Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Looking on the Bright Side

For the past month I realize I have been unfairly critical of the month of January. I have failed to mention the one thing I really do like about January (and most of the winter season): having Ben home more.
Since Ben is a civil engineer specializing in roadway and construction management, wintertime offers a much needed respite from the hectic schedule he keeps during the warmer months of the year when road construction projects are in full swing. Although his job is not without stress during the winter months (there are still proposals to write, plans to design, clients to attend to, and paperwork to complete), it is much more predictable than most other months.
For instance, I don't have to worry about him missing dinner because someone didn't mix the concrete (or cement...I don't quite recall the correct terminology) correctly at the plant and the pour that was supposed to be completed by 4:00 p.m. doesn't even begin until 4:00 p.m. For the most part, they don't even pour concrete in sub-zero temps.
Basically, in the winter Ben enjoys a typical 8-hour work day (sometimes more, but not too much) and we definitely enjoy having him home each and every night.
The other benefit of Ben's lighter work load in the winter months is his ability to take vacation. So, in a few weeks we will be taking advantage of his PTO as we head to Wisconsin Dells to enjoy a couple nights at an indoor water park. We are definitely looking forward to our time away together as a family and are thrilled that all the details have worked out so well (as in...we got an awesome deal on a great room because we were willing to stay for two nights in the middle of the week!).
To make the anticipation of our trip more exciting for the kids, we made this countdown calendar:

Although I'm fairly certain Zach could care less about the calendar, Allie is enthralled. In addition to labeling our intended vacation dates, we also coded our family activities (such as preschool, church, Mommy's flute lessons, play dates, etc) with corresponding stickers.

Allie loves the independance of being able to consult the calendar for the weeks' events. I am still shocked that she remembers the meaning of each sticker and symbol. Because she likes to have activities planned, she is definitely a little hesitant of having days without markings. When I explained to her that we need some days to rest or accomplish things around the house, she looked at me like I was nuts. So, I added on that we might need to keep some days free in case other things come up. Not surprisingly, she was much more receptive to that explination rather than the first.

I'm sure this will not be the last kids' oriented calendar we put together. In fact, I'm trying to figure out how to do one each month because it has been so helpful to Allie's sense and awareness of time and our family's events. Plus, I don't have to answer the age old question, "Mom, what are we going to do today?" every single morning.

So, I guess January hasn't been all that bad. And, it's looking like February holds some exciting events for us too. Before we know it, Spring will be here and Summer will shortly follow (please do not burst my bubble by reminding me that it often snows in April in MN...I'm doing my best here to focus on the positive)!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Pajama Day

This morning when I looked out the window and saw a fresh coating of snow on the ground and more flakes swirling through the air, I officially declared it Pajama Day. Since Zach is still suffering from a severely stuffy nose and a mild fever there was no objection on his part and Allie is always begging to stay in her pjs each morning, so she was more than happy to comply.
I also spent the morning in my pajamas, doing a little cleaning and getting dinner ready for tonight (we're having breakfast for dinner...complete with egg bake and blueberry pancakes...yum!), but since I have to teach flute lessons this evening, by noon I thought it was about time I take a shower and get dressed because I'm not sure how my students would react to my showing up to teach them completely unshowered and in my pajamas. And, although I am secretly hoping for blizzard-like conditions so I'd be forced to cancel lessons for the evening(because I want nothing more than to put my pjs back on and spend the remainder of the day watching movies with the kids cuddled up on the couch), according to the weather reports it looks as if we aren't far enough North for my wish to be granted.
Since I haven't been too great with taking photos this month, here's a few I snapped this morning while we were having fun in our pjs.

The above "grimace" is apparently in response to my command to "smile." And, yes, he is carrying around a pink Hello Kitty purse with a green Gideon's New Testament tucked inside. That's definitely a better smile face, Zach. I am so jealous of Allie's doughnut jammies. I wish I had a pair. Because, whenever I am down, sprinkled doughnuts definitely make me smile.

Hmmm...upon closer examination of the above picture, I'm thinking Zach's cold may have morphed into an ear infection. Doesn't it look like he's tugging at his ear? We may have a doctor's appointment in our very near future.

Anyway, other than that one episode where they were both being so rowdy that they knocked over a lamp, picture frame, and candle off of our end table this morning, it has been a fun day (plus, the fact that I didn't even have to utter a word after the incident before they voluntarily placed themselves in time out tells me that I must be improving my "look").

