Monday, December 28, 2009

I Need A Spark

It's been a while since I posted. I've been having a lot of issues with my diabetes, I spend most of my days feeling pretty under the weather, and it's kept me from getting a lot of things accomplished. I'm on insulin shots now - two different types, four times a day. My blood sugar numbers are excessively high, even with that. We keep adjusting the dosage but it hasn't helped so far. I'm starting the South Beach diet today, in hopes that this will help me. I'm dusting off my old profile on to chronicle my health and weight issues there. Feel free to find and friend me there if you're interested in following along.

I'm tired a lot. It makes it really hard to get things accomplished. Right now I'm really trying to just focus on my health, get that back in line at least a little bit, and then let the rest fall back into place again.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Pronunciation Station, What's Your Motivation?

Regional dialects are funny things.

My son, a kindergartner, occasionally brings home word lists as his homework. The word lists are comprised of 10 two or three letter words; we, the parents, have to read each word to him, and he has to listen to what we say and then write the word down on a separate sheet of paper. He's pretty bright and is already ahead of the curve as far as reading goes, so up to this point we haven't had any trouble with the word lists. Tonight, though, we hit a minor snag.

Me: "on"
Drake: "on. O. N."

Me: "men"
Drake. "men. M. E. N."

Me: "bun"
Drake: "bun. B. U. N."

Me: "leg."
Drake: "lehg?" Drake gives me this funny look, like, 'what's a LEHG?' "LEHG or LAIG?"
Me: "LAIG. Except it's really LEHG. I mean, we say it LAIG, but it's actually LEHG."
Drake: "LAIG? or LEHG?"
Me: "LEG. LEHG."
Drake: "leg. L. E. G."
Me: "and what is a LEHG?"
Drake points to his leg (LAIG!) and rolls his eyes at me like DUH MOM.

LAIG. Rhymes with AIGG. That's how we roll up in Chitown.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Parenting Lessons From Bing

It's been a hectic couple of weeks, what with trying to get my house fully decluttered by next weekend for this holiday potluck we're hosting, and with lots of crafting for the several craft fairs I'm in, and with lots of exciting things going on with Heritage Makers and my new clients, plus all of the usual craziness which abounds in my life. And don't forget it's the holiday season, and the kids are old enough to start hitting that CRAZY-EXCITED level... but then the weather is also turning colder, and everyone's stuck in the house, and boredom sets in; especially when mom's attention is otherwise occupied. And my attention has been everywhere but on my kids lately, thanks to the factors I mentioned mere moments ago. So they've spent a lot of time behaving exactly like you'd expect a 3 and 5 year old with limited parental interaction to behave; which is, to say, like a pack of wild animals. I do a lot less intervening and a lot more yelling than I'd like. As a result, I set myself down yesterday and had a nice chat with myself, at the end of which we decided that we... I mean, I... would make a concerted effort to banish yelling from my repertoire of disciplinary actions. After all, Michelle Duggar never seems to speak above a whisper, and look at how well-behaved those kids are! The crazy baby-making homeschooling mom hiding inside me wants so badly to emulate her family at times, you see.

The problem is, I'm not sure I'm wired to be a Michelle Duggar. Yelling is something I grew up with, something that seems to come naturally to me, a family trait, if you will. Most of the people in my family communicate primarily with raised voices; I'm not sure some of us know HOW to talk softly. Whispering is a lost art amongst my clan.

Then comes problem two: if I can't yell at my wild beasts, how DO I discipline them?? Beat the hell out of them? That doesn't exactly fit the vision of "kinder, gentler mother and happier family" that frolics in the fragrant meadows of my brain. This is how it's SUPPOSED to work: I stop yelling and communicate with them by speaking gently and politely requesting things of them, and they immediately appreciate my soft demeanor and pleasant tone and behave like lovely little Duggar clones.

This is how it works in reality: I politely and softly ask my children to do something, say, be quiet and occupy themselves at my parents' house while I finish the last bit of crafting I need to do for the craft fairs this weekend. They don't even acknowledge that I was speaking to them, and immediately start getting into things. They chatter nonstop and bicker and nitpick and knock the Christmas train off its tracks and we've been there five minutes and I have an hour's worth of work to do and already my parents are asking me pointedly "um, SO, how long are you staying today??" with a 'please get the hell out of here with your demon minions' tone to their voices. I am growing exasperated when, like magic, the kids settle down for a little while. I start working frantically and suddenly they want snacks, everyone wants snacks, multiple snacks, hot chocolate and ice cream (the MOOOON one!) and peanuts and rolos and pudding and kit kats and naturally, Grandma has all of this, and it's all stocked within easy reach of my children, who are adept at helping themselves. But they are NOT so adept at remembering that they now have to eat in Grandma's kitchen and can no longer eat downstairs while watching TV because Grandma has a new rug. AND IT'S WHITE. So then I find myself repeatedly asking my darlings to eat at the kitchen table, and I check on them periodically and all is going well until I realize that the plate of Cheetos, BRIGHT ORANGE PUFFY CHEETOS, that I just made for them a second ago is NO LONGER AT THE KITCHEN TABLE, and neither are my angels. "ARE THOSE CHEETOS DOWNSTAIRS??!" Crap. I just failed my self-imposed 'no yelling' rule. But I knew it would take work to break a lifelong habit, and the good news is I caught myself and remembered that I was making a concerted effort to be MLM (More Like Michelle). I correct my children, more gently this time, and the Great Cheetos Crisis of 2009 is successfully averted. But Drake is eating a giant grape Tootsie Pop (yes, at the same time as his Cheetos), and for some reason Grandma allows him to finish it downstairs. 'OK,' I think, 'it's HER rug after all.' But then a few minutes later Grandpa catches him wandering around on the new rug, dropping sticky grape sucker-bits all over, and nearly blows a gasket. Grandma quickly advises that she allowed this to happen, but clearly it was a bad idea, so Drake is ordered back upstairs. By now my stress levels are rising, all I want to do is finish my damn craft tiles so I can get the hell out of here, and my children are getting antsy again. My son wanders into the kitchen for yet ANOTHER snack and I tell him no, NO MORE snacks, you've had plenty and we'll be leaving in about half an hour and it will be dinnertime, you don't need anymore snacks. He argues with me and though I'm not yelling yet, I can feel the tension in my jaw and the snap in my voice as I begin to contemplate, once more, exactly HOW one is supposed to discipline children that never listen, and that argue and beg and whine and plead, if you can't scream at them when you've finally reached the point where debating with them is no longer an option. As he's arguing with me, he pulls a bag of marshmallows out and asks me if he can have some, and AT THE EXACT MOMENT I AM TELLING HIM 'DRAKE, NO, I TOLD YOU NO MORE SNACKS', he DUMPS A LARGE PILE OF MARSHMALLOWS OUT ON THE KITCHEN TABLE. The kitchen table, unfortunately, is where I am super gluing ribbons to the backs of my craft tiles, and he dumps the marshmallows RIGHT ON TOP OF SOME FRESHLY GLUED TILES. I fly into a rage, screaming at him about how I JUST TOLD YOU NO GODDAMNIT AND YOU DID IT ANYWAY, and in the process I inadvertently glue two of my fingers to the bottle of super glue.

My first day of MLM training is NOT going well.

We managed to get out of there relatively unscathed, although I AM missing a few layers of skin on some of my fingers now. In the car I decide that fast food is the dinner option for the evening, and I let the kids decide where we'll feast tonight. They are both unanimous in their choice of the Golden Arches. Hooray, no fighting, I think. Oh, how stupid of me. For when I ask them each what they want, they start fighting about EACH OTHER'S choices. Drake wants apple dippers instead of fries; Oksana wants fries. She screams at me, or him, I'm not sure which, "NO APPLES! FRIES!" Then she wants chocolate milk, but he wants apple juice, and they begin bickering about their drinks, and it doesn't stop even when i REMIND them that they both get to choose whichever they want and they don't need to have the same thing. Then she's trying to talk to him and he's making monkey noises over her, which prompts her to scream at him, and I lose it and scream over both of them. We've become one of those "she who screams loudest, wins" families. It's god awful. Time outs aren't even an option when I'm driving. At home, I can just send them to a time out whenever I'm about to lose my cool. At Grandma's, when I'm involved in a project, that's less easy, but still doable. On the road, or when we're out and about (for instance, when my daughter screams at me at the playground by my son's school for no good reason), time outs are not exactly feasible. Screaming at my children isn't always the best option either, especially when it's in public, but I'm at a loss as to how 'normal' parents discipline their children consistently. Yelling has become a good friend to me, but it's a bad friend, an unhealthy friend that runs with a bad crowd, and pretty soon I'll be chain-smoking and wearing hoochie clothes and riding home after curfew on the back of an older man's Harley, and then where will my children be?

