Sunday, August 30, 2009

It is challenge time again

Free Orkut and My Space Tuesday  Graphics Glitters

Tuesday is it.

The day I have committed to start a new exercise program.

I've tried to ignore that the day is coming, but it will be here in 2 days now and I'm gonna have to face reality.

Some of you know that I periodically create or join into challenges...committments to myself or others to force me to do things that I think are good for me but that I won't do except under duress. I think it would be good for me to work off a little of this tummy gush. I'm hoping 2 months of ab exercises will do the trick.

So, here is my latest challenge: For 5 days a week for the months of September and October, I will do 5 minutes of ab workout a day. My friend Melissa created the ab workout for me. If I fail to do 5 days on any given calendar week (Sunday - Saturday), then I pay Melissa $10.

Here's the workout Melissa decided upon:
There is a total of six exercises each done approximately 20 times (reps) so that once completed the whole series takes approximately 3.5 minutes. You do this 2 times through for a grand total of "7 Minutes"... hence the 7 minute abs. I would recommend doing one set before you job/walk and once set afterward or somewhere in the middle. The reason for this is to break it up and make it seem less daunting. 7 minutes doesn't sound like much, but it will burn at first!

20 x Leg Extensions - Lay on your back, hands under hips unless you're strong enough to just have them by your side. Start with your knees bent toward your chest. Push you feet straight out about 6-8 inches off the floor. Bring your knees back toward your chest.

20 x Leg Lifts - On your back with hands beneath your hips, keep your legs straight with your feet 6-8 inches off the floor. Bring your legs straight up perpendicular to the floor and lower back down. Do not let your feet touch or rest on the floor.

24 x Bicycle - See picture. 1 rep = going right/left one time

20 x Straight Arm Crunch - Crunch position on your back (knees bent, feet on floor). Put hands directly above your face, arms straight, in a prayer position so that the palms of your hands are touching. Crunch up so that your hands go straight toward the ceiling (not forward). If this is too difficult at first, keep you hands behind your head for support.

20 x Oblique Crunch - See picture, but keep both hands behind head. 20 each side. To make this more difficult, keep your foot off the floor.

20 x Oblique Twist with weight - See picture, but make suggested adjustments: Sitting up (with or without weight - I use a 10 lb medicine ball, but you can use either lighter weight or a dumbell etc). Put your heels on the floor and push through your lower back so that its straight (don't slump over or slouch). Hold the weight in both hands directly in front of your chest while leaning back in a "V" position. Twist right till your elbow taps the floor, keeping the weight centered in front of you. If you're not using a weight, just clasp your hands in front of you. Repeat going Left. This is done quickly and going R/L is one rep. To make this harder, you can keep your feet lifted off the floor so that you're balancing on your tail-bone.

I would recommend two other super important expercises. Plank and Side-Plank. These are great stabilizing exercises and give you strength and definition without crunching. Check out the two pictures attached to see what they look like. Try holding each one for no less than a minute each. Obviously on the side-plank, you need to do both sides to be equal.

For the record I am only committing to 5 minutes a day. Melissa thought she'd sneak in an extra 2 minutes a day unnoticed...2 minutes plus those silly plank and side plank exercises. We'll see about that. Maybe I'll do them and maybe I won't. But I will do the 5 minutes a day, 'cause I don't like to pay out.

So, anyone want to join me? I won't make you pay Melissa if you fail. =)

Monday, August 24, 2009

WELL, that hasn't happened in forever

Today some guy whistled at me. No, not the "come here pooch" whistle, the better one. The "you're cute" whistle. I believe the last time some guy, other than dear hubby, whistled at me was in 1998.

I remember the time clearly because I was out running at Marymoor park with a good friend of mine and we discussed how our responses to getting whistled at were very different. I'm always flattered (well, clearly it doesn't happen with any frequency anymore, but I used to be "always" flattered). I usually respond with a smile and a wave. My friend considered it demeaning or unwanted attention from someone without enough good graces to be desirable. She thought a discouraging look was a more appropriate response.

Perhaps I welcomed the whistles more because I've always thought construction workers were hot.
Oh, did ya catch the stereotype there? As if all men who whistle are likely construction workers. Yikes. Someone better turn me in for that one. But I'm not repentant enough to take the statement away.

Okay, where was I? Oh yeah. I do think construction workers are cute. Something about their hard labor and big muscles. I think they look good when they are all dirty after putting in a long day. Good thing hubby is a contractor or I might get in trouble for saying that. Oh, & firefighters are cute too. =)

I would post a picture of MY cute fireman, but I don't really have any pictures of him working. I should remedy that!

