Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Toenail Fairy, Eh?

*Warning: This post is not for the weak of stomach. If the title got you, don't bother reading the rest.

A little background for you:

My husband is a marathon runner. Like a lot of runners who put on miles by the double digits, this means that he loses the occasional toenail. The nails rub against the top of the shoe over and over until it kills the nail; it grows out and a new one grows underneath. It's a fact of life for many long distance runners.

After he lost the first one, he grossed Lindsey out by making her believe he had put it in her tooth box, the one she puts under her pillow for the tooth fairy to find when she loses a tooth. You should've seen her open that box when she thought there was a toenail in there -- she held it at arm's length and had a grimace on her face until she opened it and found nothing inside.

The next toenail he found, he told her that if he put it in her tooth box, she might actually trick the tooth fairy into leaving a dollar for it. So she agreed to let him put it in her tooth box. Lo and behold, the tooth fairy left her a dollar as a reward, but forgot to leave a note. (This is what happens when dad plays the tooth fairy.)

Recently Wayne lost another toenail and when he showed it to her she actually raised both her hands in the air in a triumphant "YES!" Because this meant another dollar. Only this time, the toenail was accompanied by a note from a confused tooth fairy.

Okay, so the toenail fairy doesn't have the best grammar, but that's what happens when the note gets written around midnight. And when she's expecting a tooth.

Lindsey is kind of curious about whether or not the tooth fairy exists, especially since a good friend of hers informed her that her parents just pretend to be the tooth fairy. But we've explained that every little girl and boy has their own special tooth fairy, and that hers must like her a lot since she accepts toenails that aren't even her own in exchange for a dollar.

Yes Virginia, the toenail fairy exists.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Littlest Consumers


A week before Thanksgiving the Toys R' Us Great Big Christmas Book arrived in our Sunday paper. What used to be an actual book of 60 or more pages of toys has been reduced to a 12-page flyer. But regardless, they knew which ones to include to make my kids' eyes wide as saucers.

Marissa began going through the flyer and putting a big "M" on all the toys she wanted.

"Mommy, I want this Barbie horse," she would say.

"You already have a Barbie horse."

"Oh yeah." (Scribble scribble). "Well, I want this Barbie car."

"You already have a Barbie car."

"Well, this is a Barbie van, I want a Barbie VAN."

On and on through the book she would go, circling items very similar to ones she had asked for and gotten previously. So we went for a little tour through our house.

There's the Barbie house.

There's the Thomas the Train set.

There's the kitchen set.

There are the dishes that go with the kitchen set.

And then we pulled down the picture of our sponsored child in the Phillipines, and talking about what she might like for Christmas.

"She is probably going to get a new pair of shoes for Christmas," I told Marissa, who wrinkled her nose at the idea.

"Shoes?! Why would she want shoes?" she asked.

"Because she doesn't have any; her old ones wore out."

We also talked about other things that might be on her Christmas list: a new white shirt for school since she wears a uniform, some paper and pencils because the ones supplied to her at the beginning of the school year were probably gone, maybe some long pants to keep the bugs off her.

I'm not sure if Marissa truly believes that the smiling little girl in the photo really doesn't have those things, but I noticed that later on she went back through the wish book and crossed out things she had previously circled.

She probably won't remember this conversation on Christmas morning when she rips open her presents, looking for that one special one that she really wants. But I will do my best to remind her of the things that she has that many others do not.

What do you do to remind your kids of their good fortune? How do you temper the wish list from becoming 10 pages long?

Thursday, November 25, 2010

So much to be thankful for

This was an unusual Thanksgiving Day for us, in that for the first time in many years Wayne's parents did not travel to our house for Thanksgiving dinner. Between the forecast for bad weather and, let's face it, the bad airbed, they opted to stay home. We'll be seeing them tomorrow anyway, for our annual trek to their home for the big family get together on Saturday.

But for the first time since becoming a family of four, we had Thanksgiving at our home. Just us, no one else.

Lindsey and I took in a movie in the morning -- Tangled. It was a 9:45 a.m. showing, and it was the first movie that she stayed in the whole time and did not leave the theatre during scary parts. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, even having popcorn and Sprite at that hour in the morning.

