Thursday, December 20, 2012

Sing Out Loud (Even If You Don't Know the Words)

Confession: I have not been looking forward to blogging this week because for once, I am speechless (you might want to record this moment as it may never happen again).  Like the rest of America, I feel like everything I take for granted, everything I thought was safe, is now uncertain and scary.  I have felt this way only a couple of times in my life (9/11 was one) and I find myself leering up at God, thinking, "So, you really know what you're doing, huh?  Got this under control too?"  

And of course, He does.  As Americans, we have this hefty sense of entitlement that leads us to believe (falsely) that this life should be smooth sailing, if only we try hard enough to do the right things. The whole "what goes around comes around" bit. He never promised it would be easy or safe or fair...only that He would be with us to the ends of the earth.  

So where does that leave us?  I can only speak for myself.  This week's tragedy has reminded me that my children don't really belong to me.  They have just been loaned out to me for safe keeping.  I don't know what their futures will hold, or what tomorrow may hold for that matter.  The only thing that I have control over is their reality right here, right now.  

This week, the little people have been unleashed upon me for Winter Break.  Hooray!! (Sounded pretty sincere, right?)  Seriously though, as I listen to Lilah beg for gum (we are looking for a PreK twelve step program) for the 500th time that day, Savannah clinging to my leg, whimpering desperately each time I try to walk the dog (late onset separation anxiety??), I find myself breathing a little deeper.  Relaxing the tiny muscles in my forehead.  And speaking softly with compassion.  As I walk by them with laundry spilling out of my arms, I spontaneously smell and kiss the tops of their little heads.  They still smell like babies to me. I think to myself, "You are so precious to me with your loud voices, grimy fingers, and ridiculous fashion choices (flip flops paired with a wool coat)." 

We all do that after the unspeakable happens, don't we?  Talk a little sweeter and softer...take a minute to notice the blessings that are in front of us.  

Here was my blessing for the four year old singing a song that makes her sound like a cougar trying to reel in fresh meat.  Before you judge, we do NOT listen to songs in my car that frequently use the word "baby"in reference to the opposite sex, I promise.  Lilah learned this little gem at the cheer-leading camp she attended with her big sister.  They now love Ms. Carly Rae Jepsen more than the Chipettes (Alvin's Lady-friends), which is saying a lot.  This is Lilah enjoying the heck out of "Call Me Maybe" and not at all sure about the words.  Hope it puts a smile on your face! 


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

My s#@% is Highly Sensitive!

Yesterday, as I was enjoying a leisurely trip to the urgent care center with the Grinch, a.k.a. my youngest daughter, who was sporting a very high fever and some suspicious lesions on her throat, I did something very, very naughty.  Something strictly at odds with my moral code.  Let's just keep this tidbit of information between us.  

I ripped a page out of the November 2012 issue of "O" Magazine and shoved it in my purse.  

My oldest daughter looked at me quizzically and said, "Mama, why are you tearing that out?"  

"Because it's very, very important to me. Shhhh...."  Real nice, right?

I will not be held responsible for my actions.  Spending four days nursing a tiny, mean person and cleaning up said person's vomit is enough to push any good citizen to the edge.  If you don't believe me, just try it (come over right now.)

The reason behind my evildoing is that I was instantly so overcome with emotion while reading this article that I had to have it.   Has that ever happened to you?  You read something and it's like a lightening bolt shoots down from the heavens and you know, "That's about me!"

The article, "How Thin Is Your Skin?" is adapted from The Highly Sensitive Person, by Elaine Aron, PhD, who has been studying highly sensitive people for more than twenty years.  You may be thinking, "Great! Just what we need, another diagnosis."  And you are right.  We live in a world that is flush with psychiatric illnesses and medications.  But, HSP is not a disorder because it affects too many people.  Between 15% and 20% of the population have this highly sensitive personality trait.  Do you?

Take a peak at the questionnaire Dr. Aron has developed to indicate whether or not a person may be considered highly sensitive.   I will confess that I could absolutely identify with all but one of these indicators.  In other words, my shit is highly sensitive.

According to Dr. Aron, and many others in the field of psychiatry, HSPs are keenly aware of the world around them because they process sensory input more deeply than the rest of the population.  Imagine your brain is a sieve that has larger holes than the next guy's.  This means that HSPs need to consciously create downtime for themselves to catch a break from all the sensory overload.  

I have been unconsciously doing just this for as long as I can remember, but there is a certain amount of shame that accompanies being that person.  Don't pull out your violins; I am happier with myself than I have ever been and honestly wouldn't change a thing.  But, at a young age I knew that my desire for peace and quiet was not the norm for other kids.  Certain sounds and textures set my teeth on edge.  Too many people talking loudly or at the same time makes me crazy.  I even quit Jazzercise because all those "party screams" and count downs made me want to shimmy my ass out the door.  When my sweet children bombard me with questions, I feel like a cornered rat. Just try taking away my alone time and I will choke somebody. And house guests?  Just the thought of one makes my blood pressure rise (but you know I love you). 

For a long time, I believed that this made me selfish, lazy, or weak minded.  At the age of 34, I really do know that none of these describe me.  You see, it's actually really smart to figure out what you need to live happy and do it.  When I take care of my kooky brain, I am able to appreciate and love the people around me to the best of my ability; especially my HSP child, who needs a whole lot of patience and compassion. Taking care of me makes me the best possible mom, friend, and wife.  

My husband knows and accepts all of my quirks and God love him for it.  He is a talker. He is loud.  He needs very little sleep or downtime to live.  We could not be more different, yet he loves me just as I am and only teases me about it a little.  And he does not snap at me when I ask him to turn down "Around the Horn" for the umpteenth time.  Thanks for the patience, Babe, and for not trying to change me. 

Are you an HSP?  Do you know one?  I'd love to hear your thoughts! 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Attitude of Gratitude (Yeah, that IS my title)

So the title's a bit much...something off the shelf of a thrift store that's selling self help books for a dollar fifty a piece.  But, I'm gonna own it because there are few things in this life that I've found to be true.  One: recognize blessings and offer gratitude when they come because life is no roll in the hay and you've gotta say thank you when you get a reprieve from the everyday crap we get mired in. Two: Gratitude= Less Worry (totally swiped that off a church billboard.)

