

Ruh roh. I knew what that meant. A urinary tract infection or infection in my bladder. Swell.

Memorial Day in the ER? No way, Jose. So I just suffered silently and waited until Tuesday to call the doctor. Did I call on Tuesday? No. The pain was getting steadily worse and my pee was still very pink. But John was in NY working and I had to pick up Tyler at school. Since my Doctor's office never seems to take people on time, and I'd have to bring Max with me, I decided to wait. Then, Tuesday night, just cause my body can't have one thing wrong at a time, I get my period. Swell. Now I am bleeding from two spots. What's next? Nose bleeds?

This morning I call the doctor's office. I tell the bulldog receptionist my problem and can the doctor please just call in a prescription for an antibiotic? I know it's a UTI, I say. I've had them before. I beg. I plead. Oh no no no, she can't pass that message on. I MUST see the doctor. Can I come now? No. John has his own medical thing scheduled and I need to be available to pick up both boys today. So I made an appointment for tomorrow afternoon. God forbid the doctor miss out on his office visit fee. The pain has been excruciating. I came close to just going to the ER tonight.

After taking 8 Advil in less than 8 hours, I decided I had to do something desperate. I found 3 pills from an old prescription I had for an infection last summer. I took one. I plan to take another at bedtime and another in the morning. I'll bring the bottle to the doctor and confess. I have a feeling it will mess up his urine test (like having my period won't do that anyway) but I was beyond caring. I took Aleve too, just to give my liver something new to work on. Over the counter pain meds have barely made a dent. But that one antibiotic helped. I am feeling better now! It still hurts like hell to pee, but I haven't had to go as often. Thank goodness!

So I will probably get yelled at tomorrow for doing all the wrong things. But I wouldn't have had to do it if the doctor's office would just have had a little SYMPATHY! I'd totally come in too, but just give me the damn antibiotics! I wouldn't ask for them if I didn't really NEED them. Honestly. It's not like I'm asking for narcotics. This is a med Walmart gives away for free! *sigh* Ah well. We'll see what happens.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Long Lost Relatives

There was some family drama way back in the late 1980s. In a nutshell, my parents didn't approve of my choices (schools/majors, the man I fell in love with, how much independence a 19 year old should have...) and they made life as difficult as possible. So I left home and moved in with my poor, sweet boyfriend who had never had any of these issues with his loving and supportive family. Ahem. Yeah. So my parents spent the next several months calling and leaving nasty messages on his answering machine.  After all the drama, he still married me. Can you believe it? I am still in awe of his capacity to forgive.

Well, during these months of turmoil, my Dad's Mother passed away. I didn't even know she was sick. Did they ever mention this fact on any of the daily answering machine rants? No. So I never got to see her in the hospital and missed her funeral. Yes, it was vindictive and mean. But that wasn't the worst of the fallout. Because of the drama, I lost contact with all family from my Dad's side. I didn't know my Uncle or Aunt's addresses and my parents refused to forward wedding invitations to them. So my cousins missed my wedding too. I saw them briefly after I mended fences with my parents (also briefly) and went with my Dad to help clean out my Grandma's house. But they were cold, distant, and angry with me. As were my aunts and uncle.

No one wanted to hear my side of the story. God only knows what my parents told them, at the time. They all hated me. I've told the story of that day in a previous post. So, fast forward a whole bunch of years...

I noticed on my brother's facebook page that he had friended my cousin Sharon. Wow! I wanted to send her a friend request immediately. Then I remembered... she might still be angry with me. So I sent her a note. I want to send a friend request to her sister Beth too, but same deal. So I am waiting to see what kind of response I get. Is 20+ years long enough for tempers to cool and people to forgive a mistaken impression? We shall see. I had great times with those girls when I was a kid. They are fond childhood memories. I'd like to get to know them and their families again. Wish me luck!

Thursday, May 03, 2012

The Great Money Hunt

I am laughing quietly to myself and watching the boys. It's like a fever!

A couple days ago Max was helping his dad clean up/pick up and he found some money. The Daddy said he could keep it. I told him not to tell his brother about it, because 12 dollars is a tidy sum and big brother would be jealous. Did he keep the secret? No. I told Tyler that the next time he helps clean up, he can keep any money he finds too. He had a better idea. Both boys are now in a money-finding competition.

