Friday, February 26, 2010

I'm NOT sorry anymore

This week's Spin Cycle is on confessions and things we might feel guilty about. It should be a really easy topic, especially for me. I feel guilty about so many things, many of which are not even my fault. Thinking of this topic actually started depressing me, because all I could think of are all the things I am not doing right, not getting perfect. Then, I had an epiphany. I have to get a hold of this guilt thing, put it behind me and move on. So, here is my spin:

I have spent a good portion of my life apologizing to people. This is not because I spend most of my life offending others (though I am sure I do at times); no, I apologize for things that aren't my fault, things that I feel guilty over, though I have no reason to.

An incident with my sister illustrates my problem well: A couple months ago, my sister and I were shopping at Sam's Club. We turned the corner and found a man and his shopping cart parked directly in our way. My sister said, "Excuse me" and the man moved over to let us through. As I passed him, I said, "I'm sorry."

My sister turned to me and asked, "Why did you just apologize? You did nothing wrong and you need to quit doing that."

I've been thinking of this exchange for some time now. Though I was slightly annoyed at my sister's lecture, I knew she was right. And the more I think about it now, the more I realize that this habit of apologizing anytime I make my needs known is not emotionally healthy.

And this is going to change.

So from now on, no more apologies when I cannot do everything for everyone.
I will not be consumed with guilt when I have to say no to helping you with your needs. Sometimes my needs and my family have to come before you, and I have no reason to be sorry for this.
I will not apologize that sometimes I need help, too.
I am not going to be sorry when I demand to be treated with respect.
I am not sorry for politely disagreeing with your point of view.
I'm done with being sorry for expecting and demanding that people actually do their jobs. (This includes the school social worker who still hasn't started the social skills group for Danny that is in his IEP.)

And most of all, I will not apologize for taking up space on this earth anymore.

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Check out the Spin Cycle for more confessions.

Friday, February 19, 2010

I love my library!


I have so many things I feel like I can't live without: chocolate, good friends, indoor plumbing, diaper wipes are just a few of the many. Then, there are other less tangible things, like regular sleep, some alone time and peace and quiet, that I imagine I couldn't live without, yet I manage to do so on a regular basis.

The one thing in my life that kept coming to mind as I thought about this topic was my library. My topic probably reveals, yet again, how completely geeky I am, because, seriously, I am addicted to my public library. Where else can I take home the Heroes complete first season DVD, a book on how to cut my kid's hair, the Baby Einstein videos my kids are addicted to, a book on cooking once a month, How to Get Your Picky Kid to Eat, and The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary all in the same day?

And let's not forget, it's all free, free, free!

Reading is one of my biggest pleasures in life. I would call it a hobby, but it is actually a bit of an addiction, to be honest. If I notice I don't have a book at hand, I get a little twitchy. Typically, I have a pile of books waiting to be read, and most of these I get from my library, because there is no way our finances could support my habit. I think I would need a part-time job just to pay for books, and then there would be the storage problem. The last time we moved, my sister said that she would never help me pack again if I bought any more books. And you know, she had a point.

The great thing about our library, though, is the librarians. They are super helpful and know my entire family by name. Granted, we visit them at least once a week, sometimes more, but still they are extremely friendly and seem delighted to see us on each of our visits.

Almost like the Cheers bar, only without the hangover or smell of hops.

Our library has great programs for the kids and adults and our interlibrary loan system is excellent. I can order almost any book or movie online and then they call me when it comes in. This is priceless when you have kids who never give you the time to browse properly!

My dad always says that the great thing about books is you can learn about anything when you read them. You can travel to other places and times in history, all without leaving the comfort of your armchair. I like reading for that reason and so many more: I love the escapism, but I also love that I can learn about any topic I want to. I can research a problem that is perplexing me (SPD and autism and potty training have been the big ones lately) or I can learn about topics that fascinate me (Oliver Sacks' books about neurological disorders have been popping up in our home a lot lately). And I love the beauty of the well-written word; I can't get enough of -beautifully crafted classics, like Pride and Prejudice, the suspense-filled The Moonstone or the achingly romantic Jane Eyre.

