Thursday, December 30, 2010

Ten Favorite Things from 2010

Inspired by Stephanie over at The Creative Mama, I'm going to attempt to narrow down all the awesomeness of 2010 (a little sarcasm there, yes) into my top 10 favorite things. Not including my wonderful husband and adorable child, of course ;-)

[I'm actually sitting here stressing out about how to order these things, because I don't want you to think that number one is somehow much more amazing than number ten. Sigh. Let's just agree that these are in no particular order, okay???]

1) Dancer Kilts, the web site I researched and designed this year, which categorizes various Highland Dance outfits by color and tartan. Yes, it is a very particular niche of interest. Yes, I spent hours researching it and putting the site together. Yes, I predict I will continue to spend hours on it for years to come. And it feels goooood!

2) The unexpected road trip my husband and I took from Texas to Oregon and back again, in barely more than a week, this summer. I had a job interview, my flight was canceled, and the rest is history. Out of an eight day trip, we spent five in the car driving like our hair was on fire. Well, so to speak - husband doesn't have any hair ;-) You get the picture, though.

This was my view for most of the trip. When I wasn't driving, that is!

3) BurdaStyle, one of my favorite new web sites to turn to for sewing inspiration, project galleries, and free patterns. I even entered a sewing contest there this year! Nope, didn't win, but did make someone very happy with the finished product and enjoyed every minute of it.

4) Our new-ish toothbrush holder from The Container Store, the Grassy Toothbrush Organizer by Umbra. I think it's extravagant to spend $10 on a toothbrush holder, and I spent about six months debating the merits of this item before deciding to purchase it. Now I smile every time I walk into our bathroom. Totally worth it :-)

5) Facebook is not, obviously, a new phenomenon (although I'm old enough to remember when you had to have a university e-mail address to join!), but I appreciate how it lets me keep in touch with all of my friends easily. From Hawaii to Switzerland and all points in between, time zones, work schedules, and long distance bills are no match for the festive, picture-filled goodness that is my Facebook network. Our parents really appreciate that they can log on and view innumerable photos and videos of Monkey Boy, as well.

6) Speaking of Monkey Boy, have I mentioned how **ECSTATIC*** I am t
hat he took up Highland Dancing in 2010?!?! He has already done about a dozen shows and competed in three competitions and, I have to say, he is better at 5 1/2 with one year of dancing than I was after two or three years (I started at age 8). I love dancing myself, I love teaching dance and all of our students, but there is something really special about your child falling in love with something that you have spent most of your life adoring. Sigh of happiness...

Monkey warming up, pre-show, age 5 1/2

Me chugging some soda & burping, post-competition, age 8

7) I'm an Organizing Junkie, a great place to start if you're trying to organize your house, your family, your life. Laura is totally a friend in my head, as Wendy Williams would say. This web site encouraged us to start meal planning in 2010 and continually gives me inspiration to declutter, organize, and containerize our home. I also received Laura's new book for Christmas and am enjoying reading it slowly, savoring each tip and the gorgeous pictures!

8) (The Customer is) Not Always Right: Funny & Stupid Customer Quotes. This web site makes me miss working retail during grad school. It's just funny. It is. Sometimes you need something to laugh at that has nothing to do with your life, and this is where I go for that. Make sure to visit the restroom before you read it, and maybe save it for when your spouse isn't home, because otherwise he will get concerned (or irritated) when you periodically bust out laughing for what seems like no apparent reason.

9) My calendar and my planner. I literally could not function without them. My calendar for the past three years has been Sandra Boynton's Mom's Calendar. It's cute, it's funny, it's functional. It makes me happy and keeps us organized, and I can tell at a glance that I've remembered to pay the bills that month (ooh, speaking of - I know what I'm doing this afternoon!). My planner goes everywhere with me. I have been using the same one (with yearly refills) for eight years now and I will never give it up for a PDA. I'm just old school like that. I like my schedule safely in my hands, bound in leather and written in pencil so that everything can be rescheduled, if necessary. The pages outline each hour of each day of the week, perfect for keeping track of my clients, errands, appointments, activities, etc. Quo Vadis calls it the Academic Minister. I call it genius.

10) I know I have waxed poetic about Freecycle in the past, but it really can be part of a lifestyle change when you commit to keeping things out of the dump. Driving past the dump (or "Mt. Lewisville", as it is affectionately referred to by locals) each Sunday on the way to and from church reminds me of how many still-serviceable things are thrown away each day. Freecycle encourages each of us to go a step beyond the possible monetary value of items and focus on what's really important - lessening our environmental footprint so as to preserve the beauty of the Earth for our children. And yes, I was raised in Oregon!

So there you have it, ten of my favorite things from 2010. Make sure to visit The Creative Mama to read Stephanie's list and the lists linked up by other bloggers. And, if I don't make it back here tomorrow, enjoy a safe and festive New Year's Eve! See you in 2011!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Big Boy Kilt Time!