3D Glasses help in money hunting!
They are running from room to room, combing any crack and crevice looking for loose change or bills. I had to holler that the cash on the bookcase by the front door (for the pizza guys), the cash next to the telephone (the emergency fund) and the cash on the kitchen counter (where John empties his pockets and where we fund school lunches) are all off limits. These two are not above petty larceny in their cash quest, so that proclamation was met with groans of disappointment. Sorry boys.

So far, Max's total is up to $15.37. Tyler found $4.28 in change. Max seems to have a talent for finding money that folds and Ty for money that jingles. Tyler isn't too happy about it. He is trying to find enough cash to spend on some virtual game boosters. I can't really pick on him for wasting money on imaginary video game crap. I've done it myself in the past. I am still chuckling. I remember combing the sofa cushions in my youth hoping to scrounge enough change for the ice cream man. A kid has to make a living somehow.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

The Big C...

A couple folks have been following the unfolding drama on Facebook but, just to catch you up, 6 months ago I found a lump in my left breast. Ever since I got to meet my bio-mom and she let me know about her recent battle with breast cancer, I've been a bit more cautious. I was over-due for my semi-annual mammogram and the lump scared me into gear.

Imagine my surprise when the "lump" on the left turned out to be nothing but they found "something" on the right. I was told to track down my old scans from a previous doc/clinic so they could do a comparison. Was this a new something? Or something that has always been there and just disregarded. Fine. It wasn't easy tracking down my baseline scans. The clinic had been sold and changed hands a couple times, but we got them!

The bad news? Mystery spot was not on my old mammo. Oh boy. So the nice folks at the Breast Cancer Center at Morristown Memorial told me to come back in 6 months for a new scan...to see if anything changes.

Fast forward 6 months to my follow-up, which was yesterday, and guess what. The mystery spot is still there, but it is unchanged. Good news, right? Well, not entirely. They want me to come back AGAIN in another 6 months.

I was really hoping to be let off the hook. Just a friendly and reassuring smile with a "There's been no change, so we think you are ok. It's probably nothing." But no. I am on the hook for another 6 months of worry. *sigh*

I know it could be worse. I've been considering getting the genetic testing done to see if I have the breast cancer gene. Not that I really want MORE to be worried about, but forewarned is forearmed.

I am sore and stressed, but I want everyone out there to remember to examine your breasts each month. Boys and girls both! Yes, men can get breast cancer too! So feel yourselves up. Go ahead. Don't be shy. And if you are, um, mature like me, go for doc recommended mammograms.  It's not fun, but hey...it's easier than a colonoscopy. But that is a topic for another day.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Snappy

I posted links to my latest photo sprees on Facebook but didn't get any likes or comments. It left me feeling unloved. Or maybe the pics just suck. Ha! So I thought I would post links here too. Just in case I missed some peeps. ;)

See my eggs??!
And then there are these:
Sweet!

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Who Do You Think You Are?

I've been enjoying this reality show about celebrities searching for their ancestry. I watched Rita Wilson's episode online tonight and found myself identifying with parts of her story. I found out not long ago that my grandfather had a first marriage to another woman before my grandma and he had a son that died at a very young age not long after his mother died. I got the feeling from my father that this "first family" was never discussed when he was growing up. He knows nothing about his half brother. To have such a huge tragedy in my grandfather's life - losing his first wife and son at such a young age, then remarrying and starting a whole new family... I don't know how anyone could move on and start over after such a tragedy. It boggles my mind.

My Dad's family isn't particularly close. I know virtually nothing about my Aunt D and only slightly more about my Uncle J and his family. I did spend time with my Uncle/Aunt and their 2 daughters when I was growing up, but lost touch with them in my teens. Haven't spoken with anyone on my Dad's side of the family in many years. My Uncle J and his wife had more than their share of tragedy too. They lost their only son in infancy. Another story that no one ever talked about. I guess that is just the way my Dad's family is. Tragedy is buried and never discussed. I have always believed that pain shared is pain halved. It helps to talk about things. My heart goes out to my Aunt M. I can't even imagine what they must have gone through.

