Thursday, December 30, 2010

T13: 2010 and the Year of Change

2010 was definitely a year for changes around the Wheelz Home. For good and bad, it was a Year of Change for us. I would hope that 2011 will become the Year Of Calm instead, but I guess that remains to be seen. I know that the kids are stressed from all of the change in the house so I can only hope to make part of my new year resolution to make this house more calm and help to the kids to become more grounded and happy.

My T13...some of the changes we saw in 2010

1. New Church
After a tumultuous departure from our old church at the end of 2009, we spent the first half of 2010 searching and attending several different churches. Around May, we settled at one that we really like. The kids love it too and we are hoping to attend the join class in January and becoming full fledged members.

2. New Hair
In March, when I was really still fighting some depression from leaving the old church, I got sick of my look and decided to grow out my bangs. I have had bangs my entire life and decided I needed a change. I spent the entire year figuring out ways to keep them out of my eyes while growing them out. I can say that they are now grown out and I still am not sure about the look. I guess we're always a work in progress. I guess the good thing is that now that you can see more of my face, I've been wearing make up more. I suppose that's a good thing.

3. House

We came closer this year than ever before to losing our house. Economy stinks and Steve's hours have been way cut back, which made making all of bill payments more challenging. After trying for several months to fight with our mortgage company to get a "modification" which turned out to be a joke, we finally secured a loan to pay back with our tax refund in March. It was truly terrible and I hope to never come that close again.

4. School for kids
This was definitely an adjustment this year, having both boys in school full time. At the beginning, I had a hard time trying to keep all of their stuff straight, with lunches, backpack, notes from school, permission slips, field trips, etc. It seems to finally fallen into more of a routine, thankfully. And I have figured out a way to still be the lunch mom once a week, rotating their classrooms each week. It makes it so I can still help, but not have to be at the school more than one day a week. Also part of this was unexpectedly sending Aaron to first grade. Not sure what will come of this going into the next school year, but we will do whatever we deem is right for him when the decision time comes.

9. Noah scouts
Back in December 2009, we took the boys sledding at a hill near our house and somehow struck up a conversation with two ladies next to us. Turns out they were the scout leaders for a Cub Scout pack on our street school. Since Steve is an Eagle Scout, we have always wanted our boys to be in scouting and this seemed like the perfect time. So we got Noah going in scouts. In November, it seemed like it was just getting to be too much and we took a break. We have now found a new pack nearer to the boys' school and BOTH boys will be starting in January. Aaron is so excited and I hope Noah will go into the new pack with an open mind.

5. Back pain
This was the year of pain. Steve and I are both just kind falling apart and we're not even 40 yet. His ankle that he shattered a few years ago is in constant pain and I have now developed back issues. The year was fraught with many visits to doctors about how to fix the pain. It is still a work in progress and when the flare ups are in full force, I feel like I'm about 90 years old.

8. Symphony chorus
This has been my favorite change for this year. After leaving our old church, I was desperate to find a way to use my musical abilities for my own personal enjoyment. I auditioned for the Grand Rapids Symphony Chorus in January and started up in February. I have been in five productions so far, the highlight being the Lord Of The Rings performance in October. I really enjoy being part of this and I hope to continue doing it for many years to come.

6. Jobs
This one has just been since November. After coming so close to losing the house, and then realizing that we were going to be unable to get presents for the kids for Christmas, I took a night time job at the mall. The good was that I did indeed provide a nice Christmas for the boys. The bad is that I get sick EVERY SINGLE TIME the day after a night shift, and was sicker through these holidays than I have ever been before. Now that we know we need the income though, I have finally decided that I need to bite the bullet and start subbing. I have put it off long enough. So next week while the kids are back in school, it will be off to get fingerprints and I will attend the required sub class in three weeks and then begin subbing. I am terrified but it IS the right decision for this family so I have to just do it. Who knows... I might end up really enjoying it.

7. Camping

This is the first year since Noah was born that we didn't take a vacation. Oh we had a couple of trips planned, but financial difficulties or car issues prevented each of them. That is, there was no hotel stay at all in the year 2010. What we did though was to take our first family trip camping. Actually it was my first time ever camping. We went to a campground only about a half hour from home, which had shower facilities as well as playground, beach, kids activities, and electric hookup in the bathroom. It went well and we had a lot of fun. I am looking forward to another camping trip or two in 2011, but I would still really like a REAL vacation as well if we can figure out a way to afford it. The memories we make on those trips are priceless.

9. Piano Teaching
After leaving our church, I needed to find a new place for my student recital. That took up a large amount of time in May scrambling for a place large enough, but that wouldn't charge me a fortune. I settled on a church nearby that Deb takes her girls to and the recital went okay. But the venue really wasn't ideal since the piano was too low so I will now spend the beginning of 2011 trying to find a new one for this year's recital in May. I also have more adult students than I ever have before as well as a group of four year olds which I have never had before. It is definitely a different kind of student load than in the past. I lost a student from my old church whom I have been teaching for over seven years and that made me very sad as well.

11. Kid Changes
The boys had many growth opportunities this year but I think the standouts were Aaron learning to ride a two wheeler without training wheels and Noah getting glasses. These were both events that got lots of attention at the time. Unfortunately, we are thinking that Noah needs a stronger prescription at the moment and insurance doesn't cover another exam until 2012. We will be working on that at the start of the new year.

12. Weight Gain
This was an unfortunate result of the stress of the year. I have gained A LOT of weight the second half of this year. I don't want to say more about it, just that I think if I reduce the stress of our lives, the weight problem will hopefully work itself out too. That and getting outside when the weather breaks to take Lily for her two or three walks a a day again like I was before it got cold.