Allie has definitely been Zach's little mom today....she read him books for over a half hour after she helped him cover up with a blanket on the couch, she helped him build his lego Cars town, and even invited him into her room to play dress up and princesses with her. She told me before naps that Zach is her best friend which I'm sure she'll need to be reminded of when she's 17 and he's 15.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Momma's Baby Boy

It's no mystery around here who likes to be the baby. Whereas Allie will scream in objection at the top of her lungs when referred to in the same sentence as the word baby, Zach simply smiles and asks to be picked up whenever he is called the baby. He eats up every baby reference and never ever misses the opportunity to cash in on his baby-of-the-family-status. Though Allie can only see the disadvantages of being a baby, Zach has learned to use the designation to his benefit.
This means that he has definitely gone a lot longer without the expectation that he pick up his toys and the subsequent time-out that ensues upon his refusal (don't worry, we put an end to that one several months ago). I'm sure he has gotten away with instigating several fights with his big sister and has definitely gone many more dinners without eating vegetables than Allie ever has. We definitely carry him around a lot more than we ever did with Allie...he gets carried through parking lots and stores at an age when Allie was fully expected to walk because I simply did not have enough hands to carry her in addition to the portable car seat complete with baby.
I'm sure there are many more examples, but due to the screaming coming from the other room at the moment, I can't quite seem to come up with those additional instances.
And, why is there screaming coming from the other room? Well, because after finishing his snack, the fully capable 2-year old refuses to get off of his own chair...proclaiming that he needs help. He wants to be carried off of his booster seat and I told him I expect him to be a big boy and do it all by himself. He refused.
He is now yelling at the top of his lungs, "MOMMY GRACE! GET IN HERE!"
(My middle name is not 'Grace.' Allie's middle name is 'Grace.' And, now I'm thinking I may sound a bit too tyrannical sometimes myself when I am displeased with Allie's behavior.)
Anyway, it is obvious that giving up the designation of baby must be more difficult than I originally thought. And, apparently Zach thinks it much more worthwhile to spend a half hour crying because he "can't" get down off of his chair (I just peeked at him right now and his feet are literally 2 inches from the floor) than part with the precious label.
What he doesn't realize yet is that someday he won't want to be Momma's baby boy anymore...when he has peach fuzz on his face and the beginnings of arm pit hair...when he'd rather spend his days playing sports or video games...when the most embarrassing thing in the entire world to him will be a kiss and hug from his Momma.
So, maybe, just maybe...because he still wants to be my baby so badly....I'll go get him down off of his chair even though I know he can do it all by himself.
We can always practice being a big boy some other day...right?

Friday, January 22, 2010


It's official. I'm exhausted.

Although my plan to keep our January days extremely busy in an effort to make the dreariest of all months pass by quickly is working quite beautifully, it has also left me longing for my bed every night by 8:00 p.m.

On top of the busy days, for some reason on Wednesday evening I thought it would be an excellent idea to take out my Jillian Michaels exercise DVDs (that I've all since abandoned since Thanksgiving). Although I have continued running about 3-4 miles each morning to stay in shape, I just haven't had the time to continue with Ms. Michaels' boot camp regimen. However, something unexplainable in the core of my being decided I needed to take it up again ASAP. I was remarkably surprised at how easily I completed the 50 minute workout and went to bed Wednesday evening feeling already more muscular than I had in a long time. Then, I woke up approximately 7 hours later to discover that taking two months off of weight training and then starting it up again on a whim with such extreme gusto and enthusiasm is probably not the best way to go.

So, on top of being exhausted, I am sore. Really sore.

Which did not pair well with tackling the Children's Museum today with two extremely excited and energetic kids. Thank goodness for my mom who came along with us and crawled into spots that were just not possible for me to contort into today.

Despite everything, we did have a really fun time and the kids were amazingly well behaved.

So much so, that I decided we could just skip naps and hit the grocery store on the way home to pick up a few things I needed for dinner tonight and to make it through this weekend now that Ben has decided he also needs to lose a few pounds.

Plus, the kids are always excited about visiting the grocery store by Grandma's because they have those lovely 2-seater car carts that are the bane of every mother's existence because the two seats are really never large enough to hold two kids comfortably and all the kids do is push and shove each other through the entirety of the store while whining and complaining that their bodies are touching each other...then, at some point, one of the kids will hang half of their body outside the window of the car and because the mom is attempting to navigate through the store as quickly as possible, she will unknowingly come a little to close to the aisle with the cart and screaming will ensue due to the fact that the kid whose body is flailing everywhere has been clipped by the frozen foods cooler.

