Friday, April 23, 2010

The Joy of Play

There is an ultimate joy that can be found in eavesdropping on a playdate going well.

Zane and Bodin are the closest pair to what Zane had with one of his buddies back in Evanston. They are two peas in a pod and can be left to themselves for HOURS without my running interference.

Today? No exception.

From the light-saber battle in the front yard to the request they made that snacks be delivered to the Death Star, these two click.

Zane has needed that click.

But, my favorite quote of the day?

"The quicksand is bringing us to a journey of excitement" quickly followed by, "We are on an adventure discovering new worlds in the quicksand."

Thankfully, they escaped what could have been the tragedy that is drowning in quicksand, and have now moved on to building with lego's while listening to The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe.

Do they even know I'm here, except for the rare occasion when they need refreshment?

Nope. This morning, they played at Bodin's house for 2.5 hours, and then we swapped, and now Bodin has been here from almost 2. And they have not stopped.


And to continue on with my most recent post, Zane started reading short words today by sounding out the first and last letters. I wrote "PIG" and he said, "Puuu, Gggg - Pig". I have done NOTHING to encourage this. NOTHING. We went on to go over a few more small words that I had written and then we continued orally without my writing them down. What do I do next? Anyone?

He is transforming before my eyes.

"Quickly! Swim to the ship! There's darkness and lightening. And flashes. Get inside the ship!"

There they go again. I certainly hope they make it, because I'm not going to interrupt them.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

School in the House, Rocks

As a first time mother, I had videos and flashcards, and read religiously to Harper 20 minutes a day, as recommended. We took classes, I sang (non-stop), she listened to music (all variety's, and even developed a liking to ABBA), and basically spent her early existence being introduced to everything I could put before her.


Well, um . . .

So, last night when Zane announced that it was time that he learned how to read, I knew it had absolutely NOTHING to do with me . . . and everything to do with his pre-school field trip to visit Kindergarten.

Following this field trip, we had our longest after school discussion to date. Everything about the trip was "awesome". The bus ride? "Awesome!" The indoor playground? "Awesome!" The class room?

"Mommy, we went to Emilie's classroom!"

Well, that says it all, doesn't it?

A few weeks ago, after picking Miss Emilie up from school, she practiced reading a book to us at the kitchen table. Zane sat there staring at her with a euphoric, "Wow, she's all that!" look on his face. He was mesmerized. Transfixed. No joke, people.

So, I wasn't surprised to hear him exclaim that it was time for him to start reading after actually seeing Miss Emilie at "big" school.

Harper leaped at the chance to help Zane and immediately ran to his room to retrieve the same flashcards I used with her when younger. And then we sat, listening to Zane as he told us what object was on the card, what sound the word began with, and whether it was spelled with an upper or lowercase beginning letter on the card. Over and over and over and over.

I was surprised by Harper's reaction of, "Mom, I think I'm going to cry", because, frankly, I was feeling exactly the same way, and had no idea that she, too, would be moved by all he has learned this year.

He is obviously excited to move on to new adventures, and I am thankful that although it has been a difficult transition for him this year, he has indeed grown in confidence.  As I sit here filling out the mounds of paperwork for his Kindergarten registration, I am not like most parents who are sending their first off to "big" school.  Yes, I am emotional about it, but I also know that he needs it.  It's time.  He's been in pre-school for 3 years now and if I could send him to school all day, I would.  He's ready.  He's willing. 

Now to tackle securing the teacher he wants.  The teacher he described as, "so sweet and gentle and fun".  That, of course, being Emilie's teacher.  I know every parent wants their child to have a nurturer for their first teacher, but, I REALLY want one. I have a child who still loves to snuggle, will openly tell everyone that he loves his beautiful and pretty mom and wants to hug and kiss her everyday.  This is a boy who goes to sleep listening and humming "Peter and the Wolf", and could spend hours listening to books on CD.  He describes himself as an artist, and says that colors are "beautiful".  I want a teacher who can inspire more of this in him, and will love him through it.  If he finds Mrs. H "sweet and gentle and fun", I want him to have his choice.  (And come on, you don't think I've already done my own investigation into Kindergarten teachers?  Zane only affirmed my choice.)

