Monday, December 26, 2011

To text or not to text?

Our pre-Christmas dinner conversation included my dad's obvious disgust of texting and the degrade of social skills that it will bring in our children's generation. I would say, we discussed it, but I just sat there and kept quiet in an effort to avoid the debate. I text, he knows that and we've had this conversation before. In it I feel as the burden of responsibility of the technological advance of our society falls on my shoulders and I am there as the single representative to back it up. My dad rambled on in his rant to explain how texting will eventually have our children socially dumb due to the fact that our current communication skills are lowering as fast as smart phones are rising in our society. He is convinced our children already have a hard time carrying on a conversation and texting, messaging and email will have our future generations completely unable to communicate socially, read body language or foster relationships.

I text, I like the ability to do so and appreciate that I have a record that I can look back to. If I need to have a conversation without anyone eavesdropping, I can text. If I need to ask someone a quick question, all I have to do is text the question and can expect a quick reply without having to rearrange my afternoon schedule to listen to someone talk endlessly about ailments, family drama and so on when I just can't commit to that conversation at the moment. When there is an event or something I need to know, I have it in a text and can easily find the conversation and remind myself without the need of post-it notes on my nightstand, fridge, car dashboard, and every crevice of my purse. I have all I need in one device at my fingertips and I find that quite convenient. I have even referred to a text record to defend myself when accused of saying something I didn't in a recent conversation.

Texting has it's advantages, however I do agree that it has disadvantages. Sometimes we prolong a conversation by waiting for a reply than just hitting the dial button and having an actual voice conversation that would take less time. Text messages void one's capability to pick up on tone, sarcasm and emotion which can lead to misunderstandings or a lack of attention when one desires or needs it. Though we "feel" more connected, texting, social networks and other technological advances can't replace the human's relational need of face time, create memories or foster meaningful relationships.

I let go of the conversation at hand, and gratefully welcomed a new one with the entrance of our daughter, her husband and children, and then sat to a full Christmas dinner spread across the table. After dinner we retired to the comfort of an overstuffed sofa and chairs and talked as family conversations go, interweaving between children, work, history and so on. As we talked, my daughter and her husband sat quietly on the couch playing on their phones. They were in complete oblivion from our conversation unless we specifically called on them to pay attention to something. Though they may have been texting too, they were in the most part playing games on their newly acquired phones. Still, the image of the afternoon plagued me later as I thought back to my irritation of my dad's ranting, yet the fact that his point was proven by my own children as they were unable to just sit and enjoy an Christmas afternoon in conversation with family. I don't fault them, I checked my phone a few times and even uploaded a picture of my daughter to facebook when she finally fell asleep beside me. Nor can we completely fault the phones as, for the most part, teenagers and young adults would rather play a game of pick up sticks than sit and have a conversation with older adults, phones are simply today's distraction. Still as smartphone users and parents of the next generation, we will have to use and teach moderation and the nearly extinct abilities to use reason and respect. Reasoning when is the time and when is not the time to text, play and update our status and respecting the people in front of us enough to put down the phone and be present.

Monday, December 19, 2011

It's Pajama Day...I think!

I love when my girls' school has pajama day and who wouldn't? Those few days a year they get to wear the most comfortable clothes on earth and spend all day in their pajamas. Frankly, I'm a little jealous and wish we could institute a few adult pajama days to be added to the national calendar so we could get away with the same attire at work. Of course, as adults, we are not nearly as cute as kids are in their pajamas and children's are much more modest than some of the adult maybe it's a good idea that we don't have adult pajama days. Nonetheless, as a parent of anti-morning girls, pajama days make my job easier. After their nightly bath they are officially dressed for school and one part of our morning routine is scratched off the to-do list as complete, thus helping life run a bit more smoothly.

Our elementary school will sometimes have pajama day for the whole school or each grade on a different day. So, when the girls told me last night that today was pajama day, I had to be sure. You see I love pajama day, my girls love pajama day and there's nothing bad about pajama day except for when it isn't really pajama day. Did that make sense? Let me explain. When my girls were in kindergarten and first grade they came home with notes as to each of their grades having pajama day, with one on one day and the other the next. The first pajama day came and I dressed my first grader in her pajamas. She left for school happy and comfortable, while my kindergartner was upset with jealousy that she didn't get to wear her own. Any parent of siblings know we have to constantly teach our children that they are not always going to get the same thing, be invited to the same birthday parties and have the same friends. This lesson is part of them learning that the world is not fair and though they are sisters, they are also individuals. I was finally able to diffuse her mood with the explanation that she would get to wear her pajamas the next day, as her grade wasn't participating the same day as her sister's. I dropped them off at school and headed to work thankful for a semi-smooth morning and with pajama day off my mind and out of my thoughts. 

