Friday, December 21, 2007

Foodie’s Block

Foodie’s block; similar to writer’s block, except with food.

My mom was, and still is, the expert on menu planning. She was a stay at home mom and had to work on a budget. So she put together menus once a week; planned her grocery shopping and purchased all the food in one day. Then we ate the meals she planned that week. I don’t recall deviating from it much at all. And dinner was at 6:00 p.m. at the table every night. Family dinners all the way.

What I am about to write bothers me in a way that I cannot describe. I cannot put into words how much it pisses me off that her system does not work for our family. To me, it’s an organizational thing. I have a knack for organization that is so superior it should be considered a super power. So the fact that I cannot get it together to plan weekly meals for my family drives me insane.

There are times when I am in the zone and I plan meals, get together my shopping list, get my groceries, make the meals, mostly sticking to the schedule, and it feels great. But most of the time, when I sit down to write out my menus, I am stuck. I think this happens for the following reasons:

1. Knowledge. I don’t know how to make a variety of food. I have three basics: macaroni and cheese (from scratch), crock pot meals, and chicken enchiladas.
2. Limitations. The Boy is a picky eater. If I only want to make one dinner AND I want him to eat, then I am limited in what I can make.
3. Rebellion. My mom did it so I’m not going to do it.
4. Craziness. We are a spur of the moment family, so I can’t always count on being home every night. Sometimes we decide to go to a baseball game, or go out to eat, or go to a friends’ house for dinner. Then the meal that I plan that night would be wasted if the meat doesn’t get cooked or the produce spoils.
5. Finances. We have the luxury of making enough money that we can afford to eat out more often. If we were limited and restricted by a budget, we would not be tempted to eat out as often.
6. Convenience. I don't want to take the time to cook if I can pick something up that's already prepared for me to eat when I get home.

Negative results from the lack of planning are:

1. Finances. We do end up eating out more often than we should. If I don’t have something planned, I’m not committed to eating at home. The other night I had a crock pot meal cooking and I wanted Chinese food but I knew we had dinner waiting for us when we got home so we didn’t spend money on Chinese.
2. Health. Eating out is not as healthy, neither is snacking, and frozen meals are not as healthy as fresh and they are high in sodium.
3. Education. By continuing to eat at places where The Boy orders cheeseburgers or chicken strips, and french fries, I am not encouraging him to experience new foods or to try new things. He is not being challenged to expand his realm of taste. Also, I am not challenging myself to learn new ways to cook.

The solution? I’m not sure. I have looked all over the web for something that could work for our family. The closest thing I found was this One Bag, Five Dinners idea on the Kraft Foods web site. And it’s a really great starting point. Sometimes I go on the site, though, and I’m just blah – totally uninspired.

I don’t know why my interest in being organized with food does not exist. If only the attraction TO the food was lacking as well!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Website Review: Go, Goose, Go!

According to the site: “Launched in 2003, Go, Goose, Go! is a line of hip baby and toddler clothes. This is a great place to find a unique baby shower gift or a t-shirt a toddler will love. We offer western baby pants, colorful baby bibs, cowgirl skirts, cool and creative t-shirts and onsies, kerchiefs and kids' cowboy hats. We're adding more fun t-shirt images and clothing for kids all the time so visit our site often and see what's new with our Goose on the Go!”

My personal experience with this web site*: I don’t remember how I came across this site, but I was so excited when I realized what a gold mine I had found. I easily browsed through the site, found what I wanted, added the items to my basket and checked out.

I was pleased to see that there were sizing guidelines to go by and also notes about which pieces ran a little small. I purchased size 6T for my almost four year old last year and The Boy wore these shirts all winter, and this year, being almost five years old, they still fit. Last years’ fit had a little room to grow, this years’ fit is more snug, and depending how much he grows in the next year, I might be able to gain one more year out of the shirts.

The quality of the clothes is top notch. The Boy is not the child who sits at the table quietly and reads books. No, The Boy jumps in the mud puddles and paints and spills. So it is a true testament to the quality of the fabric that the shirts are still in tact! No holes, very few stains, and the shirts still feel so soft when the little guy cozies up to me.

I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw the adorable designs! From robots, to skulls, to farm themes, these designs are just too cute and totally original. Unless you spill it to all of your friends where you found these outfits, your tot will be the only one running around in these fun little tees.

Finally, the customer service was over the top fantastic. E-Mail questions are answered quickly, delivery was prompt and sweetly packaged. And I can’t say enough about the value. With the potential of getting three years out of a shirt, I think the prices are more than reasonable.

Happy shopping!