Don't think for one minute I won't write a persuasive note to slip in with his registration.

I'm a writer.  Right?

A write who adores her kid.

The kid who is currently grounded in his room. 

He still rocks.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Notebook

No, silly. Not that one.

Harper and I have started a new activity. She's been a bit "tweeny" as of late (shudder). And I just sense that there's been a bit of difficulty in her feeling comfortable answering some of the questions I've been asking her about her 9 year old life as of late. She's also been much more shy than usual (yes, she can be shy) about asking me questions. Add to this that we've also been experiencing some minor 9 year old rebellion - yeah 9 - we're not talking smoking in the bathroom - more like eye rolling, heavy sighing, and a wee bit 'o fibbin', and it would seem that it's time for Mom to get creative. 

Enter - The Notebook.

I thought it might be easier to ask her questions via paper and for her to do likewise with me. So, we agreed that we'd use a notebook, that would be hidden in a safe place in her bedroom where the boys would be sure not to find it.

I won't reveal what I asked her tonight, or what she answered, but I would like to encourage you to try different avenues of communication during those phases when your child seems reticent or just plain overwhelmed and confused about how to share what's on her/his mind and heart.  Don't we all have periods in life when we find it difficult to put our thoughts into audible words?  Kids do too.

Our questions won't always be deep. I think I can safely share that while I was working in my office tonight she wrote, "Can I have a snack before bed?"  I intend to throw in some light, silly questions from time to time.  Just wait until she reads, "How many freckles do you have?"

It will be fun to surprise her with new questions here and there, and I'm anxious to see what she writes to me. 

I also think that we may need to return to some traditional bedtime routines that have been tossed aside a bit as she has gotten into the habit of reading herself to sleep before bed.  My heart is sensing that while she is trying to be "big", she is craving my reading to her, and just laying in bed with her before she digs into her own book.  That will be hard to do on the loveseat she's taken to sleeping on under her loft, but my gut is telling me to "go back to the beginning" when we used to lay in bed reading together. 

That will mean adjusting my own personal nighttime routine, for we've gotten into the habit of quick kiss, prayer, and off I go to the land of "my time".

Hmmm, perhaps I should ask her, via The Notebook, what the perfect nighttime routine looks like in HER mind.

See? It's already working.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

And the Difference Would Be . . .

This is what I am currently reading.

I am a fan of personal essays, autobiographies, and any works where the author doesn't hold back on allowing the reader to see the truth that is their life: both the beauty and the crap.

No surprise, eh?

I'm not posting this as a means of recommending this particular book. It's not for everyone. However, I make every attempt to read books by authors who come from a variety of backgrounds. I love to mix it up. Even if the content shocks me at times. I don't have much in common with this author - other than the fact that we are mothers. That doesn't mean I can not glean something from her life.  I love that she is so honest.  I love that she is transparent (whoosh - boy is she ever).  I "get" this type of writing.  I understand the inability to refrain from anything but honesty, and the release one feels upon divulging the information that many believe should be be locked away and never brought up in public.

It got me thinking.

Other than the fact that Ayelet Walden is New York Times Best Selling author, and, well, a professional writer, unlike myself who just dreams of being one and thus writes like mad, (or madly writes, depending on the day) are we really that different? Is our work really that different?  I'm not talking about comparing the quality of the work.  I concede here.  She's pretty darn good.  It's more the content over which I'm pondering.

Her personal essays are published, bound, and sold.

My personal essays are published, via web, and I'm not making a cent.

So, as content goes, what separates us other than the acclaim and the money?

Not much. We're both doing the same thing. Albeit, she on a very different level then my little Cuppa Jo.

