Friday, December 31, 2010

Ouch! Curse you (for now), Wii Pilates!

I stayed in bed a few extra minutes this morning. I wasn't tired - I was in pain. My butt hurt. My back hurt. And there was definitely something funky going on with my left thigh.

Then I remembered. Ah, yes, the Daisy Fuentes Wii Pilates DVD I'd checked out last night. Daisy looked so sweet and nice on the cover. And I'd done a little Pilates before; it seemed like a good way to start to get back in shape.

But Daisy was not particularly sweet - even after I took the time to change her little avatar into a more modest outfit, one that didn't show quite as much of her "wankies," as my kids would say. She was strict. And I wasn't very good. Apparently, I'm weak. But I'll get stronger.

Of course, maybe next time I'll read that handy exercise tutorial before diving in. As for today, I'm heading for the Advil.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

It's just a little sleepover, but still . . .

My boy is staying over at his friend's house tonight - it's his very first sleepover. He was ecstatic about going, didn't seem the least bit nervous. This is his very best friend, after all, and they haven't seen each other all through holiday break. For an 8 year old, that's an eternity.

I packed his pajamas, his toothbrush, his Pillow Pet - all the essentials he'd forgotten in the excitement of packing those all-important toys. I taped our phone number to the outside of his bag, just in case he decided this was a sleep-under, not a sleepover. But I don't think it will be.

The house seems so quiet without him already, without his goofy antics, his laughter, his constant questions. I know I'm being silly - he's only been gone a few hours. And I know he's having fun.

But I miss him already.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Time to slow down and catch a breath

I'm restless. Already. You probably know how it is. You've been been so hyped up for Christmas; you've shopped, baked, mailed, decorated, done everything you need to do to fulfill your holiday obligations and you've succeeded.

Your days have been overflowing with Christmas spirit.

But ... now Christmas is over. Just. Like. That. And don't get me wrong - it was great. I loved it. And I miss it already. But it's just when you've been going, going, going for so long, it's kind of hard to stop.

So what to do? Slow down, catch a breath, find your rhythm again. Decide what comes next. For me, that means goal setting. Oh, you can call it setting resolutions if you want, but I don't. Too much pressure

First on the list: Get rid of all those dang cookies in the cookie jar.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Best holiday gifts aren't what you'd expect

The kids crept in to wake us up at 6 a.m today, just as they promised.

I'm sure they'd been up much longer, but they know the rules - no one goes downstairs on Christmas morning before 6 a.m.

Soon after, the squeals and oohs and ahhs began. But not for the presents I expected.

The big-ticket items were appreciated, of course. But my son's favorite gift wasn't the Wii game we splurged on. It was a Mario figurine stocking stuffer from Santa. ("It can move its arms!")

And our daughter wasn't quite as excited about the Wii art tablet we thought she'd rave over. She was, however, mesmerized by a battery-operated beginner sewing machine.

Me? I'm now the proud owner of a Kindle, and I'm truly very excited. But my favorite gifts, the ones I'm most thankful for, are those two kids who make me appreciate the holiday season more and more every year.

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Hello? Oh sure, (flush!) I can talk ...

So I had a little meltdown at work today. You know, holiday stress, last-minute assignments, all that fun stuff. And so I snuck out of my cubicle kingdom for a minute to go take a few deep breaths.

I went to the ladies room. Not a good choice for a variety of reasons, but my options were limited. I locked the door of the stall and just stood there, trying to organize my thoughts and tell myself that yes, I could get everything done, and no, I wouldn't have a nervous breakdown.

And then I heard it. Tweedle-dee-deedle-dee-dee. Tweedle-dee-deedle-dee-dee. A cell phone. Right next to me. I smirked a little. Well, not everyone has great timing, right? But then, I froze. Because someone ANSWERED it. From the STALL.

Taking calls while indisposed? Is this the new trend? Are we that busy? I should have maintained my dignity and swept out, disgusted. But instead - quite possibly due to stress and sugar overload - I started giggling and couldn't stop.

"Yeah, mmm-hmmm," said the voice. Rustle, rustle, rustle. "I guess, if you have to, but I don't know when we'll get there." Shift, rustle, rustle, FLUSH. "Okay - wait a minute."