I am contemplating the discipline problem as I drive home from McDonald's, my children still sniping at each other in the backseat, 93.9 (the Christmas Lite!) playing merry holiday tunes that I surreptitiously turn louder and louder so as to drown out the din from the backseat, when it happens. "You better watch out... you better not cry... you better not pout... I'm telling you why..." HOLY CRAP. I am missing out on a GOLDEN OPPORTUNITY here. My children are now, finally, both old enough to understand that Santa only brings presents to GOOD girls and boys! I haven't been making use of the time-honored holiday gift that Santa brings to parents every year: the gift of FEAR. It may be cliche to threaten your children with a lump of coal, but with god as my witness, I LIVE MY LIFE BY CLICHE. Thank you, Bing Crosby, for teaching me how to discipline my children this month. If anyone is qualified to give parenting lessons, it's you.

Post-Christmas, I will once more be struggling with the best way to discipline my darlings, and endeavoring to follow in the Duggar's footsteps. Until that jolly day, I will be using the big fat man with the long white beard as a tool of guilt and fear - just the way my parents, and their parents before them, did.

By God, I love the Christmas season.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Heritage Makers Digicrop, Events, and Specials

Man, there is a LOT of exciting stuff going on with Heritage Makers right now. I'm thrilled to share it with you! Here is what's happening this week:

1) There is still time to send out your custom holiday greeting cards - even easier using DIRECT SHIP from the website! Contact me if you are interested!

2) Our month of Holiday Hits specials keep coming! This week it is buy one, get a second half price on our GORGEOUS canvas posters. See this link for more details: (If you've been coveting our posters, this is a great price!)

3) I will be exhibiting at a couple of holiday bazaars this weekend. If you're in the neighborhood, please feel free to stop by and see me!

This Friday evening from 5PM-9PM, I will be exhibiting at Art 4 Soul in Homewood IL, during the Homewood Holiday Lights festival.

Art 4 Soul
18135 Harwood Ave.
Homewood IL. 60430

And on Saturday from 9AM - 2PM I will be at the Welch Tiger Bazaar and Kids Holiday Shop in Naperville, IL.

Welch Elementary School
2620 Leverenz Road
Naperville, IL 60564

4) Finally! I am hosting a digicrop out of my home in Lansing this Sunday from 10AM to 2PM.

RSVPs are necessary, especially if you would like to reserve one of our two computers. First come, first served so call me as soon as possible if you need one!

Cost for the event is $5 if you will be bringing your own laptop; $10 if you are reserving one of our machines.

If you have never attended a digicrop, it is the perfect opportunity for you to work on your projects (and finish up those holiday projects! Ordering deadline is next week to have them by Christmas!) AND to share ideas with other participants AND to get all your questions answered. I will be here to assist all of you the entire four hours at an extremely low cost! Snacks and drinks will be provide as well. Please RSVP to me via email or phone (both available on my Heritage Makers website) if you plan on attending. (At which point, if you need my address, I will provide it to you!)

I hope to see some of you this weekend! Please contact me if you would like any assistance with your holiday projects!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Holiday Hits, Week One

The holiday season is starting to get into gear, what with Thanksgiving this week and all, and it's about time you did your holiday cards, isn't it? ME TOO. Heritage Makers' fabulous sale on customized greeting cards ends tomorrow at noon (MST)! You can get your fully customized, personally designed greeting cards for as low as 79 CENTS if you order through me before then!

You do not need to have the cards CREATED by then; you just need to purchase the credits. They will be active on your account for a year, so even if the 100-card pack is most attractive to you but you don't send 100 holiday cards, you can still use those card credits throughout the year for birthdays, anniversaries, thinking of you's, get wells, sympathies, or any other occasion. This is a GREAT DEAL; don't let it pass you by!

(If this is your first purchase, remember that I can also get you a free month of our premium artwork, which means you can make your holiday cards EXTRA gorgeous at no additional cost!)

Call me before noon MST tomorrow to place your order! 773 860 1108.

Some folks have asked me what the cards look like... since they're completely customizable, they can look like anything you want! But if that's a little overwhelming and you prefer to work from a template, here are just a few examples of the MANY templates you will find in our gallery. Just drag and drop your photos in place, change out any elements you don't like, put in your own text and you're done! (Also, don't forget you can always call on me for assistance.)

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Anissa Is The Best Pickle You've Ever Had

Yesterday I was shocked. Today I am grieving. Yesterday I heard the news that one of my blogging friends, Anissa Mayhew, had a stroke (and then another) on Tuesday and is in the ICU.

I call her a blogging 'friend' even though I only met her a handful of times at the BlogHer conference last summer. Yet I call her a friend because she is one of those people who instantly becomes everyone's friend. She is the kind of woman who would toast us all with a "here's to those who love us well, and all the rest can go to hell!". She is vibrant, warm, funny, sarcastic, energetic, raunchy, sassy, and strong. She is a fighter. More importantly, she is ALIVE. You can feel the energy pour forth from her when you're around her. Hell, you can feel it pour forth from her blog entries.

I don't remember the first time I encountered Anissa's blog at, a blog about her youngest daughter's fight against leukemia, but stumble upon it I did, and I was instantly touched. Not just touched in the way that any of us would be for a family with such a fight ahead of them, but also impressed by her energy, her humor, and her strength. I was what you would call a lurker, but lurk I did, for quite some time. When I decided to go to BlogHer this year, Anissa was one of my personal 'celebrity' bloggers that I hoped to meet. Would I have anything to say to her? Would I even have the courage to approach her if I saw her? Probably not. But I was excited about the possibility nonetheless! Then I happened across a guest post she made on Karl's blog, Secondhand Tryptophan, and was compelled to leave a comment. She replied to me and told her I had to stop her if I saw her at BlogHer. Sure, no problem, right! (Secretly expecting myself to chicken out anyway! Because THIS WOMAN IS A LEGEND, y'all.)

And then I found myself at the Ford Ride 'N Drive event, a pre-BlogHer activity where many of us went on a fantastic tour at the Ford plant. And I found myself in a group with a vibrant, loud, sassy, funny lady who looked really familiar. Could it be? THE Anissa? Was it really her? Oh god. IT IS. I'm pretty sure it is! Isn't it? Do I dare go over and say hello? DO I?

I did. And she REMEMBERED MY COMMENT TO HER. And she was nice, and sweet (but still salty! like the best pickle you've ever had!), and friendly, and warm, and open, and everything that I'd imagined her to be from her blogs, AND MORE. And I know for sure that the world is a better place with Anissa Mayhew and her family in it.

Anissa has fought for so much in her life already that it is a shame, a crying shame, that she has another huge fight ahead of her now. But I know she will fight, because the very core of this woman is strength. I know she will overcome obstacles the rest of us could barely dream of tackling. I know this tiny powerhouse will work wonders, and I know she's due a few miracles by now; but at the same time, my heart grieves for her and her family that they HAVE to fight this fight. Anissa is only 35 years old. She has a husband who loves her and three young children who adore her, who NEED her.

God bless you and your family, Anissa. I am not much of a praying woman but I am praying for you all right now. Thank you for being the wonderful you that you are, and thank you for enriching my life.

For those of you that would like to help the family, and can, here is a link to do so:

Her husband will be posting updates on her progress at their family blog, and there may also be additional updates on her group blog, Aiming Low.

Please join me in praying for the Mayhew family.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Craft Fairs This Weekend

Hi everyone! Just a quick note to let you all know that I'll be exhibiting at two different craft fairs this weekend. If you're in the area and have time to stop by, won't you please come in and visit us? I'm sure there will be lots of lovely gifts for the season, and we'd love to see you!

Thanks for supporting local artisans in your community!

Sat Nov 21, 10AM - 3PM
Kahler Middle School
600 Joliet St / Route 30, Dyer IN

Sun Nov 22, 10AM - 3PM
The Community House of Flossmoor Community Church
847 Hutchison, Flossmoor IL

This is one of the craft tiles I made using Heritage Makers scrapbook pages, a ceramic tile, and Mod Podge. Quick, easy, beautiful!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Just Call Me Carleton Sheets!