Later that evening, I returned home to two unhappy children. My first grader was irritated that she was the only child in her class wearing pajamas and my kindergartner was angry that she was the only one in her class who wasn't wearing pajamas. This is what you call and epic fail for the mom team, as I apparently mixed up the notes. Not that either note had a grade specified on it, but still, I'm the mom, thus the fault is mine. As if I did not feel bad enough about the mix up, I later found out from my first grader's teacher that my daughter kept her jacket on all day in class so as not to allow any other children to notice what she was wearing. The unfortunate thing is that if either teacher or the school had called me about their attire, my girls, who wear the same size, could have met in the bathroom and switched clothes in an instant and the world as we know it would have been at peace. However, I did not know until it was too late and my "mommy of the year" nomination was withdrawn completely from the running.

So as I mentioned before, when my girls told me today was pajama day, I had to be sure, completely, positively and undeniably sure. It's not that I do not trust my children, but after the epic fail of my past, I don't trust myself. I instantly requested a verification of pajama day from other parents on facebook and was assured that it was, in fact, today. So today I sent my kids to school in their pajamas and though I was given all the reassurance it's the right day, there's still this quiet fear in the back of my mind that I failed once again as will be there every pajama day.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Christmas Party #3: An Evening of Pampering

So Monday night started my week with my day job's Christmas party with an evening of elegance and I ended my week with an evening of pampering at my marketing job's Christmas party. 

In my marketing job I work for my sister Rachel, and when I say an evening of pampering, I mean she knows how to pamper myself and the rest of our staff. Arriving to an excellent meal of her homemade white chicken chili, cornbread and appetizers made dinner casual and relaxing sitting around the table enjoying laughter and fun filled conversation.

Now to the pampering part:
Each year Rachel treats us to thirty minute professional massage by a massage therapist that comes to her house and transforms a room into a tranquil and relaxing atmosphere. If you have never had a massage...I highly recommend it. I guess in my 34 years I have now had five massages, each a gift, and each making me question why I do not spend the money on myself and treat myself to one more often. There is nothing like the complete relaxation of highly skilled and experienced hands working out painful muscle knots while simultaneously eliminating the stress and tension that we carry on a daily basis. 

Not only does the massage therapist massage, but she is also a NuSkin representative who gave me a facial too. A massage and a facial left me completely relaxed and refreshed. No, I don't look like a different person or movie star, but the treatment gave me an instantly noticeable cleaner face. 

Another great evening with great company, food, and the pampering of a massage and facial. I went home and melting into bed with my body feeling completely relaxed leading me to a great night's sleep and thankful for an evening of pampering.

Christmas Party #1: An Evening of Extraordinary Women

December is not only the month of Christmas preparation, but Christmas parties. In the past two weeks I have had four parties and am beginning to feel the burnout. The saving grace is that each party has had a different group of people, location and theme. So this is the first of four postings of each unique party.

My first, a week ago Tuesday, was our Zumba Christmas Party. Yes, Zumba, that workout that I had only heard of a few times before I attended my first class almost a year and a half ago. The first class where I tried to hide in the back of the room so no one would see me as I tried to maneuver and contort my body in rhythm and motions that looked nothing like that of my instructor. I thought I would never be able to learn or keep up, but instantly fell in love with it just the same. With each weekly class I learned a little more and moved up another row or two until I reached the front which is where I always stand now.

