Monday, February 28, 2011

Project 52: Winter's Almost Over Edition

Today is the last day of February. This means so many things. It means that spring is hopefully coming soon. It means that I register Monkey for kindergarten tomorrow. It means that I haven't posted a Project 52 update in over a month.

Since my initial goal to to post updates once a month, I'm kind of running out of time.

Despite February getting the short end of the stick in length, I made up for it in productivity.

Here's how things are going.

6. Visit 3 new restaurants.
This one is done! Originally, I was going to make the goal visiting 5 new restaurants, but since we eat out so little, I didn't want to be too ambitious. However, this was super easy. I've had brunch at two different restaurants, went out for sushi for the first time. For Valentine's Day, Hubster surprised me with dinner at this phenomenal local restaurant. The food was everything it was hyped up to be. Even though this one is done, I'm not letting myself of the hook. If we get the opportunity to eat out, I will always try to consider some place new.

7. Plan monthly menus.
This is nearly done. I just need to type them up so we can actually use them.

8. Meet my girlfriends for brunch one a month.
So far, 2/12. This has to be one of my favorite things. Not only does this mean that I get to eat at new restaurants, but this scheduled girl social time is therapeutic. This is an easy resolution to keep.

9. Send birthday cards to all my siblings and be on time this year.
So far, so good. This one is a lot of work, though, with so many siblings.

15. Use my crock pot once a month.
2/12. So far, it's just been boring old chicken, but the stress relief of having dinner ready at the end of the day is wonderful.

16. Catch up on my book reviews.
I wrote one book review. I only have like 6 left. It's getting to the point I can't even remember what books I read.

19. Register Monkey for kindergarten.
I do this tomorrow! Ack!

23. Go to the doctor and get my hand looked at.
So this is turning into a cluster. I made the first appointment just fine. I was so proud of myself. But then I had to make an appointment with physical therapy, and now the surgeon wants me to see rheumatology, and then make a follow up appointment. There just isn't time. I'm still working on it.

24. Introduce my children to musicals.
We've watched The King and I and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. I'm really starting to doubt that my boys will ever share my love of musicals. Which is a good thing in Hubster's opinion.

27. Read 5 non-work related books.
I've read 3 books so far. Reviews to come. Maybe.

31. Try to go visit family in Utah.
This is planned! Tickets are bought! We are going! How could I fit in some more exclamation points?! More about this at a later date.

34. Go skiing.
Just when I thought we weren't going to do this, we had a huge snow storm and we went. It was so much fun!

35. Take my children to 3 different museums.
Maybe we're strange, but we love museums. Even Monkey. We spent an afternoon exploring the university museum of natural history. There are skeletons and re-creations of ancient landscapes and hundreds of taxidermy animals. What's not to love?

38. Schedule date night with Hubster at least once a month.
We went on a date this month, making us 1/12, or 50% of the months so far. Which is a pretty good start. If we keep this up, I'll be very happy.

46. Study 1 hour a day, 5 days a week for at four weeks in a row.
I'm attempting to tackle this goal right now. I did really good last week, and this week I have to study for a exam on Saturday. So hopefully I can keep the momentum going.

48. Start my blogging project for my boys.
This is started here and here. I had originally wanted to post every month, but it might be every other month. It's amazing how fast time flies.

51. Volunteer for something at my kid's school.
I signed Hubster up to volunteer. Is that the same thing?

Phew! I'm exhausted. I've been busy. At this rate, I should be done with everything mid-April. Or I'll just get really tired, dish myself up a big bowl of ice cream and work on my DVR list.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Oh, The Irony

This week, happiness was going to be the fact that winter was practically over. It has become warm. Like actual 60 degree warm, not just relative above freezing warm. The snow had nearly all melted...

And now it's cold again. It snowed last night. This is a lesson in patience. I must keep reminding myself that it is February and take a deep breath and look for something else to be happy about.

So, this week, happiness is all about irony.

Irony that I'm posting pictures about winter activities when there is practically no snow on the ground.

Irony that I'm sick of winter, but still forcing my children to enjoy it.

And the most ironic of all? That we lived in Utah for all those years, and our children didn't go skiing until we moved to Iowa.

Yeah, we're skiing!

Okay. Now what?

Go visit Leigh vs. Laundry for The Happiness Project and post a photo of something that makes you happy!


Sunday, February 20, 2011

Where do answers come from?

