Tuesday, December 30, 2008

You'd better resolve to...

This year I made a very long list of resolutions. I was so proud of myself. I had spent all year gathering them, noting areas that needed improvement and jotting them down in a notebook, sometimes several times a day.

Following this year’s list would make my life stress-free. There would be no grumpiness, no worries, just peace, love and joy year round. My house would run like a well-oiled machine. My floors would shine, my car would stay clean and full of gas, dinner would be served promptly when I got home from work. I really couldn’t wait for the New Year.

That is until my husband informed me I wasn’t allowed to make resolutions for him. As a matter of fact, he said he had his own set and picking up his socks was not at the top of it (or on it at all, actually). Furthermore, he had the nerve to say that resolutions began with “I,” not “You’d better.” And, to make matters worse, my children had the gall to ask, “What’s a resolution?”

What a let-down. To think I had worked so hard this year. Since I’m not one to be easily daunted, however, I sat down to revise my list. It just needs a dash of creativity, I thought.

See what you think of this version:

I resolve to disable the horn in my husband’s truck, so he can’t honk at me when I’m running late.

I resolve to put a basketball hoop around the clothes hamper to encourage its use.

I resolve to allow the kids to keep all of the money they find while cleaning out my car.

I resolve to put a television in the kitchen, so my husband will cook more.

I resolve to wash the whites with reds to see if real men do wear pink (and to find out how long they will before they breakdown and wash clothes themselves).

I resolve to place biohazard tape across the kids’ doors when their rooms need cleaning.

I resolve to hang a sign around our dog’s neck that says, “Please feed me, water me and walk me. This means you.”

I resolve to allow the kids to wear roller skates in the house, as long as they do it with a mop or broom in hand.

I resolve to let my family make a few resolutions for me, too. (But I don’t resolve to keep them!)

Happy New Year to you and yours. By the way, if you could make a resolution for someone, who and what would it be?

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Until next year

The day after Christmas I opened the back door and tossed the tree out. Man, that’s a good feeling!

You know how some people take great pleasure in decorating the house and preparing for Christmas. Well, I take great pleasure in taking it all down. In fact, I found myself growing happier and happier with each ornament I packed away.

Don’t get me wrong, we had a great holiday, and I enjoyed it. Now bring on the New Year.

You see, while some people grow bored with their daily routine, I thrive on mine. I like to wake up at the same time (not too early), eat the same thing for lunch (baked potato), do the same work-out every day (free weights), and tuck the kids into bed at the same time every night (8:30). It just works for me.

My children, on the other hand, are already missing the excitement of it all. My son looked out the back door and asked, dismayed, “What’s the Christmas tree doing outside?”

I explained to him that it was over until next year.

“That’s okay; the next one is only 365 days away!” he said.

That’s quite a few potatoes, I thought. Maybe I should change it up this year. Live life on the edge a little more. Try some exotic dish, get up hours earlier to run, let the kids stay up to 9:00.

Nah! As my dad always said, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”

Friday, December 26, 2008

The best Christmas gift ever

“This is the best Christmas ever,” my daughter proclaimed.

I couldn’t help but smile. She’s enthusiastically made this statement every year since she learned to talk. And, fortunately, so.

It was a good Christmas for me, too. As the kids grow older, they are more involved in choosing my gifts, which makes it more fun for me (no offense, honey). I never know what they think I can’t live without.

This year my son went shopping with my husband and came home strangely quiet. He’d smile and nod but volunteered no information about how they’d spent their day. This year’s present was going to be a good one; I could tell.

As I opened my gifts on Christmas Day, my son was too distracted with his own treasures to pay much attention to me. Eventually, he came over as I was slowly unwrapping and asked, “Did you open the one with diamonds yet?”

“With diamonds?” I asked excitedly, beginning to pick up the pace.

“Oops!” he said, as he clasped his hand over his mouth.

I tossed aside the gift I was unwrapping and ripped open his small package in anticipation.

Inside was the biggest, gaudiest, I mean, most beautiful, necklace that I’ve ever seen.

