Monday, March 8, 2010

The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver

After much debate and indecision in my head, I finally chose the book that my book club will read for March.  It has been over a year or so since I've been the one to host my book club and the hostess gets to choose.  I first came up with about three or four books I had not read that I wanted to read, but decided against them because they were really long and our group consists of busy moms who may not have time to read 500 plus page epic novels.  

Anyway, after making things much harder like I usually do, I ended up selecting The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver.  I read it probably ten years ago, after I read The Poisonwood Bible and decided I must compulsively read all of Barbara Kingsolver's novels.  It was so wonderful to re-read this heartfelt and wonderfully rich novel about a woman who learns firsthand about the beauty and ugliness of the world around her.   

Children's Museum aka Kid's Museum

I was a single mom this weekend due to Justin going out of town to run a half marathon.  So, the boys and I decided to have some local fun.  We visited the children's museum.  We had a lengthy discussion in the car about the word "children" and Dylan decided it was too hard to say the word "children" - so he would call it the "kid's museum".  Fine by me.  Only when we arrived at about 4:00 p.m., we realized that fly-by-the-seat-of-her-pants mommy did not check to see what time the museum closed on Saturdays and we only had an hour to speed through the activities.  At least they gave us a discount!  

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Ten Signs You Need To Be Pampered (Or Pamper Yourself)

1.  You are using your son's Bakugan shower gel in place of shave gel.
2.  The last time  you had a professional pedicure, you were pregnant with your oldest child - he is now seven.
3.  The last time you saw your hair dresser, you chatted about her son being at summer camp that week.  It's now almost February.
4.  Your idea of variety in work attire is:  Monday - black pants with at pink sweater, Tuesday - black pants with a blue sweater, Wednesday - black pants with a green sweater, etc.
5.  Your fancy soap is now being used as a surf board for the Donald Duck bath toy.
6.  Your idea of a long, relaxing bubble bath is eight minutes and your four-year-old only visits you twice.
7.  The last time you saw your fingernail file, you were using it as a screw driver to change batteries in Spiderman Pinball.
8.  The last time you had a professional massage, your four-year-old was a baby.
9.  There is a Hot Wheels car in your sea salt scrub jar.
10.  Bath & Body Whuh?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Goofin' Around

We are back home now after a long weekend in Orlando, Florida.  Justin and I ran the Walt Disney World Goofy Challenge - a 1/2 marathon on Saturday and a full marathon on Sunday.  It was so much fun!  

I trained for this more than I had trained for the Des Moines marathon, so I ended up about 15 minutes faster than my Des Moines marathon time.  My time was 5:21 for the full marathon.  My only goal really was not to stop and walk and I did it!  I actually felt pretty good.  No leg cramps, no upset stomach!  I think I learned a lot about what to do and what not to do from my first marathon.  I was also grateful to our friend who is a hydration expert - he helped me with some information on proper hydration because I think I got myself over-hydrated during the Des Moines marathon. 

Both races were absolutely amazing.  Disney characters and spectators lined the streets.  We got to run through Epcot Center, the Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, and Hollywood Studios.  

Before the marathon, at the expo, we got to see a presentation by Team Hoyt - the father who has pushed his son in 27+ marathons and hundreds of other running events and Iron Man races.  They were such an inspiration and I was bawling just listening to them speak.

Most of all, I learned that it is truly amazing what the human body is really capable of when you put your mind to it. 

Monday, January 4, 2010

Book Review - Lean Mean Thirteen by Janet Evanovich

Now that the holidays are over, do you need a way to brighten up the rest of the winter?  Well, Janet Evanovich novels are just the cure for winter doldrums.  This most recent one I've "read" kept me laughing the whole way through.  I say "read" because I have listened to most of these novels on CD in my car.  My commute to work can take anywhere between 35-45 minutes depending on weather, traffic, etc., so any way to make it seem shorter is welcomed by me!  