There are a lot of homes in foreclosure in our neighborhood. The other day, OJ raised the possibility of purchasing one of them, one of the ones at a ridiculously low price, fixing it up, and either renting it out OR moving into it ourselves and renting this one out (the deciding factor being, of course, which house we like better and which suits our family's needs more at this time). We haven't really had a chance to discuss it since but this is not the first time this possibility has been raised for discussion in our married life (though I think it might be the first time HE has raised it, which you know means I'm chomping at the bit to MAKE IT HAPPEN, naturally, since it's been a dream of mine for years now!).

I don't know if this is something we are going to decide to explore at this exact moment or not. There is a lot of planning and work that needs to go into a decision like this and it might end up being the wrong time for us. I DO know that both of us are concerned about me being out of work and are looking for ways to bring in extra income once my unemployment runs out. (Yes, I know real estate and rental properties are not a 'guarantee' of income.) I DO know I have always wanted to buy real estate, own rental properties, and fix up houses. I DO know that it's been killing me that home prices are so low right now because I feel it is the perfect time to buy (because I DO believe home prices will rise again), and we haven't been in a position to buy.

It's been a while since I did any home-buying research because it kind of kills me to shop but not buy (this holds true for every kind of shopping, not just houses, heh; this is why I try not to GO shopping unless I have money to buy things). I know the internet is fallible, but I always turn to the internet to start my research because it's the easiest source - it's right in my living room, after all. Sorting through the muck can be difficult though, especially when it comes to something like foreclosures and buying homes. I love reading about people's personal experiences with things, so I'm wondering... do any of you have personal experience with buying foreclosed homes, fixing up homes, and/or being a landlord? Would you like to share your stories with us?

Here's what I'm NOT looking for. Comments like:
"Oh my god, don't do that!"
"you'll regret it!"
"buying a foreclosed home is a TERRIBLE idea!"
"fixing up homes is such a pain in the ass!"
"being a landlord is such a pain in the ass!"
and so on.

It should go without saying that those types of comments are opinions. As with ANY experience in life, YMMV (Your Mileage May Vary). Furthermore, what you deem to be a 'terrible idea' or a 'pain in the ass' might be something I love to do... the glory of life being we all have different opinions and different things we enjoy.

What I AM looking for is actual stories from folks with experience in this area, with pros AND cons they personally experienced. I love people's stories anyway (that's why I'm a Heritage Maker after all), and in this case your stories might help us, now or in the future!

Likewise, even if you have no personal experience in this area, but you have interest in it and you have a great resource to share (whether it's a blog or a great free foreclosure website or a TV show you like to watch), tell me about it! I might know it already, but then again I might not.

Thanks, everyone. Looking forward to this journey, whenever it happens for us.

photo by Gary Friedman of

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Give It Away, Give It Away, Give It Away Now!

Do you like free stuff? Do you like to win things? WHO DOESN'T?? Here's a list of giveaways and contests all around the 'net, as I come across them. If you are running a contest or giveaway, or have come across one you think should be featured here, please leave the URL in the comments! I will do my best to keep this list updated.

Contests / giveaway that you can enter daily are in RED.

Ends Dec 16, 2010, at 10pm CST

A Southern Fairytale's iPad Giveaway

Ends Dec 17, 2010, at midnight
Me As A Mommy's Kalorik Food Slicer Giveaway

The Baby Birthing Mama's Waffle Maker Giveaway

She's Mommafied's Baby Food Maker Giveaway

Mama B's Food Processor Giveaway

Baby Dickey's Steam Mop Cleaner Giveaway

Crunchy VT Mommy's Deep Fryer Giveaway

Ends Dec 21, 2010

Freddy In Space's Twisted Art of Jes Karakashian Giveaway

Ends Dec 24, 2010 at 11pm ET

Win a Carnival Cruise with BRET MICHAELS!

Being Thankful

It's time to fess up here and admit that I have another blog. Well, I have several other blogs actually, but the one in particular that I'm fessing up about right now is a livejournal account that I've had since 2001. It's primarily friends-only and at this point it's staying that way; I have cultivated a really great friends group over the years and it's become a great place for me to share a lot of my more personal details, my raw thoughts and emotions, and a lot more angst than I'm willing to share in this more public arena. I'll share a LOT here, but sometimes things are just too private for the entire world (yes, even for me, heh).

So yesterday morning I was feeling a little down and panicky for no good reason, and almost posted a real downer Facebook status (because one of the best ways for me to exorcise my mental and emotional demons is to WRITE THEM OUT and then I can move on)... but in a rare display of discretion, I decided Facebook was not the place for it. So I went to my trusty Livejournal and I posted "I'm really afraid I'm going to die before I am able to turn my life into the life I want to be living. And I just don't think that's appropriate as a facebook status so I'm posting it here instead. I guess I should probably talk about that in therapy tonight."

And in response, I got some really good thoughts, advice, and kicks in the butt from my awesome friends. Things like:

"I think most of us spend most of our lives trying to live the life we think we want. I try to focus on what's good now. Otherwise I would go crazy. When I do that, I realize I have it pretty good. Doesn't stop me from wanting to move home or wanting a professor job or criticizing my husband or generally wishing for more, but it helps."

"You can't do that & stay sane, I don't care how much therapy you go to. Live in the moment. Appreciate the eensy bittle things. Just LIVE every moment."

"Two of the quotes I have on my Facebook page:
"Be happy for this moment. This moment is your life." ~ Omar Khayyam
"To dream of a person you would like to be is to waste the person you are" ~ Unknown
I really try to live those quotes each and every day."

I really appreciate the encouragement everyone gave me yesterday about that post. I needed a little kick in the butt. It's hard sometimes to be thankful for what you have, and I guess sometimes I blur the lines between appreciating the life I have NOW (which is a pretty good life, most days) and the goals I want to achieve. Sometimes I get so hungry for those goals that I lose sight of the present and I despair pretty quickly. The therapy is more for THAT... not for making me happy with who I am, because really most of the time I AM - but for trying to deal with this intense need for instant gratification and the fact that I have trouble setting limits in my life. I don't know if it's the therapy, or the blogging, or ten years of ruminating and working towards it, but I finally feel like a lot of pieces are coming together in my life and I really do feel like I'm making a lot of progress on at least one of the issues that has plagued me for so long. (My clutter issues.) And I do feel confident that, once I get that under control, I can deal with roadblock two (my weight) and roadblock three (my finances). I feel more confident than ever that it really WILL all come together, finally. I still have times though where I get really impatient about it, or times when I get scared... especially in terms of my health. I believe I've mentioned it here before, but in case I haven't, I have Type II diabetes. I was diagnosed almost two years ago. It is VITAL that I lose weight and exercise more and eat better to get healthier, and I really feel like my house clutter is tied into some of that (letting things go is as hard for me as letting pounds go, and preparing healthy foods is impossible for me when my kitchen is a mess), and I do feel like I can't tackle my weight and health issues without getting the house in order first. I work on both to a small extent, but I know from past experience that if my house isn't in order, I just plain won't be able to work past that and take better care of myself. I don't know WHY that is; I just know that it is. So I'm working on it. But then something will happen, even if it's not something big; I'll have a day where I feel lousy, or I have this phantom arm pain that we haven't been able to figure out yet (the doctor thinks it's a stress/muscle issue but I really think it's tied into my blood sugar because it happens most often when my eating habits for the day SUCK), and I get freaked out about my diabetes and my health and the damage this could do to my body and the fact that I'm only 31 and I don't want to leave my family mother/wifeless and the fact that I'd really like to have another baby in a couple years but that cannot happen with the state of everything right now, but most especially with the state of my HEALTH (I will not subject my body to that stress in the state it's in now, I just won't, nor would it be safe for the baby), and then I get hung up on dying young and that's when I REALLY start to feel like everything is taking WAY too long to accomplish and I start to despair.

So I need to remind myself... baby steps. The baby steps I've taken have gotten me pretty far, and get me a little farther every day, and a little closer to my goals. I have to keep doing my best, and have faith that the universe and the powers that be will guide me to my goals, and not kill me off too soon (I hope!). None of us get any guarantees in life and we just have to do the best we can with what we have. I've certainly made mistakes in the past; we all have. I'm doing my best to recover from some of those mistakes, and most days now I feel like I'm doing a good job, and doing my best. Most days are good days.