Friday, August 21, 2009

book report -- my thoughts continue

I'm still thinking about that book! Yesterday I wrote a blog post about the book "...And Ladies of the Club". Apparently just one post about that book wasn't enough. Click here to read that post. Whenever I read an epic story like that, it stays with me. The characters live in my heart for awhile and I find myself thinking about their stories.

I realized today that I especially identified with the characters in this book because they are more like me than the average book character is. I think books are often written about those people born with wanderlust or a drive for excitement...those people who go to new places and experience new things. I'm not like that, so to find such a great book written about people who (like me) never left the place they grew up in is heartwarming. Both the main characters spent their whole lives entirely content with the idea that they would live out their days in the same town, loving the same people, walking the same streets, and appreciating simple joys.

If I spend all my life right here on the Eastside of the Pacific Northwest, that will suit me fine. If life takes me elsewhere, I hope that I accept and embrace that with grace.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Book Report: "...and Ladies of the Club"

Tonight I finished a book that has taken me ages to read. I can't remember another book that I've had to work on for months. "...And Ladies of the Club" by Helen Hooven Santmyer was fabulous. It was the cause of many moments of bad mothering as I neglected my children because I just wanted to finish the chapter I was on!!! I snuck the book into the bathroom with me, I snuck it into the stairwell to read, I read late into the night from time to time, and I definitely let the kids watch more TV so I could read. Bad mommy.

The book details the entire lives of two women and the book club that they start while still in their teens. The women both die in their 80's, so there is 60+ years of history that passes during the books pages. The book reminds me a bit of what it is like for me to belong to the same church for the last 30 years. Like their 60 years in the book club, my 30 years at my church have introduced me to many people. Some come and go. Some are born and some die. Some marry, some divorce, and some remarry. Some move away and some return. Some have children that make them proud and some don't.

When I think about this book, I find myself asking what was the point of the novel. What was the overriding message or theme? I really can't think of one. Perhaps it had something to say about getting along with others. Maybe that many interpersonal issues that seem larger-than-life at the time will seem tiny in hindsight. But just now, as I write those possibilities, I know that isn't what will stick with me. I will remember that this novel made me feel so grateful for the bond that I have with my church family. I will remember that happiness in life doesn't come from the lack of sorrow but from an inner peace that one has when their way is sure.

At 1200 pages, it isn't a book that you should undertake lightly but I'm glad to have read it. Here is an excerpt from a real review:

"...And Ladies of the Club" is a novel, written by Helen Hooven Santmyer, about a group of women in the fictional town of Waynesboro, Ohio who begin a study club, which evolves through the years into a significant community service organization in the town. The books spans decades in the lives of the women involved in the club, between 1868 and 1932. Many characters are introduced in the course of the novel, but the primary characters are Anne Gordon and Sally Rausch, who in 1868 are new graduates of the Waynesboro Female Seminary who soon marry, and the decades that follow chronicle their marriages and those of their children and grandchildren. Santmyer focuses not just on the lives of the women in the Club, but also their families, friends, politics, and developments in their small town and the larger world.

Originally published by the Ohio State University Press in 1982 and only selling a few hundred copies, the book was chosen as a Book of the Month Club selection in 1984, making it a best-seller that year. The recognition earned its 88-year-old author critical acclaim and literary recognition; according to the back cover of the 1985 paperback edition, the novel took Santmyer more than 50 years to write.

Imagine that! 50 years to write. Good for you Helen Hooven Santmyer.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

People are Crazy

I made my weekly trek to Costco today, all three kids in tow. On the way out the door, my kids put out their hands, fist up, in their usual attempt to silently ask the door-check lady if she'd stamp their hands.

The hand stamp thing has gotten to be kind of a pain. At first it was fun. The kids looked forward to seeing if the stamp was going to be a smiley face or a star, or maybe even a rainbow. But it soon turned into an annoyance. When the line at the door was too long, the door check people couldn't make time for stamping kids hands, understandably. Or rather, I understood that, my kids did not. My kids pouted, which irritated me. A frequent exasperated lecture from me about how we should be happy when you are able to get a stamp but not be unhappy when you don't went unheeded.

I wasn't all that unhappy today, then, when the door checker informed us that the stamps were permanently gone. I was glad that I wouldn't have to go through my unheeded lecture again and again. The lady said that they had to remove the hand stamps because they were a potential source of germs. Hmmm. That gave me pause. I've got nothing against germ protections, but I wonder how that came about. Did some lawyer decide that it was too big of a risk for Costco to continue with their "germ stamp" process? Or did some germ-phobic parent call Costco and complain that her precious child MUST have gotten the flu from the hand stamps? And why do I think the germ-phobic parent was a she? Costco doesn't have the standard anti-biotic wipes at the door, which makes me think their legal department doesn't spend hours a day thinking of how they can germ proof their processes. I vote for the germ-phobic parent as the culprit.

