Saturday, November 26, 2011

Happy 7th birthday to my baby girl

How is my baby girl already 7 years old?
 Today, she's a big sister, friend, first grader, and one of my favourite people. To celebrate her birthday, we had a few of her friends over last weekend for a tea party.  Enjoy some pictures of the event while I try to figure out where the last seven years have gone.

Waiting for her friends to arrive

A table set for pretty princesses

The birthday girl's tea cup
The hostess with the mostess
My grandmother's cookie jar

Mommy's Project 52:18 Styling

Styling.  Defined, "style" has many different meanings, both formal and slang.  Still, I can't get past the idea that I do not feel that I have a "style" of my own, or that I am adept at styling anything in my house or even my wardrobe.  Most often, I feel that my style would be called "homeless chic" if I ever ran into Clinton and Stacy!

My daughter has adopted her own sense of style ever since she began choosing her own outfits and dressing herself.  Mine is definitely the daughter who dresses herself and often stands out with her unmatched patterns and clashing colors.  Honestly, I wouldn't have it any other way, and she doesn't know the difference.  Most of all, what to wear is not a battle I want to fight, so I'll give her the clothes, she can put them together however she likes.

My son's only concern with outward appearance is whether he was in the mood to get dressed that morning or not.  I lay his clothes on the floor, he puts them on (most of the time).

I couldn't be happier that both my kids are comfortable in their own skin and unmatched clothes.  I know the worst is not far ahead of us, and labels and names are going to matter sooner than I can say "What the hell are you wearing?".

But I want to wear ALL my new hair clips!
Silly hats are the best accessory!
Do you have to take my picture?
We don't mind getting dressed up sometimes.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Mommy's Project 52:17 Leading

Lead, follow, or get out of the way

Yesterday my daughter had the day off of school, but Hot Dad and I had to work.  Naturally, the kids would normally go to day care, not a big deal.  Yesterday, Ethel protested, as she often does, and was pretty definitive about not wanting to go to day care.  What's a working parent to do other than tell their kid to suck it up (which we did all summer)? 

In the spirit of being a good example to, at least one of, my kids, I got the idea to take Ethel to work with me to save the money on day care so she could see where I go every day while she spends her days in school.  I have working mom guilt.  You know that feeling you get when you wake your kids from deep slumber on a cold winter morning, stuff them into their clothes, shove dry cereal into their mouths, then take them out into the elements and drive them to a small building with brightly colored walls and toys and leave them in the hands of others to make sure they are fed and kept warm and learn their ABC's.  OK, so there's a lot more to it, but I'm sure working moms can relate.

Work is a hard concept for kids to grasp.  Heck, it's difficult for some of the 20-somethings and 30-somethings.  Still, I want my kids to see what their parents are doing when we can't be together.  I don't want "Mommy and Daddy's work" to be some black hole, a vague location where Mommy and Daddy are lost for 10 hours a day.  Yesterday was the perfect opportunity, with several people already off for the holiday, Ethel being nearly seven, and the workload being a little slower, allowing me to show her around, and give her an idea of what I do at the office.

She had a great time, which I think is pretty evident from her smile.  She did well, too, keeping herself busy learning how to scan and print from a coworker of mine, seeing how I send faxes, and watching me receive e-mails for hours on end.  There was some tracing, cutting and coloring, along with playing with all the fun toys from Mommy's desk, of course.  And let's not forget the unending fun a few stress balls can provide.

I don't see myself as a leader in many aspects of my life, but I do try to be a good role model to my kids. Don't laugh, those who know me.  :)  Giving my daughter a glimpse of Mommy at work can hopefully give her some idea of what it means when "Mommy goes to work". 

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Mommy's Project 52:16 Organizing

I am a first born.  I am a Virgo.  These two things together make for one very Type A personality, one which thrives on order, obedience, and routine.  I also have ADD.  That alone makes for one scattered, busy, obsessive, and disorganized person.  Add ADD to a first born Virgo, and that's one hot mess.