Then I came home and baked up a couple of pies: pumpkin and apple. I follow my mom's dutch apple pie recipe, and it's a good one. I had bought apples two or three times over the past month with the intention of making this pie, only to have the apples get eaten throughout the week. At least my kids are healthy eaters!

I made a mostly full Thanksgiving spread, minus the dishes that my family for a whole doesn't eat (which meant none of my favorite sweet potatoes). We sat around the table and said what we were thankful for:

A house
A job
Clean water
Good health
School and the education that goes along with it
entertainment (specifically the movie Tangled - guess who said this one)

And throughout the evening I thought of all the people in my life who I am thankful for, friends old and new, co-workers (also old and new), and family. I thought of the family that I sponsor through Children International in the Phillipines, and how they were able to buy a mattress for many family members to sleep on with some of the money I sent their way -- yet some of the family members still sleep on the floor. I wondered how many days they could feed their family of 7 on the food we consumed in a single meal.

While these thoughts went through my head, I counted my blessings some more and gave my kids extra big hugs. I am very thankful indeed.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Do you guys know each other?

To the lady in the Saturn with all the "save the earth" stickers all over the rear of your car that I was stuck behind for 20 blocks last night -- do you know the lady in the Oldsmobile? The one who sells Mary Kay?

No? Oh -- well maybe you guys went to the same driving school.

Just checking.

Monday, November 22, 2010

One lump or two?

I like coffee.

Let me put that another way: I like my skim dark chocolate mocha from Caribou, large please.

I could have one every day, if only it didn't cost me $4.17 with tax and 10 pounds of extra baggage in the shape of saddlebags. So I settle for a home or office-brewed cup of Caribou with some sugar and cream put in it for good measure.

And then I read an article that talked about the bad things sugar does to your body, and more specifically to your brain function. Researchers have affirmed time and again that people who have refined sugar as a regular part of their diet have more problems focusing and keeping a train of thought than those who don't, along with a whole host of other nasty things that sugar does to your body.

While I'm not a junk food addict, I start my day - every day - with a cup of coffee with some sugar tossed in for good measure. I haven't NOT started a day that way in probably 25 years. (For those of you doing the math, this means I began drinking coffee regularly in my teens. The big birthday is NEXT year, remember?)

Hmmm...so what if I tried to kick the sugar in the coffee habit?

So one morning at work I decided to fix myself a cup of coffee with just creamer in it, no sugar. It didn't taste the best, that's for sure, and I didn't enjoy it as much as I usually enjoy my coffee. But I told myself I was going to try this out for a while, so I left it the way it was.

An hour later I had my regularly scheduled meeting with my boss, and it was a good meeting. It was good in that I was focused on the conversation. I listened intently. I followed our discussion more closely and was more engaged. I felt clear-headed.

I hadn't realized I hadn't been feeling clear-headed up until this point.

Think about that -- 25 years of starting every single day with a kick of sugar. My clarity of thought was normal to me, but obviously not what it could be.

I kept this habit up for a week, then went back to sugar in my coffee. The coffee just wasn't worth drinking to me if it didn't taste the way I wanted.

And then suddenly I switched back. The benefits of being in-the-moment with my family, at work and in my life outweighed the taste factor. It's been three weeks now, and I officially enjoy my sugarless coffee in the morning.

And no, I am not planning on cutting out the creamer next. I figure this is enough of a step for me. For now.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Can I read to you?

I enjoy this sight because I know how short-lived it will be.

Lindsey's reading skills blossomed over this past summer. She went from slowly reading 1st grade books to zipping through 3rd grade books. She's hit the Judy Blume and Beverly Cleary reading genre, and I'm thrilled to be able to share with her the same authors that I loved when I was her age.

And unlike my childhood experience, she has a little sister - one who is not yet reading.

So this is often the sight in our house - two girls curled up in a chair or on a bed, with Lindsey reading to Marissa. Marissa is enamored and listens well when Lindsey reads to her.

Who knows, by the end of kindergarten Marissa may be starting to read and then she won't be so willing to listen. She'll want to pick up books herself to read. But in the meantime, her big sister is her best bedtime story teller. It's nice to be able to split the bedtime story hour three ways now,with three readers in the house.