There's an exercise on Facebook right now to post a new status every day from now until Thanksgiving about what you are thankful for. It starts out easy, but I'm sure it'll get harder as the days go on. It can be really hard to focus on everything we have to be thankful for. I'm taking the challenge because it's definitely something I need to do.

I'd like to invite everyone here to take some time to tell me what you have to be thankful for right now. We could all use some positivity in our lives, and a little bit of perspective; seeing what everyone has to be thankful for would be a great place to start.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Do you have your 2010 calendar yet?

Have you decided on a calendar for 2010 yet? What about Christmas gifts for family and friends - have them all picked out? If not, then you should check out Heritage Makers' November Pick Of The Month! This month you can get some great savings on BOTH of our calendars... the traditional 11 X 8.5 AND the brand-new 11 X 16!

As a bonus, you can add three months of our Studio Premier artwork to your account for only $44.95 - a 40% savings!

Personalized calendars make great gifts, and the customization options here are nearly limitless. Contact me here or via email for more information or to place your order today! You can also check out my website for more information.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Old Habits Die Hard

One day. One day can make a HUGE difference.

Yesterday I took one day off from the household routines I am trying to implement, the routines that I believe will keep my house clean. The routines that HAVE been, to this point, keeping the rooms in my house that I'd already finished, clean.

Well, I wouldn't exactly call it a day 'off' because I spent a good portion of the morning shopping for household items. But it was a day off in the sense that I did NOT do my routines at all, not even after I got back from shopping. After shopping, we took a family trip to the park and enjoyed the beautiful and unexpected 70 degree November weather we are having this weekend. Then we came home, had dinner, watched Bolt together, put the kids to bed, spent some 'couples' time gaming together, and had sleepovers with our children. No, the day was not 'off', nor was it wasted at all.

But in not doing my routines, I noticed that the house got mucked up in an almost unbelievable fashion. Especially the kitchen; the counters are covered in dishes and garbage and old food. From ONE. DAY. What a difference! Like a bomb went off.

Here is where old habits die hard. In the past, I have been TERRIBLE about cleaning up after myself. Terrible. I just leave things wherever they are when I am finished with them. (Including dishes and garbage.) This makes the cleaning process much more difficult when it is time to do my routines each day, because there is so much more to pick up all at once. Doing it as I go would likely be much easier. This SEEMS logical, yet it's a skill I appear to be lacking.

I've been working on it. I've gotten much better at throwing garbage out right away; taking dishes to the sink. Putting toys and books back when I'm done with them, and so on. Trying to encourage my family to do the same. We're all learning.

Yesterday was not such a good day in this department. Instead of wallowing in it, I am trying to be much more AWARE of it, so that I can see how damaging it is (and how quickly it filthifies the house!), and CHANGE it.

Starting now, with my daily household chores.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

cleaning when the kids are home is like shoveling when it's still snowing.

I am a bundle of nerves today. Cleaning the house with my entire family home is just not something I am handling very well. I know that it would probably be the best thing for all concerned if I just took a break from it and, after doing my daily maintenance stuff, just spent time with my family until tomorrow, when I'm alone and the kids are in school. But I just couldn't do that. The entire last month was a dearth of productivity around here, and now that I've got the time and my drive back, I feel an almost manic need to keep cleaning - keep cleaning - keep moving FORWARD, everything else be damned! I can't seem to stop but I'm certainly not blessing my family by screaming at them and I certainly don't feel very good, emotionally. I feel a bit like I'm jumping out of my skin today.

So I've been giving this some thought, because WHY would I feel that way if I'm moving forward and making progress? I think it's because I've hit a point where I see myself repeating old patterns and I am really fucking nervous that all of this progress is going to fall apart and I won't succeed at keeping the house clean YET AGAIN. I made it through all my morning tasks, and it was only for three rooms of the house but it felt like it took FOREVER, and I know I can't really use that as an accurate gauge because I was interrupted by kids and dogs and husband and fighting and general life chaos. This week I will have a much better chance to see how long my morning tasks will ACTUALLY take. But feeling like it was taking a huge chunk of my day to just do maintenance, and knowing that what I did today isn't even HALF the maintenance I'll need to do for the entire house, wasn't a reassuring way to start my day. Then, moving forward with the cleaning, it was nice to have my husband helping with some of the big tasks but then, of course, you find things that need doing that have been put off because of time, motivation, and because the house just hasn't been in shape to do anything about it. For instance: our upstairs bathroom faucet leaks every time we turn it on. Water seeps out from around it, and over time it's damaged our paint and it leaves it cruddy and corroded and it's just become gross. A definite problem that needs fixing. So OJ took advantage of the clean bathroom today and took himself off to the hardware store to get a new faucet. Then he came home and took the sink apart. So now there are tools and sink parts around the upstairs, and all the things that belong in the bathroom are in the dining room instead, and I KNOW, logically, this is for a good cause, but I feel like things are being derailed around me and it's really freaking me out. I hear this constant refrain of BACKSLIDING YOU'RE BACKSLIDING YOU'RE BACKSLIDING in my mind and I can barely stand it.

In the meantime, I'm working in the kids' room, and trying to declutter your children's bedroom (especially when they have as many toys as my kids do!) is always tough. What to keep, what to get rid of? And can you get rid of the stuff before the kids NOTICE? Doing it when the kids are home is especially tricky. I ended up throwing all their toys into boxes and moving those boxes into my room / the upstairs hallway so I can sort them one at a time. I've designated bins in their room for each 'type' of toy and I am doing my best to purge. The problem is, I'm already out of bins for the different categories of toy they have and I'm not sure how I'm going to solve that issue yet. I'm also out of time for sorting the rest of the stuff in the hallway because I'm going out tonight, so I have several boxes sitting in my once-clean hallway, freaking me out (BACKSLIDING BACKSLIDING BACKSLIDING!!). And I'm so nervous because I have done THIS EXACT process before, boxing things and going through them to purge and put away, shifting items from room to room; I have done this SO MANY TIMES in the past and it NEVER yields a clean house, so how can I expect it to now? I'm SO NERVOUS that I won't purge enough things to be able to keep this house in order, that I just won't be capable of purging ENOUGH, I won't be able to find places for everything I want to keep, I'm doomed to live forward surrounded by boxes and crawling over piles of THINGS. I feel like I'm stuck in that insanity loop again, doing the same things over and over, crawling out of my skin, CRAWLING OUT OF MY SKIN.

(Boy, I never expected this to turn into the CRAZY BLOG! Seriously, I just thought that I'd start this to help me talk about some of the dreams and goals I have, and talk about overcoming some of the things that I feel hold me back. I had no idea I had THIS MUCH of an issue with my stuff. My hope was that this blog would help other people who have the same troubles. Maybe it will. Right now it seems to have turned into something more like therapy for me though!)

The major difference here is that I am actually taking the things I'm purging straight out to my car, to donate to a charitable organization. I am NOT letting them pile up in my house, no way, no how, not this time. That is the one big difference here, the thing I've NEVER done before, and I am praying it is the thing that makes ALL the difference. I don't trust that process yet because I haven't ever done it before, but I really need it to work. If it doesn't, I don't know what else will.

In the meantime, I am going to do my best to try to deal with the horrible feelings I'm having about purging, and try to calm down about the fact that stuff is creeping out of the kids' room and the bathroom and into my other clean rooms, and trust that my husband will finish the job he's started and put everything back together, and trust that I will finish the kids' room tomorrow while they're in school and it will be much easier, and go out with my girlfriends and try to have a relaxing night of wHine therapy.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

a weight on my mind

It's a well-known fact amongst my family, friends and readers that I am a 'stuff' person. Since my youth, it's been safe to say I'm a packrat. In my adult life, I would even dare to admit that I have something of a hoarding problem. If you've read even a little bit of my blog, you know that I consider this to be one of the three main roadblocks that hold me back from achieving many of my dreams. Over the years, there have been times I've felt like I've made considerable progress with this problem... and times when I've felt like I've landed back at square one, doomed to forever be buried under mountains of clutter. Sometimes I lament the fact that I have too much stuff, and entertain fantasies of burning it all... or, in my less desperate hours, fantasize about opening my house in some manic "sell off my life" sort of estate sale. Getting rid of it all, and starting over at square one. Other times, I lament the fact that our house is too small and become intensely desperate to move to a much larger home. (Always after these thoughts do I kick myself in the butt; I do believe we need a larger space for our family, but it should NOT be because of STUFF!)

