Saturday, December 31, 2011

Pictures for 2011

There are hours left of this year. This year has been busy, exhausting, amazing, surprising, and a hundred other adjectives. This year has seen a trip to Utah, the celebration of 10 years of marriage, the start of dental school for Hubster, Monkey head off to kindergarten, and Bug get glasses.

There are many ways to summarize a year, either in blog posts, numbers, or stories. But I'm going to do it in pictures, because too often my words fail to capture what I'm trying to say. There is not necessarily one picture for each month, but rather pictures of my favorite moments of the year.

This has been a year focusing mostly on family. It has been a good year, full of story times, small adventures, long call shifts, and family dinners. I expect nothing else from next year.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Books of 2011

At one point, when I had a lot of time (seriously, when was that?), when I read a book, I would instantly write a review of it. It allowed me to reflect on my thoughts about the book and share them with others.

It has been over a year since I have shared any book reviews. I kept thinking that I would catch up. But I found that months after reading a book, the details, both of the story and of my thoughts, have faded. There as no way to make an single post for each book. So, instead, I will review the books I remember reading in 2011 (and maybe 2010 as well).

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

Set in 1960 Jackson County, Mississippi, this amazing book follows a young white woman who decides to tell the stories of black maids. These amazing women are at first hesitant to share their stories. Stories that have to do with the shame of having to use separate bathrooms, of leaving their own families to work for wealthy white women, of the abuse and death of their loved ones. Slowly, Skeeter, the free-thinking, spirited white girl, gains their trust and their stories. As she does so, she comes to realize that these women see every thing, they know every thing about the families they serve, but they are not granted any respect. How can they raise white children, only to have those children grow up and treat them the same way their parents did?

This book was absolutely amazing, the best book I read all year. I always feel proud of myself for reading books before they were made into movies. This book, I just felt proud to have read.

Water For Elephants by Sara Gruen

Ready to start a successful career, Jacob Jankowski suddenly finds himself struck by tragedy. In his desperation to escape, he jumps aboard a train. Chance would have it that is a circus train. Jacob slowly become a member of the circus as the keeper of the animals. However, he also becomes involved in the lives of the circus members themselves. There is brutality, selfishness, and greed, anything necessary to put on a good show. Jacob, the only character who tries to remain good, is often the victim in this story that is so much more than just a circus novel. This book was full of beautiful details about post-Depression circuses, alive with color and sound and activity. Although at times it was a little overly explicit, it was still a fun read.

Wicked by Gregory Maguire
What does it mean to be wicked? Is good and evil just like history, dependent on who writes the story? That theme is at the heart of this amazing novel, set in the land of Oz, well before Dorothy ever arrived. Told from the view point of Elphaba, a green skinned girl, who, because of her obvious differences, is an outsider from the very beginning. Through her eyes and through her life, we are given a very different Oz, one where the Wizard of Oz is politically corrupt and attempting to create inequalities for talking animals and Munchinlanders. Elphaba does her best to combat the inequalities. And we cheer her on, because she is not the Wicked Witch of the West, but a brave, independent woman. However, she finds herself on the wrong side of history and is destroyed by a little girl with red shoes. Dark and serious, full of commentary on religion, politics, and concepts of fate and free will, this book is worth the read.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

Just before the Earth is destroyed, Arthur Dent is saved by his friend Ford Prefect, someone he assumed was human, but is actually a researcher from another planet. Faced with being planetless, Arthur travels along since Ford throughout the galaxy, from one strange adventure to the next, along side characters such as Zaphod Beeblebrox, the eccentric President of the Galaxy, Trillian, a human like Arthur, and Marvin, a depressed robot. I adored this book, full of wry humor and commentary on the search for the meaning of life. After all, how many books will give you the answer to the meaning of Life, the Universe, and Everything?

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Set in World War II Germany, The Book Thief is the story of Liesel, a young foster daughter of poor parents. With no money and little happiness, Liesel attempts to improve her life by stealing, not money or food, but books. Reading these books, along with listening to her father's accordion's music, Liesel is able create some joy, a sense of normalcy. But the narrator of the book belies any joy that might be found in the story. For the narrator of the story is Death. When Hilter is taking over the world, and there is a Jew hidden in the basement, and a girl is stealing books, Death is an appropriate narrator. This book is heart-wrenching, beautiful, and worth reading.

