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.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Random Collections of Words

This has been one of my son's favorite books since he was an infant. I used to hold him in my lap and read it to him before bed, pointing out each picture as I read. It didn't take long before he was pointing things out for himself. And by the time he could talk he was reciting it right along with me. Goodnight Moon is rightfully a classic.

So naturally when my daughter came along it quickly became one of her favorites too. I mean, how could you not love the comb, and the brush, and the bowl full of mush? (Not to mention the quiet old lady whispering 'hush.')

Even with all of the books that they have, they still pick this one as their bedtime story at least once a week. And each time we pull it out my daughter has to "read it" first. She knows the entire story by heart, and recites it perfectly. I have to say that it's one of the most adorable things I've ever witnessed.

So when the kids noticed the picture on the back advertising the "companion" book, of course they wanted to read it too. It took some searching, but I finally found it at an online bookstore. When it arrived we pulled it out and read it excitedly... only to discover what a huge disappointment it is.

I mean, it's not like Goodnight Moon is a masterpiece in storytelling or anything, but at least it does tell a story. All of the words follow along logically as the little bunny says goodnight to everything around him. It's not Shakespeare, but it's a cute story.

The "companion" book, however, is not. The closest that I can come to accurately describing it is to say that it's a collection of random words and phrases put together on paper. We have masterpieces like:



And she ends it with:



I know I'm being kind of a harsh critic. And I would feel bad for it, but... really? That's the "companion" to Goodnight Moon?! My kids were SO disappointed. When it was over they just kind of looked at me with a perplexed expression. (If they could have articulated it, I know they would have been saying the same thing I was.)

I generally try not to be cynical, but I couldn't help but think, after reading this, that apparently after you write a book that sells millions of copies and is loved by children everywhere, you can just put any random words next to pictures, call it a book, and people will buy it. 

So parents, I offer you this advice: Don't bother. There's a good chance that you and your kids will be disappointed.

And to my readers, I offer this promise: My writing will always have meaning. I don't care how many millions of copies I sell, or how many languages my work is translated into. I will never just put random words on paper and call it a story.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Too Cute to Let Go

Since before she was two, people have been commenting on my daughter's unusually advanced language skills. It's not just her vocabulary, which is impressive, but also her understanding of syntax, which has always been even more impressive.

It isn't surprising at all, considering that she comes from a long line of self-proclaimed Grammar Snobs. And it's not that we've ever gone to any special lengths to correct her speech - she has just always picked it up really easily. But even as advanced as she is, there are still some words that she can't quite pronounce correctly. She is still just three, after all.

Some of them are simple mis-pronunciations, like this one:


Some are more of an abbreviated mish-mash:


Some are more practical translations:


And some are just plain adorable. Like my personal favorite:

"Awesome-us Prime"

Of course I want to help her learn whenever the opportunity arises. But cuteness like this is just hard to correct, and part of me is always a little sad to see it go. (Even now, after my son has learned how to correctly pronounce "helicopter" I still often think of it as an "apu-totter.")

The truth of it all is that it's hard sometimes to be forced to let go of your babies and watch them grow up. (This is something I'm sure we'll revisit again. I find that I'm increasingly melancholy as we rapidly approach my son's first day of kindergarten.)  But like it or not, grow up they must.

So this is me cherishing the moments, and the cuteness, and trying with all of my might to preserve every bit of it that I can.

Friday, July 8, 2011

This too shall pass.

My apologies for the lack of positive spin on last night's post. But when your stomach has turned inside out several times, even after you think there couldn't possibly be anything left in it, it's hard to think at all, let alone think of a bright side of your current situation.

 Things still aren't as cheery around here as I would like them to be. Being vertical is not my favorite position. I'm sure seeing me try to walk around would be funny if it wasn't so sad.

And I just had toast for dinner.

But after spending most of the afternoon in bed, in that wonderful illness-induced fog that isn't quite sleep but is better than nothing, I'm finally starting to feel a little better. My head is clearing, at least, even if the queasiness isn't.