A few weeks back I was feeling a little bitter and not so very grateful for my current self image, a.k.a. mom who wears work out clothes everyday even though she rarely works out.  Basically, work out clothes for the elastic waistband.   I do NOT however wear pants that have elastic around the least not after 8 am.  That is a whole other level of asexual mom attire.  More important than than my apparel, I was feeling not so good about my lifestyle.  When you are a stay at home mom, everyone tells you, "You're doing the most important job ever!"  And somewhere in my brain, I understand and believe that.  After all, my choices today and every day determine how much money my children will one day spend on therapy.  Noooo pressure!  The thing is though...when you are doing the mom around the clock thing, you run the risk of losing yourself a bit.  One day you wake up and think, "Does anyone really care if I clean the counter tops today?  Couldn't we just have sandwiches for dinner one more night?"  Pretty soon, you realize that you don't care. 

You begin to feel like nothing you are doing really matters very much.

You see, I did not know I would feel this way.  This is my first time having children in school from 8-3 pm.  I imagined doing all sorts of important volunteer work and having lots of contact with other moms; the kind where we all pat each other on the back for being so great at this mom stuff.  At the end of each day, my husband would walk spiritedly through the front door and say, "Gee, babe! You sure are a good cook. That must have taken awhile!" Not so much.  

So I did what I do so well when I am desperate.  I began to pray!  On my evening walks with Mr. Freddy (the schnauzer) I asked God to use me here, right now, to serve His purposes.  To give me the kind of joy and peace that only comes with serving others.  I made the argument that although I am just a fickle woman who is not always attentive to Him, He could still use me.  Just look at all those hot messes He put to work in the Bible.  I was in desperate of need of a sense of purpose beyond my house and family. 

Why am I always amazed that there is someone out there listening?  You'd think I'd have a little more faith by now.

Here is what has happened in the last week.  I finally worked up the courage to introduce myself to the senior pastor at our mega church.  He immediately put me in contact with someone who heads up the music/production side of worship.  This Sunday at 6:30 am, I will be meeting the production team for the first time.

Next, I get an email from a local pregnancy center that needs client advocates who can give women pregnancy tests, talk to them about their options, attend their first ultrasound, and just generally love on them.  My friends know that I love to help pregnant ladies like Honey Boo Boo loves to put dresses on her pig, Glitzy.  I am really hopeful about this one.  

Finally, the music teacher at my daughter's elementary school asking me to come in every day to help teach the fifth graders their music for the Christmas Concert.  She is one of the greatest music teachers I have ever known and it is a privilege to help her.  This is a great connection to have if I reenter the work force as a music teacher. 

Who knows where any of this may lead?  Tomorrow I could be back at square one again, trying to figure out what to do with my life.  But, for today, even if it's only for today, my cup runneth over.  Thank you, God, for this moment, for this day, and for loving me enough to listen and put me to work.  

Matthew 7:7 
 "Keep asking, and it will be given to you. Keep searching, and you will find. Keep knocking, and the door will be opened for you." 

 "I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder."  ~G.K. Chesterton

Here's hoping that you find find a little thanks and wonder in your day, friends.  Start with the tiny things and eventually the big stuff will come. 






Monday, November 19, 2012

Quirky is Cool


One day you are going to be sitting around, twittling your thumbs, thinking, "Damn.  I wish I knew 20 freaky things about Kate.  That would be a fun way to pass my time right about now."  

Well, say no more! Because now, the wait is over!  Whenever it strikes your fancy,  you can have access to 20 personal details of my life.  My mom is actually having a seizure right about now.  

I can not take credit for this brilliant idea.  Peach Prenni actually blogged about this recently, and I felt compelled to share my quirks with the world, as well.   This is about as exhibitionist as I get, so don't go looking for any smutty pictures online, okay?

1.) Nothing grosses me out more than having to dig wet food remnants out of the sink.  Like, the point that I would choose cleaning up poop (human or animal) over doing this job.  Ugh!!

2.) As a kid, I earned money performing at Disney World, singing in the Orlando Opera Company, appearing as an extra in commercials, and modeling for catalogs and text books.  My fame ends there.

3.) By all appearances, I am an extrovert, but secretly, I love my solitude.  If you show up at my front door looking for coffee and a chat, you probably won't make it through.  Don't get me wrong.  I love me some girl time, but I like it to be planned at least an hour or two in advance.  

4.) Favorite place in the whole world?  The used book store.  I love everything about it...the smell, the texture of the paperbacks, sitting on the floor reading covers,  talking about books with the salespeople, etc.  Absolute heaven.  

5.)  I am obsessed with Elvis.  I know every song he ever sang.  My Dad met Elvis and photographed him for the Atlanta Journal and Constitution when the King was in his early twenties.  

6.) I think my daughter's lisp in the cutest thing in the world.  I secretly will be devastated when she stops speaking like the priest from "Princess Bride".  

7.) I am drawn to bossy people with strong personalities.  All of my closest female friends have had very strong personalities and I am definitely attracted to tough guys #obviously, look who I married!

8.) My love language is physical touch.  Nothing makes me feel more special than a cuddle and a kiss.  

9.) I love geezers.  In fact, I think will start selling I HEART GEEZER bumper stickers.  This is probably b/c my Dad is an adorable geezer (sorry, Dad) and one of the men I admire most in this world.  Put me in a room with old men and I am practically purring.  

10.) My favorite reading material is trash; specifically, romance novels.  On any given week, I read two.  And I don't just skim for the good parts.  I savor every page.  It's the formula: boy meets girl, sparks fly, betrayal= oops, it was just a misunderstanding! , marriage and happily ever after.

11.) I am an old soul.  My music tastes run from Ray Charles to Patsy Cline to Little Walter to the King.  Love it all.  When I was 8 years old, my favorite shows were "Golden Girls" and "20/20".  Basically, the tastes of an elderly Jewish woman.  

12.)  When I was three, my favorite songs to sing were "Washed in the Blood of the Lamb" and "Sleeping Single in a Double Bed".  That contradiction pretty much sums up my life.

13.) I can yodel like Leann Rimes and sing opera in Italian, French, and Spanish (not so good with the German).  A fat lot of good that does me in the real world.

