Sunday, December 29, 2013

Paying it Forward - Holiday Style

I am one of those people that likes to have things planned out way in advance. I was already bugging the salespeople at OfficeMax during the summer when the 2014 big wall calendars would be available to buy! Due to some unforeseen circumstances, I ended up doing all of my Christmas shopping for my husband, Lauren and Dominic on December 23rd and 24th this year.  I don't remember doing it that late, EVER.  I am not a big shopper. One time, when my stepson was younger and he was visiting us, he told me he wanted to go to our local mall.  I was like, "why, did you forget something?"  He said he just wanted to walk around and not necessarily buy anything.  It kind of blew my mind. I only go shopping if I specifically need something, other than that, I don't really go out shopping unless it's for groceries.  On December 24th, I only had a few hours alone to myself to finish the shopping that didn't get done on the 23rd.  I decided to go to the Meijer, where I could get a few groceries that we needed, plus pick up a few presents.  I was anticipating people running frantically around all over the place. It wasn't anything like that at all.  It was pretty calm, we were all in the same last minute shopping "boat."  I found a line with only a few people in it.  The lady in front of me was rummaging through her cart.  She got out of line, so I moved my cart up.  About 30 seconds later, I heard a voice saying, "I didn't get the items I thought I needed, do you mind if I get back in line?" She only had about ten items, so I said, "okay, sure, go ahead."  About another 30 seconds later, I heard two ladies talking behind me.  One was at least about 80 and the other was probably her daughter, like in her 60's. The older lady was holding onto the younger gal's arm, I think for support.  They were only buying one item, so I told them to go ahead of me.  They stood there about 10 seconds and then the lady who had gotten out of line and then got back in line, let the two ladies go ahead of her.  When the two older gals left, the lady in front of me looked back at me with a knowing smile.  I smiled back. Who knows if we'll ever see those older ladies again, but I'm sure they'll remember that we let them go in front of us in the line. Now, that's what I call - paying it forward - holiday style!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

A Lesson Learned?

If you asked Dominic what one of his favorite things to eat is, I can tell you with almost 100% certainty that pizza is at or near the top of his list.  Earlier last week, we ordered a couple of pizzas from our local pizza place.  After Dominic ate four pieces, we told him that was enough.  He refused to listen to us and ended up eating six pieces! That was the same as what Lauren and I ate together!  I had a feeling he would probably be paying the price later.  Well, sure enough he woke up about 11:15 p.m. and was whimpering.  He was in a bit of belly pain, not surprising given that he had eaten so much pizza for dinner.  I won't go into too much detail, but let's just say he felt better after he used the bathroom.  Thank goodness,  he was able to fall back asleep and was up raring to go the next morning.  I asked him a few times if he felt better and he said, "all better."  I called his teacher after he got on the bus and gave him a heads up that he might not be eating a lot of his lunch and/or at snacktime.  When he got home that afternoon,  I mentioned the word pizza and he whimpered.  I asked him, "how did you feel after you ate too much pizza?"  He said, "sad."  Well, I know that he remembered the previous evening, but was there a lesson that he learned from eating too much pizza?  The next time we eat pizza, will he know to stop after three or four pieces? or will we have to stop him?  I told my husband that somebody won't always be around to monitor how much he's eating.  Even though he is nine and has special needs, I feel that some of the responsibility should rest with Dominic.  There are "lessons" that you learn when you are in a classroom or are homeschooled, but how about those other "life lessons" that you learn as you grow up, like learning to fail?  This morning, the "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy" song came on. I asked Dominic who wrote it and he said, "chosky."  I told him it was "Tchaikovsky."  Every time he said it wrong, I corrected him.  He got really frustrated and basically had a temper tantrum. After about 10 times of saying it wrong, he finally said it right!  I guess I could have told him "chosky" was right, but it wasn't.  When you play a board game with your kids, do you let them win so they will be happy? Kids need to learn that it's okay to lose, they may not always win :)  How about life is not always fair?  That is definitely one I have told Lauren more than once.  One of the most important "life lessons" I have learned to come to terms with is realizing no matter how hard I try, not everyone will like me.  Somebody who I have an enormous amount of respect for called me a "people pleaser" recently.  It's true, I want everyone to like me!  Just in the past couple of years, have I realized that doesn't always happen and I have to be able to deal with it better :) 

