Thursday, December 31, 2009

Fishful Thinking Thursday - Adios, 2009!

Adios, 2009! You were so full of ups and downs with unexpected twists and turns...I am more than ready for a calmer 2010! Time to re-evaluate, re-focus, and rebuild. We're in a new place. Pat likes his new job. There are new opportunities waiting for us. So this next year, I am all about setting goals...Goldilocks goals, as Fishful Thinking's Dr. Karen Reivich calls them.

Not too easy, not too hard, but just right! (Click here to read more about them.)

With the help of a handy, dandy Goal Road Map and taking the time to answer a few questions like these, I may surprise myself as to what I can personally accomplish and even what we, as a family, can accomplish. One thing we've been talking about for awhile now is becoming "engaged in a good cause" - like getting involved in a community service effort. Now we just need to map out the steps to make that happen.

I tell ya, I know that Fishful Thinking was designed primarily with kids in mind, but this program has been such a support to me, especially during the last five months as we've gone through so much change. The activities, the articles, the videos...they've all helped me to continue to "notice what's nice and to deal with what's not".
And for that, I am truly grateful.

And speaking of new opportunities, a really awesome one presented itself to me just a couple days before Christmas! One that I will share more about next week when it's all official. But I just have to say how excited I am...

So here's to 2010 - I'm ready for ya!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Strict orders from a five-year-old

I was under strict orders from Abby this Christmas - "No pajamas this time, Mom. I want to open a toy on Christmas Eve."

She remembered last year all too well...


video

I totally need to send this video to AFV. hahaha!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

(PSF) Merry Christmas - Smilebox style!

Now this is my kind of Christmas card! No stamps, no envelopes, no searching for addresses, and lots of pictures! And it gets there ON TIME! :) Enjoy!
Click to play this Smilebox slideshow: Merry Christmas!
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*For even more Christmas fun, the Disney Christmas Day Parade is on ABC at 10am EST tomorrow morning. The kids and I can't wait!


*Click here for more Photo Story Friday hosted by Cecily*

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Our Treasures Box (a la Fishful Thinking)

Among the presents sitting beneath our Christmas tree this year will be our very first Treasures Box inspired by none other than that optimism-instilling resource that I have come to know and love - Fishful Thinking!

The holiday season is a time of reflection with family and loved ones. Reflect, collect, and share something good that happened this year by making a Fishful Thinking treasures box.



Here are a few treasured experiences we've added to the box so far...

Abby's treasures:
  • 4th of July fireworks
  • Daddy buying me a big lollipop at the candy store
  • Singing Christmas songs with the primary at church
  • Counting all the way to 1000 by myself (just yesterday!)

Noah's treasures:
  • Fishing with Papa
  • Going to the playground
  • Seeing the big rockets (at the NASA Space Center)
  • Hitting golf balls with Dad

Daddy's treasures:
  • Finding a new job
  • Taking the kids to the driving range
  • Going to a Dallas Cowboys game in their new stadium
  • Playing "mean guys" with Noah (aka wrestling)
  • Playing video games with Abby

Mama's treasures:
  • Snuggling my kiddos
  • Our trips to my grandma's house 
  • Having family come visit three times since we've moved
  • Taking the kids to visit my old elementary school and reconnecting with teachers and childhood friends
  • Seeing Abby accept her Reflections contest ribbon for her giraffe drawing
  • Singing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" at bedtime with Noah 
  • Taking family walks and catching fireflies 
  • Visiting a live nativity with the kids. (They wanted to walk through three times so they could see baby Jesus again.)
There are definitely more where those came from! We will be adding to our Treasures Box this week, and then we'll open our box on Christmas day and pull out some of the "treasures" to read and remind ourselves of the many things in life that bring us joy.

It is my hope that the spirit of Christmas will be felt in each one of our hearts this holiday season and throughout the year as we reflect on and give thanks for the wonderful blessings that we have been given.

Wishing you all a very merry Christmas!!!

Monday, December 21, 2009

A cautionary tale...

Christmas has really crept up on me this year. I've spent this past week finishing up shopping, getting ready for and helping out with Abby's school party, preparing and sending packages, and doing little holiday activities with the kids. I had every intention of posting about our Holiday Treasure Box last week for Fishful Thinking Thursday, but Thursday came and went before we had a chance to do it. Then I promised Abby we would do it on Saturday, but after standing in line at the post office all morning, checking out the model train holiday display at the botanical gardens (Noah loved it!), going to an interview for a possible Educational Specialist job (fingers crossed), and then dinner, baths, and playing a few more games on the Wii (an early Christmas gift/belated b'day gift from Gram. Pat was just as excited to get it as the kids were!) it was already bedtime.

