Friday, September 10, 2010

Friday and a Moment of Truth

So I've decided to post something a little personal today, thinking that putting these thoughts and feelings out there may make them more real to me.

I'm a competitor, okay that's not a shock to anyone who knows me, but I am at a juncture in my life that offers no real opportunity for competition or movement. I have known it for some time, but I haven't known how to deal with it. Honestly, I still don't, which is part of my point in writing. I feel blessed for the life and family I have, so what is it inside me that wants to accomplish so much more? Why can't I just get better at my job as it is and stay comfortable where I am? My life is, my life is GREAT! Yet I want to be better: better at what I do, better at who I am. But how, where?

Maybe I should back up... see, I was the kid who made myself a basketball player (not my words, my coach's), and I was the player who had nightmares after losses. I was the girl who spent two hours a day learning dance steps because I didn't like being first runner-up (or first loser as my dad once said), and I was the pageant girl (hate that phrase) who had nightmares for years about how I could have handled my Miss America interview better. So now, I am the wife, mother, and career woman who works everyday to give the best to everyone who needs me and expects it of me, but I always want/need to do better.

This brings me to my latest endeavors at work, at home, and at play. At work, I am on a quest to raise money better than I ever have in my job: to provide scholarships, to complete Ozarks' amazing comprehensive campaign, and to feel truly accomplished in my work! At home, I have worked to be a better wife by using new recipes and not just making dinner from a box and turning the TV off to get on the floor with my kids and play. As for my ambitions for play, I am trying for the second year to become a member of the Disney Mom's Panel. I'm not sure that I am pixie dust enough for them, but I LOVE Disney and have taught my kids and my husband a love for Disney. I tried for the panel last year with no luck and also not telling anyone about it. But this year, I thought I would be a little more out there and ambitious about it. The panel application process opens Monday and I plan to be one of the first to turn in my application. We'll see how it goes. Honestly, I'd just like to make it to the second round, then maybe next year I can make it to the third round... okay, yes, I want to make the panel, but they will get 20,000 applications, so I'd at least like to do better than last year.

There it is: my Friday Moment of Truth and putting a little more of myself out there.
We'll see where it goes!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

“I ate all my chicken”

My four year old is becoming increasingly conscious of the world around him. As a parent, it is somewhat eerie when you start to realize your child is putting concepts together, remembers things from “when I was three,” and discovers how to be covert – or thinks he is covert… So begins his story of, “I ate all my chicken.”

Z tends to eat slowly, which is putting it mildly. We have finished many a meal in which his daddy has remained seated with him while everyone else moved on to other things. This is a fact of which Z has become increasingly aware. It is also a principle on which he often bases an argument of not having to eat very much because, “I take forever.”

On Saturday evening, I cooked chicken strips, broccoli (yes, my son actually likes it), and corn and served Z and his daddy in the living room. It appeared to be the makings of a pretty typical evening. The first red flag should have gone up when after giving my son his plate, he asked me, “Where’s [the dog] Lizzie?”

“Outside,” I responded. “Eat your dinner.”

“Let Lizzie back in,” he says.

“You don’t need Lizzie. Just eat your dinner.”

So we all sat in the living room: Z and his daddy in the two captains chairs while I am perched on the couch with the toddler going between each of us to see who has the food he wants. (He eats at his high chair while I cook and then nibbles off our plates during meals.) After a little bit, Z announces, “I ate all my chicken, but I don’t want the other stuff.”

“Okay,” I tell him. “But you need to eat more chicken if you don’t want your broccoli or corn.”

He thinks for a minute and then says, “Okay, more chicken.” At this point my husband is up getting himself some more chicken so he cuts up a piece and gives it to Z. This time a few minutes go by but not near as long as the first time, and Z announces that he ate all his chicken. Wow! We ask if he wants more. When he says yes, his daddy doesn’t bother to cut it up this time and instead brings him the full chicken strip. One minute later, our son greets us in the kitchen with an oh-so-proud of himself face and announces again, “I ate all my chicken.”

Now, I’m suspicious, so I go to the chair where he has been sitting. I look behind and underneath it to find what I believe is all three chicken strips served to him plus a piece of bacon from breakfast (how the dog missed it I’ll never know). I walk back to my husband in the kitchen and simply say, “go look at his chair.” As my hubby looks at the floor covered with food and I bring a plate in to clean it up, he tells our son to go to his room. We then proceed to take five minutes for everyone to breathe. When he finally looks at me to say, “I’m not sure where to go with this,” I look at the clock (7:25 p.m.) and respond, “a bath and then his room seem appropriate.” So our son, for what I believe is the first time in his four and a half years, went to bed with no TV, no games, no books, no cuddle, and no dinner – I did concede to take him a snack when he admitted to being hungry, even though I was tempted to give him the chicken that he had thrown on the floor.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

5 a.m.

