Monday, October 04, 2010

An Open Letter to parents of my children's classmates

Dear Parent:

Greetings to you from our family!  I hope this finds you well.

I am writing in response to some recent news that has traveled from my third graders' mouth to my ears.  I felt it might be necessary to inform you that your child is a brat.  In addition, I also thought it might be helpful for you to know that no matter how badly your child treats mine, I refuse to teach my daughters to get back at your child, to treat her the same way, to talk meanly to or about your child.  

If I must be blunt... your child is definitely getting the good end of this situation.  I will never stop teaching my daughters to be kind.  To treat other kids respectfully and as she would like to be treated.  And I will certainly never, ever, find it acceptable for my child to act like your child does not exist.  Now none of this means that I am actively teaching my children to be doormats for your children, however, kindness and acceptance will always win in our family.  

I've heard the phrase "The one who cares the least has the most power in the relationship".  And while that seems to be a very accurate statement about human nature, and my husband and I can pick and choose when it is appropriate to embody that defense mechanism in our own lives, I know that my small daughters are unable to discern the proper times to enact that attitude.  Therefore, even though I really, REALLY want to teach them this horrible truth, I will refrain.  I will also refrain from teaching them to be self-absorbed and only care about how things affect them.  I find it appalling, really, that most grown-ups don't understand the effect that their actions have on the greater picture so I will do my darndest to teach my children that their actions affect all the people around them.  

Again, I find it necessary to point out that your child is really benefiting greatly from my parenting.  Not only does your child get to act however she wants, not only does she only need to care about herself, but MY child will treat your child with respect and kindness regardless of your child's behavior or attitude.  Congratulations on all of the advantages that your child has now and will always have in the future!  She will forever be lucky.

I'm sorry that she won't have the opportunity to build character that will be noticed by others.  I'm sorry that she won't have the opportunity to cultivate meaningful relationships with other people.  I'm sorry that she won't be trusted in her adult life because she hasn't learned to take responsibility for her own actions.  Those are tough prices to pay, but hey -   she's pretty special in third grade, right?  Thats what matters.

So I guess this is really a thank you note.  Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to teach my children these wonderful things.  My heart hurts tremendously and I have shed many tears, but my children are being refined by the fire that your child has lit.  Thank you.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Holy Crap - Did I really just pay $18 for all of this?

Hello there, friends of mine :)  I have been absent for a long time.  No good excuse really, except that I've been getting life back to a routine since school began and I'm painting my kitchen cabinets AGAIN (that would be the third (and final) time in 3 years).

In the hiatus, I have secured a printer that actually is compatible with my computer and I can finally print stuff.  Which has been the excuse I've used for not doing more coupon shopping - I couldn't print the good ones.  Well, no more excuses.  After some trial runs, I finally went for a big(ish) one tonight.  And let me just say - this took a good amount of time to plan, but I executed it perfectly, right down to getting in the car and figuring out that they didn't give me my $5 instant savings on two of my transactions, going back into the store and getting my $10 back (yea for me).

I've been a bit nervous about this whole deal and I have some internal conflicts about it.  I don't normally feed my family some of this stuff as a lot of it is quite sugary, but if I  save for treats/after school snacks, I'm okay with it.  My girls don't snack a lot as it is so I think we're going to be okay.  In addition, I'm going to squirrel some of this away for birthday treats and such.

Here is what I did:

Transaction #1:

2 frosted miniwheats = $2.50/ -> used $1/2 coupon from newspaper insert
3 Kellogg's Fruit Snacks = $2.00/-> used $1/2 from insert & $1/1 printable
3 Poptarts (12pks) = $2.50/ -> used $1/3 from insert
2 Keebler cookies = $2.50/ -> used $1/2 from insert
Total was $19.03: paid with $5.00 catalina + $14.03 in cash
Received $10 catalina (off your next order) for buying 10 participating items
$14.03 out of pocket

Transaction #2: 
2 Pillsbury Grands biscuits = $1.50/ -> used $1/1 printable
2 Pillsbury refrig. cookie dough = $2.50/ -> used $1/2 from insert
4 Pillsbury French Bread Loaves = $1.50/ -> used $1/2 printable + .40/2 from insert
2 Yoplait GoGurts = $1.50/-> used $1/2 printable
Total was $16.05: paid with $10.00 catalina from previous transaction + received $5.00 instant savings for buying 10 participating products (what I went back to the store to get back)
Received $3.00 catalina for buying 6 participating pillsbury products
Received 50 Box Tops for Education
Out of pocket: $1.05

Transaction #3:
2 Yoplait GoGurts = $1.50/ -> used .75/2 from insert

1 Bisquick pourable pancake batter = 1.00/ -> used .50/1
2 Green Giant Fresh Valley Steamers = $1.50/ -> used $1/2 printable
5 Chex Mix = 1.00/ -> used $1/2 printable + .50/2 from insert + .50/1 printable
Received 50 Box Tops for Education
Total was $10.85: paid with $3.00 catalina from previous transaction + received $5.00 instant savings for a total out of pocket of $2.85

Out of pocket for tonight: $17.93

AND I received 130 total Box Tops for Education for the girls' school (100 from the bonuses + 30 from the products - I tried to buy the items that had 2 on them if possible).

Compared to some of these blogs that I follow, this is nothing, but I consider it respectable AND it wasn't as scary as I thought it would be.

Special thanks to mashupmom and Couponing for 4 for the ideas on your blogs!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Yosemite - Day 6: July 28, 2010

editorial note: decided I should finally finish this up.  It will come with a lot fewer photos and links because I'm tired and sick of the photo uploading situation... made a Yosemite photobook online yesterday and it took me ALL.DAY. and I am desperately sick of dealing with the photos.  You can see the photobook here (I think).