*Please note that I have no affiliation with Go, Goose, Go!, nor have they asked me to promote their site. In fact, they do not know that I am writing this review and I hope I wasn't supposed to ask permission first!

Internet Queen

I love the internet. Love it. I seriously don’t know how people lived without it for so long. I don’t know how I lived without it for so long. I’m the queen of internet research, too. Want to purchase something and don’t know where to find it? Bam! I’ll find you a site dedicated to that one thing, a local store that carries it, or I’ll find it on eBay for you. Want to perform research on some obscure topic? Bam! I’ll get you hundreds web sites for your study.

What I am really obsessed with on the internet (and in real life, too), are clothes for The Boy. Not just any clothes. I like special clothes; things that are either really cute, not just stripes, plaids, and jeans, or things that are unique, that I know other kids will not have. Now places like like Gap, Gymboree, and department stores with name brand items are in style and financially fitting for most budgets, and this makes finding cute things easier and easier. So now the challenge is to find unique items. Sometimes this takes a little effort, but usually it just takes a little more money.

I’m going to review the sites that I’ve purchased from before and then also list sites that I know of but have not ordered from before and give them reviews based on how easy it is to use their web site (and perhaps make a few purchases along the way).

Frosty the Snowman is a Wife Beater

We went out to dinner Sunday evening to a cute little Italian restaurant. It’s quiet and simple and soon after we are seated at our table we realize that there is Christmas music playing in the restaurant. Soon we hear “Frosty the Snowman” and The Boy is very matter-of-fact when he says, “Frosty hits his wife.” The Man and I could not hide the shock on our faces, and we exclaimed, “What?!?” We never got an answer out of him, no doubt we were interrupted by our server or something. We are hoping that perhaps Frosty and his wife enjoy the occasional snowball fight and that this is what our son meant.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

I Don't Wanna Grow Up.

At the very young age of four, The Boy has decided that he doesn’t want to have any more birthdays. He wants to stay four forever. He wants to stay four so much that he cries when we discuss his upcoming birthday in January. Really sobbing, big tears, runny nose, the whole shebang.

Initially The Man and I were very surprised and a little concerned by this. We then realized that the cause of the problem lies within the Toys R Us song:

“I don't wanna grow up, I'm a Toys R Us kid. There's a million toys at Toys R Us that I can play with. From bikes to trains to video games, it's the biggest toy store there is. I don't wanna grow, because then if I did, I wouldn't be a Toys R Us kid!"

The Boy thinks that when he grows up, which apparently happens at age five, he won’t be interested in Toys R Us anymore, and he really doesn’t want that to happen. We tried to explain to him that Toys R Us is for everyone, boys and girls of all ages. We pointed out that Mommy and Daddy both love Toys R Us. We tell him that Daddy is almost thirty years old, a number so large that The Boy claims his father is almost one hundred years old. Doesn’t Daddy love Toys R Us (you think those toys get put away after The Boy goes to sleep? – think again!)? Even so, The Boy declares, “I don’t think that’s going to happen for me.”

It is so heartbreaking that my little guy, who should have no worries, is so distraught over this. We comfort him and tell him that we are sorry he is so upset. And I hope that he makes it through the year without making us throw out all of his toys and video games, being a “grown up” and all.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Throwing Money Away

Have you ever heard of EBates? If not, you should check it out, especially if you are an online shopper. After you sign up for an account, you go through their web site to the web sites where you normally shop, and then you receive a percentage of your total in cash back from EBates! It's incredible.

I am SO mad at myself! On Saturday I made a (rather large) purchase on the Best Buy web site (who also has a great rewards program), and I FORGOT to go through EBates first! Ugh! I might as well have thrown a fist full of money out the window.

I'm going to forgive myself though, since it was about 7 a.m. on a Saturday morning and I did not get very much sleep the previous night. But it better not happen again.

I love blamp.

The Boy says "blamp" instead of "blimp." It cracks me up every time.

I don't even know how we got on this topic, but we recently discussed that a blimp can catch on fire because the gases in the balloon that cause it to float are flammable. So now every time The Boy sees a blimp, even just a blimp-shaped balloon advertising new homes or a car lot, he asks, "Is that blamp going to catch on fire?" There is such concern in his voice.

It reminds me of "The One With The Memorial Service" from Season 9 on Friends when Ross and Chandler are updating their high school web site with information about each other:

Chandler: The way you died was funny.
Ross: Being hit by a blimp? That's what you came up with?
Chandler: Hey, it kills over one Americans a year.