13. Dog

After talking forever about boys needing to grow up with a dog, the opportunity presented itself the week after school got out in June. We brought home Lily, a Pomeranian chihuahua. The stress of training a puppy was much more than I ever thought it would be. It was actually more difficult than potty training the boys and I still go back and forth between loving her and wishing she wasn't around. She has definitely brought joy to the house though and I do remain firm that every boy should have a dog. Just watching the boys play with her is priceless (including my hubby, the biggest boy of all)

These are not all inclusive. There were also many other firsts, such as my first Michigan game (Go Blue!), boys first time golfing, Noah learning to dive, and our first trip to Michigan Adventure (theme park) but I WAS limited to 13 :)

2010 was a big year of change. But it seems that as I wrote this post, 2011 is looking pretty big too. I guess it's good that we don't feel stalled. At this moment, I am feeling hopeful about the future, with a kind of new career for me and hopes that we can figure out issues with the boys that need attention.

So, I am wishing you all a Happy and Safe New Year's Celebration and a very blessed 2011!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas 2010 Recap

Here we are, Monday hangover from Christmas. Not in the drink sense, but in the merriment sense. Looking back on the weekend, it was pretty good. I am just sitting here, looking at the tree that I really don't want to take down, listening to the boys playing with their toys in separate rooms, and wondering if we're ever going to get enough snow to go sledding before break is over.

There were a few highlights from the weekend.
Christmas Eve
Since we had just had a painful parting from our old church right before Christmas last year, we actually didn't go to church last year. So this year was kind of exciting to go to the CE service at our new church. It definitely didn't disappoint. The kids sat with us during the service and the entire "auditorium" was packed. It started out with more contemporary versions of traditional carols and it was neat to watch and hear Aaron sing out strong. As the service went on, there was more music, a drama skit, two small messages, and my favorite a man came out to sing "O Holy Night" Noah leaned over to me with a smile and said, "I LOVE this song!". As the song was nearing the end, the congregation was invited to stand and as we started singing, SNOW started to fall from the ceiling. Steve and I are still not sure what the "snow" was made of but I think it was actually a snow machine because you could hear the blowers above us. It was really a neat additon and the kids loved it.

After church we went out for dinner. Christmas Eve is the only night of the year that we justify taking the four of us out for a full restaurant dinner out. It had its ups and downs, but the leftovers were helpful Christmas night (keep reading)

We came home to open our traditional Christmas Eve gifts where the boys got snuggies this year instead of pajamas and I presented Noah with his very own engraved Bible. He was pretty excited about it and I hope it will become something he will treasure in years to come.

By 7: 15 the boys were actually begging to go to bed so that Santa could come so we obliged.

Christmas morning didn't start as early as I'm hearing that others' did. The boys were told to wait until 7 to come up, which they did. We started with stockings as always. The big deal from the stockings by far were the mighty beans that Noah wanted. I still don't see why they're such a big deal, but it was one of the things he begged for the most and Santa did his best to oblige.

When stockings were done, we took a break from the action for some breakfast before opening presents from us. The big presents for the day (aside from the mighty beans) were...

Remote Control Helicopter
By the end of the day, rules had been established about how it would be played with and Noah became very good at making it hover. The rest of us were clueless. It made so many crash landings everywhere that we were convinced that the toy wouldn't last the day. Three days later, it is still functional. Quite a hardy little toy. It's not often that we're pleasantly surprised but the quality of toy, rather than the other way around.

Aaron's Keyboard
This story is awesome! We were trying to figure out a fun way to present it to the boys. Steve wanted to do a scavenger hunt. So as were were setting presents out, he hid the HUGE box in the closet. Then he went to the computer and authored a poem to hide in the tree. We weren't sure how we were actually going to "find" the note, but that seemed to fix itself when about 3 O'clock Christmas afternoon I sent Aaron to his room to find something and we heard a shout for his room, "MOM, THERE'S A HUGE PRESENT IN MY CLOSET!!!" Steve and I ran for the video camera and camera while Aaron dragged the very heavy box all the way out of his room into the living room to open it. He was SO excited! After opening it, he proceeded to play the few little songs he knows and play around with all of the settings. It remains on its stand in the living room for now.

Legos legos everywhere
It seems to be a theme among all of my FB friends with sons. Legos all across the board. Noah got several sets, but really what he loves most are the Lego figures. He was so excited about getting so many of those and played with them off and one throughout the day. It also included two of those Lego build it games which turned into Lego playsets instead but I figure if we had bought the playsets they would have been just as expensive anyway so I am pleased that he is enjoying them anyway. He also got a book with all of the Lego figurines which he enjoyed

Pogo Boy
The only downside to Christmas in Michigan is when you get outside toys, it is too cold to play with them right away. But it didn't stop Aaron from loving his pogo stick. He spent the entire day alternating between the pogo and the keyboard, and has every day since as well. It will be interesting to see if he can get the hang of it outside. He also received pads for elbows, knees, and wrists for while he's learning.

Dinner Failure
I swore I wouldn't post this, but I'm doing just for Steve. I had planned to make my first "bird" for Christmas this year. I don't like turkey and the boys don't like ham do I thought I would make a chicken. apparently, I didn't prepare myself enough ahead of time and long story short, my bird was failure. So with all of our sides prepared, Aaron ate leftovers from dinner the night bore with his sides, Noah ate hot dogs with his sides, and Steve and I filled up on side dishes. Next year I'll get it right...I hope.