Those were my top five books this year. I know I read more great books, but I just can't remember.

Other books I read but didn't enjoy that much:

The Rule of Four by Ian Caldwell: This book attempted to be what Dan Brown's The DaVinci Code and Angels and Demons were, but fell well short. Based on an interesting premise of an ancient writing holding valuable secrets, this book made several mistakes. First, the ancient writing was obscure and not one that any casual reader would have heard of or be interested in. Second, the book failed to make any point as to how the hidden secrets might have any relevance to modern life.

The Maze Runner Trilogy by James Daschner: I read this in an attempt to fill the void left by finishing The Hunger Games. And I think the author also desperately wanted to do this. While the first book starts out just fine, the entire series based in a futuristic world plagued by a horrible virus falls flats. It attempts to examine themes of human experimentation, the concept of the greater good, and effects of biological warfare, but comes off disconnected. Many parts of the story never come together, are never explained, and the greatest mysteries remain just that.

The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan: A post-zombie apocalyptic novel, literally, this story follows Mary, a girl growing up in an isolated village surrounded by a zombie filled forest. This book, and the other two in the series, are everything a zombie novel should be. A little scary, a little gory, and a little romantic. But they never jumped from being those little things to being big anything.

Trying to remember all the books, let alone the details of the books, was difficult. Next year, I'm going to do a better job. Or just read fewer books.

What did you read this year? What books did you love and what books did you hate? What should I read next year?

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Project 52: The 2011 Finale, Part 2

I'm just going to jump in with items #27-52. If you're interested in my success with goals #1-26, check it out here.

27. Read 5 non-work related books. Done. In fact, my goal next year should actually be to limit my non-work related reading.

28. Work on my kids' baby books at least once. No. Not once.

29. Figure out this baby planning thing. I have no news in this category.

30. Start looking at jobs. I've done a lot of casual talking about jobs. I'm going to start getting a little more serious about it later this winter.

31. Try to go visit family in Utah. We did this. The trip was wonderful. The boys' first time on an airplane was less wonderful.

32. Visit the farmer's market 5 times during the summer. Done. This is almost weekly during the summer. I miss the farmer's market.

33. Inner tube down a river. Done. This is one of my best summer memories.

34. Go skiing. Done.

35. Take my children to 3 different museums. I think we only made it to two different museums. So mostly done.

36. Host a dinner/barbecue at my house. No. I kept trying to do this, but schedules and weather just didn't cooperate.

37. Go antique shopping. Yes. We got Hubster's parents great gifts from a small, local antique shop.

38. Schedule date night with Hubster at least once a month. I need to stop making this a goal. It's not that Hubster and I don't like each other and wouldn't like to have a monthly date. But this is just never going to happen. We went on dates four times this year. When we realized that actually getting out of the house was going to be too much work, we decided to have home dates, where we would get take-out, rent a good movie, and put the kids to bed early. Both of those attempts ended up with me asleep on the couch in less than 20 minutes. I know that we need to make ourselves and our relationship a priority, but this will have to happen outside the constructs of a "date night."

39. Get a better sleep schedule. Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. Ha. Ha.

40. Scan my wedding pictures into my computer. Nope. I didn't even look at my wedding pictures once this year.

41. Take a multivitamin daily. I should never make a goal with the word "daily" in it.

42. Look into getting a pet with fur. I think that the boys are starting to break Hubster down. I can see little cracks in his anti-dog resolve. I think we should be ready for a dog in the next five years.

43. Get a rough draft of my research project. Done. Although I have come to hate the research project with a passion normally reserved for spring snow storms and texting divers.

44. Go ice skating. No. Although the boys ask to go all the time. Maybe we will go this week.

45. Make jam. No. I'm not really sure why this ever was put on the list.

46. Study 1 hour a day, 5 days a week for at four weeks in a row. Yes. But I haven't really done much studying since accomplishing this goal.

47. Calculate my monthly grocery budget. Yes.

48. Start my blogging project for my boys. Yes, such as seen here and here. I had wanted to do it every month. But nothing is ever going to happen that frequently.

