Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A Downside to Having a Spinal Cord Stimulator

I may have mentioned a time or two that my spinal cord stimulator is awesome. True, it wasn't a cure-all. But it has definitely done wonders for the CRPS pain. And after the long, painful recovery process passed, I've basically been golden. Mostly.

But in the interest of fairness and full disclosure (especially for anyone who is considering having the surgery) I should share one of the downsides that comes up from time to time. One thing to remember is that the stimulator is sending pulses of electricity through your nerves. Usually that's a good thing, but every now and then it can cause issues.

For example... I was sitting at my desk tonight when my thumb started to buzz. (Not audibly, obviously. I could just feel it being zapped with electricity.) Then a few seconds later my whole arm was buzzing. And a few seconds after that I felt it through my entire body. And it wasn't the pleasant, feel-it-in-the-background-but-don't-really-notice-it kind of buzzing that I usually have. It was full-on, I'm-being-shocked-with-electricity kind of jolt. Not the most pleasant feeling.

I tried shifting positions, which usually helps. (But this time it didn't.) I tried getting up and walking around, stretching this way and that, trying to find a way to stop the borderline-painful shocking, but nothing helped. Finally I just had to turn the thing off for a while.

Fortunately this is a rare occurrence. (And when it does happen, it's hardly ever this bad. Usually it's just a quick jolt to one area of the body, and adjusting positions generally fixes it.) And are these little jolts (or even the big ones like tonight) so bad that they outweigh the benefits of the stimulator? Absolutely not! The benefits still outweigh the drawbacks, hands down.

This is just one of those little things that spinal cord stimulator owners need to be prepared for. It can be a shock sometimes. (Pun intended.) But maybe that's just the stimulator's way of reminding me that it's there, and that I should be thankful for all the things it does for me.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Most Wonderful Time of the Year

I know that song was written about Christmas, but for me the most wonderful time of the year starts in early October. Because in my house early October means that the Halloween decorations come out, the festivities begin, and the "holiday season" has officially arrived.

Everyone has their own triggers when it comes to getting in to the holiday spirit. For some people it's the first snowfall, or the first lighting of the fireplace. For some it's hearing their favorite holiday song, or seeing the decorations around town.

For me, there is one particular thing I look forward to each year. Yes, I like the decorations, and the change in weather. (Although here in Arizona October just means that our temperatures finally drop below 110, but we take what we can get.) But there's still something I look forward to seeing even more.

When I see these three cereals in the stores again, I know the holidays have begun. Maybe it's a silly thing to get excited about, but it's tradition, and it makes me happy.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

And then there are THOSE days.

When you live with chronic pain, you do still have good days. Of course "good" is relative, but the general cycle is one of ups and downs. (At least this has been the case with my experience over the years.) Sometimes the pain is worse, and sometimes it fades into the background enough that you can actually think about other things for a while.

Those are the good days. When the pain "isn't so bad" and you get to enjoy your life, even for just a little while. Those are the days that I take advantage of, and treasure immensely. But the cruelest twist of fate is that those good days are so often immediately followed by one or more unbearably bad days.

This was the case yesterday. As I mentioned, Friday was a fantastic day. But after spending just two hours at my son's school helping with his class party, I came home completely exhausted. I had hoped that it was just a normal exhaustion from keeping up with five-year-olds and all of their energy. But I had my suspicions that it might be more than that, and unfortunately I was proven right.

By Saturday morning I could tell that it was going to be one of those days. The "not so good" days. The days that remind me, oh so brutally, that I live with chronic pain. Fortunately my husband already had plans to take the kids out for the day... unfortunately I had to scrap my plans to go with them. But at least I got to stay home and rest (as much as you can when you're in pain.)

So I vegged out all day, my only activity basically being what was minimally required to sustain life. It might have been nice to have such a lazy day, if I had been doing it because I wanted to. But doing nothing all day because the pain has drained all of your energy ends up just being kind of sad. By the end of the day I found that I was tempted to have myself a little pity party.

Fortunately, though, I've been doing this long enough to know that these days eventually pass, and I can get on with life. (So yes, suffering from chronic pain for nearly two decades does have a silver lining. I told you I could find a bright side to anything, didn't I?)

So I skipped the pity party, and just got myself through the day, knowing that pain cycle will eventually turn back to another "good" day. And today was better. Still not ready to go out for a night on the town or anything, but I managed to do a little more than the nothing that I did yesterday, so I'm going to call it a win.

And when you live with chronic pain, you have to cherish those little victories. It's a great way to keep yourself going.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Kindergarten is Awesome

As I imagine many people do, I have some fond memories of kindergarten. Like having contests on the playground to see who could swing the highest, and talking the teachers into pushing us really fast on the merry-go-round. Making shadowboxes so that we could witness our first solar eclipse. And playing Snow White's evil stepmother in our class play - a definite highlight of the year. :)

But I also have to admit that kindergarten was long ago enough that most of my memories have faded by now. It's sad, but that's just the way life goes. The great thing about life, though, is that if you're fortunate enough to have kids, eventually you get to relive kindergarten through them.

Today was the last day of school before Fall Break at my son's school, so his class had their Fall Party. And I was lucky enough to be able to be one of the parent volunteers for the day, so I got to share it all with them. This was the first time I had volunteered in the classroom, and I have to admit that I was a little nervous about being thrust into a room full of five-year-olds. But the kids were great, and I had an absolute blast.

We had pumpkin relay races, and planted pumpkin seeds, and (the most exciting part) we got to open up a pumpkin and explore its insides. None of the kids in my group had ever seen the inside of a pumpkin before, so hearing the "Wow"s and "Oooohhh"s and "Eeeewww"s as they had the entire sensory experience was just priceless.

Like I said, I have memories of my own kindergarten experience. But until my son started school this year, I don't think I really remembered just how awesome kindergarten truly was. Everything is so new, and exciting, and - let's face it - just plain adorable. (Some of the projects they do are just too cute for words.) Sure, it was hard at first to "let him go" when he started school. But I am so very grateful that I get to share the experience with him.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Things Parents Do

As I was writing yesterday's post about the funny cartoons and pictures going around, of course I got sidetracked for a while looking at the web sites that contained said pictures. (Come on. You would have too. They're funny.) And as I was surfing, I came across this one:

Of course it completely made me laugh, because it's so very, very true. But I would also add to it that if a little girl hands you a baby doll, you will rock it/feed it/ burp it, or whatever else she tells you that you simply must do. If your kids hand you a piece of plastic food that they "made" for you, you will pretend to eat it. And if they hand you a toy tea cup, you will pretend to drink from it, and pronounce it the best tea you've ever had.

This is just the kind of power that kids have over us. We may be the adults, but sometimes that just doesn't make any difference. I can remember as a kid making my mom rock my baby doll on more than one occasion. Now I do the same for my daughter. And I'm fairly certain that if some day she has a daughter, she will do the exact same thing too.

And when you answer that toy phone, or rock that doll, or sip that tea, you may act like you're doing it just for the kids' sake, to keep them happy. But we all know the truth, and it's ok to admit it. We're never too old to use our imaginations, return to our childhoods for a moment, and indulge in a little creative play. It keeps us young, and it makes the world just a little more fun.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Sharing the Funny

I don't know about you, but I've noticed another shift lately in Facebook posting trends. That's nothing new, of course - trends come and go. But I've realized that I kind of like this one.

If you've been on Facebook for any length of time, chances are you've seen at least a few of the trends that went around. For a while, everyone was sending each other Pieces of Flair, or hearts, or drinks, or some other virtual thing to post on their walls. For a while everyone and their grandmother was in the Mafia. And just about everyone at one time or another has had at least one virtual farm.