“It’s your birthstone,” he said of the huge bright purple piece of plastic. “And look at the diamonds. It’s covered in them.”

“Wow!” I said, impressed he knew my birthstone.

“Can you believe it only cost $25?”

“Are you sure it wasn’t $2,500 or $250?” I asked.

“No, ma’am. It was only $25! Can you believe it?” he asked proudly.

“Well, you really aren’t supposed to tell people how much their gifts cost,” I said, then seeing the disappointed look on his face, quickly added, “but I’m glad you told me. You are really a smart shopper, and I love it.”

My husband later told me that as they were checking out with my gift card, my son spotted the necklace and insisted I had to have it. The saleslady asked my husband if he needed a receipt, and he replied, "I don't think she'll be bringing it back."

He was right. I guess I could hide it in a drawer and pull it out for special occasions (like when my son asks about it), but I’m not. I plan to wear it as often as I can. I’ve worn it to the grocery store and the gym so far, although I must admit it’s raised a few eyebrows from other women. That’s okay. They may look at as $25 costume jewelry, but to me, it’s priceless.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

It's not too late...

My son woke me up at 8:00 a.m. this morning.

"It's Christmas eve," he whispered.

I nodded, too sleepy to correct him by explaining that it is really Christmas eve day.

"Do you need any chores done?" he asked.

Apparently, he is still concerned about which list he is on. Looks like I may have a sparkling clean house after all, thanks to my little elves.

I'll let you know how he fares tomorrow. In the meantime, in case you're worried, Santa says it's not too late to make the nice list.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Why moms can't nap

My husband can nap as long as he likes, totally uninterrupted. In fact, if he is sleeping, the kids will tiptoe around, ever so carefully as not to wake him up. For example, one day, my son said in a hushed voice, “I need my shoes.”

“Well, go get them,” I said.

“But they’re in your bedroom.”

“Well, go get them.”

“But Daddy’s sleeping in there.”

“Well, go get them—quietly.”

I watched him as he peered into the dark bedroom as if it’s a cave and then made a quick dash for his shoes as if he were afraid of waking the sleeping bear inside.

Now to be fair, my husband’s really a nice guy, and I doubt he would yell at them if they woke him up. Of course, the kids make sure there is no opportunity to test that theory. It must be some kind of father/child rule. There’s even a board game about it called “Don’t Wake Daddy!”

Moms, however, are a different animal. After a wee late night with some friends followed by a way early morning cheering on my children at their sporting event, I decided I would try to take one of those naps that I had heard so much about recently. (It seems they boost your brain.) So, after trying twice, my research determined that it is physically impossible for moms to nap.

Here’s why:

As soon as you are on the verge of falling asleep, you will hear one or more of your children ask, “Where’s Mom?”

Then you will hear them call, “MOM!” as they frantically search the house.

You will shout, “I’m in here!” ten times.

The kids will run in, jump on the bed, and say, “We just wanted to know where you were.”

Next the phone will ring and ring and ring, and no one will answer it.

The phone will ring and ring and ring, and your kids will scream that they can’t find it.

The phone will ring and ring and ring, so you’ll get up, find it, answer it, and it will be your children. They are at the neighbor’s house and want to know if they can stay and play. It seems waking Mommy is always better than asking Daddy.

Someone you don’t want to see will appear at your door. Go ahead, pick a person. It works like magic. Usually, it’s the most gossipy person in the neighborhood, and she will look at the dirty dishes in the sink, then at you, then at her watch and ask, “I’m sorry. Were you sleeping?” Next thing you know the world thinks you have a drinking problem.

The dog will get loose and reek havoc on the neighborhood

The kids will walk in and ask you a question as if you were wide awake.

Wait a minute…Did they just ask for candy, Coke and ice cream again?

Your husband won’t be able to find any clean forks.

Every member of your family will come in and ask “What’s for dinner?” at separate times.

Your husband will decide to work on a project that you’ve been trying to get him to do for six months, and he will need your help ASAP. Warning, saying no could mean another six months.

The world will stop spinning and fall off its axis.