Recently I've felt, once more, that I've been making progress on this problem. I am at a place in my life where I can look back and realize that I HAVE made a lot of progress over the years. I still get frustrated, and I still backslide; if I were being honest I would admit to you that more than half of our home is currently practically unlivable due to the mountains of stuff in the rooms. I would also have to admit to you that, as recently as last week, our entire house was like that; it has only been in the past few days that I've managed to get most of the upstairs back into clean, uncluttered space. Despite the backsliding, and despite the fact that I sometimes feel like I'm living the definition of insanity (doing the same thing over and over but expecting a different result each time), I really DO believe I've made progress over the years. Here's why:

Certainly I'm no psychologist, but for me, keeping / hoarding all of these items is largely a mental issue. I have huge emotional ties to my stuff. I have spent probably the last ten years coming to terms with that fact, trying to understand it, admiring my friends and family who are minimalists, reading and studying the tenets of living a simple life, and working hard to embrace that philosophy myself. A lot of internal meditation and rumination has gone on for the past decade. I am at a place where I have accepted that I will probably never be a MINIMALIST, and indeed I don't think I WANT to be... but I don't feel a need to suffocate myself with THINGS anymore. I am comfortable letting things go, even things I once loved and treasured dearly. I have come up with ways to memorialize the important things and people in my life without needing physical mementos. I no longer feel panicky when I think of letting the majority of my things go. This isn't perfect, of course; there are still things I have attachments to, and sometimes when I'm purging I have to sit and really think about each item before I can part with it. And, of course, some things will be staying. But I feel now like I am choosing to surround myself with quality items; items that REALLY mean something to me, rather than boxes upon boxes of 'treasures' I have collected, 'treasures' which I never even saw because they were in piles or stacks or boxed in the garage or laundry room. I can't really tell you exactly how I got here, other than to say that I spent a LOT of time (ten years, at least!) thinking about it and trying really hard to get here. Pushing myself out of my comfort zone, time and time again. I also have to give a lot of props to Flylady and her system. I have been on and off the Flylady system numerous times in my life, and while I must say that to date, following her system exactly has NEVER worked for me... there are a great deal of small tips and tricks and philosophies of hers that I have picked up and follow religiously. I maintain a sort of control journal that helps me keep the house clean (when it's decluttered, which admittedly has been rare so far, but getting better!). I use my timer constantly, and often tell myself 'you can do anything in 15 minutes!'. (I work in a lot of 15-minute bursts, and when I get on a roll, those are some of my most productive days.) And her philosophies about decluttering... I've railed against them for years, but I've slowly come to realize she's right.

You see, Flylady strongly encourages decluttering... purging your things, giving them away to bless others (AND bless yourself by having a clean, decluttered life and home!). You can't organize clutter, she says. Well, that one was an eye-opener for me right away. If you're an organized person by nature, I'm sure you're thinking 'well, DUH' right now. Those of us that are NOT 'Born Organized' need these eye-openers sometimes! From the moment I read that one, it rang true. However, there was another part of her decluttering philosophy that took me years to accept. Flylady is vehemently anti-garage sale. Just give it away, she encourages her followers; you'll bless others and bring prosperity into your own life through your generosity. Garage sales are too much work and hassle and you don't get nearly enough return on the amount of work you put in. I agree with her "bless others and bring prosperity into your own life" philosophy, but I've stubbornly refused to hear her message about the garage sales. For at least FIVE YEARS now. Really; I even had a garage sale this year. I think I've had one every year since my son was born. Some years I may even have had two. The reason being that I feel like we need money to move ahead in life. Money to get out of debt, move to a bigger home to accommodate our growing family, achieve so many of my dreams. There is so much MONEY tied up in all this stuff I own that it has made me sick to just give it away. (Yes, I know about tax write-offs when you donate to charities; but somehow the idea of not getting an immediate return on my money just stuck in my craw.) It's been really immensely difficult for me to accept the fact that I wasted so many of my (and later, my family's) resources on so much useless stuff that I'm just going to TOSS now. So I've garage saled many hours of my life away; each time vowing never to do it again because it really and truly IS a pain in the ass. Then I've vowed to myself that I'm going to sell these things on ebay and craigslist! Maybe they didn't go in the garage sale but that's just because they didn't have the right BUYER! The internet reaches the whole WORLD; surely someone will see it and pay me what it's worth!

IF THIS SOUNDS FAMILIAR TO YOU TOO, LET ME STOP YOU RIGHT NOW AND TELL YOU: THIS IS A DELUSION. Unless you have some really awesome stuff. And by awesome I mean ACTUALLY antique or collectible (not just in your own mind). If you're like me and you have a lot of awesome-to-you stuff, but it doesn't hold a lot of monetary value, you're not going to get much for it. And you know what else? It's a huge hassle to post all that stuff! Let alone manage the inventory and then box it and ship it if it sells. Especially when you're trying to declutter and you're already surrounded by mounds of stuff. If I had a warehouse to store the sale items in, and I managed it like a job, it might work. But I don't; I'm working against myself, because I keep making piles of stuff to sell in different areas of my house, and then we trip over them and other stuff lands on them and before you know it I'm back under mountains of clutter.

So. It's taken me a good five years to admit it, but Flylady, YOU ARE RIGHT. The stuff has to just GO. I know I will be blessing others with these things, because a lot of the items are in good shape and are still useful. But it's not blessing me or my family right now. I DO believe that in helping others we open the door for more blessings in our own life. I have already packed my car with the first load of stuff to go out the door, and I really feel like I'm lightening the load in my home by purging things.

I believe this logically, and I am now at a point where I believe this 95% emotionally as well. But there is a part of me that is not at ease with it. Mostly because, as I mentioned earlier, so much of our money has been spent on this stuff that I am now tossing. It is truly a bitter pill to swallow, to know that I could have so much more in other areas, areas I YEARN to be further along in, if I hadn't wasted so much on 'in the moment' impulses in the past. This is a lesson I am still learning, and part of me still wants to try to make a 'recovery' from it by recouping some of that money. It really cuts me to have to admit that sometimes you CAN'T recoup losses like that. I can learn from my mistakes, and I can move forward. I'm trying really hard to move forward right now. I still have a huge problem with impulse control (that's what therapy is for!). I have a lot of regrets about this 'stuff', and tonight it is sitting like a lead weight in my stomach. I know I'm going to have more issues with this as I purge more stuff. I am, in particular, dreading my basement and garage because there is a LOT of stuff that I won't do well purging. A big part of me just wants this process to be OVER already. Most of me is ready. Part of me is still hanging on.

Through it all, I'm proud of the progress I've made. I'm hopeful that this time is FINALLY the time for me, the time that I will be on my way to a less cluttered, cleaner, less stressful life. I hope that I am able to come to terms soon with the regrets I have over wasting so much money in the past. I hope that releasing my things to bless others who need them really will bring unforeseeable benefits into our lives. I hope that I continue to get a better handle on my impulses so that I can live a more fruitful life and make smarter decisions every day, especially in the realm of finance. I'm having trouble seeing the long road ahead. I'm trying really hard to make everyday decisions that will help me achieve our long term goals.

I really, really hope that this time, finally, is the time for me to get over that first road block, for once and for all.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


All of my blogs sit neglected lately. I have plenty to say but can't seem to work up the right words, or don't make the time to do so, and then the thoughts start to feel old and stale. Then I start to feel like I've missed too much, can't get caught up, so I don't bother. Story of my life, a lot of the time. But hey, that's why I'm in therapy, to try to be a more productive human being.

I spend a lot of my time caught up in other people's lives. We're very social; it never seems like that much to me until someone remarks to me 'wow, you've got a lot on your plate' or 'wow, you spend a lot of time with your friends / being social / planning stuff' or 'hey, when do you take time for YOU?'. All of these being questions my therapist has asked me recently. Interesting things to mull over. I do take time for me, sometimes, but a lot of the time it doesn't feel like enough. Am I stretched too thin? All of these things, all of these people, they're important to me. How do you cut back?