Thankfully, the grocery store seemed to put both kids over the threshold of being so exhausted that they could barely function like human beings and we had a 45 minute ride home where both of them slept like rocks for the majority of the time. And although I was thoroughly enjoying the rare extended period of peace and quiet, I admit, it took everything I had in me to keep my eyelids open and concentrate on the road.

But, stay awake I did, and we arrived home safely where I ushered in two lethargic kids and four bags of groceries.

And, now, instead of making dinner, I'm sitting here blogging. Why?

Well...because as I was getting the things out necessary for tonight's dinner I realized we are apparently out of tomato sauce. I didn't even think to pick up tomato sauce at the grocery store because I always have tomato sauce on hand. I just don't understand how my cupboard could be void of any and all cans of tomato sauce! After considering substituting ketchup or spaghetti sauce (both of which I just don't think would create a very good version of BBQ Pork Sandwiches...ok, so ketchup would probably actually work, but the truth is we are running low on that too), I called my SOS support system.

And, he suggested we just go out for dinner tonight. And, I am definitely all up for that. TGIFriday's here we come!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Bed Time Routine

Each night before we put the kids to bed, we read them a chapter of the "Jesus Storybook Bible" followed by a prayer and then a chorus of "Jesus Loves Me." We began this exact bed time routine with Allie when she was a year old and established it with Zach around the same age as well.

Although it would probably be more time efficient now to do the whole bed time spiel together with both kids at the same time, we've kept each kid separate (mostly due to the fact that the few times we've tried their bedtime routine together, they were so hyper and rowdy that we couldn't get a word in edgewise).

Typically I'm all about efficiency, but the older the kids get, the more I realize how important it is to keep their bed time routines separate as it gives them time to wind down, spend one on one time with either Ben or I, provides opportunity to answer their personal questions about the Bible story (or just life in general), and gives them an opportunity to pray uninterrupted by each other.

Ben usually heads up the bed time routine in the evening mainly because I do a similar version each day separately with both kids before nap time. Interestingly enough, I'm fairly certain if Zach had his way, he would request Mommy every night while Allie most certainly would demand Daddy. Hmmm...looks like we definitely have a Daddy's Girl and Momma's Boy in the making.

Anyway, this past Sunday night I was given the rare opportunity of performing both kids' bed time routines because I just could not refuse the two freshly bathed kids dancing around the bathroom requesting that Mommy alone put them to bed.

Zach is always up first. So, after the ritualistic hugs and kisses, we headed to his room to read about Noah. I think the story of Noah is presently one of Zach's favorite biblical accounts. He is so enamored by the big BIG boat and is curious about each and every animal that enters it. Usually by bedtime, though, Zach is pretty sleepy, so he listened intently to my reading while snuggling up in my lap and sucking his thumb.

After the story of Noah concluded, he insistently demanded, "Zach, Pray!" I obliged and listened in on his conversation with God that went a little something like this:
"God...thankyou for Mommy....thankyou for Daddy....thankyou for Owie (Allie)....thankyou for Jesus died...Oh Lord...God...Lord...Look at Jesus (pointing to the picture on the front of the Bible)...Thankyou for God...."

At this point I began to pray, thinking that he was finished, but he instantly let me know that he was not done yet by pointing his chubby little finger at me and proclaiming, "NO, Mommy...Zach pray!" I stopped at once and listened to a couple more "Lords" and "Gods" before I heard something that sounded like an "Amen" followed by his command for "Mommy pray."

After singing along to "Jesus Loves Me," Zach was more than ready for bed and with one final kiss, I laid him in his crib and headed out of his room to find Allie who is usually still finishing up her nightly grooming rituals.

Surprisingly, Allie was mostly done applying her "lipstick" (which is actually just chapstick) and was just about ready for her bed time. Because she was a little bit sad about the fact that the next day Daddy would be at work, she requested he carry her into bed and give her one last hug and kiss...she also wanted to make sure that his feelings weren't hurt because she had chosen me to put her to bed.

So, following Daddy's departure from her room, we began to read the story of Noah. Unlike Zach, who usually listens quietly, Allie had a question for me with the turn of each page. "Mom, why does he have to build a boat again? Mom, why didn't the other people besides Noah love God? Mom, how many animals do you think were in the boat? Mom, what happened to the other people that weren't Noah's family? WHAT? They DIED?! But, will I die too if I don't love God? Do you think I don't love God when I do naughty things?"