14.) As a tween, my female role models were Patsy Cline and Scarlett O'Hara.  I used to practice saying, "People in hell want ice water, but that don't mean they get it," with a southern twang. This explains a lot about my skewed world view.  

15.) I have a fascination (A.K.A. fetish) with rodeo riders.  There is just something about a man in tight blue jeans and cowboy boots.  The helmets they wear now kind of kill it for me, but I'm willing to make concessions for the whole brain injury thing.  

16.) I love the smell of pipe tobacco and cigars.  They remind me of my Uncle Frank and my Granddaddy.  

17.) My favorite sound is football on the T.V. on a Sunday afternoon...and I HATE to watch it.  Just listening takes me back to my childhood, snuggled up next to my Dad.  

18).  I believe in ghosts.   I saw two in college, both near train tracks in N.C. and don't care to ever see another, thank you very much. 

19.) I am a Civil War freak.  Need to know any useless facts about the Confederate army?  Got it all right here, baby.  Wanna know how John Wilkes Booth made his escape after Lincoln's assassination?  Look no further!  

20.)  I have A.D.D.  It does not define me but it has taught me to be more compassionate, organized, humble, and best of all, able to laugh at myself and the world around me.  I would not choose it for my children, but I would not change it about myself.  Frankly, I think it makes me more interesting. 

Alright, turnabout is fair play, so it's your turn.  Please leave a comment stating one freaky thing about yourself that not many people know. Come on, ya know you want to. Wave your freak flag! 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Unapologetic Bitchin'

Today, you have the pleasure of being my therapist.  Hope you've got a big notebook.  I am having an attitude problem, some stay-at-home-mommy angst, if you will.  You see, my house if full of sick puppies; two little ones to be exact.  They are adorable, perfectly lovely a lot of the time, but they are actually quite toxic.  I scrub them clean, sanitize them, dunk them, Clorox the places where little hands like to roam, all to no avail.  Because five days a week, they hang out all day long with other sick puppies who pick their noses, put their grubby little fingers in their mouths and swap germs.  

And they bring those grubby little germs home to share with Mom and Dad. Their cuteness has grown on me over the years so I think I will keep them (the children, that is).  But something really must be done about our wretched illnesses.  Friends, I am a Georgia girl, through and through.  Chicago was a but a roadblock to my career as a southerner.  I'm one of those "American by birth, southerner by the grace of God" people.  Alas, as much as I love the red clay under my feet, Georgia does not seem to love me back.  

Here is a catalog of the various illnesses we have experienced since moving here:
Mono for Hubby and I (and no, we did not have any fun getting it).
Strep for the whole family (the family that suffers together, stays together??)
Recurrence of mono for me+ my poor mother-in-law
Pink eye (too many times to count) 
Flu that we generously passed on to my in-laws on their first visit
Too many drippy, disgusting colds to count
Unexplained high fevers for three or four days at a time
Numerous ear infections (now Nana has tubes)
Stomach virus for the whole family

Now lets just go over the last two weeks:
Stomach virus for Nana and Hubby
Cold for Nana and I
Strep for Lulu

At the risk of sounding crude.  What the f#@%?! 

I really do get that we are fundamentally blessed, in spite of all the germy crud floating around our home.  Truly.  But, lemme just say again what I've said before: this was not the plan I had for my fall.  At. All. I keep trying to tell God that I have some great ideas for my life, but He has yet to agree with me.  Rude. 

My day to day life is defined by who happens to be sick on any given day, and what they need from me.  This fall has taught me the true meaning of the phrase "good and faithful servant."  I do not feel so "good" or "faithful" when someone is screaming, "Why?! Why?! Do you do this to me?! I toooooold you that I want the red Popsicles because the green ones are DISGUSTING.  Gross!!"  


"Moooooommy!  I did a big poo poo and it's REALLY messy! Come clean me up!" 

Today, for instance, is day 5 of nursing Lulu through her strep throat.  You would think it was Scarlet Fever...more like Scarlett O'Hara fever. But, what can I say?  She comes by that honest (from her father, of course).  Truthfully, as crazy as she is making me (having nightmares about tiny serial killers and falling buildings), I am grateful that my little one is even well enough to be an asshole to her mother.  The two days when my listless child hovered around 104 degrees were just terrifying.  

A dear friend who is also a doctor, had some sage words of comfort for me.  She explained that we are not actually freak shows that need to be quarantined.  In reality, this can all be explained by our children's total lack of exposure to germs before we moved here.  My eldest daughter was in a preschool class with only eight other students and the youngest spent all of her time with Grandma and Grandpa while I was at work.  It is as if they are babies building their immune systems for the first time.  

Another friend gave me her two cents, as well:

Me: So...I am starting to feel a little bit crazy with all of this sickness.  I sit at home some days contemplating forming a band on Craigslist or turning my "I'm twenty!" tattoo into something much larger and more colorful... maybe my husband's face?  Do you think that's normal?"

Friend: Oh, Lord, yes.  If I had to sit around nursing people back to health every week, I'd probably shoot my face off!

Me: Oh, thank you!! That makes me feel better.  It's not just me!

*No one in this conversation is actually going to shoot her face off.  Relax.

So there you have it.  It is what it is.  It's not glorious or even particularly rewarding at the moment.  When you are a mother, there are no accolades to be had until much, much later in the game.  Only now do I constantly think of all that my own mother sacrificed to care for her little ingrates.  No one ever says, "Boy! Is she ever a wonderful mother!" 

But there are those moments during the day when you watch your children laugh and play, bursting with confidence and self assurance and know that they are that way because of your love.  And late at night, in the wee, small hours, there is the awe and overwhelming gratitude for the tiny, warm body that lies next to you, breathing softly on your cheek.  

And you know what?  It is more than enough.  

Monday, November 5, 2012

Haunted Lil' House

  In the spirit of Halloween I thought I'd share my haunted Little People dollhouse story.  Don't laugh! It's legit, yo.  Let me set the scene for you.  Picture this. Early this morning, around 4:30 am, I was asleep up in my bed, all toasty and warm, snuggled up with Lilah and our schnauzer who was perched in his usual spot above my head.  We were sleeping peacefully.  When all of a sudden, there arose such a clatter, I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter...sorry, wrong holiday. 