The children's group "Lunch Money" (whom I highly recommend!) sums it up best in their song "I Love My Library":

I'm going to the library to see my librarian
She'll send me home with 60 things
As if I could carry them
Passing out the picture books
Like my granny hands out food.....

And my brain's getting fat on stories and facts
And it feels like love

Oh, the librarians
They say, "Come, follow me!"
They're looking straight at me
They take me seriously
And all the things that I'd never read
Become my new favorites.
I show them to my friends at school
And they get addicted too.

Oh, my brain's getting fat on stories and facts
and it feels like love.....

All the things that I could ever wonder about
Are waiting here for me
And all the places I could ever wander to
I've got a ticket for free
And guess who tossed me the keys......

For more posts about what these fabulous bloggers can't live without, visit the Spin Cycle!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Groundhog Day, Valentines and Umbrellas

~~~~The last two weeks at our house have been filled with everything Valentine's Day. Apparently, this is the kids' new favorite holiday. Of course, Danny pretty much says this every time a holiday comes around. The only one he hasn't shared his fondness for is Groundhog Day. For some reason, he seems really unimpressed by that holiday, and I have to say I agree with him. Who came up with Groundhog Day, anyway?

And seriously, do you really need to ask a small furry animal whether we will have more winter? Really, we live in the Midwest and it is February. Of COURSE we are going to have 6 more weeks of wintry weather, and probably a lot more than that, if past winters are any indication. Personally, I consider it lucky if Spring actually arrives in April. Anything sooner is a bonus.

~~~~So, anyway, Valentine's Day. Right. Last week, Danny came home with the great idea of making valentines. I was delighted--it never ceases to please me when he comes up with an idea like this on his own.

I cut out pink and red and purple hearts and the kids piled on the glitter. Danny wrote notes on his hearts and they were really sweet. Notes like "I love you, mom" and "Dad, I love you" and "I love X-box and video games."