But I noticed in the past couple of weeks that more than anything else - more than game requests, or even political commentary - people seem to be sharing random, silly, funny pictures. Cartoons, random sayings, pictures of animals in weird situations. You've probably seen them. They're everywhere.

At first, I thought "Wow. There are a lot of silly pictures being posted these days" and kind of shook my head at the latest thing that "everyone's doing." Then I thought, "Wow. There are a lot of silly pictures being posted these days" and smiled, because there are worse things that everyone could be doing. People are embracing the silliness, and having fun. And I for one think it's refreshing.

I don't know if it's something in the air, or just the natural swing of the pendulum, but I like it. Yes, there will probably come a time when everyone tires of this, and moves on to the next great new trend. But I hope it takes a while. I mean, how can you not smile when you see something like this in your news feed?

Courtesy of "Funny photos"

Or, one of my other recent favorites:

Courtesy of Psychotic Humor

I love having my news feed filled with things like this. And I love that I see the same pictures reposted by several friends in completely different circles, because it means that the humor is making the rounds, and spreading the joy as it goes.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Twilight Sedation

Early tomorrow morning I'm going back to the pain clinic for a medial branch block in my lower back. (Basically, they inject drugs into the space around the nerves to help reduce the inflammation, and hopefully the pain.) While my spinal cord stimulator does wonders for the CRPS pain in my arm, unfortunately the mechanics of it are such that it can't help my back. So my doctor and I are still trying to find something else that will. (Fingers crossed.)

When performing procedures, the docs at the clinic use what they call twilight sedation. Unlike being "knocked out" with regular sedation, this way lets you be aware enough of what is going on to still communicate with them, but relaxed enough to not be bothered so much by all the needles that they're poking you with.

Before one of my previous procedures, I was explaining to my husband what they were going to be doing, and he asked if I was going to be sedated. I said that they would be using twilight sedation, to which he replied, with a completely straight face, "So, what, they just put the movie on for you and it puts you to sleep?"

You just have to love a man that can make you laugh when you need it the most. Because even though I've been through these procedures plenty of times, I still can't help getting a little nervous before each one. Problem solved. Now whenever I go in to have something done I don't think about being nervous, because I'm too busy picturing this.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Sometimes It's Invisible

I mentioned last month that September was Pain Awareness Month. I had said at the time that I thought I would "be sharing a few pain-related things with you this month." That was totally the plan. But because the universe loves irony, I was too consumed with getting through the days and dealing with my own pain to worry about blogging.

But when it comes to pain awareness, there is one thing that I have to share, because in my experience it's the one thing that so many people seem to forget: You can't see pain.

I can't tell you how many times, particularly when I was younger, that people accused me (sometimes to my face, and sometimes behind my back) of faking my illness. Because on the outside there was nothing physically wrong with me. So apparently people figured that if they couldn't see anything wrong, there must not be anything wrong.

Trust me when I say how wrong that logic is. None of the things that are wrong with me have any noticeable physical symptoms, but that doesn't make them any less real. And it doesn't change the fact that I have very real, constant pain in several parts of my body.

Be honest - have you ever seen someone get out of the car after parking in a handicapped space and thought, "he doesn't look handicapped." I've actually been stopped and yelled at, more than once, by someone who thought I had no business taking up one of those spaces. I'm sure they meant well, but the fact is they were judging me based on their perception, without making any attempt to understand the true nature of the situation.

I guess the point is that you never really can know what is going on inside of another person. But you can try. I have been very fortunate over the years to have an incredible support system. If it wasn't for my friends and family, I'm not sure that I would have made it through the past 18 years. Living with pain is frustrating, and it's depressing, and it can make it feel like everything else in life is just too much to deal with. But with love, and support, and understanding, I was able to live through what I sincerely hope was the worst of it, and begin the healing process.

Living in pain is difficult enough. And the last thing someone in pain needs is to be judged unfairly. Please, please keep that in mind if you are ever tempted to make assumptions based on outward appearances.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Sing "Soft Kitty" to Me

I've been having a lot of trouble with my foot lately, thanks to a flareup of the plantar fasciitis. (It's something I've lived with for years, and it's gotten immensely better since I finally got a diagnosis and started treating it, but it does still give me problems from time to time.) And the past couple of weeks has been one of those times.

So this afternoon, after limping around for a while, I finally realized that I should take a much-needed break and put some ice on my foot. When I mentioned to the kids what I was going to do, they immediately ran to help. My son got the ice pack out of the freezer and my daughter got a towel to wrap it in, and they took me over to the couch to get settled.

Satisfied that he had helped, my son went back to the playroom. But my daughter stuck around to see if there was anything else she could do. I told her that I thought I would be ok, and that she could go play if she wanted to, but she just stood there deep in thought for a minute. Finally she said "How about if I sing 'Soft Kitty' for you?" Since having a hurt foot is a kind of sick, I gladly accepted her offer.

If you get that reference, then you know how awesome it is, particularly that a three-year-old would come up with it. If you don't get it, I'm not sure that I can really explain, other than to say that you really should watch "The Big Bang Theory." (Granted, it's definitely not for everyone. But if you like geeky comedy I don't know that there's a better place out there to find it.)

No, my kids don't actually watch the show. (They're three and five.) But they do love that song. They were playing one day, and they decided to pretend to be cats. (Like I said, three and five.) When I heard them meowing that song popped into my head, and for some reason I decided to sing it. The kids thought it was hilarious, and made me sing it over and over. Finally I got tired of singing and pulled up YouTube and let them watch videos of it until they were satisfied. So now they know that when someone's sick, you sing "Soft Kitty" to them.

I haven't been able to get my kids singing it on video yet, but here's its original appearance on the show.

This is the most recent (and I think my favorite) appearance.

Yes, it's ridiculous. But still makes me laugh every time. :)

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Confessions of a Sporadic Blogger

I have to say that I found myself in a bit of a quandary today. Over the last few weeks I had debated with myself, and had finally decided (or so I thought) to once again participate in the Ultimate Blog Challenge. I even submitted an RSVP to the Facebook event invitation. So you know I was serious.

Then this afternoon I discovered that I was trying really hard to talk myself out of committing to this. (Hence the quandary.) I was tired, and I had a headache, which made me cranky. And it seems that when I get grouchy I don't really like thinking about long-term plans. (Because it's so much more fun to just sit and have a pity party.) So that's when I decided that I really needed to just snap out of it and move on. Granted, that's usually easier said than done. But I'm trying.

As I'm sure some of you will recall, I participated in the challenge for the first time back in July. And after having been a sporadic blogger for eight months, I successfully posted 31 times in 31 days to meet the challenge. (Yes, I was amazed with myself.)

When I chose to participate last time, it was all for the sake of taking on a new challenge. I was excited by the idea of pushing myself to do something new, and seeing how I would grow from it. It was a great (albeit sometimes frustrating) experience, and I met some great people, and I learned some new things, and I had a lot of fun.

That being said (and here's the confession part) it turns out that I didn't really get everything that I had wanted to get out of the experience. You see, part of me - and I'm still not honestly sure how big of a part - had hoped that getting in the habit of daily blogging would somehow turn into a lasting discipline. Because it's not that I need to be a daily blogger, but it would be nice to know that I could be if I wanted to.

But it turned out that once I no longer had that daily deadline hanging over my head... I got lazy. And I have a whopping four posts to show for the last two months. It wasn't that I suddenly ran out of things to say. (I'm pretty sure that never happens.) But for some reason I just couldn't push myself to sit down and write. So all of my internal debate over the past couple of weeks led me to decided that I needed that challenge - and that motivation - again. Growth is a process, after all.

And with growth in one area comes the inevitable growth in others. I'm looking forward to sharing all kinds of wonderful things with you in the weeks to come....