Lame. What's next? Do our kids have to go through Costco with their hands straight up in the air (reminiscient of beevis and butthead) to avoid spreading germs? Or maybe those fun little face masks? Hey, come to think of it, that might keep Spunky Girl from always sneezing on me...

Monday, August 17, 2009

Thems fightin' words

On Sunday morning, while chatting before church services, Roger P said to me "that girl of yours is the spitting image of you." The way he laughed and grinned as he said it, I think he was intending to communicate what a cutie she is. But the more I thought about it, the more I thought "really? Isn't she a bit cuter than that?". I don't mean to be self-depreciating for the sake of false humility, but I really don't think I was much of a beauty as a child. I scanned in a few of my school pictures to show you what I mean.
Lisa at six -- 1st grade

Lisa at seven -- 2nd grade

Lisa at eight -- 3rd grade

Note how my hair gets a little worse in each picture? Trust me, that problem continued all through grade school years. I think my bangs get higher and higher, perhaps representing the pain in the butt I was to my mother when she tried to cut my hair. (I'm not saying she whacked my bangs on purpose...but I'm not not saying that either.)

So, while I am secretly thrilled that Sweetness resembles me, I do hope that she is a much cuter version of me. I also hope that I am a better looking at 36 than I was at 6.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Gotta go with the mood that strikes ya...

Today felt like fall. After the impressive 100 degree heat we had in July, August has been super-mild. We've had two weeks now of mid-sixty degree weather with occasional rain. At first I resisted the fall feelings; after all, we've got an entire month of summer left. Summer really feels like July & August to me, so it is just wrong to give up an entire 1/2 of summer to an early fall. But how can it feel like summer when you find yourself dressing for colder weather?

I purchased some fall items when I recieved some birthday money in July. I found myself pulling those items out this week, already in the mode for fall fashion. I've been using a very beachy, casual bag to hold all my summer gear, but it doesn't look right with long pants and jackets. My new handbag, a Marc Ecko from TJ Maxx, is a bright orange color (unlike the yellow one shown in my picture)and looks great with denim. At $29.99, it is in my preferred price range for a bag. Not expensive enough that I have to worry about something spilling on it, but not so cheap that I worry about it falling apart.

I also pulled out some fall flats to replace my daily flip-flops (one of the joys of not having a real job is spending ALL summer in flip-flops!). Way back in March I posted one of my first blogs about finding my own personal style in the Lucky Magazine fashion guide (see Well Its not about world peace ). I used that knowledge to help me purchase these flats. I'm not normally a snakeskin/animal print kinda girl, but I know that I tend to buy boring solids so having a few accessories with a little rocker-ish style is a good idea. So I bought these flats from DSW, on sale for $39. I've worn them several times now and I love them with jeans. They are a good transition shoe as I move from summer flip-flops to winter boots.

Not only are my fashion thoughts moving to fall, but I am focusing on what's coming up for fall for my kids. We've entered our fall sports seasons already (soccer and swimming) and school clothes and school supply shopping is in full swing. After all that school shopping, I don't have the cash for it but I find my thoughts are turning to what costumes my kids will wear on Halloween.

I suspect that we'll have another month of nice weather starting next week. I'll probably put my flats back into the closet and pull out my flip-flops. I might even pull out the beach-friendly summer bag...but I doubt that I'll re-inflate all the pool floaties and the slip-n-slide. Summer can come back if it wants to, but it can't push fall entirely back into the closet now that it has peeked its head out.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Maybe it isn't supposed to be text-book easy...

I know you all have your hearts set on another post about what I'm wearing, or what new gadget I've acquired, but this will be a post on my thoughts on raising kids. Shocking, I complaining please...unless you are going to leave me a which case, go right ahead. Positive or negative comment...I'm not picky.

I have been known to complain that kids should come with a manual. If someone would just tell me what ACTUALLY WORKS with kids, I'd be happy to follow it. The problem is that what works with one child may not work with another.

I don't think everyone agrees with this concept. They think they do, but they really don't. The "To Train Up A Child" folks may believe that children are different, but I think they largely believe that strict training benefits all children. The "positive reinforcement only" folks believe, IMHO, that all children will respond to being encouraged to want to do what they should do.