Today was our trip to the Valley.  Everything that we read prior to coming out here said that the Valley is very busy and crowded.  And it was.  We had been told by several people in the area that we should at least go see the Ahwhanee Hotel, so after talking with a guy at Glacier Point, we decided to go there for breakfast.  This required us to leave the room early to get down there for our 9:15 reservations.  The goal was 7:15, but we got out at 7:40.  We missed our reservations by 15 minutes, but they seated us without question in their grand dining room.

I have to say, the hotel is beautiful, BUT, because I'm not a visual, artistic, architectural person, the amazingness of the place was a little lost on me.  I could definitely see why people think it is so incredible, however, I would not have missed out on anything if we had skipped it.  And the breakfast, while decent, was not worth the price we paid ($80 for the 5 of us to have the buffet).

After breakfast we parked the car in Yosemite Village and began our walk to find a place to swim in the Merced River.  This was not pleasing to the girls at. all.  This was not a hike in the mountains with areas to explore, this was walking down the road or on a bike path to a place and they were sick of it and none too pleased.  We managed to ignore them well enough to reach our destination and everyone changed into their suits and we got to the beach.

The beach was very rocky and the water was very cold.  That didn't hinder Cornbread and Nodie from doing a little swimming, although they didn't swim for long.  Bugly also got in eventually, but was much more hesitant in doing so.  Skipper and I decided that going into the water to our knees was quite enough.  Cornbread tried to teach the girls how to skip rocks and I don't think he was successful, but he skipped several really well.  At one point Bugly and Skipper had asked him to bring them to a tree in the middle of the river and during the transport Bugly's flip flops came off of her feet and started floating down the river.  Realizing that lost flip flops would equal a barefoot trek back to the car - or a piggy back ride to the car - I took off after them as fast as I could and got much wetter than I originally wanted to in the process.

From the Merced we took a different route back to the car and stopped at a gift shop in the Village to buy some souvenirs.  Nodie's whole life became complete when she was allowed to purchased a small stuffed raccoon (earlier in the week I had told the girls that a souvenir did NOT = a stuffed animal, so she sat in the store for a long time and longingly played with the stuffed animals while the rest of us found our souvenirs... I finally got so sick of her attitude and the crowdedness of the store that I told her to just pick it out and lets go.  Her world brightened and she was happy for the rest of the walk).  We made our way back to the car and out of the valley, with a quick stop to snap some photos of Cathedral Rocks and El Capitan.

On the way back to the car it was decided that Cornbread would take Nodie fishing near the lodge and I would take the other two swimming in the pool.  This plan pleased everyone.  The girls and I hung out at the pool with Grant and Jana and Lane & Josie, while Cornbread and Nodie tried to fish at Bass Lake, but ended up swimming instead.  We all met back at the room for baths and showers and went down to the firepit area for our Farewell dinner.

The girls actually ate some of the dinner this time around as it included a kids buffet, and we sat with the McGraws again and asked them way too personal of questions :)  They are a wonderful family from Iowa whom we really clicked with.  Nodie and Lane (6 1/2) spent the evening climbing the hill and sliding down, Bugly and Josie (4) spent the evening trying to lick each other (and succeeding) and dumping dirt on top of each other (did I just mention they took baths before we went?)  Skipper was in on the Bugly/Josie thing, but also succeeded in getting Daddy to make her the perfect s'more - and then wouldn't eat it or let anyone else eat it.  It was a fun night, we met a few other people, but mainly hung with Grant and Jana.

I had gotten most everything packed before dinner, so we are set to go.  We decided today that we are definitely Yosemite'd out.  Had enough.  Every one of us.  And we're missing our Woof.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Yosemite - Day 5: July 27, 2010

Today's plans were to drive out to Tuolumne Meadows.  Tuolumne is in the high country of Yosemite and we knew to expect a long driving day - possibly 3 hours to drive there.  We decided to go in via Yosemite Valley (this is the big touristy area of Yosemite and is very crowded and busy) and out via Mariposa & Oakhurst.  The drive there was not bad.  We hit some construction and had a short wait, but because we were reading Harry Potter, it went by quick.  Right at the start of the valley we stopped at Bridal Veil Falls.  This is a gigantic waterfall and I have no idea why it was named Bridal Veil Falls.  At any rate, we hiked the 1/4 mile to see it and then climbed the rocks near the bottom to get a better look.  There were a whole lot of people there and it was quite crowded for 9:30am.  We stayed for a while and then continued our journey to Tuolumne.

The rest of the trip took about 2-2 1/2 hours.  We wound through some terrifying turns on Tioga Rd, but had some great views along the way.  My favorite view was approaching Tenaya Lake.  We could see a bright turquoise patch near the road up ahead.  It was beautiful from afar, but it was spectacular on the shore.  The water was dark turquoise and the lake was surrounded by granite mountain walls and distant mountain peaks.  We stopped and had lunch on the small beach and then Cornbread and Nodie went for a swim while Skipper, Bugly and I took a small walk along the shore.  We also collected a bag of sand because it has flecks of gold flakes and sparkled brilliantly in the sun.  I plan to put it in a pretty jar on my book shelf as a book end.

From there we got back in the car and drove to Lyell Fork, which is a fork of the Teneya river.  Cornbread and the girls wanted to do some fishing and the book we were using said this fork would be particularly good.  But alas, there was no fish to be found by our family.  And I was very irritated... not so into fishing, especially when it doesn't look like a fish could survive in the current of the river.  I'm sure there was probably some fish in there, but in my opinion it was a waste of time and the two little ones were antsy to go back to the lodge and go swimming (which was 3 hours away).  Skipper and I did some exploring along the river looking for a watering hole that they could swim in, but we didn't find anything without a current that was too strong for me to risk letting them go in over their waists.  I had to take the time to explain the situation to Skipper (that if she went under the current could keep her under and carry her away) and I think when she asked if I could survive it and I told her that I probably couldn't, she finally got it and resigned to the fact that she wouldn't be swimming in this river.  She was fine, but I think she was bored because the fishing was less than exciting.