I'm loving every minute.

Friday, November 19, 2010

An invitation to tea

Welcome to my tea party. I'll be your host, please let me know if you need anything.

Would you like some gummy vitamins in a cup? How about a ham sandwich cut into the shape of a snowman? I've also got yummy cinnamon and sugar roll-ups, and marshmallows topped with frosting and sprinkles for dessert.

All of it washed down with some lovely room temperature water in little tiny cups.

I love these little shows of sisterly love. So sweet.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Getting ourselves dressed

 I have a friend named Julie who always looks very stylish (she's second from the left, in case you're wondering). Every time I see her I tell her how put together she looks, and each time she gives the credit to this guy named Anthony, her personal shopper at J Crew. He helps her put together pieces that she would've never put together on her own and picks out accessories to pull it all together. She's been shopping there for 5 years and he knows every piece that's in her closet, so he knows what pieces will go with things she already owns. He even stopped her from buying a third gray cardigan after reminding her that she already owned two.

A group of us got tired of hearing about this Anthony without meeting him, so we asked Julie to hook us up. So this past Sunday eight of us arrived at J Crew at closing time to find this sign on the door:

We had the store to ourselves for 2 hours after closing time, with Anthony helping us with our style issues.

One of us was looking for an outfit appropriate for a gala but something that could be used on other occasions.

One of us was looking for pieces that could go from office to casual weekend wear with just a couple of switches.

I myself was looking for help with my boring long-sleeved t-shirt that I use under nearly every blazer and sweater I wear to work. Bor-ring. I even wore one to the appointment so he could see how boring it was.

He surprised us by putting some of the ladies in skinny jeans...and they looked surprisingly good! I would've never imagined that on women who have hips. (Yes, we have hips.)

Anthony managed to keep options in front of all of us and to our collective amazement, kept all of us straight. (Did I mention that 7 of the 8 people at this personal shopping party have names starting with "J"?) He could tell you what worked, what didn't, and would put together pieces that some of us would have never put together.

Best of all, we all got an additional 20 percent discount on our purchases, even clearance items. We all walked out of there with J Crew bags and smiles.

Janel, Julie, Gianna, Janey, Jenny, Jennifer and Anthony
I have never shopped at J Crew before - whenever I looked in the window the clothes seemed so basic and plain to me. But upon closer look they stock nicely constructed basics that you can invest in, i.e. blazers, skirts and pants, with more interesting shirts and accent pieces to put together an outfit.

I will definitely be back and will put Anthony's infamous memory to the test to see if he remembers me or my particular style challenge. And hopefully we can have another personal shopping party - it was so much fun!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

An adventurous first 5K

Earlier this week it hit 67 degrees here in Minnesota. I spent those days in an office building, hoping against all odds that the weather would hold until Saturday, when I would be running my first 5k.

It was clearly too much to hope for.

By Wednesday meterologists were making dire predictions for a winter storm that was supposed to drop several inches of snow on Saturday. Sadly, the meterologists were correct.

As those of you who are friends with me on Facebook know, I have learned through my training for this 5k that I loathe running. Truly, truly dislike it. There is nothing I dreaded more than having to spend a beautiful Sunday afternoon running when I would rather be skating. There was nothing enjoyable in training for this event for me, especially when I was using my "me" time (i.e. time not at work and not with kids) to do this dreaded chore.

I had begun the couch potato to 5k program a little more than 2 months ago, and promptly stopped following it a month later. Not that I'm a couch potato, I'm pretty active and in good shape due to my inline skating, but running is a completely different set of muscles and a totally different cardio workout than inline skating. I should've been training, but really? Ugh.

So Saturday, when I awoke to several inches of the white stuff on the ground with thick, heavy snow still falling, being whipped around by the wind, I had the perfect excuse. I could've bagged on this event and no one would blame me.

But I have a friend for whom this 5k means more to her than it does to me, and I had arranged to pick her up and at least start this run together. Laura had really trained for this and she wasn't going to miss it; she worked too hard for it. (You can read about her reasons for running and her training for it on her blog.)

