Monday, January 31, 2011

And the winner is.....

I think I must've been born with a competitive streak that has only grown stronger now that I'm an adult.  As a kid, unless you're into sports, there really isn't a lot to compete over.  And lets just face it, since avid reading wasn't a school sport, there was no hope for me.  Sure, I had collections of Cabbage Patch dolls, Poochie, and hundreds upon hundreds of stickers, but really, that doesn't get you bragging rights. 

As I grew older, I learned that games like Trivial Pursuit, Monopoly and Scrabble were fun and good competition so you could always count me in for game night.  If there was a poetry contest at school, I was on it quicker than you could sharpen a pencil.  Spirit Day?  You betcha.  I'd be dolled out head to toe in blue and white, glitter, pjs, or whatever the theme was. 

Dare me to do something, probably will.  Tell me I CAN'T do it - I'm gonna prove you wrong.  And it could be something stupid, like wearing a clown nose and ordering drive-thru, to something serious like getting married/having a baby/and graduating college all within a year of each other.

Contests - sign me up!  I love, love, love winning contests.  I mean really, who doesn't like free stuff or recognition?  If there's a contest at work, I'm all over it.  A little friendly competition gets people fired up and excited about whatever it is you're wanting them to achieve.  And if the game is played fair, I'll tip my hat and applaud whoever wins, even if it's not me.  There's a running joke in my office that I have a "china set" collection of awards though.  After a point, there's only so many bowls and paperweights you can have, so to be useful, they suggested I eat cereal out them.

As for everyday contests, I can't say I've ever won anything huge; but heck, anytime you win something free, it's a good day.  My husband is really good at random, pure luck contests, like the free flat screen tv he won at a company party one year.  I prefer the type you actually have to work at though, whether it be an essay, or calling in, or getting the most votes.  It takes effort so the reward is even sweeter if you win.

A few weeks ago, we were bed shopping for Noah and happened upon a local consignment store.  They also sell new furniture and a certain piece caught me eye.  I've been looking forever for a stand for our television but am too cheap to pay the price for what I want.  (It probably has something to do with the fact that I didn't want to spend more on the stand than the tv, especially considering it was free.)  So, we made due with a cheap stand from Freds.  That day, she had just gotten in a heavy oak stand but it was damaged in transit.  The scratch was minor and you really have to be looking for it to see it.  The dent is in the back and would be up against a wall, never seen.  She offered it "scratch and dent" price at about 80% off retail and I quickly said, "Sold!"

After getting home, I went to the store's Facebook page and commented about loving the piece.  It was then I remembered they were running a contest to give away a free secretary.  I've always wanted a roll-top desk, probably the writer in me.  I can just picture myself sitting there, inspired, writing my someday future novel.  I followed the directions, pleaded with my friends, and waited.  Within 24 hours, I noticed I was taking the lead!  And so all weekend I've worked to get votes and keep my lead.  This morning, the store sent a reminder email and I realized my competition was gaining on me.  I'd jump four or five, she'd jump four or five.  Now, there's a little over an hour away until the contest closes and I'm literally on the edge of my seat awaiting the results.  Wish me luck!  .....oh, and get out there and vote me, if there's still time!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Searching for Happiness

Have you ever played the Hokey-Pokey?  You put your right hand in...put your right hand out....and you shake it all about.  Inevitably, whether you were in a good mood or not, acting goofy and clapping with a group will bring a smile to your face.  Even if you went in kicking and screaming, determined not to enjoy it, somehow by the end of the song, you do.

That's kind of how happiness is.  You just have to throw yourself into it, willing to "turn yourself around" in whatever it takes.  Maybe some people are just blessed with a bubbling, positive personality where bluebirds and roses follow them all their days but I think most have to seek out happiness.

I have certainly found this to be true for myself the past couple of years.   When you endure a tragedy, such as losing a child, you're faced with two choices - despair or hope.  Sure some days it is unimaginably hard to choose any hint of happiness, and some days sadness wins, but the key is having more happy days than not.  As difficult as it, you have to choose to see the glass half full.  And, you must seek out every ounce of anything that brings you joy.

There's been extra clouds in my life this week, trying to darken any rays of sunshine that find me.  I've been sick, which makes it extra hard to pull yourself out of bed.  It's been cold and yet another snow has cancelled and rearranged my plans.  And I've watched so many friends proudly post Homecoming photos of their teens at another milestone Austin has missed.  It would've been very easy for me to just sink down into the darkness, to let the gloom and sadness suck me in.  While there has been tears, I've still actively chosen to remain positive, prayerful, and grateful for any joyful moment I could find.

My top three moments of sunshine in this grey and gloomy week....
  1. I don't have the flu.  Although I had a flu shot in October, I would have bet money that I did, based on the way I felt.  All week I've been sluggish, dragging, and ready for bed as soon as night fell.  Mid week I was up all night coughing, had chills, body aches and a low grade fever.  In fact, I had every known symptom of the flu by Friday morning and literally did have to drag myself out of the bed.  Added with the knowledge that I'd been exposed earlier in the week by my nephew, I all but knew the test would come back positive.  But, it did not.  Turns out a sinus infection can have all the same symptoms.  A few heavy doses of antibiotics later, I'm on the mend.
  2. R&R.  Knowing I don't feel well, I've given myself an excuse.  Actually, the doctor gave me one too but being I was nearing the weekend, it didn't really hold much merit.  I just figured if she didn't want me to work but rest, I would, and I wouldn't feel guilty about it.  I would nap if I needed it.  I didn't feel responsible for dinner, or household chores - and I counted my blessings for a husband who helps anyway.  And for the rest of the weekend I'll do what I want to do and not a bit more.  It helps that the weekend is "free" anyway with no activities or schedules to keep.
  3. Actual sunshine!  Today was a sneak peek to spring.  It was beautiful, with temperatures reaching as high as 55 degrees.  Even though I still hurt all over, especially my head, I forced myself outdoors.  With my loving hubby at the wheel we went for a ride, sun roof open to let even more vitamin D into our day.  It was the perfect day for a drive to the middle of nowhere, aka Dairy Freeze, for some comfort food.  And yes, even at a greasy spoon Tim and I were fairly good and continued our HealthQuest!  Once back home I ventured out onto the deck, spent some time with our friendly cat, and even left the door open for a bit to give the house some fresh air.  Even through sniffling and coughing, it was a good day.
And as the week comes to a close, I can't help but look back and be a little satisfied at how I've handled it.  Sometimes the mountain may seem impossible and it would be so easy to just give up and go back.  But I know that past every mountain is a beautiful view, a feeling of accomplishment, lessons learned, and all a part of the journey of life.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

