Friday, November 30, 2012

A Year of Gratitude: Day 23 (a.k.a. The Three Mikes)

Tonight I am so very grateful that we have gotten three quotes for our windows and appear to be done with the information collection portion of this decision-making process.

It was an interesting experience getting the three quotes.  The first one came to us by way of a door-to-door surveyor of sorts who got us an appointment with Mike 1.  Not knowing much, we liked the product he showed us and we signed with him that day.  (I will say, though, that Bryson looked positively ill after we gave him the first half of the payment.  I kind of knew then that this process wasn't really over.)  A day or so later he called back saying there was an issue with some of the windows he was going to order for us and could he come over to talk over the options.  Long story short, we cancelled our order with him so we could get some other quotes for comparison.

Enter Mike 2.  After Bryson got in contact with a few companies, I was able to schedule a second estimate visit with a local company (who also, incidentally, sells windows made here in Michigan).  Unlike the first (and second) visit with Mike 1, my visit with Mike 2 was only an hour long and didn't involve complicated sales tactics or demonstrations - a real plus in my book.

Still feeling the need for another quote, Bryson said he wanted to check out another company we see advertised often in our area, so I called them today and made an appointment for tonight.  They told me the quote should only take about an hour to an hour-and-a-half, so I felt comfortable making it for 5:00.  Luckily they called back a little while later and rescheduled to 6:00 because the guy, Mike 3 (I kid you not, all three guys were named Mike!  It was beyond wild.  I thought Bryson was playing a trick on me when the third Mike introduced himself, so much so that I almost burst out laughing when he said his name was Mike.) took about three hours and forty-five minutes!  It was long and rather painful, and in there I had to put the kids to bed and do dishes.  Aaaaannndd then Mike 3 got shot down and left empty-handed.

So, to recap ...

I am grateful that this process looks like it might be over with.

I am grateful that the three Mikes gave us their time to help us make this decision, no matter the outcome for themselves.

And I am grateful that Bryson is able to be so forthcoming and honest with people, particularly about products and services we might be buying.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

A Year of Gratitude: Day 22

The kids and I attempted to watch Arthur Christmas on our television in the living room today; unfortunately our DVD player decided to stop working and we had to watch it on the little television in the kitchen.  Baylor and Mollie had to sit on their bar stools instead of our nice, comfy couch, and I was so irritated that we couldn't just sit and enjoy the movie together.

Later in the day a guy came over to give us another quote on getting new windows in our house.  As I escorted him to each window and explained what was going on with the particularly problematic ones, all I could do was think about how irksome it was that this window wasn't working quite right or the wood just didn't look all that great anymore.

Then, as I was washing dishes in the sink and grumbling, I realized how very lucky we are.  We have the option to watch a brand new DVD on one of two televisions in our home.  Our home that has windows that, for all intents and purposes, do their job moderately well, well enough that our heating and cooling bills are quite reasonable.  We have a home filled with love, and yes, some imperfections.  But we have a stable roof over our heads and more abundance in our lives than so many people in this country and around the world.

And for all that, I am truly grateful.

Have a wonderful night!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A Year of Gratitude: Day 21

Tonight I am grateful for those little moments I get here and there where I feel like I am really making a difference in someone's life.  I'm a stay-at-home mom, so I don't have the satisfaction of seeing a project get finished, a task completed.  Most of my many jobs around the house and with the kids are never-ending; as soon as I get the laundry done, someone's clothes get tossed in the hamper, as soon as I finish breakfast (and the clean up that follows) there is lunch to be had, and so on and so forth.  So the moments where I feel like something I'm doing is directly benefiting someone else in a defined way are truly great.  Baylor isn't feeling well, though at present I'm not exactly sure what is wrong, and before I sat down to write this post I washed his water bottle, filled it up with some nice cold water, and stuck it in the fridge in case he needs it in the middle of the night.  And for some reason, a wave of gratitude washed over me; I am doing something that could give Baylor quick relief should he need it, I thought, and I felt like that little thing I did mattered.  I don't get many of those moments, but I think they are what keep me going some days.  And for that I am grateful.