I love Zumba, not only for the physical workout, but the mental one as well. It's my me-time that I'm not a wife, mother, employee or responsible to anyone for anything. I do it for no one but me, and no matter how many people are in class, it's just me and the music working out my stress and frustrations while having fun. While I know my body is in a high intensity toning session, I also know that each drop of sweat from my body includes a drop of my daily weights.  It's good for my body, mind, and soul and has become my non-negotiable appointment. While the scale still makes me a little frustrated, I know that muscle weighs more than fat, and I have definitely shed some fat on my Zumba journey. My body is not yet where I want it to be, but is much better toned and my clothes tell me this as they fit differently than a year ago. While I would love to get in a few more classes than once a week, my one Tuesday night is what I am able to realistically commit to. It gives me something to look forward to, but not get burnt out on by doing it too much. Of course I always try to make it to the numerous Zumba parties promoted in our area too as they are an easy and fun way to raise money with a few entry dollars for the many good causes they support. 

Our Tuesday night class began in our church youth room but quickly grew so much that we changed locations to the larger gymnasium of our local recreation center with the largest one night attendance being up around the count of ninety women. While we meet weekly, it's hard to really get to know these ladies during a hour of high energy aerobic dancing followed up by a grueling fifteen minutes of abdominal work out. That said, it was great to meet these ladies for out of the gym for a night where we traded our workout wear for real clothes, sweat for makeup and the workout for a little time of appetite indulgence. An evening where we each brought a food to share, an ornament to exchange and some time where we could actually meet the women whom we have been dancing and punching the air next too. A few stood up with a picture of what they looked like before they fell in love with Zumba. While they were beautiful before, as they are now, they were minus forty pounds here, another forty pounds there and one woman had lost over eighty pounds in just the past eleven months. It was an inspiration to me to hear these women share their stories and commitment to make positive lifestyle changes and see the results they should be so proud of. Each story of endurance and success brought a tear or two to my eyes and caused me to not only see them as my fellow work out mates, but as the extraordinary women they are.

Christmas Party #2: An Evening of Elegance

If you know me, I work two jobs. My day job is in a financial planning office specializing in life insurance and investments and my second job, I do from home in internet marketing. So again, I had two work Christmas Parties this week, the first one being for my day job which I am entitling "An Evening of Elegance". In the past, we have always had our Christmas parties at my employer's house which included a catered meal and a gift exchange of playing dirty Santa. While these evenings have always been excellent and enjoyable, my boss changed it up a bit and took us out to dinner at a fancy shmancy restaurant about 45 minutes away in the neighboring city of Anniston. The restaurant is the Classic on Noble, and while I have heard of it's exquisite atmosphere and palate pleasing food, I had never been myself. Luckily, we were let off work an hour early so that we would have a few minutes to get home and freshen up for our evening out.

After detoured routes around Christmas parade traffic and finding as close a park as possible we set out down the street obviously overdressed for the parade watchers of the evening. Finally, we walk up to the most beautifully Christmas decorated windows of silver and white and upon entering our destination are escorted to our reserved table upstairs. I'm a little slow to the table as I love the walls adorned with hanging art and am trying to get a look at everything as I pass and am keeping up with our hostess. Our table is topped with a cloth top, centerpieces and actually "set" with more than one fork and knife and complete with bread plates, glasses and a full dinner setting that would have Emily Post exceptionally proud and that you just don't find at any of our Gadsden restaurants.

I scan the menu in a somewhat panic at the prices and the fact that it is riddled with seafood of which I am not a fan, and am left with the only choice which is a steak fillet. I did mention the prices already had me in a panic, right? To be specific, I ordered the 8oz. Angus beef fillet served with pommes lyonnaise and topped with Cabernet sauvignon glazed mushrooms and onions. Sounds good right, oh, and "pommes lyonnaise" is just an expensive term for "fried potatoes". No matter the beautiful menu description or price attached, the meal was of generous proportions and absolutely amazing! Yes, very good and I managed to clean my plate and still have room to split a dessert of peanut butter pie which was equally amazing. It was a wonderful evening in a delightful atmosphere, great company and amazing food. I highly recommend the restaurant for those special occasions or when you are just in need of an evening of elegance.


I recently read a hilarious blog by a lady explaining her disgust of the over achieving moms who spend countless time and energy to rearrange closets, undecorate Christmas trees, bake cookies and create unfathomable messes by their Elf On The Shelfs....I am not one of those mothers. I am a wife and mother who works two jobs, has a busy schedule and I an actually life. My Elfcapes are not elaborate, but it hasn't taken exotic measures to excite my children every morning with their elf Ashley. I posted Ashley's first four days in a previous post and here are the rest from her vacation from the North Pole.

