Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Y: Yoga Youngsters

One of my 2013 New Year’s resolutions was to get more fit and healthy. I’m not having the best of luck though. With an overloaded schedule and a chronic illness that involves fatigue and pain, I have found it difficult to find the time, energy, and motivation for exercise. But with summer fast approaching, I plan to utilize my kids’ summer vacation to the max.

I have noticed that I am much better at sticking with and pushing through exercise that involves my kids. My son and daughter sometimes do yoga with me, and they absolutely love our walks and playtimes outside. When I exercise with them I am too busy laughing and having a good time to focus on how much it tires me or how long it is taking. In fact, sometimes I am amazed at how much time seems to fly when I am exercising with them.

As a result, I plan on building some healthy habits with my children this summer—healthy habits that I hope will continue even after summer is long over. First and foremost, I want to reclaim my body and be as fit as possible. I want to live a long and healthy life for myself and my family. Secondly, I want to give my kids a good example to follow, so they can grow up to be healthy and happy adults, too. And lastly, exercising together is a wonderful family activity. It will help to keep us connected and hopefully will help create a bond between us that will last a lifetime.

Do you exercise as a family? If so, what are your favorite activities? And how often do you get to exercise together?

Saturday, April 27, 2013

X: X's and O's

I remember when I first learned what X’s and O’s stood for as a little girl. I would cover the cards and drawings that I made for people with a thousand abbreviated hugs and kisses. I wanted my friends and family to know that I loved them so very much, and in my little mind, a paper full of X’s and O’s was the perfect way to prove my love.

As I grew older, my obsession with writing a zillion X’s and O’s started to fade. Soon, I found myself writing them only on rare occasions. My mom, however, still is a big X’s-and-O’s fan. She signs all her cards to my son and daughter with a huge string of them. For the longest time, my children didn’t pay these letters any mind. However, since they are now reading, they finally asked me what this strange ‘word’ means.

I explained to them that X’s and O’s in cards and letters stands for hugs and kisses. I told them that it is an easy and quick way to show someone that you are sending them your love. Now my house has turned into a giant Valentine’s Day mailbox. It is filled with countless papers covered with X’s, O’s, and carefully drawn hearts. As my kids love to say, every day is Valentine’s Day here. It’s important to tell everyone that we love them, and we aren’t afraid to show it!

In a way, I am overjoyed to see my kids express their love for others so openly and freely. I remember that my family was much more closed when I was growing up and it sometimes left me wondering if everyone truly loved me. But my kids will never have that problem. They are my little cupids, spreading love, hugs, and kisses wherever they go—all year round. And my family no longer hesitates to return some of that affection.

Do you ever wonder how much more beautiful this world would be, if only we would be more open about loving others? Just seeing how much my children’s love has opened my own heart over the years has convinced me that love is a powerful thing. With love, anything is possible and the possibilities are truly endless.

Friday, April 26, 2013

W: Who? What? When? Where? How?

What seems like a lifetime ago, my kids went through the why stage. They drove me a little batty with their never-ending whys. Nothing ever seemed to satisfy their curiosity, no matter how long I took to try to explain why. I am not ashamed to admit that I was extremely relieved when they outgrew this difficult stage.

Recently, though, I have come to realize that those were simpler times. The infamous whys have reemerged and brought with them their many exasperating relatives: who, what, when, where, and how! I am happy to see my kids so eager to learn, but my world gets pretty crowded with all these questions floating about 24/7!

There are moments when I swear I’ve become a professor and an encyclopedia. My days are crammed with little mini lectures and demonstrations. And my kids eat them up. The more I talk, the more they ask…and in turn, the more I talk. If I am not careful, we won’t get anything else done because I love to lecture a little bit too much and I am perfectly content talking the entire day away.

My grandmother teases me that I have missed my true calling. She insists that with my love of rambling lectures, I was born to be a college professor. Who knows? Perhaps she is on to something, but I have to learn to restrain myself from getting too far away from my obligations and my kids’ actual schoolwork. It is a fun diversion for me and my children now and then, but I have to resist going off on every wild tangent each time another question surfaces. Or I risk lecturing my life away, and there are so many other amazing things I want to accomplish in this life.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

V: Vacuum Cleaner Connoisseur

Since my son was two years old, he has been obsessed with vacuum cleaners. As a toddler, he wanted to start using my vacuum cleaner. As a compromise, I bought him a toy vacuum cleaner that made noises and came with a cleaning cart. It wasn’t long, though, before he wore it down and was pointing out it wasn’t really a vacuum cleaner since it didn’t suck anything up. When he was three I bought him a sweeper broom and adjusted the handle to fit his height. Within a year, the bristles on it were so bent that it no longer would roll.

When he was four I bought him another sweeper broom. This time it was a heavy duty model. The sweeper broom still works, but by the time my son turned five, he longed for something more. I found a Swivel Sweeper on sale and thought it would be the best of both worlds. It would give my son true suction power under my supervision, without me worrying about the dangers of power cords. Within three months, he had that Swivel Sweeper so worn out it wouldn’t even charge.

When my fiancé and I were out Christmas shopping this past winter we found Dust Busters on sale. They were an incredible bargain and we knew immediately that my son would adore such a gift. On Christmas morning, once my little buddy unwrapped his Dust Buster, he didn’t want to open any more presents. He was one very happy little boy.

