Saturday, November 30, 2013

The Hunger Games 2013 - Part I

Let's face it, we all have our own dysfunctional families to deal with on the holidays and by sharing today's post I am in no way saying that I have have the most dysfunctional of them all - but Rob Riner couldn't have written this stuff!

Let's start at the basics - I have an older half brother and an older half sister whose father was pretty much absentee for the most part, my parents who are still together raised us all, my father (of whom I am the only biological child of) raised us all together and equally as his own. Fast forward 20-30 years: I am the youngest and am a divorce with one child who I have pretty much 24/7 365 days a year. My brother, the middle child, has always been a serial monogamist and got the surprise of a lifetime when his daughter was conceived who is now school age. My sister (whimsical, bi-polar), the oldest, has three children between the ages of 2 and 13, all who have different fathers - two of which are involved and the other has an unrelated step-father of sorts.

So when it came out that my brother was coming into town from out west with his new live in girlfriend (first time in 10 years that he has been that serious) for Thanksgiving, his daughter was coming in WITH her mother from down south in the states, my sister was available with all three of her kids (not easy during the holidays per visitation for all the kids) with her boyfriend - who is NOT the father, sorry had to throw that Maury shot in there - and we were all to gather at my parents' in the burbs of the Midwest for Thanksgiving.....let's just say I almost picked up an extra shift at work. This was also the first time all 5 of my parents grandchildren where ever in the same room and the first time in a couple years that my siblings and parents where all together at the same time as well. Did I mention my parents are Catholic - nature v nurture on that one folks.

The first dinner of the week was held down in our hometown, and well, it was just a blur as I had the kiddo and had to work in the morning, drive down, eat, and drive home. So no super great stories there. Now I did get to meet "the new girl" before my brother's daughter and mother got into town; she was nice, what I had expected from the past ones, which means I like her for the most part - which always fiddles with the 5 year rule we put on my brother's relationships. However, she was starting up her own business in the health and nutrition/online world, and that is so what I am trying to do right now in my head anyway. And she had the full blown launch and everything along with hired help and my brother's expertise - I would be lying if the words "oh crap, really" didn't want to fly out of my mouth, but I did the whole hope it works out well, congrats thing. Oh, and not an iPhone-er and has a Coach bag - it's one of those "I really thought you were more down to earth" type things rather than a judgement. She may be my age as well, my bro is 6 years older than me.

The mid-week, welcome-in the niece and mother of niece, oh and get us all some darn wine please dinner was interesting. My daughter and niece seemed to get along well, which left some room for adult talk at the table. I and my folks were torn into wanting to get to know the new girl as well as not leave the mother of my niece who we have known longer out of the loop either. Much wine was poured, it came out literally and very specific from my niece's mom "that oh by the way guys I will be in the background during this trip to let the kid get used to more focused time with you (my brother and the new girl I guess) so I will be in the background a lot on purpose." This was the first anyone, including my brother had heard this and I could tell and I just about choked on my wine, then did when my niece asked to sleep with my brother and the new girl that night. Seriously - we couldn't have co-parented this convo at an earlier date?! So a little more wine for all it was. Oh, did I mention all of them were staying at my parents house for the visit? Yeah, so I was happy to take the kiddo and run at the end of dinner that night, not to mention I had seen my parents way too much already and they were already trying to back seat parent with the two grandchildren present.

Like I said, I went home that night, cooked, packed, and Pintrested my way past midnight for the actual day of Thanksgiving, all while watching National Lampoons Christmas Vacation because it only seemed appropriate. I had to prepare mentally, physically, and emotionally to represent District 12 in the games the next day - oh and my dad and I were the only cooks/bakers for all this. Our mission was to arrive early and make a plan as I knew the Cornucopia was going to be a mad dash before the true games began. Stay tuned for part II tomorrow - reliving this is exhausting, but I promised many and I never break a promise.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Thankful For a Good Thanksgiving

I feel as if I should put a thankful post up here because I am doing it on another form of social media here this month and put one on my personal Facebook page, so I will because I am honestly thankful for all that Suburbia from a non-Suburbia upbringing has given me.

Number one, the most mentionable, yet the thing that needs not even be mentioned per the obvious, is the kiddo. Honestly, the past three years have been great and challenging and (as I was reminded at least 3 times during the hunger games yesterday)the most tiring three years of my entire life, however, during that time the kiddo and I really built our bond and made our family our own. It's not the old - oh my child is my child yada yada yada type bond - but the we are in this together, we both know each other in and out, and we are thankfully stuck together type of bond.