So I got up and out, met her at her house and tried to avoid being one of many poor drivers in the ditch along the road on our way to Centerville for this race.

The race itself was actually...fun. I know, right? My shoes were soaked in the first 10 steps, my mittens soaked through by the halfway mark. But it was a badge of honor to say that I ran in those kinds of conditions, and once I got going I heated up enough that I didn't really mind the cold.

My goal was to run the whole way, and I did with the exception of the one water stop, since I haven't figured out how to drink water and run at the same time. I finished in a little over 39 minutes, which was a 12:37 pace. My goal was to run the whole way, which I did, and I consider that an accomplishment considering it was like running in sand with the snow and slush.

Hmmm...okay, so training for a 5k sucks, but the actual 5k itself is fun. Maybe I can just run 5ks without training for them, as long as I keep in shape via other activities, right? We'll see! Maybe Wayne will make a runner out of me after all.

Friday, November 12, 2010

To the lady in the Oldsmobile with the Mary Kay sign in the back

My apologies for being close on your tail this morning. I was headed to work and wanted to make it there close to on time. I typically take city streets, as you do, to avoid the traffic on 35W, and then pick up I-94 later on.

The challenge with going 20 mph in city streets, as you were this morning, is that the lights are timed so that if you go the speed limit, which is 30 mph by the way, you will hit every light green once you hit one light green. It's pretty neat that the city set things up that way. As a matter of fact, you can even go as fast as 32 mph and will still hit every light green.

But, when you are stuck behind someone going 20 mph as I was this morning, you tend to hit every light red. And with the number of lights between 36th Street and Portland, this meant that 10 minutes were added on to my commute today because I was stuck behind you.

I don't know if you knew this, but if you are coming up to a green light and you see that the pedestrian signs are blinking red, that means that the light is about to turn yellow. It's a neat little trick. As a matter of fact, sometimes you're even given an idea as to how soon the light will turn yellow when the pedestrian sign looks like this:

See, that little number counts down the number of seconds until you can no longer begin crossing and the light turns yellow. Isn't technology amazing?!

So if you see one of those, you might want to speed it up just a little bit, maybe to say, 25 mph, to make the light. But if you choose instead to continue on at your 20 mph speed, you are guaranteed that it will turn yellow on you and on the person stuck behind you, and once again you'll be sitting at a red.

Which is why I unintentionally tried to speed you up by riding your tail. I didn't mean to, it's just that I wished I'd been in your place and could have made you go just a titch faster so I could get to work on time. No matter, I lost you at one of those lovely red lights when you were able to sneak through at your snail's pace and I was still stuck at the red. So I hung out for a while and lost you, then made up my time on I-94.

Thanks for the lesson in patience.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Cook, Eat, Play

I have a friend who immigrated here to Minnesota from India. I am always amazed by people who choose to pick up their lives and move continents away -- I would never have the courage. But while that feat in and of itself is amazing to me, what's even more amazing is her cooking. Her family feasts on food that most of us can only get at restaurants, or, if we're so lucky, at our gourmet-cooking friend's house.

So last Saturday she invited myself and other friends to her home for an authentic Indian dinner, which we would help her cook and learn along the way. Also, our kids, mostly girls in the same age range, could play during these activities.

I have to be honest, I've never been a huge fan of Indian food. I'm not a terribly adventurous eater, and when I don't know what goes into it a meal I am even more skeptical. So while I'll eat Indian food when presented with it, I typically don't seek it out and rarely if ever crave it.  I figured that the more I knew about what went into it the more I would enjoy it.

I was right.

The food was ah-mazing. Incredible. And I had a greater appreciation for it because I knew the work that went into every step and knew every ingredient. Padma takes her cooking to a new level -- many of the ingredients we were putting together you could buy already pre-made for you and then just mix with the other, fresh ingredients. But that's not how Padma cooks. We had spices that had to be shelled from pods to be used, then ground together with other spices. I wish I could remember all the names of the ingredients, they were amazing on their own and even more spectacular when blended with everything else.

At the end of the night I mopped up every bit of food with the homemade chapatis and licked the sauce that had dripped down my chin.