Now that it is April, though, he is already planning what he’s going to ask Santa Claus for this coming Christmas. Although he loves his Dust Buster, he still wants to add to his vacuum cleaner fleet. He has been eyeing up stick vacuum cleaners and all the fancy vacuums that Dyson sells. I fondly call my son a vacuum cleaner connoisseur. He enjoys telling me what he loves and dislikes about different models every time he sees a commercial, leafs through a catalog, or takes a trip down the vacuum cleaner aisle at the store. He has even told me that he plans on designing an even better vacuum cleaner when he grows up. With how much he already knows about vacuums and how passionate he feels about them, I won’t be surprised if he follows through on this dream someday.

U: Underwear Under Where?

Our pants-and-sock-stealing cat is at it again. No longer is he content to steal socks or my children’s panys out of the laundry. He has now graduated to diabolical underwear raids from our dresser drawers. If we leave our drawers open even a tiny crack, he maneuvers his way in there and takes off with a fresh pair of underwear.

At first, we were oblivious to our cat’s new obsession. He was just too sneaky and careful to get caught. However, as I started spring cleaning this month, pairs of underwear started popping up in the strangest places. I was finding underwear in the couch, behind the TV, under the refrigerator, and even in my kids’ arts and crafts supplies. Either our underwear was beginning to creep around at night or something very fishy was going on in our home.

As I gathered up the pairs of underwear, my kids put them in the dirty laundry. Just as I thought I had found the final pair, our resident clothing thief came running out of the bathroom dragging the pile of underwear with him. I hurried up and rounded up the underwear once again. I tossed them in a laundry basket and carried them down to the washing machine. After putting a load in the wash, I went back upstairs to continue with my cleaning.

I went to my room to return a book that I had laying on the coffee table. I quickly put the book down on my desk and turned to leave the room. Immediately, I stopped in my tracks. From behind me, I heard this strange scratching noise coming from inside a dresser drawer. I crept slowly over to see what could be making the noise. I half expected to see a mouse scurrying around inside the barely opened drawer. But instead of a mouse, I saw a black fluffy tail sticking out of the dresser drawer. It was our underwear bandit striking again!

My kids keep asking me why our cat loves to steal our clothes. But to be honest, I have no clue. I can’t figure out why he is so fascinated with socks, pants, and now underwear. He has plenty of cat toys to entertain him. He has plenty of kitty companions to keep him company. And we spend a lot of time playing with our cats, so it isn’t likely because he’s bored. Perhaps he just loves the taste of my laundry detergent. Or maybe his nesting instincts are kicking in. Whatever the reason behind his behavior, it guarantees I never have to face a dull day…ever again.

Have you ever had a cat that stole clothing from dresser drawers? If so, what did your kitty like to steal?

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

T: Twitter Twits

Even though I’d like to think my kids are still immune to the influence of the internet, the social media age is upon us. My kids go to cyber school and their school has a solid social media presence. And then there is me, online writer mommy and social media extraordinaire. Ok, I’m not nearly as internet savvy as I would like to think, but I do check in with my social media accounts frequently throughout the day. When my power goes out or my internet service is down I feel the withdrawal symptoms just a little! 

A couple months ago, my son’s 1st grade class was discussing a little bit about Twitter. Although my kids know plenty about Facebook, I use Twitter mostly as a writer. I keep my professional social media to myself, so my son was quite confused and had no idea what Twitter was. After listening to his teacher talk for a while, he turned to me and asked, “Mommy, what is a twit?”

Let me tell you I was pretty surprised by his question and it took me a moment to process that he was actually talking about Twitter. I asked him, “Do you mean Twitter?”

He immediately smiled and nodded his head. I chuckled and then explain to him that it is a site where people can share their thoughts, photos, etc. As he finished up his class, I couldn’t help but laugh some more to myself. His twit/Twitter connection was merely a misunderstanding, but in reality, it could be said that Twitter is a playground for twits. There are so many foolish and annoying people running amuck on social media sites, and Twitter is no exception.

I may not be able to think of Twitter the same again. Once you put the twit into something, it’s impossible to take it out. No longer will the image of that cute blue Twitter bird pop into my head when someone mentions this site. Instead, visions of obnoxious fools spouting off nonsense will fill my mind and make me chuckle!

Monday, April 22, 2013

S: Stuck Between a Sled and a Hard Place

One of my favorite winter activities has always been sledding. Now that I have children of my own I get even more excited when snow starts to pile up. There’s nothing like an afternoon of running, sledding, and laughter, followed by some hot chocolate.

This winter proved extra special for me and my family. It was the first winter at our new house. We finally have a yard of our own, and our backyard is hilly with some nice areas for sledding. The first snowy day was magical for us. My kids eagerly rounded up their winter gear, and I dressed in as many layers as possible. I had a feeling that this was going to be the best afternoon we had had in a long time.

Our backyard drops off steeply into the driveway, while its slopes more gently to where our property ends. My 7-year-old son was too afraid to sled on the steeper hill. He was even hesitant about the smaller hill. So my daughter and I decided to try out the gentler hill to show him that there wasn’t anything to worry about. My 5-year-old daughter and I climbed into our sled together, and I pushed us forward with all my might. The snow was slippery and pretty packed, so we took off at a good speed. It looked like the path I had chosen down the back of yard was going to be perfect.

But just as we almost reached the bottom of the hill, our sled lurched to the right and we found ourselves underneath a bush lining the back of our property. My daughter and I burst out laughing. We were such a funny sight all tangled up in the bush! My son tried to help us out, but the awkward angle with which we had slid under the bush made it impossible for us to get out of the sled.

