Friday, August 7, 2009

Visitation Rites

After a week of vacation in the Outer Banks, my husband, kids, and I drove down to Tampa, Florida. A few days later we drove over to Orlando, and then finally we headed down to Port Charlotte. We visited my siblings and parents in a whirlwind tour because we haven't been on a trip to see my family in Florida for two years due to economics (you know what I'm saying).

I have wondered on occasion why there hasn't been more of a desire from my other family members to visit us up here in Baltimore? Is it assuming too much that we, as a family of four on a limited budget, should visit all of my family in Florida every year?

The answer to this question is just not that simple. The selfish answer is YES!! We would love to have visitors up this way. It would save us money, but it would also create additional opportunities for all of us to meet and give all of the kids a chance to play in our stomping ground up here in Baltimore, Maryland.

In the end, though, everyone has to make their own choices for their own reasons. Driving home 19 hours alone with the kids gave me new perspective. We are only here a limited time and our kids will only be young once (yes, my thoughts run deep.) I depressed myself greatly by doing a little "visiting-the-family-math." If we travel to Florida for seven days every other year, and assume that my parents live to the age of 90, the math proves that we will see them roughly 15 times for a total of just over three months. How horrible is that? Three months over the course of 30 years! If I want my children to have a relationship with their grandparents, nieces, nephews, aunts, and uncles, then it's MY responsibility to make this happen. I'm not mad at anyone. I'm simply glad that I did the math now.

I miss seeing my family, and I hope that they will come up here to visit soon. Maryland has quite a bit to offer visitors and so does our family.

Book Reviews

Outtakes From a Marriage - Ann Leary (wife of Denis Leary). The story begins with a wife discovering (completely by accident) that her husband is cheating on her. It follows with an in-depth look at love, life, regret, hope, and despair. The story is believable and as heartbreaking as rewarding. A definitely good read.

The Devil in The Junior League - Linda Francis Lee. This is a very interesting story about the deep south, as in Texas. The main character finds her wealthy, fancy, pristine life upturned when her husband does something really naughty. As a popular, beautiful woman, her husband's situation cannot be discovered by the Junior League, a highly coveted organization that only a select few are invited to join. The titillating story has many interesting twists and turns, that you don't see coming. I loved this story and I highly recommend it.

Famous quotes: Ginger Snap was not listening to her dad. He stopped, put his hands on his hips and said, "Ginger Snap, I keep repeating myself over and over like a broken record." Ginger Snap pondered this for a split second, and then with a look of complete puzzlement she said, "But Daddy, what's a record?"

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Happy Birthday Hangover

May was a busy month. There was Mother's Day, Teacher Appreciation week, the end of school for Ginger Snap, Memorial Day, and for both of my children, it's their birthdays...within two weeks of each other. I was a frenzy of activity.
The thing that's really crazy, though, is that birthdays aren't just birthDAYs anymore. They are more like birthMONTHs. Each child has an actual "family birthday celebration" on the true date of birth (as it should be). Then there was the school celebration and, finally, the birthday parties. Sometimes there is also an extended family birthday party involving a barbecue and gifts from grandparents and relatives. Don't get me wrong. I know the kids love it, but truly, how many gifts does one child need during the birthday "season"?

The school celebrations vary depending upon the school my kids attended. My son attended a private school two years ago that requested a nut/milk/soy/egg-free food snack (not the easiest thing to do) as well as a book that could be offered to the school as a gift from the birthday child's family...okay. My daughter attended a private school that requested any snack in the World (donuts were very popular). My son is now in public school and this time the school requests NO snack due to food allergies/diabetes and a gift from the birthday child's family...Lightning gave a football and two jump ropes- a bit of a reversal, but not a bad thing at all.

I personally LOVE organizing birthday parties. My mom was quite the party maven- I have wonderful memories of my childhood parties (usually involving the 35 kids from my homeroom class). I have always wanted to recreate the parties, so each year we have a theme for each party, games, prizes, and usually a good sized group of kids. Two years ago, Lightning had 32 kids at his party. Last year he had 26 kids at his party, and this year he had 18 kids (a very workable number).

For the first time ever, my daughter persuaded me into using another establishment beside our home for a birthday party. She chose to have a Build-A-Bear Workshop party with 10 girlfriends.

The parties were so much fun, and I am so glad they are over :-).

Famous Chang children quotes:
'Mom that food was SO fattenous!' (Lightning)
'No way Mommy! That's prepostible!' (preposterous+impossible) (Ginger Snap)

Book review: "A Bad Bride's Tale" by Polly Williams. What do you do when you marry someone you don't love? This story was an interesting, seemingly believable, perspective on a girl that married someone she knew she didn't love completely. The story begins a couple of weeks before the wedding. She's asking herself hard questions about what she really wants in a husband. The answers aren't promising, but she feels that she (and her parents) are too committed financially to back out.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

A Fond Farewell

Stormy Chang (1993-2009)
It is with a heavy heart that I bring the following news. My eldest cat, Stormy, aged 16.5 years old died on April 1, 2009, from a blood clot in her heart. She was a beautiful, talkative, animated adorable gray calico family member. I rescued her in 1993, when the next door neighbor in my apartment complex "threw her out". He was very glad that I found her and decided to keep her. I was very glad that I kept her as well. She was a six month old kitten at the time. Our whole family misses her terribly. If you want to get to know her a little better, I refer to her in the previous blog titled, "Pet Expectations".