Reader, if you ever feel uncomfortable with the fact that I seem to let you in on so much of myself in my posts, then you don't understand those of us who write. Or act for that matter. A writer writes. Without censor (although truthfully, I do tend to hold back - a bit). An actress, well a good one anyway, will always bring part of her true self to the role. When you see someone playing a role, and are blown away by how believable they are, know that they pulled something from their very soul and breathed it into the character you are experiencing.  Well, that's how I always approached different characters.  And I'll go ahead and pat my own back by saying that I was a very effective Lucy in Charlie Brown . . . just ask any family member who knew me as a young child.  For glimpses of that young Joline could be seen in the character of  Lucy Van Pelt when I played her years later in my 20's.

Perhaps we are a rare breed - those who desire to share so much of ourselves with others.

But book or blog, there is no difference in my material, and that of, say, an Ayelet Waldman other than the fact that you know me. I'm quite certain Ayelet's friends also had some animated eyeball moments upon reading Bad Mother. You are shocked at what I write because you know me personally. But, stick my words in a published book on a shelf somewhere in the Amazon warehouse, and remove the fact that you are a family member, or friend, or neighbor, fellow church member, or even my bank teller who now knows me as "The New Girl in Town" from my pieces in The Bridge, and I'm just another author sharing stories with you from my life.

Either you check it out of a library, purchase it, or read something like it here.

No real difference that I can see.

Thursday, April 15, 2010


Some days are tougher than others.

I realize everyone has a tough day here and there. Some have it tougher than others daily. I know this to be true, so I try to put my tough days in perspective, for they don't happen everyday.

Today is kind of tough. Why?

Well, as I've mentioned in prior posts, while it may seem that I "put it all out there" on this blog, I do practice discretion and keep various pieces of personal information in the vault.

I am aware that there are some who probably read my blog and Facebook posts and think, "Geez. That girl is all over the place." Well, in response to this, let me share a sliver about my life that I feel comfortable communicating here.

A member of my family has an illness that we've yet to get a handle on.

That's all I'll say.

Now, I've been tempted to respond to this situation by holing up, as if in a cave, and spending my days rocking back and forth or banging my head against the wall.

I've chosen, however, to go on the OFFENSIVE to combat the "woe is me" scenario that I battle daily.

Today, I CHOSE to workout, play tennis, take a walk with the dog, grab coffee for the teller at the bank, chat with a girlfriend, read to my son, and write.

I CHOOSE to run two home businesses in Beachbody and Mary Kay which keep me adequately distracted on days like today. It is necessary that I have something of my very own in which to pour my energy outside of the energy I pour into being a wife and mother.

My body, on the other hand, wants me to crawl in bed, draw the drapes, and just lay there. Beaten.

Can't do it. I am needed around here. I need to be at my spiritual, physical, emotional, and mental best. So, I make the time (sometimes at the expense of placing my children in front of the TV - gasp) to pray, exercise, gather with girlfriends who "get me" and whom are aware of our situation, read/write, and yes, run my skincare and fitness businesses. I must choose these things for myself or the whole ship goes down.

Many will say, "You can't carry this alone. You need a break."

That's what I just mentioned . . . I do take breaks. Many of them. Just now, Zane and I finished reading "Oh The Places You Will Go" (which speaks to my situation quite well, I should say), and National Geographic Kids. He is now watching Cartoon Network while I get my thoughts out. I have no remorse about that. I have one hour. For then, I must pick up Harper for an appointment and do the after-school rush.

So, I DO choose breaks for myself.

Today, I needed a reminder as to why Beaver has been so very therapeutic during our current state of affairs. Walking with the dog to the post office, the bank, Starbuck's (free coffee day with mug), back to the bank to deliver coffee to one of my favorite teller's, stopping in a hair salon where my whiz of a hairdresser just came on board, introducing myself to the manager of the local bike shop, and meeting neighbors all along the way, remind me that this lifestyle is exactly what the Doctor (and I do mean doctor with a capital "D") ordered for me and my entire family - Scout included. For my Doctor knew we'd be battling this medical difficulty and I truly believe He wanted us to fight it here. In Beaver.