I was laughing so hard that I could barely move. With all the strength I can muster between laughs, I picked my daughter up and tossed her gently out from under the bush. I then managed to get the sled out from under me and was able to finally crawl out from under the bush. The entire time my kids and I were howling with laughter. This had been one of the funniest things we had ever witnessed, and I know that it will be a memory that will bring us much laughter for years to come.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

R: Real Friends, Please Stand Up!

Perhaps the hardest part of moving and buying our own home was having to leave our old neighborhood behind. My son and daughter spent 5 years getting to know the children who lived in our neighborhood. It is difficult to leave friendships behind. Almost 6 months later, my children still mourn the end of their friendships, and it makes me sad.

Normally, I would have done everything in my power to keep my kids connected to their friends. However, the months before our move, some of the children started treating my kids poorly, especially my little princess. These children kept making fun of my kids and calling them mean names. On top of this, they would go play with other kids in the neighborhood and then tell my son and daughter that they weren’t invited to play.

I know kids aren’t always nice, and teasing and name calling are a part of life. Still, I have taught my son and daughter that such behavior is unacceptable, and it hurts to see them crying because they think their ‘friends’ don’t like them anymore. My children are very forgiving (as you can see by their desire to still see these children), and I’m proud of this. I am still their mother, though, so it’s my job to make the tough choices and always think of what is best for them.

I want my kids to be forgiving, but I also want them to be smart. If people keep abusing their friendship with you, no matter how many times you tell them it hurts you, it is time to let such friendships go. I want my children to know that it is ok to end a friendship if the other person keeps hurting them. I want them to have the courage to always look out for their best interest. Of course, friendships are precious and should be fought for. But if the other person isn’t doing the same, it isn’t a real friendship, and it’s time to move on.

As warmer weather sets in, my kids are spending more time outside. They are starting to talk to some of the children in our new neighborhood, and I have a feeling they will be making some new friends soon. I hope they find some real friends here so they can finally see what true friendship is and forget the pain of the past. I hope they meet some other kids who are caring and fun to be with--children who are worthy to be called their friends.

Q: Quibble, Quarrel, and Quack

I absolutely love being a mom. It is one of the most rewarding experiences, but all parents know that not every moment with children is peaceful and cheery. Sometimes parenting gets downright difficult, gritty, and unpleasant. My kids have now reached the age that they love to argue with each other. When they were younger they spent more time playing by each other than with each other. Consequently, they had arguments, but they were short-lived and not very frequent. And it was usually over a toy or who could sit in Mommy’s lap.

These days, though, I swear my son and daughter will fight over anything and everything. And at times, I am convinced I have a flock of squabbling ducks wadding around my house. The noise level and intensity of their arguments can be astonishing and quite deafening. When they get into ’duck’ mode there is no yelling over them or reasoning with either one of them. As a result, we have implemented a new rule in our house. If they get out of hand with their quarreling, they have to go to their rooms to cool off until they are ready to talk reasonably with each other and are willing to try to find a compromise.

My kids aren’t too fond of this new house rule, but some sanity has returned to our home because of it. Although they still quarrel over silly things at times (i.e., who a penny belongs to or whose turn it is to let out the dog), I’ve noticed the frequency and intensity of their arguments is diminishing. They hate timeouts, so hopefully their dislike will continue to foster better sibling communication and make them realize that some things are not worth squabbling over. They are now the same age as when my brother and I grew so competitive with each other that it was like we were trying to kill one another. I certainly want to avoid such behavior in my kids at all cost!

Do or did your children have trouble communicating or argue much too frequently? What have you found to be helpful with diffusing the situation and lessening the frequency of arguments in your house?

Thursday, April 18, 2013

P: Pass the Peppers, Please!

Homemade Chili

When I was pregnant with my son I had three main foods that I was constantly craving: chocolate, dill pickles, and anything spicy.  I was content to sit down with a glass of chocolate milk and tacos (or other Mexican dish) with a side of pickles, regardless of the hour.  Even though I struggled with all-day morning sickness for the whole length of my pregnancy, my stomach never once protested at this type of meal.  In fact, my little boy seemed to relax and settle down as soon as I ate this strange combination.

With my daughter, I was always craving pastries and chocolate, but even with this second pregnancy, my body could handle spicy foods easier than even crackers or toast.  My doctors looked at me like I was insane when I told them this.  Looking back now, if I hadn’t been there to witness it firsthand, I would be skeptical, too.  There isn’t any logic or rhyme to why I could eat a hot pepper but a plain saltine cracker would make me gag.  No, it doesn’t make any sense whatsoever.

However, I know see that it was a sign of things to come.  My kids adore spicy food nearly as much as I do.  We eat something with a kick at least once a week, but it isn’t too unusual for us to have something spicy for dinner nearly every other day.  I even find my kids snacking on jarred hot peppers, salsa, or hot sauce from time to time.  A big favorite in our house is salsa scrambled eggs.  It’s never too early in the day to enjoy something spicy!

Our love of hot foods amuses me to no end because most of my relatives think we are insane.  My grandma tears up when she eats even mild salsa.  And most of my extended family watches in horror at how much hot sauce or hot peppers I love to add to my food.  Many of my relatives insist that I’m ruining my stomach with all this spicy food, but I rarely get heartburn or an upset stomach.  Maybe I have a cast-iron stomach and I’ve passed it on to my kids.  Or maybe we’ve built up tolerance to spiciness.  Either way, I love cooking spicy foods and then enjoying them with my children.  It’s one of the highlights of our week.