The rest of the weekend was spent at home, playing with toys. As I sit here Monday evening. my throat hurts due to working last nignd (I am always sick the day after working all night) Noah is lying on the couch with a tummy ache and fever, having thrown up in the car on the way to the toy store a few hours ago. I am desperately searching for day jobs and praying I don't have to go back to Kohls' Wednesday night. There is yet another "squabble" with the Wheelz in-laws due to not sending out Christmas cards so I'm sure we'll have to deal with that sometime this week as well.

I am enjoying looking at every one's Christmas pictures. It is cracking me up how similar other peoples' stories about their boys are so similar to my own. Have a wonderful week heading into the New Year. 20101 was full of lots of changes for us so I can only imagine what 2011 will bring.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Thursday Thirteen: Merry Christmas

Wow, it's been the longest stretch of non-blogging since I started. Not for lack of something going on. Just making priorities and blogging fell low on the list. How about a Thursday Thirteen on what's been going on since while I Wasn't blogging?

13. Sick, sick, sick, sick
Yes, I wrote it four times since there are four of us in the house and we all got hit with various maladies. I believe we are finally on the mend. Steve started it with a bout of bronchitis that just wouldn't go away, followed by Noah getting strep for the first time in four years, followed by Aaron with some strange bumps on his face as a strep reaction, followed by various painful virus type issues I suffered from. I am still desperately tired but trying to take it easy the best I can.

12. School program
It was fun to have the boys in the same program for the first time ever. After some turmoil over having a red nose, Aaron performed like a little pro, singing out with his whole heart. Noah did fine too, but not with the same gusto, as is his nature.

11. Work
My hours at Kohl's have dropped, but given how tired I have been, they have felt like forever. I missed two nights of work due to illness and was actually thinking that I would go into work last week and find out that I had been fired. Not the case and I can't seem to get an answer about whether I will be continuing there after the New Year. Not that I want to, but I have to keep bringing in more money until I find a day job.

10. Family Gathering
We had our annual family party with all 14 grand kids there. The kids all played well together and they were all very happy with their new found gifts.

9. Concerts
My symphony chorus performances were cut short due to illness but I still made it to three of them. They were different from the other performances I have had with the symphony because they were traditional Christmas music. My parents came to one of the performances and my in-laws brought the kids to another one. I managed to get the kids to get dressed up for their first symphony concert and even gave them both their very own binoculars. From what I hear, they did well and it was fun to be on stage both times when I actually had people in the audience that I knew.

8. Concerto Competition
I have a piano student who is auditioning for the youth symphony piano concerto competition in tow weeks. For that reason, I too had to learn the piece to play the orchestra piano reduction during her audition. It has taken hours of practice as well as extra lessons over Christmas vacation. She won't win but I just hope she does better than last year. She choked last time.

7. Dog
Wow, having a puppy at Christmas is definitely a lot of work. I can't have her anywhere near when I'm wrapping, baking, bringing in groceries, watering the tree, or any other holiday-ish activity. She even ran out the door yesterday and Noah spent quite awhile walking up and down the street looking for her. Did I REALLY want a dog?

6. Christmas Shopping
Gotta admit, this horrible Kohl's job paid off BIG TIME when it came to Christmas shopping. Not only did I actually have money for Christmas presents for the boys, but I also took advantage of several employee shop days at Kohl's and got quite a few gifts there. I saved a ton of money in employee discounts.

5. Christmas wrapping
I was glad I got all of the wrapping done a few weeks ago, before everyone got sick. Now that the boys use the basement for their "clubhouse" on a regular basis and our bedroom doesn't have a closet, I've had to get creative about hiding presents. They are now in my neighbor's attic as we speak. We have her hide a key and most likely will go over to get them tonight. I think we can keep the kids out of our bedroom for one night until Santa comes tomorrow night.

4. No Santa This Year

They kids still want to believe in Santa, so we go along with it, but we didn't make a trip to sit on the big guy's lap this year. The kids know that the guy in the mall isn't the real thing and Noah especially just thinks it's silly so we didn't do it. I don't really think we're missing anything, especially since our mall charges a TEN DOLLAR SITTING FEE if you want to take your own pictures. Can't get much more commercial than that, I think.

3. Christmas Tree
We did keep up the tradition we started last year of going out and cutting down a Christmas tree. I think the most memorable part of that was when the boys were petting the pet goat and miniature horse while we were paying, Aaron actually got BITTEN by the horse on the side of the neck. He was so sad that it would bite him. But we did get the tree up. We kept the bottom bare since we didn't know how the dog would handle the tree, but surprisingly, she has barely even touched it, only tried to drink the water once in awhile.

2. Anniversary

Steve and I celebrated 14 years of marriage on Tuesday night. The kids went for an overnight at my parents and had a blast, giving Steve and me a chance to go out for dinner, see the new Harry Potter movie, and get stocking shopping done. I love having a Christmas anniversary.

1. 36 Hours to go...

until presents go under the tree and festivities begin. I am cooking my first real bird this year (a small five pound chicken) so I am sure there will be stories. I am hoping to get gingerbread houses made, Noah's glasses adjusted, and maybe a trip to the public museum today, cookies for Santa made tomorrow morning, and then the 3 O'clock church service at our new church. I am really looking forward to the service at the new church. And then...


Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Wordless Wednesday: Making Gingerbread Cookies

Believe it or not, I actually found some time when I was awake in the day last week to achieve our first holiday activity...Gingerbread cookies

Monday, December 6, 2010

Trying to Change the World

Yup, it's been weeks since I posted and I am not planning an update at this time. Things are trudging along with ups and downs, same as everyone else. I did finally get a cheap little camera though to get us through the holidays so I do have pictures to share at some point.

For today, I wanted to share a funny Noah story.