If you've never read any of the Stephanie Plum series, I suggest starting at number one and working your way up.  Also, the books on CD are great because the narrator they found is hilarious and does awesome voices to all the characters.  If you like action-packed comedy with some sexual tension (and you don't mind some occasional f-bombs), this series is for you.  Stephanie Plum is a bounty hunter who blunders her way through life and has several quirky side-kicks such as her Grandma Mazur and Lula, the ex-hooker.  

The thing I like most about Stephanie is she is just an average gal stumbling her way through life, following her instincts to the best of her ability.  She is not overly-sure of herself and manages to survive many sticky situations with some luck and some help from her friends and family.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Zen Running

My husband and I laugh about our different running styles.  Mine is "Zen Running" because I like running more for the meditative qualities and don't care too much about the speed.  For him, it's "Macho Running" because it's all about conquering a certain time or distance and oh yeah, did I mention the medals?  Sure, it's cool to say I've done a marathon, and it will be even cooler to be able to say I've done the Walt Disney World Goofy Challenge (half marathon on Saturday and full marathon on Sunday).  In fact, one week from today, I will be done with the half marathon part of the Goofy Challenge and awaiting the full marathon Sunday morning.  

I have to thank my husband.  Back in high school, I came up with a big list of stuff I wanted to do someday.  One of the items was to run a marathon, and I don't think I would have done it yet had it not been for my husband encouraging me to run longer distances.  I must admit, when he first started running, I was kind of jealous and crabby about his success and follow-through.  But now, I am happy for him, and myself for stepping up to the challenges.  Sorry to sound all corny and Brady Bunch, but thanks Justin!  


Thursday, November 26, 2009

Running without Pieces of Technology

This morning when I headed out for my 6-mile run, I realized my iPod was not charged.  My first thought was just to plug it in and wait until it got charged, but then the running purist voice in the back of my head said to go ahead without it.  When I run with my iPod, I tend to just be in a zone, but without the music blaring in my head, I actually had some clear thoughts and was more in tune to what was going on around me as I ran down the rural highway.  I saw a lone deer standing in the harvested corn field.  I saw a farm cat on the prowl.  Maybe I would have still noticed these things anyway, but it was just kind of good to feel more connected to the morning.    

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Growing Boys

The boys in my house are growing like weeds!  We took Toby to the vet a couple of days ago and he is already 15 pounds.  

Ethan and Dylan seem to get taller by the day!  When I look at my friends' baby pictures, I can't believe these boys were once such tiny tots!

Friday, November 20, 2009

My Life in Pictures - Day 5 (Smell)

This is another photo from our June 2008 vacation to Kauai. Kauai in itself is a banquet for all the senses. This picture was taken at an outdoor restaurant that was converted from an old sugar plantation. It overlooks some beautiful fields and mountains and is surrounded with floral gardens. The people sitting at the table next to us gave each of the boys a fragrant flower lei - how nice of them! I am pretty sure the flowers were real plumerias. Whatever they were, they smelled so good!
This is when Dylan was two and still had his baby chubby cheeks!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

My Life in Pictures - Day 4 (Taste)

Okay, this picture was actually taken by Goofy Hubby but I had to enter it because it is cool. The boys, Goofy Hubby, and I had taken a day hike up a hill called Sleeping Giant during our vacation to Kauai in June of 2008. It is named such because the hill looks like the profile of a giant man.

My little one, Dylan, would not hike very far (we knew that), but what we didn't expect was for him to only want to be carried by mommy. So yep, I hauled a 30 pound two-year-old up a 1,000 foot elevation climb for two miles and back down again. It was worth it though. When we got to the top, we could see all over the island and to the sea - it was beautiful.