This has been an exciting week of firsts for Monkey Boy. Yesterday, December 28, was one of his grandma's birthday. Monkey chose to celebrate by losing his first tooth (at 5 1/2!!!) and his package from "Santa" (aka grandpa and grandma) arrived, containing the new-to-him kilt, which also happens to be his first "big boy" (i.e. full dancer's) kilt. I would be a little overwhelmed by the gravity of these events, but now he is dancing around the living room in his underpants with his Pillow Pet Bee, so all seems to be as usual on the homefront after all!

Here's what we're looking at, mouth-wise:

It's not a super-impressive hole, since the adult tooth has been pushing up under/behind it for about three weeks now, but Monkey seems to be enjoying it.

Now, for the kilt comparisons. First, the kilt that I made for Monkey almost exactly a year ago:

Already getting a little short in this picture, which was taken a few months ago. Beginner dancers mostly wear white socks (because matching kilt hose are expensive), but boys have the option of wearing plain hose "toning to kilt", while girls can only wear white. Of course, Monkey wanted red hose, but we were having a devil of a time finding them in his size! Shortly after this picture was taken, though, we finally found red socks, so he began wearing those with the kilt:

Now, thanks to "Santa", Monkey has a brand new kilt and matching hose to wear in 2011! The best part is that it has lots of room for growth and a second pair of longer hose to trade out for when he sprouts up again. Hooray! I haven't yet hemmed it, so please excuse the extra length in this photo:

Bit of a difference, no?

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Pillow Pet Palooza!

Have I mentioned lately that Monkey Boy is a 5-year-old child of somewhat unusual tastes? We celebrated Christmas with church last night, and this morning with a modest amount of presents under the tree and hidden around the house (Daddy created a Santa scavenger hunt - Monkey loved reading and solving the clues!). The top two presents he received? The Big Top Cupcake Silicone Bakeware and the Buzzy Bumble Bee Pillow Pet. The grin in the picture with the bakeware is ginormous - apparently he has inherited the culinary genes from both sides of the family (my father and my brother-in-law are both chefs by profession). We've been hearing about the Pillow Pets for weeks and kept telling him, "You don't need one of those!" so it was definitely a huge surprise. Other highlights included books and board games - What's Gnu, Chutes & Ladders, Operation, Candyland and Chess. Monkey is very into board games right now, and we'd much rather have them in the house than video games. It makes me laugh that both of the big presents were "As seen on TV!!!" Aah, commercialism...

I am so happy that we seem to have achieved some kind of balance with commercialism and religious celebration this year. I know it will get harder as Monkey gets older, but right now my son is sitting in the living room with his Pillow Pet, happily playing with the marble chute he received and asking when Daddy's homemade Christmas dinner will be ready. Merry Christmas to you and yours. I hope you are spending this holy day with loved ones and have seen the love of Christ reflected in the eyes of an innocent child.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. ~John 1:5

Friday, December 24, 2010

Let's Start With This...

I stayed up way too late last night sewing. I had the bright idea to make dresses for two of my nieces (I LOVE sewing little girl clothes!) and, while ruffles are absolutely adorable on, they can take some time to create. So at 1:00 am I gave up the fight for the night and headed to bed. Sometime around 8:00 am I rolled out of bed to use the bathroom, planning on immediately returning to bed. When I walked back into the bedroom, I found found Monkey Boy sitting on my side of the bed, bouncing impatiently as he waited for me. "Mommy!" he shared in a loud, urgent stage whisper, "It's Christmas Eve DAY!"

So apparently I'm up this morning. The husband, rolled up in his blanket, seemed oblivious to this episode, and is snoring soundly. Oh well, at least I can continue work on the ruffles :-)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

12 Hours of Togetherness

I have to start by saying, as I just sat down to write this, Monkey Boy approached me with something small and brown in his hand. "This is for you, Mommy!" he told me excitedly. It took me a few seconds to realize it was a piece of slightly melted chocolate. Part of his daily chocolate from the Advent calendar, which he'd just offered me unprompted. Aaaaw...yes, this is definitely one of those moments to remember :-)

Yesterday was one of those days that could have ended up very enjoyable or incredibly irritating. I had everything scheduled back-to-back: First, pop in play at our local Pump it Up with one of Monkey's friends from school; Second, Monkey accompanying me to a church in a neighboring city, where I am working at a holiday camp for kids with disabilities this week (or, as my husband enjoys saying, "therapizing"); Third, on to another neighboring city (I use this term loosely, as DFW is a BIG metroplex - this one is about 45 miles from home) where I had a dance practice for a special choreography some of the advanced dancers are doing at Burns' Night in January. Start time? We left the house at 10:00 am. End time? We returned home at 10:00 pm. Yes, that is 12 straight hours of togetherness, excluding only one 2 minute potty break by myself (the other 4 potty breaks were joint ventures).