On the way home we read some more Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets and I could not be happier that we brought it along with us and have been reading it in the car.  The drives are going so smoothly, with little to no complaining and no one asking if we're almost there or how many more minutes or any of the fighting or horsing around that usually happens in the back seat of the car on long road trips.  This book has been a miracle worker!  In the time that I am taking a break from reading they are even playing Harry & Ron and Hermione back there :)  AND, I <3 Harry Potter and Ron and Hermione and am more than thrilled to have an opportunity to read this with the girls. 

The weather today was 100% perfect.  The sky had 2 clouds in it - I actually looked around for some and saw just two off to the side.  It was a brilliant shade of blue, the sun was out, but it wasn't hot.  It was gorgeous.  We have been blessed with spectacular weather this week - not too hot at all.  It is lovely out here.

Cornbread and I have said several times that it would have been cool if he had gone on to grad school and gotten a job working in a national forest like this.  It is amazing to be completely submerged in God's creation.  Everywhere you turn you see something of incredible beauty and wonder.  It would be a haven for someone like me to spend significant time in these trails alone talking with God.  

But then again, if he wasn't working for Jones, we wouldn't have the opportunity to see God's creation at Steamboat or Cabo.  Both places that are equally as spectacular and beautiful albeit in different ways.  We really are blessed to be treated to these amazing trips.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Yosemite - Day 4: July 26, 2010

This morning we picked up our friend from home, David, to join us in Yosemite for the day. We were thrilled that he wanted to come with us as the girls - and we - absolutely adore him. After Cornbread and the girls picked him up we headed out to the park. Our plans were to get to Glacier Point today, but Cornbread had stopped at the concierge to find out if there were any kid friendly hikes near Glacier Point and had gotten a couple of ideas of some hikes to do before getting to GP.

We set out to climb Sentinel Dome:
We set out on the path, but quickly veered off in our own (Bugly lead) direction.  She definitely lead us astray:)  We had fun exploring, though, and thought we had gotten to the top of Sentinel Dome (we had no idea what we were doing or where we were going) and were thinking, really? so what

But as we went back to the parking lot, we found the actual trail and went in the right direction.  We met up with some hikers who had done the climb in the past.  He told us that it was the second highest peak in Yosemite (other than Half Dome) and that it was the best payoff of a mile hike and well worth the hike.  We were a little bit leary because of the girls and the size of the Epcot Center looking structure ahead of us, but as he said, we had to persevere - because it was worth it.

Once again, three little girls continued to amaze us.  It was not the hardest hike, but it certainly was not an easy hike at all.  And each of them breezed through it like it was a piece of cake.  As we got near the base of the dome, I got pretty nervous with wiggly children who like to run and one especially who tends to fall all.the.time.  But they were great.  I think they understood our nervousness and the potential danger of the situation and really stuck close to us and listened when we told them to stop doing something or to come by us.  The base offered some pretty cool views of the Yosemite Falls, El Capitan and of Half Dome, but the best was definitely yet to come.  

At the base of Sentinel Dome.  David looking over the valley, Nodie making her way to see what he was seeing.
David and Nodie at the base.  Upper Yosemite falls in the background on the right.
View of Half Dome at the base of Sentinel Dome.

We continued up the dome... it was a pretty steep climb that was completely on rock.  We were so happy to have David with us because he was an extra person to hold one of the girls' hands and help them climb up - we each had one girl to help.  

When we got to the top, it was breathtaking.  Seriously.  Honestly.  Breathtaking.  Like nothing I could actually describe.  We could see the whole Yosemite Valley, El Capitan, Half Dome, Cathedral Rocks, Yosemite Falls, another waterfall, the Sierra Nevadas on the other side.  Mountains and peaks as far as you could look.  Nothing but mountains and God's creativity.  Nothing but amazing creation.  
The first thing I saw when Bugly and I finally got to the top.  My heart almost stopped:)

Our hiking team: Me, Cornbread, Skipper, David, Bugly and Nodie.  Half Dome in the background.
We stayed on the top for quite some time, just enjoying the view and taking tons of photos and finally decided to make our way back to the car and lunch.  Since we hadn't used the actual path for most of the hike, it seemed like a whole new hike on the way back and it was fun.  
Nodie taking in the view of Half Dome.
Cathedral Rocks on the left and El Capitan on the right.  El Capitan is the largest granite monolith in the world - just a giant wall of granite.
View of Upper and either middle or lower Yosemite Falls from the top of Sentinel Dome.

After eating lunch at the car, we got in and drove to Glacier Point, which was another spectacular viewpoint of the valley.  This view was a little lower, so we could see the layout of the valley a little bit better.  It was also beautiful and we were happy we did it after Sentinal Dome because we may not have taken the time to hike the dome otherwise.  
This is the actual point of Glacier Point.  Years and years ago, people used to dance on this formation, do handstands and all matter of life threatening things.  They have since been cordoned off and you cannot climb on them - which is good, because there is nothing to catch you if you fall.  You can also see Yosemite Falls to the right.
Yosemite Valley as seen from Glacier Point.
View of Half Dome from Glacier Point.

On our way back to the Lodge, I read a few more chapters of Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets.  We have been reading whenever we're driving for more than 10 minutes and the girls are completely engaged in this book.  It has made the driving portion of this trip so incredibly enjoyable.  The girls have been remarkably well behaved and good - I was definitely not anticipating things to be this great and easy.

We ended our evening by having dinner with Dave and Gramma at El Cid, a Mexican restaurant in Oakhurst.  We are again going to crash before 9:30. 