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Feeling Like a Fish Out of Water

The hubby and I were at a dinner party last week with three other couples, when the conversation turned to cell phones.  The host of the party was saying how you could get so much information off your cell phone, like checking messages, looking at Facebook, etc.  The hubby and I kind of looked at each other, because he doesn't even know how to text!  He'll receive texts once in a while, but he has no idea how to respond back.  I only text a few people and neither my phone or my husbands has the capability to do much more than making and receiving calls and texts.  During the whole conversation about cell phones, we just kind of sat there not contributing much. We were kind of like, "fish out of water." I was SO glad when all the couples starting talking about old television shows, which I know a bit more about.  When we were all trying to remember the name of the dog that was on the show, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, one of the other women at this dinner party was able to look it up while we were sitting at the dining room table! I guess I still find it fascinating that a cell phone can do so much :)  I was having coffee with a friend recently and since both of our kids are seniors, we were talking about colleges and careers.  I was telling her how all through high school, I wanted to be a legal or medical secretary.  Well, attempting to take a shorthand class nipped that career dream in the bud. I ended up having to drop the class because it made no sense whatsoever to me.  What do you do when you "feel like a fish out of water?" If it's a social situation, I have found the best thing to do is to smile and nod your head once in a while and hope that the conversation eventually turns to something else!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Common Courtesy

I went to a large department store in my local mall last Saturday to pick up a few items for the holidays.  As I was heading in towards the double doors, I saw three people deep in conversation coming out at the same time.  I was thinking with the double doors, maybe they would all single file out through the door on their right, so it would leave the door on my right free and clear so I could go inside the store.  Well, much to my amazement, all three of them barreled through, almost knocking me down and both doors promptly slammed in my face!  There was never a break in their conversation.  It got me to thinking, during the holidays does common courtesy fall by the wayside??  If someone tries to barge in front of you at the store and pay first, even though you've been waiting longer, do you say something to them? or do you just let it slide?  When I was at the grocery store a few days ago, an older lady and I were both heading to the express lane to check out right at the exact same time.  I told her to go ahead of me.  She had more items than the limit, but I was taught to respect my elders, so I just let it go. She thanked me profusely for letting her go ahead of me. Did you know that March 21st is "National Common Courtesy Day?" I think that day should be everyday, but especially on "Black Friday," when there is probably more pushing and shoving going on than common courtesy!!  As you go about your holiday shopping this season, let's all try to remember to treat our fellow man, woman and child with kindness and respect :)

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Grief Has No Timetable

While the holidays are happy and joyful for most of us, it can also be painful and hard, especially if you have lost a loved one recently. My husband has lost both of his parents and has no siblings.  This time of the year is difficult for him. Dominic was just a baby when my father-in-law passed away, but he did get to know my mother-in-law pretty well.  This past Saturday, Dominic said several times, "Grandma in heaven."  It was SO HARD not to start crying.  What's interesting is that this is around the time she became very ill three years ago.  He's a very intuitive little guy.  My mother-in-law spent about two weeks in the hospital, before being transferred to hospice where she passed away less than a week later.  Dominic and Lauren both spent almost everyday visiting her during that time frame.  I asked Dominic on Saturday, "do you still miss her?" He said, "yes."