Day 5: Friday
The girls had been given a large bag of candy that Ashley stole away from the kitchen and spread out all over the living room.

Day 6: Saturday
Ashley, who apparently has a little streak of kleptomania, stole my husband's hats from our closet, stacked them into a pyramid on the coffee table and hid from underneath them.

Day 7: Sunday
After we spent hours putting up and decorating our Christmas tree on Saturday, we awoke Sunday to toilet paper hanging from it's branches. When I lived in Iowa, we called it, here in the south, we call it Rolling....yes, Ashley rolled our tree. 

Day 8: Monday
Ashley took a little longer to find this morning as she had somehow made her way into our refrigerator. I finally found her hanging on the ketchup bottle of the refrigerator door.

Day 9: Tuesday
We woke to find Ashley having had made a snow angel in a pile of flour on our counter.

Day 10: Wednesday
Ashley wrote her name in toothpaste in the sink of the girls' bathroom. It took a few days afterward of them using my sink before we could convince them to let us clean it.

Day 11: Thursday
Ashley knocked all the movies out from within our T.V. cabinet and spread them all over the floor.

Day 12: Friday
Ashley helped herself to an individual cup of our cherished Blue Bell Sundae ice cream, ate the last Oreo cookie that the girls saved for me the night before, was drinking coke from a little Christmas snowman mug and had surrounded herself with a few Christmas globes that had been in the girl's rooms. Yes, Ashley obviously spent the evening binge eating.

Day 13: Saturday
Ashley found a box of Dots candy and wrote her name with them on our kitchen counter.

Day 14: Sunday
Ashley wrapped herself up in a string of beads. This was probably a good thing being that she didn't make a mess with her arms confined.
Day 15: Monday
Though she took a little longer to find, we finally found Ashley sitting atop an arm of our kitchen chandelier.

Day 16: Tuesday
Ashley found our mismatch sock bin and dumped it into a small pile in our living room floor. After a thorough search, Ashley was found beneath the pile. 

Day 17: Wednesday
Apparently liking not only making messes, but just hiding, Ashley was found amongst the leaves of an indoor plant. 

Day 18: Thursday
Elves Rock The House! Or at least that's what Ashley thinks as she wrote it out in Cheerios.

Day 19: Friday
Ashley stole some of my lipstick and painted her nose. The girls woke up to tell me that Ashley had made herself to look like Rudolf. I happen to know that Ashley not only painted her own, but also lipsticked the girls' noses in the middle of the night. However, my children not being the stillest of sleepers, had no evidence of Rudolf noses in the morning. 

Day 20: Saturday, Christmas Eve
Ashley moved all of our wrapped presents from beneath the tree, pulled out the wrapping paper, tags, boxes, tape and scissors and had cut a row of paper elves, instead of dolls, out of the wrapping paper. This gave McKenna something to work on all day as she wanted to make her own paper elves.

It's Christmas Eve and Ashley won't be making any messes tonight. This is her last night in our house and with the entrance of Santa's gifts comes the exit of our little mischievous friend. The girls will wake up in the morning to what Santa brings them along with individual personalized farewell letters from Ashley. Within the letters Ashley tells them how she had to go back to the North Pole for the yearly birthday party they have for Jesus on Christmas Day. While she is excited to get back home and get a start on preparing for next Christmas, Ashley explains that she will miss the girls so much and can't wait to see how much they have grown when she returns next year. She gives the girls instructions on what behaviors to work on and to show a little more patience to each other as having a sister is so special and closes each note by telling them how much she loves them.

While having an elf adds a bit more to the nightly routine of a parent, I have to admit that it has been fun having Ashley around. Some nights I have racked my brain to stretch my creativity for her elfcapades, while some mornings I have woke in forgetful tooth fairy mode as I hurry to do something quickly before the girls wake up. Either way the girls' giggles and smiles have made each morning with Ashley a rewarding experience. While I am not the over achieving Elfing mom, I am the mom that has thoroughly enjoyed making this Christmas memory for my children.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Our Family Addition