After answering and discussing those and a multitude of other theological questions that I just never realized I would be asked by a 4-year old, we were ready for our prayer time. Usually Allie asks me to pray first and that night was no exception. So, after I prayed, she prayed something that went a little like this:
"God, thank you for Mommy, Daddy, Zach, and me. Help me not to be naughty. Thankyou for church today. Thankyou for my coughs, but help it to stop, please. Please help us not to be killed. Thankyou for Jesus. And thankyou for my princesses and books. And my friends. Amen"

We both sang "Jesus Loves Me" and after making sure her baby bear and other multitudes of stuffed animals were safely tucked in for the evening and were able to see the nightlight, I gave her one last kiss and turned off the light before leaving the room.

And, thus, both kids were soundly tucked into bed. (Notice I did not say that they fell asleep. That would probably require an entirely different post revolving around Zach's extensive twilight chats with himself and his infamous after dark Christmas caroling in addition to Allie's million and one excuses as to why she has to get up out of bed at least a thousand times before allowing her extremely fatigued eyes to close and succumb to much needed sleep.)

Monday, January 18, 2010

Hawaiian Pork Chops and Rice

This is a new recipe I tried a couple weeks ago and was pleasantly surprised at how great it turned out. Since I'm not usually a fan of fruit with my meat, I wasn't so sure about a recipe that called for pork chops and pineapple, but was definitely ready for something new. I'm definitely glad I tried it because I think this easy dish is well on its way to becoming a new family favorite. Plus, at only 250 calories and 7 grams of fat per serving (5 WW points for those of you keeping track), it fits my continued efforts to eat healthier.

Hawaiian Pork Chops

4 boneless pork loin chops (4 oz each)
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/3 cup chopped green pepper
1/3 cup sliced onion rings (I chopped mine)
14-1/2 oz reduced sodium beef broth
1 can (8 oz) unsweetened pineapple chunks, undrained
1/4 cup ketchup
2 T brown sugar
1 T cider vinegar
2 T cornstarch
3 T cold water

1. Sprinkle pork chops with salt and pepper. In a large nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray, cook the chops for 4-5 minutes on each side or until lightly browned. Remove and keep warm.
2. In the same skillet, saute green pepper and onion for 2 minutes or until almost tender. Stir in the broth, pineapple, ketchup, brown sugar and vinegar. Bring to a boil. Return pork to the pan. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 6-10 minutes or until meat juices run clear.
3. Combine the cornstarch and water until smooth; stir into skillet. Bring to a boil; cook for 1-2 minutes or until thickened.

You can serve the saucy chops over plain white or brown rice. Since I was feeling ambitious, I served them alongside this yummy new rice side dish:

Colorful Rice Medley

1/4 cup chopped onion
1 T butter
3/4 c uncooked long grain rice
1 small red pepper, chopped
1-1/2 c reduced sodium chicken or vegetable broth
1/4 c white wine
1/2 t dried thyme
1/8 t pepper
1 cup frozen peas
1/4 c plus 1 T reduced fat grated Parmesan cheese, divided

1. In a large saucepan coated with cooking spray, saute onion in butter for 1 minute. Add rice and red pepper; cook and stir for 3-4 minutes or until rice is lightly browned.
2. Stir in the broth, wine, thyme, and pepper. Bring to boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 15 minutes.
3. Stir in peas; cover and simmer 3-5 minutes longer or until rice is tender and peas are heated through. Stir in 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese. Sprinkle the remaining Parmesan cheese over the top.
Yields 6 servings (each serving is 2/3 cup, 155 calories, 3 g fat, 2 g fiber, 3 WW points)

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Sunday Thoughts

As I sit down to write this post I fully admit to the fact that I have been wearing my pajamas since 2:00 this afternoon. Although I am not ill, I do claim exhaustion behind my need to change into pajamas as soon as we arrived home from church. After enduring an intense 2-year old tantrum upon drop off at the toddler classroom, attempting to entertain a four year old who does not understand the definition of “whisper” through the first service, and spending the second service steering eight third grade girls in discussion of the 10 Commandments as opposed to cute clothes, movies, and American Girl dolls, I honestly feel like I have nothing left. Plus, exhaustion sounds far better than owning up to the ugly truth that my pj's are about the only clean thing I have left to wear. And, everyone knows that doing laundry on a Sunday is in direct violation of the fourth commandment. So, this Sunday afternoon I am left with no other choice than to honor God by wearing my pj's.

With that confession out of the way, I can now proceed with the remainder of my post...which implies that I actually have a main point. And, you guessed it, I don't.