And of course, the moment the fog lifted, the bright side of my situation suddenly became abundantly clear. Even while I was laying there, doubled over and making little pathetic whimpering noises, it occurred to me that I was only having to deal with my own misery, and not having to clean up after any other sick people in the house.

If you're a mom, you know what I'm talking about. Usually when you get sick it's because you were taking care of the sick kids and/or husband, which you have to continue to do even after it hits you. But this time, mercifully, I'm the only sick one here. I may still have to deal with caring for others while I'm sick - there's just no getting around that. But at least I'm not caring for other sick people. That, absolutely, is the bright side of the situation.

And if that wasn't enough, I also just discovered that I've lost six pounds in the last two days. So there's that too. :)

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Watching TV online is both awesome and terrible.

I know I said in an earlier post that being able to watch TV online is awesome. And I stand by that. Mostly. When you're stuck in bed, like I was after surgery, it's great. I was able to keep up with my prime time favorites and  avoid going insane from boredom.

So not long ago I had the genius idea that if I could keep up with current shows online, maybe I could go back and revisit some shows that I missed. Like, for example...

I'm not even a little bit ashamed to admit that this was one of my favorite shows of the late '90s. It had action. It had drama. It had super-sexy counter-terrorist agents with their awesome high-tech gadgets. It was a great show. My only problem was that I didn't come into it until the third season.

So finally, after all these years, I decided to go back and watch it from the beginning. And the mixed emotions began almost immediately. Mostly, I think, because I was forced to confront just how much the world has changed since 1997. The awesome high-tech gadgets of 14 years ago are now so laughably outdated that it's almost painful to watch. The kicker for me was when, in one of the first episodes, the tech whiz explained to Nikita what a chat room was.

It isn't the show's fault. I'm pretty sure I didn't know what a chat room was back then either. If I had seen the episode when it first aired, the explanation would have seemed perfectly natural. But watching it this many years later I couldn't help but laugh. Just like I laughed every time they had to search for a land line in order to call somebody. It just seemed so weird.

The simple truth is that we can never really go back to our previous perspective once we've moved on. Everything we see and do changes us. This is not to say that we can't still enjoy things that we used to enjoy, or remember what our life was like before. But we'll never be able to see things from our past exactly the same way again.

Is that a bad thing? Of course not. I'm all about growth, and moving forward. Of course that's the way life should work. But, sadly for me, it does make it just a little bit more difficult to completely enjoy an awesome action-adventure from the '90s.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Thanks a lot, YouTube.

This morning, I totally thought that this post was going to be all about the wonders of technology, and how great it is to be able to quickly and easily find the information we need to solve problems on our own. I was praising YouTube and everything.

But five hours, one visit to the hardware store, one visit from a plumber, and $110 later, things changed a bit. I know - it wasn't YouTube's fault. But there was a good lesson to be learned from it all.

This is what my husband and I were dealing with this morning. There's a good chance you've been there, or at least somewhere similar. You know - that "oh crap" moment when something suddenly breaks, and you aren't prepared to fix it.

So being the fully capable people that we are, we looked up "How to replace a water supply valve" online, found a very helpful video, and watched it on my husband's phone as we sat right there on the bathroom floor.

Believing that we were fully prepared to do this all on our own, we headed off to our local hardware store and quickly (with a little help from a nice associate named Bill) found what we needed and headed home to conquer our leaky toilet. On the way home we even had a conversation about how cool it was that we could find such a helpful video online and be able to fix things ourselves instead of calling a plumber. Yeah. Of course we did.

And it is cool. I still stand by that. We can find answers to all sorts of questions, and instructions for doing all sorts of things, just by looking online. Just think about how many times you've answered a question with "I don't know. Google it." (Don't try to deny it. I know it's not just me.)

But the problem is, being able to find answers to anything just by grabbing our phone and going online sometimes makes us forget that the modern technology that we are raving about doesn't automatically make us capable of actually fixing the stupid toilet. In an ideal world, yes. In reality... not so much. Sometimes there are extenuating circumstances. Sometimes you still need outside help.