In this picture, we are snacking on some trail mix and water. Let me tell you, trail mix and water have never tasted so good! You can't see it very well, but the bench under our butts says "Respect" - a gentle reminder to respect nature and pack out any garbage you take there.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

My Life in Pictures - Day 3 (Touch)

I feel like I have written about Ethan more than Dylan, but I will even it up soon.  Ethan gets fixated on certain types of objects and has to collect them and take pictures of them everywhere he goes.  His longest obsession was with bugs and cicada shells, but he has been obsessed with nutcrackers, fishing bobbers, American presidents, garden gnomes, seashells, robots, and Buddhas.  On our vacation this summer, we had to take a picture of Buddhas at Disney World wherever we saw one.  This is Ethan rubbing Buddha's belly at one of our many Buddha sightings.

Monday, November 16, 2009

My Life in Pictures - Day 1 (Sight)

My friend Amber is hosting session three of My Life in Pictures, a photo contest.  I really wanted to do the first session and actually took pictures for the second session but didn't get them on a blog.  This session, I am determined to finish :)  This one is the five senses, the first day beginning with sight.  I chose this picture of my seven-year-old son Ethan.  He has been wearing glasses since he was three to correct a lazy eye.  He picked out this pair of glasses all by himself with no coaxing a couple of weeks ago and it really shows is unique style.  

The other angle of this photo is just something else that is cool about Ethan besides his glasses.  Ethan has true vision, not just to SEE things, but to NOTICE things.  He is always noticing some sort of tiny, camouflaged bug, lizard, or snail, even in places where there are a hundred things going on.  

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Some Lovely November - Kayaking and Canoeing???

My parents are funny.  Since they have both retired and recently moved to a lake house, they are becoming funnier and more quirky.  They love buying toys and gadgets now.  Their most recent purchases were a kayak and a canoe.  We decided to take them out for a spin this past Sunday.  It was a beautiful day for it and nobody fell in the lake, so that is a good thing.  

Too Big for My Skin

I saw this on another blog and just had to post it here.  Such a wonderful message - I wish all women believed this about themselves.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Self Worth Builds Net Worth

I love reading anything by Suze Orman but I still struggle everyday to put her good advice to use. I am going to try and use this blog as a tool to track my progress when it comes to money and debt reduction.
I love something she wrote in her recent article in the Oprah Magazine. The article was titled "What Money Has Taught Me About Personal Power". She said, "Believe me, I know how easy it is to run up credit card debt. I have 60,000 memories of what happens when you act without conscience, doing whatever you want rather than pulling yourself back and considering whether it is right. If I had stopped to have that talk with myself, I would have seen my powerlessness earlier. That would have saved me money and gotten me to happy a lot faster.
To know whether something is right or just easy, I turn to my three gatekeeper questions: Is it kind? Is it necessary? Is it true? And I make sure I can answer yes to all three. Is it kind - to me? Is it necessary - for me? Is it true - for me?"
Around the holiday season, I also need to remember something else Suze has written in her books. She said you can't give what you don't have - financially, meaning, if you have to go in debt to give someone a nice gift or to donate to a charity, it is only hurting you. She doesn't say you shouldn't give, just that you should manage your money well so that when you have a chance to give, you can do so freely and without creating debt. I forgot it last Christmas and went way overboard with the giving. I bought too much for my family and also spent way too much on a Christmas charity we did at work where we sponsored a family and bought them Christmas gifts. It was all well-intentioned, but I have think more clearly this year so I can get to a spot where I can actually say, "Yes, I can give $xxx because I have budgeted and planned for it this year and it will not cause me stress, only a good feeling that I am giving to a worthy cause."
With that said, we probably will still participate in a very worthy cause called "Operation Christmas Child" where you fill a shoe box full of toys for an underprivileged child. It's not a very expensive donation - I will talk more about it later as we fill the shoe box.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

First Marathon

Well, I made it through my first marathon this past Sunday! I did it in about 5 1/2 hours, which is slower than I wanted, but at least I finished. I felt great the first 19 or so miles and then started to feel sick to my stomach. I walked a bit and by about mile 21, I was just speed walking. Goofy Hubby did great - he finished in about 4 hours 45 minutes. I am not getting these times exact, but close enough. There was a part that went around this huge lake and he passed me going the other way. He stopped when he saw me and gave me a great big hug. That was the best part of my day!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Welcome Toby!