There pretty much isn't a single day that I'm not grateful for the internet. It's one of those things that I'm not exactly sure how life existed before it's creation. I rank it right up there with indoor plumbing, cars, and cappuccinos.

Parenting must have been much harder without the internet. How did parents do it? How did they answer the incessant flow of questions from their children?

Yes, there's the quintessential question about why the sky is blue, but that's amateur compared to the questions that I've been expected to answer lately.

Mom, why are they called marshmallows?
Mom, how did the Liberty Bell crack?
Mom, how long do goldfish live?
Mom, what does a platypus eat?
Mom, what is root beer made out of?
Mom, how many girl Transformers are there?
Mom, when did they first make Hot Wheels?
Mom, when did leap year start?
Mom, who first grew cherries?

Before the internet, my only option would have been the old standby plan of make something up and hope they never find out. But now, I can slip away, look it up and come back fully informed. Now, with the assistance of Google, I can keep up my image of the smartest mom ever.

I'm not looking forward to the time when the questions get a bit harder.

Where do babies come from?
Why doesn't she like me?
What were you and Dad doing?
What should I do when I grow up?
Can I borrow the car?

Despite my love of the internet, I'm not sure there is any search engine that will be able to help me then.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Expert Opinion

Eight years and eight months. That's how long I've been a parent. It's longer than I've been a doctor. Longer than I was in college. Longer than I've known about sudoku or blogging.

And yet, it's the one thing that I feel the most underqualified to do.

Maybe it's because my children are so different. What I thought I had learned with one didn't ever seem to apply to the other. One doesn't sleep through the night so I study sleep techniques. I'm all prepared for next time, only to have a baby that sleeps just fine, but doesn't eat.

Maybe it's because at my children keep changing. I finally figure out how to keep a 2 year old occuppied, only to realize that I don't have a 2 year old anymore, I've got a 3 year old, and the games and books that used to work are of no interest whatsoever.

Whatever it is, despite my eight years of "experience," I in no way consider myself an expert on parenting.

One of the things that sometimes fuels my insecurity with parenting is that fact that everyone else seems to be an expert. Everywhere I turn, there is advice on parenting. Magazines, blogs, books. The sources of advice is endless. Most the advice comes from people who seem to have no further credentials that "parent of two, ages 4 and 2" or "raised 3 children." And most the time, I feel like the advice is great! But if these people have gained enough experience in sometimes as little as 4 years to spread along the wealth, it makes me wonder what's wrong with me. Eight years into this, I feel like I don't have the right to hand out a single word of advice. I can offer sympathy, empathy, and understanding, because I've gone through sleepness nights with a newborn, potty training, and temper tantrums. But do I have any suggestions about what to do about those? None whatsoever.

When does it happen? When do I get my "Expert Parent" badge so that I can start passing out the advice?

I'm not an expert parent. I don't know how to help you cope with your child's fights at school or how to make transitions easier or how to potty train.

There is only one thing that I'm an expert at, and that's my family. I know what works for us. Our bedtime rituals, our morning routine, our weekend plans: I know they wouldn't work for anyone else. But the point of my parenting was not to determine what worked for everyone else. It was only to figure out what worked for us.

However, I'm only an expert on my family at this moment. Tomorrow, things may be different, and then the learning starts all over again.

Friday, February 4, 2011

The Great Blizzard

Usually, when the weather forecast is snow, the amount of snow that actually falls is quite a bit less than the meteorologist predicted.

That generality did not hold true for The Great Blizzard of 2011. At least that's what I'm calling it. I've lived places where it snows quite a bit. But I have still never seen anything like this...

This is what my family woke up to 2 days ago...

The blizzard swept through the Midwest and the East Coast. All of you that live in that area know what I'm talking about. The 18 inches of heavy dense snow, the strong winds, and poor visibility led to schools and businesses being closed.

But there was one problem. I was already at the hospital when the blizzard rolled through town. I'm doing night shift. So I left my house at 5:30 pm, as the storm was just starting. The roads were bad, but not horrible. I made it to work just fine. As the night progressed, the stories about the weather worsened just as quickly as the storm.

The next morning, the calls began. One surgeon and anesthesiologist after another called in, saying they couldn't get to the hospital. There were stories of 6 foot drifts, buried cars, and impassable roads. At first, the only people who showed up where those who had walked in (one fellow resident walked over a mile in knee deep snow to get to the hospital.) Then others showed up after their streets were plowed.