Grief has no timetable, you can't say to yourself, "okay, now I'm done grieving this person."  Grieving a loss is not something you get "over."  I've always thought of it more like finding a way to cope.  My cousin passed away unexpectedly in March of 2011.  She was someone that I grew up with and we were less than two years apart in age.  She left behind many, many family members (including a daughter) and several friends. What would have been her 52nd birthday was just a few weeks ago and I thought about her the whole day. I still miss her very much.  I've probably mentioned this before in previous blog posts, but the only way that I have found to handle the losses in my life has been to pray for them. Losing a parent or grandparent when you are young is very difficult.  When my father-in-law passed away, given that he was in the Army, they played Taps at his viewing. I felt so sorry for Lauren, as soon as she heard it, she just started crying really hard.  She was very close to him and was devastated when he passed away.  From time to time she still cries about him.  I feel helpless in comforting her, so I give her lots of hugs. If you know someone that has lost a loved one (even if it hasn't been recently), give them a call, send a text, tweet, Facebook message or a note with this simple message, "thinking of you." I guarantee it will mean everything in the world to the recipient that even though their loved one is gone, they have not been forgotten.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Things People Do in Their Cars

Most of us spend a lot of time in our cars, going to work, taking the kids different places, etc. The following are things that I have observed the most that people do in their cars:  read a book/newspaper, smoke, put on make-up, eat, drink, talk on the phone, sleep, pick and/or blow their nose, change a dirty diaper and text.  The most unusual thing I have ever seen someone do in their car was in the parking lot of a Wal-Mart.  I watched a lady sit in the driver's seat, with the door open, brush her teeth, take a swig of water and then spit that water into the parking lot. It was kind of disgusting and someone else saw her do it and starting yelling at her. Since she was only parked about 50 feet from the main entrance, I couldn't figure out why she didn't just go and use the restroom inside the store.  My dad had an ironclad rule about no eating or drinking in the car growing up. Sometimes I wish I had that rule, especially when we bought our van over 12 years ago.  I opened up a pop in the car which promptly spilled all over the space between the two front seats shortly after we bought it! That stain is still there, impossible to get out.  I see way too many people texting and driving, which is so incredibly dangerous to be doing at the same time.  Is a text message that important that you need to take your eyes off the road even for a second or two?  Accidents can happen so fast, it's just not worth the risk. I watched a woman text as she was driving past the Kroger a few days ago.   People were coming in and out of the store and her attention was definitely not on them, it was on her phone.  A few weeks ago, when I had parked my car in the parking lot of another grocery store here in town, I looked over at the car next to me and saw a young woman sound asleep in the front seat of the car.  I was thinking if she was still there when I came back out, I might just tap on the window and make sure she was okay.  I was only in the store a few minutes and the car was gone when I came back out.  She looked like a college student, so maybe she was catching a quick nap between classes!  A little McDonalds's trivia. When did the first drive-thru originate? Take a guess - in 1975! Another interesting fact - 70% of their sales come from the drive-thru.  Wow, that is a staggering amount!! Here is a sampling of things you can do without getting out of your car - pick up and drop off prescriptions, get married (in Las Vegas), conduct bank business, grab a quick cup of coffee and mail a letter.  I read in my local paper this morning that for $5.00 your kids can have their picture taken with Santa without even leaving your car!  A drive-thru Santa?  Hmm, sounds pretty efficient, but I guess I'm old-fashioned because I think kids should still sit on his lap!! 

Thursday, December 5, 2013

The "Blame" Game

Earlier this year, the hubby showed me an article that he had read stating that there was a link between older fathers and their children having Autism.  My husband was genuinely upset and sad when he read this. He said something to me like, "I'm sorry if I caused Dominic's Autism." If you Google "causes of Autism" there are many things that will pop up such as genetic, environmental, and maternal age, just to name a few.  For many years, Autism was said to be blamed on "refrigerator moms."  The thinking was that if the mom was "cold" like a refrigerator, and lacked maternal "warmth," then that's why her child had Autism.  So sad for all of those moms that thought that. When you have a child with special needs it just doesn't affect the child, it affects everyone in the family.  Parents sometimes blame each other for their child's special needs.  I read something that said parents of special needs children have a higher rate of divorce.  Difficult and stressful situations will either pull you apart or bring you closer together. In our case, it's the latter.  I play the "blame" game once in a great while, thinking drinking too many diet colas when I was pregnant or not talking or playing with Dominic enough when he was an infant "caused" his Autism. What if I spent my days feeling sorry for myself or for our family, wouldn't that be counterproductive? I instead embrace the closeness and the love that the five of us have for each other. Isn't that a much better use of my time???

