Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 in Review

Happy New Year’s Ever!  I found this at All and Sundry (which by the way, LOVE her blog!), and I decided to participate.  It’s a bit different than the one I did last year, but I wanted to try it.  So here are my answers.

1.       What did you do in 2011 that you’d never done before?

An hour and a half yoga class that raised money for a student who was battling cancer.  It was incredibly moving experience.

Cooking chicken on the bone with the skin on.

2.       Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

Be the best mother I can be – I have made mistakes, but I try my best by being in the present and practicing kindness.   And that best looks different every day.

More date nights with Harrington – Out of twelve months, I think we made about sixish.  But we did make it to this restaurant that I’ve wanted to try forever.  I know, I know; there is room for improvement. 

Keep on writing and blogging – Check and check.

More yoga – Yes . . . until I had to take a break for physical therapy.

Focusing on the healthy relationships – Yes.

Find more like-minded people who share my values – Affirmative.

Since these all made me feel happy and balanced, I think I am going to stick with these.  But I would like to add meditation, choosing a comment platform for this blog, paying off our debt, and getting ready to move to the list.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?


4.       Did anyone close to you die?

No. . . but I did go to a funeral to support a family friend when she lost her daughter.  She was devastated, and I was at a loss for words.

5.       What countries did you visit?

 I am going to modify the question to say "states".  I travelled to California – twice!  Once to Dana Point with Harrington’s work, and once for BlogHer!  We also travelled together as a family (along with my parents) to DisneyWorld.

And I loved 90 percent of all of it!

6.       What would you like to have in 2012 that you lacked in 2011?

Hmmm, that’s a good question.   I’m not sure.  More homemade Cassata cake and pierogies.  Off the top of my head.

7.       What dates from 2011 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

Marie’s 5th birthday – where the hell did the past five years go?

Thomas sleeps in his big boy bed – seriously?!

 The Babes in. Total. Awe of seeing their favorite Disney characters in Disney World – magical.

8.       What was your biggest achievement of the year?

In addition to my continuing efforts to raise good and decent human beings without losing my mind, I feel that I have slowly changed my outlook on life.  I feel more accepting and with all this accepting, I just feel happier.  Not jump from the roof tops and super-smiley happy, more peaceful happy.

Also, I’m pretty proud of waking up at 5:15 a.m. to go workout with my friend three days a week.  This, crazy enough, may be related to the whole peaceful, happy feeling.

Oh, and we can’t forget all the progress I made on my Raw Chicken Dare.

9.       What was your biggest failure?

Anytime I lost my patience with The Babes.

10.   Did you suffer illness or injury?

To make a long story short, my four sessions of physical therapy turned into five months.  I have some nerve damage that occurred during pregnancy and/or carrying my babies on my hips combined with a weak core/sitting incorrectly.  This put stress on my lower back and caused a condition called piriformis syndrome.  Which is just a fancy name for a pain in my ass.

Physical therapy was not fun and a huge inconvenience, but I absolutely loved my therapist.  She is the best, and I miss her. 

11.   What was the best thing you bought?

Park Hopper Passes to Disney World.  Hands down, best purchase Of. The. Year.

12.   Where did most of your money go?

Bills/mortgage, debt, medical expenses, and Disney World.

You can imagine which was the most fun and bought the most magical memories.

13.   What did you get really excited about?

Disney World.  (Geez, I am starting to sound like Marie.  She will talk about Disney World to anyone who will listen.  Or pretend to listen).

My garden that my Dad helped me build.

14.   What song will always remind you of 2011?

I Gotta Feeling by Black Eye Peas - it started off at that charity yoga session to lighten up the mood and raise our energy, and it just stuck.  I have some great memories dancing with Marie to that song in our kitchen after dinner.

15.   Compared to this time last year, are you:

happier or sadder? Definitely happier.

thinner or fatter? Surprisingly thinner, thanks to Zumba, yoga, and a good workout partner.

richer or poorer? Richer, but since we were poorer for a long time, we are soon going to break even.

16.   What do you wish you’d done more of?

Played more with Thomas.

17.   What do you wish you’d done less of?

Cleaning.  I. Hate. Cleaning.  Hate it!

18.   How did you spend Christmas?

Making memories with The Babes.  Seeing how excited Thomas was that Santa brought him train table will forever be etched into my heart.

Warm fuzzy family memories *and* spending time with loved ones: that is the true meaning of Christmas to me.

