Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Have I made my point?
That meant no Divine Design, Design on a Dime, or Color Splash, which I actually did enjoy watching prior to our experience.
So, where does one turn in a crisis?
I had NEVER watched the Food Network prior to entering into the process of selling my home. And then, one night, unable to watch yet another show on HGTV, all of which, for me, translated into the "will I ever get this house sold" show, I found the Iron Chef. It was fun. Void of anything remotely related to the declining housing market. Harper can now name every Iron Chef on the show.
Then, there was the Next Food Network Star. Mmmm, nice. I just love when people think it is just soooooooooo easy to work in front of a camera. It is a skill, people. It takes practice. I then found Throwdown with Bobby Flay. Loved the idea, and since the first episode I watched had to do with making ravioli in Brooklyn, I was instantly hooked. And Ace of Cakes? Who doesn't love Duff. But then, I found the show that has become a true staple in our home. The one we gather to watch together.
Ok, the judges are a bit nasty. Really, they have stares like hot skewers that just burn a hole in a chef's confidence. Never is there a dish that gets all praise - nope, there always has to be one biting comment.
And yet, we came to love it.
So did Harper and Zane.
Why? Because just as eating food attends to one's emotional state, Chopped gave me a sense of relief in that during that 30 minutes it was not me on the chopping block. It was the one show where I could kick back, forget about my house, forget about my buyers, forget about the enormity of it all, and just enjoy other people running around creating and sweating in a timed competition where mystery ingredients like ginko nuts are the true stars.
One of my goals upon moving to Beaver, was to decrease our grocery bill dramatically. I've done so by shopping at Aldi (even though, yes, I was pissed at them back in Skokie) as the one out here is fantastic.
Another way I've decreased our grocery bill is by playing the home version of Chopped when pickin's get low. George showed some great creativity with his stuffed Portobello mushrooms last night. And tonight, in honor of the kids being in bed early (which has been very difficult as they want to stay up watching Food Network - I've created Chef groupies), we made some nachos, adding various ingredients that we found in the pantry. (I don't really have a true "pantry", but they have one on Chopped, so, in the spirit of the game, I must use the same language.)
It's as if Chopped has enabled me to take 3 or 4 ingredients and make . . . something. Anything. Totally goes with my whole "don't be wasteful" mantra. I'm not linking you to that - I have too many posts on the subject. It would be a waste of my time to link all of them.
I still have no interest in watching HGTV, because now that I have a 3 story house with a basement I am completely overwhelmed with how to paint it, decorate it, or just plain handle it should I sprain my ankle on one of the three stairwells.
However, if someone from HGTV would want to come and decorate a room for me - well, I think I would let them in.
I'd even cook them a meal in 30 minutes flat with some mystery ingredients found in my kitchen.
Sea Urchin, flaxseed, eye of newt, and swedish fish, anyone?
Do you watch Food Network? If yes, what is you favorite show/chef?
And who will win the next Food Network Star competition? Melissa? Jeffrey?
Thursday, July 23, 2009
Many of you know the long saga of our Subaru Forester. It pains me to recall all the money we've put into that car. Even selling one to pay for the repairs on this one. I am doubly pained right now, because fresh off of spending a mint (well, a mint in our world) to repair it, we've now decided that it's time to say farewell and trade it in. It needs more work, and I don't have the stomach to drop any more coin into bandaging up this car which has provided me with stress. And extra weight gain. And the mouth of a sailor.
So, our plan is to trade it in and get me some reliable wheels for hauling the children. And other people's children.
George, also needs a car, and so we've been looking for a great deal.
And just what does he find? (Ok, boys, begin drooling now if you are into retro vehicles.)
A 1974 Dodge Dart. Green. Four door. Black leather top.
With, get this, only 8000 miles on it. As they say in shop-talk, "It purrs like a kitten."
I told him I would entertain it, if, and only if, we can first secure a solidly sound family vehicle. But, I have to admit, the price is good. The mileage terrific, the look . . . 1970's television detective. Barnaby Jones, maybe?
It sounds crazy, right?