I could tell you about Allie screaming at the top of her lungs for approximately 35 minutes after going to bed last night and how Ben and I sat on the living room couch trying desperately to muffle our laughter at the ridiculousness of the situation, but I'm fairly certain I would not be able to adequately capture the hilarity of the situation with mere words alone. Thankfully, we always know there will never be lack of drama in our home as long as Allie is around.

I could also tell you about one of the cutest and most well-behaved third grade girls in my Sunday School small group that insisted today that her family does not have any rules in their home. Upon my questioning her assertion, she did admit that they maybe had one rule: No hitting.

Or, I could tell you about how disgusted Ben was with the Vikings victory today. But, since I pretty much despise all things football, I feel that taking up any more space on my personal blog discussing football would be disloyal to myself.

I could tell you about how Zach likes to pretend he's a different animal every day, but I fear the thorough description of his “baby bear” whines might literally drive you to insanity.

So, because I really have no purpose in blogging today, other than ignoring the fact that both my kids are refusing to nap and that football is still on our television, I think I'm going to continue in obedience of that fourth commandment by proclaiming leftovers for dinner and proceeding to take a nap.

Friday, January 15, 2010


I apologize for the lack of blog posts lately, but, in my defense, we have been busy...which has resulted in my having little to no time or motivation to sit down and write about what has been keeping us so busy.

Why so busy in the middle of January when most people spend the first month of the year calming down from the bustle of the holiday season and finding enjoyment in being at home after a whole month of holiday happenings and social engagements? Well, because after ten Januaries spent in the frozen north, I've come to realize that...drumroll, please...January depresses me.

Seriously. I'm not kidding. Every year, without a doubt, boring ole' January creeps up on me, completely un-welcome after all the fun and busy-ness of the Christmas season, and I feel like I'm stuck in a dismal black hole swirling with snow and surrounded by frigidly inhumane temperatures with no escape in sight for at least another four months (if we're lucky).

From the time I wake up in the pitch black darkness of morning (wondering if it is indeed morning because it still looks as dark as did at 7:00 pm the previous night) I feel the weight of January upon my shoulders and all throughout the month I find that heaviness mighty difficult to shake off.

Well, this year I decided I couldn't go through another one of my typical Januaries and since relocating to Florida to live on a beach for the entire month was not quite feasible, I had to be pro active in coming up with another option. So, I decided to keep myself and the kids extremely busy. So busy, in fact, that I wouldn't have time to mope around the house thinking about how much I hate January, the snow, the cold, the indoors, the dark, and subsequently gaining a bunch of weight because being depressed about all those things makes me crave German chocolate cake like you wouldn't believe.

I figured if I could schedule enough play dates and outings for us this month that, on the rare day that we do spend solely at home, I'd actually have to do something productive around the house instead of moping. And, so far, I can report that my plan is working quite beautifully.

The kids have definitely enjoyed the extra play dates and I've realized it's much more fun to chat and laugh with other moms than barricade myself alone with the kids inside our house. We've also had a couple outings with Grandma that have proved to be a hit. Next week is just as busy as my flute teaching schedule is starting up again for the spring semester, another play date has already been planned, and a trip to the Children's Museum is in the works. After that, there is only one week left and January 2010 is behind us.

To keep myself busy when we are at home, I bought a couple new cookbooks and have been trying out some new recipes. After a year of new-and-improved low-fat cooking techniques, we were definitely experiencing a bit of a rut, so the new menu items I have incorporated have been welcomed heartily (and yes, all the new recipes are still of the low-fat variety). Maybe if I get a chance I'll have to share some of my new favorites that will definitely be making a reappearance in our meal rotation...namely Hawaiian Pork Chops and Taco Soup. Yum.

Other things that have me more cheery this January than in past Januaries:

  • Purchasing a new swim suit for $19. I don't think I've ever found one so cheap that I would actually wear in public. Now, since I actually own a swim suit that fits, we're all set to hit the indoor pool....which I need to locate so that we can go swimming sometime before the end of the month.
  • Usually I lament the end of Christmas for the entire month of January, but the kids' love of Christmas music has them singing "Frosty the Snowman" and "Jingle Bells" at least 10 times a day, so in a way, it actually still feels like it is Christmastime.
  • Fat Free Hot Chocolate.
  • Getting the car washed, inside and out.
  • Finding great tasting cantaloupes at Aldi's for half the price of the normal grocery store.
  • Finding my favorite peanut butter at Wal-Mart for almost half the price of the normal grocery store.
  • Helping the kids pick out food coloring for their bath water each night and seeing their delight upon discovering that red bath water and yellow bath water make orange bath water.
  • Zach's new book: The Tickle Monster
  • Clearance items at Eddie Bauer...especially the tall sizes, because at 5'11, if it isn't a tall size, after a couple of washings, most long sleeve shirts morph into 3/4 length sleeve shirts.
  • Watching movies/TV and munching on popcorn with Ben each night after the kids fall asleep.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Getting Ready for Bed

Apparently 2 year old boys are just as particular about their bedtime routines as 4 year old girls.
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Monday, January 11, 2010

Allie, Zach...Where are You Guys?

