Saturday, December 31, 2011

Reflecting on 2011

A fun little questionnaire to reflect on the past year. I found it on Nicole's blog, Oh My Words, who found it on All & Sundry's blog.  I didn't want to analyze it TOO much.  Just went with my first thoughts, and didn't even answer some.  Next, I want to do a "Year In Pictures" video, and Dylan's firsts for the year.

1. What did you do in 2011 that you’d never done before?
  (See "Before 40") - Took Dylan to the beach.  Wore high heels (tried, I should say).  Baked a cake and made a pie.  Climbed a rock wall.  Took a printmaking class.  Went on a carriage ride (with Santa, my friend Diane, and Dylan).  Took Dylan ice skating.  Became a consultant for Rodan + Fields.

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year? 
Um, did I make one?  I have no idea.  I am constantly coming up with new plans ("dreams and schemes", as my husband once said).  I've followed through on my "Before 40" idea for 5 months so far.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
 My friend Karen had a baby girl (her third child).

4. Did anyone close to you die?
My grandfather, Ken.  I miss his smile and his laugh the most.  I am so glad that I have memories of him and Dylan together.  Also, Jim's uncle, Gordon, who was another special guy.
My ex-fiance, Brian, died this year.  I have no idea of the circumstances, but even though I was not his biggest fan, it is still sad that he died so young.

5. What states/countries did you visit?
 Ocean City, Maryland, and visited my friend Julia in Maryland. 

6. What would you like to have in 2012 that you lacked in 2011?
 Money.  More friends.  A wardrobe I don't hate.  Paint on the walls of my home.

7. What dates from 2011 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

*January 18th - celebrated my grandpa's 98th birthday with him.  At 98, his mind was still sharp.  I will remember him laughing and crying when he looked at the birthday card I made him with photos of fun times as a family.
*February 6th - celebrated my dad's 70th birthday.  Unfortunately, the day involved watching the Steelers lose the Super Bowl, but still a fun day.
*March 10th - my grandpa died in the hospital.  The whole family was able to say goodbye to him.
*August X - Jim surprised me for my 39th birthday, with a trip to a Bed & Breakfast in Ohio.  We had an awesome time, but the fact that he planned the whole thing was the best part.
*November X - Dylan turned 5 (party at Gymkhana).

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year? Climbing a rock wall
9. What was your biggest failure?
 Selling stuff on Ebay, and the Pitt job
10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
11. What was the best thing you bought?
 beach vacation
12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
 Dylan - for making me laugh every day
13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
many of my friends
14. Where did most of your money go?
 Seems like it went to Giant Eagle (groceries AND gas)!  
15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
beach vacation
16. What song will always remind you of 2011?, "Count On Me" by Bruno Mars.  Dylan and I sang it to each other on the way to school.
17. Compared to this time last year, are you:

a) happier or sadder? 

 I would say about the same for all of these.  I was happy then.  I'm happy now.  Could I be thinner and richer?  Yes.  But, still... happy.
b) thinner or fatter? 
c) richer or poorer?

18. What do you wish you’d done more of? Traveled.  Laughed until my sides hurt.
19. What do you wish you’d done less of?
 Grocery shopping, paying bills, loading and unloading the dishwasher, cooking and cleaning up dinner, doing laundry... need I go on?

20. How did you spend Christmas?
At my mother in law's house with Jim, Dylan, my parents, and my in laws.  Talked, laughed, ate, opened presents, and played the "stealing presents game".
21. Did you fall in love in 2011?
 I fall in love with my son and my husband every time I watch the two of them playing together.

22. What was your favorite TV program?
 "An Idiot Abroad" cracked me up.  "Whitney" makes me laugh - probably because I'm a lot like her.  I was craving an actual "story", so I'm enjoying "Once Upon A Time".

23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?
 I don't hate anyone.  
24. What was the best book you read?
 Simplicity Parenting - didn't read nearly as much as I would have liked
25. What was your greatest musical discovery?
 My buddy Nicole sends me recommendations.  She introduced me to the song "Fidelity" by Regina Spektor, which was a favorite this year.
26. What did you want and get?
 a beach vacation (how many times will this be the answer?!)
27. What did you want and not get?
To make so much money from selling R+F that I could quit my other job.
28. What was your favorite film of this year?
 Crazy, Stupid Love
29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I was 39. Bed & Breakfast in Ohio
30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more

31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2011?
 Where is Stacey & Clinton?
32. What kept you sane?
Love and laughter
33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
34. What political issue stirred you the most?
35. Who did you miss?
My grandfather.  (And my grandma, actually.  Now that they are both gone, I really miss having grandparents).
36. Who was the best new person you met?
Jenn from Juggling Life.  She came to Pittsburgh from sunny California, to look at colleges with her son, and took the time to drive about 1 1/2 hrs to meet me for lunch.  A lunch that ended up lasting 6 hours!  
37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2011.
38. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year. ?
39. How did you ring in the New Year? Same way as last year.  Went to dinner with Jim and Dylan.  When Dylan is in bed, Jim and I will watch a movie, and drink Rum & Cokes.