Number two is how yesterday felt - at the end of the day my immediate family's Thanksgiving/Festivus felt like the end to the best Christmas ever. My brother whom I don't get to see very often at all (like years) came into town with his new gal and his daughter, my sister was there with all of her brood, I was there with the kiddo all at my parents' house (smack dab in Suburbia I must say). It was also the first time my parents had all of their grandchildren under one roof, let alone in the same state - making it pretty special for both my parents and the cousins.

It wasn't perfection by any standards and to use the word awkward and wine would be putting it gently...*Spoiler for tomorrows post, it will be GOOD*...but we gathered all together, took both obligatory pictures and random ones, ate, talked, sang happy birthday, had desserts galore, settled the children in, and at the end of the evening my folks, my bro, and I ate again while watching the movie Mixed Nuts - greatly appropriate.

Most of all on the drive home (make that to work this morning at O'dark thirty) I felt like I was driving home from Christmas day, because honestly with my family - this is all I wanted for the holidays. The past few years for my birthday or Christmas, I truly haven't wanted any gifts of tangible items, because....well my number one has taught me so much the past three years about what really matters in life, love, and faith. So I guess that's another thing to be thankful for.

Monday, November 25, 2013

A Home For The Holidays

I think I had posted before about wanting or wishing for my own home for the holidays….well even though it may be just a rental apartment home, the kiddo and I have our own place to call home now; a home for the holidays.

Even though I don’t quite yet know if it was the right timing yet, as the move-in costs were a little more than I expected, I do know that we are both better off for it. Not better off in the “hey look at me I have my own place” just to say I made it on my own, but to the point that I can tell we both feel better emotionally and are more at peace here. Well, as at peace you can get with a little one trying to run the place J

I got to go through my own box of accumulated holiday decorations the other night and it was nice, a nice start. I hope that the kiddo will enjoy it as much as I do when we put them up, after Thanksgiving that is – yes we are that family. I like how that sounds, family. We will borrow a tree from my folks, which is perfectly fine for now, a tree is a tree – I really don’t mind where it is stored in the off season. I have some lights and a few ornaments to put on it and we will accumulate more as time passes. We can make our own and make our own paper ring too.

We have already driven past a couple of houses decorated to the nines on the outside and the kiddo seems perfectly content about that and that is enough to make me happy. We will hang our stockings for the first time on the eve of St. Nicholas Day – thank goodness I already made sure I had those little stocking stuffers covered. Not much but something and the kiddo is seemingly simple like I have learned to become which is a good thing. Give her some apples, clementine’s, and a granola bar and she is happy.

I think we are going to make it here, even if I have to give up the Starbucks card – mobile reloading has become my budget downfall. Career or job changes will be made this year I feel very strongly as the city commute is just getting to be too much in gas money and family time – add in a possible fall pre-school start and mandatory change it is. And even when I start to get overwhelmed or stressed out about the budget (you know like now, sorry if this post isn’t more uplifting), I try and remember the peace of our own little world; coming home to a quiet house, no one here but us, silence after the kiddo is asleep, cleaning because I want to not because I feel I have too, lighting candles if I want, my own bed, our own schedule, adding home touches here and there (the Van Gogh’s are up in our respected rooms), our own galley kitchen, just the little things.

And God providing, usually not in windfalls of any sort – but making the timing right to make things work and trusting that more is coming for us down the road a piece. I thank God every night for our home and as the kiddo corrects me “not a little home, a big home.”

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Take A Closer Look

A lot of times we judge people by their appearances, how they look, what they have in their hands, how they carry themselves. So I wanted to share what many may see from afar of me and what my reality really is, not to get pity or anything but because I have made my own thoughts on others based on the above myself - a mistake I won't make again:

What you see: Nice matching knit set of hat, scarf, and gloves (she can even use her phone with them)
Reality: That set is a gift I got in high school and am wearing out to look nice 14 years later, I can use my phone with the gloves because of the hole (one of a few) in the index finger. My keep me warm set is from K-mart and still a few years old at that, but it works.