Pump it up was a blast, of course. I mean, who wouldn't love a giant room full of inflatables? The hard part is letting the little people jump and staying off the fixtures yourself! Monkey and his friend played nicely, his mum and I had a nice little chat (she's British, so I feel wrong calling her a mom), and both boys got a lot of energy out - perfect! After saying goodbye, we hopped in the car and headed out to camp, Monkey happily eating string cheese, applesauce and carrot sticks in the backseat as I drove.

Camp went very well, which is always nice. I had five 30-minute sessions with groups of 8 to 11 campers in each, and the majority were having great days and made awesome behavioral choices during group. Monkey was a big help, helping me pass out instruments, assisting campers who had trouble grasping things, singing along. One thing I really like about working in special ed is the opportunities when I can bring my son to work with me and let him interact with my friends (as he calls them). While Monkey has a hearing impairment, most of the kids I
work with have much more severe disabilities and it is a great learning experience for him to play with my friends. Each time I bring him to work, I give him the little reminder beforehand: "Remember, mommy's friends are special in different ways that you and me. Some of them talk differently, some of them walk differently, some of them hear differently, etc. It's okay to have questions about my friend's differences, but when is an appropriate time to ask those questions?" Monkey always tells me the same thing, and he lives by these words: "I'll ask you questions in the car on the way home, mommy. If I ask you questions in front of your friends, they might feel sad."

When we left camp, Monkey pointed to the word on the sleeve of my staff long-sleeve t-shirt: HEROES (this acronym is the name of the camp). "Mommy, you were a hero today for those friends, just like your shirt says." Words cannot express the emotions that welled up inside me at that moment. I knelt down and gave him a big hug. "You were a hero for them today, too, sweetheart."

Monkey was so helpful at camp I told him he got to pick where we'd eat dinner on the way to the dance studio. I expected him to say Subway (his favorite restaurant), but instead found myself seated at a booth in an iHop that was in a less-than-desirable area of the city we were in. Oh well, we definitely overheard some interesting conversations! Monkey had "man-size chocolate chip pancakes", of course. We still got to the dance studio about an hour early (I'd decided to go straight on from camp to avoid the INSANE rush hour traffic on 635 as everyone flees downtown Dallas at the end of the workday). Monkey decided we should visit the "double ducks" at the park across the street from the studio. He was shocked to learn that I'd "forgotten" the bread. I admit, I don't remember to keep stale bread in my car for surprise "double duck" encounters. If that makes me a bad mommy, so be it!

Monkey amused himself during my dance rehearsal and even decided to show off his new skills in the Sword Dance (which he is currently learning) when we took a water break. He was so wound up by the time we left, I was expecting him to pass out pretty much as soon as the car started, and he didn't disappoint. The ride home was dark as peaceful, as I admired the lights of downtown Dallas and listened to Monkey's gentle snores.

It was a good day. He is a kind and considerate child, and I feel so blessed when his actions and words remind me of that.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Apparently, Trails of Lights Have an Age Requirement

The age requirement wasn't stated by the natural science museum that was hosting the event, actually. It may not even be an age requirement so much as an age/gender/temperament requirement. All I know is that last night I'd planned a relaxing stroll through a Holiday Trail of Lights, which Monkey Boy quickly turned into, "Mommy, hurry! We have to pass this family if we're going to win the race!" Really. Seriously. My son decided that the lights were not so much to inspire quiet reflection on the spirit of the season as they were markers for the Christmas Grand Prix 2010. Again, my sense of sympathy for his Kindergarten teacher is renewed.

Let me start by saying this: Any event that is held after dark out in the (relative) wilds of Texas really needs good directional markings on the roads leading in. It took us over an hour to make the 30 minute drive to the museum, simply because we unwittingly missed one turn and ended up in a different tiny town. Classic quotes when I stopped to ask for directions at a gas station:

Me: "We're trying to find the turn for 399 in McKinney."

Attendant: "This is Melissa."

Me: "Do you know where 399 is?"

Attendant: "No."

Um, yeah, thanks for that.

The event itself was pretty cool. As a local community band played in the open air amphitheater, resounding throughout the trail, strings of what looked like large red and green tree lights led us down the dark trail. Lanterns of various shapes and sizes lit the tree branches above us (such as the star on the left that I managed to get a decent shot of!). Young couples pushes strollers with their cooing infants and toddlers down the trail. Other couples held gloved hands and sipped hot chocolate as they meandered down the path, no doubt whisperings sweet nothings to each other as their heads came together and they laughed softly. And then there was us. I'd asked one of our young friends (15) from church to come with us, as I was worried about losing Monkey on a dark night if we went alone, and K is always fun to chat with. Little did we know that, as soon as we handed Monkey the safety flashlight, he'd become Cartman from Southpark, trying to flex his "authori-tah" and clearing the path for running the imaginary race.