But Abby was not going to let me out of this one. "Mama, you said we would do our treasure box today." She had been waiting do this treasure box activity all week. 

"I know, honey, but it's bedtime. We can do it tomorrow." (Same thing I'd been saying for the last three days.)

"But Ma-OHm, you said we would..."

I caved.

Instead of a bedtime story, Pat, the kids, and I sat in Abby's room and talked about things that we treasure or love and put some things in the box -  a picture of our family, the kids with my grandma, Abby drew a picture of the sun. Then I told her we could do more tomorrow, but now she and Noah really had to go to bed.

That was not what she wanted to hear. Being overly tired and a bit dramatic, she threw herself off of the bed, and suddenly let out a piercing scream. Pat immediately noticed that she still had her colored pencil in her hand. "My eye!!!" She's crying uncontrollably.

My heart stopped.

Pat and I are trying to calm her and look at what happened. Did she puncture her eye? Please, no. Please. Please.

I'm trying to stay calm and asking her, "Can you see, Abby? Can you see?"

I take her into the bathroom and see that the area just above eyelid is bleeding. The edges of the flat end of the pencil had broken the skin, but it's not deep and the actual eye looks okay. Still I feel nauseated, not only because I am squeamish, but because of how close she came to gouging herself in the eye. I felt sick inside imagining what could have happened.

After washing the area with a cold rag, she started to calm down. I put some ointment on the cut and tried to reiterate how we have to be so careful with pencils, etc..."You could poke your eye out."

I sounded like the mom from A Christmas Story.



I am just so relieved that she didn't ...and so very thankful.

No shooting Red Ryder BB guns or drawing with colored pencils at bedtime in this house. Thank you very much.

(Treasure Box post to come! I promise!)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Only 9 more BOOKS until Christmas!!!

In an effort to make our first Christmas on our own extra festive and fun, I've been all ears for new holiday activities. I loved this Christmas book countdown idea that my awesomely creative friend, Diana, told me about a couple weeks ago. (Thanks, Diana!)

On December 5th, Abby helped me find all of our Christmas books...
I didn't realize I had so many! Still being two shy of 19 books, I printed out a couple stories from the online December issue of the Friend magazine to make up for it.

Later, we had a little book wrapping contest - Daddy and Noah vs. Mom and Abby!  (The girls won by a millisecond.) Then that night, the kids picked one book to open together and read before bedtime.(The taking-turns-each- night idea didn't go over well.)
Christmas in the Manger was a perfect book to start our countdown.  That story has been one our favorites to read since Abby's very first Christmas...six years ago.

The last book the kids unwrap will be the scriptures so we can read the Christmas story from Luke together.

Also on the agenda this Christmas season  - Decorating graham cracker gingerbread houses! (This mama is all about shortcuts.)  We made those last night for the very first time.

It was a lip smackin', finger-lickin' good time...and before dinner too.  YUM!!!

Next up - a Holiday Treasure Box! (Pictures to come on Fishful Thinking Thursday.)

Any fun ideas that you'd like to share? Do tell! :)  

Friday, December 11, 2009

PSF - All I want for Christmas is a KING size bed!

2 overly exhausted adults + 2 flailing children in a queen size bed do not make for a good night's sleep.

This picture was taken about a year and half ago while we were staying at a hotel. We actually had set up mini-airbeds for the kids. Lightning McQueen for Noah and Disney Princesses for Abby. Still they ended up in bed with us.

Like they still do...every.single.night.

Two o'clock in the morning hits, and it's like an internal alarm goes off inside their little heads, and at least one of them, usually Noah, comes running into our room.

The way that those kiddos toss and turn, I'm surprised that I haven't woken up with a black eye. Seriously.

So, Santa, if you could manage to squeeze a king-sized mattress down the chimney this year, I would SO appreciate it.
PhotoStory Friday
Hosted by Cecily and Rachael

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Fishful Thinking Thursday - I'm one of the 85%

Have you taken this survey yet?  A quick Straight Talk on Parenting survey over on none other than fishfulthinking.com. There are just a few questions, but one stat that stood out to me is that 85% of moms surveyed feel that motherhood is the hardest job they've ever had.