Why, son, why? Why must we be up at 5 a.m. today? The questions rolled over in my mind a hundred times... that is, when I could keep myself awake as my 15 month old climbed up and down from the couch on which my body deeply wanted to drift back off to sleep. He is a pretty sweet baby in the mornings. He has always been an early riser unlike the other three of us in our house. Recently he has taken to sleeping until 7 a.m. rather than his usual 6 a.m. wake up call. But not today! Today he made up for those few days of sleeping in, and so there we were up at 5 a.m.

I stumbled into the kitchen and poured him a sippy cup of milk. Then I grumbled my way back to the couch to hopefully sit, cuddle, and soothe him back to sleep. I did not turn on many lights and definitely no television, thinking that eventually he would get the idea. Then I realized he needed a dry diaper, so up again. Dry diaper and back to the couch. We sat, he drank. Then the milk was gone and he was fussy. So I stumbled back to the kitchen to acquire more milk and also get him a breakfast bar. I lay back on the couch trying to close my eyes (at least one eye while I kept the other on him). Then he began to play the up/down game... up on the couch, down off the couch.

Urgh, maybe I should go wake up my husband for his turn of early morning duty... but then he'd just turn on the TV and go back to sleep while my son stared enamored at the bubetube.. so no, I'll stick it out.

By six o'clock he was bringing out the books. Once, twice, I'll read them; by the third time, I'm getting frustated. Surely this kid wants to go back to bed. I lie there glaring at him. "I love you," I say, "but don't you want to get a little more sleep before the sun comes up." Finally, at 6:20 a.m. he goes toward the stairs to his room and grunts his usual "ehh."

Aha! I ask, "want to go back to bed?" I pick him up and begin up the stairs. "Bed," he repeats, "Bed!" YES, exhausted and trudging myself to his bedroom, my son has tossed me a "mommy bone"-- not just sleep but a new word. My son can say "bed!"

Friday, July 23, 2010

Catching up (The WDW planning saga)

So as my mind starts to drift toward my family's ambitious road-trip adventure to Southern California in four months, I thought it was about time that I finally post everything I put together for the kids and grandparents last December at DisneyWorld. Please keep in mind that these few articles were basically journal entries to myself written at the time of planning (relatively this time last year).

Planning Walt Disney World with 2 Kids, 2 Parents, and 4 Grandparents

Part I Room reservations

The following is a run-down of the process it took to plan the overall dynamics of our son’s first “official” WDW trip…

My booking window (exactly seven months prior to our date of check-in) was here and I was primed and ready to make our reservations at the new Bay Lake Towers at Disney’s Contemporary Resort. However, I had no idea how complicated the actual reservations would be.

I was planning for two grandparents with us part of the time (four nights) and two grandparents with us the whole time (six nights), plus hubby, myself and the boys. Of course, simply calling and asking for three rooms over X dates wasn’t going to cut it. This was going to take some work and adaptation to our needs in conjunction with what was available.

After about a week of deliberation and calls back and forth with DVC (Disney Vacation Club), I found a plan. We booked a studio for four nights, and a two bedroom villa for six nights with a drastic mixture of points and cash payments (Day 1-points; Day 2 & 3 - cash; Day 4-points; Day 5- cash; Day 6- points). You would not believe what I went through to get that finalized. The Disney people were always helpful, just a lot of hoops and coordination with availability and family. But we got it set! This was at approximately 210 days out. Next, we just had to wait until our 90 day window to book dining reservations!

Part II Dining Reservations

In the meantime, I began planning. I use an excel spreadsheet for all our travel plans. I did this even before we had kids. My husband and I have traveled with and without schedules, and after our last unscheduled vacation, he assured me that my scheduling was the best way to go. So I began looking at the possible plans – I knew the first day had to be the Magic Kingdom with both sets of grandparents. Next, I had to think about everyone’s needs, interests, and comfort levels from the seven month old to the 70 year old. From nap schedules to mobility issues not to mention the time people need to get up and about in the morning, it was all I could do to keep my head from spinning.

I started with basics: meal times and parade/show schedules available. I decided to go with the Dining Plan so that there was never a concern about who picked up the check, and because of my in-depth planning, I knew I could easily make it worth the money. So I selected a few choice character meals – Crystal Palace for breakfast the first day (a tradition for my parents and me), lunch with Playhouse Disney characters, breakfast with Donald, and breakfast at Chef Mickey’s for the morning we were leaving. I also knew Castle Dining was a must. Many of the others I began to pick and chose as the 90 day window loomed closer for making the reservations. I selected some old stand bys but also reviewed and contemplated menus for some new dining experiences. (I highly recommend for its great website with menus.)