You will give in and go out and play with the kids. After all, there will be plenty of time to nap once they’ve up and gone.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Planning for the New Year

As I sit here with a stack of unmailed Christmas cards, I begin to plan our New Year’s get-together. I’m a big planner, you see. From the moment I wake up in the morning, I’m thinking ahead.

“What do you want for dinner?” I’ll ask my husband as I wash the breakfast dishes. He looks at me like I’m crazy, and he is probably right. If he were to suggest filet mignon, it would be undoubtedly end up being hot dogs.

I’ve often heard if you fail to plan; you plan to fail. I’m sure that’s true in most cases, but somehow my best laid plans never come to fruition. The closet doesn’t get cleaned, the steak doesn’t get thawed, and the next chapter in my book doesn’t get written. Yet, being the optimist that I am, I wake up each day with a new list in hand and a new plan for getting all of my daily goals accomplished.

Of course, as parents know, there are boo boo’s to be kissed, cookies to be baked, disputes to be refereed and board games to be played, all keeping us from our to-do list. And thankfully so.

I sometimes wonder, however, if the more we plan, the harder God laughs. I’m not saying he shouldn’t. If everything had gone to my plan, who knows where I would be now? Certainly some of the best parts of my life have been entirely unexpected.

Each day is definitely a lesson in humility. Yet, I still make daily lists and yearly resolutions. Who knows, maybe they will come true. If not, I’ll plan accordingly.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Catching the Christmas spirit

It finally happened.

After months of complaining, dreading, fighting, and ignoring it, the Christmas spirit finally hit me—hard.

We went to get our tree today. For years, we’ve gone and cut down our own. The farm we go to has bunnies, hot chocolate, a trail by a waterfall, ducks to feed and a gift shop full of door prizes (My son even won a gingerbread house once). But this year, it was cold, and I was tired, and I thought, maybe, we can just grab one at Wal-mart since I’ll be there for the third time in three days.

But, tradition persevered, and I am so glad it did.

“This is my favorite part,” said my son, as he and his sister searched for the perfect tree.

Watching them run excitedly, I felt my spirits lift a little and caught myself humming a Christmas carol. We soon got the tree home and decorated. The stockings were hung. We have lights on the mantle, the banister, the tree and outside our house. The kids are happy and on their best behavior.

I thought to myself, “I love Christmas. Why have I been dreading it?”

Our stocking holders spell out the word “Peace,” practically chosen because we have five in our family; however, this year, in these tumultuous times, the word seems to take on an even greater meaning. And despite the chaos of the season, of everyday life, of the economy, I am truly happy and wish this time of year could last just a little longer.

Merry Christmas and peace be with you. Now go pass it on before it's too late.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The best Christmas pageant ever

My children were in the best Christmas pageant ever, and, no, the Herdman’s weren’t involved (like in Barbara Robinson’s book). Although my oldest daughter once played the part of Imogene, the bossy, domineering cigar-smoking sister, who casts herself as Mary, so well people were afraid to talk to her after the play.

What made this play the best ever was my only part was to sit and watch and take lots of pictures. I didn’t have to lip sync an Elton John song with my children, like I did during the church talent show, or learn to sew by fire backstage, or figure out how to make Styrofoam look like candy, as I have in years past when my daughters were involved in community theater. This year, I got to sit back and be totally amazed at how well they all did.

My daughter played Scrooge, Jr. and my son, Joseph, for the second year in a row. I hope he isn’t being typecast. The kids in the play also spelled out Christmas, which reminded me of a play I was in during the 3rd grade. I was the letter “S,” and repeated my lines over and over in my mind, causing me to almost miss my turn, which is hard to do when you’re the last one. Why I didn’t just write it on the back of my cue card, I’ll never know.

I starred in a lot of plays growing up. I’m not bragging. Back then, the quieter you were, the more likely you were to get a meaty role. And, I know my friends now won’t believe it, but I was very shy and quiet in elementary school. So, putting me on stage in front of the entire school body was torturous. I’d had rather been stoned to death—no exaggeration.