HealthQuest 2011

Leave it to a monetary incentive to get my husband motivated about being healthier!  Tim's a guy's guy...happy with a big ole' plate of country cooking.  He considers macaroni and cheese a vegetable and turns his nose up at most anything green.  Even though he frequently consumes red meat, fried foods and soft drinks, he's never really battled with his weight.  Part of this, I know, is because he rarely sits still.  He's very active at work, and combined with being a volunteer firefighter, lives a fairly active lifestyle. 

The other reason must be that the metabolism fairy paid him an extra visit (and skipped me) at birth.  I've always been a little jealous at how easy it is for him to lose weight, anytime the urge strikes him.  Once, he quit drinking soft drinks for a few weeks and lost 20 pounds.  Two weeks ago his company started an incentive program for weight loss, with the winner receiving the pot at the end, and Tim was all in.  Even with being off work last week and lying around the house, he's down about five pounds.  He seems to have a new burst of energy and I'm proud of him living a little healthier.

One of the parts I enjoy about his "health quest" is that he's more flexible and open to trying new foods.  I'm an adventurous eater and cook and love all types of vegetables.  It's difficult planning a healthy meal though when you have a stubborn meat-and-potatoes man at the table.  Usually I'm stuck with the Green Giant to help me meet my vegetable quota because cooking enough for all of us is often a waste.  That, or I'd have to eat corn and beans every meal!  I'm pretty creative about hiding and sneaking veggies in for him, and for Noah, but lately he's even somewhat enthusiastic about trying new and healthy dishes. 

It's also been helpful that after dinner he isn't raiding the fridge for dessert, all the while downing one or two snack cakes.  (Kind of makes it hard to swallow my skinny cow popsicle watching a sugar smorgasbord in front of me!)  In fact, I've all but removed all unhealthy snacks in the house and replaced them with fruits and low cal treats.  This takes away the temptation for all us and I feel better knowing we are all eating healthier at every point of the day.

We've enjoyed being a little more active together as a family too, during a season when it is so easy to mold yourself into the couch.  The Wii has been dusted off again and we're having fun with Just Dance and Wii Fit.   Tim's discovered a new love for the elliptical machine at the fire department.  And Noah just got an indoor ladderball game for his birthday that we've played every night this week.  While I love snuggling on the couch, getting some activity into our days together as a family has been a fun way to getting healthier.

My biggest hope is that this isn't just a fad or a short-lived season for us.  No matter what stage you are, everyone can use a few more doses of goodness and health into their lives.  By being realistic, not obsessing, and supporting each other, we'll teach Noah health skills that will hopefully stay with him for life.  If we lose a little weight in the process, that's a plus.  And who knows, Tim's wallet may become fatter in the end, about the only time I'd be happy about gaining!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

60 second Joy

I'm reading a book titled "One" which asks the question, how many people does it take to make a difference?  It is filled with many wonderful quotes and exercises.  One of my favorites so far is "We have only this moment, sparkling like a star in our hand, and melting like a snowflake."  The entire book is filled with inspiration for you to make the most of every moment and to use your life to make a difference in the world.

This morning on the radio they asked, "What is the most important 60 seconds of your day?"  And she went on to discuss how we greet our loved ones at the end of the day.  Are the first words out of your mouth, "why are you late?" or "you forgot the milk" or "I've had a horrible day?"  What if we spent that first 60 seconds reconnecting, giving your loved one a true embrace and kiss, and welcoming them home.  How would it change your relationship and you?  I know this is one of my favorite moments of each day, when I know we're all home and safe, when I can wrap my arms around Tim and Noah telling them how much I love them.

Both of these quotes have reminded me to really think about the importance of each day, each moment, every second, and to prayerfully make the most of it.  When I pray each day I ask for guidance so that the day is not about me but Him.  I thank God for yet another sunrise and for time with my family but to use me and this day for Him.  By the end of each day, I'm grateful for every memory but accountable for how I spent all 86,400 seconds.  Most days I fail...but I keep trying and am thankful for the next day's allotment, if he blesses me with it.

On the way home, I heard a promo for a song "This is the stuff"... that drives me crazy. This is the stuff that's getting to me lately. In the middle of my little mess I forget how big I'm blessed.'  I thought it closed my "life lesson" for this week rather well.  It's so easy to let the little things, like long lines, rude people, or minor inconveniences ruin the day.  That stuff can eat away at your seconds and before you know it, your day is gone - wasted on complaining about things you have no control over.

I believe the only way to counter those negatives is with a positive.  You have to change your focus.  When I remember all the moments that so richly blessed me each day, whatever problems there were don't seem so big anymore.  And so I'll end on a positive note, as I recap a few of my day's 60 second JOYs.....
  • Being awoke by my sweet hubby, who knows I don't like alarm clocks so he keeps it on his side and hits the snooze the second it comes on, and our good morning kiss.
  • Cuddling for just a minute under the warmth of flannel sheets.
  • Having two legs and a body that, while it may creak and moan, gets me out of bed on my own.
  • Watching Noah sleep for one sweet minute before I wake him and being amazed every day how much he's changed, just through the night.
  • Seeing Patch's excitement in another day, as he insists through barking to be placed on Noah's bed so he can help in the wake up process.
  • Listening to Noah giggle as Patch licks him in the face and roots all around the covers until he's sure he's awake.
  • Receiving goodbye kisses from Tim and a "Love you, Mom" from Noah as he heads off to school.
.......And today's #1 JOY......hearing the doctor tell Tim, "the results are benign!"