This is where it gets interesting.

I realized that a tune had woken me from a dead sleep; specifically, Brahms' "Lullaby," A.K.A. "Lullaby and Goodnight".   Groggy and confused, I thought I was dreaming.  The sound stopped.  Just minutes later, it began to play again.  By the third or fourth time of this, I raised my head off the pillow and began to search for the source.  Initially, I thought the tune must be coming from one of our cell phones.  Perhaps, Hubby chose a sweet lullaby to gently nudge him from sleep at 4:30?? It certainly seemed like an alarm clock, going off every three minutes or so.  But, alas, only one cell phone in the room and it was mine.  

So, I began to explore the floor of my bedroom, which was littered with toys because we don't use our perfectly, nice playroom.  Oh no! Mommy's floor is preferable. I sat motionless on the floor for a few minutes and sure enough, "Lullaby and Goodnight"... dee dee dee dee, dah dee dee.  Ah ha!  It was coming from the Little Peeps' House.  Little bastards!  

But here's the thing: in order to produce that tune, you literally have to push the shutters away from the second story window.  We have owned that dollhouse since Savannah was three and I can safely say, it has NEVER played by itself.  Not to mention, the thing has been on my floor for three pathetic months without so much as a peep.   It does not play by itself, period. 
Now, had I been thinking logically, I would have picked up the damn thing and shoved it in a closet somewhere.  But, NOOOOOOO.   I crawled back into bed, more than a bit freaked out.  A few minutes of silence passed.  Then, it played TWO TIMES in a row.  

I began to pray quietly.  Yep.  "Dear Jesus, please make it stop, okay?"  

Another TWO TIMES.  

Then, just to cover all my bases, I appealed to my Uncle Frank, who passed away a few years ago and I miss terribly.  "Uncle Frank,  if this is your idea of a joke, it's not funny."  

At this point, I searched for Hubby who predictably had fallen asleep on the couch.  

Me: "Pssst!  Wake up!"

Hubby: "Hmmm?" 

Me: "Get up!  The Little People keep playing their song. You must get in bed with us!"

Hubby: "Okay."  

Do I even need to tell you that once Hubby got in bed with us the lullaby stopped?  Well, it's true.  Freaky.  Needless to say, the Little People have been exiled like tubby, little refugees.  If I had more courage and a scientific mind, I would see if that sucker would play again tonight.  As if!  I have been known to enjoy an occasional ghost hunting show for a goof, but let me be clear.  Mama don't play like that in her house!  No thanks.  

Do you have a freaky-middle of the night-disturbance story?  Check out my cousin, Peach Prenni's,  Bride of Chucky experience. 


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

My Disney Hangover

I am feeling sentimental today so bare with me, folks!  At any moment I may begin to wax poetic.  How to describe our week long Disney extravaganza?  I think Dickens said it best when he said, "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times".  Try not to roll your eyes (rude!)

No, but seriously, it was mostly the best of times.  No one was ill, there was only one car related puking incident, the kids had a fabulous time, Mommy had only one Disney snap, and Hubby and I are still speaking.  For a week at Disney with four people sleeping in a tiny Princess Ariel room, I'd say that is pretty admirable!  Let me say that Disney World definitely delivered the magic that was promised.  From the dinner menus to the staff to the Art of Animation Resort, every detail was perfectly catered to little people #not the kind on TLC.  I sincerely believe that there is no place in the western world that makes children feel more pampered.  And the best part is that everyone there is treated like a pampered child! In the magical world of Disney, all normal rules of society go out the window and anything goes.  For instance:

1.) It is socially acceptable for a chubby, thirty-five year old woman (with no children) to roam the park ALONE during the Halloween season, dressed from head to toe as Cinderella. I mention that she was chubby only because there is NO WAY she was one of the professional princesses roaming the park.  Disney princesses are a size 6, generally.  I am like two Disney princesses stuck together.

2.)  Everyone is called "Prince" or "Princess" when spoken to by the Disney staff.  Pretty awesome.  This is how Hubby and I address each other at home now.

3.) It is not unusual to hear a conversation like this in one of the parks at 10pm.  
Father: Dude, did you see that? On Space Mountain my ass was a foot off the seat!  I thought I was going to fly out of there!
Small Child: Totally! I thought I wasn't going to make it back! It was crazy, Dude.

4.) It is expected that on the Disney dining plan you will be eating a large meal for lunch followed by a super sized cupcake that looks like Mickey Mouse.  Need I say anything?  Oh yeah, then you get to do it again for dinner.  If you try to check out without your dessert, you get in trouble.

5.) Hubby and I felt like losers for bringing our tired kids back from the park after 10pm each night only to discover a swimming pool still full of children upon our arrival.  We actually had nightly conversations with toddlers in the elevator at 11pm.  

6.) Cinderella and Prince Charming spend equal time visiting and posing with everyone at the Grand Floridian Resort's 1900 Park Fare restaurant.  I seriously thought I would have to wrestle Cindy away from the transsexual sitting by us...he/she did NOT want to share.  

I'm telling you, it's a whole other world out there.  Mostly wonderful.  But there are pitfalls.  For one, you gotta watch out for the Disney snap.  I don't care if you are Mother Theresa, traveling with a group of tiny orphans; it WILL happen to you.  And can I make a suggestion?  Disney World is like a pressure cooker for families.  If your marriage is on the rocks and you think Disney might bring some of the magic back, you might as well have a lawyer on speed dial.  Fortunately, Hubby and I are in a good marital place or we may not have survived.  It is not uncommon to hear a parent on the edge yell, "This is supposed to be the happiest damn place on earth!" at least once a day.  If you find yourself experiencing this very moment, just tell yourself, "I DON'T really hate my family.  It's just the magic getting to my head."  

As promised I will now share my Disney snap moment.  Do not judge me. Okay, so we're at Cinderella's Castle in the Magic Kingdom, and we are getting ready to meet ALL of the princesses and have our picture taken with each pretty lady.  We've had these reservations for almost a year, and are being served very expensive food by a snooty waiter.