The worst part was the plays were usually musicals. And, no surprise to my friends now, I can’t sing. Furthermore, unlike the folks on American Idol, I was painfully aware that I couldn’t. The worst was my solo of “When you wish upon star,” dressed like the Fox from Pinocchio. You could have heard a pin drop after my performance. That is until my mom and dad stood up and started cheering.

Looking back, I’m sure experiences like this were supposed to help bring me out of my shell, and, maybe, they did. Fortunately, my children enjoy the spotlight. And I don’t mind painting sets, curling hair, and selling popcorn during intermission--or standing up in the front row cheering them on. Because the one thing my acting career taught me is your parents are always your biggest fans.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Making a list...

I received this eclectic list in an e-mail from a friend with instructions to bold the things that I have done. What have you tried? Perhaps you can add one or two to your New Year’s resolution list.

1. Started my own blog
2. Slept under the stars (A tent counts, right?)
3. Played in a band
4. Visited Hawaii
5. Watched a meteor shower
6. Given more than I can afford to charity
7. Been to Disneyland/world (That was why I couldn't afford what I gave to charity)
8. Climbed a mountain (See recent post on Blood Mtn. It's no Kilimanjaro, but...)
9. Held a praying mantis (And walking sticks and lizards and frogs--none by choice)
10. Sung a solo (This one wasn't by choice, either. "When you wish upon a star" in the 5th grade play. The selection was based on grade point average, not voice quality)
11. Bungee jumped
12. Visited Paris
13. Watched lightning at sea (Okay, it was really by lake.)
14. Taught myself an art from scratch
15. Adopted a child
16. Had food poisoning
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty
18. Grown my own vegetables (Tomatoes, squash, peppers and goards--is that a veggie?)
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France
20. Slept on an overnight train
21. Had a pillow fight
22. Hitchhiked
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill (Who me? cough, cough)
24. Built a snow fort (No, but we built a snowman that was over six feet tall.)
25. Held a lamb (How about petted one every year for seven years at the preschool's annual trip to the petting zoo?)
26. Gone skinny dipping (No comment)
27. Run a Marathon (Still trying to make it across the BBQ parking lot)
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice (I wanted to do this in Vegas but didn't, darn it!)
29. Seen a total eclipse (In elementary school. It was a very big deal. We made the little contraptions to look through.)
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset (More sets than rises. I still want to do an Easter sunrise service.)
31. Hit a home run (This will never, ever happen.)
32. Been on a cruise
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person
34. Visited the birthplace of my ancestors
35. Seen an Amish community (Good for them)
36. Taught myself a new language (Texting)
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied (I was seven, and my grandparents gave me a $100 bill.)
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person
39. Gone rock climbing (Indoors, but I'm counting it)
40. Seen Michelangelo’s David
41. Sung karaoke (I would like to sometime, if the memory of my solo ever fades.)
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant
44. Visited Africa
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight (I may have staggered a little.)
46. Been transported in an ambulance (Why did that dog cross the road?)
47. Had my portrait painted
48. Gone deep sea fishing (The day after a national Jamaican holiday; our guides were too hung over to care about helping us find fish.)
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris (Does the one in Vegas count?)
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling (It was fun as long as I had my life jacket within view.)
52. Kissed in the rain (Sadly, no)
53. Played in the mud (I grew up making mudpies.)
54. Gone to a drive-in theater (Mom and Dad would take me along as child. I'd sleep in the back while they watched the movie, in theory, anyway.)
55. Been in a movie
56. Visited the Great Wall of China
57. Started a business (Does selling Mary Kay count?)
58. Taken a martial arts class
59. Visited Russia
60. Served at a soup kitchen
61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies (Call me if you'd like some)
62. Gone whale watching (What??)
63. Got flowers for no reason
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma (Just blood. I did it for the cookies.)
65. Gone sky diving
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp
67. Bounced a check (To the PTO, of all people. I was in the process of changing accounts. They didn't believe me, either.)
68. Flown in a helicopter
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy (All of my Barbies, including kissing Barbie. My daughter won't go anywhere near them.)
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial
71. Eaten caviar (Not as good as it sounds)
72. Pieced a quilt
73. Stood in Times Square
74. Toured the Everglades (What about the Okefenokee Swamp?)
75. Been fired from a job
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London
77. Broken a bone (My son asked me today if anyone in our family had broken a bone. I said, "You aren't planning on being the first, are you?")
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle (Motorcycle, yes, speeding, I'm not sure)
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person
80. Published a book
81. Visited the Vatican
82. Bought a brand new car
83. Walked in Jerusalem
84. Had my picture in the newspaper (Growing up, I was in ads with my neighbor for the local dairy, even though I hated milk.)
85. Read the entire Bible (I'm ashamed to say, no)
86. Visited the White House (I would love to do this one.)
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating (Are you kidding? I cooked deer meat once and got very sick just from smelling it.)
88. Had chickenpox (Guilty)
89. Saved someone’s life
90. Sat on a jury (Defendent was guilty, too; he actually wore the same thing in court that he did when he committed the crime.)
91. Met someone famous (James Garner and Mitch Gaylord. Gaylord was an Olympic gymnast who was in some movie. I think you've heard of Garner.)
92. Joined a book club
93. Lost a loved one
94. Had a baby (or two or three)
95. Seen the Alamo in person
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake
97. Been involved in a law suit
98. Owned a cell phone (How did we survive without them?)
99. Been stung by a bee (Numerous times walking barefoot through the clover as a child. I was also once stung on the lip while smelling a rose.)
100. Ridden an elephant (Did you know they have hairy backs? Check back--I'll try to find the photo to prove it.)