It's the same problem I have with making plans and getting things accomplished in my life. I have a list of things I work on each day, and I rotate through them, spending half an hour on each thing. It started as a small list, with maybe 7-8 things...totally doable in a day, some of them maybe even several times a day. The list has slowly grown. As I sit right now, the list has... 25 things on it. 25 things I try to work on, half an hour at a time, rotating through slowly, in between demands from life, my kids, my pets, my husband, my house, my family, my friends, myself. If I make it through every item on the list once in a week I'm lucky. Once again I am plaguing myself with too many things to do, but I feel like I'm failing if I don't devote some time to all of these things occasionally, and I can't seem to prioritize. Cutting back is really hard for me. And now, with some of these things, deadlines are looming and I feel like I will fail if I don't get to them soon and time (mis)management once again has taken over my life.

I do the same things over and over again, expecting different results. We all know what they say about that. Every time I set them up, though, I tell myself I'm doing it a little differently this time... it's not REALLY the same method... this time I've hit on the magic combination that will work for me!

I'm still overweight, and not making much progress there. The house is still messy; we keep making tons of progress and then mucking it right back up. I'm back to pretending I don't have a basement (that's half my house, in case you're keeping track) because it's so messy again, and because my spider phobia is raging out of control BIG TIME lately. I'm convinced it's infested because it's a mess so I just try really hard not to go down there, or at least not to go down there alone. This makes a number of things in my life really difficult, but I'm not quite prepared to tackle that particular issue of mine just yet. I can't seem to keep on top of any progress made upstairs; every time we get it in shape, it seems to rage out of control again within a few days. I don't have a good method and I just don't know what to do about it. Financially, we're not doing so well either. We struggle still to live within our means; we have a good plan in place for paying off a lot of debt but I worry that we're just going to keep overspending beyond our income, charging stuff, and running those credit cards back up. We need to get things under control, and sometimes I feel like that's never going to happen.

I've never been the most patient person. I don't do well looking at my long-term goals and applying them to my actions TODAY. It's difficult for me to limit myself, and it's difficult for me to fight my immediate wants without feeling very bitter over things I don't or 'can't' have. I'm trying really hard to overcome this. It's one of the things I'm addressing in therapy. I'd like to be a happier person. I'd like to remain constantly excited about my long-term goals (and I do have them, of course!) and have that help me be more pleasant when it comes to passing things up in the NOW. I'd like to be happier with living a more simple life. Sometimes I'd like to BE living a more simple life.

I'm just not always sure how to get there.

Don't get me wrong, I do have days when I feel very productive and feel like I'm making progress. I'm not always feeling bitter or down in the dumps. I'm more contemplative than anything lately, really. I'm just working really hard to make positive changes in my attitude and in my life, while still trying to overcome those things I perceive as roadblocks to my goals, and I get frustrated a lot that it doesn't seem to be happening very fast. Sometimes I can't help but wonder if it's ever going to happen, and if it doesn't, can I be happy with what I have? That's a tough question. Sometimes we need to ask ourselves tough questions in order to move forward. Sometimes the way forward isn't exactly what we envisioned it would be. Maybe by being happy with what I have, I will open myself to greater bounty from the universe. Or maybe I just waded into a giant pile of metaphysical horseshit.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

What is it I do again, exactly?

Ever wonder what I do as a Heritage Maker? This video will help you understand. We take pictures to chronicle the things we see and do in our lives. But snapshots abandoned in a basement (or on your hard drive!) tell no story. You might think you will never forget what it was like to buy your first car or to bring a new baby home from the hospital but as the years pass, memories fade! Check out my all-new website, , to learn how I can help you preserve those memories... forever.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Things They Don't Tell You About Being A Parent

You wade through your first pregnancy, uncertain, unknowing. Every little thing is cause for suspicion, worry, doubt. You've never done this before. Is this normal? Was THAT normal? Can I do this?? Never mind that countless women before you have done it, many a time, and been able to handle it. Will YOU be able to handle it? Other women lurk eagerly, gleefully sharing the worst of their stories, the worst of others' stories. A sort of pregnancy hazing, if you will.

The worry and fear is counteracted by the wonders of life within you, growing, swelling your stomach (and feet, and cankles, and booty...), twirling and swirling inside you. It feels like eternity, and then one day you have a baby. And it's grueling; harder than you ever imagined, but it's also something you can do, something you DID, and after it's over you think 'that wasn't SO bad...I could do it again'. And then they give you your baby, your miracle, and you know love like you've never known it before. Suddenly nothing is the same.

Parenthood is a sort of club, it's true. You don't necessarily get special privileges for entering this club, but it IS a club because it changes the way you see the world so completely that you can't ever really relate to people without children the same way again. Shortly after that first child enters your life, you can't imagine your life without them in it. You can't really remember what life was like before they became a part of it. You feel everything more deeply. Love, yes, love takes on entire new dimensions that you can never explain to a childless person... but so does fear. Anxiety. Worry. Things you never even imagined as possibilities now become dangerous. Walking on the second floor of the mall, you find yourself standing as far from the guardrails as possible because WHAT IF YOUR BABY FELL? Nevermind that it's virtually impossible for it to happen. Every person becomes suspect; danger lurks around every corner.

You do everything you can to nurture that child. Breastfeeding is so much harder than they ever told you it would be... and everyone told you it wouldn't be easy. You try everything, and eventually you give up, frustrated. You go back to work in six weeks... six weeks that seemed like they'd be FOREVER when you were pregnant. You'd be home and you'd love your baby and when your baby napped, you'd get so much done! All those projects you didn't finish before baby came! But that six weeks FLIES by. You still haven't mastered breastfeeding with baby, and suddenly you have to leave baby for more than 8 hours a day. It kills you. It hurts to leave so much more than you ever thought it would. There are tears, most of them yours. You try so hard to pump at work but it never takes, and you give up after a month, frustrated. You've produced more tears than breastmilk at this point.

Those first years go faster than you ever imagined... pregnancy, so interminable when it is happening, seems (in retrospect) like it just flew by. All those first milestones, gone in the blink of an eye. You have another baby, shortly after your first one turns two. The first was such a good baby, so easy, so full of joy and accomplishment, so smart, the best baby in the world, no one else has a baby that is as amazing as yours. So you have another. You worry less during this pregnancy; after all you've done it before. You know what to expect. They're all different, and you get a few curveballs, but nothing you can't handle. Labor comes and you are quickly reminded how much it sucks, but you make it through and here is your second child. Your second child, you think in your private heart, is quite funny looking. You worry that your baby is ugly. You worry that you're a terrible person for thinking you have an ugly baby. You love your baby anyway, and as it turns out, your baby really isn't ugly at all, at least not after the first month or so. Your baby is adorable, and full of personality.

Your first was so easy, you thought the second would be too. And the baby is a good, easy baby. Integrating that baby into the rest of the family, when you already have a toddler, is nowhere near easy. You're home alone, trying to tend to two young children. Breastfeeding takes ALL your time. And you forgot how hard it was, and how much it fucking HURTS. You only have six weeks, again, before you have to go back to work. Baby number two is a champion nurser, a comfort sucker, wanting to nurse all the time. You sleep even less than you did the first time. You cry a lot. You dread every latch. You worry that you are neglecting your first child because you can't spend much time with him. You worry that he will hurt himself or something will happen while you're stuck tending to baby two. You wonder how people ever manage to have more than two children, because you can't even hack TWO. You cry some more. And somehow, those endless first few weeks smooth out and it starts to work. Then you have to go back to work, and it all changes again. Pumping doesn't work, AGAIN. You get so angry and frustrated that you aren't home with your child, that more businesses don't make it possible for mothers to work with their children, to spend more time with their babies. Six weeks is NOT enough. You wish you were home, constantly.

And the next couple years fly by. You do good things, you do bad things. You have wonderful days; wonderful moments with your family that you will never forget. You marvel at how smart your children are. How different they are from each other, how they learn at different paces, each beautiful and brilliant in their own way. They say pithy things that make you laugh for hours. They are both gorgeous; the second one, the one you worried would be ugly, becomes so beautiful that you can't stand it. Even admitting your parental bias, you know she is an incredible beauty and you worry. Constantly. Worry about the future. Worry about that old saying about people being 'too beautiful for this world'. Worry about her dying. Worry about both of them dying, because it's a parent's worst nightmare, and suddenly you can see it happening around every corner if you don't make yourself stop looking sometimes. You read stories about child abuse, about horrible things people do to their children, and you can't erase these thoughts from your head. You hear them, and you cry for the children of the world, and you cry for your own children even though they have never known these nightmares, because it is too painful to even try to comprehend that there are people out there who would do such nightmarish things. You can't wait to get your arms around your children once more, and hope that you will have all the time in the world to give them as many hugs as you can stand.