Have a wonderful night!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

A Year of Gratitude: Day Twenty

Tonight I am grateful for the hugs I got from the kids right before they went to bed.  It had been a long, crummy day for a lot of reasons, and it was nice to get actual squeezes from them before they hit the hay.  Most of the time they just let me do the hugging, but tonight they actually wrapped their little arms around my shoulders and hugged.  And that was nice, so very nice.

Have a wonderful night!

A Year of Gratitude: Day Nineteen (a day late)

This morning I am grateful that my earring gave way before the cartilage in my ear did when I accidentally combed the earring out of my ear in the shower.  I'm also grateful that I found the earring before it went down the drain.

Sometimes it's the little things, you know?

Have a wonderful day!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Pumpkin Painting!

Because of the aforementioned squirrel drama, I bought some mini pumpkins for the kiddos this year so they could give pumpkin painting a try.  As it turns out, it was a lot of fun and way cleaner than carving one would have been.

Mollie's painting was more abstract and swirly.

But Baylor painted a face on each side of both his pumpkins.  Yes, that is a face.

Once all the pumpkins were painted, Dr. Mollie decided that Baylor needed a checkup, so she got out her "stethoscope" (a.k.a., a flat pendant necklace) and listened to his heart and lungs.

Deep breath in!

It's never a dull moment with these two!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

A Year of Gratitude: Day Eighteen (All caught up!)

Today was a stressful day.  I won't get into the details, but suffice it to say I am worn out mentally, emotionally, and physically.

So, today, I am grateful for copious amounts of carbs, particularly spaghetti.

I hope you have a wonderful night's sleep!  I'm off to try for mine.

A Year of Gratitude: Day Seventeen (only a day late)

Today I am grateful for my Grandpa Chuck.  Ever since I was a baby, he and I have had a special bond; he used to tell this story about my first Thanksgiving and how I cried and cried until he took me downstairs, away from the bustle of the dinner table, and rocked me in his easy chair.  I'll admit, when I was younger, particularly as a teenager, I might not have appreciated that story all that much.  But now I see it as the beginning of a grandfather, and I am glad to call him mine.

Happy birthday, Grandpa Chuck!  I hope you had a wonderful day!  Love you!

A Year of Gratitude: Day Sixteen (several days late)

As I decorated our Christmas tree on the Friday after Thanksgiving, as we do every year, I poured over all the beautiful ornaments in our collection.  Some handmade, some remembrances of favorites gone by, some just celebratory of the season, but all of them hold a special place in my heart.

Today I am grateful for all the memories that go along with these beautiful ornaments we hang on our tree every year.   I have been blessed with many happy times, and I am glad to be able to look back on them each year with such fondness.

Have a wonderful day!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Pumpkin Drama

Remember all those pumpkins we got at Sietsma's and the one Baylor got on his first field trip?  Well, I'm glad I took a picture of those lovely pumpkins when we first got them because they didn't exactly make it to Halloween.  You see that squirrel sitting on the fence there?

Well apparently he had an affinity for pumpkins.

And an aversion to cleaning up after himself.

About a day after the above picture was taken, most of the rest of the pumpkin above was eaten, except for the stem.

He started in on the bigger pumpkins as well.

I thought I'd try to stop the carnage by filling up the bird feeders so he'd have something else to go after.  And for a minute I thought I had succeeded.

Then I discovered there were two of them.  One who likes seed and one who loves pumpkins.  Awesome.

In the end, I can't really complain about it too much; the kids loved watching the squirrels and finding out what sort of new damage they'd done each day.  Sadly, it meant we ended up not carving our pumpkins.  But all was not lost ...

The Fine Art of Marker Sniffing

Baylor got some scented markers from his Aunt Sarah and Uncle Gil for his birthday this year, and he has thoroughly enjoyed smelling them.  Seriously.

In case you are wondering what he drew ... the first picture he drew in brown above was of the Petronas towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.  The second picture, in black, with all the horizontal lines was of "stairs to the dungeon".  And the last picture right above here is of the "elevator to the dungeon".  So yeah.  Cool.  On a side note, he had sniffed that marker so well that he had some all the way up his nose.  Apparently his technique needs a little work.