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Happy Mommy Moments

Anyone who has ever been around kids - your own or other people's - knows that they can be little monsters sometimes. They're kids. Sometimes they misbehave. Sometimes get into trouble. It's just one of those unfortunate inevitabilities in life. Fortunately for me, though, those times are greatly outweighed by the times when my kids are incredibly awesome.

When my daughter woke up yesterday she ran to my room, climbed up in my bed, and gave me a big "good morning" hug, after which she told me "Mommy, you're the best Mommy in the whole world." Nothing like having your heart melted to wake you up in the morning. I have no idea what prompted her to say that, but I'll happily accept it.

Life is full of great moments like that when my kids are around. Last week my daughter and I had to stop at the bank while my son was at school. Now, if you have kids you know that going to the bank is super-exciting, mostly because the tellers always have suckers. When it came time to pick out her sucker, my sweet little three-year-old asked if she could have two, so she could take one to her brother. (And of course the teller, recognizing the sweetness of the gesture, gladly gave them to her.)

That very same afternoon when we picked my son up from school he proudly told us that he had gotten to go to the treasure box that day. (The treasure box, as we then learned, is a box full of little toys that the kids sometimes get to pick from when they've been especially good. Because kindergarten is cute like that.) But instead of picking out a toy for himself, my amazing five-year-old picked out a toy for his little sister. His explanation: "I saw this and I thought she would like it, so I got it for her."

It's little moments like these that remind me why being a mom the best job in the world. I may not get paid for all of the overtime I work, and I may not get sick days or vacation time, but you just can't beat the benefits package.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The First Year

Last night it occurred to me that today is my anniversary. It was one year ago today that I went under the knife and became the proud owner of my very own spinal cord stimulator. And yes, dear friends, this feels like an event worth commemorating. (I kind of feel like I should have baked a cake or something.)

As with any relationship, my stimulator and I had a bit of an adjustment period. We had to get used to each other. Some wounds had to heal. We had to figure out who was in charge. It was definitely not love at first sight. But I am happy to say that we've put our differences behind us, and ours is now a happy, healthy, beneficial relationship.

If you've been with me this whole time (of if you've gone back to the beginning and read all about the journey) then you know that the surgery (or mostly the recovery) was not even a little bit easy. But you also know that I would do it again in a heartbeat. When it comes to the CRPS pain, it has made a world of difference.

But there is another, very important thing that I've learned from all of this: The spinal cord stimulator is not effective for every kind of pain. For the CRPS, it works wonders. I don't have nearly the pain I used to have. (I still feel some of it now and then, but it is nothing close to what it used to be.) Unfortunately for me, though, the CRPS is not my only problem, or my only source of chronic pain.

Going into this, my doctor and I had kind of been cautiously optimistic that, since the stimulator was being placed in my neck, it might also be able to help the other pain that is being caused by my oddly misshapen spine. But sadly it has not. The unit is set up so that I can get stimulation to that area. Unfortunately the pain is such that the stimulation just doesn't mask it.

Obviously it's disappointing that the stimulator couldn't do it all, but we knew that might be the case. (And we're still working on other ideas for the neck pain. Hopefully one day in the not too distant future I'll have some good news to report there.) For now I will continue to be very happy that at least I was able to get some much needed relief in one area.

And so, because it's my anniversary (and because I really like balloons), here's today's little bit of happy:

Friday, September 2, 2011

Pain Awareness Month

I woke up yesterday morning in terrible pain. More than I've felt at the same time in.... well, a while. It seemed like every little thing that I have wrong with me - literally from head to toe - had decided to make itself known in unison. It was wicked. And I could go into great detail about every little bit of it, but you get the idea.

Later I discovered that September is Pain Awareness Month. (Yeah... I was already fully aware of it, thanks.) Somehow I don't think that's exactly what they had in mind with the campaign. But appreciating irony like I do, I couldn't help but be at least a little bit amused.

So I think I'll be sharing a few pain-related things with you this month. I can't see myself focusing just on pain the entire month, because frankly it gets a little depressing if you focus on it for too long. But there are a lot of positive things out there, and of course (you know me) those are the things that we'll be discussing here.

To start us off, I have to share the current campaign from the American Pain Foundation. You can read all about it on their web site, and join their "If I lived in a world with less pain" event on Facebook.

As they so beautifully say:
Imagine a world where people with pain are believed. Imagine a world where people with pain are heard and shown respect and dignity. Imagine a world where pain is as important to manage or treat as any other disease. Imagine a World With Less Pain.

According to the APF, in the United States alone there are more than 116 million people living with pain. With that in mind, I'd say chances are pretty good that you might know at least a few of them. So now is the time to show your support, and help spread awareness. And hopefully one day soon we won't have to imagine that world, because it will be a reality.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Unbalanced (but working on it)

I've used the phrase "I have balance issues" more than a time or two in my life. Usually it's when I trip over something, or, more commonly, just fall over for no apparent reason. (And it's made all the more funny because I'm blonde.) But lately I'm having to admit to myself that those "balance issues" are about more than holding on to something when I go down stairs, or avoiding the whole walking/gum chewing issue.

Lately it seems that I'm living a bit of an all-or-nothing kind of life. Want an example? You're looking at it right now. This is my first post this month (after posting 31 times in July.) Now, when I finished last month's challenge, I made the conscious decision to take a breather. But that was only intended to last a few days. (I needed a break, and I figured you did too.) But then I turned around and it's three weeks later, still with no post.

Ok, it isn't just lately. I've been like this for years. (It's just come to my attention several times recently.) And I know what causes it, but that doesn't always make it any easier. So I continue to struggle, and to try to find a balance (or to let a balance find me.) I'll leave it at that for now. Perhaps I'll get deeper into the explanation at another time.

For now I'll just say that I'm still here. And I'm working on it. (And any good vibes you can send my way will be happily accepted.) My plan here is that before too long we'll see posts about all of the wonderful things I've discovered to help me along the way, and how wonderfully balanced everything has become. Yep. That's the plan.

Wish me luck! And remember: When life hand you lemons, be happy. 'Cause, you know, free lemons! :)

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Thanks for Listening

And so ends my first Ultimate Blog Challenge. I started a little bit late, and I took a few days off for vacation, but I managed to catch up and complete the goal of 31 posts in 31 days. (Woo-hoo!)

I started off the month with the idea that the point of any challenge is to learn and grow, and to open up to the world outside of your comfort zone. That idea has definitely stayed with me. Even as I like to call myself a writer, the idea of facing daily deadlines and putting this much effort into a blog was daunting.

I honestly didn't know if I could do it. But, again, what's the point of a challenge? It's difficult, and it's exciting, and we do it even though we don't know what the outcome will be. Because that's how we grow. So I pushed myself. And it didn't take very long at all to realize how much I was enjoying that push.

So I'll ask again, like I did a month ago... Are you challenging yourself? Or are you staying where you feel safe, and risking stagnation? Don't be afraid to take a leap. (Or, if you aren't ready for that, at least start with a small step.) One way or another, put yourself out there. You just might be amazed by what you can do.

Of course I have to say a big Thank You to the ladies who started the UBC, and to all of my fellow participants for all of the support and camaraderie. And a special Thank You to all of you who have stuck with me and continued reading, even as I inundated you with all of the little things that were going on in my head. :)

And now we celebrate with the Snoopy Dance.

Versatile Me

My thanks to my cousin Sara of Succisive Thoughts for passing on the Versatile Blogger Award. And my apologies for taking so long to acknowledge it. But between my post-graduation off-the-grid hiatus during the last half of May and most of June, and the busy July I've had... I had plenty of time to think of excuses. :)

Apparently now I'm supposed to share with you seven things about myself that you might not know. ('Cause arbitrary rules are fun!) So here goes:

1. I used to play the saxophone.

Yep. I was a band geek. :) I played the alto sax from 5th through 9th grade. I was never really that good, but I guess I did okay, mostly. But by the time I got to high school there were other things that I enjoyed more, so continuing with something where I had to work really hard to be little more than mediocre wasn't worth it, so I quit playing. I did have some fun (and made some good friends) in junior high band, though.

