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.