The door opened. I didn't have the courage to look and see who it was. I was red-faced from my sophomoric attack of giggling. That meltdown? Ancient history.

And I owe it all to Chatty, my bathroom friend. I hope she had a great conversation. I hope she got to wherever she needed to be. But most of all, I hope she remembered to wash her hands.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Goodbye, sanity - I'll miss you . . .

The children have been out of school one day - yes, one day - and I can already feel my sanity slipping away. I'll miss it.

My daughter is already using the time off to ask a few questions, like: When can she get her own computer? Why is her brother being so annoying? Why can't she have a kitten? Or a puppy? And what does Santa have to do with Jesus, and what is the significance of a Christmas tree?

My son doesn't have any questions. He's an entertainer. Ta da!!! So far, I've been serenaded with more than a few giggly stanzas of "Winnie the Poop," and "Christmas Cookies and Holiday Farts."

Goodbye sanity.I'll miss you.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Middle school stress solution: Tae kwon do

My daughter was incredibly excited about graduating from elementary school. A budding artist, she even drew a portrait of herself and her friends with the words "We're middle schoolers now!" above it in bold print. But the beginning of the year was a disaster.

The bus route confused her. The school pace was intimidating. And then, in gym, she hesitated before passing a sheet of paper to her partner. "Give it to me, you retard," the girl said. My daughter looked back to see the girl and her friends whispering. She was sure they were talking about her.

"I hate school," she whispered to me that night. She cried herself to sleep. She wasn't the only one.

I woke up the next day, determined to make everything right. I'd go over to that school and I'd talk to the teachers and that bratty kid and ... then I realized what thousands of moms likely realized before me. You can't do it. You want to, but you can't. You can't always be there for your kid. My daughter, always academically brilliant but socially shy, had a tough row to hoe.

But I had to do something. I remembered a few years back, when I'd been a reporter, doing a story on a program called The Ophelia Project, which is all about creating safe social climates for students. The Web site had a section on increasing self-esteem for girls. It suggested tae kwon do. Tae kwon do?

My daughter is an artist, not a fighter. But on a whim, I suggested it to her. She agreed, tentatively, to try it. I chose carefully - a small studio with low-key instructors I liked. Amazingly, she loved it. And she's good at it. She's made friends. Accepted challenges. She's stronger, more independent. This past weekend, she graduated to a color belt.

I'm sure it's not all the tae kwon do, but her confidence is back. So's her smile. She's talking about starting clubs in school; she laughs off the girl drama she sees. I know there'll be more challenges down the road. But for now, I couldn't be happier. More importantly, neither could she.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Cookies, cookies, let's make cookies!

We are baking Christmas cookies tonight. Lots and lots of cookies. And by "we," I mean me and the oven.

See, the kids and I had decided awhile back that we'd make batches of cookies for their friends and teachers. But time got away from us, and here it is just a few days before school vacation starts.

And we have all these pretty boxes to fill.

The kids wanted to help, they really did, but what they wanted to do even more than help was to sneak a bunch of cookie dough. Their next priority appeared to be giggling and smooshing melty chocolate chips on each other. And last but not least, chasing each other with cinnamon-sugar seemed to be high on their list.

So now it's late, they're both in bed, and we still have all these pretty boxes to fill.

But that's okay. The oven is is quiet, it's behaving, and when I fill it with cookie dough it actually gives back cookies.

Those pretty boxes might just get filled after all.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Oh, little laptop, I've missed you so ...

After four long days, my computer has come home. I can't believe how much I missed it. We've been spending some quiet time together, just the two of us, trying to get over the trauma of being apart.

It all started last week, when a strange message kept appearing on - and then freezing- my screen. I tried everything to get rid of it. But I had a bad feeling. I finally gave up and took it to the local computer doc.

As I waited in line, my laptop held gingerly in my arms, swaddled against the cold, I realized how much I used it - how much I needed it. But I'm not sure my attachment to the little machine registered with the man behind the counter.

"What is it?" I asked him anxiously, peering over his shoulder as he called up my browser. "Why does it keep doing that? What does that message mean? Is it okay?"

He shrugged. "I don't know - probably a virus." He sounded less than concerned.