Lilah: I hate this food.  It smells disgusting (tears).
Savannah: Yeah, why do we have to meet all the princesses?  Can't we just go?!
Me: No, we can't!  You are so ungrateful!  Do you know how long it took me to get this reservation?  You will have your picture taken with all of them or we will spend the whole day in the hotel room! You know what?  Just forget it!  I will have Daddy take my picture with the princesses.  How about that?

I know what you're thinking because I am in the future too.  

You know how they say all is well that ends well? Well it did, as you can see from the pictures.  We actually managed to have a lovely time and not hurt each other.  So there you have it.  I could write a whole other post on all of the useless Disney World Wisdom I now have rolling around in my brain.  Hell, people devote whole blogs to Disney World. I would not do that to you. But, if you find yourself planning a trip down south and you'd like some Disney survival tips, I'm your girl.  I will hook you up, homey.  Just say the word.  




Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Disney Snap

Have you done Disney in the last ten years? I ask this because whoa, mama, it is a whole new ballgame for this generation of kids than it was for us.  When I was a little tyke, here is how Disney would go.  You get in your car, drive across the country if necessary, stay with Uncle Raymond and Aunt Eloise, who live in a retirement community in Florida, and show up at the gates with hundreds of other people.  You buy your tickets at the gate (no Internet to speak of).  You then get yourself a map that you can not decipher and wonder aimlessly around the park, doing whatever looks good.  At the end of the day, you might stumble into Epcot and enjoy some sketchy Weinerschnitzel and Sauerbraten at the German Pavilion (if you are my Dad).  If you got a picture with Mickey or Minnie, you counted yourself extra lucky.  

Today?  Not so much.  I have scoured the Internet, pouring hours and hours of research into our upcoming Disney vacation.  Yesterday, I frantically made reservations for dinner at a few of the hundreds of amazing looking restaurants, most of which were already booked a month ago!   Apparently, you can't just eat anywhere.  If you are on top of your parenting game then you need to make sure that your children are eating at all the right spots.  For instance, eating breakfast at Cinderella's overpriced Royal table is a MUST.  Oh, and did I mention that you need to make those reservations six months in advance?  Fortunately, EVERYONE who has little girls and has been told me this. That Cinderella is pimping her princess friends out for a LOT of money, folks.  And there are any number of other character meals to be had.  One, the Fantasmic! Dining Experience, involves what looks like Mickey shooting fireworks out of his hands, feet, and ass.  Oh, sweet sorrow...if I had only called 6 mos. ago.

And the rides.  Oh, the rides!  No strolling around like a bumbling tourist, these days.  Our good friends allowed us to borrow the Disney Bible, The Unofficial Guide, Walt Disney World 2012. I casually flipped through this "book" #more like Iliad and Odyssey combined!  Warning: at first glance it may send you into a ADD induced panic attack, but it actually may be one of greatest books ever written.  It contains all of the secrets and helpful hints about Disney World that you never knew you needed to know.  It even contains various itineraries for your family to follow, depending on which park you are visiting and how long you want to spend there.  One plan, the Magic Kingdom Dumbo-Or-Die-In-A-Day Touring Plan, warns that you have to be "loving, guilty, masochistic, selfless, or insane" to attempt this plan. Needless to say, that is not our plan.  These plans map out every ride that a small child should visit, and even warns against those that are too scary for little people.  In my day, my Dad would just drag me whimpering through the line to Space Mountain and would chuckle as I was strapped in against my will.  Thanks to The Unofficial Guide, I learned about a secret term called the "Baby Swap," and which rides allow you to use this password.  Here's what you do. You wait in line as a family for something that the rug rats won't be riding.  When you get to the platform where the ride begins, you say, "We'd like to do the Baby Swap, please."  The attendant lets you and your little ones wait on the platform while Hubby rides. He stays on the ride until he is returned to the platform, at which point he takes the kids and you jump on.  Great time saver!  

When or if you are ever crazy enough to take a week long trip to Disney World#actually the most cost effective, this website is incredibly helpful, and it is actually endorsed by the authors of The Unofficial Guide, Bob Sehlinger and Len Testa.  It provides several free itineraries, including the 6 Night Autumn Itinerary that we are using and countless schedules for things like live entertainment, fireworks, and parades.  Basically, stuff I'd never know.  

There is even a special Halloween event called Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party that allows you to take your child trick or treating throughout the Magic Kingdom after hours, from 7-12a.m. for a mere $60 per person in your family.  My six year old and I looked at this together yesterday and she said, "Mama, that's a whole lot of money!"  I said, "Yeah, Baby."  "I can just go regular trick or treating at home with my cousins. That would be more fun, I think."  

Bless her sweet heart.  

As tempting as it was to just buy the $60 tickets with money that we don't have, I resisted for two reasons: one, my children will never last after hours at Disney...they tire out too quickly, and two, I want them to learn a lesson that took me a long time to get.  Spending money on extra entertainment is NOT what makes life enjoyable.  It's the time we spend with the people we love.  More is not always better.  

I will leave you with a laugh.  Have you heard of a term called, "the Disney snap"?  This cracks me up.  It is the moment that thousands of families around the world have experienced on vacation.  You are at Disney World, the "happiest" place on earth, and your kids are completely melting down.  They are whining, crying, dragging their feet and thoroughly embarrassing their parents.  The "snap" occurs when Mommy suddenly goes postal, and starts ranting and raving, saying things like, "Damn it! You will have fun!! Do you know how much this cost us?!  You are so ungrateful!! You better get your act together right now!"  

I'll be sure to share my snap, whenever it happens.  Notice I didn't say "if".  Pray for me.  

Monday, October 15, 2012

When I'm feeling old, tired, and mean...

This morning I felt old, and tired, and mean.  Does that ever happen to you?  I feel like an alter ego has taken over.  Her name is Rhonda. She carries a pack of Virginia Slims in her purse, she has frosted hair, and she says things like, “Ya’ll get on up out of here!  Mama needs a drink.” 

Is it just me or does P.M.S. get progressively worse every year of your thirties?  That is not a rhetorical question.  Tell me I’m not alone! At this rate, I’ll be stocking up on fire arms by the time I’m forty.  What is a girl to do to cope short of eating the Racetrack gas station out of doughnuts and wearing pants with an elastic waist? 