The other day Noah told me that he wanted a pet deer. It came out of the discussion that our dog Lily sometimes looks like a fawn when she is lying down, because of her skinny legs and the way she wraps them around her.

I told him that we can't get a pet deer because we didn't have space.

He responded by asking how much space a baby deer could really need.

Then he left the room and came back a short time later with a pictorial rendition of his request for a deer.

Notice the deer expressing his love for Noah :)
Not sure why Noah is blue though

It became clear that my denial needed to get more technical for him.

So I told him...

"Noah, you can't have a baby deer because it is illegal. It is against the law to keep a baby deer for a pet."

He left for a little while and came back with his newest solution.

I am still planning to send the letter as soon as I find an address to send it to. I know it will never find it's way to the Oval Office but I think it would be neat to see if some kind of form letter comes back in return.

The whole ordeal made me smile. I loved the idea that in this 8 year old's mind, if law needs to be changed, he's gonna do something about it.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Tuesday Tackle: Sleep (and Fleas)

No pictures again today. I miss my camera :( I'm going to have to get a disposable for Noah's teacher's going away party on Friday. Very sad.

Oh well. This week's tackle is sleep.

When the boys were babies, I did not do well with sleep deprivation. Especially with Aaron, who was a very early riser from the moment he came into the world. I was always grumpy with him when I couldn't sleep. It was one of the big reasons (financial issues aside) that we decided to stop at two kids. I just like my sleep way too much.

Which doesn't bode well for working a third shift job. At All.

It has now been a week since I've been working third shift at Kohl's. The job itself isn't
too bad. The people aren't as friendly as I would have thought, but the work is easy as long as I've taken my daily 800mg Motrin for my back.

But getting used to being up all night and trying to sleep during the day has been a challenge. The boys have a tendency to wake up every morning when I walk in the door at 6:15, whether it's a school day or not (which it wasn't most of last week due to conferences. And I felt totally guilty all weekend when the boys were home and I couldn't spend any time with them because I had to sleep instead.

I have made some changes to try to make it easier. I try to take a "nap" from 6 until 9 on the nights before I go in to work and I got an eye mask to make it darker. These things have helped.

But my house is a mess. The laundry is piling up. And I'm tired. VERY tired! I am pulling three nights in a row starting tonight and on top of that it is a symphony week so I will be doing rehearsals and performances the entire week.

I keep telling myself that it will be worth it. And it is to a certain extent. We really need the money. Before I started the job, I was hoping it would turn into a permanent thing. Now I'm not quite so hopeful. Financially speaking, I need this to turn into full time. But after a week of lack of sleep, I am desperately searching ( just as I was before) for a day job that will give me sleep at night after Christmas. I can only hope. I really can't do this indefinitely.

I remember my mom, who worked third shift my entire childhood, as not being a very friendly sort as I was growing up. She was grumpy most of the time and I got spanked, yelled at, and insulted for pretty much everything. Early last week, as I was adjusting to this new schedule, I saw that in myself in WAY too much (no spanking but lots of yelling) and it really scared me. After seeing myself that way one day, I've tried to get more grounded. Steve got the boys up and took them to church by himself on Sunday so I could sleep and when I came down at noon with a smile on my face, you could feel the release of tension from both boys, who saw nothing but a monster up until then.

My body is so tired that it is hungry all the time and my voice has officially headed far away, making singing Carmina Burana every night this week a major challenge.

Last night was the only NIGHT that I get to sleep this week. Before I started this job, I had a very difficult time sleeping through the night without waking up. Not last night. I closed my eyes and they didn't open until 6:30 this morning. It felt so good and I am having a hard time anticipating the the next three nights of no sleep. It makes me want to cry out of frustration. Steve feels bad when I say anything about how miserable I am because he feels that he should be making more to save me from this. It's not true of course. I should be in a career at this point in my life, not piling boxes on a shelf. If I had done a better job picking a career in college 20 years ago, or if I had been a better teacher after college, then I wouldn't be an almost 40 something with absolutely no life other than family.

So this week, as well as the remainder of 2010, it will be a constant tackle of sleep. Will I even remember this holiday season when it's over? Will the laundry ever get done and will my house remain a disaster area? And will I EVER get rid of the flea infestation that has invaded our home and the animals?

I guess I'll be ready for the all nighter for Black Friday next week since my body is so messed up anyway.

Wish me luck. I REALLY need it.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Third Shift, Here I Come...

It was a very nice weekend for the most part. We spent a lot of time outside enjoying the beautiful weather. I got sneaky as far as the Halloween candy was concerned and we took advantage of the Noodles and Company offer to trade candy for Noodles. I had the kids pick out ten pieces of candy each and we traded in the rest. When we got home, I told the kids that they could eat all the rest of their candy if they wanted. My theory was that it would then finally be gone, which it was and now I don't have the candy in the house to tempt me, or kids to beg me for candy all the time.

The week ahead is gonna be a doozy. I am starting a third shift job tonight stocking shelves and working in the warehouse of a mall store. I tried to stay up all night last night in preparation, but with the time change as well as playing outside all day yesterday, I only made in until about one in the morning before I crashed. I have a piano lesson to teach this morning an then I'm going to try to get a little more sleep before tonight. I really hope this job works out and I can deal with the overnight schedule. It is only seasonal right now but if I do a good job, it could turn into permanent. At this point I am just happy that I will be able to pay December's mortgage on December first. That hasn't happened in a long time.

Adding to the stress of this new job, my back went out again last week. It was good for five months and now the same week that I start a new job full of bending and twisting, it decided to go bad again. I spent the weekend in between other activities sitting on heating pads and taking pain meds. Last time it took four weeks for the pain to subside. That takes me up to the holidays. I may have to break down this time and pay the STINKIN' FORTY DOLLAR CO PAY and get a cortisone shot this time to get through. I hate that insurance companies can gouge us this much.