40. Do you have a goal for 2012? Keep doing "Before 40".  Just really treasure the time I have with Dylan, before he starts kindergarten.  Continue to plan fun things, but also to find the fun in the ordinary, everyday moments.

Happy New Year Everyone!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

December Memories

I know I'm not the only one who feels like Christmas came quicker this year than any other.  Not sure why that is?  We got our tree up late, and only put about 1/3 the ornaments on.  I put out way fewer decorations in general, but it works.  The theme for this year seems to be "Simple=Better".

Jim decorated the house late, and decided (once again) that he is NOT doing the lights next year.  Can you imagine how filthy rich the person will be who finally invents Christmas lights that STAY LIT?

My cards were finally mailed on Monday, and this is the first year we didn't do a "photo card".  That was the original plan, but after a battle with my computer, I gave up and got cards at Target that I could just put a picture in. (A FALL picture, but whatever.  The Christmas photo thing was a disaster this year).

Don't get me wrong - some things did work out.  I've been looking for stockings for years and just couldn't find any I liked that weren't ridiculously expensive.  This year I found some at Michaels that were 1/2 off!

I bought Dylan an advent calendar for his birthday (in November), and he has been so excited to see what kind of candy he will find in that day's number.  I think for the final day, that I will just put in a piece of paper, with instructions to follow to find the extra special treat.

We used to have a bunch of toys stored in front of the fireplace, since that room is the "play room".  Dylan told me "We need to move all those toys, so Santa doesn't trip and fall and get hurt when he comes down the chimney!"  Now that the area is clear, I'm thinking we need to have our first fire (why haven't we lit a fire in the fireplace in the 3 years we've lived here?!), and make some smores!

Another way we have made the season more fun is with the "card game".  We each guess the number of Christmas cards we will get that day, and the closest number wins.

One day, I was annoyed with the commercialism aspect of Christmas, and decided I needed to teach Dylan about the joy of giving.  We made sugar cookies and decorated them.  Then I told him we were going to take some over to our neighbors.  "Well, we should take some to Nina's!"  (His little friend next door).  I wish I had taken my camera, because him standing there in the doorway, smiling at her, while holding out the cookies, and her huge smile in return was priceless.

Dylan got this next idea out of the book "Arthur's Christmas"...

(You might notice the tree lights?  Santa could just go straight, but apparently he wants him to have a tour of the house?)

(Oh wait!  He probably has to stop in the kitchen to get milk for the cookies).

Hope your holiday is Merry & Bright!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Before 40 - December : Part 2

My friend who attempted the rock wall with me for last month's "Before 40", called me with an idea for this month.  Have I told you how much I LOVE when other people come up with ideas?  It happens SO rarely that I get ridiculously excited.  Plus, it was a really great idea.

We had never been on a carriage ride.  A white carriage ride,  pulled by a beautiful big black horse, with SANTA inside to be exact!  Of course, we took Dylan.

Waiting in line in the cold wasn't fun.  I would say we waited about 20 minutes, and it was pretty cold, but we did get a coupon for a free hot chocolate and mini cookie from Panera Bread, so that helped.

Would you believe that we were the last group to go... not just that day, but for the season!  A family came while we were in line, and were told they couldn't go.  The little girl immediately burst into tears.  It was awful, but the friendly elf told her she could wait and pet the horse, and say hello to Santa and she cheered up.

The ride was fantastic!  Me, my friend, and Dylan got quality time with Santa, and he was just a sweetheart.  The guy was so much in character, that I started to believe in Santa.  Two of my favorite moments...
1.  When Santa asked Dylan what he wants for Christmas and he answered "batteries"!  I love how simple his wants are at this point in life.
2.  When Dylan asked Santa, "Who is your favorite reindeer?".  Santa said, "Well, that's a great question!  To answer it, I have a song... You know Dasher and Dancer and Prancer..."  He sang the whole song, and who knew that Santa had such a lovely singing voice?