This is the real sign of a Virgo
While thriving on order and routine, I am easily taken off track, I get distracted rather easily, and become disorganized in a flash.  As hard as I try, it seems nearly impossible to stay neat and orderly sometimes.  Even my mind becomes a mess of lists, ideas, plans, and tasks.  Having two small children, it seems that any time I get one area of the house cleaned and organized, it's only a few minutes before the tornado goes through and everything is a virtual disaster.  Let's not even think about my desk at work.  Don't even start with keeping track of any of our social lives, either.  Sigh.

That said, I never, OK rarely, let the house get to a point where A&E would want to come film us for a special on hoarders homes in disarray.  I have learned over the years to let things take their natural course and do my best to keep things from sending me over the edge.  I do need order for my own mental health, but, I've learned to cope with an environment that is not entirely neat and tidy, especially since having children.

I stopped short of putting them
in alphabetical order
My fridge is always an OCD dream.  Everything in its place, everything facing front, and lined up nicely.  We do our best to keep the shoes from overtaking the family room and entry way, but pretty often we're tripping over our own feet shoes.  My pride and joy, though, is my car.  It's my sanctuary, of sorts, and it's the one area that I have full and complete control over.  No food, no drinks, no mess.  Just the interior, two car seats, and my reusable shopping bags stacked nicely in the back.  Ah, serenity. 

Doesn't look like much, but it's kid crap nirvana for Mommy
In 2010 we embarked on a project to make our basement a functional space rather than the place we just shoved the kids' toys and a big TV in hopes that someone would find it appealing.  It's an unfinished basement, and we needed to give the kids their own place while preserving somewhat of an adult space, where we weren't all on top of each other while enjoying the basement.  But what to do with the four tons of art project stuff, 10,000 pieces of plastic food, and countless items that the kids collect over time?  We had some shelves which we were originally using for storage, but decided they were better put to use for the kids' stuff.  We now have a fully organized space where the kids have their own area, and we have an area for storage of holiday stuff and all that crap you can't get rid of. 
Single file lines, just like in school

In 2011 our big organizing project was the that doesn't have a place so put it in there guest room.  This included a wall system by Elfa, which we hoped would minimize the space needed for the computer, books, and give me an organized space from which to pay bills.  I will never be called to have my room photographed for one of their catalogs, though.

Now to organize the organizer....

I can't read magazines like Real Simple or Better Homes and Gardens, I get too overwhelmed, then disappointed.  I can declutter with the best of them, but keeping it that way is my biggest challenge.  Luckily, I've adapted and can tell you where something is without much thought.  It may be in a pile or under some papers on the counter, but I know where it is. 

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Mommy's Project 52:15 Nap Time

If only it were that easy...

Mommy's Project 52:14 Fixing

When we bought our house in 2003, we knew the house needed lots of work.  When I say lots, I don't just mean new carpet and some paint, I mean this place needed serious work.  We knew about most of what the house would need, but as we dug into different projects, new ones would pop up.

Now, there's putting work into your house and upgrading it, and then there's the list of things that always need fixing.  If only we'd just needed to tighten a few screws here, slap some paint on there.  Nope. If it's any indication, we did get offers for matches and gasoline.  We didn't think it was *that* bad at the time, but in hindsight, it kind of was.

Of our many renovation projects, the first major one was the kitchen.  Yes, the heart of the home, the one thing which, at the time, was guaranteed to bring a return to the home owner and increase the value of the home.  The kitchen adjoins the family room and the dining room entry is right off the kitchen, so we tackled all three rooms at once.  The biggest change was in the kitchen and family room.  We took the kitchen down to the studs, and installed a new floor in all three rooms.  Did I mention that we started this the year after we moved in?  While I was pregnant?  Ya, I don't recommend gutting your kitchen while you're pregnant.  Don't do it.

Anyway, the fruits of our labor are as follows:
Kitchen before - Z-Brick!
Kitchen after - look at all the cabinets!