49. Get our home videos transferred to DVD. No. But I think I have just found a good winter break activity for Hubster.

50. Organize my children's boxes of art work. Kind of. I moved all the artwork from several small boxes to one big box. I'm not sure if that is progress or not.

51. Volunteer for something at my kid's school. Yes. I volunteered at the school carnival. It was fun and I would love to be more involved.

52. Get my hair done. I actually did, but it was so long ago that it almost doesn't count. I am ending the year just as much in need of a haircut as I started it with.

My subtotal here is 14/26 (including partially, mostly-finished goals). And in grand total (I feel the need for a drum roll), I completed 31/52 goals, or 60% (if we are rounding, and the rules of mathematics are in my favor here.)

This was a busy year. This would have been a busy year even without Project 52. But Project 52 let me make a list of things I wanted to get out of this year. This was a good year. This would have been a good year even without Project 52. But Project 52 let me makes dreams for the year and actually see some of those dreams come true. This was a successful year. And yes, it would have been a successful year even without Project 52. But Project 52 allowed me the chance to make a list, check it off, and celebrate each goal along the way.

Thank you, Karen and Jennee for putting this together. I'm so excited to do this all again next year. (And I need you to come up with really great lists yourself, because I'm about 10 items short.)

Monday, December 26, 2011

Snapshots of Christmas

There is no picture (at least one that I can take) that would ever capture the pure magic that was in the air when Bug and Monkey woke us up at 6 am to open presents. They had already pillaged their stockings. In the still pitch black of the early winter morning, they were dancing around our room, attempting to stifle giggles that were spontaneously erupting from both of them.

When asked who woke up first, they both shouted, "Me!" Bug has woken up and scurried down off the top bunk to wake up Monkey, only to discover that he was already awake. I still have no idea what time they work up, since by the time they were not-so-quietly whispering "Merry Christmas" into our sleep heavy ears, all the stocking gifts were opened, played with, and the treats were consumed.

There is no picture to capture the undiluted happiness gleaming from their faces, but there are also no good works to capture Christmas day.

Even with a picture being worth a 1000 words, I still feel that these barely tell the story.

Here are snapshots of "the happiest day of the year."

What the pictures fail to capture is all the laughter, the frantic roaring noises Monkey made as he opened each present, the countless times the boys paused from their gifts to run over to Hubster and me to hug us and say "Merry Christmas." There are no pictures capturing us eating our fancy Christmas dinner in our pajamas. There are no pictures capturing my expression when Hubster surprised me with this...

There may not be pictures to perfectly capture the day, but there are wonderful memories tucked away.

I hope every one of you had a wonderful day, a day where words and pictures are not enough.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve is my favorite day of the entire year. I love it even more than Christmas Day. There is something so magical in the anticipation. The planning and dreaming and waiting are never anticlimactic.

During daylight hours, caramel popcorn was made and paper snowflakes were cut (to make up for the complete lack of snow outside).

Latkes have been eaten for Christmas Eve dinner.

There is only one door left to open on the Advent Calendar. All the carols that I tucked in each box, along with the chocolate, have all learned and sung.

Christmas Eve presents have been opened.

Christmas stories have been read (My Penguin Osbert, The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, The Night Before Christmas, The Polar Express, and the New Testament Christmas story), while wearing new pajamas.

Now, the boys are finally tucked in and asleep (hopefully with visions of sugar plums).

The stockings are filled and hanging from the mantle.

The presents are all tucked under the tree.

Tomorrow is Christmas. I know that it will be wonderful. And it's the anticipation of how wonderful tomorrow will be that makes me happy. Tomorrow, it will be a loud jumble of boxes and paper and laughter. Tonight, it is quiet, beautiful, and full of wonder. Tonight, it is my favorite time of the year.

Thursday, December 22, 2011


I think of us as a young family. I still like to think of Hubster and I as very young parents and our boys as very young boys.

However, this will be the 10th Christmas Hubster and I have spent as a family. Along the way, we have collected a few traditions. There have also been things that we have done that I thought would be traditions. However, when we moved halfway across the country, or when my busy schedule overtook family like, some things got lost along the way. I've spent time mourning the traditions that are no longer. But what I'm starting to realize is that they didn't matter so much. The things that really mattered are the things that we still do, no matter where we live, or how crowded the schedule.