After our ride, we went into Panera for gingerbread men cookies!   The day was one of my favorite holiday memories for sure.  Thanks Santa!  We'll get to work on those cookies you requested.

(All the pictures of me are on her camera, so I couldn't add them).

Monday, December 19, 2011

Before 40 - December : Part 1

A little background is required to tell this story correctly.  When I went to college many moons ago, I had no idea what to major in.  I was interested in many things, and considered many things, but somehow decided to major in Art.  (One in a long line of mistakes, probably, but for the sake of keeping this story short(ish), I won't go there).

I loved being in college.  I loved the freedom to make my own decisions.  I loved meeting all new people.  I loved being an art major.  I was a bit odd, because unlike a lot of kids that age attending college, I wanted to learn.  It wasn't about what classes were the easiest, or which teacher gave out the most A's.  For me, it was wanting to learn as much about everything as I possibly could in four years.

Which is exactly why my Printmaking class upset me so much.  Printmaking was a required class for all art majors.  Some of the students didn't have the slightest clue what printmaking was, nor did they care, but I was excited to start making some prints!  Relief Printing, Intaglio, Lithography, Screenprinting, and Monotype/Monoprint!  I arrived at the first class, early and eager to get started.  Pretty soon, the whole class and I were waiting outside the classroom door.  "The guy is late to class on the very first day?", someone commented.  We waited about 15 more minutes, before a very ill prepared, oddly unapologetic professor showed up.  I think he shoved a syllabus at us, before saying something about not feeling well, and said he would see us at the next class.  

I arrived on time for the second class, along with most of the other students.  Ten minutes after the class was supposed to start several people left, 5 minutes after that, several more left, and 10 minutes after that I looked at someone and said, "Well, what's up with this?"  The rumor was that the professor was an alcoholic.  Sometimes he showed up, but usually he didn't.  One of the students informed us that he gave everyone A's, and that seemed to satisfy everyone... except me.  I showed up for every.single.class.  Most of the time, I waited 15 or 20 minutes before leaving.  I didn't learn a stinking thing about printmaking.  There is an "A" on my transcript next to "Printmaking" even though I don't know a darn thing about it, and that always annoyed me.

So, for the "Before 40" in December, I went back to school.  That's right.  At the age of 39, I took a Printmaking class.  Unfortunately I have about as much money now as I did when I was a college student, so I could only afford a one day class.

I showed up early (of course), found the room, and said "Hello" to the other students.  The instructor wasn't there yet.  (Do you see where this is headed?)  Fifteen minutes later, I told the other students what had happened the last time I tried to take a Printmaking class, and they all laughed.  "I'm sure she'll be here any minute", one assured me.  Five minutes later, I went out to call Jim.  "YOU ARE NOT GOING TO BELIEVE THIS!", I shouted.  "MY TEACHER IS A NO-SHOW!  CAN THIS SERIOUSLY BE HAPPENING AGAIN?!"

She did eventually show up (30 minutes late!), and I did learn how to make a Monotype.  That's pretty much all we had time for.  So, I didn't learn much, but it's a step in the right direction.  Maybe by the time I'm 50 I'll be a printmaking expert?  It was fun to get my creative juices going again.  A person should never stop learning, after all.  (As you probably guessed by the "Part 1", I did another new thing in December.  That one needs its own post, so stay tuned for that).

Thursday, December 8, 2011

December Random

*  I'm pretty sure we are the only people in our neighborhood that don't have our Christmas lights up.  Jim refused to get the Christmas stuff out of the attic until December 1st, but then we were busy all last weekend and never got it done.  It's okay, though.  This guy makes up for our lack of Christmas lights...

There's one in every neighborhood, and this is ours.  Ho, Ho, HOLY CRAP, THAT'S A LOT OF LIGHTS!  When we drive by the house, on our way home, Jim shouts "AVERT YOUR EYES!  AVERT YOUR EYES!  DO NOT STARE DIRECTLY AT IT OR YOU'LL GO BLIND!"  I put my camera in my car yesterday, planning to get a shot on my way home from work last night.  I slowed down as I approached the house, and then quickly sped back up when I saw the guy standing on his porch.  I think he was trying to decide if he could fit a little more tacky in the yard.  Either that, or he smelled smoke from the fuse that was about to blow and take out power in the whole neighborhood.

*  Saturday we are going to the Holiday Pops Christmas concert downtown, along with my parents.  Seeing the huge tree and pretty decorations, and hearing the music should put us in the decorating mood.
Maybe we'll also finally get a picture for our Christmas card?!