When we came upon the little cabin where Father Christmas and Mother Nature were waiting to take pictures with small people, I had the most intense flashback to my own early childhood in Switzerland, walking out into the forest with my parents and my older sister to find Samichlaus and his scary sidekick, Schmutzli. It wasn't just a memory, I could actually see the candles twinkling through the forest, smell the pine and the tangy scent of freshly-opened oranges from the hands of other children who'd found Samichlaus and received their reward for the year's good behavior. I saw my sister hiding behind my father's legs when Schmutzli, with his coal-smudged face and bundle of twigs for spanking naughty children, appeared out of the dark. K seemed interested in this story. Monkey did not. He was far too busy stalking a double stroller and attempting to pass it on the right.

Oh well, at least I learned something: Monkey is too young for holiday trails of lights. Or he needs a Xanax before we go next year. Did I mention we got lost again on the way home? It was actually a pretty awesome night :-)

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Two Weeks of Monkey

My personal blogging goal for the next two weeks is to write a little something about Monkey Boy every day. I thought it would be the perfect time, since we are all home from school for the next two weeks, there are holidays & special events coming up, etc. Really, I just need a little list to read when we have those inevitable days when it seems like Monkey is doing everything he can to drive us crazy!

A word that's been coming up frequently in our household recently has been mivic. What's mivic, you say? You've never heard it used in conversation? That's probably because you haven't played Upwords with our 5-year-old yet. The game had been rolling right along, and I played the word "civic".

"Hmmmm...." said Monkey, half thinking, half conversationally. "That is an interesting word, Mommy! I think I can make it better." With that, he placed an "M" on top of my first "C".

"Mivic?" queried Daddy. "What on Earth is mivic?"

Monkey looked up at his father with a surprised expression on his face. "You mean you've never heard of mivic?!?! Mivic," he said, his eyebrows starting to raise and lower repeatedly in that adorable way he does, "is when there is really dark water with sharks in it. Then there are mermaids swimming up at the top and they are spanking the sharks." The hand motions to go along with this story are truly indescribable, so please believe me when I say by this point my husband and I were both doubled over laughing with tears in our eyes.

When we finally stopped laughing, Daddy turned to me, wiping his eyes, and said, "He really had me until the spanking part!"

This is my impression of what mivic looks like, but Monkey just informed me that my mental picture is apparently incorrect, as mivic should be a dark gray color. Good to know!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Winter Break!

I can't say that I'm sorry to see the beginning of Winter Break this year. Two weeks of very little work and lots of family & cleaning time, plus hopefully a Messiah Sing-Along, a dance costume sewing party, outings with Monkey Boy, and who knows what else - woo hoo!

Yesterday marked five years of marriage for my husband and me, so I wanted to take a moment just say thank you to him for putting up with me for the past eight years. It takes a strong man to support a stubborn woman, and I am grateful to the commitment we have forged.

Check out 10 Reason Minimalism May Be Right For You over on Organizing Your Way - just in time for the Christmas clutter craziness!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

It's Been Hard

I have been struggling with anxiety and depression since I was about 10 years old. I was also treated for an eating disorder during college and grad school, which had been with me since age 13. I am also freaking out a little bit writing this all down right now, because if you write it down it becomes real. In my mind, anyway. This has been a rough year for me, harder than the past few, for some reason. It seems like every area of my life right now has something I'm choosing to be anxious about: my immediate family, my family of origin, my church, my job, my friends, etc.

I made the decision to ask for help a few months ago, consulting with my doctor about trying medication (which I've only done once before). Why is it so hard to ask for help, to admit that you're not a superwoman and you can't handle everything alone? The first drug was somewhat helpful, but I quickly learned my insurance company wouldn't cover it, as it's not "preferred" (aka - there's no generic alternative). The second drug, which I was asked to stay on for 90 days so my doctor could challenge my insurance company, was terrible. I made it to day 57 and then decided the side effects just weren't worth it. The side effects, for me, have included insomnia, suicidal ideation, and gaining 30 pounds. Yes, you read that correctly, 30. I now weigh the same amount as I did the day I gave birth to my son, which, you know, makes me feel a little anxious!

So on Monday I started Drug #3, which so far has not felt too bad. My doctor warned me that I'd be extremely nauseated the first week, but it's only been about 15 minutes a day of heavy nausea, which I can handle. I am sharing this because I am committed to recovery, to becoming a fully functioning woman who can handle the crap life throws at her with more grace and less uncontrollable weeping. I am also sharing this because I have felt alone, I have felt ashamed, and if sharing this can help one other woman realize that she is not alone, that other people deal with these issues, than it is worth it. It's been hard, but it will get better. I believe it, and I hope you do, too.