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Pet Expectations

I awaken to the weight of a cat sitting on my stomach staring at me (this is pretty typical). I get up and nearly step on another cat waiting for me by the bedside. As I am walking out of the room, Marley, our Australian Shepherd, stretches and follows me. In the hallway my oldest cat starts screaming insults at me - "Feed me! It's been six hours since you last fed me! Are you crazy? I'm starving over here! Don't deprive me just because I'm older. I'm not invisible, you know!" The way the cats watch me reminds me of a scene in the movie "City of Angels", when the angels (Nicholas Cage, Andre Brauer, and others) listen and watch the sun rise over the ocean. In this scenario, the cats are the angels and I am the sun.

Yep, I'm dealing with pet expectations. My pets are family, treated like family, talked to like family, and have the expectations of humans. It's not normal, but what can I say? We have all lived together for a long time. Marley is 8 years old, Sarah and Merle are 11 years old, and Stormy is 16 years old. In odd ways our pets have taken on human traits... and then there are exceptions- like when I catch Sarah licking the painted walls or when I catch Stormy licking the finish off of photographs- actually have to hide photos from her because she will go looking for them. As far as human traits go we have our adorable female, beautiful, blue merle dog who burps like a man and...umm...farts (loud). After which, you simply wish to leave the room she is in. Of course, she follows you knowing that she is killing you slowly with her stink.

It took me a while to realize that not all dogs do this and my friends did not realize that my dog was carrying on in this fashion in front of them. So once, right after Marley pooted loudly right beside me and my friend (who has a dog), I asked her how she felt when her dog did this in front of other people. She looked at me with a clueless expression and said that she didn't understand. That's when I realized, with horror, that all of the times I have had playgroups and girlfriends at my house that people must have thought that I was BURPING and FARTING without restraint or apology in front of them...I have some diehard friends for sure.

My cats swirl around my feet for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Stormy also expects "dessert" before bed. They all sample the dry catfood, but Stormy and Merle prefer the wet catfood and Sarah doesn't like it. Sarah eats cat treats in lieu of wet catfood. Marley "waits" for her chance to sneak into the cats' wet food. The pets are fed before the children in the morning because they make so much NOISE it makes me CRAZY! After the cats eat, Sarah retires for an afternoon of sleeping on the couch, Stormy sleeps in the lower bunk of Ginger Snap's bed, and Merle (don't know how she does it) gets into the top bunk of Ginger Snap's bed. Of course she can only get into the bed, not out. She cries out for me to get her down at least once a day.

I walked into the kitchen last night and this is what I heard my husband saying:
"That's it! You have to the count of three to get out of the"I turned the corner and caught him having a heart to heart with Marley, who was looking at him with big sorrowful eyes. My husband stood up quickly, smiled, and said, "She's eating things in the trash again."

I, too, have caught myself telling Stormy that she needs to stop begging for food, she needs to leave the other cats alone, she needs to pipe it down, that she's being annoying, that she needs to find something to do other than beg for food. Her favorite place to sleep is directly in front of the refrigerator doors. Sometimes, if I don't feed her fast enough she swats at my feet trying to get my attention. People are surprised by how much "personality" our cats have and how "talkative" they are. Well, we are a noisy, talkative family so I guess it goes with the territory.

So, our pets are adorable and annoying and noisy, but more than anything our pets are part of our family. I feel pretty darn lucky.

Book Review:
"Everyone Is Beautiful" by Katherine Center. A story about child rearing with a dry sense of humor. It highlights the trials and triumphs a relationship undergoes with children underfoot. It's laughter and tears, frustration and jubilation. The story is truly lovely.

Famous Quote: Ginger Snap lost her voice and told me: "Mom, I can't make loud noises. I lost my screambox."

Monday, February 16, 2009

Snippets of Time

Do you remember a time when your days just consisted of getting ready for work, going to work, and coming home from work? Time passes by differently once you have kids. Time, for me, passes incrementally.

I have a 6.5 years old boy, Lightning, and a 4.5 year old girl, Ginger Snap. They are different ages and different genders. In the last four years one or both have been in attendance at different schools. I have a girlie girl who takes dance and I have a rough and tumble boy who plays soccer. They both take swimming lessons. My son is in first grade and attends school full time. My daughter is in Pre-K and attends school part-time. I work part-time during the week and on the weekend (during wedding season). After the kids go to bed, I either write, blog, or Facebook my nights away(in between bills, laundry, cleaning, and dishes).

My life is comprised of snippets of time.