Crazy as it seems, my biggest worry about this is the dog. She has a very little bladder that needs to go out several times during the day and I am not sure it will be effective sleep during the day if I have to wake up after three hours to take her out. I guess that is just another adjustment that we will have to make with this new schedule.

On top of everything else, the boys have conferences this week. I am not worried about Noah's at all considering after next week the REAL teacher is finally back as we're going to be starting over. That and the fact that he has all A's makes that conference not so important. Aaron's however is another story. I am really nervous about it. I will not go into details. He is getting all of his work done, he understands all of the math they're doing and he has gotten every word right on every spelling test. But he's still very young and showing this young-ness in school. And, I will be attending this conference after working all night and probably with no morning sleep prior to going.

I grew up with a mom working third shift. As a result, I became pretty self sufficient. Making my own meals at Noah's age, getting myself ready for school and out the door with no supervision at all. All my life, I have carried a little resentment at not having the mom who helped me do things and never being able to do extra curricular activities because she needed to sleep. The reason this is in my mind now is because we may be facing the same thing with the boys. They will be home from school on Thursday and Friday and both are mornings after I've been working all night. How do I teach them that after all this time, they CAN'T be their usual noisy and fighting selves in the morning while I'm sleeping. How do I make them understand that I NEED the sleep. And what kinds of things can I do to help them to be more self sufficient in the first few hours after they get up. This will indeed be a learning curve for us all.

So, yes, it is definitely going to be an interesting week.

Friday, November 5, 2010

A Lament and A Photo Shoot

My camera died! Actually, it was on halloween night as we were headed out for the FINAL activity of the Halloween "season", and it made a bad noise and then died. I tried new batteries. I tried about everyhting I could think of I even took it to the camera store on Monday to see what they said. He declared a $200 repair. About what I paid for the camera in the first place.

I am so bummed. I LOVED this camera.

So now we're headed into the holidays and I don't see a new camera in my future. Or at least not one of the caliber I had. I suppose I can use my new employee discount to get a cheapo point and shoot for the holidays.

But I'm still really bummed. I probably had no business owning something that nice anyway so I guess it's a lesson for me.

But, to end on a happier note, I was looking through some old photos and found these ones that I took of Noah while we were at one of our many Halloween activities last month. The shadow one was his idea. I think it would have been a great pictures if the mommy shadow had not been WIDE.

I love this one the most.

Have a good weekend.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Wordless Wednesday: Where's the Dog?

I guess this is what happens when the dog is the same color as the leaves :)

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Tackle It Tuesday: A New Job

I used to be a teacher. I taught full time music for three years and then part time music for three years.

And then my teaching license expired.

And I was glad.

You see, I was a good teacher, but I really didn't enjoy it at all. I put on amazing awesome programs, but I didn't love going to school each day looking forward to bright shiny faces of children the way a teacher should.

Even as a mom, I'm not a warm fuzzy kind of gal and it has been to the detriment of my children at times. They aren't a soft and gentle as I would have liked. Maybe they would have been if I had been more that way. A person with that kind of a hard personality is not someone anyone would want teaching their kids at school.

So I resorted to teaching piano as a "career" once my teaching license expired.

And that I have always enjoyed, and I am very good at it as well.

But due to the economy we live in, Steve and I have found ourselves sinking further and further into a financial hole that we just can't get out of.

When it became apparent back in June that we weren't going to make it, I had high hopes that most of the students that usually leave for the summer would come back and we would be okay.

It didn't happen.

And further we sank.

So I decided that it is finally time to get my teaching license renewed and start teaching again. After researching what I would need, it became clear that even with financial aid it wasn't going to be possible at this time.

And further we sank.

So finally it became clear. Kristi, you have to get a JOB. Not necessarily a career, but at least a job. You've got to carry your share in this household.

Now, back before kids, I got interviews and job offers from every job I applied for. I don't think it was because I was awesome, but rather because I could sell myself.

That seems to no longer be the case. All job applications are on computer and no matter how hard I try, I can't seem to figure out a way to stand out in a crowd. And thanks to this current economy, it is indeed a CROWD. It used to be that a few days after you fill out an application you could call and check. Now, every screen says "Don't call us, we'll call you". I applied for tons of jobs in which my qualifications are exactly what they were looking for and still got rejections. Lots of them!

So as we continued to sink lower financially, my self esteem sank along with it. And self worth and value. And mood.

It was at this lowest point that I started trolling the mall for jobs.

And I landed at Kohl's.

And I started wondering if it would really be so bad to work an overnight shift and sleep in the day while the boys were at work. I grew up with my mom working 3rd shift so I know what it's all about. I know I learned to leave mom alone when she's sleeping so I'm sure the boys could too.

So I applied. And waited. And got a call for a very strange group interview. And waited. And FINALLY got a call last week with a job offer.

So, today I am tackling my first day at a new job. Not a career. A retail job that will hopefully help get us caught up, let me work without putting the kids at a babysitter, and rake in some nice discounts for the holidays to boot.

Unfortunately, it is only seasonal, but they said that they hire on about 60 percent of their seasonal help as permanent after the holidays.

I definitely have some concerns. I hope they are going to be able to work around the two symphony weeks that I have coming up since those were commitments I already made. I mentioned them at the interview but I don't want to go into my first day requesting six nights off. Especially when your future as a permanent employee is riding on your performance.

The weird thing is this...I'm kind of excited about the job. After being in charge of PEOPLE for so long, I think it will be nice to just do STUFF. I think it will be nice to show up, do my job, and go home. No hassle.