So, today may be tough, but I stand reminded that today is also good.

And for the rest of you with tough days . . . and I know who you are . . . get out of "bed", open the drapes, take a shower, get dressed, and make a list of some ways that you can get refreshed. And then, as a family, figure out how Mom can get refueled.

I know you are sputtering. I was sputtering this morning as well. But my very smart father taught me that it is better to drive offensively, rather than defensively. I agree with him.

So I will do my best to push onward.

Just wanted you to stand in my shoes for a bit.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Three Cups of Coffee

So, faithful reader, you will notice the addition of a link to Team Beachbody on my site and the obvious disappearance of the link to my personal Mary Kay website and Mary Kay blog.

Seems as if my Mary Kay blog and links from Cuppa Jo to my personal Mary Kay website stirred some feathers with the company's legal department and thus . . . they shut me down. I am not bitter.  I am not leaving Mary Kay.  No way.  I like the product and so do the women in my customer base.  But, I will no longer be using my blogs to promote my Mary Kay business and will just go about it the old fashioned way:  talking directly to people.

The kind folks over at Team Beachbody, however, are all about personal blogging and have provided me with a wealth of links to videos, clip-art, etc. from which to build the newest addition to the Cuppa Jo family, Cuppa Jo: Fit With Jo.

What is it about? I'll let you go over there and read for yourself.

I am now drinking three cups of coffee each day in the form of: writing, Team Beachbody, and Mary Kay. I am the quintessential work from home gal with quite the entrepreneurial spirit, so adding Team Beachbody is quite natural for me. The bonus with this new cup, is that I am getting paid to help myself and others get fit.

So, that's the bean.  (And a bad joke.)

Three different mugs, each full with a unique blend of "java" for which I have a personal interest and passion.

You've already joined me by reading my work here on Cuppa Jo.  Many of you are reaping tremendous benefits for your skin from Mary Kay products, and now, perhaps my new venture will motivate you to get fit - Beachbody style.

I think three cups of coffee is perfect.

Don't you?

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Work the Numbers

I had a very bad 40 year old moment tonight.

Actually, the "moment" took about 10 minutes and involved workout capri's, my favorite exercise bra, a camera, and a tape measure.

As my induction, if you will, into the world of deciding to become a Team Beachbody Coach, I am embarking on a 90 day journey with Chalene Johnson, creator of ChaLEAN Extreme. It all starts tomorrow.

In preparation, measurements had to be taken, and horribly embarrassing photographs had to be shot - one of which would ultimately be chosen as my "before" photo. Doesn't matter which one I chose, as they were all pitiful.

Harper took the shots. George did the measuring. I stepped on the scale to reveal that I am now at my highest weight. Ever. Did you read that right? EVER!

How can that be? I ran a few 5K's this year, and a 10K. And then I rocked my time in a half-marathon. I learned how to play tennis. What the fat is going on here? Literally - what the FAT?

Well, along with all those accomplishments, I have also been emotionally eating since our house went on the market back in February of 2009. Our family has endured selling a home, buying a home, moving, and settling in a new area, along with some very serious and difficult health issues.
Mommy has handled all of it by eating. She's been carrying a lot of weight. Both literally and figuratively.

After floundering back and forth with a fitness routine for months, it is finally time to commit to a program for which I will have to be accountable to others. The best way for me to be accountable is to take on the responsibility of leadership for motivating others and showing them that indeed all women can make empowering changes for the better of their physical health.

I chose to do so by becoming an Independent Team Beachbody Coach. I have to log into the online gym a certain amount of times a month to remain "active". As I send out information over facebook and this blog about the program I'm doing, I very well better be doing it. Right? I want so much for women to conquer this area of their lives. Guess it better begin with me. Walk the talk.

Now it's out there.

And I have to produce.

Produce what? A leaner, trimmer, lighter me.

And yes, I'll try and drag your "I can't . . . I don't like to exercise . . .I could never do what you do" sorry a$# with me.