On the 90th day prior to our check-in at Bay Lake Resort I was up at 4:45 a.m. for the reservation office to open in Orlando. I was poised with my credit card, reservation number, and anything else they might ask me. I called for 15 minutes straight. Then voila a Disney cast member answered, and we were on our way. I got it! Our castle dining reservation for six adults and two children booked! Hooray!

In the course of that day, I called back once to make nine more dining reservations. Then over the next week I called and made four more. I then called and booked a couple of meals just for my father and his wife, and I booked one more reservation online. Scarily, 30 days out I still had one reservation that I hadn’t booked for my in-laws, but they didn’t seem that keen on what they wanted to do which made it a little difficult on me. Surely, I can get a reservation for two squeezed in somewhere (eyebrow raised). In total, I made 17 reservations for our party over a total seven night stay – and a mixed bag at that, some for parties of two, some for eight, some for six and one for four.

Then began the coordination of more dynamics and more questions: who goes with the grandchildren and when, who keeps which child, who sleeps in, who gets up early, when do we relax, can we make it from Fantasmic! to the Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show in an hour? The questions go on and on. However, all of that said, I have the schedule set and with 30 days out I started on the smaller details: grocery lists, airport transfers, packing lists, and the daily countdown for a 3 year old.

Budgeting vacation and Christmas at the same time

One art in traveling is learning to plan and budget wisely, especially if you have the crazy idea of traveling around the holidays. If you are anything like me, you may often use your credit card to pay for a vacation and you may also use it to purchase the endless list of Christmas gifts. Put these two major purchase times together and you have the making for a credit card bill that is near impossible to pay off.

Fortunately for me, we have been planning our Disney World trip for months. So beginning in July, I started analyzing my credit card billing cycle – on my Disney Visa card. I made plans to buy early Christmas presents, space out vacation purchases such as tickets, and also started collecting a few gift cards for spending at the Parks – all the while adding up reward points/dollars for our vacation. One money saving opportunity because of my preparation and our length of stay, I am saving $50 per ticket by not adding the park hopper. It is funny, I consider myself pretty frugal, but when it comes to Disney I want to experience so much. I worry if I have gone overboard on this trip. I have tried to cut back where I can like with the tickets, and I have also spaced out my purchases over five months so as not to take a huge hit when we are in the parks. When all is settled, I will have only six Christmas presents to buy in December (four of those are members of my traveling party and I plan to get their presents at WDW) and my Disney World charges will hopefully total only $1200 – most of that going toward the Deluxe Dining Plan I chose for my family -- which can be offset by whatever we have left on our gift cards and reward card.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Guilty Pleasures

Sometimes "a girl has to do what a girl has to do," or so the saying goes. For me it is more along the lines of "a mom has to find sanity where a mom can find sanity." And for this I have recently turned to what I call my “guilty pleasures.” These involve reading, watching, and planning. Allow me to explain…

As a child I was never a fan of reading. Despite having an English teacher for a mother, Cliffs Notes were my friend to put it mildly. It wasn’t until I was in graduate school that I discovered one really could read for pleasure. I found this by reading Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice as I prepared for a summer course in England. It is still my all time favorite and I reread it when I am bored, which sadly is a rarity. But the not having time element brought me to the state of reading as a guilty pleasure. I have discovered that I am not a “lay it on the night stand” kind of reader. Once I start, it must be finished. And so my recent guilty pleasure has been Mary Balogh books which I tend to start and push everything else aside. Balogh is a Regency era romance novelist. So far this summer I believe I have read seven of her works. And the last one, A Matter of Class, I read twice because the twist at the end made rereading the beginning even more fun. So now I just need to get to a Barnes and Noble which carries some of her older works so I can continue this terrific guilty pleasure. I don’t know what I will do when she runs out of books; however, I think she has around seventy so it isn’t bound to happen anytime soon although moderation is key because, again, I tend to neglect everything when I start reading.

Next, there is a new television show I have gotten into and for the life of me I don’t know why. I call it the teenage version of Desperate Housewives. Pretty Little Liars comes on ABC Family on Tuesday nights. Again, I don’t know why I am watching a show about silly 16 year old girls and their all too intricate lives of messing with older men, confused sexuality, and a dead friend who is haunting them via texts. Seriously, why do I care about this show again? Okay it’s got mystery; it is a far cry from my thirty-something life with children; and it is nothing like my teenage years, so why not?

Third is my obsession with planning trips. Seriously, I might chart a trip to the grocery store if it took more than ten minutes to get there. Planning travel used to be a hobby when my husband and I went on vacation; however, now it is an all out quest. I research restaurants, attractions, hotels and stops for the kids. I budget, not down to the penny yet but I am afraid the time may be coming. I plan so much that I even plan in flexibility to my schedule. Isn’t that ironic on some level? But my husband likes it and I feel like we get the most out of our trips this way. Plus when traveling with two small children, it is always best to look ahead because you will never see everything that is coming. So when I get stressed I plan the next trip even if it is six months away.