Do you and your kids love spicy food?  Or do you or your children prefer eating more mild foods?

A to Z Blogging Challenge Update

Because of a health issues this week, I've fallen behind on the A-Z Blogging Challenge.  Things are settling down again, so I will be working hard to catch up.  Thanks for your patience.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

O: Organ Oblivion

"Is there room for me, kitty?"
My family is a music-loving family. We play the radio, CD’s, cassette tapes, and records like they are going out of style. My children are growing up surrounded by music from the 40’s to today, as well as classical music--similar to how I did. My family has always had a solid appreciation of a variety of music and I’m happy to be passing on that love to my own children. I don’t know how to play an instrument yet, but one day, I plan to resume my guitar lessons. Maybe my children and I can all learn together because they’ve also shown an interest in learning the guitar (as well as other instruments).

For now, I have passed on the electric organ that my grandmother had given to me and my brother when we were still kids. I remember spending hours just making a joyful noise, trying to figure out songs, or making up my own. I thought that my children would enjoy it, too. Plus, I reasoned that it would be a wonderful way to nurture their musical interests even further.

I forgot one small thing though: that electric organ doesn’t have a volume button. And oh, is that organ loud and obnoxious! Of course, my kids love the thing to death. They are forever asking me if they can play it. Each time I am torn between my desire to encourage my children’s love of music and my fantasies of all the ways I can destroy that monstrosity. My love for my children wins in the end (except on days when I have a headache), but I find myself still trying to find somewhere--anywhere--to hide from the electric organ when it is in use.

I attempted to show my kids how to play it beautifully or at least tolerably. After a few demonstrations, my daughter is doing a little better. My son, however, enjoys making the organ screech and howl. (I know who will be doing our Halloween sound effects this year!) The more obnoxious and horrible he can make it sound, the better he likes it. Yes, boys will be boys. I’ll let him get his kicks from seeing how badly he can play.

But eventually, if he is anything like me (and I know he is), he will tire of making noise and long to make music again. It’s in our genes--in our blood--and he won’t be able to resist it for very long. Until then, I will be grimacing and cowering here in organ oblivion, waiting patiently until sanity returns to me again!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

N: Now IS Later!

Impatient doggy!
I grew up around animals, so I came to understand that animals don’t have much sense of the passage of time. I can’t even remember how many times I left the house for only a few minutes and my dog Honey Bear acted like she hadn’t seen me in hours when I returned. Oh, and don’t get me started on how much my cats protest when I make them wait for breakfast each morning until I am awake enough to function. They act like by the time I get around to filling their dishes, they’ve been waiting all day for their food!

But it never occurred to me that children can have trouble with discerning passage of time, too. I’m a ‘later’ person. I’m guilty of telling people we will do things later without giving a specific time. I have every intention of following through on my promise, but I get so distracted by whatever I am doing that I don’t have enough cognitive function left during those moments to think in those terms. In fact, I only have a passing awareness of what time it is at that very moment, if at all.

My 7-year-old son is either more in tune with my way of thinking or very patient with me, so he waits until I’m no longer distracted to ask when this ‘later’ may be. My 5-year-old daughter, though, is the exact opposite. I swear every minute she will impatiently exclaim, “Ok, it’s later now! When can we do it?”

I try to explain to her that it isn’t later, but she insists that now IS later. Technically, we are both correct. We haven’t reached my idea of ‘later’ yet, while each second after our conversation IS actually later. We have gone round and round many times on whether or not it was actually ‘later’!

In the end, I’ve decided to try to stop for a moment, think, and come up with a better response than simply ‘later’ to explain to her when we can finally do what she is asking. It has been quite the chore trying to retrain my brain in this area. I still occasionally find myself automatically telling my kids that we will do something later. However, I remember all the now-IS-laters and debates I’ve endured over the last couple of years, and I realize that often it makes more sense to change a little for others than to endure endless frustration!

Monday, April 15, 2013

M: Marry-Me Mania

My mom will be getting married in June. My fiancé and I making weddings plans as well. And my brother is engaged now as well. So, weddings are on everyone’s minds right now. My 5-year-old, though, is especially fixated on concept of getting married. Not a day goes by without her asking me a thousands questions about weddings and marriages. She wants to know everything!

I thought it was so cute and funny…until one day, she walked up to me and asked, “Mommy, when can we have my wedding? I know who I‘m going to marry!”

Few parents are ready to let their children go off and start lives of their own, but with my children only in kindergarten and 1st grade, I choked on my morning tea. I was NOT ready to even think about wedding date for my daughter--not that early in the day and not that early in motherhood!

Recovering from my initial shock, I asked her who this person was that she was so determined to marry already. It turns out it is a little boy in her class--her online cyber school class! Yes, folks, my daughter thinks she’s in love with a little boy she’s never met. She has heard her voice many times and has seen a couple photos which he shared with the class. But other than that, she hardly knows him.

I had to smile, though. I remember my first “boyfriend”. His name was Brian (or Bryan, I can’t remember which anymore), and he was my neighbor. We started “dating” in kindergarten and we showered each other with little gifts. When I had to move away not long after the beginning of 1st grade he made me mixed tape (now I realize how talented of a little boy he truly was!) and asked me to marry him. He wanted me to move to his house, so we could be together forever. But alas, our parents wouldn’t have any part of it.