2. Milk bubbles gross me out.

You know how when you pour a glass of milk you get those little tiny bubbles on top, around the edge of the cup? Yeah, I can't explain it, but I absolutely cannot drink those bubbles. I have no memory of what might have caused the weird aversion; it's just been like this for as long as I can remember. I have to blow them away before I can take a drink. Mock if you must. I know it's weird.

3. I have an extra vertebrae in my neck.
Well, part of a vertebrae, actually. Several of the vertebrae are also fused. It's all part of Klippel-Feil Syndrome, which is a congenital defect. (And which led to me also having scoliosis.) I don't really have any outward signs of it, other than my neck being shorter than it otherwise would have been. It mostly just causes quite a bit of pain and a very limited range of motion. But fortunately I didn't manifest a lot of the symptoms and other conditions that can also be associated with it, so I guess I kind of got off lucky.

4. I once co-wrote a play.
In my freshman year of high school, a very dear friend and I (who were pretty much the drama queens of the school) co-wrote and starred in that year's feature production. (Sure, it was a pretty small school. But I still think it's kind of cool.) It was a story about a girl who is channel surfing on TV, and watches snippets of shows (all of which were take-offs of popular shows of the time) and SNL-like commercials. Not Broadway material, granted. But, well... we were 15.

5. I used to have my tongue pierced.

A lot of people who know me are kind of surprised by this. (I guess I don't seem like the body piercing "type.") That's the only thing besides my ears that I've ever pierced. And it wasn't a rebellion thing or anything like that - I just thought it was cool. I loved having it, too. But after a barbell got stuck in my tongue and I had to go to the ER to have it removed... it seemed prudent to let it close up and be done with it. I have to admit that I still kind of miss it sometimes. But at my age it would probably just look weird now, so I guess it's for the best.

6. I still think Buffy the Vampire Slayer is one of the best shows ever created.
Pretty much anything Joss Whedon does is genius. I loved Angel, and Firefly, and Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog. But Buffy still stands out to me as one of the best. Part of it was the timing of the show - I was just a few years older than the characters when it came out, so I kind of grew up with them. But mostly it's just that the show was awesome. I'm not at all ashamed to say that I have all 7 seasons on DVD. I still love it.

7. I kind of have a thing for Josh Gates.

Ok, I saved the most embarrassing one for last. :) But I love the show Destination Truth (even though a more accurate title would be Destination Conjecture, because they never actually find or prove anything.) Putting that aside, it's still a great show. They go to some cool places, and have some really interesting cultural experiences. And they're silly, and goofy, and funny while they're doing it, which makes it all really entertaining. But most of all, Josh Gates is just really awesome. And judge me if you want, but I think he's kind of hot.

So there you have it. Probably more about me than you ever wanted to know. :) And now to keep the award going, here are some of my favorite new blogs that I've come to love thanks to the Ultimate Blog Challenge.

Everyday Gyaan: about everyday matters, because every day matters!
FPT (Front Porch Therapy): Sit Long. Talk Much. Laugh Often.
insignificant at best: random musings from a nobody
Inspired Life
missriki: Musings on Hope and Hopelessness
Passion. Dedication. Life. Us.
Ship Bound for Tarshish: Trusting God to lighten the load

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Time to Recharge

I was having a particularly painful day yesterday (probably due in large part to the weather) so I got out my handy-dandy controller to adjust the settings on my spinal cord stimulator. When I did, I discovered that my battery was very low. (Oops. Guess it's been a little while since I thought to charge it.)

So I pulled out the charger, and went about my business. It was really not that big of a deal, but I still couldn't help scolding myself for having forgotten to recharge the battery sooner. And as I did that, it occurred to me what a metaphor that was for my life.

I am very guilty of habitually neglecting to pay close enough attention to my own body and my own energy needs. And I'm guessing I'm probably not the only one out there who could say that. How many times have you needed to "recharge" but didn't give yourself enough time and attention to do it?

I'm sure I could come up with several convincing excuses, but that's not the point. What's past is past, and excuses don't matter. All we can do is learn from it and move on, right? So rather than scolding ourselves for what we've failed to do in the past, let's encourage ourselves (and each other) to move forward in a positive direction.

So here's your friendly reminder for the day: Don't neglect yourself. Take some "you" time when you need it. And remember that we all need to recharge now and then.

No Cell Phones!

My husband and I were having a conversation today about all of the annoying things that people do when talking on their cell phones. Of course there is the typical complaint about people who just walk around everywhere they go talking on the phone. And even worse are the ones who are talking ridiculously loudly everywhere they go.

Then there are the people who wear their bluetooth headset all the time, so you can never tell if they're talking to you or to someone on the phone. Or the people who, for reasons nobody can figure out, use the speakerphone while they're walking around in public. (Seriously. What's that about?)

It has become very common to walk into a business and see signs posted that say "No Cell Phones" or "Please Turn Off Your Cell Phones." The understandable reason being, of course, that it's distracting and/or irritating to everyone else in the room if people are using their cell phones. I'm totally on board, and don't have a problem with the "no cell phones" policies.

My counter-argument, however, is that it's equally annoying to have to listen to someone have a disturbingly loud conversation with the person sitting in the next chair. Just because both of you are in the same room, and there is no phone involved, doesn't mean I need to hear every detail about how your date went last night, or what a jerk your boss is.

I'm not saying people shouldn't talk to each other. I'm just pointing out the irony that people make such a big fuss about people using phones, but don't complain so much about other loud or disruptive conversations. Let me give you an example:

One day my husband had dropped me off at the college library to do some homework while he and the kids went out. They came back a few hours later, and rather than park and get the kids out to come in and find me, he called me to let me know he was here. I answered the phone, and said (very quietly) "You here? Ok. I'll be right out" and hung up.

Just then one of the library employees happened to be walking by and said "You aren't talking on a cell phone... are you?" (He somehow managed to be weirdly threatening and condescending at the same time.) I just said "nope" and got my stuff together and left.

This wouldn't have been a big deal, and I probably wouldn't have thought anything about it at all, except that sitting at the row of computers directly across from me was a group of four or five students who had been having very loud, very distracting conversations the entire time they had been there. But apparently that was ok, because at least everyone was in the room, and nobody was using a phone.

I don't think anyone should get rid of their "No Cell Phones" signs. It's just that whenever I see one of these:

No Cell Phones

I'd also like to see one of these:

No Loud Conversations With the People Around You

Friday, July 29, 2011

If You Give a Girl a Blog...

I remember when my oldest niece was growing up, and If You Give a Mouse a Cookie was one of her favorite books. (And I admit that even though I was a teenager at the time, I loved it too.) So I wasn't surprised at all when I introduced it to my own kids and they instantly fell in love with it.

They've been wanting to get more of the books from the "If You Give..." series, but I just hadn't gotten around to it. Then earlier this week we were shopping at the Borders going-out-of-business sale (since we had some gift cards to use before they were rendered worthless) and I found a very cute collection of several of the books packaged together.

It doesn't include all of the books in the series, but it does have If You Give a Mouse a CookieIf You Give a  Pig a PancakeIf You Give a Moose a Muffin, and If You Take a Mouse to School. Between each story there are also recipes, activities, and songs. The book also came with a CD which includes audio versions of each book and recordings of the silly songs. (And the bonus for me was that this one collection cost a little less than what two of the books alone would have cost. Gotta love a bargain.)