But I was fuming. A virus? "A virus??" I said, my voice rising. "How can that be?? I use protection!!" Several customers turned my way. I composed myself and lowered my voice. "I mean, I have anti-virus software."

He shrugged again. "There's new viruses every day," he said. "It's hard to keep up."

He pried my fingers off the keys. "I'll have to check this in," he said. At my stricken look, his voice became a little gentler. "And it's Friday. Our techs don't work weekends. You can probably have it back ... Tuesday."

I stood there, mouth agape, as he wound my power cord and shut the lid. Tuesday. Four days. But ... How could I ...

I did, of course. And naturally, I'm being overly dramatic. It's just a machine, right? I mean, who cares?Who gets emotionally attached to a machine? Sheesh.

But maybe it can stay on my night table tonight. You know. just for tonight.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Together we can move (snow) mountains

It's all a matter of perspective, I guess. When I wake up on the weekend and the snow is falling in fat, heavy flakes, I want to stay inside. I want to bake cinnamon bread, drink coffee and curl under a blanket.

My children? They're scrambling into snow pants faster than you can say "Michigan winter." It's snowing!! It's snowing!! Time to get outside and build a gigantic snowman. No matter that there's not quite enough snow on the ground yet or that the snow that exists is heavy, soggy and stubbornly clinging to the sod - let's move it, people!!!

About 20 minutes into their project, I hear them call from outside: "Mom, we're moving the snowman to the front yard!"

I wonder briefly about the logistics of that endeavor. So does my husband, when he catches a glimpse of them about 10 minutes later. "Do you have any idea what your children are doing?" he asks me, sliding open the window. From outside, I hear sounds of exertion and breathless motivational direction. "Okay, push," my daughter calls to her brother. "Push harder."

My husband already has put on his coat. "I know, I know," he says. "I'm going."

Between the three of them, the giant base of Frosty the Snowman was finally moved to the front yard. I believe at this time his torso has been delivered as well, and soon his head will be in place. I just hope the big guy doesn't need a wife.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

My secret to success: edible Legos

Monday was a shopping day, Tuesday was a church class, Wednesday was a birthday celebration, and on Thursday the car was shanghaied by surly mechanics.

But I've been a bundle of boundless energy. My secret to success? Edible Legos, of course.

What are they? Why, they're tiny building blocks of pure sugar, that's what they are. You can build with them, just like real Legos, but then instead of stepping on them in the middle of the night and screeching in agony, you can EAT them.

Are they good for you? Well, um, of course they're not. I haven't read the list of ingredients, but I think it reads something like this: SUGAR. And, like all things bad for you, they're delicious - in a rock-hard, don't-eat-them-on-the-side-you-have-dental-work kind of way.

Now, they're not actually called "edible Legos." The Lego folks probably wouldn't like that, or more likely, they'd want a cut of the profits. They're really called "candy building blocks" or some such thing. But I know what I know. They're edible Legos.

And I never meant to become addicted. A friend told me about them when she heard I was throwing a Mario birthday party for my son. If you (or your kids) know anything about Mario games, you know that in a lot of them, he's basically walking on these little sidewalks and levels that look like Legos. So it would be a really fun addition to a loot bag, right? Wrong. Because now mom eats them. Whenever she sees them.

It could be as bad as my Stress Frosting addiction, and that took a really, really long time to break. For years, my husband wondered why there were always cans of frosting around the house but not a cupcake in sight.

Luckily, I've only found these candies at one place, and it's kind of hard to get to, and not really close to my house. So, I figure after the party that'll be it. I'll be done. No more.

I just hope the frosting cans don't start showing up again.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

OMG! A hand in the book depository?

So this story is creepy. Not Stephen King-creepy, not keep-you-up-at-night creepy, but creepy enough to jolt you awake without your second cup of coffee.

At least it was for me. Because this is what happened. I stopped at the library the other day on the way to work with my usual giant bag of overdue books. No big deal. The library was crowded, like it always is. There's a story hour in the morning, so there are dozens of moms and little kids running around, and there's just a nice, warm atmosphere all around.

I love the library. So making a quick stop is actually a pleasure for me, not a chore.