Come on, ladies. I, for one, am tired of this being an ongoing conversation - the constant griping about not being fit, and bathing suit season, and feeling sluggish, and not liking our bodies.

I'm out of that game and into this one.

Join me by either:

1. Picking up your own ChaLEAN Extreme at my site (or another awesome Beachbody program that you feel fits you and your current level of fitness).

2. Join my team as a coach and make a bit of coin just for exercising and guiding others towards the awesome Beachbody programs.

3. Picking up a program, like ChaLEAN, and then becoming a gym member over at Team Beachbody so that you can get support, accountability, great tips, etc. from other members and trained professionals.

And no . . . I'm not leaving Mary Kay . . . just furthering my desire for women to feel and look GREAT by adding some work below the neck as well.

Bring it.

Team Beach Body - Fit With Jo. It's where it all happens. (And ladies, while for me, it's all about you, bring your man . . . I bet he needs some work also. George is doing ChaLEAN with me!)

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Eavesdropping in Beaver County

On a visit to London in back in 2000, I got my fill of my King Henry VIII fetish. For me, Hampton Court was the place to be, having missed seeing it during my first trip years earlier.

Fresh off the plane, newly pregnant, queasy, and having not slept a wink (due to excitement), I convinced George and our hosts that I was feeling fine and couldn't waste a minute in my favorite country. We had to be off sight-seeing spit-spot. Since we were staying in Kent, it made all the sense in the world to just go ahead and drop the bags at our friend's place and then continue on straight away to Hever Castle - childhood home of one Anne Boleyn. Never mind that we had to pull over along the way because I had dry heaves. Baby or no baby, I was in England, and I would muster all the strength I had to make the most of our trip. Not even morning sickness could stop me. And I even took a Jack the Ripper walking tour - so you just know I was serious.

Hampton Court was indeed on the schedule, however, and just a few days later I walked through the gates of this massive structure. I learned many a new thing about Henry and his wives, but I also learned the following:

Hampton Court Palace outside London was the palace of King Henry VIII of England. In the eaves of its Great Hall, small faces are carved into the oak beams which lean at an angle of 45 degrees to the ground. These are known as 'Eaves Droppers'. Henry was known to be a strong ruler and often put spies in crowds of people to listen in to conversations. He wanted his staff (who slept in the Great Hall between banquets and would lie on straw looking up at the eaves) to know that he or his people would be listening at all times.

Ok, so either I am channeling Henry or Lindsay Wagner, because I seem to overhear a ton of interesting conversations. I honestly don't try to eavesdrop. It's more like I just walk head first into interesting conversations of which I am not involved.

Case in point.

While exiting Giant Eagle:

Man #1: Hey, dude! Great to see you! Where you been?

Man #2: Just got out of jail. Been there since 2005.

Man #1: That sucks. What for?

Man #2: Child abuse! Hey, what you been up to?

Shudder. These guys weren't exactly speaking softly.

This one is a bit more amusing.

Overheard at Goodwill:

Man: Ok, this place just sucks. Everything is so dang cheap. Full of crap. Everything here is crap.

Um, duh. Did you think you were entering Saks 5th Avenue's Rochester location?

I'll take that "cheap crap", Sir. Serve me up more of the same! And, have a nice day!

So, do I just have the ears of a Tudor tyrant, or am I bionic?

Whichever, you better whisper when in my presence, or you many just end up in this blog.

Don't say I didn't warn you.


My children are appalled.

They feel betrayed.

I had such a difficult time actually pulling the item off the shelf and placing it in my cart.

The horror.

The hypocrisy.


I am beginning a huge 90 day exercise program on Monday. ChaLEAN Extreme. Part of this program is menu planning. One of the suggestions that Chalene made for those of us who can not be trusted to take a bag of pretzels/nuts/etc. off the shelf, and eat the recommended serving size, is to use these small snack bags to separate the serving size of each item.