My Mom's side of the family was also fairly close-mouthed about a lot of things. My mother and I had a long conversation one night about her family history. She has many unanswered questions about the early years of her Mother and Father's marriage. Something about them being broke and living with my Grandfather's family in PA for a time. Grandma didn't get along with her husband's sister. She felt very isolated and lonely being so far from her own family in upstate NY. I got the impression she was thrilled when her new husband gave in and moved them back to NY. But I have a feeling there is a lot more to her story. I'll never know any of the details. All of my grandparents died long ago. I think my Mom has some regrets that she never asked her own Mother for more details - pushed for more.

I strongly feel we are all a product not only of our present, but of our past. These family stories are part of who we are, what we are made of and where we come from. It's why I felt such a strong desire to seek out my birth parents and hear their stories. Hearing my birth mother tell me about her family/childhood and some of the details about how I came to be really filled a hole I had. Part of me is still missing. Hopefully I'll have all the pieces connected one day.

With the internet and websites like ancestry.com I know many people have become amateur genealogists. I did some research with Tyler when he had to do a family tree last year as a class assignment. We were able to find out all sorts of interesting things about John's side of the family. Several of his cousins have researched the family fairly extensively. It's fascinating. I know my family has a lot of interesting stories hidden in the past, but sadly I don't think we will ever know the full truth.

Yet another reason why I feel compelled to write down all the stories of my life. All those seminal moments that helped make up the person I am today. I think my boys will appreciate this digital document some day. It will help them know and understand their Mom a lot better. Warts and all. :) Plus it gives me many opportunities to tell and show them what a miracle they both are to me and how much I love them.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Things... I have too many of them.

Once upon a time I was a very sentimental person. I assigned great value to many of the things in my life. They reminded me of people and major life events. Sometimes the link was tenuous, at best, but I held on to that thing as a tangible reminder. I wasn't too happy about all those things the first time I moved out on my own. It was nice when the military was moving us around. Movers packed up most of our stuff. I couldn't afford that when I had my own first apartment.

Then I moved again. And again. And again. And again! Did I learn a lesson from any of those moves? No. I (then we) just moved to bigger places with more space for stuff.

We've been in this house for a very long time now. Time has flown by really. But lord have mercy how much stuff we have accumulated. There just isn't any more space. A few years ago I found myself looking around in a souvenir shop while we were on a family vacation. My habit had always been to buy some small trinket to remind me of our trip. This time something was different. I found myself hesitating.  

Do I really NEED another keyring, tee-shirt, or other assorted dust collector for my packed knick knack shelves at home? No. But I always get a little something! Why? It's a souvenir! Uh huh. And what are you going to use it for? Have you ever used those coasters? The place mats? The apron? Um...no. Then why are you going to buy more???

Good point, me. So I didn't get anything. It was oddly painful but good at the same time. After all, I had tons of photos. I always take tons of photos. And they don't take up much room.

I've continued to reexamine my attachment to things over the last few years. What will happen when I die? There will be a whole house full of useless crap that chances are, my kids won't remember the significance of. They will have a huge yard sale or just throw it all out. Maybe accumulating stuff is a young person's game. My various collections of things have mostly lost their significance of late. Now they just take up space and cause me to stub my toes repeatedly.

I just don't want all this stuff anymore. I'd rather have an empty room with a chair, desk, bed and fridge. I'd cover the walls with photos. It's time to simplify. I am starting to understand my Grandmother a lot better now.

Anyone want a set of authentic Polynesian 'uli'ulis? A collection of Bermudan hand cast pottery? Blown glass art? Faux Ming vase and plate? A boat load of VHS movies from the 1980s and 90s? How about some baby toys? Crib? Various car seats? You name it, I probably have 2. You can have one! Really!

Maybe I should just have a whole house sale. Put out some signs, leave the front door open and take any reasonable offer. Sure the living room sofa is for sale. I have another one just like it in the basement. Want that one too?

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Day Tyler Got Independent...

Just dropped Tyler off at his friend's house. D was outside on a bike with his little brother (on a scooter). As I pulled away, I could see Ty walking up the street as his buddy rode his bike beside him. OMG. My son is OUTSIDE. WALKING. I waited for him to burst into flame...or something. This is the second day in a row Ty wanted to go hang out at his friend's house.