Monday, December 17, 2007

God loves each of us as if there were only one of us. ~St. Augustine

People have an innate instinct to protect themselves. When someone is trying to attack them physically, emotionally, or financially, people don’t like to get hurt and will try their hardest to protect their bodies, hearts, and bank accounts. That’s why I am not at all surprised that people who have had bad experiences at church refuse to go back. I come across people who say that their parents or grandparents were bombarded by reverends, pastors, bishops, etc.; saying that they say what they were giving to the church was not enough, especially considering their abundant income. Who wants to go to church if that is going to happen? Tithing is supposed to be between you and God, right? People say I’m not going to church with a bunch of hypocrites. They all pretend to be goodie-goodies and they judge those who are not good, but they really aren’t that great themselves. That’s not right, either. God is our judge and we are all sinners, even those who go to church. Who wants to hang out with a bunch of “holier-than-thou” people?

Why purposely choose to subject yourself to this when you could sleep in, have a late breakfast, catch a movie, or take a day trip? I asked myself this very question yesterday as I sat through a Sunday School class fighting back tears because I had been hurt. I still don’t have an answer.

Rewind about 18 months. The Man and I are in a small group with our very good friends, Caden* and Ada, and another couple. We have known Caden and Ada for years, we accept their quirks and they accept ours, our kids love each other and play well together. The third couple is an extremely non-confrontational couple, as is Ada. So here we are in our small group going through the parables and the group leader, Caden, brings up Arminianism vs. Calvinism. Caden is a Calvinist, pretty die hard about his beliefs. I did not see how this related to the parables, but okay we get into a discussion about it. I end up feeling trampled on. Calvinism is not presented by Caden as an opinion but as truth. I don’t think that’s right for a leader to do. A leader should say here are the two views, let’s discuss.

I think that if two views are believed so strongly by so many people that there may be merit to both sides. Also, God is not someone that I pretend to understand fully. All I know for sure is that if I want to go to heaven that I must believe that I have sinned so God sent His Son, Jesus, to die on a cross for my sins. I must ask God to forgive me for my sins, tell Him that I believe He died for me, and ask Him to reside in my heart. That’s it. So I don’t think that having Arminianistic beliefs or Calvinistic beliefs will change my salvation and therefore feel that it is a gray area that we as humans, who I might add, have the tendency to lean toward error and sin, have created to try to wrap our heads around God. Instead of just saying there is no way that I can understand this God who created the universe and my complex human body and who is perfect.

Well, having my Arminianistic responses slammed down by Caden so many times (at one point he pointed his finger and said you’re wrong), I finally just shut down. Why bother? I’m not stupid. Pushing on a brick wall with my pinky finger will never knock it over. So I give up. But I am still upset because I do not feel respected, and I no longer respect the leader of our small group. So I go to a trusted friend who also happens to be the worship pastor at our church and present the situation to him. He says that he will speak with the discipleship pastor. We all sit down, our small group and the two pastors, and discuss what happened. Caden apologizes for not considering my feelings. He says that does not think with feelings and sometimes does not consider that others do think with feelings. I forget some of the other nonsense he said. The two pastors were very positive with me, encouraging us to continue with this small group, and supporting me in challenging Caden in the future.

But the damage to the friendship was done. We tried to spend time with them outside of small group as we had done many times before, but conversations were stiff. We tried to stay in the small group, but the tension was even worse. We say good-bye to Caden and Ada and the other couple in the group. We say that we would like to remain friends.

What happened? Of course we don’t remain friends. They couldn’t get anyone else to join their small group (a sign from God?), so they stopped meeting all together. We are cordial to each other as we see each other at church functions; we go to the same Sunday School, and our kids are in church programs together. Some of the tension has faded, but the wall around my heart stands strong.

And then others get involved and I feel like I’m in high school. A mutual friend notices that we aren’t hanging out anymore and she asks me if I’m still friends with Ada. I simply say that we haven’t been hanging out as much lately but that is it. I don’t go into any detail about the small group or anything about my feelings. The woman and her family have dinner at Caden and Ada’s house and Ada mentions something to her about having spent some time together with me and our friend immediately says, “Oh, I thought you guys weren’t friends anymore.” So Ada thinks I’m talking trash on her. And being her non-confrontational self, she of course does not come to me to get the full story; she goes to her husband and tells him that I’ve been telling everyone about our feud. Caden very obviously pulls The Man aside one Sunday morning and whispers to him. After church I ask him what’s up and he rolls his eyes and tells me what happened. It’s like that game “telephone” from when I was in second grade. Like seriously, tell me if you have a problem with me. I can take it, I’m a grown up. So the friendship is effectively terminated.

Obviously, this Arminianism vs. Calvinism argument is now a touchy subject for me as it has ruined several friendships.