It seems like a couple lifetimes ago, but I still remember how much I cared about Brian and was convinced that we would get married someday. Things seemed so much simpler then. I still sometimes wonder what might have happened if I had never moved. But I have a feeling that our little relationship would have ended long before middle school.

These days few people fight through the hard times to get to get to their golden years. Couples are often too busy fighting among each other and eventually give up than try to fix their problems. It’s shame they will never know what they could have had together. As I watch my little princess scribble little hearts and the little boy’s name on paper, I send silent prayers up that one day, when she is truly ready to be married (and maybe when I’m more ready to give her away) that she finds a man worthy of her love, who will cherish her and protect for a lifetime.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

L: Look But Don't Lick!

Boomer, one of my daughter's inspirations
My 5-year-old daughter is obsessed with the idea that she has “cat powers”--super powers of a cat nature. She claims that she can run as fast as a cat, as well as roam silently throughout our home. She also insists that she has super cat strength and can always land on her feet. At first, it didn’t bother me. In fact, I found it pretty darn cute and hilarious. Unfortunately, with young kids, things can easily take a drastic turn for the worst!

In this case, my little princess has now progressed to adding licking to her cat power repertoire. She randomly goes around licking herself, others, or things in our home. She has even licked a cat or two. Despite my heartfelt protests (a.k.a., total freak-outs!), this is one bad phase I can’t seem to break.

I thought once the toddler years were over I’d never again have to tell my kids not to lick things. Nevertheless, here I am having a total breakdown because my mind can’t handle the idea of a human tongue on a furry cat! Once again, I wonder if my kids are going to be the death of me--or at least, the death of my sanity.

To try to understand why she finds it necessary to keep licking everything and everyone she can, I sat her down and had a little heart-to-heart conversation. I tried to explain to her that people shouldn’t be licking people or things because it spreads germs and can make them sick. She kept insisting that she’s a cat, so she is immune to people germs. Additionally, she reasoned that cats have to lick themselves because they can’t bathe themselves.

After 20 minutes, I felt like I was talking to an actual cat. There was absolutely no reasoning with her. Although I plan to continue to actively discourage her from this gross behavior, I have a feeling that in time, it will remedy itself…for what cat has ever gone very long without getting a disgusting hairball from all that licking?

Friday, April 12, 2013

K: Kindness and Karma

My son sharing the last strawberry
One of the most important things we can teach our kids is kindness and the idea that our deeds--good and bad--will come back to us someday. Lately, I have been reminded again just how judgmental and hateful people can be. It shocks and horrifies me that human beings can treat each other with such rudeness and meanness. We all have our problems. We all make mistakes. We all do things that are wrong from time to time. So why do some people feel they have the right and even the obligation to condemn others for their sins?

I am not one of those people that doesn’t believe in a clear right and wrong. Actually, I do try to live my life as I feel I should. But even when I try my best, I still fail at times. It’s those times that remind me that I am in no position to be passing judgment on others. Instead of judging, I know I should be spreading love and kindness to those around me, regardless of who they are or what they’ve done wrong. And that’s what I strive to teach my kids. I want my children to treat others like they want to be treated and to always attempt to be fair.

If more people would practice this mentality, can you imagine how much more pleasant this world would be? I know I can. Sometimes I get so frustrated that my kindness and consideration is often only rewarded with rudeness or lack of appreciation. Yet, I firmly believe that we do reap what we sow. Thus, until the day I die, I will do my best to be a considerate person and take the higher road. It isn’t going to be easy, especially when rude jerks can run rampant in this world. Ultimately, though, I want to stay true to myself and to be an example to my children that I can be proud of.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

J: Jumping Beans Included

I remember when I was in kindergarten my best friend Michelle seemed to have the coolest toys. I would beg and plead with my parents to allow me to spend the night at her house because I loved playing in her bedroom. One of the best things I thought she had were her Mexican jumping beans. At that age, I thought that Mexican jumping beans were magical beans, and I wished every night that I could have some for my own someday!

Well, I never did get my own Mexican jumping beans, and now I know that Mexican jumping beans aren’t really magic beans--or beans, for that matter. But I’ve found something cooler and more energetic than jumping beans: my kids!

My son and daughter have always been filled with such energy that I joke with them that they must be full of jumping beans. Of course, they have absolutely no idea what I’m referring to, but every time I call them my jumping beans, they giggle and hop around doing their best impersonation of a jumping bean--or at least what they think a jumping bean is like.

My 5-year-old daughter goes into a crazy, bouncing frenzy. She pops, jumps, and flies around the room with her arms, legs, and hair flailing everywhere. My son, on the other hand, feels jumping beans are much more stiff. He sticks his arms straight down at his sides and jumps around, barely bending his knees at all. (Personally, I think he looks more like a Mexican jumping burrito than a jumping bean. But hey, what do I know, right?)

They have been doing their jumping bean impersonations for years, but they never fail to make me laugh until I cry. Some things never grow old, no matter how many times you watch them. And I have a feeling that they will tire of their jumping bean acts long before I ever grow bored!

Do you have any Mexican jumping beans bringing laughter and energy into your home?

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

I: Infinite I-Don't-Know's

Not so long ago, I was the target of endless whys. It didn’t matter what I said or asked my kids, I was immediately bombarded by a zillion whys. In fact, I didn’t even have to say anything at all to get them started. My 5-year-old daughter is still firmly entrenched in why territory. My 7-year-old son, though, is now on his way out and entering the infinite I-don’t-knows. I will ask him a question and he will immediately reply, “I don’t know, Mommy.”