To most of you, this may sound like no big deal. But Tyler hasn't gone to a friend's house in a really long time. Not since the days of me arranging "play dates". It's nothing short of momentous. And terrifying. I wanted to just pull over and watch them from the van, just to make sure he was safe. But I realized it was time to start letting him be a responsible 10 and a half year old. When I was his age I was riding my bike all over town on my own without a second thought. It's a little different for Ty. He is often off in his own world and doesn't seem to see what is happening around him.  This can make the simple act of crossing a busy road REALLY worrisome. He doesn't always remember to look both ways.

Hopefully with three of them, they will look out for each other. Yell "CAR!" when a car drives down the road. I hope. I did quiz Ty before I dropped him off to make sure he remembers his phone number. To call me when he is ready to come home.

Crap. The urge to go back and get him is so strong. Must...stay...home. I am NOT a helicopter mom.

...

Please let him be ok. :(

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Movie Reviews: Rise of the Planet of the Apes and The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008)

On the PC for tonight's viewing pleasure, the above mentioned films. Both were pretty well panned by the critics, but I am a sucker for sci-fi that has environmental or genetic manipulation themes.

Movie 1 - The apes are back and they have been digitally generated. That was the low point of the film for me. They just weren't rendered well, in my opinion, and that makes them less than believable and nearly impossible for me to feel any sympathy towards. I think short actors in costume with animatronic faces would have worked better. But I am old school that way. Overall I give the movie 3 out of 5 stars. Good plot line - altruistic scientist trying to find a cure for Alzheimer's ends up with an unexpected side effect in his ape subject. The ape gets wicked smart - smart enough to steal the retro-virus and spread the genetic alteration to his fellow apes. I like the updated story line. Much better than the original Planet of the Apes series plot where the simians were working as slave labor for mankind and they just sorta evolved and took over.

Spoiler!  Add in the twist that the retro-virus, while beneficial to ape-kind is actually deadly to humans and in the end turns into a global pandemic...well that would explain why all us humans are nearly wiped out much better than the apes turning into a military force that takes control of the planet. Those damn dirty apes! Watch for Tom Felton (aka Draco Malfoy) as the evil monkey preserve worker. Hello! NO trace of a Brit accent. Well done, you!

Movie 2 - Most of the time I cringe at remakes. There aren't many films that better the original. In this case, the update has such a different feel that, other than the main character being named Klaatu and the fact that he turns his big robot off with the classic alien phrase "Klaatu Barada Nicto!", this is pretty much where the similarities end. Again, I love a movie with a good environmental theme. Save the Earth! Kill the Humans! Well, no. Not really. Don't do that. We just need to learn to be more responsible with our planet. Go green, peeps!

That is really the point the nice lady scientist is trying to impress on the implacable Klaatu. We CAN change, given the right incentive. Impending Armageddon works nicely as incentive. Fix the planet or die. And not the slow death we are currently subjecting ourselves to with little regard for the future. Klaatu has a much faster way to rid our lovely Earth of all the pesky humans and any trace of their ruinous civilization. Some very cool special effects there. I give this one 4 out of 5 stars. And stop picking on poor Keanu Reeves, you mean mean critics. The man has a certain style that works here. He makes a damn fine alien. Love you, Keanu!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Movie Reviews: Priest and Cowboys & Aliens

I don't get out to the theater much, and when I do the films usually have chipmunks or animated toys. I did manage to see 2 movies today that I've wanted to see for a while now, thanks to Netflix.

First up was Priest. I love a good vampire movie. This one had some nice twists to it...post apocalyptic future, alterna-history, what-if type scenario with an odd religious element. I understand it was based on a graphic novel series. I'll have to look for those. The movie was action packed and fast paced. A little TOO fast paced, actually. I thought they moved the story along way too rapidly. There were some things I think the film makers could have lingered over. The origins and early battles of the Priests. More back story on the main characters. Build more slowly to the climax on the train. I was left feeling like I'd been rapidly smacked in the face 50 times and it just suddenly stopped. Reeling. Left to process what I'd just seen. Still rates 3.5 out of 5 stars on my awesome meter.