Back to the present. I go to Sunday School yesterday morning, completely forgetting the warning our teacher gave us last week that we would be discussing Arminianism vs. Calvinism. The Man said he thought it was odd that I still wanted to go; he said that he almost mentioned it before class but then he was distracted and forgot. He was playing drums in both worship services and was not able to attend Sunday School with me. So I am alone, normally not a problem. I walk in and take note of the room; Caden and Ada are sitting on a couch, the other couple from our small group sits on the couch next to them. I smile and grab some coffee and a donut. I sit down in an armchair next to the other couple, and we all start talking about Christmas. Caden is sure to mention that telling your kids that Santa exists is a lie. Isn’t that a great way to start the morning? Both the other couple and our family incorporate Santa into our Christmas and Caden knows it. In addition, I am sure he has lied to his kids at some point. Even if it is a little white lie to protect them from some harm in the world; a lie is a lie. So I’m already on edge.

Then the teacher quiets us down and we begin our lesson. We have been studying Genesis and we are currently in Chapter 3. I, of course, see no relation to this and the Arminianism vs. Calvinism argument, and I have still not remembered that this was promised to be discussed this week. I am giving my answers to the teacher’s questions and I am very pleased that he is accepting my answers as good. He is a very smart man and sometimes I do not follow what he is after; but today I’m on a roll.

Then he hands out this form that has two columns on it: the first lists Arminianism beliefs and the second lists Calvinism beliefs. Then it hits me and all I want to do is run out of there. But I can’t. I feel like I’m stuck in my chair. I decide instead that 75% of the class has heard what I have to say on the subject so I’m just not going to say anything. The discipleship pastor who was there during our small group discussions is in this class, along with his wife, who I am sure heard about what happened in our small group. That leaves the teacher and the other person in the class (who I don’t know) who does not know where I stand on this issue. And that’s fine with me. I’ll just listen to everyone else talk about it. I really don’t want to get into an argument with anyone, especially not about this, which I have already expressed does not define life and death.

Then it happens. The teacher says, “You can believe (insert Arminianism belief here, I don’t recall exactly what he said), but you’d be wrong.” Are all Calvinists SO arrogant?!? I am shocked! How can anyone profess such definitive knowledge about something that is so obviously not so plain?!? And how can you even think that you could persuade someone to consider what you believe if you constantly make such judgmental statements and bold claims?

I stay silent as I had initially decided, but now trying my hardest to hold back tears. This person who I very dearly trusted and respected has now, however unintentional it was, hurt me more than I ever thought possible. He has lost my respect and my trust. I patiently wait until the end of the class, hardly hearing anything else that was said, and then politely excuse myself. I pick up The Boy from his class, find The Man, and melt in his protective arms. I tell him what happened and he is shocked. He couldn’t believe that this man would say that. He calms me down and we go on with our day. As we get into bed at night, I have finally decided what I am going to do. I don’t feel like I should run tattling to our pastor friend every time someone upsets me with their Calvinistic viewpoints. So we will continue to go to the Sunday School class. Another wall has been built around my heart, and class will never be the same again.

But because of my experience, I can relate to those who do not go to church as a protection against their bodies, hearts, and finances. And hopefully as a result, I can witness to them in a way that nobody else can. And they can make the free choice to accept God’s plan of salvation for their lives.

"The challenge of leadership is to be strong, but not rude; be kind, but not weak; be bold, but not bully; be thoughtful, but not lazy; be humble, but not timid; be proud, but not arrogant; have humor, but without folly." -Jim Rohn

"Nobody can be so amusingly arrogant as a young man who has just discovered an old idea and thinks it is his own." -Sydney Harris

*Names have been changed.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Letter From Santa

My mom, in all of her wondrous Grandma glory, had the grand idea to send The Boy a letter from Santa. So I pick up the mail yesterday and inform The Boy that he has received mail. At this point it doesn’t matter if it’s a pre-approval application for a credit card. If it has his name on it, he’s ecstatic. He (literally) rips open the envelope and I read the letter in my “story telling” voice. Once he realizes who the letter is from, his eyes are filled with wonder and anticipation. We ask him if we can do the things that Santa asks of us in this letter, like put carrots and cookies out for the reindeer, and if his friend Peter (a cat from Build-a-Bear) can sit by the fireplace waiting for Santa. He says, “I think so!” And then he says, “I want to wait up so that I can see Santa and Rudolph!” I didn’t have the heart to tell him that Santa only comes when he’s sleeping. I love that he believes with everything that is in him and the overflow of excitement. Good job, Grandma. Thanks!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Stuck in a Rut

I have worked for the same company for nine years. I have worked in three different departments, three very different positions, and I also worked from home part time for two years as an independent consultant after I had my son. It’s a great company – family oriented, flexible, and fun.