Meet the newest addition to our family!  We got Toby a week ago and he has been such a blessing!  He is a Mini Golden Doodle, so a cross between a Miniature Poodle and a Golden Retriever.  He has such a sweet, mellow personality.  The person we got him from had named him Toby and we talked about changing his name to something else, but then I looked up the name Toby in my baby names book and it is short for Tobias, which means, "the Lord is good".  So, we decided to keep it - it does fit him I think. 

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Unexpected Great Book

I have seen this book and was kind of interested in it, but shied away just because I don't really like the "B" word . . . Anyway, my family just spent a week on vacation at Disney World with my sister, niece, and nephew.  On the plane ride down to Orlando, I realized I had not brought anything for myself to read on the plane and my kids actually fell asleep.  My sister had this book with her, so I thought "why not?"

If you can  make it through the very graphic part about the animal slaughtering process, you will probably become a vegetarian, or at least think several times before buying meat. I know for me, I have considered becoming a vegetarian again (I was a vegetarian for about five years in my college days), but this solidified my decision.  I don't know if I can completely go vegan (no dairy or eggs), but I will try to cut back on dairy and eggs and learn more about organic and soy alternatives.    

This book also advocates ridding your diet of caffeine and artificial sweeteners, which will be VERY difficult for me.  I love my morning coffee and Diet Pepsi so much!  But, I know they are awful for my body.  The book says that studies show caffeine and aspartame may actually cause depression, which has been a big problem for me throughout the past 15 years or so.  I would love to see how I feel without these chemicals in my body . . .

The book suggests just cutting out one noxious item per week and also occasional fasting.  I guess I chose cutting out meat first because I have been pretty much meat free for the past week and it has felt great.  This week I am going to try and replace my coffee, Diet Pepsi, and Crystal Light with non-caffeinated beverages such as water and herbal tea.  I'll let you know how it goes!  I am also going to research more vegetarian options that will provide adequate nutrition for my family.    

I loved the afterward of this book, which is actually an excerpt from another book, Old MacDonald's Factory Farm by C. David Coates.  

"Isn't man an amazing animal?  He kills wildlife by the millions in order to protect his domestic animals and their feed.  Then he kills domestic animals by the millions and eats them.  This in turn kills man by the millions, because eating all those animals leads to degenerative - and fatal - health conditions like heart disease, kidney disease, and cancer.  So then man tortures and kills millions more animals to look for cures for these diseases.  Elsewhere, millions of other human beings are being killed by hunger and malnutrition because food they could eat is being used to fatten domestic animals.  Meanwhile, some people are dying of sad laughter at the absurdity of man, who kills so easily and so violently, and once a year sends out cards praying for 'Peace on Earth'."

This book was definitely "food for thought"!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Love Languages

I just finished reading The Five Love Languages of Children by Gary Chapman, Ph.D and Ross Campbell, M.D. One of my friends from MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) suggested we read this book as a group and have a discussion group on the topics. The words she used intrigued me, she said, "They really do deserve it" (meaning our families). I borrowed the book from another friend of mine and have stayed up late to finish it in two nights (of course compulsively). I have literally read dozens of parenting books and this was by far the best one yet. There were several parts that brought tears streaming down my face. I would even go as far as to say it is life-changing, but I need more time to see if it has done that and if I will follow through. . .

Another part that hit home with me was about anger. I can be patient and kind for days and then suddenly have a total angry outburst. Unfortunately, many of my rages have been directed at Ethan because he is very, VERY strong-willed. Still, having parental tantrums by flying into rages and yelling, even spanking at times, is not what I want to model, especially for young boys who will eventually be full of testosterone. What is really eye-opening is when Ethan acts the very same way toward Dylan and I witness it. It's like hearing a tape recording of myself and let me tell you, it is not fun to hear.