Last week I posted a blog entitled "We're Expecting," a title I thought would generate some interest which the blog stats confirmed as it is my highest viewed post thus far. While it does thrill me to see the stats and know that I have readers, if you are just joining me, please continue reading as I believe there are much better posts. Yes, the title was a little deceiving, but does prove the power of how important a good title is to generate interest. No, we are not expecting a baby as I'm sure this is the conclusion many a readers would jump to, but if you read, we were expecting an Elf On The Shelf to come stay with us until Christmas. When I posted last week, I had an Elf waiting for me on hold at a local gift shop until I could make it in and was in a desperate search for an Elf Skirt which turns this elf into a girl with the simple cling of Velcro. In a score for the mommy team, I found the skirt four and a half hours away at the Christmas Tree Shop in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. No, I did not drive all the way there for an elf skirt, nor would I, no matter how many mommy points that would generate. No, we were there for the weekend and as my determination was quickly turning into desperation, a Google search of Elf On The Shelf retailers led the way and the skirt was purchased by my husband in a covert undercover mission while I diverted the girls attention to other areas of the store. While I toyed with the idea of letting our before named Ashley Elf appear and join us on our weekend away, I decided to wait until we returned home to as not lose her or have her to distract the girls from other weekend events.

Day 1. Monday
The girls woke up bright and early Monday morning with an Elf on our shelf. She was sitting on the tupperware container we had stored our Gatlinburg fudge in only the night before and had obviously ate a little bit. She also left a note in agreement to what Santa had told her of Gatlinburg fudge being better than any other fudge there is. The girls were ecstatic that their new friend had finally arrived and begged to take her to school with them, but of course I would not allow that.

Day 2. Tuesday
In an effort to make school mornings as easy as possible with two procrastinating girls, we have a nightly routine of selecting and laying out school clothes for the following morning. When we woke on Tuesday, the girls' clothes were thrown all over our living room along with books that had been knocked off a chair side table and scattered on the floor beneath.

Day 3. Wednesday
Ashley must have wanted to share a little of her home with McKenzie and McKenna because she created a winter scene in our living room. She took all the cotton balls from my decorative bathroom apothecary jar and had them covering the coffee table with Snowman Peeps scattered amongst her cottony snow. Ashley sat in the snow next to a peppermint candy themed Christmas tree ornament she brought back from the North Pole. Next to her was her written response on the same note the girls left the night before asking what she liked to eat in the morning. It turns out Ashley is very tired in the morning and doesn't eat during the day, but really likes the snacks the girls have been leaving for her at night. Again, the girls begged to take her to school, but again I would not allow it instead reaching a compromise to let Ashley ride to school with us. She staying in the back seat held up to the window so she could see our morning route, car line and the girls' school and was given to me to ride up front when the girls exited the car for school. She sat in the same place of my console all day with her eyes fixated in my direction, watching my every move.

Day 4. Thursday
Panties, panties...everywhere, well not everywhere, but in a trail between the girls rooms that would have Hansel and Gretel finding their way home with no problem. I woke the girls in a hurried rush as I had woke a little late myself and continued with our morning routine listening to the girls giggle at Ashley's nightly mischief.

While my husband keeps accusing me of having more fun with Ashley than the girls are, they are enjoying her much more. I will admit that it is fun tapping into the childlike creativity of being an elf. I never know what she is going to do until the girls fall asleep and I am forced to figure it out quickly before I go to bed each night. It is both entertaining and helpful to see what other's elves are doing in several of my friends' morning facebook updates. I find their posts give me quick and easy ideas where I may be over thinking and trying too hard to be creative thus making the elfing stressful. This morning I couldn't help but think that Ashley's notes could be very helpful in motivating the girls to get some chores completed without me having to nag them. Is that manipulative? Yes, maybe a little, but I'm not above a little manipulation if the girls will take direction better from their foot tall friend rather than they will me and avoid a argument or two in the meantime. If Ashley's going to live in our house, eat our snacks and make messes, I figure she could do something productive too and help the girls score some extra points with Santa by cleaning their room, fighting with each other less and taking some initiative in other areas where they are relying on us to baby them. Yes, Ashley is definitely going to explore this method and maybe December will be our month for some better habits to be born to usher us into the new year ahead. I'll update you on the progress or lack thereof.