19.   What was your favorite TV program?

Modern Family.  Without a doubt.

20.   What were your favorite books of the year?

The Help.

Water for Elephants.

21.   What was your favorite music from this year?

I can’t say it was my favorite by a long shot, but I did listen to a lot of Disney movie music.  A. Lot.

22.   What were your favorite films of the year?

Besides Cars 2?  (One of the three movies that I saw in the theater this year?  The other one being the new Winnie the Pooh movie)?

It would have to be The Help.  And Bridesmaids.

23.   What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

For my 34th birthday, I ate my favorite pizza, my Mom’s homemade Cassata cake, and toasted with champagne with my family.  Perfection.

24.   What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

Hmmm, that’s a tough one.  Less drama, however, I would not have made such strides in keeping my distance if it wasn’t there, right?

25.   How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2011?

I am emerging from my warm-ups uniform and experimenting with leggings and boots and jeans that fit!  I feel that I am kind of rediscovering what looks good on me yet fits my lifestyle.

26.   What kept you sane?

Blogging, yoga, early morning walks with my friend, and Zumba.

27.   Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2011.

I learned the importance of listening to the physical cues my body gives me so I can take better care of myself, thanks to five months of physical therapy.  Physical therapy also taught me that I sometimes need to tear it all down so it can be rebuild it correctly.  “It” refers to my body, but I found it transcended to other areas of my life.

I learned that a regular schedule of physical exercise makes me less cranky and more positive.

I learned that when I follow my passion and am open to possibilities instead of forcing my preconceived notion of how things *should* be into existence, life can be full of amazing surprises.

Getting over a paralyzing fear can do incredible things for my self-esteem across the board.

I hope everyone has a wonderful New Year!  Feel free to copy this down and link it up in the comments.  I’d love to hear how your year went!

Friday, December 23, 2011

My Thoughts on Christmas Eve

It’s Christmas Eve Eve.  There are only few mere hours left until the pinnacle of Christmas holiday.  I love how the traditions make me feel all cozy and warm and secure like cuddling up with my favorite blanket.  I love how they connect me with my childhood.   In a sea of change, I can count on baking cookies and listening to Johnny Mathis and watching It’s a Wonderful Life.

But then there are times when traditions highlight how different my life is now and how much I have changed from that little girl in her nightgown, afraid to get out of her bed just in case Santa was still unloading her presents.

Let me explain.

My Dad’s side of the family is 157% Polish.  He is one out of six brothers and sisters, and Christmas is A. Big. Deal.  The celebration is steeped in tradition.  Preceding the feast of homemade golumpkie (gwumpkie), pierogi, and kapusta, there is a nativity reading in which people from each family participate (sometimes in costume).  We sing Christmas songs until Santa arrives to give us presents (but not until after he gives us a rundown of our year to determine if we are on the good list).  Mad chaos are the only words to describe not only the flurry of wrapping paper being thrown about, but the fury in which we open our presents.

It’s nuts.

And I loved it . . . until Marie came along.

The intoxicated Santa that was kind of funny before now was scary as he slurred to my baby.  Eating dinner two hours late which had been annoying was now infuriating as poor Marie was forced to wait until her bedtime to eat dinner.

Other factors contributed to my bad taste of Christmas Eve.  My older cousins all have older, teenaged kids and do their own thing.   My Dad’s family is as thick as thieves and, even though I felt like I earned my way in by being a full-fledged adult with kids and a mortgage and a burning desire to participate in our family on a new level, I felt that they were not accepting any new members into the inner circle.

A lot of incidents occurred that made me feel awkward, but the time when we were over an hour late eating, and Thomas (not even one years old yet) was starving, I went downstairs to feed him. 


 Yes, my Mom and Harrington came to check on me.  And a few of my cousins’ kids were down there talking about things I wish they wouldn’t in front of Marie (who was three).  But the majority of people were upstairs enjoying cocktail hour,  as I tended to my motherly duties.

I felt like I didn’t belong.

I decided not to go to Christmas Eve last year and our plans with Harington’s family fell through.  It felt weird not going to the big party, which was to be expected.  But The Babes did not crash and burn on Christmas morning, which was very nice.

So I decided to push forward with this new tradition, even though it didn’t feel quite right.

Until Aunt Carol called.

She told me how fleeting this all is.  One of the sisters had passed on and we need to stay together.  She told me that Christmas is about kids, and my kids brought the magic to Christmas.  She told me that I might be sad one day knowing that my kids would never know our Christmas Eve traditions.