What you see: A nice black pea coat
Reality: My parents got that for me also - back in college - so about 10 years old but they pay for the dry cleaning every season to keep it looking sharp. Don't put anything in the pockets because you won't see it again per the holes :P

What you see: Three name brand shopping bags
Reality: One bag is from the jeans I finally took back for a different size after the ones online didn't fit that I got with a gift card, one is actually a gift for my niece that I was able to get via sales and $4 in coupons I had saved the past 6 months just for the holidays, and the last has two glue sticks, stickers, and a cheap orange bouncy ball (to look like a basketball) as part of my kiddo's present for what she has to go through at a children's hospital tomorrow.

What you see: A really fit, in-shape looking young woman
Reality: I try to be fit, but the "fit" you see is from a large weight loss from stress and illness last year - I finally gained started to put on and retain the weight after 6 months of hard work. It's going down again slightly so I carb load every night and make sure my body has substance if I want to work out. I am sometimes limited to just stretches.

What you see: A strong woman
Reality: Spot on, however, I got this strength by 1) the grace of God and 2) from fighting two giant uphill battles that were filled with breakdowns, getting back up, being broken down again, and fighting back up through the tears one final time. And when I am strong for my kiddo's battles, I am the only one there and sound strong in my words but facing forward I have silent tears of fear on the way in the garage and tears of relief that the hard part is over again when driving out.

Again, I wrote this not for pity or anything like that because I find myself truly blessed (spoiler for tomorrows post: A Home for the Holidays), but because I realized today how I must appear to the outside world of suburbia at times. I have also seen that same young woman, with all the right gear and shopping bags - boy how I envied her. I leave you with this:

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Kitchen Aid Experiment

It has been a tradition in my family, my mother's side, that when you get married you would receive a Kitchen Aid Mixer from my grandmother for a gift or shortly into your "marriage." I received mine (I refuse to say ours per the tradition) when I was getting my second Bachelor's Degree, far from family. I was very honored to have it, but there it stayed, until I saved it from the wreckage that WAS my "marriage." So it sat in storage, I played a little with my parents', then when my second family of two (the kiddo and I that is) moved on there it stared me in the face:

So I looked at the instruction book of recipes, after looking at the budget that told me I needed to start doing more things from bulk scratch and get some homemade ideas going for the holidays, and got the needed supplies as you can see above. As if the baking isle at the store wasn't enough to scare you off, I then read the instruction manual so in detail (all the while wondering if there was a Kitchen Aid for Dummies book) to the point of figuring out what the 3 different attachment names were in the book via picture. Hey, I had no lessons OK! 

Well, after reading, making a mess of the kitchen to where I was slipping and sliding on four and oil, the following was made:

OK, well these are the pictures from my second attempt, where I improvised with a little bit of basil and olive oil - and hey guess what? It worked, it actually worked. I even got an order for the basil bread for Thanksgiving! I was/am uber proud of myself, like really, really proud. I am on my third batch tonight - in the oven - and even made a recipe for homemade mashed potatoes using my assistant to whip them up literally. They taste amazing, now I know the secret to my grandmother's and father's mashed potatoes, perfection in a bowl. Yes, that is right - my dad was the chef in our house, which I kind of like that little twist :) 

Next up is attempting the family heirloom, 4 generation recipe book. However, do not think me a master as I am still laughing at/with my great-grandmother and grandmother who are both up in heaven now as I read the instructions "cream butter and sugar until creamy" on the "60 cookies recipe - guess how many cookies it makes. Really guys? That helps ;) The best part is reading the old and new letters in the book, which my cousin remastered, knowing that when I read the letter from my grandmother to her mother I can totally see my mother writing/saying close to the same words, knowing that so many women (and men) in my family have been in the kitchen at some time scratching our heads sarcastically while reading "cream butter and sugar until creamy" while figuring this thing out, and laughing out loud in the kitchen feeling like they are there with me even late at night by myself. 