I'm searching for a new parenting plan for the Big Guy. The parenting methods that we used successfully with Sweetness and Spunky Girl (mostly derived from the "Growing Kids God's Way series) haven't been succesful with him. With the girls, we had kind of an "escalating discipline" plan. Most behavior is fixed with a reminder, or better yet some coaching on what good behavior looks like before they got into trouble. Failure to respond to those reminders will get you a consequence, maybe a time out or something that makes sense (like losing the toy they are not using correctly). Bad attitudes, lack of respect toward a parent, or aggression toward others usually earn them some stronger discipline. But, in the end, we were always able to bring their behavior around to what we wanted it to be.

The Big Guy, on the other hand, will usually get himself in trouble for throwing a fit because he didn't get what he wanted...and any attempts to discpline him for that fit will only lead to more screaming and aggressive behavior. Unlike the girl's parenting plan, which centers on how we'll react to behavior we don't want to encounter again...the Big Guy's parenting plan needs to center on how to avoid getting into the situation where he's throwing a tantrum. I cringe as I write that because I know it sounds like we've stopped trying to train him and are dejectedly now training ourselves instead. But I feel strongly that he needs something different than the girls needed. He needs to be taught how to accept life's disappointments without going ballistic.

Today I've been thinking that God didn't give us a concise parenting plan on purpose, probably for the same reason that he doesn't give us a concise marriage plan. I think God gives us general principals that we need to apply, and then it is our challenge to consider our family members with love and decide what is best for that unique person that God gave us. I think we learn to love each other more when we struggle a little bit with knowing what to do in challenging situations. It forces us to really look into ourselves and question why we behave the way we do and whether it is truly ourselves that need to change or if we need to motivate our loved one to change. I'm being forced to look at my parenting plan, which I like very much, and determine if that plan is THE WAY and the Big Guy will eventually get it...or whether the right thing to do (the loving thing to do) is to go outside of my comfort level in order to seek the best for my son.

Some friends of mine are reading a new parenting book called 'Loving Your Kids on Purpose". I haven't read the book yet, but I'm eagerly awaiting their book reports (so I can see if I really need to read it). I don't know if the theories in this book will work with the Big Guy or not, but I'm willing to look into it. I'm eager to hear anyone else's thoughts on that book or any other parenting books you love!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

I got a brand new girl friend

Ya know that country song "I got a brand new girlfriend"? I'm singing that tune, but the words are "I got a brand new cell phone...".

Hubby told me that we needed to pick out new phones for the next 2 year plan from Verizon. I tried to look at the phone choices online, but it was just too much pressure to choose a good one so I told him to choose for me. I ended up with a Samsung Alias.

I love it! The coolest thing about it is that it opens 2 ways. You can open it into a standard flip phone, like so:

or open it the opposite way for a keypad that works great for texting, like so:

The text on the buttons change depending on what direction you open the phone, which I think is super cool.

I'm in the middle of transferring all of my contact info from my old phone to the new one. The process of doing so is like a walk down memory lane. I've got Sunny and Lisa's number from when they came to visit me. I've got my previous house guests numbers. I've got cell phone numbers of my cousins from when we met for dinner and a hockey game. I've got several girlfriends numbers from before they got married. I've got people's numbers that I considered deleting, but I know as soon as I delete a number I'll wish I had it again. I even had one number that I didn't know whose it was.

Next time I'll probably take both phones down to the Verizon store to have them transfer all my contacts for me, but it was kind-of fun to review all the cell phone numbers I had saved and remember when I got them.

I'll leave you all to ponder how blessed I am and envy my new phone. =)

Scratch that

Remember when I said life was getting easier? Scratch that.

Sweetness sprained her ankle on Monday night. She was holding onto a big merry-go-round at a local park and her grip failed her. She landed in a big pile about 5 feet from the merry-go-round, holding her ankle. Sigh...and her grandma was just saying that she thought the kids shouldn't go that fast and I gave her my "don't be lame" look.

The doctor said that it should be a couple of weeks in the velcro support thing, and then a few more weeks after that before she is back to normal. A month seems like a long time, especially given that soccer starts next week and swimming lessons continue on for another 2 months. But, I'm grateful that she should be back to normal before school starts. Managing the bus routine on crutches would be lame (ha!).