Yep, he made a valentine for the X-box. The X-box that we don't own, by the way. Still, the fact that we are X-boxless did not deter Danny from pledging his undying love.

~~~~In an attempt to curtail a bit of the sugar consumption in the house, I had the questionable brilliant idea of giving the kids small umbrellas for their Valentine's Day gifts rather than chocolate or candy hearts. We got a Pixar Cars umbrella for Danny and a Spiderman one for Charlotte. She's been asking for a Spiderman lunchbox for weeks now, so we knew it would be a hit. And we were right. Personally, I take some satisfaction in the fact that she has yet to fall for the Princess craze. At least Spidey is independent and relies on his super powers rather than his looks.

So, the kids spent all weekend pretending it was raining and/or snowing in the house. I felt like I was living in Renoir's "Umbrellas" but with really garish colors.

The kids asked me several times an hour whether I was getting wet and then insisted on holding the umbrella over my head. This wasn't so bad when I was sitting down, but if I was standing, I almost invariably got poked in the head, eye, or neck with an umbrella spoke.

At one point, Charlotte gave me her umbrella to use, but then ordered me to open, then close, then open it over and over and over again. She claimed that it was raining and then seconds later, it stopped, then started again, etc. Apparently, we had some really wacky weather here in Illinois this week.

I may have to give next year's gift a lot more thought. Maybe sugar isn't so bad. Sure, it rots their teeth and makes them hyper, but at least it's gone in a day, and I have yet to lose an eyeball to a conversation heart, though I may be speaking too soon.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Love is in the air



Valentine's Day has never been my favorite holiday. When I was single, it was probably because V-Day is the one day of the year everyone pities you if you have no significant other. Well, I spent many, many, many Valentine's Days without a date, so you can imagine why the holiday didn't endear itself to me.

Now, my attitude has changed. I still dislike the commercialization of love, the fact that Hallmark tells us to be romantic and honor love on February 14th and we all go along with it mindlessly, but I don't hate the day as I used to. Mostly this is because the first part of February is when Bil and I began dating 9 years ago and I have such fond memories of that time.

We were married three days before Christmas 2001, so our anniversary often gets short shrift. Who has time to commemorate our marriage when there are so many Christmas preparations to be done? And our anniversary happens to fall on my birthday, which only makes matters worse. (Yes, yes, I am one of those really inconsiderate fools who made family and friends attend a wedding only days before Christmas. I do have good reasons for choosing that date, though. Honestly, I do!)

So, when February rolls around and I am over all the Christmas and New Year's festivities, I have time to dwell on my relationship with Bil.

We met in October of 2000 when Bil moved from Vegas to Chicago to attend school. I developed a crush on him immediately after he introduced himself to me at church. This was pretty unusual; I hadn't met anyone in so long who interested me. It honestly surprised me to find a guy who was so nice, smart and cute, not to mention not at all creepy. When Bil asked me out at the beginning of February, I was ecstatic.

Our first two weeks of dating were quirky. Every time we made plans, we were thwarted: we got lost on the way to a church activity once, we couldn't get into a concert we had tickets to because Bil had lost his license, we were unable to get the DVD player to work and had to listen to North by Northwest with no picture (to this day, we still ask each other "Would you like a libation?"), and a record store we wanted to browse was closed. Yet, we had a blast every time. Each date, though it seemed disastrous, was wonderful, fun, exciting.

The moment I knew I could see a future for us happened on our first date. We were walking through a very icy Wicker Park on the way to the video store. You know, to rent the DVD that we were later unable to watch. Bil grabbed my hand when he saw the ice to ensure I wouldn't slip. Within seconds of him snaring my hand, Bil fell right on his tail. He was gracious and laughed along with me, and this figuratively and literally broke the ice.

On Valentine's Day that year, Bil made me dinner: pizzas with whole wheat crusts and a chocolate pie with a heart in the middle. I gave him some heart shaped sugar cookies. We didn't even kiss that night, but it was one of the most romantic evenings I have spent. Our first kiss came a couple nights later.

Our Valentine's Days since then have been much the same: simple and heartwarming. Rarely are roses involved and we never go out for steak, nor does Bil adorn me with diamonds.

And thank goodness, because I am not really a steak and roses and diamonds sort of girl. I'm more a daisies and a Cary Grant movie and good Thai food kind of gal. Which is just one reason why Bil and I are perfect for each other.

For more thoughts on Valentine's day, visit the Sprite's Keeper for this week's Spin Cycle.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Can you hear me now?

You may already know this, but I don't really go in for cell phones. Up until last month, I didn't own one and now that I do, it is one of those Trac Phones that you add minutes to every so often. Mine actually has features like texting capabilities and voice mail, but heck if I know how to use them.

Bil has a real problem with cell phones. While working on a college research project, he discovered the link between cancer and cell phone usage. And I have read more recent articles pointing out the connection, as well. This is one reason we have not broken down and bought ourselves cell phones. That and lack of expendable income.

Still, my problem with cell phones isn't really related to cancer or even money, though they have certainly factored in to our decision. No, I think cell phones are just annoying. I understand their utility and convenience, I really do, but what I don't understand is why it is socially acceptable to answer and converse on your cell phone when you are hanging out (in person!!) with another friend. When I say this, I mean people who will talk for 20 minutes about absolute minutiae when I am sitting right there waiting for some attention.