Strangely I now realize that “doing” seems to be glaringly absent from my guilty pleasures. Now I wonder why that is?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Has it really been three months!?!

I can't believe that I have missed three months of blogging. Between birthdays and the biggest event of my work year, I guess I have been a little side tracked. Not that I haven't thought about it. I do occasionally start a blog in my head. Sadly, it never makes it to paper (or digital screen as is the case these days). So I will try very soon to post a few recaps from the past month and move into the present day events of life. Just a few of the blogs to come:

Nic's First Birthday
Recapturing the Renaissance
The Mother's Day Present
Celebrating Ten Years: The parents getaway
Planning the Griswald's Revisited

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Thoughts from my week

Sunday’s Scriptures

Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Although I have often seen these words in a wedding setting, our minister brought a new perspective to me. He said to replace the word Love and It with your own name. Then read the verses.

Monday’s Measurement

What’s worse than a Monday? How about a Monday in which you scrutinize and measure your past year’s work? I always feel so good about my work until this time of year comes… the annual evaluation. I spent my Monday writing narratives of my year’s work and how it relates to last year’s objectives and my job description and then list objectives for the next year. It is an essential element in the job growth process, but it can take you from patting yourself on the back with your head in the clouds on one item to wanting to crawl under a rock with the next. I have always been a very tough critic upon myself since I was a child. My dad said punishment was rarely an issue because simply knowing the displeasure of my parents would crush me. I am often the same way with work. I strive to please people, and ultimately please myself, but I am an extemely tough evaluator so that lead to…

Tuesday’s Troubles

I had spent the previous night and the better part of Tuesday morning agonizing over how I could do my job better. How could I see my percentages really increase, not just hold steady, but increase? Where could I improve my return on investment for events? What is my next career move? Do I have one? How do I get there? Oh, the questions… they can eat you alive.

Did I mention that this was also my husband’s birthday? So, here I was, down in the dumps while trying to keep my head up and not take it out on him on his birthday. Growing older is not one of his favorite things. He almost takes it personally that the universe has decided he must age. I’m being a little dramatic, but trust me I have a spouse who very much enjoyed being in his twenties. His mid-thirties with two kids sometimes brings him down.

Wednesday’s Way Forward

By Wednesday, I was ready to move on. I turned my evaluation in to my boss, and I let it go. I had some other very important items to get prepared and I settled in to address them and get them done. By the end of the day, I felt back on track. Just in time for…

Thursday’s Theatrics

My morning was spent with acrobatics of planning and preparing items that needed to be out of my hands for the next two days as I left the office for a Board of Trustees retreat. I was able to get everything together by noon, just in time to begin the juggling act of preparing children to go to grandparents, packing bags, and trying to get in the car to leave in two hours. The four year old was simple to pack, but the ten month old was a little more difficult as I am still nursing. (Which meant I had to make sure I sent enough stored milk and then took everything I needed to pump for two days.) Okay, so TMI, but you might as well understand the full perspective of my juggling act. However, my dad had his car loaded and the kids picked up by 1:30 p.m. and hubby and I were on the road by 2:15 p.m. Not bad.

We were on our way to Mt. Magazine Lodge, which I had intended to write about from a travel perspective. However, the cold, windy, and foggy weather did not lend itself to many views to write about. The lodge while beautiful does have a few issues, at least our room did, and the food was adequate. Well, maybe I will follow this up at a later time with my overall review. Don’t misunderstand it was a great meeting facility. So placed in context, it was well done, but if you are considering vacation, you should just be prepared for a few things.

Friday’s Forum

Not much to write here although the day was probably one of the most interesting days of seminars/speeches/lectures that I have ever experienced. I generally drift in and out after an hour in a "classroom," but not this time. The speakers were interesting and entertaining and the topics and data were fascinating. They kept my attention from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. But

Saturday’s Separation Anxiety

My hubby and I returned home to the kids today. When we walked in the door, our four year old ran to both of us and gave big hugs and excitement to see us – every parents dream reaction from their kids. Now our ten month old not so much, he just stared at me. He looked almost in disbelief. Finally, when he came to me, he placed his small arms completely around my neck and placed his head on my shoulder. As I hugged him and thought how sweet it was to embrace and be embraced by my baby, he broke into tears. I couldn’t fully tell if he was mad at me or that he had been hurt and confused over the days without me and was releasing his pent up pain when he finally had me back. I tried one of our special games that almost always makes him laugh, but instead he cried. So I took him and sat quietly for a few minutes of nursing. I think this reassured him that his mommy was really home and he was all smiles and laughter after that. But wow, what a reaction and how clearly even an infant can relay their displeasure with you in a way that cuts you to the core for hurting them.