Sunday, January 23, 2011

One Great Party!

How can a bucket of ping pong balls, pantyhose, spaghetti noodles, and ding dongs add up to a good time?  A "Minute to Win It" Birthday party of course!  We're home from Noah's 11th birthday and had such a blast.  I'm plum wore out but I think mostly it's from laughing so hard!  (We should've handed out Depends as party favors!)

Most people there had never seen the game show before; however, I think they'll all be regular viewers now.  The concept is so simple and the majority of the games we played required items you have around the house.  Each contest is one minute long and if the kid completed it successfully, they got to put a ticket in the prize bucket.  After each round a ticket was drawn and the winner got to dig in a prize bucket for a treat.  At the end, all the tickets were placed back in the hat for a grand prize winner.  I think it worked out so that nearly every kid won a prize.

The games are not something you'd ever really do in real life but are so simple you wonder why you haven't.  Our first game was "Junk in the Trunk" because I knew it would get everyone laughing and excited.  A Kleenex box was attached to a belt and filled with 8 ping pong balls.  When the timer started, each kid would have to shake, jiggle, and twist hoping to pop out each ball before the minute was up.  I don't know how we managed to even get photos as everyone was doubled over in laughter.  It's one sure way to get a white boy to dance!

Another game was called "Chocolate Unicorn" and required the kids to stack 7 ding dongs on their forehead within the minute time frame.  This was a difficult one as either we got a dud box or ding dongs are naturally misshapen.  It was fun to watch them attempt it so seriously though.

It was neat that there seemed to be a different "expert" for each game, as nobody was the ultimate player and all kids got their turn of losing and winning a few.

We set the party for two hours, and after twenty minutes into the game, I could tell it should've been longer.  We ended up skipping one of the games just to get through the rest of the party for anyone who had to leave on time.  After the cake and presents, and one of the games we skipped just to have time to open/eat, some of the adults took their try at a few games.  You know we were itching to during the entire party anyway!

Aunt Becky playing "This Blows!"

Wendy shaking it in "Junk"

even I played...and ended up the "elephant march" champ!

It was non-stop, rib splitting, hooting and hollering fun and I think one birthday party this 11 year old will not soon forget  The only problem now is figuring out how to top it next year!

*If you've arrived from paperperfection, welcome.  For templates, supplies or materials, please go back and visit pp's site. For game ideas, visit NBC and search for "MTWI".  This is just an example of what a MTWI party might be like.  Thanks for stopping by....hope you'll stay and visit awhile!

Friday, January 21, 2011

The promise of Spring

I find much beauty and peace in a blanket of white snow.  When the world is frosted in white, I find calm.  One of my former teachers said it best yesterday with, "God can paint a beautiful picture just using one color."  While there are so many magical views snow can create, winter itself can be very gloomy.  The shorter days, increased darkness, and cold temperatures can make it difficult to stay positive.  When not dusted in sugary sprinkles, winter can seem very grey.

This past Monday is said to be to be most depressing time of the year.  It has something to do with the combination of weather, Christmas debt, and failed resolutions and is thus known as "Blue Monday".  The date falls too closely to Noah's birthday for me to stay depressed but I can vividly remember our first winter without Austin and how cold and lonely we felt.  The frigid temperatures invited us all the more to close up and shut down. 

Just about two months after losing him, Kentucky was hit with a historic ice storm.  We were completely frozen in winter blues, being forced inside, huddled around whatever small source of heat we could find.  You were thrown into survival mode, without any preparation.  It was as if someone dropped you off for a camping trip with no supplies or plans.  Days were spent ensuring you had a way to stay warm and fed and nothing else mattered.  All contact with the outside world ceased, as cell phones were undependable and of little use.  It was a stressful situation for any family but added to our already fragile selves, there were days that were completely unbearable.  I was grateful for the dark, just to cry myself to sleep. 

Remembering back to the ice storm, reminds me of dealing with the grief of losing a child.  It is unexpected, unimaginable, and no parent could ever be prepared for such loss.  There are points where you feel you can't go another step and yet somehow you do.  Somewhere inside something takes over and you just survive, you just get through.  It is the coldest, loneliest, most horrible season you will ever experience.  But, hope eventually the first bloom of a spring flower...the first peek of sunshine in a day...the first glimpse of a butterfly, greeting you hello.  As the ice begins to melt and the cold gradually grows warmer, you start to change. 

No matter how dark and lonely it can feel, with God's help, it can and does improve.  The winter of your life will never stay forever, as the season of spring and hope is always near.  I know the promise that comes with spring.

The LORD will guide you continually, giving you water when you are dry and restoring your strength. You will be like a well-watered garden, like an ever-flowing spring.  - Isaiah 58:11

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Noah - my birthday boy

So many of my "joyful posts" concern Noah because in reality, he is one of the biggest sources of joy in my life.  Since today is his birthday, it only seemed fitting to dedicate my post to all things Noah!

Noah's been surprising us since birth, as minutes before he joined this world we thought he'd be a Hannah Grace.  We'd tried for several years to get pregnant and were overjoyed in 1999 when we learned the news.  Since the pregnancy was a healthy one, we only had one ultrasound and although the baby was shy that day for photos, the tech was fairly certain we would have a girl.  A pink room, dozens of frilly dresses, and 9 months later, we were shocked in the delivery room when the doctor yelled, "It's a boy!"

Austin used to pick on him by telling the "story of how he got his name," which isn't true but funny so I'll share.  He told him that when the the doctor said, "it's a boy" that Tim shouted, "No!" and I yelled, "Ahhh!" and so we put it together to spell "NOAH".  In all honesty, we did have Noah Heath as a choice early in our pregnancy....we just never imagined we'd use it!

For whatever reason, this 11th birthday has been hard on me.  His looks are changing so much and he's growing so fast, I know my "baby" is no more.  Last night, I weepily read through his baby book, reliving all those little moments of his first seven years.  I know that Noah has always been quick-witted and has kept us rolling in laughter from the start but I'm glad I actually captured several funny stories in his book.