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Testing Out New Cookie Recipes

From year to year, I tend to make the same cookies over and over every holiday season.  Guess you call that a cookie "rut."  I wanted to be different this year and "test" out some new cookie recipes.  Every year, the hubby has a cookie exchange at work right before Christmas and he always "volunteers" me to bake a few dozen. Some of the cookies that he brings back home from the cookie exchange are pretty darn amazing and unique. Since butter has been on sale, I decided to make shortbread.  My first attempt last week was okay, but not quite right.  I made some adjustments and tried again. I baked three dozen shortbread stick cookies right before Dominic came home from school this afternoon and the little stinker ate a bunch when my back was turned!! He's pretty sneaky :) There certainly is no shortage of taste testers in this house!!  I found a good recipe for chocolate pinwheels Monday night in the pile of old recipes that belonged to my mother-in-law, so I think that will be the next cookie I "test" out.  When the hubby takes a few dozen cookies for the cookie exchange this year, I want his co-workers to be oohing and aahing about my cookies!!


1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup white sugar
2 1/2 cups white flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  In large bowl, put the butter and white sugar and mix with large spoon until smooth.  Add the white flour and the vanilla extract and combine until the batter is well mixed.   Roll out dough on a flat surface (like a kitchen counter), to 8 inches wide x 12 inches long. With a knife, slice into 18 rows from top to bottom and then cut in half from left to right, so you have a total of 36 rectangular slices.   Put a dozen slices at a time on an ungreased cookie sheet and then prick with the tines of a fork three or four times on the top of each slice. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until they are just starting to turn brown.  Cool for five minutes before carefully removing to wire rack.  These shortbread stick cookies are kind of fragile, but boy are they good! Store in covered container at room temperature. 

Monday, December 2, 2013

Defining "Beauty"

How many times have you heard that saying, "beauty is only skin deep?" What exactly does that mean?  I watched the most amazing video that a friend had posted on her Facebook page back in June. It was about a fashion photographer who decided 15 years ago that he would start taking pictures of children and adults with genetic disorders. How many of us pass by someone that looks "different" from us and either look down, turn away or stare?  I asked Lauren recently to name a celebrity that she considered beautiful.  She said Jennifer Lawrence. She is an actress who is secure in herself and mature, both at the same time.  Who decides what makes someone beautiful, attractive or pretty? the media? Hollywood???  Many times, those pictures in magazines, on the Internet or in newspapers have been airbrushed or altered to barely resemble the original person.  Unfortunately, I have personally known more than one person that has struggled with anorexia and bulimia.  It's not just a disorder that affects young girls, it can affect young men and adult women and men. It still shocks me, but more makes me sad, when I hear of a young teenager that has cosmetic surgery not based on a medical reason, but more because they didn't feel they were "pretty" enough or felt they looked "abnormal."  How many of us remember Susan Boyle? She became a singing sensation when she appeared on Great Britain's version of America's Got Talent in 2009.  We are such a judgmental society sometimes.  Many people watching that show that night took one look at her and assumed based on her looks that she had no singing ability at all.  She has an AMAZING voice!!!  I love the old saying, "you can't judge a book by it's cover."  How many of us do that?  Already judging someone by their outward appearance?  Maybe the mom you saw at the grocery store that looks exhausted and disheveled just spent a few days at the hospital with a sick child.  I was that mom back in 2011 when I spent three days in the hospital with Lauren.  Believe me, how I looked was certainly not my top priority!!  I judge people more by their actions.  A beautiful person to me is someone whose beauty radiates from the inside out.  How about you?  How do you define "beauty?"

My New "Relationship" with the Sun

Long gone are the days that I would sit on the beaches of the Atlantic Ocean for HOURS at a time with just baby oil on my skin for prote...