So that's my tackle today.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Never Ending Halloween and Mulitple Costumes

When did the Halloween "season" start lasting as long as the one following it?

When we were little it lasted one night. You waited and waited and waited, had a party at school on Halloween day and then went trick or treating at night. One night.

But it seems like over the last couple of years, it starts the first weekend in October and lasts throughout the entire month. At least, it did for us this year.

The first Saturday in October, we went to a "Pumpkin Path where are businesses hand out candy, coupons and advertisements along a path in the park. Financial constraints drew me to declare that this year, since we have enough dress up clothes, we didn't need to buy new costumes. The boys were actually okay with it and gladly donned the ninja (Noah) and clown(Aaron) from last year. And we headed out to the pumpkin path for our loot.

The following weekend, the city where the boys to school hosted a "Trunk or Treat", where again area businesses handed out candy, coupons and advertisements. This one also had a hayride through the park and inflatables to play in.

Then came the ACTUAL week of Halloween. Every time Halloween falls on a Sunday, it seems if there's a big tizzy over which day to trick or treat. I don't ever remember it being a big deal when we were little. You go out on October 31st. Period.

But our communities couldn't seem to agree, which made the kids come out on top with two nights of merriment in which to partaker.

And partake they did.

Saturday afternoon in order to waste some time until trick or treating, we took a trip to Target and noticed that the costumes were on clearance. I told the boys they could at least wander through and if they could find some under a certain price, I would get them. They did. Unfortunately, they were determined to get the same costume, so we ended up with "skeleton brother's" for Halloween weekend.

That night, several nearby communities did trick or treating and we headed to a neighborhood to take advantage. We started in a church parking lot that also had a trunk or treat event. It was a good thing we did because we ended up needing the bags they gave out, discovering quickly that although cute, the little McDonald's buckets we'd brought didn't hold much loot. After a short time, I heard my name and turned around to discover K, Noah's little "girlfriend" from school. They were all so excited. Aaron is friends with her little sister as well so we ended up trick or treating with them, and even ended up at their house afterward for cupcakes before heading home.

Sunday was the day for trick or treating from our community. Our neighbors traditionally have a pretty good sized Halloween party and our other neighbors with a boy that Noah has grown up with that had moved away came back. So just like every Halloween for the last eight years, we still got a picture of that group heading out on the streets. Since it was a school night, we cut the merriment short, but not before we made it further than we ever had before.

Now, we have WAY too much candy and an eight year old for the first time who is wanting to guard the loot. We had a very long discussion about it last night, which I won't go into, but long story short, he knows what's there and mommy had better not touch it, to either eat OR throw away. I may just do that "Pick one day and eat to your heart's content" thing so I can get rid of the rest. We'll see.

I am grateful that the school the boys go to does not do Halloween. It would have been fine if it was, but I think I would be even more Halloweened out if it had. Instead, the kids had a non- costumed game day with their reading buddies in other grades. They had a nice fun afternoon.

So October is finally over. Thanksgiving will be here in three weeks and then Christmas will be bearing down on us.

At breakfast before church yesterday, Noah said, "Mommy, there is one reason that I don't like holidays"

"What's that Hon?"

"Because the next day they're over"

He's right. There is definitely a let down after each big holiday. But, as I told, him, it always leaves more celebrations to come. One of our local radio stations will start the Christmas music any day now and I am ready for it. After the tumultuous last few months, I could definitely use the merriment.

Bring on the Holidays!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Still the One

As I was uploading pictures from Halloween, I found this picture that I copied from my dad's computer quite a while ago. It is the only one we have digitally from our wedding 14 years ago. I was going to save it for my anniversary post next month.

Then I came across the picture that Noah took of us last month while we were picking apples.

It really made me think about all that we have been through in 14 years.

It's been in my mind even more prominently as a result of Noah's field trip last week. We went to the nature center that was Steve's and my get away place when we were in college. We spent MANY weekends up there just walking the trails and we snuck across railroad tracks that weren't supposed to be public areas and found a really neat wooden walkway and look out onto the river. It became a very special place for us.

Right after we got engaged, it became clear that I was not going to be an accepted part of Steve's family. Although that battle has ebbed and flowed, it was a huge shock to Steve and a huge sadness to me at the time. I remember very specifically the day it all came to a head. Steve's dad had written him a very painful note about how much I was not going to be accepted. Steve drove me out to our special place at the nature center before he read the note to me. We cried and dealt with it there at our special place.

So when I took Noah's class there on Friday, it seemed so strange that it has come so full circle.

When we were engaged, especially since it seemed at the time that we were fighting the odds, our SONG had become Shania Twain's "You're Still the One".

I heard the song the other day on the radio for the first time in a VERY long time. Believe it or not, I started crying. HARD. And for a long time.

You see, we've faced a lot of ups and downs in our 16 years together (14 of them married), as all married couples do. And one of the biggest struggles has been VERY recently.

And although both of us have fought difficult emotions at times, I know for a fact that both of us still believe the same thing...

You're Still The One.

I love you Honey and I am still thankful every day for you and the beautiful family that we've created.

You are most definitely still THE ONE.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Thursday Thirteen: It's Past Midnight...

Yup, it's past midnight and I am sitting here on the stupid computer, accomplishing nothing. I've already applied to any jobs that are newly posted today (only three that were worth applying for) and my mind is spinning with so many things. Maybe if I can jot down 13 of them, then I can clear my head and get some sleep.

13. Last week of the first marking period for Noah,. He's got all A's going into this last week but they're all A-s. Hopefully he can keep them there even though he is without glasses this week. We will also be starting over with a new teacher after next week. I hope it's a good transition for him. Can't believe that Noah made it over eight months with his first pair of glasses before they were irreparably broken. Wonder how long this second pair will last.