In one, I was recording his tonsillectomy, which he had when he was six.  I wrote that he'd been telling anyone he saw about the upcoming drama, followed by an "it sucks!"  On the way to the hospital, I noticed him huffing in the backseat and with a pout he said, "I don't know why I have to go to the hospital.  I like my tonsils just the way they are!"

I don't know why I recorded so much concerning doctor visits but at one of his first dentist visits, he asked Noah to open his mouth and he replied, "I will if you give me $3 dollars."  Around 5 or 6, his Aunt Raven got her belly button pierced and he refused to hug her because "I'm afraid I'll catch it!"  And at 7, he asked me, "who said eyelash wishes come true?"  I asked why and he replied, "Cuz, I've had a lot of eyelashes fall and I've been making wishes ALL my life and NONE of them have come true!"

This morning, all these years later, he's still making us laugh.  I turned on the radio while we were getting ready, knowing my mom had called the local radio station to announce his birthday.  Around 7 a.m. they started going through the names and ages when the DJ said, "Noah Blair turns 11 today."  He gasped, mouth wide open, and said, "That's awesome!"  I figured he just enjoyed hearing his name but later he said, "I can't believe they said my name on the radio.  I mean only famous people get their names on the radio.  And some country singer even sang Happy Birthday to us!  I bet I was the only non-famous person they listed.  I'm just a kid from Beaver Dam. How cool!"  I never corrected him, just added that he wasn't just a kid from BD, he was an AWESOME kid and deserved the best birthday ever!

Then, as we were touching up his hair, which has been recently straightened but still needs a swipe with the flat iron now and again.  He loves his hair but isn't a fan of standing still while I clamp a hot piece of metal inches from his ears and face.  Cringing through the process, he sighed in relief upon my last strand.  He then said very dramatically, "I hope my girlfriend knows all that I go through to look good for her!"  It was a good thing we were in the bathroom because I just about peed my pants!

Eleven years ago, when that surprise baby boy was placed in my arms, I fell instantly in love with him.  As he looked up to me with those beautiful ocean eyes, framed in a head full of black hair, never would I imagine the life he's given us.  Each day is a surprise with him, and filled with more joy and laughter than I could ever hope for!  He's such a blessed gift from God and I'm ever-grateful he was sent to us. 

Maybe "eyelash wishes" don't come true but I hope that when he blows his birthday candles out tonight, he gets everything he wishes for...and more!!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

In sickness

I'm sure most couples never give a second thought to each line of their wedding vows.  When you're in the happy moment, caught up in the magic of your wedding day, you only think and dream of all the good parts.....for better...for health.  I know I certainly wouldn't have imagined that within our first fifteen years, we'd experience the highs and lows of every vow.

Our vows were important to us though and we'd even considered writing our own.  Writing vows would've come very easy for me but Tim didn't want to tackle that task and was so nervous that day, he did good just to recite them.  We did have several discussions about our vows and even made a few changes to make them our own.

The vow you don't really think about, especially when you marry young, is "in sickness and in health."  When you're young and healthy, you feel invincible.  You imagine the in sickness part will only come during the silver haired years of your marriage.  For Tim and I, our first lengthy sickness was a major one and came during our motorcycle wreck six years ago.  We surely didn't expect to be helping each other with walkers, wheelchairs and baths at that stage of our relationship.  A lengthy injury like that truly tests your marriage and I'm grateful we came out stronger on the other side.

The past few days have no comparison but I find myself being nurse to Tim.  He had a minor outpatient surgery yesterday; however, going through all that we have we don't underestimate anything.  It surely was the reason for my lack of sleep this weekend and bad dreams, as I worried about him.  My faith and trust in God doesn't change the fact that I selfishly want Tim by my side until we are old with silver hair.

It's hard to find joy in stressful situations, with answers still unknown, but I've reminded myself time and again to be happy and thankful in and for each moment.  His surgery was successful and Tim returned to the room quickly, without any complications.  We laughed in the funny moments as he came out of anesthesia.  I'm grateful for the opportunity the past two days have given us to be together.  I'm glad to take extra care over him, as he's not one to admit when he doesn't feel well, often going to work sick.  I don't enjoy seeing him in pain but I'm happy to be at his side to offer any comfort I can.  And, I'm prayerful that the results will come back to us with good news. 

Regardless of the situations ahead of us, I know we will have and hold, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness or in health, to love and to cherish through yesterdays, to now and forever.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

everything in its place

Can you find joy in cleaning?  While cleaning is a chore that doesn't excite most people, I do enjoy the end result.  And I can say I do actually enjoy the art of organization.  Sometimes its an overwhelming task when you start it but I love stacking, sorting, tossing and clearing out.

Whenever cleaning out a cabinet, I never understand how we accumulate so much "stuff"!  I'm not a hoarder by any stretch of the imagination, and although I could never imagine living like that, I can see how quickly things can add up.  If I didn't purge and clean out the rooms in my house on a regular basis, it could become a mess in a matter of a months.

We live in a society where more is more.  Flashing commercials, ads, junk mail, all with the purpose of selling you something so that you have more.  And really, what is the point?  What if we all just lived with enough instead of extra?  I know one of the goals I have for our family this year is to waste less.  Every two weeks when I go grocery shopping, I cringe as I clean out the fridge and realize how many meals end up in the trash.  Maybe I cook too much but more than anything, we just don't do a great job of eating leftovers.  I'm working on improving both in 2011, as I know there are so many families overseas and in our own backyard that would give anything for just what we discard.

I was watching an organization-themed show (probably why I got the bug to clean my closets) and something the host said really stuck with me.  He talked about how many years he's been helping families clean their homes and that every single time a room is cleared, the child's reaction is the same.  They dance in the space.  They are joyful in the simplicity of less.