Except that this car only needs to take George back and forth to work. That's it. Retrofit it with seat belts and bam.! A car for a pretty darn low price.
So, in discussing cars, we've learned that Harper is a sucker for the "hot" cars. She wants Dad to get a corvette.
Not bloody likely.
And Zane? When we asked him what kind of car Daddy should get, he pointed to the red Nova parked on a side street.
Like father like son.
Rather than having a program solely for children, Four Mile took a risk and organized a family program which took place every night from 6-8.
The evening began with dinner, provided by the church, so that those coming straight from work wouldn't have to worry about getting everyone fed and out the door on time. After dinner and a sketch, the children went off to class, and the adults stayed put, listened to some teaching, and then broke into small groups for discussion.
The evening then ended with children and adults meeting in the sanctuary for a time of worship together.
Families eating together, learning together, and worshipping together. Brilliant.
This was the first VBS I attended where the material didn't come from a box. No packaged lessons or music. Rather, the theme of the week centered on our church's purpose to Celebrate, Connect, and Contribute.
By using a superhero theme, our church staff created the characters of Celebrato, Connectra, and the Contribunater - these superhero's battled adversaries in a sketch every evening. The sketches were short, to the point, entertaining, and included the element of repetition from night to night so that the children were engaged and clear on what was happening in the storyline.
We even watched animated shorts prior to the sketches which enlightened us to the back stories of these superheroes. Catchy. Clever.
Our Director of Worship wrote a theme song for the week, "I Wanna Be a Superhero", which everyone learned. Worship always began with this song. Upon entering the sanctuary last night I spotted Harper up front with the worship leader and other children leading the congregation in this song, complete with hand motions. How do you think that made me feel? She is feeling confident and connected.
We then continued in worship by simply using the same songs we sing on Sunday mornings.
Both children and adults received the same memory verse each day - with the children receiving a simpler version.
It was nice to know that the children were being taught the same lesson that we were - which made for good discussion afterwards.
The entire evening was tight. It flowed. There was a unity of purpose. The community, young and old, were all learning together.
Zane has found worship to be a little too loud for his liking, so we've gotten in the habit of bringing a notebook and markers for him. He astounded us yesterday by writing letters and words all over the pages of his notebook. We were shocked. I've not even worked with him on letters. He wrote "Zane", "Harper", "Mom", and "Dad". He is never without his notebook. Always drawing. Always writing. We think this calming activity is really helping him.
So, Harper led worship this week. Zane just *poof* started writing. Out of the blue. She and Zane are memorizing scripture.
I would say it was a super week.
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Well, apparently, she does not like birds.
It took one low flying swoop to send my girl into a panic of Hitchcock proportions.
Are you seriously asking if I'm being dramatic?
Of course I am!
That's not to say there wasn't panic. Oh, there was panic all right. Not getting trapped in a phone booth type of panic, but rather, locate the nearest exit and vacate the habitat as quickly as possible panic.
Upon leaving the building, Harper wouldn't even go near the pigeons. Pigeons. Even Bert loves pigeons. How will I ever take her on my dream mother/daughter vacation to London, and specifically Trafalgar Square, if she's experiencing ornithophobia?
If anyone should have been traumatized, it should have been me! I was the one who got pooped on! (Just the arm - don't freak out on me - I got a free button to wear as proof).
Zane? Bird-maestro. He, who usually can't stand loud noises, endured the squawks of the Lories in order to feed them a small cup of nectar purchased by sucker-mom for $3.00. He was enthralled.
Harper? Not so much.
You can cross squawking and swooping birds off her desired list of Pittsburgh activities.
You won't hear me yapping all my best bird phrases any time soon. The mere mention of birds gives her the shivers. No a bird in the hand . . . or the early bird gets the worm . . . or birds of a feather flock together . . . nope.
Ducky. Just ducky.
Saturday, July 18, 2009
Let's define strong as not easily winded with legs that do not fold like a cheap card table upon reaching the finish.
Let's not define strong as fast.
It was March of 2000 when I learned I was pregnant for the first time. That week, I went out running at the slough behind Newport Coffeehouse and ran 3 miles in 26.14.