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Yosemite - Day 3: July 25, 2010

Today our goal was to get up fairly early and get into Yosemite early. We had been told by many sources that if you get there too late, there will be a wait at the entrance. So we were out of the hotel by 8:45am and we got right in. Our agenda was to see the giant sequoias at Mariposa Grove. Initially we planned to hike the 3 miles up to the upper grove and then hike back, but Cornbread found out that there was a tram ride that we could take to the top and hike down. It was not a planned expense, but it was definitely worth it.

The tram ride included radios with an interesting running commentary about the trees and the grove. We learned many things about the giant sequoias: they are weirdly resistant to diseases and insects, after they fall they refuse to decay, they can have the entire center (heartwood) burned out of them and still live, they have very shallow roots which intertwine with other giants to create stability, they fall due to heavy wind or snow storms (can you even imagine what it would be like if one of those thing toppled over?), the largest tree in the grove is The Grizzly Giant, which is 98 feet across and some of its branches are 7 feet across. These things are phenomenal. It is unreal to be near them and to see the girls next to them. I've seen them in books and pictures, but it is simply incredible to be right up next to them.
Bugly next to the roots of a fallen giant.
The girls posing by one of the giants.
Bugly is in this picture... looking for the Berenstein Bears' home.

We got to the upper grove and hopped off of the tram and hiked down. I would guess that we hiked between 3 and 4 miles with all of the meandering we did in order to see some of the famous trees up close and personal (Grizzly Giant, Telescope, Clothespin, Faithful Couple). We all had a great time exploring and following our noses. The hike was nicer near the uppergrove as it was just us and the forest. Near the bottom it was very busy with many tourists. The girls had a great time - we each had a walking stick and we stayed on the path, but had the liberty to veer off to see something cool. We hiked up a hill to see what was on the other side, we climbed giant rocks, we crawled through some trees, we searched and searched for the Bernstein Bears' house:) The last mile was a little rough as some little legs got pretty tired, but overall they did great.
Inside the Telescope Tree. The heartwood of this tree has been completely burned out and you can go in, look up and see the sky through the tree canopy.

We went back to our room to shower and change (it is dusty and dirty in the forest and we were FILTHY!) and then went out to Oakhurst to visit with a friend who lives there. Actually, one of our close friends had been at Calvin Crest Camp for the last two weeks and was at his grandma's afterward. He stayed in CA for a couple of extra days so he could hang out with us while we were here. We visited Gramma and David for a little bit and then they took us to Calvin Crest to show us around.

Calvin Crest is kind of a legacy in their family. Both of our friends, Doug & Jenny, were campers and on staff there, Gramma and Grampa were permanent staff there for 10 years, and both of the boys have camped there every summer since we've known them. Calvin Crest is kind of a big deal and we definitely enjoyed our visit there. Nodie would be old enough to go out there next summer, but I'm not sure we could swing the camp fee AND the plane tickets, but we'll definitely keep it in mind... camp in the mountains.

After our visit at Calvin Crest we went back to Gramma's for dinner. She made us a wonderful Tri-Tip dinner and we had a really nice visit. Again, we were all wiped by 8:30 so we came back and crashed in bed.

This is definitely our kind of vacation - active, up early, to bed early, doing stuff and being exhausted. However, I'm missing the beach vacations that we've done in the past and I keep telling Cornbread that while I'm having a great time, I'm ready for Belize next March LOL:) We'll see what is available by the time he earns the next trip, but I'm thinking a beach resort may be in order for the winter/early spring of 2011. I am definitely, definitely spoiled.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Yosemite - Day 2: July 24, 2010

Woke up and had buffet breakfast provided by Jones. Cornbread had a meeting, so the girls and I went back to the room and they watched some tv while I read my book. I brought them to the children's activities that were provided by Jones while I was supposed to join Cornbread in the meeting, but I ditched the meeting and went back to the room to read. (note: it is Tuesday August 3rd and I STILL feel guilty about ditching).

The girls were done at 12:15. After picking them up we went into Oakhurst to do some grocery shopping. Stopped at a fruitstand for some cherries and nectarines and went to the grocery store to get some food for breakfasts and lunches. (note: cherries at this fruit stand cannot be compared to cherries from the farmer's markets here. I didn't even finish them, they were so unimpressive.)

The concierge had spoken at Cornbread's meeting and told them about a hiking trail that was very close to the lodge so we decided to do that rather than try to get into Yosemite yet that afternoon. It was awesome. The hike was about 1/2 - 3/4 of a mile and ended at a waterfall with a bunch of pools. Cornbread and the girls had worn their swimsuits so they did a lot of wading and falling and getting wet. I was the photographer :) We explored as many pools as we felt comfortable doing (the higher we got the stronger the current and the deeper the pools were), and went back to the lodge to get in the real pool for a little bit.

Initially we had planned to go on a ChuckWagon BBQ dinner ride on Wednesday night, but after talking to a few people decided that we'd prefer to do a moonlight dinner ride on the Sugar Pine Railway. Two other Jones families with children close in age to our girls were also there. We had a good time eating dinner (of which the girls hardly ate anything) and riding the train through the forest. The train stopped at a firepit and we all got off and had about an hour of entertainment by The SugarPines - a group of three locals who played guitars and sang sing-along favorites. It was totally corny, but everyone had a good time. We then rode back to the station in complete dark/moonlight.

Got back to the room around 9:30 PST and crashed. Everyone is sleeping very, very well here.As of this day, Nodie has hated almost every moment of the trip. We've had to have several "conversations" with her about her attitude... I certainly expected that kind of thing when she was 12 or 13, but not at 8 1/2. Oh well, she can be miserable. WE will not be. She'll get better - hopefully.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Yosemite - Day 1: July 23, 2010

Today promised to be a horrible day... On Thursday, when I was supposed to be packing for a 1 week vacation in the mountains (read: summer clothes AND fall clothes) for our family of 5, I was actually bringing 3 children to the Minute Clinic to find out why they were coughing so much. Five ear infections, 1 case of bronchial spasms, and 12 prescriptions later I was finally home. The babysitter I had planned to have that afternoon to occupy the girls while I got the house cleaned and all of us packed got cancelled and instead I fit breathing treatments and antibiotics in between everything else. I ended up with everything done and that was all that mattered. BUT, our flights were leaving at 6am the next morning and we had to get up at 2:30am... so not much sleep was had by anyone in our family.