So what we've learned from all of this is:

If you read your kids one of the "If You Give..." books,
they're going to fall in love with it.
And then they'll ask you to read it again.
So you'll read it several more times, until they have it memorized.
Then they'll discover that there are other books in the series
and beg you to get those for them too.
So you'll go to the bookstore.
And chances are, if you get more of the books,
They're going to fall in love with those too.

Happy reading! :)

Imagine My Delight

You may recall from an earlier post that my kids (and I) really love the classic Margaret Wise Brown book Goodnight Moon. So you can imagine how delighted we were when we found this:

The cover flap says that it was written by a fan of the original book, and it shows. I've read "tributes" and "parodies" of other books in the past that fell short and were sadly disappointing. But this one delivers.  The story follows the original pattern very well, but is creative at the same time. And the illustrations are beautifully done.

Instead of the comb, and the brush, and the bowl full of mush (and the quiet old lady whispering "hush"), you get this:

We read this while standing in the middle of the bookstore, and the kids immediately fell in love. There was no question that we had to take home a copy. (Which we ended up reading several more times that day.)

Some people might be turned off by the "dark" turn that Rex has taken with it (turning the room into a tomb filled with monsters and goons) but it's all cartoonish enough to be silly rather than scary. The kids laughed the entire time we read it.

I discovered that Michael Rex has also written a tribute to Runaway Bunny (another Margaret Wise Brown book.) As much as the kids love Goodnight Goon, I know we'll be looking for this one too.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

My Little Chili Pepper

Ok, while we're on the subject of my kids, I thought I'd share another story about my son. Since before he was born, he's had the nickname Chili Pepper (or Chili for short.) But a lot of people don't know why we call him that.

Someone even asked me one time, "You named your kid Chili?!" Like it was his real name. No, I didn't actually name my kid after a vegetable. But the nickname was cute, and it just stuck. He likes it, too. When he meets someone new he'll tell them his real name, then say "But everyone calls me Chili Pepper."

From very early in my pregnancy, I craved spicy food all the time. The spicier the better. And it was just about all I wanted. (Spicy Mexican food. Hot wings. Anything with jalapenos in it.) This, for those of you who are unfamiliar with pregnancy, is very unusual. Most of the time you don't want to bring spicy food around a pregnant woman.

We were talking one day about how unusual my cravings were, when I decided that it actually made since. Since I'm originally from Texas, and my husband is Hispanic, I explained that the baby was half jalapeno and half chili pepper, so of course it was making me crave more spicy food.

We didn't have a name yet, because we didn't know his gender yet. So since we didn't want to call him an "it" and were tired of "the baby," we just started calling him the chili pepper. Everybody thought it was cute, and it just seemed to fit, so eventually it became Chili Pepper.

What makes it all even funnier is how much he loves peppers now. (He still just eats the sweet ones - no chilis yet - but still. How many 5-year-olds love peppers?) So the nickname turned out to be even more perfect than I ever expected. :)

There Goes My Life

I was actually just listening to the playlist that I mentioned in my last post, and I thought of another song. But I decided that this one deserves its own post. And it can't really be boiled down to one quote - you just kind of have to watch the video.

This song is particularly poignant to me right now, since this whole nostalgia kick that I'm on was caused by my noticing how quickly my kids are growing up. (And yes, I sat here and cried during the whole video.)

Granted, my story of parenthood didn't start anything like it did for the kids in this song. I was married, I was in my late 20s, and we did it on purpose. But regardless of how old you are, or how "ready" for it you think you are, having a kid changes everything, and turns you whole life upside down.

And it doesn't take long to realize how right he is about your kids being your life... your future... your everything.

My Nostalgic Playlist

I mentioned the other day that I'm growing increasingly nostalgic lately, thanks to the rapidly approaching day when my oldest starts kindergarten. I even started a "Nostalgic" playlist on my phone. These are the songs I've come up with so far:

1. Welcome to the Future by Brad Paisley
When I was ten years old
I remember thinkin' how cool it would be
when we were goin' on an eight hour drive
if I could just watch TV.
And I'd have given anything
to have my own Pac-Man game at home.
I used to have to get a ride down to the arcade.
Now I've got it on my phone.
2. Back When by Tim McGraw
Back when a hoe was a hoe
Coke was a coke
And crack's what you were doing
when you were cracking jokes.
Back when a screw was a screw
The wind was all that blew
And when you said I'm down't with that
It meant you had the flu.
I miss back when. 
3. A Different World by Bucky Covington
We were born to mothers who smoked and drank.
Our cribs were covered in lead based paint.
No child proof lids, no seat belts in cars.
Rode bikes with no helmets, and still here we are.
We got Daddy's belt when we misbehaved.
Had three TV channels you got up to change.
No video games and no satellite.
All we had were friends, and they were outside.
It was a different life
when we were boys and girls.
Not just a different time
It was a different world.
4. Don't Blink by Kenny Chesney
Don't blink.
You just might miss your babies growing like mine did
Turning into moms and dads
next thing you know your better half
Of fifty years is there in bed
And you're praying God takes you instead.
Trust me friend, a hundred years goes faster than you think
So don't blink.
5. Good Riddance (Time of Your Life) by Green Day
Another turning point, a fork stuck in the road
Times grabs you by the wrist, directs you where to go.
So make the best of this test, and don't ask why
It's not a question, but a lesson learned in time.
It's something unpredictable, but in the end it's right.
I hope you had the time of your life.
6. Grandpa (Tell Me 'bout the Good Old Days) by The Judds
Did lovers really fall in love to stay
and stand beside each other, come what may?
Was a promise really something people kept
not just something they would say?
Did families really bow their heads to pray?
Did daddies really never go away?
Oh, Grandpa, tell me 'bout the good old days.
7. I Go Back by Kenny Chesney
I go back to a two-toned short bed Chevy,
Driving my first love out to the levy,
Livin' life with no sense of time.
And I go back to the feel of a fifty yard line,
A blanket, a girl, and some raspberry wine,
Wishing time would stop right in its tracks.
Every time I hear that song, I go back.
8. Nineteen Somethin' by Mark Wills
It was 1980-somethin'
in the world that I grew up in.
Skatin' rinks and black Trans Ams,
big hair and parachute pants.
Lookin' back now I can see me,
Oh man, did I look cheesy.
But I wouldn't trade those days for nothin'
Oh, it was 1980-somethin'
9. The Dance by Garth Brooks
And now, I'm glad I didn't know
The way it all would end
The way it all would go.
Our lives are better left to chance.
I could have missed the pain,
But I'd of had to miss the dance.

Do you have any favorite "nostalgic songs"? Please share them here!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Impressively Mature Reactions

My kids don't really watch a lot of TV. (They much prefer to run around and play, like they're doing right now.) When they do watch TV, it's usually something like Little Einsteins, or the old-school cartoons like Tom & Jerry, Pink Panther, or The Smurfs.

But some time last year they discovered Wow! Wow! Wubbzy!, and (for some reason) fell in love with it. And it just happened to be on right before bedtime, so it became part of our nightly routine. There isn't a lot to it as far as educational value goes, but there are some good social lessons and some fun sing-along opportunities with the silly songs (which are, mercifully, easy enough to tune out.)

Not long after they started watching Wubbzy they also discovered Ni Hao, Kai-Lan, which was on right afterward, and it too became part of the nightly routine. Kai-Lan teaches about Chinese language and culture, and also tries to offer the social lessons.

But the problem with it is that it also - in just about every episode - shows the characters acting inappropriately before they learn the day's lesson. So rather than just having an episode about being a good friend, or about taking care of your toys, somebody is acting really mean, or breaking something, or otherwise just being a bad kid.