The family room was a little easier.  Sort of.  We added lighting and replaced the floor.  The room was originally paneled, which we removed when we moved in because it was super dark.  We replaced the French doors with sliding doors, too.  Some new furniture, and it looked good as new!

Family room - before
Family room - done 2004
Before you go thinking we stopped there, we did not.  The fireplace was still something we weren't happy with, despite all the work we put into it to make it look less outdated than it was.  The room has taken on several different functions and appearances since 2004, the year we had our first child.  It's been overrun with toys, it's hosted many parties, and has seen its fair share of redecoration.  So, in 2010, we embarked on yet another upgrade in the family room, with this result.

The room closer to completion, and minus the baby swing!
Everything is grand when you first finish a project like this.  Shiny new appliances, beautiful new furniture, what could go wrong?  You use your appliances, you sit on your furniture, and you have kids!  Today, the faucet always needs replacing tightening, one of the cabinet doors has a crack that we've been too lazy to repair, and a few other annoying minor adjustments need to be made.  Still, we are in love with these spaces!

We've redecorated just about every room in the house now, and with each project, it turns out to be more than just redecorating.  There is a sizable repair needed in just about every room.  Today, we need to complete the master bath (gut) remodel, add knobs to closet doors in a couple rooms, get a new roof, add some minor finishing touches in the kitchen, repaint the foyer and living room, and the list goes on.

Along with the house and kids comes broken toys.  I can only scratch the surface of the list of items which currently need repair.  The kids are good with their toys, but there are some items made better than others, and those falling into the latter category fall into our "bucket of despair", as I sometimes call it.  Items which need more than a little super glue, which Mommy and Daddy set aside to fix on a rainy day.  Well, we've had lots of rainy days, but the toys still need fixing.  One needs a battery, one needs a wheel glued back on, the yo-yo came apart and doesn't snap back together, the doll's leg broke off at the knee, you know the drill.  They pile up so quickly, and soon it's like a toy graveyard.

Whether you have kids or not, something always needs fixing.  The list never seems to get shorter.  All you can do is become handy and get to know your Friendly Hardware Folks!  We know ours quite well, and they know us as soon as we walk in the door!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Exfoliative keratolysis: good update

After years of struggling with peeling, bleeding hands, I can safely say that the skin on my hands has never been as healthy as it is today.  I'm still using the products I mentioned in my last update, and here's how they're working. 

Aside from a couple small air blisters which have surfaced, my hands have been free of peeling for at least two months.  I have been using the Gold Bond Ultimate Restoring CoQ10, and it's wonderful.  I am still happy with the product, and my 4.5 oz tube has been plenty over the last month or two since I bought it.  I use it throughout the day, and reapply when I wash my hands or when they start to feel dry.  When I do see a blister, I apply the lotion to that area, and it seems to mitigate the damage that could otherwise occur.  I'll invest in another tube soon, and a pump of it for the house. 

As for my feet, I've found equal success from using Kerasal.  I noticed a difference in my feet within two days (reduced irritation from deep peeling, healing peeled areas, and softening of the skin on the heel and ball of foot, as well as other rough areas).  I am a runner, and my feet take a good beating, but looking at them now, you'd never know.  My heels are not peeling now, and show no signs of cracking or bleeding like they normally do this time of year.  Within two weeks or so, my feet were completely healed and showed no signs of the previous peeling and cracking that they had for months prior.  I used the first tube pretty quickly, using it daily for just under one week, then weekly for a few weeks.  I'm on my second tube, and by using it weekly I estimate it will last me another month or two (I use less for maintainence than I did to stimulate healing), unless I have another flare with peeling.  I just learned from their web site that they have a rewards program, and a free sock offer, so I'll be jumping on that for sure!

I'm no foot or hand model, so you won't get any pictures, sorry about that.  Suffice it to say, I'm typing this with no pain, no Band-Aids on my fingers, and no swelling anywhere on my hands.  It's amazing the difference that using the right topical products has made in the health of the skin on my hands and feet.  I'm so glad I did the research and found something that works.  I hope that if you're suffering from something similar, that you're able to find relief, as well.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Running Chronicles: Half Marathon race report

I can, and I DID!