Typically when your cell phone rings, you are either with another person or engaged in some chore, usually one that requires a certain amount of attention, like, say, driving or binding a flesh wound. Who decided it would be a good idea to talk on the phone when you are behind the wheel of a 3,715 pound mini van? Hopefully someone with vastly superior reflexes and focus than I.

I just don't happen to be a very focused person. Distractions, well, they distract me. And a cell phone blaring Beyonce's "All the Pretty Ladies?" Well, that's pretty distracting if you ask me.

And yes, I know that I could just turn the cell phone off in the car, but the thing is, I really don't need a cell phone distracting me while grocery shopping or running errands, or while hanging with the kids at the library. I mean, shoot, I almost lost Tommy at church the other day because I was talking to someone for a minute or two. Yes, the kid is small, but so is our congregation. And keeping track of yet another electronics device when I can so easily lose a twenty pound baby? Yeah, you can see the problem, can't you?

What's really awkward with cell phones, though, is when people answer them in front of me. I never know what to do. Do I walk away so they can talk without me eavesdropping? I don't know the protocol.

Not too long ago, a friend of mine answered her phone while hanging out with me. No big deal, right? Well, see, it happened that it was her husband on the line and she had lied to him about where she was. (Don't ask. Seriously, the reason is so ridiculous I still don't understand her rationale).

So, there I was sitting next to J and one of my kids comes up to talk to me. I didn't know what to do. Do I answer my kid? What if J's husband hears me and realizes J has lied? Will it be my fault if they argue and subsequently divorce? On the other hand, if I ignore my kid, she will just get louder until everyone in the greater metropolitan area will hear her and then J will really have some 'splaining to do. Is it my responsibility to get up and walk away so she has some privacy? Will she ask me to lie to cover up her lie? My imagination ran wild as I envisioned scenario after scenario in which I somehow get dragged into a custody battle, or worse yet, a smackdown on Jerry Springer.

I felt like I was a character on some pathetic soap opera. Desperate and Dumpy Housewives? I don't know.

Anyway, my point is, I have enough awkward moments in my life. Moments where I forget my neighbor's name and don't have the guts to just admit it. Or when I make a joke no one thinks is funny. And let's not forget all the tripping and falling I manage to do. So, no, I don't need cell phones to provide any more awkwardness, thank you.

And you know, I just am not that popular that people want 24/7 access to me. So, we'll save our money, I'll try to focus more and hopefully prevent car accidents. And if you happen to lie about your whereabouts to your husband, please don't answer your cell phone around me. I just can't handle the drama.

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For more pet peeves, visit the Spin Cycle.



Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Exercise in futility

As befitting the new year, I have had fitness goals on my mind a lot lately. I am desperate to lose some weight before summer so some of my old clothes will fit me. So, the last couple of weeks I have renewed my commitment to exercising regularly. The kids are not making it easy.

Tommy learned to crawl a couple of months ago and hasn't stopped since. The kid is into everything and has taken to cruising around the house--walking while holding onto various pieces of furniture. When I pull out my Reebok step to do some aerobics, Tommy crawls over as fast as his little legs can take him and parks his cute tiny self right on the step. Then, he proceeds to climb all over it while I am trying to exercise. No matter how often I remove the kid from the step, or where I put him, he will return in minutes and continue to thwart my exercise attempts.

On the plus side, I must be improving my coordination, because I am getting rather adept at following the exercise tape while not stepping on my child.

This afternoon, I decided to exercise while Tommy was napping, figuring it would be easy to get in a 45-minute workout before having to go get Danny from school. I decided to do a ballet-inspired toning tape which has a lot of Pilates moves. Halfway through the tape it's time to move to the floor. The minute I got on my stomach to do some push-ups, Charlotte climbed on my back.

I fell right over.

Charlotte laughed and laughed.

She then proceeded to scale my body while I did the plank series and other Pilates moves. Every time I knocked her off my back, she just cackled maniacally and prepared to climb back on. Then came the ab series, and you guessed it, Charlotte took to climbing on my stomach or sitting on my legs.

That 45-minute workout? Yeah, it took me almost 2 hours to complete, because I had to keep rewinding the DVD and retrying the exercises. I also had to stop to catch my breath and lecture Charlotte about how she was killing her mommy.

Thank goodness she doesn't weigh more or I might have thrown out my back. Either the girl is going to seriously hurt me or maybe she'll give me an even better workout, with all that added resistance.

Monday night, while doing therapy, we set up an obstacle course for the kids. The kids jumped on the trampoline, spun on the astronaut board, threw rings on cones, etc. They were having a blast.

Next, I suggested we have a scooter board race in the kitchen. This entails sitting on a tiny scooter board and pushing yourself along the floor with your heels (it gives Danny more input and pressure to his legs. It also really strengthens leg muscles you never knew you had.) You scoot across the kitchen to the pile of large cardboard blocks, put the blocks between your legs, and squeeze while scooting back across the kitchen.

It sounds a lot easier than it is. Believe me.

All was going well until Charlotte insisted she no longer wanted to race on her own board; instead she wanted to sit on my lap while I did all the work. If I thought I was getting a workout by scooting frantically across my kitchen, adding 28 pounds of little girl almost killed me.

Finally, I gave up and commanded Bil to take my place. He struggled too, so much so that by the end he was slightly lightheaded and nauseated.

I wonder if maybe Bil and I need this therapy more than Danny actually does.

And I wonder if Charlotte might not be the perfect replacement for Jillian Michaels; she sure can get your heart rate up.