So, as I completely gutted my closet yesterday, tossed out clothes we never wear, and organized everything in new baskets, cubbies and other boxes, I rejoiced too.  My body was sore but i was thankful for the ability to clean and for a hard day's work.  I was grateful for the clothes that most days I complain about "having nothing to wear" and was reminded of how many people out there truly have only the shirt on their back.  I humbly donated the bags of surplus we no longer wanted or needed.  And, this morning I danced in my space.  I was able to quickly and easily find what I wanted to wear and even rediscovered clothes that were hiding among the cramped hangers.  I counted my blessings and was thankful for less.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Letting Go

When's the last time you had a pillow fight?  Doesn't the thought of it just take you back to your childhood?  To a slumber party with friends?  To attacking and torturing your little sister?  There's just something freeing about a pillow fight and how it both excites and relaxes you at the same time.

Last night, Noah tossed a couch pillow at me in response to me picking on him.  I tossed it back.  He grinned and flew it back to me.  I returned it with a flick of my wrist, lopping him on the head.  His grin grew bigger and a light bulb went off above his head.  He flailed it across the living room back at me.  The fight was on.  I returned it faster and harder than before.  He attacked me back with a rapid action reload, as he grabbed every throw pillow in the surrounding area.  Having a couch full of ammo, I fought back and we continued this this for several minutes, until we were both out of breath and full of laughter.

It was great fun for him, as he didn't expect his mom to get into a full on pillow fight.  For me, it was an exciting way to let go, release the stresses of the work week, and wind down for a weekend with family.  And it was certainly the most fun I've had at a mini workout in a long time! 

Friday, January 14, 2011

Game Time

Last night's first game of the year was bound to be interesting.  It was a make-up game from last Friday, which was cancelled because of the snow.  In fact, it seems like they've had more cancelled games than actual play time so far this season.  This game was almost their first in a month between weather and Christmas break.  Even though they've had a few practices, you never know how the game will go when the boys are so stale.

After being cooped for the past several days because of the snowy roads, I was more than ready for some basketball action!  I'm really not a fan of basketball unless my favorite player is on the floor.  Sure, I'll take in a UK game every now and then but I'm just as ok if I miss it.  There's just no comparison to seeing a game live - and the excitement of watching your child play.

The smell of popcorn....the thud, thud, thud as the ball is bounced, waiting for just the right moment...the swish of a perfect basket...the roar of a crowd...the sharp contrast in facial expressions with every shot - one of excitement, another of disappointment.  And my favorite moments...when a kid makes the perfect block or an amazing shot and you see and feel everything from the look on their face.

For nearly the first quarter of the game, there were no points on the scoreboard.  Between missed shots and good defense on both sides, it seemed it might be a slow game.  Then it was as if both sides yawned, stretched and bounced out of bed - and the game was on.  It was one of those games where you felt like you were shaking your head no all night, from moving your eyes on one end of the court to other.  By the second half my knees were feeling it, as we'd inch the edge of our seats, jump up in excitement, or push back in defeat.  I joked that the crowd must look like a field of prairie dogs, popping up and down in the bleachers all night.

Noah made some great blocks but didn't get much basket action, as the opposing team was all over him defensively.  Smart on their part, though momma bear was frustrated!  Actually I could sense the tension between the teams, as they both wanted the win.  There were several "ball fights" that even made it all the way to the floor.  It was a close game all the way to the end.  I felt for the child who had the chance to tie the game with his foul shots at 1:00 second on the clock.  Can you imagine that pressure?  It swirled the rim as we all took a collective breath - and missed.  But it was still one amazing game!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Party Planning

I should've grown up to be a party planner, or a travel agent (another post, another day).  While I don't love cleaning before or after hosting a party, I love the planning stage!  My favorite to plan are kid's birthday parties and since Noah's is just around the corner I've been working away.

He's had many different parties through the years, some at home, some elsewhere, but all involve some type of theme and yummy food.  One year, he had a sundae party, with a huge topping bar for the kids to dig into.  Last year he had a "Soup-er" party with a buffet of all our favorite soups and we repeated a favorite theme of "Game Day" from a couple years prior.  For the Game Day party, each table held a different board game, video games were set up in the back, and yard games in another room.  It was game day central and it was so much fun, it sparked our annual family game day we try to do at least once a year now.

This year, the theme will be "Minute 2 Win It" from the popular game show.  If you've never seen it, the basic idea is to complete a series of contests in one minute or less, each getting harder than the last.  The neat thing is that every task can be recreated at home with every day items like wrapping paper tubes, ping pong balls or a deck of cards.  I've been downloading some of the best (and funniest) contests and will display them on the wall with a projector at the party.  When a kid completes the challenge successfully, their name will go in the hat and we'll draw for prizes.

I'm so excited that I find myself counting down the days until his party.  The hard part I'm having is figuring how I'll play game show host, IT tech lady, and juggle taking photos but I guess that's what my family is for!  Whatever hat I end up wearing that day, I know I'll wear a smile upon my face because Noah gets to have a special day - and I hope enjoying every "minute" of it!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Snow Day!

I think I must be in the minority here, noticing so many friend's Facebook posts today, but I love snow days!  Sure it's cold outside but there is such beauty in winter, if you open yourself up to it.  There's a peace and a calm to a field of freshly fallen snow.  I imagine that on a snowy day, Mother Nature gets to nap, as even Earth needs to rest now and then.  A blanket of snow seems to call for slowing down, relaxing, taking a deep breath and just being still in the moment.

Living nearly an hour away from the office, I'm blessed to be able to work from home when the roads are snowy.  Today though the office actually closed, due to the road conditions, so I didn't even have to feel guilty for my city living co-workers.

Although I still had work that needed to be accomplished today, it was nice to do it at home with my sweet little guy by my side.  He crawled into bed with me this morning, after Tim left for work, who sadly never gets a snow day with his job.  I enjoyed my coffee snuggled next to Noah, who snoozed while I caught up on email.