12. Aaron is just so cute. He is still talking about his birthday weekend. The kids (cousins) played so well together all weekend long and I just feel happy when I think about it.

11. The wind outside is howling. Supposedly it is calming down but it seems to be more wild than in the last two days. I love listening to the wind howling when I'm cozy under a blanket

10. I love my house. I love my house. I love my house. I know it's small, in need of repair, and in a neighborhood that has had some gang writing appear from time to time, but I love my house and I will never ever again wish for something bigger or more glamorous. I am lucky to have this home and I want to stay here forever.

9. The catalogs have started arriving, as has the annual "I want..." for Christmas. Now that Steve and I have a much more clear plan of attack for budgeting, it's gonna be tricky, but rather than buying random things, they will each get a few things, but each thing will be something they really want. Then we will find something fun to do as a family on Christmas Day this year, rather than sit around and think about what we did or didn't get

8. Thanksgiving is going to be new this year as well. It looks like we will not be able to celebrate with either extended family so we will be finding something to do as a family that day as well. I think bowling or a movie may just be the ticket. I don't like turkey so I imagine a trip to Meijer for a store cooked turkey will be the dinner fare for the day. At least Steve will have tons of left overs.

7. Another field trip on Friday. As happy as I am that I can be part of these, I would rather be saying NO to the field trips and heading off to work instead. We need the money more than we need to be driving third graders to Kalamazoo for the day

6. Why am I fundamentally unhirable? I am smart, pleasant, and cute. Surely someone must want me. PLEASE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

5. Glad for this new car pooling so that as soon as the boys are picked up tomorrow morning I can take the dog out for her morning poop and then maybe get some sleep to make up for this wasted night

4. Why must all relationships go through seasons of change?

3. What does it mean if my faith wavers during times of uncertainty? Does everyone feel like Job sometimes? Even when there are so many good things going for you at the same time?

2. I'm really sick of political ads. What would the world be like if every single person looking to be a public servant cared to look at every decision they make through each person's eyes that it will affect. I wonder if that would abolish "political parties" and we would be left with people trying to care for other people. Period.

1. Could there be a more random list of thoughts at 12:45 in the morning? I think not.

Okay, my mind is now spinning more, but I am going to try to go sneak up next to my snoring husband, pray that I stay quiet enough that the dog won't wake up, let go of the fact that I never got to slip in an in-law rant within the list, and head to bed.

Wish me luck :)

Good night.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Weekend Top Five 10/25/10

It was a very good weekend, filled with much extended family merriment. We also celebrated Aaron's sixth birthday (which is today). The weather didn't cooperate with us, but we ended up having a lot of fun with the alternative so even that worked out well. I didn't take a ton of pictures so I may have to get creative. I guess we'll see...

5. Friday Field Trip
On Friday, Aaron's first grade class joined together with their sixth grade "buddies" for leaf raking for three elderly residents. It was really a neat thing to see. I don't remember why we didn't do this when Noah was in this first grade class, but I think it was amazing to see how much work these two classes could get done in a short period of time. It seemed like the sixth graders adored their little buddies as much and the little ones adored the big. Aaron hung out with his buddy the entire time and seemed so proud. In between house two and three, we made a voyage to a nearby Burger King, and the kids were even well behaved there. I was incredible impressed with the entire lot.

4. Alternate plans
We were supposed to have our annual extended family trip to the pumpkin patch on Saturday, but Mother Nature didn't seem to want to allow it, so as an alternative, we all descended upon my parent's condo, which had pumpkins and homemade doughnuts waiting for the kids. I don't think the kids even missed the pumpkin patch they had so much fun running around and playing. One of the highlights was getting to meet our newest baby niece and nephew twins. The babies rotated from arms to arms. I had forgotten how warm new babies get when you hold them. Even Noah asked before we left to hold a baby. He insisted it had to be the boy, though :) The kids also had a blast playing in the woods out back and building a "fort", which I have been begged non stop ever since to return so they can build some more. We'll have to do that soon.

3. Lily at Grandma and Grandpa's house
One of the many things I love about my parents is how accepting they are of everyone...even the new dog. We are welcome to bring Lily with us during visits, and I find I am a lot more panicked about her having accidents in the house than they are. So we brought her to the gathering and it actually went well. She scared two of our young nieces which made me feel bad, but everyone else seemed to not mind having a little four pound canine bouncing around. For the record, she never did pee or poop in the house :) The most fun though was taking her out back, where she just ran wild, tail wagging so happily, chasing and being chased by two of my nephews. They were so cute. They kept calling her "coyote" and I don't know who was having the most fun....the "coyote" or the boys. I think it's only a matter of time until I will say "Let's go to Grandma's" and Lily will get as excited as the boys do.

2. Aaron's Birthday Pool Party
I could probably write two or three posts on this one, since my camera had 95 pictures on it by the time we got home, but I'll just leave it as a great time was had by all. I didn't get one of him blowing out the candles though, mostly because the stinker blew them out before the song was even done :) For about half the price of Chuck E Cheese last year, we took everyone to a local high school, which had three different pools with different depths. The little zero depth one was a hit for all of the kids, big and small, but it was nice that there was one place where my littlest nephew could just play on his own. There was also a high dive in which several of the kids jumped off once in awhile, but the majority of time was spent in the large pool that stays between three and four feet. We brought balls to play with and I think everyone had a good time. Included was a little party room adjacent to the pool so we were able to take a brief break from swimming to do party stuff and then get everyone back into the pool. It was definitely a great idea for a party, extremely reasonable priced, and Aaron spent the rest of the day saying over and over, "Mommy, I really had a fun time at my party."