I kept that time on my watch for YEARS.
In the years prior to that time, I pulled in a 29:00 and a 28:00, but had never run as fast as a 26:00.
It has never happened again.
Following Harper's birth I ran a half-marathon for which I trained hard. I will always remember the 10 miles I put in before the race. I remember running up to Northwestern from our condo on Monroe, and thinking, "Did I really just run that far"? I remember the run back along the lakefront and stopping at the showers outside the beach to cool off before finishing the last bit of the course. Upon turning onto Monroe, I could see Harper and George waiting for me outside the condo, cheering me in. It felt great.
The race, however, was a different story. I may have felt good during that 10 miler, but something went terribly wrong on the actual race day. It was hot. There was absolutely no shade on the course. I began to get a blister. I pulled in a time of 2:30. Still, not bad for a first half marathon, but slower than I had planned.
Zane was born, and it was running that helped me get back into shape. With the help of a dear friend, I worked back up to training for a second half marathon. This one came in at a 2:20. Following this, I relayed the Baltimore Marathon to celebrate my sister's 40th birthday. I had a 5 mile leg, which I ran at 10:40/mile.
That was 2005.
Haven't run a lick since.
That is, until I moved here.
I live in a prime location for running. Out my door, down to the end of the street, up River Road, and back to my street is 3 miles. There are gobs of runners going past my door on any given morning. Seriously, as I sat typing on Saturday morning, runner after runner after runner, took their turn on the slight incline that is my block.
I hadn't run all week, due to the fact that I am a terrible morning person. A trait I have always abhorred and have tried time and time again to conquer. Thankfully, today was cool, so I headed out around in the afternoon.
It was one of those glorious runs that only runners understand. The ones where you feel euphoric, as if you could go on forever. Some call it the "runner's high". My breathing was great. My legs felt loose and relaxed, as well as incredibly strong (that's what a 3 story house with a basement will do to you). I wondered if I should push myself a bit more, or just continue to keep it leisurely.
I didn't even feel winded after those 3 miles.
No, I didn't run particularly fast.
I did run steady.
I really do believe that, barring serious injury, anyone can run.
It's not about speed. It's about stability. Mental toughness. A desire to persevere and follow-through. It's about making it to the finish line.
Remember that story about that turtle and rabbit? It seems to me as if stability, mental toughness, perseverance, and follow through were all winners in that story.
I want to have endurance. I want to feel strong and empowered at the finish - not depleted and worn down. I want to feel that "high", as if I could run for hours and not grow weary.
So too in life.
So, do you think you can run?
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Well, I'll be.
My husband sure knows how to compliment a girl.
I won't go into my gushy, crushy, love of Gilmore Girls - although if you want to purchase me the entire series for my 40th birthday I'll also love you forever.
It's no secret that I've got it bad for this show.
My claim to non-fame? I once had a Marshall Field's commercial air during an episode. So, now I can say I shared a time slot with Lauren Graham and the cast.
Anyhoo, as I'm just going on and on here . . . like a certain coffee guzzlin' single mama I know . . .
I took in my first Beaver town meeting last night. The town President, (no his name isn't Taylor, nor is he called the Town Selectman), also served as the attorney for my real estate closing, and was none too popular last night due to some heavy town stuff going down surrounding a feasibility study, the community pool, and the possibility (POSSIBILITY people - let's not tar and feather the council just yet) of a new recreational facility. Add to the brewing pot the alleged "witch hunt" between a council member and a city worker, and you've got yourself good old fashioned small town drama.
For the record, even though I may sound trite in my description of the evening, I am against the recreational facility, but the pool does need a drastic overhaul. As for the other issue between the council and city workers? I can't really weigh in - I've only lived here a month.
During the meeting, I did my best not to channel Lorelai and refrained from randomly yelling, "I object!" Nor did I keep up a continual banter of humorous quips throughout the meeting, opting rather to take a low profile.
I won't pull out my inner Lorelai until next month's meeting.