Home Improvement Mishap and MSU vs. U of M

On October 20th, Bryson and his dad took Baylor to his first U of M/MSU game at U of M.  In the morning, Mollie and I went to a couple craft shows (and picked up an adorable outfit for her doll Sally), then we headed to my parents' house to watch the game with them.  Well, we were going to watch the game after lunch and after Dad and I went back to our house to quickly install a new kitchen faucet.  Ours had been leaking quite badly for a while, and now that the new one had arrived it was time for the switch.

Everything was going really well, even though Dad insisted on being the one squeezed into the cabinet, and we were on track to be back to their house well before the start of the big game.  One of the last things we had to do under the sink was hook up the hot and cold water lines.  Unfortunately, the lines were too long to connect one way and too short to connect another, so we had to cut them.  This would have been fine had the faucet been sitting on the counter, but we had already firmly screwed it into the sink.  Dad was sure we could cut it perfectly straight while still installed, so we gave it a shot.  He tried a hack saw first, but it made too jagged of a cut.  I offered to get a utility knife, and he agreed that might be our next best shot.  The blade that was in there was pretty dull, but Dad thought we should give it a try anyway.  No dice.  So I put a new blade in, handed it to Dad, and warned him that it was REALLY sharp.  As he started to cut he said, "I better be careful otherwise I could cut myself."

Then ...

"Agh!  Nicole, help me out here."  Yup, he cut himself.  Really bad, actually.  Like cut a huge chunk out of the pad of his finger.  He was sure we could just slap a bandaid on it and keep going, but when we couldn't get it to stop gushing blood, I insisted we go to the med center.  He reluctantly agreed, and I drove us there as safely as I could.  (Dad, not being the best passenger, was ticked off most of the way there.  Apparently I was not driving aggressively enough or something.  Anyway ...)

They eventually got us back to a room, we eventually were seen by a doctor, who eventually told my dad that he was going to pour some stuff on it to get it to stop bleeding.  Of course, the irony was that he had to get it to stop bleeding long enough to pour the stuff on it to get it to stop bleeding for good.  After cutting off the circulation to Dad's thumb ...  (graphic picture here!)

... he poured this weird sandy-looking stuff on my dad's thumb which stopped the bleeding entirely.  Apparently it acts like a chemical scab

After that, the doctor said to wait a minute and someone would be in to get things bandaged up.  Dad, not being the most patient man alive and wanting badly to see all of the game AND still get the faucet finished up, was a little antsy waiting for the nurse.  So I took his picture to take his mind off things.  He really appreciated that.

Eventually we got out of there and made our way back to my house where we installed the rest of the faucet ... and found the rest of Dad's thumb skin.  So that was fun.

Mom knew about the accident and seemed kinda worried about him, and also had a heck of a time getting Mollie to nap, so we scooted back to their house and watched the game together.  We also showed them the piece of skin we found - I brought it there in a plastic baggie - but Mom and Christine were less than interested in it, to say the least.

Mollie, though she was short on sleep, did a good job watching the game and taking care of Sally.

A two-and-a-half-year-old can only be interested in football for so long, though, and soon she wanted to read some books instead.  So Oma obliged ... in between big plays, of course.

After the heartbreaking loss, we had some dinner then enjoyed a little apple pie dessert.  The crust was so sturdy that Mom was able to pick up the last bit of it and eat it like pizza.

And my big-handed girl Mollie and her Aunt Christine decided to see how close their hand sizes were.  Looks like they'll soon be sharing gloves!

In spite of the mishap and the MSU loss, we still had a good day; it's hard not to when you're spending time with family.

Baylor, incidentally, had a great time at his first game at U of M.  When the Spartans lost, he said to my husband and the other family members that had gone with him, "That's too bad that MSU lost.  But at least Michigan won!"  My Baylor ... always the optimist.

With that said ...