The company dabbles in so many different types of fields it’s insane. They grow apples, raise bulls for their sperm (gross), grow grapes and have their own wine label, the owner and founder of the company raises horses and competes in equestrian matches. He’s ranked like number three or something in the whole world. I think one year he ranked number one. But what they mostly focus on is residential development; from land acquisition and land development, to construction and sales and marketing. The specialty being master planned communities; a place where you can live, work, and play, all in one community.

But the real estate market is bad right now. So bad. It’s so bad that there have been three rounds of major layoffs this year in our office, one each quarter. The company has been reduced by at least half of its personnel. I’d say there were about 100 people in our corporate office and now there are probably about 50. There are more employees who were affected out in the field – construction workers, project managers, etc. I don’t think they are done yet, either. I think there will be at least one more round at the end of the year. And other companies are affected, too – architects, landscapers, title companies, other developers, etc. I know a lot of people who have received the dreaded pink slip.

The company has been super helpful and cooperative; not unlike them at all, and totally unlike other companies. They have given people anywhere between two weeks to a couple months of notice, they are handing out severance, and they have allowed people to arrange their schedules so that they can go on job interviews during business hours. The Director of Human Resources has helped people update their resumes and facilitate interviews.

Fortunately for me, I currently work in the commercial department. Our department manages retail shopping centers and office buildings, and we are currently developing a mixed-use community that will combine retail, office, and residential. It’s a really neat area and I’m excited to be able to see all of the work that goes into it.

So what’s the problem, you might ask? The company is being humane and I still have a job. There are a few problems that I have, some that are completely unrelated to the company, but personal issues of my own.

First, the lay offs. As I said, I’ve worked for this company for nine years. That is a long time these days, more so because I am pretty young and I don’t know anyone my age who has been at their job for nine years. My husband has been at his job for seven years (almost eight?). To be fair, though, he was in college for awhile and I had already been working. And also to be fair, this was my first job and it really just stuck. At this company, they had so many loyal employees. Many of the people who were laid off worked for the company for a very long time. My boss, for example, worked for the company for 24 years! And another lady worked here since she was 18, her first job, too. Now, at the age of 34, she gets laid off. For sixteen years she worked here and only here! I’m seeing the potential future for myself in another seven years.

I know that this is business, it’s not personal. I know that people want to, need to, make a profit. But I would have gladly VOLUNTEERED to get laid off in order that someone else who had seniority could keep their job. And I know all about I make less than that person so they are saving money with me, blah, blah, blah. But that’s how I feel.

Second, I see decisions being made that have to involve spending crazy amounts of money, and I don’t understand it.

For example, there was a (very large) display in our lobby that advertised one of our communities. Right around the time of the third lay off round, within one week of it I would say, they change the display! And this is not like replacing a poster or something. There are construction workers, furniture, a designer, and all kinds of stuff involved. I’m like; do you THINK that the cost for this display could have saved the job of one employee for a few months?

Our department, which I have been assured is doing fine, normally takes a holiday retreat and goes to a local Indian Casino. Overnight plus your spouse, all expenses paid plus $200 cash (said to be for the purpose of gambling but we save ours and buy something else!). Well, due to the current situation, we chose to not do the trip, out of respect. It’s called tact people.

Other fine examples are: 1) We are still having our holiday party, which is held at a swanky local restaurant. Hosted by the company, we are given tons of food and as many alcoholic or non-alcoholic beverages as we can drink, and prizes are handed out like $50 gift cards to Gap, Pottery Barn, Home Depot, etc. 2) The Director of Marketing, who is the joke of the company, made up this contest to have employees and their families create and submit the cover of the company’s holiday card this year. Every entry receives a participant award and the winner receives a grand prize. 3) Company bowling was hosted earlier in the year with $50 cash prizes for several categories (i.e., highest score, lowest score, most improved score, etc.). 4) The receptionist was laid off and they have two of the executive assistants help out two days a week, but they hire this temp to come in up to three times per week and they say it’s because they don’t want to have to pay for benefits or insurance. A couple of other temps are hired to do things around here, too.

Third, as I said previously, I have worked here for nine years, and I would have volunteered to give up my job so that someone else can stay. I’m ready for something new. Almost two years ago, my husband and I went to a counselor for some marriage problems we were having. It took a good six months to work everything out, which was actually much faster than I thought it would take. But we have continued to see him and we work on marriage issues as they come up and other times we work on individual issues. One of the more recent issues is that I have never thought I was smart. But I am! Very smart! And he helped me realize that. I can basically do my job with my eyes closed, and there isn’t that much work to do. I’m too smart for this job and I’m ready for something new. Those two things combined make it very hard to like it here.