There will be more to come about the love languages as I have more time to learn about Ethan and Dylan's love languages, as well as Goofy Hubby's.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Wookiee Cookie Weekend

We actually stayed home the whole day on Saturday and did some chores around the house.  I asked the boys if they wanted to make something, they wanted to pull out the Star Wars Cookbook that E received for Christmas this past year.  This book is full of cute ideas that kids love (and grown-ups like me love because they are easy!).  Some of our favorites are the TIE Fighter Ties (like pigs-in-a-blanket), Yoda Soda, and of course, Wookiee Cookies.  The Wookiee Cookies are basically standard chocolate chip cookies with cinnamon mixed in to give them a darker color and more flavor.  I must say, chocolate chip cookies are a lot more exciting when you can stack them up and pretend they are giant trees on Chewbacca's home planet of Kashyyyk.  They were absolutely Chewie!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Yoga + Running = Sleep!

I have problems with insomnia from time to time and on Monday morning I woke up at about 3:00 a.m. and could not go back to sleep.  Whenever this happens, I make myself relax for thirty minutes to an hour and see if I can fall back to sleep.  Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't.  Monday, it didn't work so I got up and waited until the YMCA opened at 4:30 a.m.  I was able to run about four miles on the treadmill.

When I was leaving the Y, I picked up a fitness class schedule and noticed the yoga class at 5:30 on Monday evenings (free for YMCA members!).  I have done yoga classes periodically since my college years and have always felt the tremendous benefits of it.  My mom and I have used it in the past as a chance to connect and we have been talking about taking another class together.  So, I decided to go on Monday evening to check it out.  It's always a struggle for me to try and rationalize spending another hour away from the boys and Goofy Hubby when I've just been away from them all day.  I may consider going every other week - that would help with the guilt factor. . .  

Okay, this class was HARD!  I am still stiff and sore from it.  The instructor is this really fit woman who not only teaches the yoga class, but proceeds to teach a body pump class right afterward!  She is amazing. . .  When I entered the room, I was not late for the class, but apparently everyone else knew the rule for getting there early enough to not have to go in the front row.  After walking in, grabbing a mat, and scanning the room, I realized there was only ONE spot in the room, that's right - front and center.  The rest of the ladies got a chuckle out of this!  

One of the main components of yoga is to obtain the pose as the teacher instructs and breathe into it.  It is important not to judge yourself or others.  However, another component is awareness, so it has been very difficult for me (and others, probably) to balance being acutely aware of my body without judging it.  Thanks to my 6'4" father and his Scandinavian genes, I am tall, big-boned, and well - sturdy.  I tend to remind myself of these facts a lot, not to mention in a yoga class when the ladies around me are graceful and aligned.  I guess there are some good points to being big-boned - I will probably never break a bone or develop osteoporosis.  Heck, maybe I will still be taking yoga classes when I am 90. . .

Oh, and I am happy to report that after the boys were snug as bugs on Monday night, I slept like a log!     

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Impromptu Adventure - Roar!

We woke up Sunday morning and we were running kind of late for church -  well, we could have made it if we had pushed it. . . So, after I brought up the idea of skipping church, Goofy Hubby said, "Why don't we drive down to T-Rex today?"  I couldn't think of a good reason not to, so I said "Road trip!"  Woo!  T-Rex is a large dino-themed restaurant from the same creators as Rain Forest Cafe.  You walk in and a life-sized t-rex greets you with a roar.  

Knowing the boys would not object to skipping church and going on a mini trip, we set about waking them up and dressing them for our impromptu adventure.  There was a caveat - Ethan needed to finish painting his clay garden gnomes (and other various creatures) he had created the day before.  Then, we were off!  

After a meal of tasty (yet overpriced) food, we adopted some stuffed dinos, and did a little shopping at the outlet mall surrounding the restaurant.  We had passed a bowling alley on our way in, and our little one Dilly, who is mildly obsessed with bowling, kept mentioning it, oh, about every thirty seconds.  We had about an hour before we needed to hit the road, so we stopped in to bowl a quick game.  

So, this was definitely not a Suze Orman-approved day, as it was not really in the budget, but sometimes impulse control is overrated.  We had an awesome time - roar!! 