Then there are days when you would cheerfully murder them yourself. Days when they constantly pick at each other. Days when they won't stop whining. Or crying. When they disobey you and talk back and throw screaming tantrums on the floor at Kohl's, tantrums you swore YOUR children would NEVER throw. Days when everything is a fight and they get on your last nerve and you have to grab your leg so your hand doesn't reach out and smack them in anger. It's worse when you think it's going to be a good day... when the morning starts bright and beautiful, and your son (now a kindergartner) heads off to school in a cheerful mood. You and your daughter return home and have a lovely day. You pick your son up from school and almost immediately the fighting and the disobeying starts. Every little thing, no matter how innocuous, is cause for whining, crying, screaming, tattling. Playing inside, they can't get along. Playing outside with the neighbors, they fight and get hurt and swear everyone is hurting everyone else on purpose, even though you're pretty sure all the wounds have been accidental. If one isn't crying, the other one is. Frustrated, you decide to take them to McD's for dinner... you won't have to cook and they can play in the playplace. Everyone wins. But even this is cause for contention and crying. 'We don't WANT to go to McD's, we want to PLAY OUTSIDE!!' Except playing outside is threatening Mommy's sanity, so you force them into the car for McD's anyway, feeling like you've entered some bizarro world where you have to FORCE children to go to MCDONALD'S and SHUT UP AND HAVE SOME FUCKING FUN ALREADY. Your head spins as you drive, feeling as if you should punish your children for bad behavior but knowing your husband is working late and you'll have them to yourself all night and you just need a little break because it's only been two hours since school ended but it was two hours of endless crying, fighting and whining, and you just can't take it anymore.

And at McD's you find a little bit of peace. Ironically. It's dinnertime and virtually no one is there. It's quiet. Your children, who spent the last half hour protesting the playplace, now can't wait to play. They have fun. There's no whining, no crying, no fighting. You have a book. They are corralled and can't get out. It's amazing. You were only going to stay a half hour but you let it stretch to almost an hour and a half because it's so damn nice. Nothing is getting accomplished at home, but who cares? There's no whining! Crying! Fighting! Screaming! At the very end, it starts again, and you make them leave. There is a lot more crying as you compel your children to put their shoes on and get out and into the car. There is crying and bickering all the way home. It's a five minute drive but you feel like you might lose your mind again. How do people DO this, day in and day out?? (If you ever want to torture someone, put them in charge of two screaming, fighting, whining children. That will do it for sure. You'll have a full confession within 15 minutes, even if they didn't do it.) You get them home, and decide that an early bedtime is necessary. You're ready to snap, but somewhere in the back of your brain your rational mind is whispering to you that they're overtired, they need rest, and early bedtime will help you stay sane too. They lose story privileges because they aren't listening to a damn word you say. You're almost ready to break out the spanking hand again, since time outs aren't working, but then you think of the children who are abused, the stories you've read and heard. It breaks through your anger, your own exhaustion, and instead of spanking, you hug and console your overtired, worn out children, tuck them into bed with hugs and kisses, and maybe you even shed a few tears. For yourself, and for the children who are hit instead of hugged.

And you tuck your little demons into bed, and you love them fiercely even though they've run you ragged that day, and even though they still aren't getting story time tonight. And finally the whining and the crying and the fighting stops and you have blessed silence in the house. Silence never sounded so beautiful.

And then you go to the grocery store one day and you see a frazzled mom, standing at her cart in the checkout line with three little girls, and the one in the cart is crying, crying, CRYING, at the top of her lungs, sobbing, 'I don't wanna be in the cart, mommy, I'm sorry mommy, let me out mommy, I don't wanna be in the cart'. And you know that mother's exhaustion, her pain, her anger, her frustration. You've BEEN her before. But there you are, at the grocery store, without your children, watching her, and your eyes are filling with tears because the little one's pleas remind you of your children at home, and you want nothing more than to drop everything you're holding and run home and hug them tight, squeeze them, fill them with love. Even though, if it was you in the store with your kids, you'd be grabbing your leg so you didn't smack them.

There are a lot of days when I don't feel like I can hack it. Where I sit, feeling so overwhelmed by the whirlwind of chaos around me, and my children are screaming and crying and I'm supposed to be the responsible party but in reality my head feels like it's spinning and all I can think is 'wheeeee i've gone craaaazy' and I'll think to myself 'i can't do this, why did I ever do this, how am I supposed to raise children i can't HANDLE this and I'm going to do the wrong thing, like NOTHING, nothing is definitely the wrong thing to do and yet I'm standing here doing NOTHING' and somehow I make it through the day, again, and I close the day with a bottle of wine and the worries of two lifetimes sitting on my shoulders, knowing that I won't know if my actions or inactions have messed up my kids irreparably until it's too late.

There are so many things they don't tell you about being a parent. ('They', of course, being other parents.) You hear people say that all the time, with a sort of accusatory tone, as if there should be a new-parent manual somewhere. And there are, countless manuals, in the bookstores. But if you read every one of those manuals, you would get a different story. And even if you read between the lines and put all those stories together... you still wouldn't know everything. Because it wouldn't be YOUR story. And because... because I believe that there are some parts to being a parent that you really cannot prepare people for, no matter how much we write about them. Looking back on everything I've written, it sounds like a pretty terrible picture. I had a really lousy afternoon with my kids and I'm closing this day with a blog entry and a bottle of wine and the feeling that this day is one of those many days 'they' don't tell you about before you become a parent. But I don't blame them for it. Because they've TRIED to tell me. I've read blog entries like this, books like this. I've read them and laughed and sympathized right along with them. But I'll tell you what... if you're not a parent, you won't really understand this until you've lived it. I read these things before I had kids, and I didn't. And once you are a parent... you forget these moments, eventually. Like labor pains. You know they weren't great, but you kind of forget. You remember it was work to get to the good stuff... but what you remember, overall, is the good stuff. The good feelings. The benefit you got from the work. THAT's what you remember.

Being a parent is a mass of contradictions. So many moments during the day are excruciating. Sometimes the entire day is excruciating. But the good stuff, in the end, always comes in and saves the day. You know there was work involved. Some days a distant memory breaks through and you shudder and think, vaguely, 'thank god THAT's over', or 'how in the world did I ever make it through THAT?' But it's over, and you've let it go, and moved on firmly into the realm of the good stuff.

We flounder through so much as parents. Even when you know all the other parents go through the same things... some days you feel completely alone. Some days Mr. Moscato D'Asti is the only one who knows what you've been through. Some days you shake your fist and scowl and mutter "they never told me THIS about being a parent", as if that would have made you decide NOPE, THAT'S IT, I'M TOTALLY NOT HAVING A BABY NOW. Next time you think that about 'them', think of all the things they DID tell you about being a parent, and think about whether or not it would have changed your mind. 'We've' been telling everyone all along just how goddamn hard it is to be a parent.

But what we see, what all of us see, is the rewards. And it is the rewards, more than anything else, that get us through each excruciating moment. Not Mr. D'Asti. Not your friends. Not 'their' advice. It's the rewards.

My two rewards are tucked snugly into their beds right now. I sit here and hope that tomorrow will be a better day. But I know that, even if it isn't... I love those two rewards more than anything in my life.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

I don't even know where to start...

So I'm just jumping in! There's been a lot going on lately, not least of which is that as of Friday I AM UNEMPLOYED. Yes, my position was eliminated. Also, my son starts kindergarten tomorrow. I am home in the morning to take him for his first day (which lasts two hours), then I am going in for my last afternoon in the office, to turn over any loose ends, clean out my desk, and say goodbye.

Obviously there's a lot to sort out, and this will bring a lot of changes for my family. Once I get my new routine in place, you can expect to see a lot more of me here.

Also, I am moving forward with my idea of a couple weeks ago and selling my stuff on ebay. Not ALL of it, but a lot of it. Trying to drastically simplify my surroundings. When I think about what I want to do with my life right now, it's fairly simple. I want to write, and I want to craft. (Of course there are many other things, that's why I'm the lady of a million dreams, but those are the things I'm currently most empassioned about.) So I will be focusing on blogging and Heritage Makers in the coming weeks, and we'll see where that takes me.