The funniest part of this new transition is that our roles are reversing. He was the one constantly asking why to the point I’d start throwing out exasperated I-don’t-knows. Now, though, I find myself asking him why every time he tells me he doesn’t know. So now our conversations will go something like this:

Me: “What do you want for breakfast?”
Son: “Oh, I don’t know…”
Me: “Um, why don‘t you know?”
Son (shrugging): “I don’t know.”
Me (wanting to pull my hair out): “But how can you not know what you want to eat?”
Son: “Because I don’t know!”

I don’t know if these I-don’t-knows are my past I-don’t-knows coming back to haunt me. Or perhaps it’s just the normal progression of things. Whatever the cause, I’m trying my best to help my little guy become more decisive with his daily decisions. I know he so wants to be independent. However, he isn’t completely capable yet of always weighing his options. Despite my frustration, I try my best to help him see his options and pick the best one for him. And I support him even when the choices that he makes aren’t the greatest. In the end, I want him to grow confident in himself and realize that I have his back to help through the consequences of every single one of his decisions.

H: Hundred Haven

To celebrate the 100th day of school, my 7-year-old son’s class did a video project that featured what each student thought he or she would look like and be like if they live to be 100 years old. It was a cute project idea, but at first, my son wasn’t a fan. He felt that 100 was far too old and he felt that he could never live that long. Trying to emphasize the hypothetical nature of this project, I asked him what IF he made it that long? What did he think he would look like? What did he think he would be doing? How would he be different, and how would he be the same?

Either my questions got his creative juices flowing or he just got tired of me bothering him about the project. In the end, he came up with a cute illustration and an even cuter explanation of what he might be like if he reaches 100.

He made it clear to me again that he is skeptical that he will ever live to be 100 years old. However, after some thought, he now feels that he does have a chance since his great great grandpa is 93. He told me that if he lives to be 100, he wants to be just like his great great grandfather, who he calls Great Pap-Pap. My son feels that if he reaches 100, he will be bald, wear yellow glasses, and live in an all orange house. He explained to me that since Great Pap-Pap still lives on his own, he feels that he will, too He also explained that he wanted a giant orange house because he loves orange and wants to have space for all his friends and family to come visit.

It warms my heart that my son looks up to his Great Pap-Pap. Even at 7 years old, he seems to have a respect and appreciation for the older generations--something is often lacking in today’s youth. I hope that as he grows older, my son will never forget his love and bond with his great great grandfather and will have many fond memories of the time they’ve spent together. Grandparents are one of the most precious blessings in this world and having the opportunity to know your great great grandfather is rare indeed!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Update on the A to Z Challenge

I'm a little behind on the A to Z Challenge because I'm feeling a under the weather.  However, I'll be working hard to catch up the next couple days.  Thanks for your patience!

G: Get Your Gardening On!

Coming from a long line of gardeners who have encouraged their children to help from an early age, gardening and working with the land just comes naturally to me. It’s in my blood, so every spring, I’m itching to get out in the yard to prepare the garden beds and to begin planning the yearly crops and new flowers.

This year I have the opportunity to plant a larger vegetable garden than I’ve had available in quite a while. We now have our own home, so I have a zillion other landscaping projects cluttering my mind as well. I’ve even been researching climbing strawberries as a possible addition to our back yard. I am super excited about making my back yard a haven for my family, while utilizing some of that space for delicious produce for all of us to share this year and many years from now.

I am getting my kids just as excited about our gardens. My 5-year-old daughter agreed with me that we need strawberries. Additionally, she has put her order in for some new flowers around our home. Like her mommy, she adores flowers of so many shapes, sizes, and colors.

My 7-year-old son, on the other hand, has asked for lots of tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce, and carrots. He is looking forward to lots of salads, more of my homemade spaghetti sauce, and maybe even some pickles this year. Oh, and he also wants an endless supply of green onions--one of his favorite things to snack on.

Both of my parents passed on to me their love of gardening and beautifying the outdoors. My mom has always been amazing in the garden, while my dad taught me almost everything I know about designing landscapes and maintaining healthy lawns, trees, hedges, and scrubs. I know I still have a lot to learn, but I’m excited to have the opportunity to learn more with my own children and to help them see how fulfilling and fun gardening can be. I hope as they grow they will stay interested and eventually pass the gardening passion on to their own kids. It feels amazing to think that some family traditions may never be broken!

Are you planting a garden this year and having your kids or grandkids help?

Saturday, April 6, 2013

F: Show Me Your Fabulous Facebook Face!

One of my daughter's many "Facebook faces"
I’m not sure if it’s a sign that this IS the social media age or if it is evidence that I spend a little too much time on Facebook. Either way, my kids have coined the phrase “Facebook face” in our house. Over the years, they have had a lot of fun making silly faces and asking me to photograph them. Since a lot of family and friends live out of our area, I started privately sharing these silly photos on Facebook. What better way to keep in touch than chronicling my kids’ ever evolving silly faces, right?

It wasn’t long before they would walk in the room, strike a goofy pose, and giggle, “Mommy, take a picture so we can put it on Facebook!”

In time, it got shortened to, “Hey, Mommy, look at my Facebook face!”