For starters, I thought I’d jump head first into a post about stuff that’s completely, unabashedly shallow and fun. There’s nothing like good, old fashioned consumerism to bring a girl joy on a dreary, hormone charged day! So, humor me, if you will, while I share some of my favorite, material things.  
1.) What, I ask, could be more important than coffee #you are thinking chocolate?  It is widely known that I have an ongoing love affair with Racetrack coffee.  What’s not to love?  I just bought my cup this morning for 49 cents and it was delicious, thank you.  But I have to confess, I have been a coffee tramp.  On a whim, I drove through Starbucks (I actually had four dollars and change in my wallet) and I ordered something that is more dessert than coffee: the Salted Caramel Mocha.  Words cannot describe the deliciousness!  It is the perfect combination of sweet and salty.  It is frothy and cold, with just enough caramel mingling with tiny grains of sea salt.  Yum!  Next time you want to buy overpriced coffee, try this! 

2.) Let’s talk about your hair color.  It’s important to me.  As real women (those not featured on reality television), we often put ourselves last.  We say, “I don’t need new pants; I’ll just wear my husband’s until I lose five pounds!"(or maybe that was just me). If you are like me, you can count on one hand how often you buy clothing for yourself in a year.  Two thirds of my closet is made up of clothes that used to belong to somebody else. And you know what?  That’s okay with me.  But the one thing that can’t look second hand is my hair.  There is something about having a nice cut and bright, shimmery color that makes me feel all lit up inside.  I am not dissing the box.  God knows, the box color served me well at times in my life.  But, it is possible to find inexpensive service at a salon. 

Here are some tips:
  • Just ask somebody.  If you see someone who has a fabulous cut or color (particularly if they have hair similar to yours), find out who does their hair.  I have been known to accost perfect strangers on the street like a lunatic and it works!  That’s how I found the lady that cuts my curly hair today.
  • Shop around.  Ask friends what they pay for their hair services.  Pick up the phone and call your local salons. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. I found my colorist by walking into a Famous Hair #similar to a Hair Cuttery, and asking which stylist was most experienced at highlighting dark hair.  They will often be honest with you and recommend someone if they know you are picky!  I pay $55 for highlights that would cost me $110 somewhere else. 
  • If you want to save money, pick a color or highlights that will naturally blend in with your own hair color or that will blend in with gray.  Staying within two shades of your natural hair color can save you a few trips to the salon. 
  • If you are thinking about entering into a personal relationship with a colorist, but are a bit gun-shy, here’s what ya do.  Take a deep breath and just say it with me… “I am better than the box…I am better than the box.” 
 3.) Friends, what did we ever do without consignment stores?  Specifically for kids! Here is a revelation: your kids do not know or care whether or not their clothes have been worn before!  They just love to have a new pair of sparkly shoes or a new dress.  Here in Mayberry, where I live, I have found a real gem, A Child’s Closet.  The trick is to find a consignment store that only accepts items that are in great shape #gently used.  It allows you to purchase boutique clothing for a fraction of the cost.  And best of all, I get to drop off all of the clothes that don’t fit my kids anymore and earn credit for them.  Who ever thought I’d be excited to see those baby clothes go?

4.) Speaking of used items, I have developed a delightful habit.  Just thinking about it makes me giddy.  I am such a total nerd…prepare yourself.  My favorite thing in the WHOLE world to do is…shop used books.  Oh yeah! You’re probably thinking Amazon, but I have found something even better.  Even Mayberry has a used book store, Books Galore, and I bet you do too.  Here is how they generally work.  I bring a big shopping bag of all the books I’ve read and plop them on the counter.  While I shop, they decide what they can use and give me credit.  Then I get to shop for half price paperbacks guilt free.  When I’m done reading the new books, they go back to the store…like magic!  And yes, I have heard of the library, but typically in Mayberry, the selection of adult fiction is shall we say…less than exciting. 

5.) Some of us have a genetic predisposition to makeup.  Can I get a witness?  From one addict to another, let me pass on some sure fire tricks that will have people noticing your pretty face.  For this, I have enlisted the help of an expert, my cousin, Annie, otherwise known as PeachPrenni.  She is not just an expert because she shares my genetic predisposition; she is also a licensed esthetician. 
  • For shimmery, natural looking skin that people will notice try this: first apply Clear Radiance by Bare Escentuals all over your face with your makeup brush, preferably something that looks like a Kabuki brush.  You will look rather pink.  Next, apply your loose powder the same way.  The result will be porcelain-like skin.  Annie is a huge fan of Bare Escentuals’ mineral makeup and I am a Benefit girl, myself.  I achieved similarly fabulous results by using Dallas all over my face, followed up by Derma Blend, Cool Beige, setting powder.  If I want a more dramatic and tan look, I use Hoola, by Benefit.  I’ve also found that rubbing a bit of gold eye shadow into my cheek bones highlights them. 
  • Disclaimer: This next tip is not sanctioned by ANY esthetician!  It is a crazy Kate tip that works well for my skin.  I have particularly dry skin that used to flake like crazy in the Chicago climate.  This solution gets rid of any dry skin and brighten up my complexion.  Sally Hansen makes a fabulous cuticle cream, Sally Hansen Problem Cuticle Remover.  I use it like a mask (carefully avoiding eyes) and leave it on for no more than five minutes and wash it off with warm water and a wash cloth.  Then I rewash with my everyday face wash.  Follow up with a good moisturizer. 
  • My last favorite is for ladies like me who don’t get a pedicure more than three times a year.  Note to self:  when your heels start catching on the bed sheets, ya got a situation.  Never fear! After much research, I have found a product worth every penny of your $9.99.  It’s called Heel Tastic and it can be found in the “As seen on TV” aisle of Walgreens.  Short of taking a razor to those puppies, it is the greatest product you will find for your toesies.  Apply before bed and wear socks.              
Now, I know that you did not ask for my opinion on your next purchases...but you can just thank me later.  And if you have any favorites to add to the list, please share!!                                                                                                                                                                                                      

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

20 Seconds of Beautiful Insanity

You know what the best part of life is?  To me, it's the crazy, beautiful things that happen when we finally let the walls of fear that we have carefully constructed for so long come crashing down around us.  So often the decisions we make are based on fear of the unknown.  What would happen if you just let go, took your hands off the steering wheel, and handed your life over to someone so much greater than you? Someone who knows the number of your days on this earth and how many hairs you have upon your head.  Someone whose love for you exceeds the love you bear for your own children.  Don't know about you, but that one just blows my mind.  Consider it blown.  How could He love me with my messed up junk THAT much?