Although in order for me to really get get into character, Luke's, or, in this case either Cafe Kolache or the Towne Square Restaurant, are going to have to stay open a bit later to provide me with the fuel to take on the council in true Lorelai fashion. As Starbuck's just doesn't have the Luke's vibe.
I need coffee. Extra strong. Double cafe. Triple cafe. No, forget the cafe. Throw in the whole cow and serve it to this man right here! What's wrong with you?
Lorelai Gilmore, Season One, "Love, Daisies, and Troubadours"
Other than the activities that I've set up for Harper and Zane, my day has no real rhythm to it right now. For a structured person like myself, this presents a challenge - for I KNOW it's ok not to have a routine one month in, and yet, I am also yearning to get into a groove - even if just a tiny taste of consistency.
However, this relaxed, "we'll see what comes about today" way of living has resulted in the revelation of some incredible gifts from God. For it has been through the inconsistent that I have seen the most blessing. It has been through the unknown that I have been surprised and awed.
As odd as it may sound, it took getting lost on the way to my first Mary Kay meeting, to spark the formation of a new friendship with our Youth Pastor's wife. Just take a transplant from Chicago, and a transplant from Texas, stick them in a car headed to Cranberry, and watch them meander through the turns and hills and back roads with the hard to read street signs. It's downright funny. We did arrive at the meeting, albeit 20 minutes late, and to our delight met some enthusiastic and warm-welcoming women. We've both found Beaver to be delightful, polite, friendly, and welcoming - but we were both craving a bit of "umph". One can always find "umph" to the nth degree at a Mary Kay meeting.
We ditched the back streets and took the turnpike home. A longer drive = more time to talk.
Sometimes, it takes getting lost to find something new.
The absence of a hardcore schedule everyday has enabled God to slow me down, thus giving me time to meet and actually share real conversations with the women He's chosen to plunk down right in my path. As I have nowhere to really be right now, I have had the opportunity to not only meet, but actually talk with new women in the school hallway, the school parking lot, poolside, and at gymnastics, (where although I took receipts with me to sort for my business, I opted for ditching the work in order to meet someone new).
It's almost as if I have no concept of time.
I've never experienced being able to:
- Take a 20 minute drive just to give a thank-you note to the wife of my home inspector for all her help in scheduling mold tests, and radon tests, and walk-thru's - all via phone. Meeting her face to face was delightful.
- Hang out and talk scrap booking with a new friend in town, who not only crops regularly, but forwarded me all the information about the events and connected me with a Creative Memories consultant that very day.
- Chat in the school parking lot talking with a woman I recognized as having run in a 5K that went past my house Saturday morning, (which I didn't know about - boo). Our conversation helped me learn where to read up about upcoming races and where to find $5.00 yoga classes. Yep, I said $5.00. How could I walk away from this conversation other than inspired?
- Meet and mingle with other running mom's at the pool, some long distance, some sprinters, all mom's who run regularly - one of which is starting a running club.
- Just drop the work that I brought to complete during Zane's gymnastic class in order to sit and get to know a transplant from California, whose son will be at Zane's preschool, and who I learned lives right down the street. Who knew? Well, I wouldn't have had I buried my nose in my all important receipt collating and mileage recording efforts.
- Enjoy breakfast guests from 10:00 AM to 9:00 PM. The only agenda? Sharing a meal together (which turned into lunch and dinner on top of breakfast) and getting know each other.
I pray this for my children - that they too will be surprised by the gifts of relationships that God places on their paths. Especially for Zane, who is "lonely" - even though he plays with children all day. I pray that He would find a buddy with whom he can connect - just like back in Evanston. I trust God will do this, and I know he delights in giving us good gifts.
Sometimes, we just have to slow down in order to truly take a good look at the packages, unwrap them, and enjoy them before moving on to the next beautifully wrapped package. Many times we're just too impatient - so we flit from gift to gift. Currently, I've got nowhere else to be. My datebook is empty, and as I find myself without plans for tomorrow, I leave myself open to God placing more surprises in my path.
He certainly likes watching me bump into the the plans he has for me . . .
Friday, July 10, 2009
Apparently, she has scaled that mountain.