So despite us being a "young" family, ten years is plenty of time to have traditions, the things we "always" do.

There has always been an outing to pick a Christmas tree. Yes, it's taken place at different venues, from small tree lots to national hardware stores to local tree farms. But there is always an outing and there is always a real tree.

There has always been It's A Wonderful Life. I don't think I've gone a single Christmas without watching this movie. Last year, I hesitantly watched it with the boys, worrying that they would be put off by the length, the seriousness, or the black-and-white. But they loved it and we are excited to watch it again this year.

There are always paper snowflakes. Some of my earliest childhood memories involve making paper snowflakes. Each year, we still cut them out and tape them to the windows and hang them from the ceiling. This year, it may be the only snow we get.

There are always cookies with the cookie press. I always feel too busy to make cookies, but without fail, there is time for butter cookies, pressed into wreath and tree and star shapes and covered with sprinkles.

There has always been Christmas Eve story time, where we read The Polar Express, The Night Before Christmas, The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, and the Bible Story. I get choked up and cry without fail.

There will always be latkes for Christmas Eve dinner, a reminder that there was Judaism before there was Christianity.

There will always be early Christmas mornings, with stockings and presents and monkey bread.

And even if many of these traditions fall away as time goes on and we stop being a young family and start being a grown family, there will always be the memories.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Project 52: The 2011 Finale, Part 1

I had intended on doing a single post on all my goals. However, Karen's last post made me realize that it would be more manageable to actually divide it up (just like she did.)

I can not believe that the year is ending. All the things that in January I resolved to do, it's already time to take account on how I've done. It has been a whirlwind of a year. And I'm actually grateful for Project 52, because there are so many things that I would never have done had I not made this list. I may not have done everything. But I pushed myself, and enjoyed all 52 weeks!

The List: #1-26

1. Organize my closets: Umm.. I sure thought about this a lot. But I never actually got around to doing it. Although we did actually get closet doors on Hubster's closet, so that was an improvement.

2. Complete 3 home improvement projects. Done: Closet doors, hand rails for the stairs, and painting all the the back door.

3. Get my passport. No. I filled out all the paperwork, but then found out how expensive it was. However, I'm interested in doing an international trip with my work next year, so this one has to happen next year.

4. Plan an awesome 10 year wedding anniversary celebration. If by awesome, you mean Omaha, Nebraska, then YES! Actually, Hubster and I had a fabulous dinner, then a weekend touring the bridges of Madison County and a trip to Omaha. It was quite fabulous.

5. Find 3 unfinished projects and finish them. I may have actually made negative ground on this goal, by starting even more projects and not finishing those. I have a problem.

6. Visit 3 new restaurants. Done by leaps and bounds. Thanks to good friends, I have visited more new restaurants this year than the last 5 year (probably the last 5 years combined, even.)

7. Plan monthly menus. This has been my biggest accomplishment. It has become a huge part of our family. From planning out the schedules, to the new chalkboard menu in the kitchen, where the boys watch me each Sunday write out the menu for the week. It's been amazing. The other amazing part has been people who tell me they have been inspired by this.

8. Meet my girlfriends for brunch one a month. It definitely wasn't once a month. But, with trying to coordinate the schedules of a group of residents, it happened as frequently as it could.

9. Send birthday cards to all my siblings and be on time this year. Yes! I don't think I missed one.

10. Paint at least once. I painted trim, but that wasn't what I meant. So no. My art supplies are still tucked away, gathering dust.

11. Go visit at least one new church. Yes.

12. Visit the Herbet Hoover Historic Site.
No. I kept trying to, but the weather never cooperated.

13. Go camping four times. We went three times, not four. But close enough that I'm saying we are done with this.

14. Find 3 ways to be green.
Done. Not that we are a carbon neutral family, but from riding our bikes to work when the weather permits, to getting mulch from the city yard waste program, to washing our clothes in cold water, to getting more active in recycling, we have made big strides. We also have plans for more things to do that we are excited about.

15. Use my crock pot once a month. At the beginning of the year, I felt I was never going to get this done. Now, with my monthly menu, I use my crock pot nearly once a week. So I'm saying this one is done.