Finally, I have never been one for making friends.

When I was growing up we moved around a lot, so I never had any long term friends.

Then in high school I was a terrible friend. I lied all the time to everyone and cheated on my boyfriends.

People from church were always older than me and one older friend from there had a daughter in her tweens who developed a MAJOR crush on my (new) husband. She would hold his hand at church, and call him at work after she got home from school. When my husband and I brought this up with her mother, she totally flipped out and said that I was being too jealous and that it was a harmless crush! She basically scared the heck out of her daughter and said that I hated her and that we didn’t even want her looking at my husband. Friendship ruined.

It wasn’t until I started going to therapy that I found a pattern in my friendships. I would remain reserved in the friendship, not letting my protective barrier down, and then I would find the other person’s “fatal flaw” and would consider the friendship terminated. No second chances were given so that I wouldn’t get hurt.

When I started working here I thought I had these great friends. I worked here for four years before I found out the truth when I went on maternity leave and nobody tried to keep in touch with me. NOBODY. And I really tried to keep in touch. I quickly found out that they were just co-workers who loved to have fun and so it seemed as though they were friends. But when I was no longer available to have lunch all the time or go out for drinks every Friday night, I was no longer part of the “circle.”

Did I learn my lesson? NO! When I came back from maternity leave I was all protective at first, and not really being personal with anyone, just doing my job and being professional.

Then a couple of people were hired and this one girl and I clicked. I soon realized that she was extremely self centered (fatal flaw) and never asked me how things were in my life. She was also very drama oriented (fatal flaw), everything caused drama. So I backed off and put my protective barrier back up.

Someone else was hired and we REALLY clicked. Both Christians, we had the same values, young and married. She didn’t have kids but she loved kids so she liked to hear all my stories about my kid. One tiny red flag (fatal flaw) was that I could never get her to do anything after work. I suggested shopping on the weekends or the movies and she always wanted to be with her husband. I can’t be away from him for any more than I have to she would say with what sounded like real pain in her voice. I thought okay so they’re madly in love. They’ve only been married for one year; it’ll wear off. Then I thought I’ll include him on the invitation. Why don’t you two come over for dinner, or let’s all go to the movies. That didn’t work either. Something was going on at church, trips to visit family, or something else.

Since I have grown so much in therapy, I decided to pursue this friendship despite this fatal flaw. I make a conscious decision to continue to be friends with this person in spite of what I saw. I gave up on the hope of spending time outside of work with her and just truly enjoyed our friendship in the work environment. We had lunch all the time, went to each other’s houses for lunches, went out for lunch, talked during work, so much that both of our supervisors mentioned it to us during our annual reviews! We had so much in common that wasn’t even related to work, and we had the same sense of humor, which was so rare for me to find in a female.

Then she got notice that she was getting laid off. I didn’t think that was a possibility because she was the receptionist. What company can live without a receptionist (see item number 4 referenced above)?!? I was devastated. I thought this is it, I finally meet a girl who I click with and now we aren’t going to be friends anymore. She assured me that we would remain friends. Over and over again she told me that it would be okay. I was more upset about her losing her job than she was! So the time comes and it’s my first day here without her. Fortunately I have a friend of hers here with me, and we become closer as we reminisce about our friend and discuss the unfairness of everything. At first, my friend stays in touch, but only through e-mail. Eventually the e-mails become more scattered and I receive the occasional text message. She still doesn’t have a job (she’s been gone since May), but claims to be sooooooo busy all the time. I know that she sleeps every day until 11 a.m. or noon. Then she looks for a job, runs any errands she has, cleans the house, makes dinner, etc. until her husband comes home and then I know I don’t even exist anymore, based on previous occurrences. There is no time for me in between the waking up and the husband coming home.

She doesn’t call me on the phone and when I call her we don’t speak for very long. I just went over to see her yesterday but our conversation was not the same. She says I can’t wait until I have a job and we can have lunch all the time again. I wonder why we can only have lunch together all the time when she has a job? You say, well, going out to eat is expensive she can’t afford it. But we went to each other’s houses all the time and brought our lunches from home. I feel like I’ve been hurt and I vow to never overlook someone’s fatal flaw again. The protective barrier goes back up.

And as much as all of this is a personal issue for me, I find myself blaming the company for laying her off. Because I put myself out there for the first time in a VERY VERY VERY long time, and I tell myself that we would still be friends if they didn’t get rid of her. So my first experience back out there was a bad one and now I just want to retreat into my shell and never come out again.