I'm glad I'm not the only one.

Especially on days when I need to take the kids to Kohl's in an effort to buy Abby a new Christmas dress and attempt to get the kids some new shoes for church. There is something about Kohl's that turns my children into crazy, hyper, wild animals. Every.single.time. You would think that I would have learned my lesson by now. Even using the double stroller/buggy thing does me absolutely no good. They won't stay in the thing for more than two minutes, and while they are seated, Noah is pulling at Abby's hair or trying to climb from the front of the buggy to the back basket and hide inside.  Abby is whining incessantly about Noah bothering her, of course, and she usually says she has to go to the bathroom about four minutes after we walk into the store. Oh, how I love going into public bathrooms with both of the kids at the same time....ugh!

So yes, I can totally see why 85% of moms surveyed feel that way.

Of course, I also completely understand why 94% of moms surveyed say that being a mom is also the BEST job they've ever had.

I'm one of those too.

Especially when my little boy runs up to me (out of the blue), throws his arms around my neck, and says, "Mama, I love you for-evuh. You ah my favorite mama in the whole wool-d."

I always reply that I'll love him forever too and that he's my favorite little boy in the whole world.


When we make our Holiday Treasure Box next week, the very first thing I will add is a picture of my sweet boy and my precious girl.


Despite my less than stellar moments (like making empty threats during shopping trips), my kids have made me a better person. They have taught me so much about love and gratitude and faith and forgiveness, especially over this past year which has been full of change and challenges. I know that they still have a lot to teach me, and I treasure each day that I have with them...even those days when I'm really feeling that 85%.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A Wordful Way Back When-esday: Once Upon a Christmas Time...

Once upon a Christmas time, long ago, a young man with a skater-style haircut beckoned a young woman whom he had recently taken on a first date to help him decorate a Christmas tree. The young woman happily obliged as she had a teensy weensy crush on this young man.

They arrived at his humble abode (an old "trailer" that he shared with two roommates) fully equipped with spray-on snow, cheap glass bulbs from the local Wal-Mart, a few strands of lights, and some blue tinsel that the young man managed to find in his mother's attic.

Since the tree was only three and half feet tall, the ingenious young man and his buddies devised a way to suspend the tree from the ceiling, therefore eliminating the need for a tree stand. Due to the miniature nature of the tree, there were plenty of lights left over to string around a bicycle rim that the young man (a manager of a bike shop) had previously hung on the wall (with a red light bulb in the middle to add an extra touch of tackiness.)

The young man and young woman were so pleased with their decorating abilities that they decided to pose for their very first picture together in front of the dangling, overly spray-painted Christmas tree...

...both of them completely unsuspecting of the fact that fourteen years later, they would have celebrated their thirteenth wedding anniversary, have two beautiful children, and be decorating their fourteenth Christmas tree together....

 in "Sweet Home Alabama" no less.
  
*I couldn't resist posting this again this year with an updated family picture (courtesy of the self timer on my camera). I'm deeming it my blog holiday tradition. :)

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Cracks me up every time...


Abby and Noah and their cousins, Oliver & Amelie,
have just been "elfed" by their Uncle Michael.
I'm cracking up over here! :)
I can't wait to show the kids tomorrow.

Click here to see them in action!


Thursday, December 3, 2009

"The Pout-Pout Fish"ful Thinking Thursday!

It's time again for a little Fishful Thinking! I am so excited to share my recent interview (via email) with Deborah Diesen, the best-selling author of one of 2008's TOP TEN children's books, The Pout-Pout Fish. One of my all time favorite read-alouds!

I first discovered this book last winter when I was working as the storyteller at our local library. Deborah just happened to see a comment I left on the CWIM blog about the 2008 Top Ten list and then emailed me offering signed Pout-Pout Fish bookmarks to give out at storytime. How nice is that? I've been following her blog ever since. :)

For those who haven't read it yet, The Pout-Pout Fish is a clever and colorful rhyming picture book about Mr. Fish whose chronic frown is turned upside down when a friendly fish gives him a kiss! This act of kindness turns this Pout-Pout Fish who "spreads dreary wearies all over the place" into a smiling Kiss Kiss Fish who "spreads cheery cheeries all over the place!" Because this story has a great optimistic and resilient message, I thought it would be a perfect book to spotlight for Fishful Thinking Thursday...and it just so happens to be about a fish!