When we were good and ready we retreated from the warmth of the flannel sheets and transferred our pj bodies to blankets by the fire for breakfast.  The rest of our day has been filled with simple, fun, family moments.  Noah  caught up on Doogie Howser reruns, while I cancelled appointments.  We shared a quick lunch at the table with Tim and snuck in a board game.  And I spent a glorious hour or more coloring on the couch while Noah finished his homework assignment. 

I forgot how peaceful it is to color, a past time I've enjoyed since I was a child.  We try to take time to color together a few times every winter.  It's a fond childhood memory I have with my mom and one I'm glad to pass along to Noah.  So, unlike the many complaints I've heard and read today about the snow and all the wishes for winter weather to be over, I'm thankful for it.  Snow days are a gift and I'm going to soak up every flake!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Love Notes

For as long as I can remember, I've hidden notes for my family to find.  Sometimes it is a "You're terrific" or "good luck" note in a lunch box.  Sometimes an "I love you" in their coat pocket.  Maybe it was at a time I knew they needed an extra boost...a little love in their day.  Those notes were out of the blue, unexpected, and anytime I sneak one in, I hoped it brought a smile to their face and a hug to their heart. 

Always expected are hidden notes whenever I travel.  Initially, I hid them hoping that they'd come across notes throughout the time I'd be gone.  I wanted them to be mini surprises to last while I was away.  Noah never could wait though.  He'd go on an "Easter egg" hunt as soon as he arrived home, making it his mission to find every single one.  When I'd call him the first evening, he'd proudly report on his discoveries.

My last trip was unexpected and I found myself packing at the last moment.  I also had to leave out early morning, as I dropped Noah off for school, so I didn't have time to do as much as normal.  Instead, I just made a banner and taped it across his bed, knowing he'd see it when he arrived home that afternoon.  I did have to warn him not to tear the house apart looking for other notes, expecting he'd already searched some of the normal hiding spots.  He was still tickled with the banner and thanked me for it.  I thought nothing more about the notes.

When I finally made it home Friday night, it was too late to return the rental.  I figured he'd be excited to see it so I called him upon pulling into the driveway.  (I also hoped he'd help me carry everything in!)  Instead, he never came out and being that it was spitting snow and freezing, I came on in.  As I lugged the suitcase up the steps and entered the dining room, I turned to see a bright orange note.

It said:  "I am glad you are home! I Love You, Noah"  Go ------>
Moving into the kitchen: "I missed you, I love you!"  Go ------>
In the living room:  "Dad missed you too, I love you, Noah"  Go ------>
The hall: "Patch missed you too.  I love you, Noah"  Go -------->
Noah's bedroom:  "I Love You!"
Closet door:  "turn around"
And there was my sweet little man, arms open, and ready to squeeze the breath out of me.

In all my years of leaving notes for them, this was the first scavenger note hunt I can ever remember being left for me.  It was a complete surprise and brought me so much joy.  In fact, I've left the notes up, as I see them in my typical path of walking through the house and they bring a smile to my face each and every time.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Birthday Bliss

Today was a jam-packed, busy, family & fun-filled birthday! We had no plans when we left the house this morning but we didn't make it home until well into the evening.  I love days like that...filled with one spontaneous moment after the next.  They guys let me take the driver's seat, adding in suggestions through the day.

Tim woke me up this morning singing "Happy Birthday" and surprised me by singing every line.  We enjoyed coffee by the fire and the views of the freshly fallen snow.  Thankfully the snow we received was just a pretty frosting so the roads were clear for us to get out.  We headed out early, needing to get the rental car back.  Noah was sad to see the new ride go back, saying "I'll miss you ole' buddy" as we locked it for the last time. 

I was treated to a yummy lunch at Red Lobster.  While the food was wonderful, my favorite part was watching Noah enjoy his meal.  He must be going through a growth spurt, as he's a bit of a bottomless pit these days.  I didn't think there was any way he could finish his plate but he sucked down every last crab leg and then some!  They tried several times to have the staff sing to me but I kept feeding them excuses and distractions by the time the check arrived.

The rest of the day was filled with randomness with the only constant being lots of laughter.  We shopped...we bowled....we jammed to some radio tunes....until eventually making it home where we'll enjoy some turtle pie and a movie by the fire.  Throughout the day I received dozens of calls, messages and well wishes, and my one yearly real card in the mail from my sweet Aunt Cheryl, who never forgets.  The sweetest wish though came from my lil niece and nephew, who are 2 and 3, and sang me the birthday song as only those angel babies could do.  And the cherry on top was a side-splitting e-card that my mom sent complete with my dancing bobble-head hubby doing a birthday jig.

It was a wonderfully, amazing, ordinary, every day, blessed birthday.  Yet, as much as I've enjoyed every moment, my soul can't help but pause and ache, wishing I could be with Austin on this special day.  Today was always his Happy 1/2 birthday, as he celebrated exactly six months after mine.  I've certainly felt him today....from the bright green shirt Noah chose to wear, to being by Austin's jersey number at the bowling lane, and other special whispers in the day.  I've opened each gift as they came and tucked them away to store in my heart.  Those memories will be what I treasure and hold onto until I see him again.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Country mouse visits the Big city

I have traveled quite a bit in my job but to say I'm "well-traveled" is a stretch.  I've never been anywhere that's required a passport, as luckily our trips to the Bahamas & Jamaica happened pre-passport law.  I've been as far as Washington state, traveled through the California wine country, seen the Grand Canyons, and have visited all the southern-most states.  The majority of my traveling consists of the local area though. 

At some point in my career, I've managed just about every county in Western Kentucky.  So, if you want to know a good eating place, or the little known spots in any county in the surrounding area, you can count on me.  The main "big cities" my job requires me to visit are Louisville, Lexington, Nashville and Birmingham.  I usualy enjoy visiting those places but after five minutes of sitting still in traffic I remember why I don't live there.  I'm a country dirt road girl and would much rather drive in my friendly little town where people wave with all five fingers!