I started looking for a new job awhile ago. I find that there are very little jobs available in the town where I live. Due to all of the unemployment, employers probably have their pick of the litter when it comes to hiring. They can have all of the college degrees and work experience they want for a bargain because people just want a job. So I look every day and apply to the things I like. I follow up and have been on a couple of interviews but no job offers yet.

So here I am in my rut. Unhappy in my job, ready for change, no friends at work, feelings of resentment towards the company (no matter how unjustified they might be), and I don’t know how to get out of it. Me versus The Rut.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Missing Our Show!

This morning I am in the shower and The Man is shaving. The Boy comes in to the bathroom and he exclaims, "Dad! What are you doing?" And The Man says, "I'm shaving." The Boy's anxious reply: "But you're missing Sesame Street!"

Days in a Month

At the beginning of every month we change the calendar to reflect the proper month. In March, The Boy counts all the days, all the way up to 31 and then he says with a sigh, "That was a lot. I'm out of my breath."

Spanish Translation

The Boy knows Spanish! Here are some of his translations:

English Word: bottom (like rear end, butt, etc.)
Spanish Translation: tushie

English Word: underwear
Spanish Translation: chawnie

English Word: diaper
Spanish Translation: chonitas

English Word: Toot Balloon
Spanish Translation: Whoopie Cushion

The Story Behind the Title

I explained why I’m doing this blog. Now to explain the title of the blog. I have a son, The Boy, who is almost five. He says and does the cutest things. For example, whenever he sees a question mark, he says, “What’s that mystery?” For some reason, he has decided that a question mark means that there is a mystery. Perhaps a story that he read had a question mark that represented some sort of mystery. Whatever the relation was between question mark and mystery, he has latched onto it. So when he sees a question mark, he wants to know what is going on related to the question mark. Really a smart kid, don't you think?!?

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Holiday Traditions

Whatever holiday it is that you celebrate.

What sort of traditions do you have in your family?

We only have a couple right now. I’d love to have more, and I hope to try new things each year since I have a ton of ideas. Then we can either add it to the repetua or toss it.

Of course we pull out all of the boxes, now covered in dust after being in storage since January (okay, February). It’s like Christmas morning as The Boy pulls out each item, his eyes excited and sparkling, as though he is viewing everything for the first time. We place lighted snowmen on the bathroom counters, hang “special” dish towels in the kitchen, assemble our artificial tree, and hang the ornaments. We talk about what Christmas means in our family and discuss where some of the ornaments came from and who gave them to us.

Already we are trying something new with this tradition. This year we have decided to go to the forest and cut down our own tree. We want to make it a grand adventure for The Boy. We haven’t had a real tree since he was born. If I remember correctly, I think the last real tree we had was in 1999. We wanted to have our first Christmas tree as a married couple. We went to a Christmas Tree Lot in a parking lot and found the perfect tree. We didn’t have a rack on top of our car, so we opened the trunk and put it in there. It fit perfectly on the diagonal of my 1970 Buick Electra 225. We closed the trunk and went home to erect and decorate our first tree together.

Our next traditional undertaking is to get all bundled up in our cozy winter coats, warm hats and mittens, and walk around a certain affluent neighborhood in our town to take a look at the Christmas lights. Each house in this neighborhood goes to the extreme, and it’s a really incredible sight to see. I carry lots of tissue for The Boy’s runny nose and I bring the camera to capture his smile and his bright pink cheeks as he sits in front of the Santa Train of Lights and other favorite displays. After oohing and aahing at all of the displays, we drive to the nearest Starbucks and defrost with a hot chocolate or an eggnog latte. We talk about our favorite light display and the things that were new and the things that were the same.

When I was growing up, my mom always had some sort of advent calendar to count down to Christmas Day. When we were younger, we did the traditional construction paper rings, alternating red and green, and each day we tore off one ring. Then my mom bought a book that came with an advent calendar and each day we opened a window on the calendar she read a story from the book, and I think she gave us an almond each day. Finally, when we were much older, she got the cheesy chocolate advent calendars with cheap chocolate that we choked down with smiles on our faces so as not to hurt mom’s feelings. As expected, I haven’t been into the advent calendar since I moved out and wondered what the point to them actually is. Then I came across this article that said one way to stop the incessant questioning from your children of how long until Christmas gets here is to have an advent calendar. We have not had this problem come up in our house yet; but I don’t doubt that the day is near. If we do choose to have an advent calendar in the future, though, I think ours will be much more personal. I really liked this idea from the Martha Stewart website. It’s very eclectic, which fits our personal style, and we can insert whatever we want into the boxes, which I hope will make it a very meaningful, enjoyable experience for our child.