Next came Cowboys & Aliens. When I first saw the title of this movie, I thought, "Wow, that's a really stupid idea." Then I saw the trailer for it. Harrison Ford? Really?! So I added it to my queue. It starts out like a gritty western. The story sucks you in. The aliens show up and you finally start figuring things out. I like how the film maker left the audience feeling as clueless as the main character was (he had amnesia.) We know as much as he does. Which is almost nothing...except we know the aliens are going to show up sooner or later. The movie title told us that much. Again this was another alterna-history/what-if type scenario (I love those) that does a great job of answering the question What IF aliens landed on our planet like 130-150 years ago

We movie viewers have all been raised on sci-fi and comic books. The folks in the film had NO frame of reference except the bible to try and explain what was happening to their town. I instantly knew the guy was wearing a weapon with a proximity detector. He didn't. He sure figured it out soon enough, but they did a great job of leaving you wondering where he GOT it from. Bonus, the movie made me cry at 2 points. Amazing acting job on the part of Adam Beach. I remember him from Law & Order: SVU and the movie Windtalkers - plus a bunch of other stuff. He's yummy. Ahem. Oh! So anyway, I give this flick 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Friday, February 17, 2012

I need to get a life...

I read a news article yesterday about a Mom in southern California (I think) who drowned her two little girls. Sadly, there seems to be WAY too much news of that type these days. But what really struck me were the reported comments from her neighbors. "She kept to herself." "She never seemed to leave the house." "I don't think she had any friends in the neighborhood. No one really knew her."  That really hit home with me. Not that I am in any way, shape, or form thinking about harming my kids! Not that part. I can't fathom that part at all. I've never been able to understand how any mother could harm her children. No, the comments from the neighbors hit home because they could have been describing ME.

See, I don't get out much either. I don't really know too many folks in our neighborhood. I don't putter in a garden or socialize outside. At all. I don't really have any strong friendships with anyone local. I keep to myself, mostly. Why? Mainly because I am a complete introvert and have never felt comfortable in social situations. But realistically, I don't go out much because I am disabled. Chronic pain caused by a rainbow of reasons have me using a cane most days and a walker when I have to walk more than 10 feet or so.  Some of my physical problems have worsened in the last couple years and severe arthritis has slowed me down even more.

If it weren't for my family, I fear I would end up like that other news article I recently read about the guy who was found dead in his home after 7 YEARS. Yep. No one noticed he was gone... except his bank, who finally got around to foreclosing on his house and sent a realtor to assess the property. She found his mostly skeletonized remains on an interior staircase. I had a nightmare last night that it was me the realtor found. Cheerful thought, right? Comments from former co-workers were eerily similar. "He kept to himself mostly." "No one really knew him very well." "I thought he moved away!" Yadda.

The universe is sending me a message again. I need to get out more.

I did try. I spent 4 years helping out at my son's school. I had hoped it would help me make friends. Sure, now I am friendly with several ladies from the local PTA-like group I am a member of, but only to wave hello. Because of health issues, I haven't been to a single monthly meeting so far this school year, however. Sadly, none of the ladies I am friendly with have asked me if I am ok. No emails or phone calls wondering if everything is all right. I'm not pointing fingers! I know it's too easy to get wrapped up in our own lives and not really have the time to wonder about how others are doing. But it does help to make my point.

How do I fix this? What do I need to do so I don't end up a sad story that has my neighbors saying "We didn't really know her. She kept to herself."

Thursday, February 02, 2012

My life is a sitcom...

After waking today NOT sweaty and finding out the furnace broke sometime in the night (can we turn off the heat every night, please?); after the doorbell ringing at 9 in the morning with a small but bulging box that must have weighed 90 lbs, at least (getting that up the stairs was fun); after Max's comical attempt to open said bulging box - what is the latest?

Tyler has been on a quest for a few days to find a new MMO (since Lego Universe shut down.) What does he find? A Dragon Ball Z MMO! Perfect for him, right? Only problem? There are 3 versions of the game...Korean, Chinese and Taiwanese. Hmm. Well, every game is set up pretty much the same way, right? How hard could it be to figure out how to install one of these three versions.

After explaining that he won't be able to read any of the menus, or character chats or probably even chat messages from other players, Tyler still wanted to give it a try. One language version wanted the Korean equivalent of our social security number. After trying a bunch of random combos, forward progress was stymied. On to the next version. You want our country specific cell phone number? What is the country code for China again?

No, that won't work. Next! Oh, there is an English language add on for this version of the game? Cool! But it doesn't translate everything. 5 hours to download? Wow...what are they using, 1200 baud dial-up modems? *snicker* Sorry, geek humor.

5 hours turned into 2 days of failed downloads with retrys, but we finally got the game installed and working. So far, Tyler loves it. Problem? Now Max wants it installed. Here we go again!