I'm now officially a fan.

What's even more unbelievable is that Padma will cook this food for you -- all you need to do is go to her house to pick it up. Check out her website, Padma's Delights, and try out her cooking. You won't be disappointed.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Your wrinkled is my ironed

Is his shirt wrinkly? You be the judge.
This weekend my mom and stepdad were visiting while the hubby was out of town. One evening we were watching TV and I was sorting and folding the laundry. I set aside one of my husband's work shirts to take upstairs to hang in the closet, since those don't get folded.

My mom looked at the shirt and says, "You know, you should really get those wrinkle-free shirts. It'd save you a lot of time."

I looked at her and at the shirt. "That IS a wrinkle free shirt, and that's as wrinkle free as it's gonna get."

That's when she realized my intention was to hang it and not iron it.

And of course that got me thinking that yes, my husband's shirts are a little bit wrinkly, even if I whip them right out of the dryer the minute I hear it go off (which I had done this particular evening). I iron my own because, well, because I prefer wrinkle-free shirts and can iron them myself.  I figure if he wanted totally wrinkle-free shirts he could iron his own as well.

But tonight, while ironing my own clothes, I decided to iron a couple of his worst offenders that were hanging in the closet. Some colors tend to show the wrinkles more than others, so I picked those and added them to the pile.

I was completing his third shirt when he suddenly realized that these were HIS shirts I was ironing, not my own.

"What are you doing?" he asked.

"Ironing your shirts," I said.

"I don't wear my shirts to work like that. They look too crisp."

Good to know. I think this means I'm off the hook.

Proof once more, that everything is relative -- and that our idea of "wrinkle free" is indeed wrinkle free...for us.

Monday, November 08, 2010

In case you missed the announcement...

...my husband qualified for the Boston marathon with his time at the Marshall University marathon this weekend.

This is a big deal.

To give you a sense of how big of a deal, only 3% of all runners run a marathon. Any marathon. Of that, less than 10% run a qualifying time for the Boston marathon.

And why is the Boston marathon so elite? Well, it is one of only two marathons in the US that requires a qualifying time to enter. And unlike the NYC marathon, in which you need a qualifying half-marathon time, you need to have run a full 26.2 miles somewhere else and have run a specific time or better to get into Boston.

For Wayne, he needed to run a 3:35 marathon for his age group to qualify for Boston. He completed the Marshall University marathon in 3:24:48. And it was a tough one, with calf cramps the last 6 miles, but he pushed through it to get the time he traveled to West Virginia for.

When he called me to tell me he's qualified, it was the best phone call of my life. I can't think of another time in my life when I was so anxious for the phone to ring and so thrilled to get the call. It was like I'd run the marathon myself...well okay not really, but still...

So he will be registering to run Boston in 2012 (since the 2011 registration is already closed). In the meantime, he already registered for the Big Sur marathon in Monterey, CA, in May of 2011, and hopes to also do the NYC marathon in November of next year.

This was Wayne's biggest goal in his personal life, one he's been working so hard for since he ran his first marathon two years ago. It's taken a lot of work and sacrifice to achieve this.

Did I mention how proud I am?

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Our Dr. Seuss Home

Do you recognize this character?


He's in the Dr. Seuss Book "One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish." He's got a little ditty, it goes something like this:

My hat is old.
My teeth are gold.

I have a bird
I like to hold.

My shoe is off.
My foot is cold.

This little ditty came to me about 3 o'clock this morning as I lay in my daughter's bed, except instead it went like this:

My house is old.
My bed is cold.

I have a child
I like to hold.

I awoke last night realizing that Lindsey had crawled into bed with us at some point. It's not like we have a king-sized bed, it gets a little tight with three. When I tried to coax her into her own bed, she said it was cold and she wanted me to sleep with her to keep her warm.

So we went back to her room, and yes, her bed is freezing, even if her room isn't.

I lay next to her, trying to keep myself warm and figure out why her bed was so cold. Then I put my hand on the wall next to her bed. Brrrrr.

Our house was built in 1928, and more than likely it is insulated with newspapers, like most of our neighbors homes are. While fun and entertaining to read what the headlines were 82 years ago (if you care to take apart your walls to get at them), not so great for insulation.