Two tired adults + 3 tired, sick children + 4 suitcases + 2 car seats + 5 carry ons + 2 flights + no inflight meals + 4 hour drive = misery. Thats what I expected.

And I was so wrong.

Not wrong about everyone being tired. We all were. But I was wrong about the misery. It was unbelievable. The girls were amazing and were incredible on both flights. They slept a little bit, but otherwise occupied themselves very nicely. The car ride was also fine (probably the worst leg of the trip, but it was still good). I was simply amazed. And very thankful.

We arrived at Tenaya Lodge around 3:30 PST (5:30 our time). The air smelled different. Clean. Fresh. Piney. Awesome! Our room was not quite ready so we took some time to explore the lodge and then went up to our room. Cornbread took the girls swimming while I unpacked EVERYTHING. I thought I had a little time to take a nap, too, but ended up reading instead (stupid Malcolm Gladwell... can't ever put his books down).

We went off to our Edward Jones welcome dinner, where the girls ate hardly anything. They were required to eat at least something before they could have their ice cream treat, so they complied and obeyed, but it wasn't impressive. They played with some of the kids for a little bit while we talked to the grown ups, but we were all exhausted and needed to go. to. bed.

Before bed, however, we went down to the parking lot and took a few pictures. We bought each of the girls a disposable camera for the trip and they were eager to take Day 1 photos. We climbed up a small hill on the side of the parking lot and had a mini-adventure where we found a giant pine cone and a log and a lot of burrs stuck in shoelaces and underpants:)

And then we went to bed and I barely made it past 9pm. It was a good day. We had our moments, but overall it was a surprisingly good day. Apparently, expecting the worst has its advantages :)

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

The Bullet List

Over the weekend we had a chance to hang out with some family that we haven't seen in a while. One of Cornbread's cousins told us that she had gone skydiving for her birthday. She mentioned that it was an item on her bullet list and talked about how she and her husband feel like they need to live now - not wait.

That conversation prompted conversation between me and Cornbread.

Cornbread: What would be on YOUR bullet list?
Jana: Hmmm. I don't know. I don't really have a bullet list.
J: What would be on YOURS?
C: I don't know. I guess, maybe going to the olympics. But I can't think of anything else right off hand. Besides, even though I'd like to go to the olympics someday, I wouldn't feel incomplete or have regrets if I died and never went. So I don't know if that really makes it an item on my bullet list.


Should I have a bullet list? Hearing Jennifer talk about it made me somewhat jealous of her. Was I jealous about the skydiving? Or jealous that she had a bullet list? Or jealous that she had a bullet list and was able to cross something off of it? Or a mixture of all of the above?

Ultimately, I've decided that while I think it is cool for people to have their own bullet list, I, personally don't want or need one. There really is nothing in this world that I really, really want to do before I die. There is no place that I'm yearning to visit. Not only that, but after seeing 3 years of incentive trip options that Cornbread can earn, I know that there are very, very few places in this world that I won't have a chance to visit (I'm not trying to brag about that, just stating reality... Assuming Cornbread stays with EJ for the rest of his career, we will have the option to visit just about any place we want... Russia, Asia, Africa, New Zeeland, Australia, Europe, etc.)

But beyond the traveling possibilities, I don't want to live my life with a list in front of me always hoping that I can do this or that someday. Two years ago, surfing would not have been something that I would have wanted to do. In fact, when Cornbread suggested it, I kind of did one of those "eh, I guess, if thats what you want to do... I don't have much desire to do it, but I'll do it with you if you want" reactions. And as it turned out, it was one of the most incredible experiences.

THAT is how I want to live my life. Not with a list up in front of me with a goal of crossing items and places off, but living in the moment and welcoming experiences and adventures that are not part of my everyday life. I don't want to say no to something because I'm scared (bungee jumping), I want to experience life and its opportunities. I want to create memories.

I didn't think this way before Cornbread and I started dating. I was very practical and not willing to do things that maybe were inappropriate or questionable or possibly illegal :) I'm not saying we did a bunch of those things, however, there was one date that changed me...

He took me to Holland (MI) and before we left, we passed a private beach that he and his friends had camped on one night. They were tresspassing (and they knew it). They built a fire, they skinny dipped in the lake, they drank some beer and they slept under the stars. I was appropriately impressed (or acted like it because we were newly dating), but it was not something I would have ever done. What would have happened if someone found them?

I think he briefly suggested we go swimming, even though we didn't have our suits. I don't think he was suggesting skinny dipping as a form of foreplay lol, but an experience. And I immediately turned him down. I would NEVER do that - not in my pool, but certainly, most definitely not in a lake in a place where someone could walk up and catch me.

We started to leave. And then something occurred to me: I wanted experiences and memories. I wanted to have children someday and have stories to tell them. What fun is life if I never experienced it?

We turned around and went to the beach and went skinny dipping. I know its not a big, huge, naughty thing to do, but for me at that time, it was. And it was life changing.