To that end, OJ and I tackled a couple major projects this weekend. We procured a computer cabinet for the dining room so I could have an honest-to-goodness WORKSTATION, something which I have been sorely lacking (I found that I could fritter away endless hours on facebook and video games while hunched over our bar, but it didn't work so well for getting actual WORK accomplished). We then proceeded to completely declutter the dining room, dump a TON of paper (yes, that was very hard for me, you know it), and move my computer upstairs. The only thing left to do in the dining room is mop the floor (OJ is out buying a new mop head right now), and it'll be done!

I don't have any 'befores', but I did post some pictures of the computer cabinet in my twitstream, which also gives you a little glimpse of some of the in-progress work...and here's the 'after' video:

Friday, August 28, 2009


The Photo Friday challenge today is 'seaside'. This is one of my favorite seaside photos. Just a couple of Chicago kids enjoying the beach in Pensacola, Florida on New Year's Day. It was chilly, choppy, and windy - and we were thrilled to be there.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Casablanca Cheesecake

I decided some time ago that I wanted to re-christen Fridays as 'Piedays', but never got around to it. Today, however, is the day. The day I kick off Pieday by making...cake. Cheesecake, to be precise, which has plenty of similarities to pie, so I say it counts.

I enjoy cooking, especially baking, but rarely carve the time out of my busy schedule to indulge in the art. Pieday is an excuse for me to experiment, play around, teach my kids how to cook, make tasty treats, and build lasting memories. The whole point of cooking, for me, is to HAVE FUN. Enjoy the process. Mix it up, change things to suit you. Create delicious, long lasting memories for your family. That's what I'm working to do! I hope that Piedays will help you do the same.

I'm a huge fan of a good cheesecake. Call me a snob, but I have always felt that commercial cheesecakes pale to the homemade variety. (Yes, even Eli's.) Don't get me wrong, I'll still EAT them! But a good homemade cheesecake is really not that difficult to make, and beats the store-bought variety every time.

I've tried a variety of different cheesecake recipes but continue to come back to this one as my tried-and-true favorite. As a bonus, it actually makes enough for TWO 9" cheesecakes (though I've found it best to bulk up the crust and topping portions as they don't quite stretch to make two cheesecakes; you don't have to double them, but they need a little more than is listed here to be truly delicious). Given the heaviness of the recipe, it's purely an occasional treat, but definitely worth the time.

You should know I am a kitchen fiddler. I can't just leave my food alone. I'm always changing something in my method, even with recipes I've made countless times...drawing on my own experience and the experience of others (dear internet, I love you) to try and make things better.

For example, with this recipe, I changed the type of pan I used this time, for two reasons. One was that I couldn't find my springform pans. The other was that I wanted to use a waterbath this time, since in the past the cheesecake has cracked a little bit and has not cooked evenly. I'd never cooked with a waterbath before and wanted to see how it turned out. Then, obviously, the waterbath was a second new variable for me this time. And then there's my oven. We have a fairly old oven that came with the's from Montgomery Ward, and those of you in the Chicago area should probably have a good idea of how old the damn thing must be just from hearing that. (They went out of business ten years or so ago.) Recently, it has started giving us trouble where the gas will come on but sometimes it won't start heating up, and we have to kick it or bang on the gas pipe to make it work. And sometimes it stops heating in the middle of cooking your food and you have to kick it some more. So I had to be ever-vigilant while the cheesecakes were cooking (about three hours total in the oven for both of them, since I cooked them separately.)

My kids had a great time helping me with the crust. I just double-bagged some graham crackers and let them have at it. 'Make them into crumbs!' I instructed, and they did - using kitchen utensils, their hands, their feet, even their butts.

Using their carefully crafted crumbs and the other crust ingredients gives me a base of deliciousness.

Then it's time to mix up the filling. More than two pounds of cream cheese, 7 eggs, heavy cream, sugar, and more...there's a reason I only makes this cheesecake once a year or so! But it's OH SO GOOD. And yes, we DID lick the beaters, even with the 7 eggs in it.

Then the pouring and the waterbath and the baking. The baking is a long and tedious process, and as I described above, I had to be even more vigilant than usual due to my oven's recent tendency towards not-working.

While the first one was baking, I mixed up the sour cream topping.

Baking with the sour cream topping.

The first one looked a tad underdone (but I took it out anyway because it's hard to tell with cheesecake, and it's possible it was PERFECT and would set up nicely) I left the second one in a bit longer and ended up with just a little more browning on top than I like to see.

I cooled them each on the counter for an hour, then in the fridge for an hour, then froze them for an hour. Which I normally wouldn't do but a friend suggested it would make them much easier to remove from the silicon pans, and I've eaten many a frozen cheesecake before so why not? Also, since I'll be driving one of them an hour to Girls' Night Out, freezing didn't seem like such a bad idea.

(Don't you love to see inside people's freezers? It looks like we live on Icee Pops here. Really, this is what happens when you buy a giant box of them at Sam's Club. And this is after we've eaten about HALF OF THEM. Lasts all summer!)

As it happens, the first one is WAY underdone. :( That's also the one the oven crapped out on me for in the middle of cooking, and I probably should have left it in considerably longer to compensate. I didn't trust my judgment and pulled it out too early...always trust your judgment!! (And, as you can see, it cracked on the top. Which did NOT happen until it was out of the oven, actually, and I blame the silicon pans for that. They're pretty bendy and it's really hard NOT to jiggle the cheesecake when moving it.)

The second one, despite browning nicely on the top, is even a tad underdone in the center. Unfortunately there were too many new variables today for me to pinpoint one of them. Was it the oven's wackiness? The silicon pans? The waterbath? I just don't know.

Regardless, they taste pretty good (though the texture of the first is displeasing and I've had to promise my husband a new cheesecake, oh darn). I'll see what the girls think of the second one at Girls' Night Out tonight. Watch my Twitter for updates :).

Now...would someone like to donate a new oven to me for better results on future piedays? I'll bake you a delicious cheesecake in it as payment!

This recipe comes from the book 'Goddess In The Kitchen' by Margie Lapanja; one of the few cookbooks I have read cover to cover, and I love it dearly. Full of inspiration, historical tidbits, and magickal flights of fancy, it's a delight to pore over every page, even if you never cook a single thing from it. (Though your tastebuds would certainly be missing out if you didn't!)

Margie Lapanja's Casablanca Cheesecake

2 1/2 cups graham crackers or vanilla wafers, crushed (I go for the graham every time)
6 tablespoons melted butter
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

2 1/2 pounds cream cheese (the real stuff; no substitutes), at room temperature
1 3/4 cups sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly grated lemon zest (I actually prefer it without)
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons unbleached white flour
5 whole eggs plus 2 egg yolks, at room temperature
1/2 cup heavy cream or evaporated milk (I have always used the cream)

1 1/2 cups sour cream
3 tablespoons sugar
1/ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
pinch of salt
fresh fruit for garnish (optional)

To prepare the crust, mix all ingredients together in a small bowl with a fork. (An easy way to crush graham crackers is to double bag them in plastic and attack them with a rolling pin. (or let your children at them - K.)) Using the flat bottom of a glass or measuring cup, press the crust mixture on the bottom and partially up the sides of a 10-inch springform pan (lined with parchment, if you wish. (I used a 9-inch round silicon pan this time, for reasons detailed above. -K)) Chill while preparing filling.

Preheat over to 400 degrees F. Make the filling: In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese until fluffy. Add the sugar, vanilla, lemon zest, salt, and flour, and beat well. Add the eggs and yolks, one at a time, beating or whisking after each egg. Gently blend in the heavy cream. Pour into pan. Bake at 400 degrees F for 10 minutes, reduce temperature to 225 degrees F, and bake for an additional hour and 10 to 20 minutes.

While the cheesecake is baking, whisk all ingredients for the topping together in a small bowl. Without jiggling the baking cake too much (no quick moes), gently spread the topping over the cheesecake. Increase oven temperature to 400 degrees F and bake for another 5 to 7 minutes. To check for doneness, touch the top lightly with your finger. (Note the precise baking time for your next cheesecake adventure.)

Cool at room temperature and refrigerate for at least a few hours before serving. A garnish of fresh fruit always adds a classic touch.

Serves 1 to 10 and many memories.

The book has since been re-released under the name "Romancing The Stove". I highly recommend picking up a copy!


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