1. Water Water Everywhere
As you all know, Aaron is a water-a-holic. (Thus, the pool party). He got blessed with a ton of Color Shifters Hot Wheels for his birthday. I think Noah's head was spinning just as much as Aaron's while he was opening them. Noah even stopped swimming about a half hour before they had to, just so he could hang out in the party room, inspecting all of the color shifters. And less than two minutes after we got home, both kids were sopping wet from playing with the sets. I sent them outside since it was unusually warm out and they got even more wet. Then, by 4:30 it was into the tub to play with the tub set. They were just so happy. And this morning, when Noah got up, he headed straight outside. When I asked him why, he told me...he had placed two of the cars out on the front steps because he wanted to see if the rain water would change them back to the original colors. (It did) Then there was a HUGE discussion this morning between the brothers over which ones would be allowed to be brought to school by which boy. Normally, I don't allow toys to go to school, but I wanted to give them a chance today. I guess we'll see how it goes.
The Week Ahead:
I can only pray that the week ahead will contain a call with a job. I also plan to finally go get my fingerprints done so I can start subbing. I am taking cupcakes into Aaron's class today for his birthday and then my in-laws will come to take them all out for Aaron's birthday while I'm at rehearsal tonight (woo hoo...dodged THAT bullet). Other than that, it will be trying to get life back in order. After my little depression fest last week, the house is in desperate need of some love, and it will probably take the week to put it back together. And of course, Halloween next weekend, which should make for another action packed post next week.

Gotta go walk the dog now. Have a good week:)

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Weekend Top Five 10/17/10

Another incredibly beautiful weekend in West Michigan. I hope we don't pay for this beautiful fall weather with a nasty winter. But at least we can enjoy it while it lasts. This was another weekend of trying to spend zero dollars. We did pretty well again. It makes me wonder if we had been even more intentional up until now, if we could have avoided the mess we're in. Probably not entirely, but maybe a little. Oh well. On with the weekend.
As I've written about in past years, October is always one of my favorite months of the year. We spend so much time outside doing fall activities and this weekend was no different. This weekend was also the culminating performance of weeks of work and a marathon six days of four hour rehearsals.

5. Lord Of The Rings The Two Towers
So, I am the first to admit that I was NEVER interested in these books or movies. I am a very literal person and have always had trouble with science/fantasy, etc. Hubby, on the other hand, loves them and has owned the movies since they first came out.
That being said, I was excited that the Grand Rapids Symphony Chorus in which I sing performed the entire score with the symphony while the movie was showing on a HUGE screen on Friday and Saturday night to sold out crowds both nights. We had a visiting conductor, from Switzerland, who is the ONLY person in the world allowed to conduct this performance, and who is the one who directed it for the actual movie filming as well.
In summary, it was indeed the most amazing experience I've ever had as a musician and I can't wait to do the Return of the King next year. The only thing that will make it better next year will be to have my family there.
This picture is the one that was posted in the paper when we got our FOUR STAR review. I'm one of the dots standing under the screen

4. More Halloween stuff
The community in which the kids go to school hosted their own 'Trunk or Treat" event on Saturday afternoon. Local business lined up their cars and handed out candy and coupons to trick or treaters. Very fun. Got lots more coupons and the kids were so excited to see both Aaron's teacher and several kids from their classes. We also had fun bringing Lily along on this adventure. She made instant friends with all of the other dogs and wanted to play with them:) The only thing she barked at the entire time was the horses pulling the little wagon ride around the park. I was actually surprised that we managed to get on the back for a ride without her going crazy.

3. Leaves Act I
We have a huge tree in our front yard that has tons of leaves. Unfortunately, it never really drops them until November so the kids spend the entire month of October begging for leaf piles that can't quite get there yet. Sunday was so nice tough that I wanted to give it a shot. After some "borrowing" of leaves from the neighbor's (yes, we did bag them when we were through rather than returning them to their owner) we managed a pretty good sized pile. We had a pretty good time playing and Lily also got some more chances to enjoy fall.

2. Craft Day
Noah has been asking constantly why we don't have Halloween decorations up in our windows. I am not against Halloween at all, but it really isn't a huge deal for me so I don't have a lot of decorations. But it seemed like a perfect Sunday afternoon to make decorations for the windows. We all got into the mix and made quite a few fun things. Noah actually wore the necklace he made to school today:) His favorite though is any chance to use my glue gun. He's asked for one of his own, but I don't think he's ready for that yet, but I do think he does a pretty good job with handling it at the table and he made a cute wreath to hang up for fall.

1. More Job Apps
I had a job interview last week and expected to be called this weekend to no avail. I'm not sure what is so fundamentally un-hirable about me, but I keep plugging away at it. Last night I found a job for what I actually would enjoy doing and that it would meet my skills exactly and applied for it . Who knows? Maybe prayers will be answered this week?

The Week Ahead
Putting aside the stresses aforementioned, it's going to be an active but exciting week. I have extra piano lessons to teach to make up for the ones I had to cancel last week during the rehearsal marathon for LOTR. But most importantly, we are gearing up for our annual Family Bash this weekend. Easily one of my favorite outings of the year is happening this Saturday when as many of the cousins as are able (there are 14 in all now) go to a local pumpkin patch. It is always crazy and happy and the kids look forward to it all year. Then on Sunday, we are celebrating Aaron's sixth birthday at a local pool. He is so excited and I am glad that in all of the craziness and drama we are going through that we have figured out a way to still make this birthday special for him.

Not sure how much I'll get to the computer this week so have a good one.