On July 4th, she took on a 25 foot climbing wall outside Heinz Field in Pittsburgh.
The last time she attempted a climbing wall was last October at the First Focus retreat. I was totally excited to see her attempt something as new as this back then.
This time, I was completely dumbfounded at how she attacked the hurdle. On her first try, she got half way, turned to look down (not helpful at all), freaked a bit, and lowered herself to the ground.
Not to be outdone by the kid next to her, so got back on and began climbing again. Just a third of the way left, she exclaimed, "I can't do this! It's too hard!"
We told her she was fine and that she COULD do it.
And she did. This photo shows her clinging with her right hand, while swinging over to hit the buzzer with the left.
At which point, the crowd broke out into cheers.
"That felt good" was her response - to both the task and the encouragement from the crowd.
She's not scared of heights, as say, George is. High places don't stump her sense of courage. So, the actual 25 feet of the climbing wall was not a foe to her.
For Harper, the "height" is her ability to believe and thus lean into the truth that God did not give her a spirit of timidity, but rather, one of power, and love, and self-discipline.
We all have fear of something taller than us.
Harper has only recently begun conquering her fears that paralyzed her from trying anything new for years. After some good work in her life by God, us, family, friends, and professionals, she has broken quite a few of the plaster shells that engulfed her from ages 4-7. If you were to meet her today for the first time, you would never believe that this was a child who used to be plagued by anxiety.
Zane has just begun confronting his "heights". A new town. A new home. A new room. New friends - who don't yet feel like real friends even though they are nice as can be . . . how can you really replace a Schuyler, Will, Jonny, Brady, Dmitry, Zachary, or Alex?
This change has been monumental in his little life. A big, giant-like change, with Zane looking up at the monster and exclaiming, "I don't like you." Everyday is different for the little guy. Time to teach him about David and Goliath.
Today he played in the pool for hours, just paddling away ALL BY HIMSELF while wearing his bubble. I wasn't even in the pool with him (yes, I was close by), for I needed to give him the sense that he could conquer those things which have, in the past, made him nervous. Swimming, being one of them. With the help of Harper, and our 11 year old neighbor, Zane became quite comfortable in the water, scooting here and there with a huge smile glued to his face.
It exhausted him. He is now quietly playing lego's in the buff.
He has also started gymnastics. He is attentive in class, enthusiastic, and shares that he "could do the rings all day long." At the first class he wanted nothing to do with the beginning stretches, and stood to the side drawing pretend circles on his palm with his finger, which is his non-verbal way of communicating anxiety. At the second class he did every ounce of the class, and came bounding out afterwards yelling, "I did it all! I did the whole class!"
He is climbing his own walls. Takin on his own really tall stuff. And he too, in an attempt to reach the top, will experience a moment (or two) of intense fear and regret, will want to give up, and yet, force himself to hang on and hit the buzzer.
We're not waiting for the buzzer, however. We're already cheering him on.
Have I shared lately how much I love my children?
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
We decided to take up the owner on his offer of free desserts, so last night after dinner, we walked to the joint to take in our "if it's free, it's for me" moment of indulgence.
Let me add that since our non-dining experience, we have ordered take-out from this place and really enjoyed the food.
Let me also add, that based on our dessert experience of last night, we'll be sticking with take-out.
So, we get there, right, and I tell the waitress that the owner had offered us dessert to "make amends" for the wacky night. Once again, the dining room seemed odd. Dark. Quiet. Just. Off. We meet the manager of the dining room (the one who had to leave suddenly on that wacko night) who apologizes for the inconvenience and asks if I'd like to meet the owner.
I introduce myself and he remembers our conversation and then, the same person who last week told me that they have "the most amazing dessert menu" says, "All the desserts are in the oven. But I can give you cannoli tonight."
It was 7:00 pm. Peak dining out hours and no desserts, other than cannoli, were available.
Once again, the items on the menu were not available.