Friday, November 23, 2012

A Year of Gratitude: Day Fifteen (a day late)

I was thinking yesterday, on Thanksgiving, about how last year on Thanksgiving my ears started ringing and I had my first dizzy spell.  That was the beginning of all the Meniere's-variant stuff and the beginning of a lot of change in my life.  On that day I thought the ringing would be temporary, a mere side-effect of the cold I had at the time.  Today I still hear the ringing every moment; once I realized it was permanent I stopped noticing it as much, but if I so much as think about it I notice just how persistent it is.  The dizzy spells are still there, particularly if I eat too much sodium.  And I have developed a bit more intense motion sickness than I have had in the past.

With all that said, today I am grateful for my Meniere's variant disease.  It has forced me to take a good look at how I eat and what it does to my body.  I have become accustomed to the low sodium diet I've been on and have found ways to still enjoy the things I love.  I have had to work hard to find new recipes or alter my old favorites, and while it has not been an easy task I am glad that I'm learning to take better care of myself.  Without the change one year ago this holiday, I wouldn't be eating as healthfully as I am now, probably wouldn't be taking care of myself like I am now.

Some things can seem like a curse at the outset, but I think it's important to look at the bright side as much as possible, particularly when it is something you can't change.  This Meniere's variant is apparently here to stay, so it's up to me to take care of myself the best I can to keep the symptoms at bay and stay active and healthy for my kiddos.  And for all this I am grateful.

I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

A Year of Gratitude: Day Fourteen

"Mommyyyyyyyyy!  I'm starving!  Mommy, Mommy, Mommy!  I'm STARVING!"

That is what Baylor called down to me yesterday during his rest; he hadn't eaten his lunch well and was hungry as a result.  I walked up, informed him that he still had to rest but that he could have a snack afterwards if he needed it, left, and breathed a sigh of gratitude.

Today I am grateful that my children haven't experienced actual starvation.  I know we often throw that saying, "I'm starving!" around too much, use it too lightly.  I feel so incredibly lucky that our little family has the means to feed ourselves well; I hope someday our children understand that not everyone is as fortunate as we are.

On the off chance that I don't manage to get a post up tomorrow, happy Thanksgiving!  I hope yours is full of love and laughter.

Have a wonderful day!

That's What They Said: Differences and Trickery

Amalia:  Mommy, do you have a penis?
Me:  No.
Baylor:  (to Amalia)  I have a penis!
Amalia:  Do boys have penises?
Me:  Yes, boys have penises.  Girls do not.
Amalia:  (apologetically) Ohhh, that happens sometimes.

Amalia:  (to Baylor while they are both sitting on the potty)  You have a good penis.
Baylor:  Thanks!  I like your shirt.
Amalia:  Thanks!  It's white.
Baylor:  I like your socks, too.

Amalia:  (having a pretend phone conversation with someone)  Just give me a call and we can talk it over.

Baylor:  The door to my dungeon is made of stones painted blue.
Me:  Ah, very cool, buddy!  (hoping to get him to draw actual stones)  What do stones look like?
Baylor:  Rocks.
Me:  (smiling)  Well, yes.  What do rocks look like?
Baylor:  Stones.

Bryson:  (after hearing how I'd been tricked by stones and rocks earlier)  Baylor, what are stones and rocks like?
Baylor:  They're the same!

Amalia:  Mommy, you look pretty today.
Me:  Aww, thank you, Mollie!
Amalia:  Not as pretty as D.W. (Arthur's sister in the Marc Brown books)
Me:  Oh, okay.
Amalia:  But you are still pretty.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

A Year of Gratitude: Day Thirteen (on time!)

Today I am also grateful for the promise of a new day.  So often I look at my days and analyze what went wrong - all those times I lost my temper, all those moments wasted hyper-focusing on a particular article on the internet, all those to-dos that didn't get checked off my list.  All these wrongs build up sometimes and get me down, making me feel like I am somehow out of control and stuck all at the same time.  But then those moments come when I realized I have another day waiting ahead of me to try again, to do better than I did today, and I am so grateful that I get the chance to practice patience, to focus on things that matter to me, to knock those to-dos right out of the park.