16. Catch up on my book reviews. I have not done this. But I still have plans to get this done before the end of the year.

17. Set up electronic bill paying. We have not done this yet. This is another one I plan on doing before the year is over.

18. Start saving some money, no matter how little. I have set up monthly transfer from my checking account to my "high interest" saving account. It's not much, but it's something.

19. Register Monkey for kindergarten. Not only is he registered, but he's halfway done with kindergarten. This deserves it's own post.

20. Grow herbs. Done. Although I should have said "plant herbs" because not everything I planted grew.

21. Visit Wisconsin. We didn't make it north this year, but we have plans to visit Wisconsin this coming spring.

22. Walk 5 times a week on weeks the temperature is not freezing. I didn't pay that much attention, but we did walk every chance we could.

23. Go to the doctor and get my hand looked at. Done. I even made a follow up appointment and then an appointment for another referral to a different specialist. I also have a diagnosis. Maybe I'll do a post about this at some point.

24. Introduce my children to musicals.
We watched "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers," "Court Jester," and "King and I." There are so many more to watch, but it was definitely an introduction. The only person who didn't like it was Hubster.

25. Have a Harry Potter marathon. I had a Harry Potter book marathon. I would have a Harry Potter movie marathon, but there is no way I would stay awake.

26. Donate blood. I had planned on it, but then being on call during our department blood drive. Maybe next year.

17/26, with 2 more to be done in the next 10 years. I'm quite proud of myself. It's amazing how much you can get done in a year with a list and a plan.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Things I Want to Remember: For Bug

Dear Bug,

Sometimes it takes me noticing the gap between the bottom of your pants and your shoes, where your socks are showing plainly, for me to realize how fast you are growing. I could swear those pants fit you just last week.

There is going to be a time, coming much too quickly judging by your rapidly shrinking clothes, that you are going to want more time to yourself, more time with friends, and less time with me. So I'm going to try to remember everything I can from this time now.

I want to remember you reading. You lay on your back on the couch, the book held above your head, reading Calvin and Hobbes, giggling loudly to yourself.

I want to remember our conversations. For example, doing spelling practice this week:
Me: Bug, how did you do on your pre-test?
Bug: I missed one.
Me: Great job!

Bug: What?! I said I missed one.

Me: But they were all new words. Only missing one is good. It's not like you missed 12 out of 14.

Bug: Yeah. That would be the end of the world.

Me: No.
No it wouldn't. The end of the world is worse, like when someone you love dies.
Bug: No. Actually, the end of the world is when a huge comet hits the planet.

The entire time we are talking, I can't believe we are having this conversation. How did it get to the point we can have conversations like this, and you make witty remarks?

I want to remember even the slightly painful things: like the fact you won't hug me in front of your friends anymore.

I want to remember how you still sleep with your stuffed tiger, Stripey. Because you are my very own, much better behaved, Calvin and Hobbes. Because a boy still needs his tiger.

I want to remember how are proud and protective of your little brother. You are always pointing out cute things he is doing, telling him how great his drawings are, congratulating him on the fantastic block tower he built. You are a good big brother, despite how difficult Monkey can make it for you sometimes.

I want to remember how you said you weren't sure you wanted to go to college, because that means you would have to move away, and you like being home with us. You say it makes you sad to think about moving away someday.

I want to remember that now, even at this age, you want to read together each night, and get a piggyback ride to bed. You still want me to tuck you under the covers and kiss you goodnight.

I know that all these things are going to change. So I'm doing my best to remember.


Monday, December 12, 2011

The Things I Want to Remember: For Monkey

Dear Monkey,

There are things right now that I'm sure I would be just fine forgetting. The fact that you have become such a picky eater. That your default mood is whiny. That you still have a hard time sleeping in your bed.

But there are so many more things that I want to remember. I keep forgetting to write them down. I know that the memories are slipping through the cracks of the busy schedule faster than I can gather them back up in the quiet of the night.

I want to remember how you insist on having a straw with every single thing that you drink. Whether it is your after-school strawberry milk, or breakfast orange juice, or water with dinner, you much have a straw.

I want to remember how you tromp after your Daddy to the woodpile in the cold winter evenings. It doesn't matter how cold it is, or if you are already in your pajamas, if Dad is going to get wood, you are doing with him, stomping over the hard ground in your boots, holding the lantern.