I still let the kids watch it, because they liked being exposed to another language, and because eventually each episode did get around to the lesson. And we would talk about what the characters had done, and reinforce that good kids should never act like that. But my husband and I would still remark now and then that we didn't really like the show, because of some of the examples that it was setting.

But yesterday we finally decided to pull the plug. It was growing increasingly obvious that the kids were both picking up bad habits from the way the characters on the show behave, and we decided that enough was enough. I wasn't sure how they would react, because it has been a part of their routine for so long, but I figured it was just something I 'd have to deal with.

So last night at dinner I broke the news. Of course, their first question was "Why?" I figured that honesty would work out the best, so I just explained that Mommy and Daddy didn't think it was a very good show, and we didn't like how naughty the kids were all the time. Then I braced for impact, waiting for the protest to start.

Amazingly, they both hardly thought about it at all before saying "Okay" and then starting a conversation about why it's important to be good, and how they don't want to be naughty or see other kids being naughty. And that was that. No protest. No complaining. And bedtime went on without any problems.

Regardless of how you feel about that show, or about our decision to not let the kids watch it any more, I think we can probably still agree that for a 3-year-old and a 5-year-old to react so calmly to having something taken away like that is pretty impressive.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Appreciating the Little Things

This morning I found a stash of earl grey tea that I forgot I had. (I thought I had run out a couple of days ago and wouldn't have any more until my next trip to the grocery store.) So this unexpected surprise made me really happy. It's kind of like finding $20 in the pocket of a jacket you haven't worn since last winter.

I know, I know. Maybe it sounds like a silly thing to be happy about. But, well, you know me well enough by now to know that I like to be happy. Life isn' perfect, and I definitely have my share of problems. But dwelling on the negative is too much of a downer. If I can find something to be happy about, I will.

So of course that line of thinking kept going, and I starting thinking of other "little things" in life that make me happy. And the first thing that came to mind was my cute fuzzy socks. I have several pairs, and they're all silly... and they all make me smile.

I mean, how can you not be happy when wearing a pair of socks like this?

Or some of my other favorites:

And these "stocking stuffers" (pun intended) were some of my favorite things from last Christmas.

I can't help it. Things like that just make me happy.

And yes, it's true - tea and fuzzy socks don't make the world's (or even my own) problems disappear. But there's no denying that being able to smile does make everything else a little bit easier to deal with. So I will continue to smile about every little thing I can, no matter how silly it might be. Please feel free to join me. :)

Monday, July 25, 2011

Quirky Drivers

I actually have several other descriptive words for them that I use from time to time, but for the sake of being a little nicer on here, I'll go with "quirky."

So here's my question for today: Why do people get so weird about someone passing them on the highway? And I'm not even talking about getting "cut off." That I can at least understand getting irritated about. (Not to the extent that some people do. It's annoying, sure. But not worth raising your blood pressure. But that could be a whole different conversation for another day.)

No, I'm just talking about when one car is going faster than another, and simply gets in the other lane to go around the slower car. Why on earth does that bother people so much? Do they feel threatened? Challenged in some way? Does it somehow make them feel inferior to suddenly realize that they aren't going the fastest? Seriously - I don't get it.

I live in a small-ish town 16 miles (via one of the smaller highways) from the nearest major metro sprawl. So we drive that highway quite a bit (any time we want to go into "the city" for anything.) And it turns out that this highway is a great place to see this weird, "how-dare-you-go-around-me" behavior.

It happened to me just this evening on my way home. Driving in the right lane, I came upon a car that was going slower than I was. So naturally I moved over into the left lane to pass. The minute I changed lanes, the other car sped up. (Been there? I bet you have.) I actually had to speed up quite a bit to get past him (so that I could move over and let the car behind me, who was going even faster, pass.)

As soon as I was able to get back over, the other driver slowed back down. I resumed my previous speed and went on my way, leaving him well behind (presumably doing his original speed again.) It was as if he just had to make it harder for me to pass - for some reason - and once he had done that he was satisfied enough to get back to his own driving.

A few weeks ago, on that same highway, another driver took it even further. My husband went around a car whose driver apparently did not appreciate it at all. He actually sped up, went around us, cut us off, and then break-checked us. And, because all of that apparently wasn't enough, he flipped us off while doing it. (Insert confused expression here.) I totally felt like I was missing something.

There are plenty of times in life when being competitive is a good thing. But there are also times when it just honestly doesn't matter. The key, I think, is to recognize the situation for what it is. I'm sure I've been guilty in the past of trying to be the best, or the first, or the fastest, or whatever, when there was absolutely no need for it. But I have discovered that life is a lot easier (not to mention more pleasant) when I let go of the unnecessary competition. I hope, for the sake of their own health and well-being, that some of the other people I've encountered recently can learn to do the same.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Time to Invest in a Hat

I've really never been a hat person. It's not that I have anything against them on other people. It's just that (despite reassurances from well-meaning friends and family) I've just always thought they looked silly on me. But I think I've finally reached the point where I have to get over that.

Remember the sunburn I told you about? I said that it wasn't as bad as it could have been, and that was true. In fact, it wasn't really that bad at all, especially when compared to what I've had before. The only part that was really bad was the top of my head where my hair is parted.

Now, sunburns in general are frustrating and annoying. They hurt. They itch. They make us feel silly for getting them in the first place, because we know how to prevent them and should have been more careful. (That's me, anyway.) But a sunburn on the top of the head... I have to say that's one of the more annoying places to be burned.

I couldn't put the After Sun Lotion on it. 'Cause, you know, then I'd be putting lotion in my hair, and that wouldn't have worked out well. So while the rest of my body recovered without too much trouble, the top of my head is now starting to peel. And itch. And irritate the heck out of me.

Mind you, this is not the first time the top of my head has been sunburned. (It's happened more times than I'd like to admit, actually.) And every time it does, I whine about it, and my husband reminds me again that I should have worn a hat. And I say something to the effect of "Yeah, yeah. I know." It's one of those cycles we've been going through for years.

But last night, as I sat desperately trying to resist scratching my itchy peeling head, it occurred to me how ridiculous the whole situation is. And I wondered, how important is it whether I think (or other people think, for that matter) wearing a hat makes me look silly?

I've decided that I'm old enough now that stuff like that shouldn't matter any more. (I know, it really shouldn't have mattered before either, but it did, so I'm just going to have to move on from here.) But more importantly, I've decided that taking better care of myself, and protecting myself from harm, is much more important than worrying about what it might look like.

Sure, I'm still hoping that I can find something cute, that doesn't look too silly. But one way or the other, I'm going to have to try to become a hat person. Wish me luck!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Summer Reading

And by that I mean that it took me almost the entire summer to read it. But I finally finished Sarum: The Novel of England, and it was such a long journey that I felt like celebrating its completion publicly.

This novel - with its 1034 pages of teeny tiny print - is no small undertaking. Not something to be entered into lightly. But even though it took me just shy of forever to finish, I'd still say it was entertaining enough to be worth a read.

The story centers around the Salisbury plain, and covers the broad scope of history from prehistoric times (right before the island became separated from the mainland) right up to recent decades. The narrative is told through the lives of five families whose lineage is followed through the centuries. But it is always the place, rather than the people, that takes center stage.

It should be understood right up front that this is a work of historical fiction. (Fiction being the operative word.) Don't expect to learn the history of England from reading this book. But the occasional real historical figure is thrown in now and then, and there is enough about the actual events that were going on at the time that I often found myself wanting to learn more about the real history. (And to me, that's a sign of good historical fiction.)

When my husband first saw me with this book, he made a kind of "pffftt" noise that translated roughly into "There's no way in hell I would ever read a book that long." To his credit, he has recently learned that books can actually be read for fun, and aren't just torture devices used in schools. But for him, it still has to be a quick, exciting read in order to entertain him enough to keep going. If you also fall into this category, I advise against picking this one up.