Now our library has just revamped its depository system - you can only put in one book at a time, and you have to do it a certain way ... I don't know why. Maybe people were being careless, you know, jamming it up. So there's an outside book deposit and an inside one. I decided to go in because it was freezing and I'm a wimp.

(I know, I know - this story is SO not creepy yet - but just wait).

Anyhoo, so I'm putting my books in the book depository, which as everyone knows, is just a big giant door that opens, and when I put the last book in I feel a HAND TOUCH MY HAND. Just think about that a minute. A hand - from inside the book deposit - touching your hand!!!!! Now that is creepy - you have to agree, right? Okay, it didn't grab me, and it wasn't cold or skeletal or bony, and it actually just brushed my fingers, but STILL. Peel me off the ceiling, folks. That is not where I'm expecting a warm friendly touch.

I know, I know. It was likely just a hapless librarian, working the other side to clear out a jam or unload the already crowded bin, but it didn't matter.

After that invisible touch, I drank decaf til noon.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Treat bags for 26? Are you kidding me?

My son's birthday is this week, and he wants to bring treats to school. So treats we will bring, of course. But there's just a wee dilemma. No edible treats are allowed.

Yep, that's right. No cupcakes. No cookies. Nothing yummy, tasty or fattening. Instead, the kids are allowed to hand out treat bags at the end of the day. You know,little goodie bags filled with tiny doo-dads like pencils, stickers and glo-sticks.

It's a nice idea. But with 26 kids in the class, filling those bags is a a feat that could thwart even the most clever cheapskate. And I've never claimed to be particularly clever.

Nevertheless, I headed off to the closest party palace superstore with high hopes - only to find that little party bags of yo-yos, pinball games and harmonicas came in packs of 8 or 10 and were priced from $2.99 on up. Sure, there were giant party bags for $10, but they were gender-specific, and I'll admit, I'm overly picky. I want fun - cheap fun. A bouncy ball is fun. A "superstar" sticker is not. It's the principle of the thing. I have a lot of principles. I just don't have a lot of cash.

Tired and overwhelmed by overpriced party supplies, I bought four bags of overpriced plastic harmonicas. Although my son was delighted and can now play a somewhat horrid harmonic Jingle Bells, it about blew my budget. But an emergency trip to the dollar store saved me. I managed to find just enough stuff to do the trick. Next year, though, I think we'll just regift treats from the Halloween party. Now that would have been clever.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Embarrassed by his mom, already

Today was popcorn day at school, and I forgot. Simply forgot. But I could smell my mistake as soon as I walked in the door. So I accompanied my son into his second-grade classroom so we could figure out what to do.

"Sean," I said. "We forgot about popcorn. Do you want me to run out and get some change?"

My little boy turned around from where he was unloading his backpack with a look of pure mortification on his face. "No!" he said. "It's fine."

I was a little puzzled. "It's no big deal," I told him. "I have a couple of quarters in the car and I can ..."

By this time he looked almost desperate. "Mom, just go," he said, pushing me lightly toward the door. "It's okay!"

So I did. I left. And when I got home, I looked in the mirror. I had on makeup. My hair was curled. I was wearing a sweatshirt, but it didn't have toothpaste or Pepto-Bismol dribbled down the front. My occasional serial-killer-worthy eye twitch seemed under control. Bottom line, I didn't look embarrassing.

I think I just was embarrassing. Just ... as his mom. Sigh. Already. In second grade. I thought I'd have a little time than that. At least it's only at school. For now.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

I like snow. I just like it from the inside

"SNOW!!" said my daughter this morning, looking out the window and jumping up and down with excitement.

"Snow," I echoed, considerably less impressed.

My girl looked back at me, surprised. "Mom?" she asked. "Don't you like snow?"

Ummmmm, well, sure. Kind of. I mean, in a poetic sense. On a Christmas card. Looking through a window. Watching it drift as I read in front of the fire. I like snow. Or, I like the idea of snow. You know, that pretty, picture-perfect snow.

Just not the soggy, icy, leaking-through-the-boot, slogging-through-the-expressway kind of snow. That's all.

But now my son had joined my daughter, and they were ooohing and aahhing out the window. What could I do? I joined them.

"Snow!" I said.