A NEW YORK TIMES BEST SELLER

Me: First of all, congratulations on The Pout-Pout Fish being such a big hit! When you first heard that your story was named one of the top ten picture books of 2008, what was your first reaction?


Deborah: My whole experience with The Pout-Pout Fish has been an amazing adventure! Time magazine choosing the book as one of the top ten children's books of 2008 was quite an unexpected piece of news. I think my first reaction to it (given that I have a good proportion of Eeyore in my personality) was disbelief: the news seemed too good to be true! But after that, my second reaction was just to enjoy it and to be grateful. There are so many terrific children's books out there, some of which get their day in the sun, and some of which don't. Much comes down simply to luck and timing. My knowledge of that, along with my great gratitude to all the parents, librarians, teachers, and others who have shared The Pout-Pout Fish with children, makes me appreciate the success of the book even more.


Me: What or WHO inspired the character of Mr. Fish, and how long did he (the idea) swim around in your head before The Pout Pout Fish splashed on to paper (or the computer screen)?


Deborah: I came up with the idea for The Pout-Pout Fish after a real life "pouty" encounter. One afternoon, my son was in a bad mood and being pretty mopey about it. Since sometimes humor is the best way to help someone out of a grouchy mood, I was being a bit silly with him and doing an exaggerated version of his pout. This Great Big Pout made my son laugh, and then he started making a giant pouty face back at me. My son and I did the big pouting back and forth several times, and then I laughed and said, "We look like fish! Like pout-pout fish." And suddenly there was a story idea! I wrote the idea down right away, so I wouldn't forget. I'm not sure if I started writing the story immediately, or if a few weeks passed before I started work on it. But once I started writing it, the first draft emerged pretty quickly - probably within a few days. (Of course, the second, third, and beyond drafts took a bit longer, but that’s another story...)

Me: I had the opportunity to read your story to my daughter's kindergarten class recently. The kids were captivated by the clever rhymes and colorful sea creatures. They loved repeating Mr. Fish's refrain with me and couldn't stop giggling when he planted "smooches" on all of his friends. When you make author visits and share your story, which parts tend to get the biggest laughs/smiles?


Deborah: Dan Hanna's art is amazing, as it captures the personalities of Mr. Fish and his friends so well. The cover perfectly represents the "before" portrait of Mr. Fish, and kids particularly enjoy that image. Kids also really like the recurring "bluuuuuubs" in the storyline, which I always have them say right along with me. Perhaps the overall favorite spot in the book is the page spread that shows Mr. Fish immediately after Miss Shimmer's random act of smoochiness: he's upside-down on a rock, looking mightily confused, trying to make sense of his transformative moment. I always slow down when I read those pages, to heighten the suspense before the smoochy denouement!
It's funny, though: the very last page of the book, which shows Mr. Fish and Miss Shimmer sharing a smooch, is occasionally a little too much lovey-doveyness for some of the older kids in attendance. I've heard a few good-natured groans during school visits for that page! But younger kids and their parents do like the ending. (And so does Mr. Fish!)

Me: As a young child, what were a few of your favorite picture books and why? Did you have a favorite author?



Deborah: I thoroughly enjoyed Dr. Seuss books (and still do!). I particularly loved Fox in Socks, and even now welcome any opportunity to read it aloud. Another childhood book that stands out in my mind (if a bit vaguely after all the years since I've read it) is That's Good, That's Bad by Joan Lexau and illustrated by Aliki. And, later in childhood, I was a huge Little House fan. I read and re-read all the books in the series until they literally started falling apart!


Me: Did you write poems and stories as a child? Perhaps daydreamed about having a book written by YOU on the library shelves someday?


Deborah: As a child, I loved to write! The first bit of creative writing I remember doing was poetry. I wrote a poem about a butterfly when I was in 3rd or 4th grade, and then launched into a busy period of producing rhyming poems about colors and animals. Around 4th or 5th grade, I tried my hand at an original "novel," which was pretty much a knock-off of the Laura Ingalls Wilder books (imitation being the sincerest form of flattery and all...). Through junior high, senior high, and early college, I held on to the notion of myself as a writer, and hoped (without truly believing) that someday I'd have a book of my own. In my twenties and early thirties, I set aside writing. It just didn’t seem a very practical aspiration. But then my kids came along, and all that exposure to children's books reawakened my interest in writing. I'm glad it did! It's such an amazing thing to have become a published author - something I didn't quite dare dream entirely, yet still somehow managed to accomplish.