So off to bed I go, grateful that a new day waits for me just beyond the horizon.

Have a wonderful night!

A Year of Gratitude: Day Twelve (a day late)

Today I am grateful for humor.  I think humor and the effect it has on our moods and our health is highly underrated; I cannot tell you how many days have been rescued by a little humor.  There is absolutely nothing like laughing when things just aren't going right.  Whether you find it in a good book, a favorite television show, or just in the world around you, humor is healing and should be enjoyed often.

Have a wonderful day!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

A Year of Gratitude: Day Eleven

Today I am grateful for my dad on this his 54th birthday.  He is a loving dad and an awesome grandpa, and I am so glad he is in our lives.  I love you, Dad!

As a fun treat, here's a link to a total blast from the past!

Have a wonderful day!

A Year of Gratitude: Day Ten (a day late)

Last night as I was dragging myself up to bed, I was so grateful that after 31 years of living I have finally seem to have begun to really pay attention to my body.  We went to a football game yesterday and after we got home, grabbed dinner, got the kids washed and in bed, I realized I was starting to feel a cold coming on. When I was younger I would have done my best to ignore it and attempt to wish it away; now I take it as a sign to treat myself better by drinking extra water, eating well, and getting some much-needed sleep.  I'm not sure why I am more in tune with my body now; it could be just that I've lived long enough to finally notice it, it could be because I went through two pregnancies and became aware of everything as a result, it could be because I have had to pay so close attention to the kiddos and their health, or it could be because I am now so very familiar with all the lovely variations of the common cold (thank you, preschool).  Whatever the reason, I am grateful that I'm finally able to decode all the subtle messages my health sends me and do something about it.

Have a wonderful day!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

A Year of Gratitude: Day 9 (a day late ... again)

I wrote the majority of this yesterday but was never able to grab another minute to finish it up and post it.  So I guess that's an improvement, right?

Today has been a rough day; my temper has been short, my list of grievances long.  Things were so crummy - in my head, anyway - that I was struggling to figure out what in the world I'd be grateful enough to write about in this post.  Pathetic, right?  I was relieved when nap/rest time hit so I could get a bit of a break, and then I went and pissed it away searching things on the internet and not eating enough lunch.  Then Baylor had the audacity to want to get up after a little over an hour of being alone.  The nerve, right?!  He was full of bouncy energy and was talking a blue streak.  Still exhausted from my stressful morning, I was less-than-thrilled to jump back into things with my little chatty Charlie.

I made it down to the living room after scooping up his clothes (he almost always takes them off, save his underwear, during his rest time) and his books.  There was Baylor, so happy to see me and so energetic.  He stood there and talk to me all about what we were going to do; sadly, in my exhaustion and irritation I don't even recall what he said.

And that's when it happened.

Suddenly, Baylor broke out in this happy, butt-wiggling, grinning-ear-to-ear dance in his Friday underwear (he rocks days-of-the-week underwear most of the time ... it's awesome).  I couldn't help but smile and laugh as I watched him shimmy around the room, dancing to his own groove.  It was exactly what I needed to bring me out of my funk, and in that moment I was so thankful for Baylor and his silly little dance.

Have a wonderful day!

Friday, November 16, 2012

A Year of Gratitude: Day 8 (a day late)

Today I am grateful for my sleep disorder, idiopathic hypersomnolence.  I know that probably sounds weird, and I am certainly not always happy to have it, but I am so grateful that at the end of nearly every day I am able to lay my head down and fall asleep within five minutes and stay asleep for the entire night as long as the kiddos don't wake me.  Last night I had a terrible night's sleep; I woke up at midnight and from then on I was awake on and off, all the while thinking it was time to get up.  When I finally dragged myself out of bed with my alarm clock, I felt grateful that this is not the norm for me.  Yes, most days I wake up feeling like I could sleep another 2, 3, ... 10 hours, but the time I have slept has been good and deep.  I have friends who have bouts with insomnia, and I feel lucky that sleep typically comes easy for me.