Now my camera, cell phone, desktop, laptop, and Facebook page is full of silly photos of my son and daughter. In our house, sitting to watch a slideshow of some of their goofy photos is our version of reviewing family videos. It’s actually a lot of fun and guarantees an evening of laughter and even some hiccups.

I just wonder how long it will take before these photos go from being hilarious to humiliating. Whether I like it or not, my kids’ teenage years are ahead. Although I found most of my childhood photos entertaining as I teen, I remember that there were a few that I wanted to steal from my parents and burn. Will my children continue to look fondly on these photographs as reminders of all the great times we had as a family? Or will they eventually view them in horror and want to pretend they don’t exist? I guess time will only tell.

Friday, April 5, 2013

E: Ear-Piercing Screams and Eerie Noises

Being a mom is one of the greatest blessings in life. However, kids being the mischievous, energy-filled beings that they are, parenting can also get pretty strange, too. My 7-year-old son has always been on the quiet and laidback side. Of course, he has had his share of temper tantrums and fits of loud, joyful laughter. Still, nothing ever prepared me for my 5-year-old daughter.

Since I can remember, she has been successfully scaring me for years. With her random ear-piercing screams and sounds like she is choking, possessed, dying, or all the above, she keeps me on my toes. From about 9 months, she has enjoyed exploring the range of her voice…much to my heart’s protest!

I remember the first time she imitated choking. My cat had been dealing with a bad bout of hairballs that morning. And while I was busy tending to my poor kitty, I didn’t notice how enthralled she was with the whole situation. That evening we were all at the dinner table. My daughter was sitting in her high chair and my son was sitting on the other side of me in his booster seat. I had just given my daughter her food and turned to hand my son his plate when my daughter started making this heart-stopping sound like she was chocking and couldn’t breathe!

Frantic, I took her out her highchair to attempt to get whatever was chocking her out of her throat…and she suddenly burst out giggling like it was the most hilarious thing in the world. Then, she started making the noise again, smiling the whole time! I really thought that I was going to have a heart attack when I thought she was chocking, so I didn’t find her little performance funny at all! But she was only a baby, so what could I do?

Now that she is older, she understands better that making chocking noises is wrong. But I swear that I live in a haunted house with all the crazy screams and noises that come out of her mouth at times! I’m not easily frightened, but every now and then, my little princess comes up with a new sound effect or voice that scares the daylights out of me! Maybe one day she will outgrow this fascination and quit scaring me. Or perhaps, she find something useful for her talents and give me some rest.

Have your children ever terrified you with some of their noises or screams?

D: Dear Daddy

My dad (2008)
It’s funny how we take our parents for granted until they are no longer with us. Although I cherished the relationship I had with my father, part of me was sure he’d live forever. He had always been in my life, in some form or another, so I couldn’t imagine life without him. My wedding day, the birth of all of my children, the publication of my first book—all my hopes and dreams were imagined with him right along side me.  There are still so many things I'd love to say to him, and I've written him quite a few letters since his passing in 2011.

Soon I will be getting married and it bothers me immensely that he won’t be there to walk me down the aisle. In fact, it saddens me that he never even got to meet my fiancé. My fiancé is a good man with a kind heart and a strong affection for my children. He is the type of man that my father had always hoped I would meet someday. I know with all my heart that my dad would be proud and happy with the man I have decided to marry. Still, I wish he could here for this momentous occasion in my life.

Seeing how my parents didn’t last, I had always assumed that I would never get married. And then after the father of my children just walked away without a single glance back, I was sure I was destined to forever be a single mom. In the end, I stopped daydreaming about weddings, thinking that day would never come.

Despite my strong negative feelings about marriage, my father was wise enough to foresee that one day I’d find the right man and everything would fall in place. I just don’t think he realized he would leave this earth so soon and not get the chance to witness it. My wedding isn’t going to feel the same without him, but I’m determined to take him with me on that day.

No, no matter how old I become, he will always be my daddy. The bond between father and daughter can’t ever be broken. Even death can’t take that love and affection away. I just hope that it doesn’t take my children as long as I did to realize that our time with our parents is limited. Therefore, we really need to be making the most of every moment and cherishing every second they are still in our lives.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

C: Christmas Tree Massacre

April is finally here and signs of spring are popping up slowly here and there. And all I want to do is put this long, cold, germ-infested winter far behind me! You may be wondering, though, why I decided on a Christmas story as my C post for the A to Z Blogging Challenge. There are a thousand other possible topics I could have picked for my blog, so why a wintry tale?

Well, folks, there is a single and logical explanation: I’m still finding evidence of that fateful day…the day of the Christmas Tree Massacre. Hence, sit back, relax, and listen to my harrowing tale of carnage, destruction, and the end of Christmas joy.

There once was a family: a mommy, a daddy, a little boy, and a little girl. They lived in a cozy house. Christmas was their favorite time of the year. If it were up to the children, Christmas would never end and we would never have to take down the Christmas decorations. The mommy, still a little girl at heart, secretly wanted to Christmas to never end, too. So, after some heartfelt pleas from her children, she decided that the children could keep their own Christmas tree up indefinitely, while she took down the rest of the family’s Christmas decorations.

It seemed like a wonderful compromise. Everyone was very happy with mommy’s idea, except for maybe the daddy since he was a little bit of a Christmas Scrooge. However, the mommy and children didn’t count on grinches stealing Christmas when Christmas was long over. Little did they know that their little compromise would set into motion a horrible chain of events that would still affect them months later.