I am absolutely in shock at how well behaved my children are being today. Although Allie and Zach aren't horribly behaved on a normal day-to-day basis, they definitely have their moments where their absolute worst shines through. However, in addition to the grocery store trip we took this morning where there was no whining, crying, running away, hitting, kicking, or begging for food packages plastered with cartoon characters, they've been playing peacefully together for the past hour after they ate every last morsel of their lunch without complaining that I didn't cut their sandwiches the correct way. I was actually planning on putting them down for naps a half hour ago, but I think I'm just going to let them play and enjoy the peacefulness that is currently pervading our home.

I'm not sure what is in the air today that has caused such great behavior, but whatever it is, I'd like to think it has something to do with my impeccable parenting skills (haha...I only wish).

It is so interesting that a mere 24 hours after Zach had several mini-melt downs while we were visiting a friend's church service and after Allie literally cried herself to sleep last night because she wasn't ready for the weekend to be over, that we would be having such a fantastic Monday. There really is no rhyme or reason to it, is there?

I guess I should just stop asking why and enjoy it while it lasts.

On the other hand, I really am starting to wonder when the real Allie and Zach will make their reappearance. I believe I just overheard Allie asking Zach if he would like to come into her room and play with her princesses. This day is just full of pleasant surprises!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Allie's New Shoes

I think Allie's new shoes are just about the gaudiest pair of shoes I have ever laid eyes upon. Ben says they remind him of a pinker version of Dorothy's famous ruby red slippers. Allie, on the other hand, could not be happier that she is now the proud owner of glittering princess shoes laden with precious jewels and a pink satin bow.
When I took Allie to the shoe store in search of dress shoes, it will come as no surprise to you that the shoes pictured above were definitely not what I had in mind. I was actually quite determined to purchase some simple brown dress shoes. Allie actually tried on several pairs to my liking and was agreeable to their purchase before laying eyes upon the shoes of her dreams. As I sat there, staring in utter disbelief as Allie excitedly tried each shoe on and proclaimed them a perfect fit, I had a sort of epiphany.
Although Allie is only four years old, it is quite apparent that she is definitely her own person, complete with likes, dislikes, and opinions all of her very own. And, while I'm certainly not a fan of giving into her every whim (especially when it is blatantly disobedient, hurtful, or unkind), I'm starting to realize that I need to be looking for little ways to affirm her personality and guide her choices (when appropriate) as opposed to always making them for her.
So, in that shoe store while my daughter was beaming with joy as she pranced around the aisles in her about-to-be-new pink glittering dress shoes, I realized that the only reason I didn't want to buy the shoes she chose was because I didn't like them. The shoes Allie picked out weren't any more expensive than the ones I wanted to purchase (in fact, they were cheaper), they weren't inappropriate for her attire (hello...everything Allie wears is, in fact, pink), and she wasn't begging for them, insisting upon purchasing only those shoes, or demanding I do only what she wanted. She simply liked the shoes...and I didn't.
I know some of you are wondering why I'm making such a big deal out of the shoes. And, I know there are those of you that may disagree with my decision to get them for her. But, for me, Allie's new shoes serve as a reminder that my kids aren't always going to agree with me or choose the same things as I choose. True, they are both still very young, and I could have definitely squelched the whole sparkly shoe thing and insisted upon the brown ones and Allie would have complied and probably not thought twice about the incident after we got home, but I just couldn't do it. I just couldn't bring myself to force my opinion upon her when there was nothing wrong with her choice.
So, with the purchase of the pink sparkly shoes, I've resolved to be better about allowing Allie to be Allie. Obviously there are some parameters to this, like for instance we will not be painting her room hot pink or allowing her to never pick up her toys or letting her treat Zach unkindly, but I can be better at giving her appropriate choices and means of expression without imposing my own opinions.
For example, I'm not such a big fan of decorating the headboard of our bed. I like our simple suede headboard with its tufted buttons just the way it is. Allie, on the other hand, is much more satisfied with a headboard that is sufficiently decked out with sparkly beads, pink feather boas, Christmas ribbons, magic wands, and flowers made of k-nex pieces. And, while everything in me is screaming to put all of those beads, boas, and ribbons neatly away, I have resisted the urge because I know that it makes Allie happy and, when it comes down to it, there is nothing wrong with a fancy headboard. Just like there is nothing wrong with a four year old choosing pink glitter shoes.
I realize right now it is easy to come to this conclusion when the item up for disagreement is a pair of shoes. I'm sure as the kids grow, so will the disagreements. I don't necessarily look forward to the day when we argue over dates or curfews or colleges. But, I hope that I enter those times with a similar perspective...praying that God will be constantly working in my heart, directing my words and guidance so that it is rooted in His will for their lives and not merely for what I want or think they should choose.
I have a feeling that all this is easier said than done. Which means I better start praying now for God to be changing my heart...and continue looking for little opportunities He provides each day to put this selflessness into practice so that when those tougher arguments inevitably fall upon us in the future, I can think back to a shoe store and a precious little girl in pink sparkly shoes and how I decided to love her for simply being her, placing my trust in God to change the both of us.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