Saturday, August 15, 2009

The Beauty of the Rain

"And you know the light is fading all too soon
You're just two umbrellas one late afternoon
You don't know the next thing you will say
This is your favorite kind of day
It has no walls
The beauty of the rain
Is how it falls, how it falls, how it falls"

-Dar Williams, The Beauty of the Rain

The rain always used to make me sad, but I like it now because it cleanses everything.  The boys wanted to get the mail in the rain today . . .

Friday, August 14, 2009


"In the streets of Summerday
Trust the night and trust the day
Sun and moon of Summerday

We are pilgrims in the land between religions
We are following our children
And we paint in different colors every day
And if we're true to our hearts they will grow up and want to stay
We will work beside them as they build modest houses
And on a misty April morning we'll rest the shovels on the fence
And die and become a summer day"
-Dar Williams from Summerday on the album Promised Land

In an interview, Dar Williams discussed her song Summerday. She got her inspiration from the earth-loving neighborhood she is a part of. They all grow their own food in their yards, trade ideas, and have dinner parties with their homegrown food. It's just a beautiful song and it inspires me to do more than just having a tomato plant in a bucket. True, our yard is not huge, but I can work with the small space we have.

The line that really hit a chord with me is "And if we're true to our hearts they will grow up and want to stay". I don't know if she means "stay" as in the children will come around and visit their parents often, or "stay" as in they will want to stay on this earth. Either way, this is something I think a lot about as a mom (as I am sure many other moms do). I pray and hope so often that the boys grow up and live beautiful lives. I don't just want them to be happy, I want them to THRIVE.

A wise friend of mine said something important to me when Ethan was a baby and I was fretting about all the awful things that could happen to him in his life. She said, "He has a God watching over him and it is not you." It sounds a bit harsh when you first hear it, but really it is comforting to understand that I can be an awesome mom because my kids (and all kids) deserve it, but there are forces much stronger than me in this world that will affect my children and only God completely knows what is in store for them, good or bad.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Cupcake Tin Dinners

Like pretty much everything creative I will write about here, this was not my idea, but hopefully I will flatter the people who gave me the ideas by copying them. . . The cupcake tin dinner (or is it muffin tin dinner? - either one, I guess) is something I should have tried much sooner than today.  The idea was taken from A Day of Wonders.  The boys LOVED them!  The whole idea is to try and get picky eaters to try a variety of different healthy foods in small quantities.  My boys are not super-picky eaters, but sometimes they say they don't like a certain thing and then they are mysteriously hungry at bedtime.  I have always been a strong believer in not forcing them to finish their plates and not forcing them to eat food if they don't want to.  I figure, they will eat when they are hungry - it is best (for me) not to get into power struggles surrounding food.  I want them to have pleasant memories of our family dinners together!    

From left to right, top to bottom we have Muenster cheese cubes, grape tomatoes, green grapes, Ranch dressing, fruit snacks (dessert!), PB&J pieces, nectarines, baby carrots, red grapes, more PB&J pieces, Colby Jack cheese cubes, and strawberries.  

These were definitely a hit and will be asked for frequently at our supper table!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Weekend in Review

This Saturday was a mission to make terrariums!  The boys and I started out in the morning with a garage sale and then a local thrift store to look for large glass jars.  We lucked out at the town thrift store.  Then, it was on to a couple of other local greenhouses and stores to collect colorful rocks, sea glass, activated charcoal, and small tropical plants.  The last two items, we checked everywhere for, and had to settle for purchasing them at a large discount store.  The boys had so much fun putting their rocks in and flattening the potting soil.  My older son is collecting garden gnomes right now.  We ordered a miniature garden gnome for him to put in his terrarium.  

Just for the record, my friend mentioned terrariums the other day and my older son wanted to do them, so it was not my idea at all.  I actually thought they sounded kind of hard until I made up my mind that we were going to do them.  I got a lot of inspiration from  She has a link to a tutorial which I used.