Saturday, November 16, 2013

A Day of Suburban Domestic Bliss

On a Saturday after a shift day with no lunch (note to self: email the bosses to let them know of said no lunch Monday) the kiddo and I managed the following:

Woke at 6am - well probably before then thanks to my kiddo whom I am about to nickname "No-Doze"

Coffee, puzzles, eat, more coffee, get dressed, brush teeth, wash face re-pack the always needed back-back of the day, more coffee

Out the door, grab coffee at the *Bucks, mail Ebay shipment #3 (Christmas is approaching you know - good for seller and buyer and current "second income")

Arrive at 9:30 am play-date - you have that right..a play-date...a morning play-date...on a Saturday. It was fun but if you told me who knows how many or few years ago that I would be doing play-dates I would slap you.....twice. Luckily, because they are so young, it was a friend of mine and her kiddo - so we basically attempted to catch up drink respective water and coffee, go to the restroom, while chasing the toddlers around teaching sharing methods to them. It actually went rather well - I was worried their house and/or child may have been destroyed. But I think we have a friend here for the kiddo - which is beyond words in our circumstance!

Luckily, I had packed some lunch type food and a Cliff bar for the kiddo so she went to sleep on the way home, I got her in her bed, and had at least 45 minutes to attempt to get things done and be embarrassed by Alma-mater's football team via iPhone scores. Hoo-hoo-crap. More coffee.

Cue kiddo waking up - and this a little before 2pm - full day I know! A little Rachel Coleman, more puzzles, play-dough, a large snack, more coffee, tantrum and choices to get out the door to the store before church.

Drive to Meijer (note the times taking for in and out of the car debacles) walk a mile into the store - apparently it is a popular place on Saturday afternoons - grab a couple essentials, die over the price of BOTH gluten-free bread mixes and already made bread and got SHOES!!!! This was huge, seeing as I had to bring both orthotic sets in for the try on and we found a pair that fit - yes this was after I got things on the right feet :P

Church - made it in time for the second reading, gospel, AND got through communion thank you very much.

Finally we landed home, I poured the promised milk (and coffee for me) with cookies and watched "The Brightest Night" from 1952 (baby Jesus story) for the second time, bedtime stories and kiddo down.

Lastly, more coffee, cleaned up/organized my room/my space a little, got a load in the laundry, dishwasher full ready for after dinner run, drinking wine out of an actual wine glass per said friend Elaine (their wedding date will live in infamy in my house or until I get an actual set in like 2 years) from earlier play-date (found another kitchen box post move) and also per Elaine watching some Gilmore Girls as the laundry dries, get more product on the Bay, and make the kiddo's amazon list for the grandparents. So a great AND productive day overall and tomorrow - possibly make some more dough in more ways than one, start to close out the storage unit, and brave the storm.

I won't say that we did not have our moments of why are we talking like teachers and/or super calm moms while thinking out the most sarcastic thoughts (oops or did we say that out loud), please for the love of the good Lord get your diaper on, same saying but get in the car, please when will this day end and where is my coffee - but all in all, especially at the end, a good day. Make that a great one :)

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

I Don't Like It Here In Holland

There I said it - I don't like it here in Holland. Now, if this beginning is confusing to you google: you've landed in Holland and here you must stay.

Most of the days I deal with having a kiddo with challenges because well, that is all you can do. This is the life I was meant to lead and I will lead it - that is where the frustrating part comes in - I feel like I have to follow a lot of the time. But yesterday, well last week even, handed a medium sized surprise I was not expecting and dealing with a few small things that are common place in here in Holland - I decided I needed to admit this to more than God, more than a friend, but here and to myself. Sometimes this stinks. So here I vent.

I do not want to be forced into making a pre-school starting date v "taking a year off" from therapies decision per such challenges. My heart is sick every.single.time I call one of the many health bill people and say here is my minimal good faith payment I can make to you at this time. For once can I please buy economical shoes without getting a wide to fit the orthotics or taking my already feisty kiddo out of her hamster bubble and trying on numerous pairs of shoes to make sure they work with her orthotics and we can afford them. I am sick and tired of holding my breath when we go into the library, etc because of possible meltdowns. I am again sick to my stomach adjusting to giving my kid her medicine and explaining that she is not sick and her insisting that she is because she has to take medicine. Don't get me started on food limitations or that regular water is not in the line up. Lastly, and newly (well new again), I am sick of seeing my kiddo fall when she is just trying to pick up a little speed.

I am sure I could go on, but I won't - because I feel awful that I am complaining when there are those sitting in hospitals with their kid, those counting the days they have because they know they are numbered, and those who have been forced to let go of their child or forced to come to grips with the fact that they won't even have a chance to have one.