A Long Week

Getting back into the swing of things after a vacation is always an adjustment. Even though we didn't technically travel anywhere, I'm still counting the week as a vacation...mostly because Ben was home from work, I barely cooked a meal, and we stayed in bed until almost 7:30 every morning.
When Ben woke me up at 5:45 this past Monday morning so that I could get my morning run in and begin the week on our normal schedule, my entire being was screaming at me to stay in bed. I had absolutely NO desire to open my eyes, let alone run 3 miles, only to come upstairs to feed the kids and tackle the out-of-control laundry heap that I put off doing while we were on "vacation."
But, I simply put myself on auto-pilot and somehow made it through the morning, whereupon I must have found some hidden ambition because I thought it a good idea to take both kids to Super Target. However, after somehow managing to lose close to $15 worth of coupons, wiping off Zach's chocolate chip cookie encrusted face with my glove, refusing to purchase an Icee for the kids even though they begged for one through the entire store-insisting that drinking an Icee would in fact warm them up (ummm...I refuse to purchase an icee when the actual temperature outside has not even reached 0 degrees), and practically running Allie over with the cart because I thought she was walking next to me (as opposed to in front of the cart), I determined that beginning a week of normalcy after a vacation should definitely not include a trip to Super Target.
That same evening, after using 8 bath-sized towels to mop up the overflowing toilet that was clogged by Allie's use of an entire mega roll of toilet paper to wipe her poopies (because according to her, the poopies just kept coming and coming and so she just had to keep wiping and wiping) and while Ben stood dumbfounded, armed with a plunger and staring blankly at the soggy mess, the only thing I could think was, "How can this ONLY be Monday?"
But, Monday it was, and Tuesday inevitably came...filled with preschool and ECFE classes. And, sure enough, after a long day of carting the kids around town, explaining why it is necessary to wear mittens when it is below zero outside, reminding both kids to speak kindly and to refrain from using their bodies to harm one another, and clarifying that no matter how many times you choose to disobey or not listen, you will still receive a punishment, I found myself thinking, "Is it really JUST Tuesday?"
Wednesday found us at a friend's house for a morning playdate and today brought a couple inches of snow along with another morning at preschool for Allie. I have resumed cooking dinner each night and am staying enthusiastic about it by trying out some new recipes despite the fact that there is not much enthusiasm from the kids over the appearance of spinach in my newly concocted beef stew or Ben's complete lack of excitement regarding my potato pancakes topped with homemade applesauce.
Although each passing day after a long vacation seems to get better than the one before, I still find myself wishing fervently for Friday's arrival...which is thankfully now only a mere 10 hours away.
So, while I attempt to wait patiently for Friday, let's hope that I can find something better to do than think about how frigid and dreary it is outside and dream of consuming an entire pan of brownies.

Monday, January 4, 2010

A Look Back at 2009

With the advent of a new year, I always find myself contemplating the highlights of the previous year. So, when 2010 made its appearance on my Google calendar, I wasn't too shocked when my mind started drifting toward the beginnings of 2009. I thought it would be fun to read through some of my old blog posts from last January to refresh my memory and other than cringing at the multitude of grammatical errors and often run-on sentences, I had a fun time sorting through my year old accounts.
It was no surprise to me that I spent a majority of several of my January 2009 posts ranting about the sub-zero frigid weather, lamenting over the kids' never-ending fevers, and processing through my need to lose weight with some of my very first Weight Loss Wednesday posts.
What was actually surprising were the pictures from last January. Like, for instance, this one:

I'm not sure what is more shocking: How little Zach was just one year ago or how big I was!