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Have you seen my keys?

“Hi, my name is Leigh. I live in the house on the corner. You don’t happen to have a bottle and a diaper I could borrow, do you?”

This is they way I met my new neighbors seven years ago. I had locked myself out of the house with an infant and toddler in tow, not to mention a husband who was a state away at the time.

Ever since my dad tossed me my first set, keys have been the bane of my existence. I’ve been on the receiving end of many an argument regarding them.

As a teenager, I locked my keys in the car countless times. Why we didn’t have another set, I don’t know, but I used to dread making that phone call to my dad. Eventually, he got tired of coming to my rescue personally and began to send two guys who worked for him. Their names were Milt and Bones, and I was always glad to see them show up with a clothes hanger to jimmy the lock. They never fussed at me or made me feel silly. I guess because they were still on the clock, but, no matter, I will always be grateful to them for that. The only time I saw them shake their heads was the day I got my car stuck on a stump in my backyard. Although, I think they were silently impressed!

Either it must run in the family, or it is payback to me, because my daughter had the same issue when she turned 16. My husband could never understand my infinite patience with her, or why I would drop everything to run the extra set of keys to her. Apparently, he has never been in the “Key Club,” which caused me to wonder, “Is it only women who have this issue?”

I’ve heard story after story, and, yes, they’ve all been from females. I think it’s because we have so much on our plate--kids, work, dinner, errands. And, of course, at age 16--boys. I’m sure there are men who have locked themselves out. There has to be. Please, if you know of one, I would love to hear of it because my husband would squeeze down the chimney before he’d ever admitted it to me.

Which brings me to my latest key episode. Being the naturally sweet wife that I am, I started the car for my husband. Okay, I only do that, in part, so he’ll take the kids to school. Regardless, it was nice and toasty when he got in car and left. I decided to take advantage of the quiet time by taking a shower. I was almost in when I thought, “Did I lock the door?” Yes, Hitchcock’s Psycho made that much of an impression on me.

After I got out of my leisurely shower, I noticed my husband had returned from taking the kids to school and was still in the car. Hmmm…he must be listening to the engine run. Isn’t that what men do?

So, I continued to get dressed, checked my e-mail, did some laundry, put on my make-up. You know, stuff women do, when I heard the doorbell ring repeatedly. Uh oh, not good. I instantly remembered that the car’s key ring (for reasons unbeknownst to me) was missing a house key. I had locked my husband out in the cold. He forgave me but couldn’t understand why I locked the door in the first place. Apparently, only women do that, too.