And I have done just that. Two bags of pretzels and a box of gingersnaps have been reduced to several snack baggies in my pantry, each containing 8 pretzels and 5 cookies. The kids now know that one bag is what they eat - not a handful, or two, or three, directly from the bag (which ultimately results in the item being depleted in a day).

We keep a basket in the pantry for the empty baggies.

But still, I admit that this is a flip-flop from my former platform.

If you look in my cupboards and in my fridge, you will still find several reusable containers which I use to pack snacks for my kids lunches, as I shudder to think of these bags being thrown in the trash at school. But as for using them here in the house for portion controlling dry snacks, I've caved.

I'm not entirely pleased with this decision. In fact, I'm struggling over it. All it took was Harper yelling, "Mom! Why did you buy these?" to know that I've taught my child well.

Thankfully, my kids are with the plan, and thus there are several used empty bags hanging out in the snack pantry ready to be refilled.

As penance I will break down a ton of boxes today and drag them, and our paper recyclables to the recycle drop down the street.

Will that count as absolution?

Goodwill Hunting

This week, during Pink Eye Palooza, Harper and I passed the time by wading through 3 boxes of hand-me-down clothing given to us by two different neighbors. The result? Harper's spring and summer wardrobe.

Just a few weeks ago I returned from Chicago with a bag full of hand-me-downs for Zane, given to me by the hostess of my quick trip.

We are blessed to have an abundance of clothes for the children for which we have paid . . . nothing.

One of my recycling efforts involves clothing. I know for a fact that clothes when washed well can cover up to three children. Zane has received clothing from his cousin Toby who received those clothes from his brother, Tanner. Harper has received clothing from her cousin Haley, which we then send back for Kari who is younger than Harps.

Yes, this system involves shipping clothing back and forth, but I guarantee you that this effort is far less expensive and time consuming than actually shopping and paying for brand new clothes. Currently, I have three enormous boxes to send to my nieces all from the in-home "shopping" extravaganza that Harper experienced this week. Everything she didn't want (and she turned down some amazing things) are going to my two nieces, as the gracious owners did not want the pieces back.

And me?

Well, after a terribly stressful week, I took myself to Goodwill for some uninterrupted hunting. After 2.5 hours (if you are going to really "do" Goodwill correctly, you must allow time), I returned home with:

1 shirt dress (Funky People - love it)
4 cotton tanks (Old Navy Perfect Fit - one of the only Old Navy styles I like)
2 fancier tank tops
4 shirts (2 short sleeve, 1 light long sleeve (Ann Taylor), 1 sheer (under which I'll wear a tank))
4 skirts (1 being Tommy Hilfiger, 2 being Ann Taylor, 1 Target)
1 pair of shorts (Gap)
2 pairs of Carpris (1 being Liz Claiborne)

The bill?

$65.98. Roughly $3.67 a piece.

Why thrifting? Well, the price tag for one.

But, a more personal reason would be that I am not at the size I was a year ago. For all my efforts of running and tennis, I have still put on a bit of weight this year due to some personal stress. I am a VERY emotional eater. So, in my mind, why purchase completely new clothes at a size that I do not intend to keep after 90 days of ChaLEAN Extreme, training to relay the Pittsburgh Marathon, and a 5K/10K planned for June? I'll be back in the old size. I'm confident of it. But, until then, I can't very well walk around in clothes I can't button. The only alternative is nudity.

Thrifting or nudity.

I think I made the right choice.

I am grateful that both my kids view hand-me-downs as "treasures" and that I don't have a girly clotheshorse to whom specific brands and clothing styles are so very life-or-death important. So far, so good.

Good 'ole SalVal has 50% on Wednesdays. I'm thinking that George and I should plan a hot date Wednesday morning to get him outfitted for the season.

My mother taught me well about second hand shopping. Wear a tank top so that you can try things on quickly (at least shirts), and be ready to make multiple trips to try items on. Give yourself ample time. Goodwill hunting is not for the quick in/out trip.

If your nose is in the air about this - lower it. All you will get from that stance is a stiff neck.

But that's fine. Thanks for leaving all the awesome finds for me!