First, the results:

My official time is 2:05:39!

I remained calm even at the start line. The race went off about 10 minutes late which allowed me to get into my own head a bit, but not much. I was in awe that I was about to shoot off for a half marathon, and it still has me in a bit of a cloud. I am really amazed that I did it!

The race was amazing. I know each person has their own experience, and for my one friend, this race was not what she'd wanted.  For me, it was the race I've always wanted. It was my best race ever, my best run ever.

In summary:
3030 runners. 1963 women. The rest were men (I don't want to do the math)
Set out to run at least 10K (6.2 miles) before considering dialing back or kicking it up or even walking. Blew that out of the water. The first few miles were very crowded. I seriously thought I might scream for the first 2 miles. I was behind the 10:00 pace guy, and we were going closer to an 11:30. I could have walked it faster. So many people, so little room. It honestly didn't thin out until closer to 4 miles. I passed up the 10:00 pace guy around mile 4 or so. Crazy!
Mile 3.4 - took a Gu Chomp from the pack my girlfriend gave me after having been diverted onto the beach for several feet due to an ambulance pulling up where we would have been running. Not sure what happened, but the diversion sucked ass.
Somewhere between mile 4 and 6 {I think} we were in Lincoln Park and ran across the fields where they play flag football. Random! I started to think how fun it used to be to play flag football there back in the day. Nice diversion for the mind, to be honest.
Mile 7 - took a Hammer Gel they were giving at the energy stop (gels are bizarre, this was my first experience). I ran with it for about 2 miles, taking a little at a time.  Note: raspberry is not my fav flav.
Mile 8 - Look, I'm still running! Tried to dial back to almost a walk but my body wouldn't have it.  Kept running, and passing people.
Mile 10 - Look, I'm still running! And smiling!
I took water/blue liquid {we joked that it was windshield wiper fluid}/Gatorade(?) three times, walking only one of those times to drink the whole thing. I didn't hydrate, though, 'til after mile 7.
Mile 11 - 1:44 on the Garmin - look, I'm still running, and smiling!  This is awesome, and I just ran past Navy Pier!
Mile 11 - took the Gu my girlfriend gave me.  Note: the lemony limey flav was much better than the respberry Hammer gel.
Started to walk a bit at this point. I didn't care, and sort of did a walk/surge kind of thing for about a mile.
Mile 12 - holy shit, I am almost done! And there's the Field Museum!
Mile 13 - there are people lined up and cheering, we must be close!
That last stretch, uphill and with a big turn, was the best part. People lined up cheering, and I gunned it, big time! I sprinted to the finish, passing tons of people and feeling awesome.  Seriously, I could hear the cheering crowd over the music in my iPod, and it was invigorating.
As I crossed the finish line, I was in total disbelief as I saw the time on the clock. It was 2:10-ish, Garmin time was about 2:06-ish, I don't remember exactly. I grabbed my medal, went and got my picture taken, and broke down in tears. I did it! I cried as I took my goodie bag of a bagel, string cheese, and peanuts. Muscle Milk was there but they were out of product, damnit! Anyway, I got a water and headed for bag check. I got my phone out and stretched out while talking to another finisher who congratulated me on my time. I still didn't realize how fast I'd finished. I waited for my friends, and we compared notes as we each finished, agreeing that it was a really fun race. There were a few spots where it felt more like a trail race, but overall it was a great lakefront course.

It still has not sunk in that I just did a half marathon. I am hoping to get out soon to get my 13.1 sticker for my car. If I don't get it today, I'll get it next time I get to the group run at the store.

My legs are sore today, there's no doubt, but are much better than Sunday and Monday. Other than that, I feel great. I really haven't felt this good about or after a race - ever! I am so excited.

So that's my first half marathon. I officially love that distance!!