Both my girls beds are up against an outside corner wall of our house, meaning that two sides of their beds are along two outside walls. So even though the air temp in the bedroom might not be cold, their beds are.

They both have flannel sheets which were put on their beds about a month ago, and I remembered the pile of pillows that had been lined up between Lindsey and her walls last year. Those pillows literally acted like the insulation that was absent from the walls, absorbing the cold so that the part of the bed she slept on was warm. Except we had purged many of those pillows, some of which were 20 years old (yuck). So now her insulation was gone.

The dog does a good job of keeping the girls warm, but he was sleeping in Marissa's bed this night.

So I was left with curling up with a 7-year-old tucked up against me like a kitten in the wee hours of the morning, hugging her to me and gazing at her childish profile in the soft blue light of the darkened room. Who needs insulation anyway?

As Dr. Seuss would say,

And now my story is all told.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Wordless Wednesday

Not sure why this struck me as funny...

...but the matching black-clad elbow and nose poking out the windows tickled me pink.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

I have not done my patriotic duty

I have not yet voted today. But I will.

I was speaking today with co-workers who did their patriotic duty this morning already, and were talking about the "flip side" of the ballot. That's the side with all the judges who are running unopposed, the one with all the offices that most people know very little about and haven't heard of either of the people running for the seat.

Did you know that if no one actually voted "yes" for those judges and a single person wrote his name in and voted for himself that the write-in person would win the seat?  A non-vote is a no vote.

Yet which is worse: to vote for someone you know nothing about, or to choose not to vote?

Is it worse to stand in the voting booth, choosing the candidate whose last name starts with an "F" because you like the sound of it better than the other candidate? Or vote for the one with a feminine sounding first name because you typically vote for women? (Oops, you mean Tracy is a guy?)

As much as I would like to say I followed every race for every seat that I have the privilege of electing today, I haven't. There are candidates and seats on the ballot I will be using today that I have never heard of.

And as a Twin Citians I have heard an awful lot about a race that won't even be on my ballot, that of Tarryl Clark and Michelle Bachman. I'm not in their district; I can't choose one over the other (but I sure wish I could).

It is truly a privilege to be able to exercise the right to vote -- I remember this every time I read about elections taking place in a developing country, where people travel for miles and wait in lines for hours to vote. As Americans today, the challenge is not getting to the voting place on November 2nd, it is becoming an informed vote leading up to today. That seems awfully hard to do though, with political ads taking a sharp turn for the toilet. And are ads really the best way to learn about a candidate? My answer is no, yet I suspect that's how the majority of Americans learn about candidates.

I will be honest to say that I have not done my patriotic duty by becoming a fully informed voter on every seat and every race that I have the privilege to weigh in on. But that won't keep me away from the ballot box.

So what say you...is it worse to be an uninformed voter or to not vote?

Monday, November 01, 2010

Employees must wash hands...and so should everybody else

I got a detailed tour of many bathrooms while touring Disney a few weeks ago with the family. Lots of them. Got to see a the same bathrooms multiple times over a single meal, as a matter of fact.

And perhaps it's because I work for a hospital now or the whole H1N1 scare last fall, but I'm more aware of handwashing as a required practice of good health than ever before.

So I was surprised when we were in a bathroom once and saw a mom bustle her toddler out without having her wash her hands, telling that it was okay to not wash them because she "hadn't gone tinkle."

The girl probably wasn't yet 3, so I can imagine that she held herself onto the seat of the potty by holding on to the seat with her hands. And, she had been wandering Disney, right? Touching things, like perhaps door and ride handles, merchandise and other surfaces? In that case, it's not a bad idea to wash her hands every half an hour, whether or not tinkling was involved.

Our girls were just finishing washing up and stared at the girl as she left. I think they were trying to see if the germs were visible on her. After Lindsey's hand-washing class in 2nd grade a month ago, in which she got to see germs under a blacklight both before and after hand washing, Lindsey is as big of an advocate for handwashing as I am. They were in disbelief that she hadn't washed up.

So the lesson, boys and girls, is to always wash your hands, because not everyone does.