But, He does.  You know how I know? Because the decisions that He has made for me...the path that he has set me upon, can be tough as hell, but is ALWAYS so much greater, more wonderful than anything I could ever have dreamed for myself.  Unfortunately, I usually have to be up *&^$ creek without a paddle before I throw my hands up and ask for help.  And still...He waits.  Patiently.  

Today was one of those unexpected beautiful moments that I might have missed out on if I hadn't shown up to see what He would do.  My desire this morning was to curl up in bed with a good book or spend some quality couch time with my Mom, Dad, and brother, who were in town this weekend.   My oldest girl had a fever, which would have been the perfect excuse for Mama to skip church, but I had this nagging feeling that I would regret it if I sat this one out.  

As the service started, it just felt special...charged with electricity.  By the second song, I was "raising the roof," as my cousin likes to call it.  You know, the ridiculous hand waving thing that we Jesus freaks like to do when moved by the spirit?  I'll own it, that's me.  Don't laugh; yours may just creep up on ya one day and before you know it you'll be doing the wind shield wipers.  As the third song played, we watched videos of people from our congregation, men and women from all walks of life, sharing their life changing stories of faith in Jesus Christ.  With a full heart, I remembered the moment when I gave my broken self to Jesus, and I cried just a little.

I never could have guessed what came next.  

Our pastor talked about the choice we make daily between fear and faith.  We watched this video clip from "We Bought a Zoo," about 20 seconds of insane courage leading to absolute greatness; in other words, a leap of faith.  And then he asked those of us who had made a decision for Christ, or who were ready to do so, to step forward and be baptized, as a public profession of our faith in Jesus. 

Wow. Um...if you haven't done this as an adolescent or adult.  Lemme just say.  This ain't no joke.  Not to mention that our church holds about 1,000 people during any given service.  Just imagine stepping out of fear, shoving down the gut wrenching social anxiety, and stepping into faith in front of hundreds of people.  That, is what I call insane courage.  I watched as ten, then twenty, then thirty, then forty, then over fifty people tearfully stepped forward.  

My cousin and her husband were among them.  She is my best friend, my sister, and I have never been so proud.  I stood watching as one person after another joyfully proclaimed their faith and stepped into a waiting pool.  I snapped away on the camera in disbelief as first she, then her very private husband, were submerged into the water and raised up smiling.  Their boys stood smiling shyly by my side; uncertain, but proud of Mom and Dad.  The crowd cheered and I'm certain, we were all equally awestruck by this sudden public display of faith by more than fifty people. 

I learned later that out of three services, there were 278 people baptized on Sunday.

You may be thinking this is all a little "woo-woo".  Am I right?  What are those crazy people going to do next?  Snake handling?  Dancing in the aisles with tambourines?  Start visiting a polygamist hairdresser?  I know, I know.  I get it.  Maybe you are wondering what was wrong with the first baptism many of these people had as infants?  

I can only offer you my point of view, simple as it may be.  Hubby and I christened both of our daughters as babies in the Macedonian Orthodox church.  This was a decision we made out of respect for our family's traditions and beliefs.  But more than that, we had a desire to make a statement to God and the community, that we would do everything in our power to raise our children to love Christ.  Nothing could ever take away from that experience or lessen it's importance.  

Choosing to be baptized as a young person or an adult is an entirely different event.  There is no magic in the water.  There are no rules about who gets to do it.  Jesus himself was baptized as an adult, in a lake, by his cousin, John.  It can be done in a pool, in a tub, or heck, even in a trough.  Got a plastic baby pool?  That works too!  

The magic lies in the fact that someone is brave enough to step forward on trembling legs and publicly display the change that has already taken place internally.  The magic happens when someone chooses to tell the world that they believe that Jesus is the son of God, and by placing their faith in Him, they are a new creation, forgiven and free.

This is what I believe.  

But, I also believe that God loves each hair on our heads, each freckle, and each wart, regardless of whether or not we get dunked.  Hubby has not done this yet, and trust me, he is a far better believer than I am on most days of the week.  He inspires me in my faith daily.  Who am I to tell him to volunteer for a one man water show (he can't swim!) for a few hundred people?  That is between him and God, and they seem to be doing just fine without my help.  

I will leave you with the video of the Athens Church baptism extravaganza because a picture is worth a thousand words!  

Acts 22:16
New International Version (NIV)
16 "And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name."

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Half Baked

Hello, Friends.  You know what I realized early into this blogging business?  Besides being a creative outlet, (which this desperate housewife needs) you, my readers, are saving me a fortune in therapy! Ha! It's true.  I can just lay my issues out diarrhea of the fingers (nice imagery, I know) and once it's floating out there in cyber space for people in Russia, the UK, or Brazil (don't get one person from each country) to read, a little chunk of the weight on my shoulders chips away.  

Not everyone enjoys this airing of dirty laundry.  My very lovely, very private mother would sooner get a colonoscopy Katie Couric style than broadcast her inner thoughts to the world.  My husband, has more boundaries than Guantanamo Bay.  Just shopping at Walmart is a massive invasion of his personal space.  But, he knows who he married and adores me just the way I am; hormone fueled bouts of catharsis and all.  I know...I sound delightful to live with. But hey, Mr. "I am an island" isn't exactly a bowl full of cherries either.  The way I see it, we fit together quite nicely. If we were too much alike, we'd both be going all Chicken Little at the same time, "The sky is falling!" Someone has got to keep their feet on the ground around here.

Do you ever wake up and just have a sneaky feeling that the day ain't gonna be so good?  Yep, me too.  It felt as if my body got up, no problemo, but my head decided not to follow suit this morning. If I am going to feel this foggy, I thought, shouldn't I at least have some crazy pictures of the bad decisions I made the night before to show for it?? And, if I feel like this in my thirties, that DOES NOT bode well for the elderly version of Kate!  But, truth be told, I can not complain about my body this week.  I even made it to the gym every least until I was too sore to move. The dreaded mono is gone and I am feeling pretty spry (if a little fuzzy).  