One morning, the mommy and children heard a terrible crash in the kitchen. They frantically ran around the corner, just in time to see a tangled mess of Christmas tree branches, ornaments, garland, and lights. And in the middle of it all, stood two of the family’s cats. In an instant, their grinchy felines abruptly ended the Christmas season, made the children cry, and caused the mommy to wail even louder!

The mommy spent the better part of that morning detangling and cleaning up the Christmas tree massacre mess. Simultaneously, she comforted her children and dried their tears. With the final box of Christmas decorations put away, that should have been the end to our sad story.

Yet, months have gone by and still the mommy keeps finding bits and pieces of the Christmas tree massacre: sections of broken off Christmas tree branches, lose Christmas light bulbs, and even some ornaments. In fact, the mommy even found another Christmas ornament when she was cleaning up for Easter. It is as though the grinches are sending the family a warning that no holiday or occasion is safe. All are as equally susceptible to their destruction. When will the injustice and plots end?

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

B: Buckets Full of Easter Eggs

Two days after Easter and I’m already suffering from the Easter egg blues! I have eaten more eggs in the last few days than I have consumed in at least the last 3 months. Buckets and buckets of eggs have invaded my life and I just can’t stop eating them: deviled eggs, pickled eggs, and hard boiled eggs galore. And I can forget the eggs in the macaroni salad and potato salad. Lastly, we shouldn’t leave out the chocolate-cover marshmallow eggs, birds eggs jelly beans, peanut butter eggs, or tiny Butterfinger eggs that keep mysteriously jumping from my Easter basket into my mouth. Although technically not eggs, they sure are contributing to my Easter egg insanity!

Every year I convince myself that we should tone down on the Easter eggs from now on. But every year, my kids and family spread on the egg-tastic deliciousness even more. My kids are getting older, so they want more and more eggs to dye. A handful of eggs doesn’t go far these days. They decorate and dye them faster than I can get them handed out.

Plus, this year, my fiancé decided to improve on his holiday specialty: devil eggs. Instead of plain old deviled eggs, which I find hard to resist, he decided to try to make chick deviled eggs. Each chick consisted of an entire hard boiled egg overstuffed with deviled filling and garnished with edible eyes and beaks--to make it seem like a chick is hatching out of its shell. They turned out almost too adorable to eat. Yes, ALMOST! Those little chicks didn’t stand a chance. Every devoured at least 1 chick a piece. I, tempted by the yummy cuteness, ended up eating two. I just couldn’t stop myself!

I know my family and I will be sick up to our ears of eggs, and I’ll be searching for some way, any way, to get rid of the leftover eggs. Despite this, I know with a fact that come next Easter, we will once again dive eagerly into another Easter egg overload. In the end, it comes down to one thing: Easter just wouldn’t be the same without all the egg deliciousness and fun!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

A: Ask Before You Eat

A Smiley Lunch
My kids can be so sweet. My son, 7, and my daughter, 5, love to make me food. They’ll serve me toast in the morning, bring me little snacks, and even make me lunches when I am super busy with my writing. Pictured here is a smiley lunch my daughter put together for me all on her own. It consisted of a ham and cheddar cheese sandwich with hot pepper eyes and a banana smile. Most of the time, their offerings are delicious and welcomed with open arms.

However, there was a time, in the not-so-distant past, when I was conditioned to ask questions first and then eat later. No matter how much my kids protested or cried, my life--ok, my stomach--depended on it. Yes, they always tried to feed me edible items. There wasn’t any guarantee, though, of where the food came from or how it got to be in my possession.

You may be thinking oh, it can’t be that bad, right? Wrong! Imagine months old, loose raisins that have occupied the bottom of a toy box. How about a piece of candy that was unwrapped, sniffed by an extra runny nose, and then offered to you on a crumpled tissue that fell on the floor? Sound appetizing yet? Better yet, could I offer you a pretzel with all the salt licked off with a side of mustard taste-tested by the family dog?

Yum! Those were the days. Fine food, exotic seasoning, and a couple of little ones to wait on me hand and foot--how could I ask for more?

Monday, April 1, 2013

It's A-Z Blogging Challenge Time Again!

It is one of my favorite times of the year again: the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge!  Last year I was a blogging newbie with a single blog.  I had only written a few posts before a friend of mine suggested that I enter the A-Z Challenge with her.  I was scared to death and on the fence.  What did I know about blogging?  And how could I figure out a post for each letter of the alphabet AND manage to blog each day for a month?

I actually almost chickened out, but literally, with only hours remaining until sign-up list was closed, I decided to jump head first into the blogging adventure.

Last year I learned a great deal and connected with quite a few awesome people.  But best of all, I got to see what I was made of.  I'm sure no one was as surprised as I was that I actually survived the challenge and never once got behind!

I haven't been the greatest in keeping my blogging regular...something I drastically want to change.  So, here I am, a year later, rearing and ready to go.  I want to make and keep blogging as a top priority.  It keeps my writing and ideas flowing.  It lowers my stress levels and preserves my sanity.  And most of all, it gives me an outlet to continue doing what I love most: writing.

To challenge myself further, I have entered all 3 of my blogs.  If you are curious or just want to see if the blogging madness is driving me batty, stop over and read some of the posts on my other two blogs, Fibro and Fancy Free and Amanda R. Dollak.

To all my readers out there, happy reading!  Also, fellow A-Zers good luck and see you on the other side!