This week's trip was a visit to Lexington.  You know you're getting closer when the fields become fenced and the barns are nicer than my house.  It is a beautiful town and I enjoy driving through it as far as window-gazing goes.  I wonder if there are frequent wrecks on the stretch with the "Castle" because even as many times as I've seen it, I still rubberneck.  What I'm not a fan of, as I've stated already, is the traffic.  As I merged onto New Circle Road last night, I saw miles and miles of headlights facing me due to the opposite lane being bogged with rows of vehicles.  I sighed a little prayer of relief that I was on the faster side and wouldn't have to sit through that to get to my hotel.

The hotel was in great location, nestled between two malls, but night had already fallen and my recovery from strep informed me I should turn in early.  It was also spitting snow and unsure of the forecast I opted for pjs and pizza delivery.  Sidebar - I'd never stayed at a Homewoods Suite hotel but it was very nice.  I enjoyed the homey feel of the place, as the room included a small living room and kitchen area.  They even serve a "welcome home" meal on weeknights and have complementary popcorn in the room.

One of the sweetest moments last night was shortly after I checked in.  Because I used my phone as a GPS, my battery was shot and I knew Tim & Noah would be worried if I didn't call.  I e-texted my mom and gave her the hotel room number to pass along to them when she had the great idea for us to Facebook chat.  Tim had never done it - or even heard of it - but she directed him through it and within moments we were chatting.  It was a bit of a paused conversation, as I had to wait several minutes for Mr. Hunt & Peck to reply back.  A few sentences in I noticed the speed improved, as Noah took the driver's seat.  Our conversation was so cute and I was laughing aloud in my room by the end of it.

Me:  How was your day?  :)  (only the chat program inserted a real smiley)
Noah:  ok, how did you do that?
Me:  You type : plus ) together
Noah: (smiley)

We continued this for every chat symbol I knew how to do and he loved it.  I thought it was cool that the mom was teaching the kiddo technology for once!

As much as I missed my family, it was nice last night to just relax and have some me time.  I got to order a pizza just the way I wanted....with spinach and tomatoes, watch whatever I wanted, and read as long as I wanted.  The big plus was that, having no responsibilities or obligations, I could go to bed whenever I wanted  - and I did.  Around 9 p.m., which on our time is only 8.  I haven't seen a 8:00 bedtime in forever!  It was heavenly to have more than a full night's sleep and to leisurely get ready for work this morning.  I had breakfast at my tiny kitchen table watching GMA and taking as long as I needed to get dressed and out the door.

It was the calmest, most relaxed morning I can remember since being mom; however, I'll take chaos any day!  For, nothing beats coming home to a big bear hug from Noah, yips and jumps from Patch, and a sweet kiss from my hubby, who seconds later says...."what's for dinner?"

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Surprise Getaway

I've had to remind myself several times today of the power of positive thinking.  With upcoming travel for work, and the forecast of snow, it doesn't make for a happy me.  But by this afternoon, I decided it was time to put my big girl panties on and chant, "I know I can, I know I can" since there really wasn't any other option.

Somehow it nearly always snows on and around my birthday.  As a child, this meant I rarely ever had anyone outside of family over for my birthday.  Sure, it also meant the possibility of the day off from school, but in reality school is kind of fun on your special day.  As an adult, I've been cursed with having to travel nearly every year around that time.

Last year, I was scheduled to go on an awards trip and the snow really dampened my plans, forcing a cancellation.  This year, I'll be traveling to Lexington for a work meeting.  Since I really don't like being away from home overnight or sleeping in a hotel, I had planned on leaving the house very early on Friday morning.  (With the hospital meetings I attend, this was nothing unusual for me.)  However, once I learned that a chance of snow would be hitting the night before, I had to rethink my plans.

Going up early would mean a trip I hadn't planned on or was prepared for.  I would have to shuffle and juggle, but what mom doesn't know how to do that?  In the end, I've decided it's best to go up tomorrow afternoon and be in the hotel before the snow hits.  Hopefully, the roads will be cleared before the four hour trip home.  Yes, there's extra time calculated in for the potential of bad roads but mostly it's because I'll have to pass up my exit for home to return the rented car.  (another gripe for another day but the OC really needs an Enterprise!)  It'll make for a longer trip and I'll probably miss the tip-off to Noah's game that night.

All of this adds up to quite a few lemons that has made it hard for me to squeeze into lemonade today.  As I was grumbling to myself and pulling out the suitcase, I stopped.  Seriously?  I was letting this little trip ruin my day...steal my joy?  And so I stopped.  I breathed in and started over. 

I began packing with a purposeful skip in my step and searched for the happiness in the trip.  Yes, it was a night away from home, which I really don't prefer, but I could look at it as quality me time instead.  I packed in a few books that I still haven't found the time to finish, comfy pjs and fuzzy socks, and began to look forward to it a bit more. 

Going up the night before would allow me to be safer, big plus.  I'd be snugly tucked into my room well before the snow came and I wouldn't have to wake up at the crack of dawn.  I also wouldn't have buns of steel from clinching them together for 3 hours of driving on a snowy road.  Well, maybe the outcome wouldn't be so bad, but seriously, I don't like driving in bad weather.  ...I'll just have to keep those positive vibes going that the ride home will be smooth as well.

Tomorrow night will be a freebie, an unexpected surprise getaway.  On the long drive over, I'll have plenty of time to listen to all the new music we received for Christmas.  I'll pretend I'm being whisked away on some luxury vacation as I check into my budget hotel.  And I'll get to read, uninterrupted, for as long as my heart desires.  Oh, and don't forget room service!  Sure, it might be from the cheap Chinese restaurant down the street but I can pretend it's gourmet cuisine being delivered to my private suite.

The trip is necessary and something I have to do, because I am pretty fond of electricity and food at the house.  I could grumble and complain the whole way, making for a crabby me on the eve on my birthday weekend.  But, instead I'll choose to make the most of it...all while sipping my sweet lemonade!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Medicine Man

When Noah came home from practice last night, I could tell he was more than the average tired.  Normally, he'd be starving and more than eager to eat dinner, but instead he opted for the couch.  I figured it was just the first practice of the year, post holiday indulgences, and it was more than his body was ready for.