*  Jim, Dylan, and I watched Rudolph last night.  I get sad sometimes, thinking about how much Dylan has already grown.  But, then he buries his head in my shoulder and covers his eyes, afraid of "Bumble", and he's still my innocent little boy.

*  I've already started to panic a bit about him going to kindergarten next year.  We've toured four schools, and have one more scheduled to tour.  There is one we really, really like, but the students are chosen by lottery, so the chances he'll get in are slim.  I called to try and schedule a tour at our local public school.  The conversation went like this...
Me: "I was calling because my husband and I would like to come in and tour the school".
Secretary:  "Ummmmm....." (awkward silence)
Me:  "We are looking at some private schools in the area and we wanted to tour the public school before making a decision".
Secretary:  "Uh... well... let me take down your information and I'll get back to you".

That was Monday morning.  I haven't heard back from her.  Really doesn't make me want to send him there, you know?

*  This is the first winter that Dylan doesn't take naps.  He only goes to school Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings.  I'm having a hard time coming up with things to do!  What do you do with your kids in the winter?

Monday, November 28, 2011

Before 40 - November

I've never been super athletic.  I enjoy sports, and I certainly wouldn't be considered "girly", but I never excelled at any particular sport either.  I played softball for many years, and I would say that I "wasn't bad".

Now let's talk about exercise.  I have a strong desire to do it... in my head.  Just there.  Not in practice.  Not so much that I join a gym, or get up an hour early to work out, or even squeeze in a walk now and then.  I watch The Biggest Loser every week, and every single week, I think "I'm going to eat better and work out!"  Then the week goes by, and I'm sitting on the couch again, eating snacks while watching another episode.  I'm motivated in my head, but my body doesn't get the memo.

I've signed up for fitness classes and not finished.  (In my defense, I have a weak back, and I seem to always hurt it when I exercise.  I know.  Excuses, Excuses.  Wah, Wah, Wah!)  I've bought fitness videos and used them for a while religiously... A WHILE.  I bought the Ab Cruncher and used it faithfully... for A WHILE.  My most successful exercise experience was the Water Aerobics class I took years ago.  Those old ladies and I rocked it out!

This past week, the day before Thanksgiving, my body finally got the memo.  I told Dylan that he and I were going to "do an exercise video".  I had bought "Billy Blanks Basic Training" DVD months ago at the library's used book sale.  It is 55 minutes long.  I figured, "How hard can it be?"  HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!  I amuse myself.  Put it this way... the people IN THE VIDEO were looking like they might die.  Put it this way... Thanksgiving day I was thankful I could lift my arms.  (Note to self:  You are NOT in shape, dummy!  Pace Yourself!)

So, I'm in horrendous shape, and I am the complete opposite of flexible.  I'm surprised I can bend over to tie my shoes.  All this to explain why I was a little nervous about my next "Before 40" feat.  I have never climbed a rock wall.

When I was out to dinner with a friend of mine, I told her about my "Before 40" thing.  She wanted in.  She had never climbed a rock wall either.  I found the place.  We just needed to coordinate a day we could each go.  It wasn't happening.  I called her yesterday (Saturday), and asked if she could go today (Sunday).  "No, I have to....  Can we wait until next weekend?"  Well, that's the thing about a "Before 40" list.  If you spend too much time "waiting", you don't spend enough time "doing".  I said I was going to do one new thing a month and I'm doing one new thing a month!  I was going to tell her that, too, but when she called me back later, she said she was in!

After a slight miscommunication about where the place was ("Oh!  You're in the South Side?  I thought you said the Strip!"), we were ready to go.  We got our fancy climbing shoes, and signed the form.  I told her, "You don't need to read it.  It just says you won't sue them if you fall and die".  I'm a fountain of encouragement, aren't I?  Just for that, she made me go first.  I had to stop a couple times and consider 1. If I was going to be able to get my huge feet in the next tiny crack.  and 2. If my arms shaking from exhaustion were going to prevent me from continuing.

Before 40 - October

I've told you that I'm not a good cook, but did you know that I don't bake either?  Martha Stewart would be appalled at my complete lack of culinary interest.  So, for "Before 40"'s month of October I decided to do something totally out of character.  Would you believe that in my 39 years I have never baked a cake?!  Weird, I know.  We are big birthday celebrators in my family, but apparently we are big birthday cake BUYERS, not bakers.

Since it was October, and I didn't have any birthdays coming up, I decided to make a Pumpkin shaped cake.