So I don't want to brainstorm a list of things that I want to do someday and hang it on my refrigerator as a reminder of the goals that I've set and the parameters upon which I will judge whether or not I lived a complete life. I would likely miss out on things because right now, I'm not compelled to skydive or bungee jump or climb Mt. Everest. However, if I live fully and presently and keep my mind open to opportunities and focus on having a life of experiences, memories and stories then quite likely, when I die I may have done those things anyway.

this post is in no way intended to be a criticism of bullet lists or people who have bullet lists. I think they are cool and I love to hear about them. While thinking about it, I, personally came to the conclusions - for myself - that I wrote about above.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Recently, Cornbread and I have been talking about enjoying our journey - rather than focusing so hard on what we hope the end result of the journey is. I feel like this is something I need to work on in so many areas of life. Of course there is the seemingly constant struggle of our financial/Edward Jones journey - I feel like that is a continual process of one step forward and two steps back. Once we get a few months of stepping forward, we're reminded that - HEY! HEEYYY! This isn't so easy. You're not going to get off that easy - you don't get 5 years of struggle and then all of the sudden the struggle is done. You may get a reprieve here and there, but its not over, honey. Lest you think you might be past the hard part, here's a little reminder for you.

And a lot of times, I admit, those reminders make me turn to God and ask him what the heck is going on. Come on, God? Haven't we had enough? Aren't we over this? Can't we get some relief from THIS particular thing? I mean, really, its getting pretty old right about now. And by the way... what are we doing wrong?

But I have so many areas where I need to learn to live in the moment and enjoy the journey rather than focus on my anticipated end result. Hasn't that been my biggest challenge of parenthood? If you go back through all of the years of writing I've done, I find this struggle over and over and over. Wanting some freedom from the dependence of my children. Wanting to be free of feeling like I'm being smothered. Wanting some time for myself. Wanting them to grow up a little quicker because I know that as soon as they are all "these" ages, life will be easier. Its all right there in black and white - my ever present struggle. Not that I don't love my kids and love their ages, for the most part, but my struggle with being so highly depended on, while needing time to myself.

That journey has gotten exponentially easier... all three of my girls are pretty independent. I don't feel so smothered all the time anymore. Life IS easier in that regard. But right now-summer- is always difficult because of the lack of routine and the need to cart around 3 extra people in order to do anything and the boredom that they feel at times. So my continual struggle THIS summer is to enjoy each day instead of counting down the days until this thing or that thing. Luckily for me, we have quite a few plans for the summer so its broken up really well into 2 or 3 week segments until the next big family even occurs. That DOES makes summer-as-a-whole easier, but I still need to stop and enjoy the journey of getting there.

The journey - in all of our areas - is where the growth takes place, not the end result. It is the journey that is teaching our family to choose fun, free, family activities that build relationships rather than spending money to do stuff that occupies our time, but does not contribute to our family bond in a significant way. It is in the journey where Cornbread and I are learning to be dependent on an unseeable, sometimes seemingly distant God. One whomI feel like I'm constantly trying to convince that we are worthy of his blessings (I know that is bad theology... not talking theology here, but honestly relaying my feelings). In our journey - not the ambiguous end result - we continually have to offer our budget, our finances, our spending, our desires and thoughts to him and lay them and ourselves at his feet and stop giving him our options on how to solve the problems we think we have. It is in the journey that we learn that we have absolutely no control over any of this, so why are we holding so tightly to the idea that we can do it ourselves?

I feel like I've written this post over and over and over throughout the years. Its a lesson that I need to learn again and again. When I was a teenager, my parents used to tell me what they said went in one ear and out the other... THIS lesson feels exactly like that - it goes in one chamber of my heart and immediately out the other and barely spends enough time there to take hold and change me.

I have good intentions. I want to be like this, but somehow I ALWAYS get distracted.

Yesterday, in an effort to enjoy the journey of having small, but big kids, I brought them to the store and we got items to make root beer floats. Cost me all of $5 and it was exciting and fun and special. And I made sure that I didn't just make the floats and walk away while they enjoyed them... I didn't make one for myself, but I sat with them while they had theirs. This is a step in the right direction for me.

Today, instead of picking up my house, I am sitting outside, enjoying the beautiful weather, giving myself the absolute worst, messiest pedicure in the history of pedicures and later I will take the girls swimming at FFFN and maybe I'll actually get into the pool with them in an effort to enjoy THEM (I hate swimming in above ground pools). These are not big things, but it doesn't matter... its the art of enjoying life and what we DO have that matters.

I've struggled, this summer, with being a fully present and non-dismissive mom. I've been distracted, dismissive, selfish, and sometimes rude and snotty to my kids. And after recognizing that and trying to turn it around, I've realized how much happier I am when I am fully present in their lives and when I am intentional in my parenting and relationships with them.

Here's to a joyful and enjoyable July and August!

Thursday, June 24, 2010


Friends of ours are adopting a little girl from Ethiopia. They've gotten her picture, they're loving her from here. I try, but I can't imagine how it must feel to know that your child is across the world and you want to hold her and love her, but because of this thing or that thing in their government, you have to wait. And wait. And wait. They will be traveling to Ethiopia to go through the court process - they will meet her and hold her and love her and then they will leave her and go back a few months later to pick her up. Can you imagine?

We were with them last night. He had been to Uganda on a mission trip earlier this year. She has been passionate about helping orphans in this world for several years. They are committed to helping those who are unable to help themselves. He was telling us about how difficult it was to come back to this life of extravagance after being there, where running water is a luxury. He took a Ugandan man to Walgreen's a couple of weeks ago and he was in awe and told our friend that everything you could ever want was right in that store... Our friend was looking at the same items in disgust.

Its about perspective, right?

I'm frustrated that we don't have more money to give. That we WANT to give, but we just don't have it to give. Sometimes I ask God: "Why did you give us generous hearts, but not the means to be generous?"

And then I look around at all of this STUFF in this house.

Socrates - "The unaware life is not worth living."

How do I keep myself aware in all areas of my life? In terms of: not accumulating more? being fully present for my girls? not being envious of what others have that I can't have? not being bitter and resentful about not being able to live the way I WANT to live? not being grateful for what I do have? wondering when it is going to be our turn? wondering why the breaks don't seem to swing our way? How do I fall so quickly into complacency?