He can be a bit of a "man" when he's not feeling well, adding a little drama and exaggeration to his descriptions sometimes.  However, after a scan of his forehead registered a low fever and the sounds and sniffles I could hear from the bathroom, I decided medicine was needed.  We opted for an early bedtime, hoping for a quick recovery.  Around midnight, mr. virus came knocking on my door and I knew Noah wasn't exaggerating.  I made Tim go check on him while I stocked up on a dose of medicine myself.  By morning, it didn't take much decision to know that we would be taking our virus for a doctor's visit.

One of the things I love about Noah though is that even when he doesn't feel well, he's still funny.  I think he added to his stand up routine today knowing I didn't fell well either.  He's a momma's boy and doesn't like to see me sick.  We shared an exam room and he had me laughing so much, I was afraid the staff would think we were faking.  As I stepped out for some paperwork, I could overhear Noah continuing his show with the doctor.  He notified her he wasn't here for shots, would prefer a pill over liquid if she could make that work, and that we're a sharing family, since we frequently manage to get sick at the same time.

Afterwards, we went for a covert shopping trip for the needed Sprite and chicken soup that strep requires.  (I really don't like spreading viruses and was very cautious not to touch anything we didn't buy or stay longer than needed.)  He was cute though, pulling on his hoody, as if that could somehow protect the innocent checker from our germs.  I tried talking to him in pig latin when we said the rep-stay word but it only made him talk louder, which added to our giggles.

 While at the store, he convinced me to buy him clementines.  He was so passionate about how he'd tried them from a friend and how great they were, I couldn't resist, especially with the added benefit of vitamin C.  If I'd ever tried them, I don't remember but they really were quite a cute and tasty little fruit.  As usual, he's teaching me something.  Once back in the safety of our house, he continued to make what is not a fun virus nearly enJOYable, if that's possible.

I know he did much more but the combination of fatigue and medicine don't make for great writing so I'll wrap it up here.  All I know, is that aside from the needed antibiotic, I could've saved the $100 bucks and just visited with Dr. Noah.  He's certainly given me more than my daily dose of laughter today!

Monday, January 3, 2011

New 'Do, New Attitude!

Noah had a lot more excitement than I did this morning.  6 am was a hard reality to face, especially after being spoiled from a lazy two weeks off.  I couldn't pull myself out of the warm flannel sheets until about 6:20.  On my way to wake up Noah I was startled to find his light already on.

When I walked into his room, I found him not only up but fully dressed.  He said, "Good morning, Mom.  I'm all ready except my teeth and hair."  I rubbed my eyes thinking I must be dreaming.  Last night was restless, as I tossed and turned not yet ready to face the first workday of the year.  But no, it was really him and he was really awake.  Before me.  And ready.

Now, I must lay a little ground work here about how much Noah likes to sleep for you to understand why I'd be startled.  When I say I was "lazy" on Christmas break it was because I stayed in my PJ's all day.  Most days I was up well before 8 am though and only took the occasional nap.  Noah on the other hand, stayed up past midnight and would sleep past noon, or however late I allowed.  He didn't get up until I woke him up.  He's always been a sleeper and most mornings it is usually a struggle to get him up, dressed, and out of the house for school.

Today, he was nearly bouncing off the walls.  And to top it off, he was excited about fixing his hair.  In the past, this was one of our biggest challenges.  He was blessed with a headfull of curls and cursed with a little OCD.  To get his hair to lay just the way he wanted was nearly impossible.  Over the break, I treated him to an early Christmas present and let him get it chemically straightened.  (My present has come back to me tenfold in how easy it is to fix his hair now!)


He has enjoyed shocking and surprising family and friends over the break with how much the hair makeover has changed his looks.  People have walked past him in the stores, not recognizing him.  He was most excited though about showing off his new look at school.  When he called me on the way home to give his daily update, I didn't even have time to ask.  He chuckled as he retold how one teacher didn't know who he was, another thought he was a new student, and all the comments he received.

It's been a  little tough taking in his new appearance because just by straightening his hair, he aged three or four years.  My baby with the cute curls has disappeared and in his place, a pre-teen growing by the minute.  I'm still not sure I am ready to give in to the fact that he's not my little boy anymore but it has made it somewhat easier seeing his happiness.  Who knew a hairdo could bring such joy to a ten-going on 11-looking like he's 13-year old boy?!

Saturday, January 1, 2011


A new year.  New chances.  Opportunity.  Hope.  Promise.  A clean slate.  The beginning.  Page one. 
I wonder how many dreams and wishes are made on this first day of the year.  So many of us resolve to make things lose weight, strengthen relationships, better our career.  When I did a search for the top New Year's Resolutions, I noticed that the top and majority were "me" centered.  I wonder though what changes could take place in this world if we moved those choices to be God centered?
I'm all about self improvement, but through many failed resolutions in my past, I know that the only true way I can be better is when I let God have control.  One of my favorite lines in the latest Narnia movie was, "No matter how hard I tried I couldn't do it by myself."  And isn't that true?  Strong as we think we are, and stubborn as I know I am, we are nothing without Him.

Last year, my hope for 2010 was to bring more joy and happiness into our lives.  I sought it out and joy found us time and again.  But being at the place to open myself up to that, at the painful point we were, was only achieved through prayer.  In the times I felt my weakest, I realize looking back, was among my strongest only because I was on my knees.  I couldn't heal our family.  I couldn't overcome the grief.  But God could.  He pulled us through.  And I realized that losing Austin is something we'll never "get over" but instead we go through each day just getting through it.  We reach each tomorrow because He is holding our hand every step of the way.

And so for any resolutions I prayerfully choose this year, my hope is that God is the center of them.  The "me" I want to improve is no longer based on the physical but instead on the spiritual.  For at the end of my life here, it really won't matter what size jeans I wore, how nice my house looked, or if my closets stayed organized.  The only resolution I really need to make at all is to pray more and to give up all control, with a trust that He will guide me where he wants me to be.
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