Have a wonderful day!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

A Year of Gratitude: Day 7

Today I am grateful that Baylor likes school.  He ... likes ... school.  He likes it so much that he is totally bummed out that he won't get to go during the summer.  I hated school and dreaded nearly every day I went, so this is a big deal to me.  I am so grateful that his first introduction to school has been so positive, and I'm hoping this paves the way to more positive school experiences.

Have a wonderful day!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

A Year of Gratitude: Day Six

Today I am grateful for my husband, Bryson.  He is a smart, caring, technologically-savvy man and a good father, and he tolerates my sense of humor.  Bryson goes to work and school allowing me to stay home and take care of our kiddos.  Without him, our family wouldn't be what it is today, and for that - and so much more - I am incredibly grateful.

A Year of Gratitude: Day Five (a day late)

Every now and then I think of someone who I never see anymore; this man had a huge impact on my life, and without him and his expertise I wouldn't be a mom.

Today I am grateful for Dr. William Dodds, our fertility specialist.  I have never written about it here before, though I think I've eluded to it a few times, but Bryson and I encountered trouble conceiving.  It wasn't all a surprise; we knew before we even began trying that my having polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) was going to make a challenge.  But we never expected it to go the way it did, taking nearly two years to get pregnant with Baylor and going through a bunch of procedures to get there.  We learned about and went through things we couldn't pronounce, like "hysterosalpingogram".  We tried intrauterine insemination (IUI) twice, I believe, with no baby.  Finally, during a diagnostic laparoscopy, Dr. Dodds discovered stage four endometriosis, cleaned that out, and just over a month later I was sobbing in the bathroom with a plus sign in my hand.  And through it all, I felt supported by this intensely caffeinated, optimistic, intelligent man who worked so hard to help us make the family we so desired.

Almost every year since I have sent him a Christmas card with a photo and an update on the family, and every year that I've written he has called to say he got it and that he is glad all is well.  Not many doctors would take the time to do that, but that's just who Dr. Dodds is.  And I am grateful for him.

On a side note:  Infertility is an incredibly isolating experience; the disappointments and heartbreak make you feel like no one else could possibly understand what you are going through, and the jealousy you feel as you see friends and family have children is confusing and painful.  I was lucky enough (if you can call it that) to have an aunt who went through a similar experience whom I was able to talk to.  I know lots of people often suffer through this "process" alone, and I want to encourage anyone who reads this and who may be experiencing infertility issues to reach out to someone.  I am always open to talking to people about this, but there are also many therapists and counselors who specialize in dealing with these issues.  Please don't feel like you are alone; adding to the stress of the procedures and the emotional pain by isolating yourself could actually lengthen the time it takes to get pregnant.  Reach out and you're likely to find someone who can help shoulder your worries.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

A Year of Gratitude: Day Four

Today I am grateful for the "I love yous" I get from the kiddos.  Particularly with Baylor being on the spectrum, I know how lucky I am that he is at all affectionate.  And anyone who is close with him can tell you that he is often the epitome of affection; he's quick with a hug and an I-love-you and often just likes to be close to those he loves.  Mollie, bless her heart, has followed suit and is just as affectionate as her dear brother.  I know it won't last forever, all this open affection and love towards their mom, so I'm soaking it in now and storing it up so I'll remember later, when they're older, just how much they love me.  I hope they'll always know just how much I love them, too.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

A Year of Gratitude: Day Three

Today I am grateful for my children's health.  Yes, they have both been sick basically since the start of school with one cold or another, but by and large they are healthy.  They don't have any severe allergies or asthma, they are able-bodied, and they are developing well, and every day I thank my lucky stars for that.

Friday, November 9, 2012

A Year of Gratitude: Day Two

I realized soon after writing yesterday's post that it was probably odd (and somewhat polarizing) to write about the election right off the bat.  While I try not to regret things I've written on here, I'm disappointed I didn't think things through and write that post a little later; it's all true, but putting it first was a bit odd and it probably placed a bit more importance on that particular "grat" than it deserved.  So having said that ...