The good thing was that every chapter jumped forward in time, sometimes a few decades and sometimes several centuries. The new characters were somehow tied to the previous ones each time, but it was really like a new story every time, that just happened to be about people that lived in the same place as the people in the last story. (I'll admit that at first this was kind of jarring, but once I got used to it I thought it worked well.)

So if you like historical fiction, and aren't turned off by really long books, you might enjoy this one as I did. And if nothing more, you'll get to feel an enormous sense of accomplishment when you finish it. :)

Friday, July 22, 2011

Amazing Conversations

By this point in their lives, I am rarely surprised any more by the things my kids say and do. I mean, when you have kids that are this smart and this incredibly adorable, you just kind of learn to take it in stride. ;) But even when I'm not surprised, that doesn't ever stop me from being amazed.

Yesterday my 5-year-old was playing downstairs, and his sister went down to find him. Apparently he didn't hear her coming, because I heard him make a little surprised gasping noise, which was followed by this conversation:

"Oh! You startled me!" (Pause.) "Do you know what startled means?"
"It means you surprised me. Startled is another word for surprised."
"Oh. Ok."
And with the vocabulary lesson over, they went off to play.

I love how much my kids pay attention to everything they see and hear. And not only are they paying attention, but  they're understanding, and then emulating. And for a 5-year-old to recognize that he used a word his 3-year-old sister might not understand, and then explain it to her... I thought that was pretty amazing.

Yep. Kind of beaming with pride right now. :)

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Be Original

I'm finally getting around to clearing out my DVR after our vacation, and just made it to the "Syfy original series" Alphas. Now, I know that by "original series" they mean that it's a new show created by their network. But in this case I couldn't help thinking that the term could only be applied if by "original" you mean "has been done hundreds of times before."

Basically, group of people with extraordinary abilities goes around trying to use their powers for the good of humanity. Sound familiar? Yeah, we've all seen it. And this one had all of the classic elements, right down to the "No. I don't believe you." "Yes, it's true. You're special. But you're not alone. And we can help you... if you help us" conversation between the new guy and the old mentor.

And of course there are all of the quirky personality traits to make things "interesting." This one is angry and has boundary issues. This one has no social skills and needs to be looked after like a 10-year-old. This one has a dark secret that still haunts her, but she doesn't want to talk about it.

I was determined to give it at least one episode, just to see if it looked like it had any potential. So I managed to make it to the end of the pilot... but I'm fairly certain that will be the last of it for me. It just all seemed too tired, with nothing new to offer. (I'm sure there are people out there that did like it, and that's great - we all have different tastes. So please don't be offended if you're a fan. It just wasn't for me.)

But it did give me something to think about. I couldn't let that hour and a half be a total waste (and I couldn't let the only bright side to the situation be that at least it wasn't quite an hour and a half because I could fast-forward through commercials.)

As a writer (and reader, and watcher of tv and movies) I know that there are always formulas to follow. That's no secret. And it's not necessarily a bad thing. But it doesn't mean that everything has to look, sound, or be the exact same. Follow the formula, sure, but add something of yourself into it and make it fresh.

The same can be said for life in general. There are always rules to follow, and necessary conformity to deal with. But that doesn't mean that we have to stop being original. Do what you have to do, but do it as yourself, from your own perspective. Don't just regurgitate. Don't just do the same thing because that's what's always been done. Rethink. Reimagine. Life will be all the better for it.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Speaking of Hot Tea...

If you read my last post, you now know that I have a thing for hot tea. And it's not just when I'm sick (although that is what brought it to mind on this particular occasion.) I do sometimes drink coffee too, but given the choice I usually reach for tea. It's versatile, it's soothing... and it's just plain yummy.

Give me a nice Earl Gray or chai in the morning, or maybe a green tea pick-me-up in the afternoon. Mint makes a nice evening soother, and chamomile is great before bed. (No, I typically wouldn't do all of that in the same day, 'cause, you know, I wouldn't want to do that to my stomach, and I don't need to be that jittery.) The point is that there are lots of choices, and it's easy to find a tea that fits the mood or the circumstances. Those are just a few of my favorites, but there are many other kinds in my cabinet that I use as the urge strikes.

And of course along with my love of tea comes my love of mugs. I have a few favorites... the Minnie Mouse one that my husband and kids gave me for my last birthday, several Winnie the Pooh mugs that I've gotten as gifts over the years, a couple with photos of my kids on them, several Texas mugs that I've picked up on visits back home. Their rotation varies according to my mood, just like the flavors of tea that they hold.

Just a few days ago I came across a very awesome collection of mugs. (Awesome, you know, if you're a geek like me.) I never knew it before, but the Merriam-Webster web site also has a store. And that's where I found these:

I think I might just have to add a couple of these to my collection.

Queen of Something Hot to Drink

It's weird, but except for all of my chronic conditions that I live with, I actually hardly ever get sick. (I know this is a contradiction, because technically having chronic conditions means that I'm always sick.) But you know what I mean - colds and other acute illnesses rarely ever get me down. And being someone who appreciates irony like I do, that just kind of makes me chuckle.

So it's odd that I find myself getting sick again for the second time in just a couple of weeks. This time it's not another gross stomach thing, thank goodness. But it's an almost-equally-gross-but-in-a-different-way sinus thing.  You know, the kind where your head is a couple of sizes too big, and you go through an entire box of tissues in a single day, and all you want to do is crawl under the covers and whine. (I know, I know. We better call the Waaaambulance!)

But of course you can't hide under the covers all day, because there are kids to be taken care of, so you suck it up and go on with life. So, knowing that I had to get rid of this thing quickly, the first thing I did yesterday when I felt it coming on was reach for a mug of hot tea. And for this, I have to thank a couple of people for their influence. My dear mother has taught me so many important lessons over the years, but this is the most relevant right now.

At the first mention of a sore throat, Mom would always remind me to "drink something hot." Granted, this is a less pleasant task when it is a hundred and nine degrees outside than it is, say, on a cold winter morning. But it still does the job, so again I suck it up. (Figuratively and literally this time.)

The other person I have to thank is my sister, another of my favorite people in this world. It was while staying with her for a few months, many years ago, that I came to appreciate the value of a well-stocked tea cabinet. And it was then that I lovingly gave her the title Queen of Something Hot to Drink. She always knows the moment the need for tea arises, and is right there with a steaming mug in hand. (That's just one of her many amazing qualities, but it's the one that comes to mind right now, for obvious reasons.)

So thanks, Mom and Sis, for being such a great influence. As I sit here enjoying my second cup of the day, and joyfully observing how it soothes my throat, I'm thinking of you with love. Of course I'm also thinking about this horrible sinus headache, and hoping it will go away soon. But mostly it's all about you. ;)

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Stuffed with Fluff

My mom and I took the kids to see the new Winnie the Pooh movie yesterday. And anybody who knows me even a little bit knows how much I adore Winnie the Pooh, so you can probably guess how excited I was. Even with all of the other highly anticipated movies this summer... this still might have been the one that I was looking forward to the most. And I've decided not to be ashamed of that.

I mean, he's a "silly old bear," but we love him anyway. With the "think, think, think" and the "oh, bother" ...  how could you not? And this movie is definitely a great new installment of the lovable bear and his friends. Like my mom put it, "This is one of those 'feel good' movies... you can't leave the theater in a bad mood!"

I'm honestly not sure who laughed more - Mommy, Grandma, or the kids. But I do know that we all thoroughly enjoyed it. There was plenty of silliness, jokes on the right level for kids and for adults, and none of the unnecessary-but-almost-always-included-anyway "dark" scenes that Disney seems to like, but three-year-olds don't.