He said something last night that really resonates with me: after seeing their lives and how they live, he realizes that talking about and arguing about and debating about politics (or anything, really, we just happened to be talking about politics at that moment) just doesn't matter. Its all about living for God and doing what we can for his glory. Its about being more successful so we can give more - not live more. We live comfortably. We have all the food we could ever want, all the clothes, all the heat, a/c, water, etc. Others don't.

My burden this morning, is figuring out how I and my family need to change to become more aware.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Summer Regional 2010 - Day 4

Sunday morning reminded me why I do not drink a lot or very often. Ugh. A couple of hours of sleep, a headache, dehydration. Ugh. It was rough, but when the kids are involved you don't get the option of giving in and laying in bed for the morning. Its fine - I wouldn't want to waste my day like that anyway. We got up, got everyone ready and went to breakfast.

Our waterpark passes were good for the entire day, so we had decided ahead of time to take our time getting home. We went back to the waterpark after breakfast and then went back to our room for lunch and to pack up. We checked out, packed up the car and went over to mini golf place across the street. The girls had never mini-golfed and I think that it was possibly the cutest thing I'd ever seen. Between Skipper trying to figure out how to hold the club properly and Bugly doing whatever she wanted and Peek trying to size up the course and figure out the best shot, they were all adorable.

Until the 2nd hole.

Bugly was walking along the hole border like a balance beam and lost her balance and fell and hit her head on a large landscaping rock. I ran over and picked her up and laid her on my lap. Her eyes rolled to the back of her head and she seemed to start shaking a little bit. I immediately began to flip out, Cornbread, came and grabbed her from me and she came to and started crying. I continued to flip out and told him I didn't know what to do - I didn't know what any of that meant and we were out of town and I just had no clue what to do. Thankfully, our 8 year old had the presence of mind to run to the little shop and ask for help. The girlfriend of the owner happens to be a nurse and she came over and very calmly told us that she'd be okay and that we could take her to the hospital or they could call an ambulance. We opted to bring her ourselves to get her checked out.

Interestingly, even now she does not have a bump, a scrape or anything on her head to indicate that she hit it on anything. She has a scrape on her upper arm, but nothing on her head. The doctor at the ER determined that she was perhaps more dazed after it happened than actually unconscious. He felt she was completely fine, but advised us of what behavior to look for over the next 24 hours to indicate it was necessary for her to be seen again. He gave her some princess stickers, put a bandage on her arm and sent us on our way. It was the fastest er visit we've ever had.

When we got back in the car, we all decided that we'd like to go back and finish our mini-golf game. And even though Bugly had no desire to continue the game, she was willing to go back and hang out with us while we did. The owners were thrilled to see that she was okay and they gave us some coupons for free games and gave each of the girls a free slushie. It was a fun afternoon, but between the two younger girls, I think they were determined to have the owner hand the place over to us... Bugly kept walking on the edges of things and losing her balance, Skipper kept tripping over her own feet (in typical Skipper fashion).

We grabbed some ice cream after the game and made our way home. I figured they'd all sleep the whole way home, but I think Bugly slept for about 20 minutes and that was it. No one slept for the rest of the trip.

I am so happy that we brought the girls with us this year. We had a wonderful time with them and having them there did not change my experience at all - with the exception of not being able to go out running whenever I wanted, but I can handle that. These regional trips are just one of the huge perks that Cornbread has with his job. I am so grateful that we get these opportunities. But not only these mini vacations and the diversification trips, but he works for a company that has a philosophy that if you do what is best for your customer, success will follow. Ted Jones wrote an incredible letter to Sam Walton (of Walmart & Sam's Club) in response to Sam Walton telling him that if he sold his firm, he could be the richest man in America. Ted Jones responded by saying he already was the richest man in America.

“I have a wife who loves me in spite of all my faults. I have four dogs. Two love only me. One loves everybody. One loves no one but is still very loyal. . . . I enjoy my business. I love my farm and my home. I have a few close friends, and money has never been my God."

That is the founding philosophy of this firm. I am so proud to be a part of Edward Jones and I am so grateful that my husband is encouraged to preserve his integrity and character instead of do things to make money at the expense of his clients. I am grateful that he does not have to choose between money and what is right. It has been a difficult journey, but we have never considered abandoning it. We are fortunate and blessed to be a part of this and to take this journey. While it has been hard and sometimes very stressful, it was one of the best decisions we've ever made.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Summer Regional 2010 - Day 3

The girls were so tired on Saturday morning. I had to wake them up to get breakfast (it ended at 9) and each of them begged to go back to bed instead. Being as mean as I am, I insisted we go to breakfast, so we went. Peek was showing that my dad's genetics have cleanly passed down to her as she commented over and over that it was "all you can eat" and had NINE pancakes and TWO little boxes of cereal. This child has the cutest little body and she can put food away like no one expects - I've had other parents tell me in amazed voices: "She ate SIX pieces of pizza" or "She had FIVE cupcakes". So she was very excited to go up by herself and get more and more and more. Sometimes I think the freedom is more exciting than the food.

Anyway... :)

Cornbread had meetings all morning, so we went back to the room, I bought some tickets and we went out to the waterpark. We were there for the morning and it was a loooooong morning for me. I like the waterslides, but I'm not a big fan of just hanging out in a pool and that is what Bugly and Skipper wanted to do. They were just a little too far away for me to let them play in the water by themselves while I sat and chatted with my friends. So it just seemed like the morning dragged. We got through it, Cornbread joined us around 12:00 and we went back to the room to have lunch. He took them to the beach, the outdoor pool and back to the waterpark while I ran to Target to buy Peek some new flip-flops (she lost hers the night before).