So again, we are lucky in many ways even here in Holland, but I think it is important for me to say I will do what I have to do but I don't have to like it all the time. I treasure my kiddo's strength and off the charts cognitive ability and the fact that she CAN walk at all and that you can not tell one.single.thing wrong from looking at her picture and usually people can't tell from my face either. So Holland, I am sure one day I will accept you and all you have to offer fully, but for now please allow me my moments.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The Container Store

If there is anything you can find in high-end Suburbia, it's The Container Store - the very smaller and more plastic (literally) version of IKEA and add a few bucks onto said smaller items. AND to my surprise, the previous resident of our new residence was a fan. OK, OK, so am I - I love to attempt to organize and by thinking about all the different cool things I could get that would finally fully organize every aspect of my life from paper files to tech....well enter The Container Store. I just received the Christmas Stocking Stuffer catalog and thought I would share my thoughts on a few items for fun - picture post!
Awesome idea, however, I would not remember what the heck I was supposed to do. 
Want, want want! I know I don't need it, but my towels and cutting boards take up so much space in my gally. And yes it is a gally.

At first I was all, that's what I have my post-its for. THEN I saw that you can pick by the grid the size you need - must have!
 I don't think we need an explanation here. It's like colored Sharpies :)

May be easier than 3 login attempts followed by "check your email for password reset" followed by new password to remember.

You know for all those in case your fridge actually goes out, you don't know when it happened, this will tell you if your food is ok moments in life. 

Cool story Hansel, but I just use a baby spoon to keep the bag down. Granted it IS my silver baby spoon. Hey, it's the burbs right?!

I want to get this for my dad so that he can stop pulling out his reading glasses of his jacket pocket every.single.time we go out to eat followed by 20 questions about the menu. It would also give me the satisfaction of him looking more like an old man and slightly less pretentious as he is not. Really. 

And I only counted about half a dozen different "keep your cords together and" items including this one that I have via the dollar section in Target.

So there you go- your Holiday gift guide for 2013! 

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Only The Lonely?

Off of my last post with the podcast link, there was something in the interview about the challenge of loneliness that single parents face when all is settled and the kids have gone to bed. Initially, I was all - "I am not lonely really, busy yes, in want of a partner yes but no need and no rush" so I equated it to that I really don't feel lonely all that often.

Then yesterday hit and because of flipping daylight savings time (sidebar: I didn't have it growing up ok, so I don't like it and am not used to it because we lived in the bubble) I have been up the majority of the last however many hours with naps in between with the kiddo attached to my body 24/7. I had driven down with the kiddo to meet my friend and old college roommate to walk around campus, have lunch, meet up for the first time in a few months. We had a great day, it was great to just up and go somewhere, especially the campus/my hometown which is magical - I mean amazingly truly magical, and talk and walk and catch up.

However, on the drive home, still quite happy - I felt the need to call someone and tell them about my day. As strange as it sounds, there was no one to call. My folks aren't really being there for us a ton and have their own stuff going on which kind of negates any importance on my end. I had obviously just finished talking with one of my good friends. Two others were busy with family things, and it seemed too odd to just call about my day. But what I was really looking for was that person to call at the end of any wonderful or harrowing day to tell all my excitement too. That's when it hit me, I do feel lonely in the "no partner" sense here and there and probably too often than I like to admit. Then it kind of snowballed......that night I wished someone would rub my aching back, however, I was quite happy that I didn't have to deal with the possibly obliges post massage if you get me; today was a rough very early morning per the evil daylight savings time and I had a half-ling in my bed sprawling about instead of someone to cuddle; and when my kiddo does something ordinarily extraordinary there is no one to turn to and say "can you believe she just did that?!"

There are many perks to being single though, less fights, no other family to have to deal with that is not blood, no pressure to do anything in return for a small selfish want, etc. But the biggest perks are 1) I get to fall in love still - I was watching Love Actually last night - and oh how amazing that will feel when it happens AND to be loved back unselfishly (because lets face it, it did not happen the first time around) and 2) because there is no one around to share in the ordinary extraordinary amazingness of the kiddos' accomplishments - SHE gets straight on all the praise and excitement and pride from my heart directly in the moment. And you should see her eyes, she knows pride at this young age, and if there was any question to the best look in a kiddo's eyes - being surprised by being such a big deal and knowing someone is proud of them is by far the winner.

So I will wait, not with a wasted heart, for that day to come. Until then, God gets an earful.