Today I am thankful for my children.  I have two amazing, hilarious, delightful children who make life new again every day.  From day one, Baylor was always the happy, calm child; he rarely got upset as an infant and young toddler, and he was happy so much of the time.  So when we got pregnant with Amalia, I envisioned that we would just have a second Baylor, another chill kiddo.  Of course, no two children are alike and our dramatic, lovable Amalia made a splash right from the get-go.  At first, I'll admit, I was shaken; I didn't know how to deal with all the emotion, with all the highs and lows she threw my way.  Baylor and I were, and still are, so much alike that it was easy to understand his ways; Mollie was a bit of a mystery to me at first.  But as she's grown up, and as she's begun to express herself, I so appreciate what she brings to our family; all the joy and silliness and drama that makes life a little more interesting.

And I am incredibly lucky that my two children, so different in demeanor, get along exceedingly well.  They actually love each other and express it on a regular basis without prompting.  They make each other laugh and play well with each other, most of the time anyways.  And they bring out the best in each other; Mollie helps Baylor relax and teaches him what to expect from other kids, and Baylor teaches Mollie about numbers and letters and helps temper her energy and drama ... some of the time.  I'm so glad to see them becoming friends, and I couldn't be prouder of them in every way.

Have a wonderful day!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

A Year of Gratitude: Day One

So, I meant to start this yesterday, on my 31st birthday, but life being what it is I didn't; by the end of the day I was so exhausted I didn't feel like moving much, and even dragging my fingers across a keyboard seemed like too much.  Instead I'll start it today, November 8th, and it'll be a good thing, right?

But I'm getting ahead of myself here.  You have no idea what I'm talking about.

I've seen a lot of "gratitude" posts on facebook lately and they have been quite inspiring.  Sometimes they're "big" things people are grateful for, like family and friends and jobs and whatnot, and sometimes they're "small", like the morning latte that gets your day off to the right start or a favorite couch to plop down on at the end of it.  In my own life I've noticed that I'm getting bogged down by the little things, a dishwasher that makes everything on the top rack dirtier, a never-ending pile of laundry, etc.  And one night about a week or two ago as I was unloading the aforementioned dishwasher and grumbling to myself, I thought to myself, "Nicole, this is ridiculous.  You have a wonderful life; amazing children, a loving husband, a warm home, supportive family and friends, and relatively great health.  What on earth is your problem?!"

At that moment I decided that I needed a shift in perspective; a heart holding so much negativity in it will harden with time, and I don't want that for myself.  I want to keep my heart warm and pliable, ready to give and receive love and happiness wherever possible, wherever needed.  So instead of a 30-day or 45-day gratitude list, I'm going to try for a 365-day gratitude shift because that's what I need ... a shift.  And I'm worried that 30 or 45 days just won't cut it.  I'm hoping to post every day (yikes!) and I'm hoping to avoid repeats for as long as possible;  I must have 365 things/people in my life to be grateful for, right?!  It will be in no particular order, with no agenda.  There will be "big" grats and "small" grats (Can we just call them "grats"?  Things-I'm-grateful-for is quite long to type out ... just think about it.  If you have a better word, let me know in the comments!) mixed throughout.  Some days the posts will be short - even just a word if it's all I need or all I can muster, and some days the posts will be long, maybe even with a picture.  And I'd love for anyone who is interested to join in with me in the comments or on your own blog.

So here it goes ... day one!

Today I am grateful for the election being over with.  It always happens right around my birthday and as I'm not a fan of politics in general, I really appreciate it when the whole shebang is over with for my "big" day.  I am glad Barack Obama has been reelected, but I'm also just plain relieved that it wasn't so close that a recount was needed a la 2000 Gore/Bush election.  I'm now just hopeful that the country, congress and the president included, as a whole to fix what's broken, right what's wrong, and lift up this country and the people in it.  

Have a wonderful day!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Fall at the Zoo: Funiculars and Otters and Flamingos, Oh My!