Me: One of my favorite things about The Pout-Pout Fish is the positive message it sends. As printed on the back cover, Sometimes a kiss is all it takes to turn things around. What do you ultimately hope that kids (and parents) will take away from reading this story?



Deborah: I hope that the story of Mr. Fish helps kids and parents to remember that the little things we do have a profound influence on those around us. As I tell kids, if you notice someone feeling grouchy -- even if it's yourself! -- you might think about The Pout-Pout Fish, and share a little encouragement with someone around you. It doesn't have to be a kiss, it could just be a smile. But it might just do the trick! I also hope that kids and others will take away from the story a little bit of book joy. Fun words, silly sounds, and stories of all types are a pleasure and treasure we should share together as often as possible!
**************************

The Pout-Pout Fish has definitely brought a lot of "book joy" to our family! Again, I want to thank Deborah for allowing me to spotlight her and Mr.Fish this week. I'm really looking forward to the release of the sequel, The Pout-Pout Fish in the Big-Big Dark (fall 2010). For more Pout-Pout Fish fun (word games, cootie catchers, a fish mask), click here!

For more optimism and resilience activities, click the fish!



Tuesday, December 1, 2009

10 truths about yours truly...

Warning: What you are about to read may slightly alter your opinion of me or what you know of me according this little ol' blog of mine.  My good friend, Terri, tagged me a couple weeks ago to confess 10 truths about myself.  I admit that can't resist a meme, so at the risk of unveiling a few of my idiosyncrasies and shortcomings, here goes nothing...

1) Thanksgiving is not my favorite holiday. I am all about being grateful, BUT cooking all day while men watch football, sitting down to eat for twenty minutes, and then cleaning it all up again (while men are watching football) is just not my idea of a good time. A couple years ago we went to Shoney's with my Grandma for Thanksgiving and I tell ya, it was the BEST Thanksgiving ever! I do look forward to the Macy's parade though and the desserts. I love dessert!

2) I am not a Twilight fan. (gasp!!!) I am actually a little nervous to admit this on my blog for all the world to see in fear of being ostracized by my handful of blogging friends or potential "followers". (haha!) Most of my friends, my youngest sister, and my sister-in-law have read all of the books and were counting down to the movie being released. I tried to like it. I really did. I read more than 300 pages of the first book when it originally came out, but I just couldn't read anymore. Co-dependent teenagers and vampires just aren't my thing.

3) Cake Boss (on TLC) is my new favorite show. Oh, what a person can do with fondant, rice krispie treats, and modeling chocolate! Before watching this show, I didn't even know there was such a thing as modeling chocolate.  (And did you see the one where the witchy, disgruntled bride ruined her gorgeous wedding cake...I couldn't believe it!)

4) I'm not really into crime scene shows, but I have been watching *NCIS Los Angeles...only because it stars Chris O'Donnell. I've had a major celebrity crush on this guy since high school. Ever see him in Circle of Friends? Love, love, love him in that movie.  He looked pretty darn good as Robin in Batman Forever too.

5) I do not drink enough water. With chasing the kids around, cleaning, laundry, errands, etc...sometimes I just forget. I am trying to get better about it, especially since a kidney stone about did me in a couple months ago. Yes, a kidney stone. Pain I wouldn't wish upon my worst enemy. Seriously, it was crazy (which is also what I kept repeating to the nurse as I was writhing in pain). My new motto - 64 oz. a day keep the kidney stones away.

***I have to go pick Abby up from school in a few minutes so the rest of these will be short and sweet. 

6) My favorite flower is a tulip. I always mean to plant bulbs in the fall, but never end up doing it.

7) I don't like to eat anything that is blue. Why? I do not know.

8) I am a bit of a backseat driver, but only when my husband is driving the car. Poor guy.

9) I cannot roller skate worth a darn. Abby has been wanting to learn how to skate, but I've been putting it off to avoid making a fool out of myself.

10) I am posting my very first interview with a best-selling children's author on Thursday! So be sure to come back by and check it out. Pretty please!

Anything you want to fess up to? Play along and post this meme, or leave a comment with a truthful tidbit about yourself. :)