Another great idea for advent that I gleaned from a different website is to wrap up Christmas storybooks like presents and put them in a basket. Each day, the children take turns picking a book, unwrapping it, and then reading it together as a family. The books vary from old classics like, The Night Before Christmas to books like the Berenstain Bears Meet Santa Bear. Every year you can buy a few more books to add or to replace some of the lesser loved or too juvenile ones in the collection. Look for rich quality pictures and an engaging storyline that appeals to both grown-ups and children, like The Christmas Miracle of Jonathon Toomey.

There is, of course, a Christmas service at church the Sunday closest to Christmas Day, filled with traditional Christmas hymns, and The Christmas Story sermon. And in the evening there is a candlelight service that is quiet and shows reverence for The One who was born in a manger. Sometimes we also have a Sunday in December dedicated to some sort of Christmas program, whether it be a full on theatrical production involving half of the entire congregation, a small presentation by the children, or a grand collection of Christmas songs sung by the choir and a performance by the band.

We have at least one night dedicated to watching a Christmas movie. This year The Boy watched How the Grinch Stole Christmas for the first time. He did not seem very impressed, although he did request to see it again. He really enjoyed Shrek the Halls in all its’ grotesque glory. He’s almost five – go figure. Whatever we watch doesn’t matter to me. I just love to sit on the couch with my family, warmed by the fire and by the blankets we snuggle under, and eat popcorn and holiday treats.

Another tradition I want to incorporate is roasting marshmallows in our fireplace. We are not a family that enjoys camping. Let me rephrase that – I am not a person who enjoys camping and therefore my family does not go camping. I don’t like the dirt, and I’m too old to sleep on the ground. We will go camping at least one time during The Boy’s childhood. Until then, we toast our marshmallows in the fireplace. I tried this for the first time with him about a week ago, but the fire was roaring and he did not like the heat. He did like to eat the marshmallows that I toasted for him. Next time I’ll try it in front of a calm Duraflame, in hopes that he will dare to get a little closer.

There is a charming yet modern shopping center in our town and when December arrives, they put up a little green workshop for Santa, decorated with candy canes, snow, and presents. Santa sits in his workshop and bravely allows young children to sit on his lap, some crying and screaming, some pulling on his beard, and some wetting themselves from the excitement. We send our boy in and I snap pictures of him as if he were a celebrity and I a paparazzo. He is so excited that Santa actually knows his name (we know this Santa) that he forgets what he wants for Christmas. After his dad whispers into his ear, he eagerly tells Santa in a very loud voice what he wants for Christmas. He accepts the miniature candy cane that Santa offers him and says good-bye, still wide-eyed in amazement. When the time comes that The Boy questions the truth about Santa, I will tell this Santa ahead of time what the boy wants for Christmas and then wait to see if he still believes.

Finally, as true Christmas Eve arrives, we try to calm down the little guy. We quietly put a plate by the fireplace, with carrots out for the reindeer and cookies for Santa. The cookies are usually store bought. I would love Santa to experience the love that goes into home baked cookies, and I would like to experience the joy of making them with The Boy, but I would never do that to Santa. I have convinced myself that he prefers the store bought variety and should I ever test that presumption, I fully expect a lump of coal in my stocking. We promise The Boy that we will make sure the fire is fully put out before Santa comes, lest he be required to put into practice the “Stop, Drop, and Roll” instructions firmly affixed to the refrigerator. He gets tucked into bed, cozy in his fleece polar bear pajamas, holding a stuffed friend of his choice and clutching his blanket. We say good night to him and close the door, crossing our fingers that he will go right to sleep. We go downstairs and wrap whatever hasn’t been wrapped yet. We stuff the stockings with all of the goodies and carefully place the presents under the tree. Then we tiptoe upstairs, get under the covers, and wait for Santa to do the rest.

There are more traditions that occur after Christmas Day arrives, but I will leave you with these peaceful, sleepy images and wish you the best this holiday season. Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and may God bless you.

My First Blog

This is my first blogging experience. I wanted a way to immortalize my memories of The Boy's life. My mom wrote in a journal some the funny things that my brother and I said when we were little and I really cherish that journal. I figure hand writing is going to be obsolete when The Boy is older so I decided to create a blog.

You (the reader) may be thinking, "Great, another mom who thinks her son is here to save the world and thinks everything he says is cute and funny and feels the need to share it with everyone." Well, yes, that is my privilege as a mother. We live in a free country, so I am free to write and you are free to not read.

I will also include experiences, feelings, and other things going on in my life.