Dylan never passes up an opportunity to eat cake.
He found the whole Mommy-is-baking thing quite entertaining.  So much so, that he wanted to film it...

The recipe I was using made two pumpkin cakes.  We certainly didn't need to eat two pumpkin cakes after all that Halloween candy, so I figured I'd give one to my neighbors.  Um.. yea... that didn't happen. They weren't horrible, but I didn't feel they were neighbor worthy either.

My wonderful (also never baked a cake) husband was highly amused as he pointed out that I was supposed to flip the cake over, out of the pan, BEFORE icing it.  DUH!  Martha Stewart can kiss my pasty white butt!

Since I was on a roll, I decided to make my first PIE for Thanksgiving.  

It's a Turtle Pumpkin Pie, and OH MY was it rich!  Too much so for my taste, although Jim liked it.  For me, anything that rich should have chocolate in it.  I'm not a big pie eater, though.  I would say that it was better than the cakes.  I would have given my neighbors a piece, but Jim called "DIBS!" on the leftover pieces.

I've also never made cupcakes or cake pops.  But, considering the fact that we just ate way too much food for Thanksgiving, and the fact that we still have Halloween candy, I think I'll put that off for a while!  Don't miss my "Before 40" for November!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy? Thankful?

Are you happy?  Are you thankful?

Brad Pitt was interviewed recently and the interviewer asked Brad Pitt, "Are you happy?".  His answer was ""I think happiness is overrated, truthfully," he tells Australia's "60 Minutes." "I do. I think sometimes you're happy, sometimes you're not. There's too much pressure to be happy. I don't know. I don't really give a (bleep). I know I will be at times and I know I won't be at times..............".  "I don't give a shit"?!  To me, that doesn't sound like something a happy person would say.  Some might ask "How can he NOT be happy?  He is gorgeous, has a beautiful wife, healthy children, a successful career, and all the money a person could want!"

If someone asked me the question, "Are you happy?", I would answer "Yes".  I am happy.  I have many things to be thankful for - my family, my home, my friends, my health.  If someone asked me "Are you satisfied?", the answer might be different.  I have to admit that I always seem to be striving for more - more friends, more money... MORE.  I think that is part of human nature.  Wanting more gives us goals and something to work towards.  The trick is not letting the journey towards MORE, distract you from being thankful for what you do have right now.  There are so many things we take for granted.  There are so many things that we do every single day that we don't even think about.

Let this video remind you...

After watching the video, would you answer the question differently?  Are you happy?  Are you thankful?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Fifth Birthday Party

This year we had Dylan's birthday party at Gymkhana.  For all you locals, it is a great option for this age group.  The kids had a blast, the instructor was great with the kids, the party room was a nice size, and there was very little work for me!  Score!

Five kids weren't able to come, so we ended up with 9 kids, and about 17 adults.  The instructor would open one section of the gym at a time, explain what the kids were supposed to do on the equipment, and then supervise them while they jumped, swung, climbed, and bounced.

We didn't have time to open the gifts at the party, so we waited until we got home.  Now my house looks like a toy store explosion!  Having a birthday in November isn't ideal, but the great thing is that we have plenty of things to play with when he is off for Thanksgiving week.  It is great to have some new games to play!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Dylan's Fifth Birthday - In Pictures

Your birthday began when you, and "Puppy" jumped into our bed to wake us up.  You waited until 8:40! (THANK YOU!)

You had enough restraint to eat breakfast BEFORE opening presents!

You wanted to open Luca's present first! (the little boy I'm a nanny for)  Hmmmph!
I have to admit, it is a really cool present! 

We've played it several times already, and hey, so long as it's not Chutes & Ladders, I'm happy!

Considering the fact that you actually wanted to play hockey, BEFORE watching TV this morning, I would say this was your favorite present...

After opening all your gifts, we watched the video about Disney I picked up at the library, which was so ancient that I don't think it was a great representation of what we will actually see and do when we go.  Then, we watched "Word World", one of your current favorites.

After eating lunch, we headed to the Science Center.
We went in the "Sports Works" building for the first time, and had a blast!  (Why have skipped that in the past?!)  This was your favorite thing...

I'm not too excited about science, but I was excited about the sports!  Could you tell?

Even though we got a late start, we still spent several hours there.

After the Science Center, we went to Denny's so you could get your free birthday "Grand Slam" pancakes.  No picture, but this is how you felt about it...

We loved spending your fifth birthday with you!  Next... your PARTY!