After a busy day of shuffling around the kids and trying to keep them away from Daddy's office while he was hard at work doing important office things, I was more than ready for a trough of ice cream (Ladies, I don't need to explain) and a couple of Advil.  Instead, I got a phone call from a friend. Not a good one.  The kind that makes you sit down wherever you are and try not to let the feelings churning in the pit of your stomach explode.  As grown ups, we all get those calls and we hope that they are few and far between. I am not naive and I know that the next couple of decades will be full of their fair (or should I say, unfair) share of bad phone calls.  It is the nature of this world we live in...which is why as a Christian, I believe that here is not truly our home.  Tonight, there is nothing to do but finish the trough of ice cream (they really should reconsider the size of those Ben and Jerry's containers which are clearly made by men), have a good cry, and pray.  I will try not to do them all at the same time...ugly.  

Let someone know if you are in need of prayer.  As a praying person, I can tell you that it is much easier to pray for someone else, than it is to talk about my junk.  And if you are not praying, starting with somebody you love is so much easier than you might think. 

To leave you on a lighter note, as Lulu was struggling to get her nightgown on at bedtime, I overheard her talking to herself.  My four year old muttered under her breath, "Why is everything so hard for me!  This is just so hard!"  

I smiled, and thought, "Honey, I know just what you mean.  And it doesn't get any easier!" 


Monday, September 10, 2012

Tres metros sobre el cielo

Based on the title of this post, I'll bet you were thinking you accidentally clicked on a link to a Spanish speaking blog.  ¿Es correcto? Relax!  You've come to the right place.  Sadly, my Spanish only gets me as far as what my brain remembers from middle school Spanish, with grumpy Senora Garcia.  High school is all a blur.  So basically, I can call someone "an idiota!", admire someone's "pantalones", or introduce myself, "Me llamo Catalina!"  Beyond that, I'm screwed.  My limitations became especially apparent the other day, when 15 (yes 15), Spanish speaking men wanted to hop in my car, thinking that I was looking for hired help.  It was raining that day, so I'm guessing construction work was hard to come by. In reality, I had pulled over in the Home Depot parking lot because I was hopelessly lost on a quest to find our new dentist's office.  I sweetly tried to explain that I was going to the dentist, "Trust me! You really don't want to come!" but it was lost in translation.  How I envy those who are bilingual (my husband, for one).  I wish that I had pushed harder for him to speak Macedonian to our children after they were born.  

For now, I shall content myself with watching foreign movies from time to time.  It is this stay at home mother's best effort at experiencing "culture" on a dime.  This weekend, I was desperately flipping through channels (there isn't much I haven't seen lately) to no avail, when I finally settled on a Spanish film, "Tres Metros Sobre El Cielo".  I am a sucker for a good love story, and it's so rare to find one on our five hundred channels.  One look at the description (bad boy meets good girl and they fall in love cliche) and I was hooked!  Yes, I am that easy.  The movie was filmed in Barcelona, Spain and stars two young Spanish actors, Mario Casas and Maria Valverde, who do an exceptional job with the stereotypical teenage drama they were asked to portray.  Mario plays "H", a motor cycle riding, drag racing, angry at the world, teenage a-hole who is just looking for trouble.  Maria (his real-life love interest), plays sweet Babi, a daddy's girl, who discovers how much fun it can be to break the rules every once in awhile after meeting H, a mother's nightmare.

Now, I know...I know... that I should be horrified by this story, trembling at the thought of a guy like "H" strolling into my daughters' lives one day.  Just the idea of Lulu or Savannah (let's be honest, Lulu) riding 200 miles an hour on the back of a crotch rocket with some beefcake and I begin to mutter things like, "Please, God, no!" But, in the same breath, I have to confess...I am remembering my own delicious, teen drama, and the bad boy who starred in it.  You see, this movie, up until the last terrible 15 minutes, was my life.  

And the drag racing, angry at the world, teenage a-hole?? Well, he currently resides on my living room sofa at the end of every day. He is not so bad anymore, and really quite lovely.  He doesn't engage in fistfights in parking lots to defend my "honor"anymore, but I'd still never take him to a high school reunion (too risky!) He traded in his cherry red Trans Am for a Lexus SUV with two car seats in the back seat, along with a collection of coloring books and gold fish remnants.  And the "H" stands for Hubby these days. 

Hubby walked in to the bedroom Saturday night, where I was completely absorbed in this Spanish love story, and looked at me quizzically.  

Him: "Whatcha doing?" 
Me: "Watching this wonderful movie!!" 
Him: "You do realize that you don't speak Spanish."
Me: "Yes! But some things transcend language barriers."
Him: "'re pretty bored these days, huh?"
Me: "Stop talking!  You should really watch this!"

Needless to say, he did not.  When the movie had ended, I headed for the living room sofa and ruffled his hair, lovingly.  I kissed the top of his head several times.

Him: "Why are you looking at me like that?"
Me: "I'm happy."
Him: "About what?"
Me: "That we were so crazy...crazy enough to stay together when statistically we had no chance at all."
Him: "Okay! Love you."

You see that's the great thing about loving one person for so long.  You have the opportunity to fall in love all over again, as often as you like! The fluttering you still feel in your stomach after sixteen years, makes all of the hardship you've survived, totally worth it.   Do I wish for my girls to have the same experience as we did?  No, and Hubby would agree.  The journey to the alter is much less complicated when you are not an adolescent.  We want them to be mature, knowledgeable women, who are comfortable in their own skin when they fall in love.  But, it was our path...our journey...and I would not trade a single second of it. Besides becoming parents, this love is the single, greatest accomplishment of our lives.  

Are you ready for the best news EVER? If you too are a total cheeseball, who goes nuts for a good love story, you can find "Tres Metros" on HBO on Demand.  If you do not have HBO, go to someone's house who does and harass them until they agree to record it for you.  It gets even better.  There is a sequel, ladies!  The "H" and Babi drama continues in the film, "Tengo Ganas De Ti"...and in like, two years, it may finally be available to watch with English subtitles! Calm down...calm down.  

Have you seen any good movies lately? Please share!