One day in mid-October we had a bit of a warm-up of sorts, so after Mollie and I picked Baylor up from school we all headed down to the zoo for a little fun.  They had opened up the new funicular since our last visit, and I knew Baylor was itching to take a ride.  I did not know, however, that it costs $3.00 per person ONE WAY, so we only rode it up; I was not prepared to sink $18.00 into a glorified elevator ride.

It was a pretty slow ride up, but with the leaves changing colors it was quite pretty.

I was pleasantly surprised at how cool the kids were about not taking the trip back down, and we started making our way back down to the main part of the zoo on the gorgeous trail they've blazed through the trees.

Our first stop was the frog room, but it was quite noisy and all they wanted to do was push the buttons to hear the frogs croaking so I quickly ushered them out of there.

Of course by that point they were famished, so we found a picnic table and had a snack.

We next visited the otter, a perennial favorite, and this time proved to be no different.  At first he was out of the water checking things out ...

... but while the kids were enjoying some raisins on the bench, he dove in and gave them a show.  The water was quite murky, though, and I couldn't get any good pictures.

After his brief swim, he headed back up to the rocks to sun himself and dry off.

We soon moved on and stopped by to see the bears.  Whereas the other animals were up and about way more than usual, the bears were quite sedate.  It looked like they were about to go into hibernation mode, so we moved on pretty quickly.

We next visited the mountain lion and were greeted by him/her personally.  I have never seen this particular animal so active and so up close, and it was a real treat.

Seriously, the cat was about five feet away from us.  It was amazing and beautiful.

The kids were decidedly less impressed and moved on to the informational door flaps about animal tracks.

But I just couldn't get enough of the mountain lion.

We hemmed and hawed over our next move; neither kid is wild about the penguin area, likely because it is so noisy, so the aquarium has never held much appeal, but Baylor is a creature of habit and didn't want to miss it.  So off we went.  As per usual, we flew by the penguins and landed in front of the giant fish tank.  Mollie commented that the fish looked "sad".  Upon closer inspection, I understood why ... all their mouths are turned downward.

Good observation, little lady!

Finally it was time for lunch.  Ordinarily I would have packed us a lunch, but this was a spur-of-the-moment sort of trip so we headed over to the concession stand.  Unfortunately they have changed their offerings quite a bit since the last time I ate at the zoo, and they now only offer pizza or hot dogs.  We opted for the former and waited a bit while it cooked.

The pizza was okay, about as good as zoo concession stand pizza is going to get, but the kids ate it with gusto.

Of course, there were gum ball machines filled with gum and candy and toys only a few feet away from out table, and it was tough for me to deny them a cheap treat after they'd done so well with the impromptu lunch.  Mike and Ikes, anyone?

After finishing lunch, we made our way to the nocturnal animal/reptile house, and I was pleasantly surprised at how active the animals were at that time of day.  The snakes, in particular, were up and about, and while it really freaked the kids out at first, it was awesome to see them actually moving.

Next up we visited the African animal exhibits.  The chimpanzees were very mobile that day, and we got to watch them walk around a bit.  Of course, the kids got pretty distracted when we came upon a little girl of about 5 or 6 who was there with her mom and could not stop commenting on how "gross" the chimps' butts were.

We moved on from her as quickly as I could get the kids to, and we next visited the lion exhibit.  Instead of heading to the glass window on the ground level first, we actually made the climb all the way up to the lookout above ... only to find that the lion was resting right in front of the ground-level window.  Such is life.  Either way, the kids were totally unimpressed by the lion resting six feet away from them, so we made our way to another exhibit.  Of course, we had to try out the drums a little first.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that the flamingos were still there, and though some of them were napping we at least got to see them up close.

Of course, when one flamingo, who was very awake, started creeping his way towards us, the kids were ready to leave.

Much to their chagrin, I started ushering them toward the zoo exit.  But first we got to say hi to one of my favorite zoo animals, the capybara.  It must have felt pretty warm to him that day because we found him in the middle of a swim!  It was pretty awesome to see him paddling and diving about.

The kids were pretty upset to leave, but I took that as a sign that they'd had a lot of fun and I'm glad that our last visit to the zoo for the year went so well.  Now we have lots to look forward to for next year!