We finally reached the "had enough" point and called a plumber. And we were really irritated about having to do it. Because we should have been able to do this ourselves, darn it! The irony is, not so long ago we lived in a world where calling a plumber was the natural first step when confronted with plumbing issues. Oh, how things have changed.

So lesson learned. Yes, technology is awesome. But no, it can't do it all. Find your answers when you can, and rejoice. But remember that it's still ok to ask for professional help sometimes.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Family and Fireworks

Today is July 4th, which of course in the United States is when we celebrate Independence Day. For most Americans this means thoughts of patriotism and freedom. It also usually means thoughts of picnics, parades, and fireworks. It's tradition, and it's wonderful.

Unfortunately, in my part of the country, summertime - and summer holidays - are a little different. (We've been under an Excessive Heat Warning for the past several days.) When the temperature rises above 115, or even 110 for that matter, playing outside is not on the top of anyone's list. It's dangerous. And frankly, it's just plain miserable.

There was a time when not getting to celebrate today "the traditional way" would have really bothered me. But thankfully as I've gotten older I've also mellowed, and I've learned to be much more flexible with things. Holidays have become less about what exactly I'm doing, and more about who I'm doing it with. I even learned that when we celebrate isn't critical, which was a big thing for me. (This year Mother's Day was right before finals, so we celebrated a few days later. A couple of years ago we had "Mocks-giving" in early December, because I had strep throat on Thanksgiving. Everything still tasted just as good.)

So today we adapted, just like we've done in the past. Our "picnic" was inside, but the hot dogs and hamburgers were still yummy. We didn't get to go out and watch a parade, but my kids did watch several episodes of School House Rock, and enjoyed a healthy dose of patriotism. And we watched fireworks on TV, from the comfort of our living room. I know it's not exactly the same as seeing them live, but they're still pretty. We were safe, we were together, and we were happy. That's really all I need from a holiday.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Are you challenging yourself?

I can remember saying, in a class discussion not all that long ago, that there weren't any blogs that I actually read. My reason - and it honestly wasn't at all meant to be insulting or sarcastic - was that I just didn't care that much what anybody else thought. I was a full-time student and a full-time mom, and half the time I couldn't even formulate my own coherent thoughts, let alone take the time to try to read someone else's.

Of course it wasn't very long after that when I discovered a few blogs that I fell in love with, and started opening up to the idea of giving blogs in general more of a chance. (It turns out that they aren't all just self-serving drivel.) And of course just two semesters later, in a class taught by that very same teacher, I started this blog as one of my projects. (He probably wasn't even aware of the irony, but it definitely wasn't lost on me.)

This has obviously not been the most prolific blog of all time, but that has always been - and still is - ok. (See previous "full-time student and a full-time mom" excuse.) I've told myself a few times that after school was over I would put in an honest effort to blog more... but as we all can plainly see that didn't so much happen as it was just thought about. But then a friend introduced me to the Ultimate Blog Challenge

I read their web site with raised eyebrows, wondering to myself if I could/should/would do it. The thought of going from roughly a post or two a month to a post every day for the entire month of July seemed a bit... I don't know... much. On the other hand, it's called the Ultimate Blog Challenge. Something like that is not meant to let you just keep you doing the same old thing that you've always been doing. 

I know I'm not alone in being fond of the "comfort zone." It's always tempting to stay with the known and just be satisfied. But where is the growth in that? And, if we want to be honest, where is the fun? Yes, it's intimidating. That's kind of the point, I suppose. So as one of my favorite characters on one of my favorite shows likes to say... "Challenge accepted." 

And since challenges are all about learning and growing, it's perfect that I've already learned my first  important lesson from this whole thing. The challenge being that you blog every day in the month of July, of course my schedule was completely booked solid (and I wasn't near my computer) on the first two days of the month. 

But rather than starting the whole thing off feeling like I've already failed, of course I decided to put a more positive spin on it. Because part of the "learning and growing" that goes on with accepting a challenge is figuring out how to also accept it when things don't go exactly according to plan. And since that particular lesson has been one of the hardest for me to learn in life (as just about anyone who knows me personally will tell you) it just gives me all the more reason to continue.