Happy Elfing!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011


Someone asked me yesterday "What are you plans?" I had to answer "I don't know" which is a rarity for me. I've been thinking a lot about my answer in embarrassment and disappointment of myself for not having a plan. I always have a plan, a goal or even a list of plans, but right now it seems pointless in the many scenarios before me. That saying of "everything is up in the air" feels like a definition of what I have been going through and a plan is useless as I wait on everything to fall into place. Though it seems things have been falling all around me, they haven't been falling into place, but rather in a mess I can't seem to make my way through. Just as an infant struggles to force a shape into the wrong hole of a toy, I've been in a struggle to put things in place, but there just isn't a fit or a fix. The word that is scrawled across the blackboard of my mind is "LIMBO," and I neither like the game, nor the state of mind. In an effort to further understand, I looked up the definition:

A region or condition of oblivion or neglect:
A state or place of confinement.
An intermediate place or state.

...which led me to another definition...

The condition of being forgotten or disregarded. 
The state of being mentally withdrawn or blank. 

And now I understand why this is the word in my mind that I cannot run from, that I can't make disappear no matter how much I try to focus on other things, turn up the noise or put my fingers in my ears and sing "La La La La La" in an effort to ignore. Even when I try the ostrich-scenario of burying my head in the sand, the reminder of "Limbo" is still there. It's in waiting for a house to sell in a terrible housing market, it's in the uncertainty of the work day, it's in relationships with people I love who would rather ignore my existence than work on restoration, a vehicle in need of yet another repair and every other challenge that everyday life throws at me. It's the culmination of all these and more that plague me in this state of limbo and oblivion as if stuck on a page in a book that cannot be turned. That page where no matter how many times you re-read the text in front of you, the words won't absorb in your mind, but instead escape their meaning and are forgotten as soon your eye passes over them. It's the weight of limbo that hit me just outside of town as I returned from a long weekend away and tempted me to make a U-turn back in escape. It's this state of limbo that has me with no plans until a few questions are answered, weights are lifted and pages are turned so I can move from this place of confinement in the unknowns to making plans again...that is my plan for now and the only one I can make.

Monday, December 5, 2011

9 Hours, 2 Pottie Breaks and 17 Road Kills

Anyone that has children and taken a road trip knows that you can quickly run out of activities to keep the little ones occupied and distracted from the endless questioning of "are we there yet?" This weekend we took a road trip with our girls to Gatlinburg for an annual cheer leading competition that my daughter is a part of about four and a half hours away. Upon leaving our little yappers with my parents to dog sit for four days, they suggested we let the girls play the Road Kill Game. I know there are plenty of road trip games out there, but I doubt you will find this game in any activity books as it is one of my dad's originals and errs on the side of a little morbid and demented of a game to share with children. In the Road Kill Game, you simply keep a running tally of all the dead animals you find along the way of your trip. The first time I ever heard of the game was when my nieces road from Iowa with my dad and then drove back with my sister resulting in an approximate 28 hour round trip. They took their list, compiled the results and sent it to my dad in a nice tallying of all the dead exhibits they found. My dad was so impressed with it and the girls' follow through, that it became a framed and displayed souvenir of the summer trip. I have to admit I was rather impressed by the variety of specimens of their road side observations. So being that I failed to pack any other car activities, the Road Kill Game it was for our journey. I'll also admit that it does feel a little bad when you get excited to see a dead animal so you can tally it down on your notepad, but it did keep the girls entertained. Our list would have been much longer, but McKenna and I took very long naps on the return trip and probably missed a lot of victims. So here is our compiling of our 9 hour round trip Road Kill Game:

Gatilinburg Road Trip December 2011
Flower Pots: 2 (Yes, we realize that flower pots were not alive in the first place, but thought as ran over as they were they had been officially killed!)
Unidentified: 4
Dogs: 3 (This made us the saddest being the dog lovers we are)
Rabbit: 1
Chickens: 4 (We are guessing a cage door didn't get quite closed on a chicken truck.)
Deer: 2 (These make the messiest of Road Kill.)
Cat: 1
Total: 17 with the "Unidentifieds" winning. Yes, there are "winners," I said it was morbid. As McKenna would keep the tally, she would periodically update us on who was in the lead and who was trailing. Again, a little morbid, a little demented of a game, but the road kill is there so you might as well get the kids looking out the windows and using what's there in front, or rather on the side of you, to keep them occupied, using their animal, spelling and math skills. Happy traveling!