My day typically runs from 7am-2am. When I wake up in the morning, I have one hour to: get the kids up, pick out their clothes, get them dressed, feed them, feed the pets (3 cats and 1 dog- they are more insistent than the kids), make lunch for one or both kids (depending on the day of the week), and dress myself...yeah, um, right (refer back to my entry "Skank for a Day" in regard to personal primping). That's the first hour of my day during the week and the hours continue like this from Monday to Friday.

On Tuesday, I do the above and then rush home with 20 minutes to spare to make myself presentable (always a difficult task) for work and get my daughter to her school. I work for two hours at a local museum before I run to my car and rush to the carpool line to pick up my daughter. We have one hour after I pick her up to 1) eat lunch; 2) help her change for dance class; 3) gather snacks (where are those chocolate pretzels(?); 4) and get to dance class across town. Dance class lasts one hour - ending at 2:45pm. Then we run to the minivan and drive back across town to arrive at Lightning's school as he is exiting the school with the rest of the students. I set aside 3:30-4:30pm for (more) snack time, going through school papers, and homework. Then I clean up and make dinner. My husband gets home. We eat dinner and have dessert. The kids take baths, they brush their teeth, we read a story, and they go to bed at 8pm. Then my night begins.

All of my time is compartmentalized into fractured hours. I don't know what I'd do if someone came to me and said, 'I give you 4 hours to yourself.' Sadly, I would probably break the hours up into portioned segments, like a mom feeding a baby "big boy" food.

How do you spend your days? Can you relate?

A (soon-to-be) famous quote from Lightning...While watching Entertainment Tonight, my son pointed to a clip about Michael Jackson. He looked at me and said, "Mom, that is one ugly lady."

book review: "Diary of an Exercise Addict" by Peach Friedman. The life struggles and frustrations of a girl who exercises many hours a day sometimes more than once a day) and then binges to the point of vomiting. There also is a phase of anorexia. I found the story sad, insightful, hopeful, and a really good read. It's well written and it puts an interesting spin on how society views women, diets, and being thin.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

New Year's Resolutions

Yep, I've been thinking about my New Year's resolutions. I am pretty good about sticking to them as well. Of course, I usually only have about one or two to work with. This year I am going to struggle with many more. So, without much ado, here we go:

1). Finish things in a timely manner - like, say for instance, publishing my New Year's resolutions. I swear my intentions are good, I just sometimes have a hard time with the execution. I will work on that this year.

2). Don't Be So Open- you know when you're courting a potential new friend, mentioning the umbilical hernia surgery which resulted in the loss of your belly button might be a bit too much. Mentioning that your stomach looks like the dude in the tv show, Kyle XY, is ALSO not a good idea. Note to self: This is NOT good starter conversation. Some people are SCARED by this kind of talk.

3). Drink More Liquids- Meaning BOTH water and alcohol (don't tell my kids). I had about six alcoholic beverages in all of 2008. I had a bit more water in 2008, but I am DEFINITELY not drinking enough liquids. I like to believe that for every headache I get (and I get my share), my brain is a dried up desert begging for rain. Does that make sense?

There IS one liquid I can't get enough of - COFFEE - with lots of milk and sugar (and sometimes whipped cream). I love it! The absolute BEST is Barnie's German Chocolate Cake Coffee Cooler OR Einstein Bagel's Vanilla Hazelnut. It's my little treat alongside my other demon: cinnamon and sugar bagels with strawberry cream cheese from Einstein Bagels.

4). Exercise More- So that I can eat more of the (above mentioned) bagels. Exercise is good for your body blah, blah, blah. The running begins when the temps. are 40 degrees or higher.

5). Get Up Earlier- But not after going to bed at 2:30am (refer to #6). I dream of watching the sun rise, being the first person at the gym, hearing the rooster crow, watching as the newspaper is delivered, hearing the first bird sing for the day, seeing the first dog walker- you get the idea.

6). Go To Bed Earlier- like earlier than 2:30am. What is wrong with me? I only saw the sun rise a handful of times in 2008. I relish those memories...

7). Write more - Well, this is going to start right away as I have become a new member of Facebook, I am working on a children's manuscript, and, of course, I have this blog. I'm thinking about joining Blogorama. Resolution #5 looks like it's going to be lost this year.

8). Eat more/more often - Word to the wise, it is best to eat a first meal before 2:00pm. You see, if you start your first meal at 2:00pm, then you find that you eat lunch at 7:00pm, and then, right before bed (around 2:00am) you eat dinner. This, of course, abuses resolution #1, #5, and #6. This also directly affects resolution #4 resulting in much more work for me. Note to self: this resolution needs to be a top priority.

9). Read more - this is happening. I read three books in January 2009. I LOVE to read, just don't have much time to do it. I always carry a book with me. You never know when you will have the chance to read in the car, the mall, at a drive through, while waiting to pick up a child at school...

Book Review: Happiness Sold Separately, by Lolly Winston. A story about a relationship gone awry due to the wife's inability to have children and the husband's inability to remain faithful. Realistic look at life and love. It's well written and ends on a hopeful note.

Any new resolutions for anyone?