I want to remember how much you love animals. Each library trip finds our book bag filled with books about platypuses, armadillos, frogs, insects, chameleons. You say that you are going to grow up and be a zookeeper.

I want to remember your wild imagination. After studying the 5 senses at school, you were asked to draw items that you would like to touch and items you would not like to touch. Under your "like to touch" box, you drew "fake insects, nice snakes, and grass." Under your "don't want to touch" box, you drew "real insects and poisonous lollipops."

I want to remember all the funny things you say:
-While learning state names: "What do they have in New Hamster? A lot of hamsters or something?"
-Getting ready for bed: "Daddy, I really love you, but I NEED A DRINK!"

I want to remember how you shout playfully that you don't want me to go to work, hanging on my leg and hollering that you won't let go and that I can't leave.

I want to remember how you snuggle up to me on couch while we read, lifting my arm up so that you can get even closer. How you ask for a blanket so that we can be warm while we snuggle. How you fall asleep under my arm, your head heavy with dreams. How I carry you to bed, along with an entourage of stuffed animals.

I want to remember all this. I want you to remember all this.


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Currently - December

Current Book
Just finished The Book Thief. This book was excellent. Now I'm finishing up The Maze Runner series.

Also, I am determined to get a book review post out before the end of the year, so I can share my thoughts on the books I have read this year.

Current Albums
Waking Up by OneRepublic
Funeral by Arcade Fire

Current Shame-Inducing Guilty Pleasure
Pinterest. I am newly obsessed. Because I need another time suck in my life.

Current Drink
Eggnog. Tis the season.

Current Songs
"Wagon Wheel" by Old Crow Medicine Show
"The Way I Am" by Ingrid Michaelson

Current Wish-List
A house keeper and a personal chef

Current Needs
Two consecutive days off. It's coming up this weekend. I'm so excited.

Current Triumph
Getting Monkey to sleep in his own bed instead of the floor
Having all my Christmas shopping done and Christmas cards mailed by December 1st.

Current Favorite Film
We just rented Super 8, and I loved it!

Current TV Show
Person of Interest

Current Indulgence
Blogging. Given everything right now, even 15 minutes of straight computer time feels like a luxury.

Current Outfit
Breaking out my cozy winter sweaters!

Current Banes of My Existence
The state of our bathrooms. They are quite neglected.

Current Excitement
Christmas. I'm crazy excited!

Current Mood
Vitamin D deficient tired. I need some sunshine.

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Tree

Each year, I have to look back to see what I wrote about the Christmas tree. Because each year, I feel the same way about it, and want to say the same thing. About the old debate about artificial vs real, the way it doesn't feel like Christmas until the tree is up and decorated. This year, it was just the same. But then again, it wasn't.

This year, instead of driving to the store to pick up a tree, we drove further, along unpaved roads, through rolling countryside that is so American heartland that it leaves me breathless.

We drove to a small local tree farm to cut our own tree. The day was misty and wet.

We hiked over the muddy ground through the rows of White Pine, Scotch Pine, and Canaan Fir to look for the perfect tree. We ended up walking the rows several times, because the two different trees we liked were on opposite ends of the farm.

We finally decided on a bright green, fat Scotch pine. Bug and Monkey took turns sawing through the tree. They shouted, "Timber!" in absolute delight of the opportunity to do so.

Then, with Hubster at one end and me at the other, we carried the tree back up the hill, where the extremely friendly farmer shook out the loose needles and tied it to the top of the car.

The boys and I petted bunnies instead of helping.

I love that the tree is local Iowa grown. I love that it is freshly chopped. I love that we were helping out local farmers. I even love that it is the pokiest tree and so fat we had to do more furniture arranging than anticipated.

Once we were home, the tree was put up in the living room, the boxes of decorations were brought up from the basement, and Christmas music was started. I opened the boxes of gold and silver ornaments and then stood back. This year, I let them decorate by themselves. I hung garland around the house, put up the wreath, but didn't help with the Christmas tree baubles. I watched the boys be so sweet to each other and so proud of their work.