When I found them in the waterpark, Bugly wanted to go back to the room to take a nap so I took her back. I wasn't too upset about that:) I put her in the bathtub to wash her hair and she ended up playing in there with a plastic cup and a washcloth for nearly an hour (this child LIVES in Pretend World and can use anything as her characters). Just as she was getting out and was going to lay down, Cornbread and the girls came back. I quickly changed into my running clothes and went out. I was only out there for 23 minutes because the wind was pretty strong and going in every direction and I was sick of fighting it. The girls had gone to our friends room next door so Cornbread and I queued up our favorite tv program and sat down to catch up.

Saturday evening is always the awards dinner. This used to be the most awkward time of the weekend for us. Trying to figure out where to sit and with whom and then sitting with people we didn't know and trying to make conversation... it sucked. Think: wedding reception with people you hardly know, but no assigned seating. Also think: high school cafeteria. While the people are not cliquey like that, it just feels like that when you walk in the door and don't know people very well and know that they know others pretty well. We don't feel like that anymore as we have made relationships with most everyone in the room so we don't care who we sit with. We ended up sitting with Jay and Hilary and Kurt & Debbie and a new FA.

Entertainment for the evening was put together by two of the FA's. They put together a few Minute to Win It games and had contacted people beforehand to ask if they would participate. Mike had called me a week before and asked if I would be part of it and I had agreed. I figured I'd be nervous and embarassed, but Cornbread had told me to commit and go all in or I would look stupid, so I did. It was fun. I think there were 6 of us and we had to play games that made us look like idiots, but everyone loved it and we all had a good time. I came in 2nd to last place because I earned 0 points in the first game because my cups fell and I was out of the game.

After dinner we are always treated to an open bar by one of the product partners that comes to the trip. We went back to the room and changed into more comfortable clothes, got the babysitter and the girls settled and went back to the bar. As usual, it was a very celebratory atmosphere. Everyone is having a good time and really enjoying spending time with eachother. In the end, its fun because we all really genuinely like each other. Many of us closed down the bar and finally left. Cornbread and I went back to our room to relieve the babysitter and had an afterparty with Jay and Hilary in their room until 4:00.

The next morning was pretty rough;)

Friday, June 18, 2010

Summer Regional 2010 - Day 2

I'm sitting here at the end of Day 2 and even though there have been times when I've wanted to literally throttle one or two of my girls, on the whole this has been a very, very enjoyable mini vacation for our family. I enjoy going on vacation with the family, but it adds a layer of stress when there are so many other people that we want to spend time with and haven't seen in a while. The girls have been awesome and Peek and Skipper are old enough to go off on their own in the waterpark and the three of them together are old enough to be in the room by themselves if we're down the hall.

Cornbread woke up early this morning to workout. After he got back I actually changed into my running clothes, but decided to forgo the run in favor of walking together to a little bakery cafe across the canal for breakfast. It was a 20 minute walk to the cafe and the options promised not to disappoint (the grown ups). We settled on a spinach & feta scone (wow), a granny smith muffin with cream cheese frosting (had the fried chicken moment of granny smith muffin with cream cheese frosting almost immediately, but it was very good), a strawberry muffin and some chocolate biscotti. We ate outside overlooking the water, much to the complaint of our very hot little girls. Bugly spent breakfast under the table - she's no dummy. Predictably, we spent $22 on all of this amazing bakery food and they each ate one bite of each thing and didn't like it. We walked back and changed to go to the waterpark.

While hanging out with some of the other EJ people in the waterpark, we were talking about meals and food and our kids not eating and I decided to go to the grocery store to get lunch food. A better decision has not been made in recent memory:) I ran to Piggly Wiggly while Cornbread hung out with the girls in the waterpark. I grabbed enough food to feed 4 families of 5 for a week and we all had lunch in our room. Ahhhh - no spending a fortune on snack shop food and leaving all but one bite on the plate! Yea for me!

Cornbread and I had meetings in the afternoon and the girls nervously went to the babysitting room. They were a bit hesitant since they hadn't done this before and didn't know most of the other kids, but they did very well and are quite excited to go back tomorrow night for movie night.

While in the introduction meeting, each of the FA's had to introduce themselves and their spouse and tell us who they brought along on the trip. Cornbread graciously introduced himself and went on to introduce me and say that we came with our 3 little "mini Jana's. I don't think I had anything to do with them. She just spurted them out." This was met with a lot of laughter, but I am now known as the Spurter... very happy about that:)

He went on to his meetings and I went to the spouses meeting. This used to be a very uncomfortable meeting for me, but now I really enjoy it. There are so many wonderful women in the room that I adore and feel such a unique connection with. We are united in our support of our husbands and the firm and united in the struggles to get through the journey. Every one of us have been on the journey from step one - no matter where we are right now, we have been at the beginning and there is a certain camraderie amongst us that doesn't exist in other female relationships that I have. So it is a great - and short - meeting.

I grabbed the girls and we stopped for a little treat at the sweet shoppe in the hotel. Again, it was amazing and they each had one bite and were done. So they went off to the room and I stayed and chatted with EJ people as they came by. Cornbread joined me when his meetings were finished. I thought about going out for a run, but decided against it because of the wind. Jay and Hillary and their girls came back to our room and we got ready for dinner and headed out.

We had EJ provided buffet for dinner and lawn games, bonfire and s'mores afterward. There were several potato sack races between a lot of the kids and even some of the FA's got involved. There were a lot of sticky children running around having fun together. Many conversations. And our evening ended with some very tired children making it very clear that they were ready to go back to the room and go to bed.

Its nice to be away from home. Away from the responsibilities. Taking a break from feeling like we are never going to make it and we are never going to be comfortable. Being around other people who are there with us. Who are feeling it like us. But who recognize the hope along with us. Friends and colleagues who cling to that hope because we see others who are living the dream that we have. And those who are living it are real people who are interested and encouraging to those of us on this end of the journey. Because they have been on this end. At some point they clung to this hope. They are proof that persistence works and perseverance will win in the end.

It has been a good, good day.

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