Fast forward one year:

Bigger kids, but definitely a smaller (and much happier and healthier) momma.

It is hard for me to even remember why or how I got to be where I was last January. When I received some test results from my annual OB appointment this past week and there was a handwritten note at the bottom from my doctor exclaiming her pride in me because I am now officially 100 pounds less than when I delivered Zach, my jaw almost dropped to the floor. I guess, at some point, I was so depressed about my weight gain that I just stopped paying attention...because I never EVER realized that I had gotten that big.

Things were so different for me a year ago before I embarked upon this weight loss journey. I thought I was happy and healthy, but in all actuality, I wasn't either. I was trapped, enslaved to my each and every food craving, convinced that a diet would only make me feel more incarcerated.

A year ago I would never have believed that disciplining myself to maintain a healthy lifestyle through a purposeful diet and planned exercise provided the exact opposite of confinement: incredible freedom. Freedom from high blood sugar levels and the fear of impending diabetes, freedom from obesity related heart issues, freedom from fatigue, freedom from food dependencies, freedom from back pain, freedom from joint pain, freedom from low self-esteem, freedom from physical weakness, freedom in clothing shopping....the list could go on and on.

I think I will always remember 2009 as the year I decided to change my life by taking control of my health and weight. Losing close to 65 pounds was no easy task, but it was worth it. And, I'm truly happy with the lifestyle changes I've made during this past year to make it happen.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Holiday Recap

Since our holiday celebrations are sadly coming to an end (Ben's last day at home before returning to work is today), I thought it about time to update the blog.
Although we haven't been necessarily busy over the past week and have somehow miraculously managed to NOT incur any additional illnesses, we've definitely been having way too much fun for me to have any desire to sit behind my brand spankin' new laptop (definitely an awesome Christmas present--thanks honey!) and sort through all the holiday photos in order to provide an adequate recap of our Christmas festivities.
Until now....upon completion of my "To-Do" list for this coming week I realized that I am just not ready for our Christmas break to be over yet...so dwelling on the fun of this past week seems much more appealing to me than actually tackling that overwhelming "To-Do" list (that is overwhelming only because for the past month I have lived my life not thinking remotely past December 25, let alone January 1, 2010).
In addition to having Christmas celebrations with both sides of our family, we also enjoyed our time on Christmas Eve celebrating with just the four of us. With the threat of an impending snowstorm (which actually did provide one of the whitest Christmases I've ever experienced), we had fun at home frosting gingerbread cookies, singing Christmas carols, opening presents (and then subsequently trying to figure out how to free all the toys from their plastic jail cells), playing with all the toys, and watching "White Christmas." Ben even took both kids out earlier in the day to play in the freshly fallen snow.
This past week we enjoyed lots of time together as a family....going to the Mall of America, running lots of errands, watching movies, spending time with Grandma and Grandpa, going out for pizza, taking down all the Christmas decorations, reading books, playing with all the new toys, etc. We've definitely enjoyed not having many plans and have amazingly kept busy despite the frigid cold temperatures (-15 this morning-actual temperature, not windchill-brrrrr!).
We've had lots of dinners and lunches out which has provided a nice break in the kitchen for me. We even survived a meal at Rainforest Cafe where Allie managed to fall out of her chair-landing flat on her back on the floor next to our table-and proceeded to make sure that the entire restaurant and all those inside Mall of America were aware of her predicament. Thankfully we had just put in an order for a Chocolate Volcano and when the waitress brought it to our table less than five minutes after Allie's incident, the splendor of our own personal chocolate brownie mountain filled with caramel and ice cream and topped with a REAL sparkler seemed to provide the instantaneous healing that Allie needed to stay alive.
So, Monday marks the beginning of life-as-normal here in our household and I admit, I'm definitelty bummed. (And, it's not just because I realized today that my dear husband has changed every single nasty poopy diaper for well over a week and with his return to work marks my return to toxic waste duty...ok, so maybe that is a big reason.)
I've enjoyed the time we've spent together laughing and playing and having fun together as a family. So, for now instead of worrying about all my to-do's, I'm going to sort through all those pictures, remembering how much fun we had over this past week and looking forward to many more weeks just like it to come.