After every box was empty, the boys felt the tree was perfect. I absolutely agreed with them. I added a few flowers, but didn't move a single one of their carefully placed ornaments. There was no need.

The warm fuzzy feeling, the joy of watching my boys, and the tree in the corner. It was all perfect.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Holiday Blues

I'm having a hard time getting in the holiday mood. I'm not procrastinating anything. In fact, everything is ready for Thanksgiving tomorrow. Christmas cards are done and (mostly) addressed. Almost all the Christmas presents are bought. But I feel like I'm just going through the motions.

The days have flown by, so I'm in denial that it is actually November, let alone nearly the end of November. And since I can barely register the fact that it is the end of fall, it feels that there is no way it can be Thanksgiving tomorrow.

I'm also just to-my-bone-marrow tired. I've been working some of my longest hours in a long time, working 80-90 hours a week for the last several weeks. I'm also on a night shift currently, which just makes me feel cantankerous. And being on nights means that I work 6 days a week, regardless of holidays.

So that means I will be working Thanksgiving day. Actually twice. I get home at 7:30 am on Thanksgiving morning, and have to head back to work at 5:30 pm. I feel that if I have to hear about everyone's 4-5 day weekend, and about all the family and friends they will be seeing, I might have a meltdown. There will be no holiday weekend. There will be no gathering of extending family and friends. There will just be us and a very tired me.

So that's my little pity party for one.

However...this does provide us with good opportunities. We are still planning on a full traditional Thanksgiving dinner. Which means for the first time ever, we have to cook a turkey. I am scared to death of this, but Hubster and I are doing this together. Our turkey is currently being brined, and I'm so excited about it. Tomorrow it will be injected with broth and butter and stuffed with onions and apples.

Given my schedule, there won't be down time after the dinner. But Hubster is planning on bringing our pies to the hospital, so that we can have dessert in the evening, and share it with the other residents that are also away from their families on the holiday.

I'm planning on being over my negativity by the time I wake up this afternoon. I'm planning on cooking with my family and make holiday memories together. I'm planning on forgoing some sleep to make sure that happens. Even if there is no large family gathering, or days off, and even if dinner is eaten around a hospital table instead of the dinner table, I'm planning on celebrating.

Update: I have made two realizations. First, every time I open my mouth (or my laptop) to complain, I have a moment when I realize how pathetic and whiny I sound. Second, I really shouldn't talk (or write) when I am tired. I've slept. And guess what? I'm not really that upset. I'm okay (ish) that I'm working Thanksgiving. It means that someone else won't be. I'm going to have time with my family, and I love them so much. The turkey, despite how afraid I am of it, is going to be awesome. The pies are already done. This is going to be an awesome holiday. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Shiny New Menu

Ever since I started meal planning back in September, it has become a little bit of an obsession. I've become compulsive about it (and there you have it, a diagnosis, just like that.)

I'm always on the look out for new recipes, keeping an eye open for what's in season and how I should cook it (which is really not a lot right now here in the icy, but not just snowy, state of Iowa.) Our evenings are so much smoother and our diets are so much healthier. The times that we just give up and go for a fast food run have been cut drastically.

Since this has become such a big deal, I couldn't continue just using a little sheet of paper stuck to the side of the fridge.

No, this was much more important than that. So much bigger.

So, I did what any normal, compulsively planning menu obsessing woman would do. I bough a can of chalkboard paint and painted out a large rectangle on a wall in my kitchen.

I love my new chalkboard menu (although I would like to point out that the walls in our house are textured, not flat. Hubster mentioned this to be just as I was starting to paint and asked if I wanted to sand the wall first. I didn't. I was in the zone and just ready to do this already. Turns out, he was right. A textured chalkboard isn't the most ideal writing surface. Another point to Hubster.)

Each week, I write out the week's menu (from the scrawled on monthly menu sheet on the side of the fridge - that's not going away.)

Now, not only is the hard work I spent planning meals for the family nicely displayed, but there is finally something on the blank walls in our kitchen. I personally think it goes with everything else quite nicely.

Everyday, the boys run into the kitchen and read out loud the dinner planned for that night. Sometimes the meals are a little nicer, a little fancier.

Other weeks, they are not.

The trick is still actually getting the boys to eat anything, no matter how pretty the menu is.