I learned today, as I was trying to get three kids in and out of pharmacies & medical supply stores looking for rental crutches, that having the oldest child back in a "dependant on mommy" mode really stinks. It was a flashback to what life was like when I could not corral my kids in a store. Sweetness is usually my helper, or at least the one that I can count on to just follow along and not make any trouble. Now I have to stay with her as she tries to hop along on one foot or manuever her crutches, all the while trying to keep Spunky Girl and the Big Guy on voice command. Spunky Girl and the Big Guy haven't exactly mastered the voice command thing. Spunky Girl will always EVENTUALLY do what you've asked...but usually she has just a few things she wants to do first. The Big Guy has a way to go yet.

Oh yeah, and my back is killing me from hauling a 60 lb child up and down stairs. Yep, exactly how I remember life used to be.

P.S. Imagine the distress it causes the Big Guy to see his sister riding in his stroller. Now imagine Spunky Girl saying "it's not fair. I want a turn..."

Somebody get mommy an iced mocha. Extra sweet please!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Pretty soon I'll be hanging out of my Rolls asking for Grey Poupon

I may not be able to stomach spending large amounts of cash on designer clothes (except for an occasional spendy pair of jeans), but I've discovered a new way to pretend like I'm uber-rich. I have my clothes tailored.

I've watched TLC's What not to Wear for ages and they always tout the praises of a good tailor. Of course, they also tout the praises of blowing 5 grand in two days shopping...but let's not focus on that. So, I decided to have a favorite jacket of mine tailored. The jacket was originally from Old Navy, but I bought it at a consignment store on Kirkland's waterfront. Does't that sound like the type of quality clothing that any tailor would love to work on? It was an extra large, but so was I following Spunky Girl's birth. It is the perfect jacket. It is an off-white/beige cotton twill with distressed features. It is the best jacket to wear with jeans and a t-shirt, which is my usual uniform.

I have slimmed down a bit in the last two years. When I was preggo with the Big Guy, I hit 200 lbs (a high for me...and a number I was both terrified of and secretly proud of). I'm now at a much more comfortable 145 and content to stay here awhile. I usually fit into size Medium, so my extra large jacket was looking baggy and boxish on me. I considered sending it to the Goodwill pile, but I knew it would be hard to find a perfect replacement at a cost I wanted to pay. I decided it was time to visit the tailor.

(I wish I could post a picture of the jacket here, but my camera is still marooned at Grandma's house 2 hours away. Drat.)

I got the jacket back yesterday and I'm super pleased with the results. The jacket fits just right, and you'd never guess that it wasn't the way it was originally made. And the cost? $20 Quite reasonable I thought, although I would have balked at anything higher. Now I'll think twice before tossing an ill-fiting item into the giveaway pile. Who knows? With a nip and a tuck, it could be my new favorite piece of clothing!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Ch-ch-ch changes

My daughter Sweetness just turned 7 years old. I'm struck by the changes I see in her. She wants so badly to be grown up. The thing that I noticed first was the changes in her speech. She is trying out all sorts of new phrases and listening to herself to see how she sounds. You can see her pause after she tries out a new saying. Yesterday, she tried out "Say What????", just like she heard on Hannah Montana. Instead of her pulling off a cool, nonchalant, somewhat witty vibe, she sounded ackward and her giggling afterwards didn't help any.

The other day at the doctor's office, she went to get her customary sticker after her appointment. She perused the stickers and then decided to give hers to me. I asked her why she didn't want her sticker and she said "I'm just trying to be more grown up." I thought it was funny that she still liked the sticker well enough to spend some time picking one out, but then decided that it was too babyish to keep it.

She also is a lot more aware of privacy issues and her body. Instead of just giggling about her body, she is more emotionally upset at the idea of her privacy being violated. I bought her a book from American Girl called "The Care and Keeping of You" and thought we would read through it together. We got through a couple of pages and it was clear that the *last* thing she wanted to be doing was reading this book with her mom. We decided to read that book at a later time.

She even decided on her own to help me with the housework yesterday in preparation for a sleepover. She swept the bathroom floor, washed the bathroom mirror, and emptied my dishwasher...all without being asked. I'm not sure how I feel about her associating growing into a woman with doing housework, but I suppose that is a fact of life.

Caption: Spunky Girl, Sleepover friend, & Sweetness playing Martian Matter

Sweetness' desire to distance herself from childish things is great (& fascinating) but it causes extra problems for her sister. Spunky Girl, who is 5, already clamors for more attention and time from her older sister. For Sweetness to aspire to being an older girl means that she wants to have even less to do with her younger sister and playing the games that Spunky Girl wants to play. I have to constantly remind Sweetness to talk respectfully to her sister, even if she is telling her that she doesn't want to play with her.

I'm hoping that this comes in waves. I don't mind her trying to be older from time to time, but I want her to also go back to enjoying childish things too. I'm sure her sister wants that too!