Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Chore Chart

Sometimes, reading my blog might give you the illusion that my life is darn near perfect.  It's not.  I just choose to focus on the positive, for the most part.  That's not to say we don't have struggles.

Lately, one of our struggles was the bedtime routine.  Jim usually gets home by 6:30 - sometimes later, sometimes much later.  He has to eat dinner, attempt to have a short conversation with me, and then play with a boy who adores his daddy.  Clean up was supposed to start at 7:45, but that really was NOT happening.  Somebody (Jim) would lose track of time and they would still be playing at 8:15 or later.   Then somebody (me) would mention clean up time and somebody else would have a meltdown (Dylan).  "NOOOOOOOO!  I HARDLY GOT TO PLAY WITH DADDY!  I CAN'T CLEAN ALL THIS UP!  WAAHHH!!!!"   That seemed to be the new routine and I was not enjoying it.

I had a plan for months, but didn't get around to making it happen until last week.

Hello, Job Chart!  I know we just met and all and I don't want to make you uncomfortable, but umm... I LOVE YOU.

Basically, he has three mandatory jobs.  He must take his dishes over to the sink after dinner.  He must do the morning routine and he must do the bedtime routine.  If he cleans up without complaining and in 15 minutes or less, he gets a smiley star.  If he gets 3 stars in one week, he gets 15 minutes extra play time on Friday and Saturday night.  Honestly, I had very little hope that he would be able to get 3 stars! Imagine my shock (and jubilation!) about the fact that he got stars each day this week!  We ended up giving him even more play time, and judging by his excitement, you would think we gave him gold.  Nights have actually been pleasant!

Then, there is the additional bonus - the extra jobs he can do for money.  Dylan is funny.  He is not materialistic and rarely wants or asks for anything, but he loves money.  He plays with it, he collects it, he just likes having it.  He has been a cleaning machine this week!  I found myself looking around the house saying "Couldn't he handle the vacuum cleaner?!  What else can I get him to do?!  This place might actually be clean... for a change!"

The Chore Chart... it's not pretty.  It's not creative.  I didn't make it myself with colors that coordinate with the kitchen.  But, so far at least, it works.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

My 40th Birthday

The whole week leading up to my 40th birthday, I actually enjoyed going to the mailbox...

Some of the cards made me laugh.  Some of the cards almost made me cry.  I loved and appreciated each one.  Those of you who not only took the time to pick out and send me a card, but also took the time to write some words of encouragement?  You are AWESOME.

Some of my favorites...

"In dog years, you'd be 280, but in giant redwood years, you'd only be about 3 1/2.  See?  Turning 40 is all in how you look at it!"

"Anything worth doing... is worth over-doing!"

"40 is when you deserve to celebrate yourself and take pride in your strengths without apologizing".

And Dr. Seuss always knew what he was talking about...

"Another year older?  You ought to be proud!  You ought to get boisterous, noistrous and loud!
Just think of the things that you know how to do, the sorts of things no one can do except you.
Your brain's full of wherefores and who's whos and whys.  You think someone else could be nearly as wise?
You're one of a kind, you're uncommonly rare.  You can't be replaced 'cause there isn't a spare.  
Okay, you're another year older, it's true.  But how many people can say they are you?!"

A lot of people wrote such sweet, encouraging things on the cards, and I plan to keep each one and put them in a book.  

My mom's card was incredibly sweet, and included a piece of paper with my grandmother's handwriting that she found.  It is a list of scriptures, and on the top it says "For Jenny".  It almost brought me to tears.  So did my gifts...

A personalized photo album from my parents

A diamond bracelet from Doug's mom, that had belonged to his grandmother.

Some pictures drawn by my sweet boy.

A book written and recorded by Jim and Dylan, that is probably the best gift I have ever received in my entire life.  I get choked up every time I listen to it.

Since it rains every year on my birthday, I decided we should go somewhere that had indoor and outdoor things to do.  Kalahari Resort was perfect.  They have indoor pools and water slides, as well as outdoor, along with a huge arcade, bowling alley, ropes course, animal park, zip line, pottery studio, indoor play area, miniature golf, and restaurants.  It is basically a kid's heaven, and since I'm just a big kid, I had a blast!  Okay, I didn't particularly love the ridiculously LOUD arcade, but Dylan sure did.