When 7 am rolled around and it was time for me to head home, I wasn't that worried. I had four wheel drive. I lived close to a store and a school, so I figured my neighborhood would be plowed.

Normally, I drive up a pretty steep hill to get into my neighborhood. So I decided to take a different street. However, after driving down the main street twice, I couldn't find the turn off for the street into my neighborhood. At first, I attributed it to fatigue, and tried again. And that's when I saw the street sign. In the middle of a snow bank. There was other evidence that the street was even there. I tried other ways into my neighborhood with the same result. No plowed roads. (Not even the steep hill I normally use was plowed: big surprise.) It was as if my neighborhood didn't even exist. I thought maybe, with my four wheel drive, there was a chance I could manage the unplowed road. I was wrong. This resulted in my SUV getting stuck and me having a crying session. I called Hubster, but he didn't have any great ideas. He was snowed in a mile away with 2 kids and a little 2 wheel drive car. What was he supposed to do? After finally somehow getting my car unstuck, I continued to circle my neighborhood, with the hope of somehow getting home.

The thought of having to turn around, go back to the hospital and sleep there felt too emotionally distressing. So I went as far as I could, parked the car in a snow bank on the side of the road, and walked home through the knee deep snow.

We're starting to dig ourselves out of this. Actually, I slept and Hubster dug us out. (Shoveling just half the driveway took over 3 hours!)

It's now 2 days later, and the roads are still terrible. The snow piles are taller than the cars. Our neighborhood (which didn't get plowed until nearly noon that day) is only single lane because of the banks of snow lining the roads.

Oh, and it's cold...

Even for a Utah girl, this was a big storm. If it snows again, the city will just shut down completely, because there is no place left to put snow.

I've realized that every once and a while, the meteorologist is right. I've realized that this year, Punxsutawney Phil may once again be wrong (at least it doesn't feel like there could be an early spring.) I've realized that Hubster really deserves a snow blower.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Tattooes, Fire, and Hornets

This triology seemed like it was everywhere. At every store, on every website, in everyone's hand at the pool and on the bus.

Which is honestly why I read it. Because everyone else was. I had no idea what the books were about. Reading reviews, I got the vague idea that they took place in Sweden and were supposed to be about corporate crimes and such. These are usually not the type of books that I read. But like I said, they were everywhere. So I read them.

I wish that I had written my thoughts about the books right after I actually read them. It's been several months and the details about the plot are getting a little fuzzy and the books have all run together. I'm not completely sure if I could differentiate things that happened in the first book from things that happened in the second book.

A basic overview from what I remember: In The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo, financial journalist Mikael Blomkvist has fallen in the public eye. Accused of libel and sentenced to serve time in jail, he is given the chance to clear his name by an elderly business man. The condition is that he needs to solve the disappearance of the elderly man's niece, who has been missing for nearly 40 years.

In The Girl Who Played with Fire, and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, Mikael Blomkvist is reinstated at his magazine and delves into exposing Sweden's sex trafficking business. However, the research runs deeper and involves more people than could be imagined. After the murder of the primary investigation, the story turns from interesting to personal.

And where is the girl in all this? Lisbeth Salander: tatooed, skinny, computer hacking, socially awkward misfit. Through bizarre circumstances, she ends up assisting Mikael Blomkvist with his research. Initially, her story feels separate from everything else. Her fight with social services, her difficulty with self identity and relationships, and ultimately her abuse, both by individual people and by the system. However, as the story progresses through the three novels, I found myself realizing that her experiences had everything to do with the story. The circumstances that lead to the disappearance of niece in the first novel, the culture around sex trafficking: it all pointed to how such terrible things could happen to Lisbeth Salander.

I'm not sure I could actually recommend these books. They are graphic and disturbing. Actually my biggest complaint with the books is much more trivial. I kept feeling that the novels were in desperate need of a good editing. There were so many details that felt completely trivial: e-mail addresses, descriptions of computers, explanations of RAM and bytes. There was also a abundance of Swedish locations, that may make the book more familiar to, well, Swedes, was just nearly oppressive for non-Swedes. The books were published after the author, Stiegg Larsson, passed away. With a post-humous publication, it doesn't feel appropriate to make alterations to the author's work. But it doesn't change my mind that it's what the books need.

These books were completely out of my comfort level. They were disturbing. They were occasionally too much to actually enjoy. But in the end, it was hard to put the books down and impossible to not cheer for the heroine.