The language barrier hasn't been an issue, so far. Tyler found a forum post that mentioned which server all the English speaking players log on to. He did ask if I could find a "look up guide" online that shows the English translation of the various characters/words he is seeing. Umm...you mean a Taiwanese to English dictionary? That would be a BIG book, I think. Sorry son, there aren't any quick look-up guides for that.

I wonder how a request to add conversational Taiwanese or Chinese language classes to our small town's public school offerings would fly. Ha!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Amazon Must Love Me

I finally ordered a new mattress pad and pillow. I think I have milked all the mileage I am able to out of my current pad and pillow. I took the hint yesterday as I stripped the bed. I decided it was time to wash both the pillow case AND the "removable/washable cover" on my latex pillow. You know what? The pillow practically disintegrated in my hands. What a mess! I knew it was suffering from memory foam Alzheimer's (it no longer could remember it's original shape.) I did NOT know the pillow had suffered a complete breakdown.

When I stripped the sheets off the bed, the boys both came in and commented on the naked memory foam pad. "Mom? Can I sleep with you tonight on that side of the bed? I like how the bed is all squishy on your side and how I fit in your indent..."  My WHAT? Oh. Right. The pad has Alzheimer's too. How many years does it take memory foam to lose it's memory? For me, it's been about 9 years or so. But really, this pad could have been 86'd a couple years ago. Max's comment had me thinking. "Mom! Why is your bed yellow?!" Um. [He had me thinking gross!] That pad used to be white, honey. It's just very old. "Did you pee on it a lot like I used to???" Ummm. No honey. You have pee'd on it. So has your brother. But not Mommy.

The more I think about it, maybe I should donate this pad to science. What does 8+ years of night time kid invasions (with leaky diapers), years of night sweats with hormonal surges and other assorted thrills and spills contribute to the world of science? I have no idea. I'm curious what a microscope would show. And scared.

I'd say I deserve a new memory foam pad. The current pad is 2 inches thick (4 lb density). The new one is 3 inches thick (same density). Other than making it harder to stretch on my fitted sheets, I wonder what the extra inch will give me. I am hoping for a better night's sleep. Stay tuned...

Thursday, January 19, 2012

New Addition

It's been over 10 years, but we have a new addition to our family. A cute butcher block cafe table and chairs! I think the last bit of furniture we bought was stuff for the nursery. The boys are currently sharing that set between their two rooms. Tyler has the day bed I used when I was single and Max is still sleeping in Tyler's old toddler bed. Yeah. They are next on the list for new furniture as soon as we find the right sets (nice quality but affordable - it's not as easy as it sounds.)

I wouldn't recommend waiting 14+ years for a kitchen table (this spot has been empty since the house was built) but I am pleased with our $199 bargain from Bob's. Thanks Bob! Now we can retire the TV tables my parents gave us as a gift all those years ago. Ha!

We just need to coach Tyler not to throw his body into the table as he sits down. I can just picture the table being shoved right through the sliding glass door. Yikes! I am also anticipating some objection when the boys realize this is where we are eating dinner tonight. No TV! Heh heh.


After the boys' rooms have been done, maybe I can finally get an HD TV...flat screen! Imagine, no more having to slam the side of the TV to clear up the picture when it goes wonky. Ah, 21st century technology... Maybe by the 22nd century I will have you. Ha ha!

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Sarcastic Mom - Has a nice ring to it.

I've been thinking about changing the title of my blog. Why? I don't think everyone "gets" me. See, I receieved a couple comments from friends on my last post that equated to "gosh, I hope you really aren't constantly on the brink of beating the kids..."  Um, no. Really!

Here is a good example of a Sarcastic Mom moment. Max approached me today and said, "Mom? I'm gonna steal a piece of your chocolate and put it in Tyler's underpants!" He was laughing so hard he could hardly get the words out. I replied, "Touch my chocolate, young man, and you will find out what it's like to grow up with no arms."  He ran away laughing, yelling back - "I'll sneak in tomorrow morning and steal some for Tyler's underpants! You'll be sleeping and never know!!" See. He gets me.