But the best part for me, of course, was getting share one of my favorite characters from my childhood with the next generation. Yes, they're already familiar with Poohbear, from the books and the videos (and my toys), but this was different. Getting to see a new movie together in the theater is just a whole new kind of experience.

So as great as the movie was, getting to share it with my kids was even better. Seeing their smiles, and hearing their giggles (as I smiled and giggled right along with them) was, for lack of a better word, awesome. And it absolutely made my day.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Sand on the Laundry Room Floor

Well, the suitcases are unpacked, the laundry is done and put away, and the kids are readjusting to their normal routine. It was a fabulous four days (which, as I suspected would be the case, I was too busy enjoying to blog about it at the time.)

Mercifully, my inevitable sunburn was not as bad as it could have been, and is already fading. (Thank you Banana Boat, for your Aloe After Sun Lotion!) I know it says it will "extend your tan" but it also helps soothe and minimize peeling after a burn. And yes, I'm speaking from extensive experience, unfortunately.

We had a great time, but it was definitely more of a going-and-doing vacation than a resting-and-relaxing vacation. You know, one of those trips where you are just busy having so much fun the entire time that you need several days to recover after you get home. (Or another vacation!)

Of course you don't get any time to recover, because you're immediately thrown right back in to the real world. There's a house and kids to care for. Errands to run. Chores to do. It's almost a little jarring sometimes, but inevitably life returns to normal.

But by now you know me well enough to know that rather than dwell on the drudgery of every day life, I'll focus on the happy memories of a great trip with my three favorite people in the world. Did I particularly enjoy unpacking all of the suitcases and putting everything away? Not necessarily. But was I happy to do it? You betcha! Because everything that I unpacked and put away was just another reminder of the fun we had.

I found the perfect example of this when I started the first load of post-vacation laundry. With the first bit of clothes that I pulled from the basket, out came a cascade of sand - all over the laundry room floor. At first I groaned... one more thing to clean up when I'm already busy enough! But immediately after the groan came a smile.

Because that sand was the result of my kids' first visit to the beach. It was a gorgeous day filled with sandcastles, and seagulls, and screaming with delight as the waves crashed over us. So I happily swept it up. And in fact, I've decided that there is a direct correlation between the amount of sand that ends up on the laundry room floor and the awesomeness of a vacation. Next time, I hope I have an even bigger mess to clean up. :)

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

San Diego Bound

Later this morning, my husband and I will be piling the kids into the car and taking off for a few days of fun in the (much less miserable than Arizona) sun. So this will either turn in to a travel blog for a little while, or I'll fall of the grid and catch up when we get back. Only time will tell.

We've been planning this trip for a while, but it still kind of snuck up on me. When the realization hit me the other day that I only had a few days to get everything ready for our trip, my husband looked at me with a genuinely perplexed expression and said, "What do you have to do?" (Men are so adorably clueless.)

Every woman knows that before the actual vacation comes the shopping, and the cleaning, and the laundry, and the packing. Because if it wasn't for her, nobody would have anything to eat or drink on the road, no clean clothes to wear when they got there, and they would undoubtedly come home to several less-than-pleasant science experiments growing in the fridge.

I'm not complaining - it's just the way it is. (But trust me. After getting everything ready for everyone, Mom really needs that vacation. It's exhausting.) So guys, next time you go on a family vacation, and everything just "happens to" be ready, and planned, and packed, and taken care of... thank your wife.

And maybe buy her something pretty. That's always good too.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

My apologies, YouTube.

I feel like I may have given an inaccurate impression in my post a few days ago. My point with that one was that because we had the information we needed so readily available, it was hard to deal with not being able to fix everything ourselves. (But since we didn't have the necessary equipment to deal with the "if this has happened" situation that we ran into, and the tool would have cost as much as the repair call, we just saved ourselves any more hassle and called a plumber.)

I did not mean to imply that the information YouTube gave us was faulty. And I definitely didn't mean to imply that my husband and I weren't smart enough or capable enough to fix the problem. My point was simply to appreciate the irony of the situation. We were so frustrated at having to call a plumber (because YouTube gave us everything that we thought we should have needed) when not long ago we wouldn't have had a second thought about having to make that call. I just think it's an amusing side effect of having such awesome technology at our fingertips.

I was reminded of the whole YouTube thing earlier today, because I once again turned to it for help (and that made me think of several other recent occasions when I have done the same.) We were riding in the car, listening to one of the kids' CDs, and one of the songs said something about a horse that "jumped real high." In the back seat my daughter just started laughing, and said "Mommy, horses can't jump really high. That's so silly!"

I tried to tell her that some horses really did, but she just didn't buy it. So when we got home I pulled up a video on YouTube and showed her that it really was true. It was the same thing I did last week when my son asked me if robots were real. We found a video of a robot playing the violin, and he was very impressed. And we did the same thing a few months ago when he said he wondered what it looked like when an egg hatched. I found a very cool video of baby chicks hatching, so he got to see it for himself.

I'm not saying that everything broadcasting on YouTube is genius. I've seen some videos on there that I could have completely lived without. But there are some great ones, and some wonderful learning opportunities to be found. Just remember to not get too frustrated if you can't find exactly what you're looking for, or if what you do find doesn't completely fix your problem. The technology is great, but it's not the only tool you have.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Green Bean Face

My daughter cannot stand green beans, and it's been that way ever since she started solid food. I remember sitting her in her high chair and feeding her an assortment of soft foods one night at dinner. Every time I tried a green bean she spit it out. Thinking that maybe it was the color that she was against, I tried hiding a single bean under a fork full of macaroni and cheese. Nope. She wasn't having it.

Periodically I would try again. Her brother loves them, so they are a frequent part of our dinners, but she always refuses. Finally the other night she announced to me that since she's three now, she likes green beans, and she specifically asked for them with dinner. Sure thing! I'm not going to deny a kid asking for a vegetable.

I was skeptical, but I served them. My son of course gobbled his up right away. His sister saved them for the very end, carefully eyeing them the whole time, but several times assuring me that she does like them. Finally she finished the rest of her plate, and took a bite.

My son was excited. Since green beans are one of his favorites, he really wanted her to like them too. As soon as she put it in her mouth he said enthusiastically "Aren't they good?!" Completely unaware of her expression, he went on the entire time she was chewing. "They're good, aren't they? Green beans are SO yummy! Aren't they yummy? Don't you like them?" Finally, exasperated, he said "Say something!"

I couldn't help but be amused as I watched, both by his enthusiasm and by her pained expression. She was so determined to finish the bean, and yet it was so very obviously a struggle. Finally she choked it down, and looking at me with a mixture of shame, disappointment, and pain, she said in a tiny voice "Mommy, I don't like it." She visibly relaxed when I assured her that she didn't have to finish them.

Frankly, I'm ok with her not liking green beans, and don't feel the need to force her to eat them. But that's only because there are plenty of other vegetables that she does love. And because I know first hand that not every person likes every vegetable out there. Most adults that I know have at least one or two that they won't touch.

For me it's celery. Never could stand the stuff. Mostly it's the texture, but the smell and the taste rank right up there. And it wasn't until I was an adult that I realized it was ok to not eat something that grossed me out, even if it was "good for me." I'll get my nutrients from all of the other vegetables that I like, thank you very much. And don't even try to disguise it, by the way. For years my parents tried the whole peanut-butter-and-celery thing. To me, it always just seemed like a gigantic waste of perfectly good peanut butter.

So yes, eat your vegetables. And make sure your kids are eating vegetables. But pick your battles, as they say. And remember that not everyone likes everything. There are plenty of options out there, so chances are you can find something that your kid does like.

For both of mine, ironically, the favorite vegetable of choice has always been celery. Go figure.