On the way there (it's a 3 hour drive), we had to stop for gas.  One problem... the system was shut down or frozen or some nonsense, so we waited about an hour there, before finding out there was another gas station only 10 minutes down the road!

We stayed two nights.  The first night Jim and I hardly slept, due to a very excited little boy, who kept exclaiming "I just can't sleep!" every hour or so.  The next night he slept fine, but some @$$^*)# decided to vacuum at 5:00 in the morning and woke us up.  So we had very little sleep, but loads of fun!

Now, because I am certain I could not say it any better, I will close with the words of my amazingly sweet husband in my "Birthday Tale"...

"In time, she came to realize that, in fact, the blessings in her life, in the here and now, were not easily counted.  The love that surrounded her was immeasurable... she concluded that, 40 is but a number, and the adventures yet to come both soothed and excited her soul.  

Besides, it's the journey not the destination.  And so, they lived happily ever after.  The {End} Beginning".

Monday, August 13, 2012

"Before 40" Summary

My 40th birthday has come and gone, and my "Before 40" adventure is over.  Since this picture was taken a year ago...


*Took Dylan to the beach for the first time (Ocean City, MD).
*Wore high heels for the first time.
*Baked my first cake and pie.
*Climbed a rock wall.
*Took a printmaking class.  Took a carriage ride with Santa.
*Tried papaya, mango, avocado, starfruit, kumquat, and gooseberries.
*Rode a unicycle.
*Took Dylan to Disney.
*Went in a "Hurricane Simulator".
*Ate at "The Melting Pot" (a fondue restaurant) for the first time.  Learned how to use a hula hoop.
*Rode a zip line.  Held a snake.
*Completed twelve acts of kindness in one month for under $100.

I have learned...
*Spending time as a family is always money well spent.
*I will probably never be a person who wears high heels.  I'm 5'11", clumsy, and I wear a size 11 narrow shoe.  Plus, I'm a bit of a tomboy.
*I will probably never love to cook or bake.
*I like to be active.  That doesn't mean I will ever join a gym, but I do enjoy playing sports, and I definitely want to go rock climbing again.   I loved the feeling of conquering something!
*Printmaking is not my thing, but I do miss the artistic, creative side of myself.
*The fruits that not many people eat are the fruits that not many people eat for a reason.
*When you get the chance to try something new don't think too much.  Just do it.  The chance might never present itself again.
*When you're a parent, nothing brings you more joy than seeing your child happy and excited.  It doesn't matter if you're at the grocery store, or Disney World, (although Disney is preferable).  Put down your phone and pay attention or you'll miss those priceless smiles and laughs.
*You miss out on a lot of fun if you worry about what people might think of you.
*Paying a ridiculous amount of money to cook your own food is stupid.  Period.
*You are never too old to learn something new.
*Conquering fear is exhilarating.
*What you give you get.  Do you think it is a coincidence that the DAY after I completed my 12 acts of kindness in which I spent a little less than $100, I opened a birthday card that had a $100 bill in it?  I don't.

I have loved trying new things this year, going new places, conquering fears, and having adventures.  I've also loved how excited Dylan and Jim got about my adventures, and that I was able to include them in some of them.  Like I said before, I believe that children learn much more by observing our actions than they do by listening to what we say.

Thank you to everyone who followed my "Before 40" adventures this past year.  Now... what new thing are you going to try?

Friday, August 3, 2012

The Final "Before 40"

Most of my "Before 40" events have required some planning.  Planning takes time... something I don't always have in abundance.  This final month wasn't looking good.  I was seriously in danger of not completing my Before 40 quest.  The thought of failing to finish was completely ticking me off and making my final month quite stressful, (as if turning 40 wasn't stressful enough!).

My original plan was to sky dive.  I bought the Groupon deal for it months ago.  Then, I started having really bad back pain, and sky diving just didn't seem like a smart thing to do.  I wanted to do something BIG for my final month, but I had no idea what I could do that wasn't physical.  Then, one day while searching online, I found "Free Hugs"...