Tyler, on the other hand, is still trying to figure out the nuance of sarcasm. He doesn't read people well and takes everything they say at face value. He is very literal. I have to be careful how I phrase things with him. Maybe I should utilise him more as a sounding board. Bounce my ideas off him and see how he reacts. I should have given him our Christmas card "newsletter" to read and gotten his reaction.

That is another prime example of how people don't "get" me. The note I sent this year with our annual Christmas Card was VERY Sarcastic Mom. Classic. It began with something along the lines of "Another year is gone. We are broke. We are tired. The End." Followed with a "But seriously!" and some tidbits about our year. My husband's uncle promptly sent us a check in a return card with a very sweet note. He was concerned about us being "broke" and wanted to send money for the boys to help out.

Yes, I cried. It was touching! But oh brother, he did NOT get me. I mean, yes we really are broke, but so is pretty much every single income middle class American family in this economy. Am I right?

Don't send money. I will keep it. Now I am off to Google my new blog title. I'll bet you chocolate that it's already taken.

Monday, January 09, 2012

If You Can't Beat Them, Charge Them?

It can be difficult to enforce rules when you are a parent who tries very hard to never physically strike your children. Time outs have limited effectiveness and you can't use them too often or the positive effect is lost (or your child is spending most of the day in time-out.)

We used a chore chart for a while with a prize box reward system. That worked pretty well, until the chart was accidentally erased (wipe off white board) by our goofy cat. How? I had the chart leaning against a wall and the cat thought it was huge fun to run through the "tunnel" I made. His repeated passes turned him into a big furry eraser. Once the boys realized I had no idea how many stars they had earned for the month, the chores and good behavior went undone. Back to square one.

Then thanks to a couple jerks on YouTube who thought it great fun to use clips from my youngest son's favorite TV show and replace the 5 year old friendly dialog with a spew of curses and other inappropriate talk and did NOT identify their efforts as MATURE CONTENT, I have been treated to a string of four letter words from both my boys (who naturally found these videos totally hilarious.)  With a great deal of difficulty, I resisted the urge to smack the lips off their faces and came up with an ingenious punishment. If either boy utters one of the "you can't say that!" words within hearing of his sibling, he must pay his brother 25 cents. Same goes if Mom or Dad hears those taboo words. They owe us a quarter. Of course, to be fair, I made the punishment valid for John and I too. If we slip and the boys hear us, we pay them a quarter.  I gave them each a Post-It and taught them to keep track of the quarters owed with hash marks.

Since both boys are very protective of their respective piggy banks, this worked really well for a day or two. Then my clever little devils figured out how to turn the punishment into a money making scheme. They started accusing each other of swearing. His brother might not even be in the same room but "Moooom! Max said the A word!" Oh brother. The Post-It hash marks started multiplying. Then things really escalated. They started doing things that made me want to swear. A lot. OK, maybe that last part is more about my frayed nerves and being this close to "that time of the month." Currently, I think Max owes Tyler $1.2 million and I owe both boys around $250K.

Yeah. I think I am in the market for a new method of punishment.


Friday, January 06, 2012

Photography Rules: The Chubby Chick (mainly me)

After seeing a few nightmarish holiday photos this season, I have come up with the following guidelines.

Rules for photographing the fat chick (from a fat chick):

1. When framing the photo, only shoot from the mid-bust and up, if at all possible.
2. Try to stand a little above us. Straight on or from below is much less flattering.
3. Have us sit at an angle and turn our heads a bit to the side. Tilt the head up a tad and bring the chin forward. All will minimize double-chins and create a more flattering line.
4. If there are young children available, arrange them in front or have them sit in her lap. The object is to mask and hide the mid-section.
5.  In a group photo, have her stand in the back row. If she is short, have her be the one to hold up a sign, stand behind a sign or at least turn slightly to the side and extend one leg forward.
6. If you know photoshop and have fat women you love or care about, for heaven's sake, airbrush out our double chin! If you can fudge our waistline a tad, remove any tell-tale creases where our clothes might be fitting a bit too snugly, or in any other way shave off a few pounds - then DO IT! Trust me. We won't mind.
7. Don't take a photo of me from the back. I don't need to see my butt. This is just a personal request.
8. I don't like being in a photo alone. If you must have a photo of me...have everyone around squeeze in too!
9. Smile!

There you have it. Nothing too difficult. I could add something about barreling in certain lenses and using a telephoto...but I'll just keep it simple. *grin*