We weren't about to try for a third visit, so we accepted the cannoli, which was delicious. I have had plenty of cannoli where the shell is either too doughy, or too crumbly, falling apart when you take a bite. This cannoli was neither. The kids tried some and it didn't jive with them, so they had orange sherbet. The waitress also mentioned while we were ordering that she'd bring us some coffee to go with the cannoli.
It never arrived.
George and I looked at each other when the kids attempted to order root beer, which we did successfully order and received on carry-out night (so we know they stock it), only to hear those all too familiar words, "We're out of root beer."
We came to the conclusion that awkward night was not a fluke.
We do like the food, so we'll stick with carry out.
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
Today was the first day he verbalized, "Mommy, I am too nervous to go in there," in reference to reading time at the library. The program is fantastic and includes reading and some songs.
Both my kids have NEVER enjoyed group music classes once they reached 3 years old.
So, as the kids began the opening song, which was just a silly version of the Wheels on the Bus (which was cute) Zane would not stand up and practically crawled under the chair to hide. I decided to remove him from the situation, as he was so uncomfortable, and take him to choose books. It was when we got into the stacks that he wailed, "I'm so nervous!" It was a real, guttural cry. As a parent you begin to distinguish cries. He was a wreck.
This hasn't been the first time. We tried class last week and the same thing occurred, but I held on through the craft section and Harper even came in to sit with him on the floor, as otherwise he'd be on my lap the entire time. She was an incredible help.
Today, she offered to buy him a prize with her earned Book Bucks ("money" redeemed for prizes each time you read a certain amount of books), which really cheered him up. Quite impressive, my dear Harper.
What's funny, is that I would think that in anxious situations, the first thing to slip would be potty training. Nope. We've not had one problem. Even at night. Perhaps he realizes that this is the one thing he can truly control right now.
He has asked about taking gymnastic class, so George brought him to a trial class tonight. I got a call about 20 minutes in. Now I was the one nervous to answer the phone.
"He didn't want to participate in the stretching, but once the tumbling started he was all about it. He learned how to do a back flip on the rings, and even offered to straighten out the mat for the other kids when it got crooked."
I told Harper that Zane actually participated in something and she got so excited. We waited for him on the front the porch and then cheered as they drove up.
Zane got out, all smiles, yelled, "I LOVED IT!" and proceeded to show me a forward roll ON THE SIDEWALK!
He was ok.
His new friends who live behind us came by and he stopped. Immediately.
"I don't want anyone watching me."
Guess where I've heard that before?
She was once 4 years old.
I may have to go back and read my own blogs to see how to and how not to proceed should he share a certain personality trait with his sister. Good thing I've kept a history. I wrote much about Harper, but even as I start to look back at Zane, I recall that he hasn't taken a liking to group stuff (with kids - wouldn't do the Skokie library kids program without clinging to my side), and can't stand places where there are crowds and tons of noise. His SLC class had 12 kids and 3 teachers and was very structured. Gymnastic class had 5 kids. At his new Sunday School (which was a bit of a struggle) he talked about one boy.
He's a small group type of kid. As is Harper.
I can't wait to attend the gymnastic class with him next week and am so very glad he found an activity that is fun, builds confidence, and one which he expressed delight!
Stay tuned tomorrow as I share how Harper read books to a seeing eye dog tonight. Ishtar, a black lab, comes to the library on Tuesday nights, and Harper signed up to read to him. It was right up her alley.
So remember our horrid non-dining experience from last Saturday night?
Well, then, you mustn't be reading and I am terribly offended.
Go back and catch up, will ya?
So, it's a small town, right? I decide to make nice with the owner and give him a call to chat.
He was fabulous. Explained about a power outage on the block that took out his cooler (and thus a few items on the menu) and his credit card machine. Plus, his main guy on the floor had to leave unexpectedly as his brother was in a car accident. He admitted it was a bad night for the place. "After you left I sent the waitress out to find you and tell you that since the credit card machine wasn't working you could just come back and pay on Monday."
Just come back and pay on another day?
That's several times now that I've been offered the "honor system" here in town when it comes to purchasing merchandise, and now food.
He was incredibly apologetic and offered desserts on the house next time we come in.
I'll take it. On a day I do a long run . . .