I immediately loved the idea of personal connection in a time when connecting through social media has become the norm. I believe the human touch is a powerful, healing thing.  The problem was that not many people seemed to agree with me.  I was having a hard time getting anyone on board with my plan.  Even my husband thought I was a nut.  "You want to hug perfect strangers... WHY?"  When I finally found three people who wanted to participate, we couldn't get our schedules to match up even one day this month!  I could have just done it myself, but I felt like two or three people giving out free hugs might be okay, one person giving out free hugs might be seen as a hippie weirdo.  My husband already thinks I've "gone all granola", since I've been eating humus lately, so I didn't want to completely freak the poor guy out.  I was back to square one and running out of time.  I was getting stressed and grouchy.  

One day, when I was driving home from work, I saw that the cars up ahead were stopped.  A couple of cars turned around and went in the other direction.  The car in front of me turned around, and pulled along side of me.  I put my window down and the woman said she would strongly advise me to turn around, because there was an accident up ahead and it looked like it would take a long time to clear it.  I told her, "I really don't know any other way to get home from here!"  She asked where I was headed and said that if I wanted to follow her, she was going a very round about way, but she would go slow so I could stay with her.  I was so touched by her kindness that I wanted to pay it forward in some way, so when I got to the toll booth, I decided to pay the toll for the person behind me.  That is when the idea for my final month was born - twelve acts of kindness (one for each month of my 39th year) in one month.  I wanted to prove to myself and to others that you don't have to have a lot of money to make a difference, so my goal was to do it all for $100 or less.  This is what I did...

1.  Paid turnpike toll for person behind me.  ($1.25)

2.  Jim, Dylan, and I ate dinner at Arby's one night.  When we came out a homeless man came up to me and said he was hungry.  I went back inside and got him a sandwich.  ($3.19)

3.  Dylan and I were at the mall one day.  I rushed forward and held the door for an old lady with a cane.  (The best part of this good deed?  When Dylan saw me do it, he then held the next door for her!  I firmly believe that kids learn more by what we DO than by what we say).  (Free)

4.  I had two ($5 off) coupons for a restaurant that were expiring that day.  I went in, gave the coupons to the first two tables I saw, and then left.  (Free)

5.  Donated $25 to Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh.

6.  Donated $7 to buy a child a book at Jumpstart.

7.  Donated $25 to Shriner's Children's Hospital in Erie, in memory of Doug, (who was a Shriner).  I was lucky enough to tour the hospital with Doug years ago, and see the amazing work they do.

8.  Donated 500 grains of rice by correctly answering 50 questions on

9.  Sent a book to a little boy whose dad died recently (my cousin)... "Help Me Say Goodbye:  Activities for Helping Kids Cope When A Special Person Dies".  ($13.94)

10.  Dropped off two bags of Dylan's clothes that no longer fit at a Planet Aid drop box.  (Free)

11.  Dropped off three bags of groceries at our local Food Pantry. ($18)

12.  Went to, and did the following...

*Clicked to help sponsor 1 child from Children International.
*Clicked to save 7.4 square feet of rainforest through the Nature Conservancy.
*Clicked to protect 11,000 square feet of big cat habitat through The Wildlife Conservation Society.
*Clicked to support life saving breast cancer research through Susan G. Komen for the Cure.
*Clicked to help fund seal hunt observers through the International Fund for Animal Welfare.
*Clicked to protect 100 square feet of ocean through Oceana.
*Clicked to feed a rescued primate through The Jane Goodall Institute.
*Clicked to offset my computer's energy use through
*Clicked to help end violence against women worldwide through Amnesty International.
*Clicked to help adopt and protect threatened wolves through Defenders of Wildlife.

(You can go to the site and just choose one thing to click on and support, or click on each one like I did!  You are allowed to click on each thing once a day).

I did 12 acts of kindness in three weeks for a little under $100, which just proves that you CAN make a difference even if you don't have a lot of time or money.  You just have to do SOMETHING.
Well, that's it folks.  My Before 40 journey has come to an end.  I plan to do one final post to sum up the experience soon, but for now... let the partying begin!!