I suppose I’ll be making a copy soon, but, in the meantime, I’m looking forward to the day when keys are obsolete. I’ll take a retinal scan any day. At least I can’t lock my eyes in the car. However, if I did, and Milt and Bones were still around, I bet they would jimmy them out, blow them off and put them right back into my head, somehow without managing to laugh.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Smile, you're on Candid Camera

I snapped this photo in Florida last year and discovered it again while searching for our Christmas card photo. It still brings a smile to my face.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Something to read while you wait...

You can tell a lot about doctors by their magazines. Unfortunately, it’s not all good.

I had an appointment at the dermatologist today. I was very impressed with their swanky new office, featuring computer check in, complimentary cappuccino and pagers that light up when the doctor is ready to see you. Having forgotten my book, I picked up a Reader’s Digest magazine and settled in with a steaming cup of Joe.

John Travolta was on the cover and inside was an article about how he stays up all night and sleeps during the day. I felt a little déjà vu. Hmm…somehow I already knew that, and it’s not because I’ve spent the night with him.

Next, I turned the page and saw an article on little known health facts. I knew them all and not because I’ve been to medical school. I flipped the magazine over; it was dated 2005--the last time I had been in to see that particular doctor. I couldn’t believe it; he had actually moved these outdated magazines. What a cheapskate!

I used to get so annoyed at my former OB/GYN’s selection. Nothing looks stranger than a waiting room full of pregnant women reading Golf, Fly Fishing and Sports Illustrated. Not exactly exciting reading for most women. Since it’s obvious he knew who his clientele was, one can only assumed he just didn’t care.

I really like my dentist, except my husband complains he charges too much. Perhaps it’s the copies of Travel, Gourmet and Sailing in his office that makes him feel this way. In my pediatrician’s office, all the magazines are in Spanish. I’m not sure what that says about him.

Of course, it’s really just as well. We all know that as soon as you find a good article and get half-way into it, your pager will go off just like mine did today. Oh, well, it looks like I may have to wait another three years to find out what the trends are in business attire for 2005.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Have yourself an edgy little Christmas

I’ve realized what it is about this time of year that makes me “edgy,” which is my husband’s word for b--, well, I’ll let you guess.

The period of time between Dec. 1 and Dec. 25 requires gift buying and wrapping, cookie making, party planning, light hanging, entertaining, scheduling, chorus-concert listening, tree selling, cutting and decorating, Christmas card sending, and, given the times, some penny pinching, all while doing the day to day things that must be done 365 days a year. It’s no wonder I’m bitc---, I mean, edgy.

The problem is I’m not naturally organized. Since I’m a writer, I guess I can say I’m “creative,” to explain the stacks of paper surrounding my desk, and, most of the year, I can get away with it.

But then Christmas rolls around, and I can no longer fool myself. Fortunately, the majority of people are none the wiser. I show up with freshly baked homemade rolls, my grandmother’s recipe, and they have no idea that I lost the recipe, drove to my mother’s, copied the recipe again, lost the recipe by the time I got home, found my recipe, and then had to go to the store a dozen times for the ingredients. Or that I actually gave up and let my husband bake the rolls. They just see Leigh showing up with the homemade rolls, and I am shamelessly happy to take the credit for it (unless my daughter is there to rat me out).

In my attempts at organization, I’ve tried shopping in advance, only to forget where I’ve stashed the presents. Perhaps the hardest thing for me, however, is the ye olde family Christmas card. Just getting the family together for the photo is extremely difficult and then, of course, there’s the mailing. I hate to use a stamp to mail something to my next door neighbor, but when I keep forgetting to take it over there…One of my friends sends Valentine cards in lieu of Christmas cards, which I think is a terrific idea that I just might steal. Either that or resort to photo shopping some of my family members into the picture.

But, ready or not, Christmas comes, and somehow the world doesn’t end, even if the cards show up on New Year’s, and we find surprise gifts hidden in the closet six months later. Truthfully, if we find a moment or two to remember the real reason for the season, then all is not lost.

But for now, I’m breaking out the egg nog. We only have 23 days left, and it’s time to take the edge off.