I fought back my tears and said I was sad to not be going to Christmas Eve.  I confessed to her how I feel left out because I have little ones.   I told her that  I wanted to be a part of this family, but I felt that I just didn’t belong anymore.  (Not the tears were streaming down my face).

She said that I’m a part of this family.  As crazy as it is and how out of control Christmas Eve becomes, it’s special.  And it’s ours.

She told me to just think about it.

So I did.

And we’re going.

I’m excited to honor my traditions and share them with The Babes.  (I also feel more confident in how to navigate around uncomfortable issues).

But I’m also very emotional.  I feel emotional because Aunt Carol cared enough to kick my ass with a heart to heart. I feel emotional because it’s true; you never know how long you have with your loved ones, and this family gathering rich in tradition, is special.  I mean, I don’t know a lot of families that still get the majority of three generations together under one roof with homemade Polish food.

 I feel emotional because things have not been easy with this extended family: situations change and dynamics shift.  Also, some of the cousins I grew up, moved away, and I don’t come to Christmas Eve that often.  It all makes me sad.  I haven’t felt a part of this group for a very long time.  And I accepted my lot on the sidelines. 

I feel emotional because I now understand how Christmas can be a time to come together with family; the ties and history and love can be stronger than differences.    

Happy Holidays!


Friday, December 16, 2011

Thank You. Signed, The Management

If I could use only one word to describe this week: Overwhelming.

Underappreciated is a super close second.

This was the week I had to get my stuff done because Marie will be home for almost all of next week.  And we all know getting around town with one is much easier than two without even taking into account it’s Christmas time.

I will not get into specifics, but I was up until midnight for three nights in a row while still maintaining my early wakeup call of 5:50 a.m.  I also had a nasty cold.  Poor Harrington had a cold, too.  . . that sent him to bed as early as 9:30 and waking up as late as 7:10.

You do the math.

So the inspiration for this post is from Twitter.  Someone said that if you want to have your family to take notice of something you want them to do, you should write a note and sign it, “The Management.”  For example, “Please be sure to remove shoes before stepping on the carpet.  Signed, The Management.”

Pure genius, I tell you.

Here is a letter from The Management noting all my hard work this week that has gone unnoticed or unappreciated.

Dear Erin,

I hope that you are enjoying the magic and beauty of the season.  We sure have noticed all your hard work around here, and you are doing an amazing job.  In addition to your daily duties that include but are not limited to laundry, meal planning, grocery shopping, cleaning, packing lunches, hosting play dates (with a new friend . . . don’t think we didn’t notice the extra effort you put into cleaning the house before and after the play date), taking Thomas to school, picking up Marie from school and taking her to the dentist, you have been clocking some serious overtime to prepare for the holiday season.

You have gone to bed as late as midnight making gifts for special people so that you could have them shipped on time *and* take advantage of two major sales.   You also have taken Thomas all over town getting everything from Christmas cards to Target for a two hour marathon session of  Christmas shopping to the mall to make returns at Kohl’s since they sold you a “slightly” used griddle (and we know you need that griddle for Christmas morning chocolate chip pancakes).

You also went shopping for your special someone after Zumba which put you bed late for a third night in a row.  No nursing that nasty cold of yours!  You almost pushed yourself over the edge, so we applaud you for not working out the next morning.  However, you are looking fantastic.  We have noticed that you are looking trimmer than you have in a long time.  Looks like running all over town with a toddler along with eating cereal and sandwiches for dinner is working out for you.

Speaking of eating cereal for dinner, that was one hell of a night.  Both Plan A and Plan B dinners were derailed for that evening while your husband was enjoying cocktails and delicious fried food at a work party.  But that didn’t stop you from pushing through and making good on your promise to take the kids on a ride in the heated car while they wore their jammies so you can look at all the Christmas lights.  We don’t know about you, but our hearts totally melted when Thomas said how “bootiful” they lights were and how “they were everywhere!”  By the way, the Christmas CD was a nice touch and helped reset the mood after the dinner disaster.  But you didn’t stop at the Christmas lights.  Oh, no.  You even let them stay up and watch The Grinch Who Stole Christmas.  You put that Christmas train right back on the rails!

We also think it was awesome how you picked up Marie from school after your late night and take The Babes to write letters to Santa and mail them at the mall.  But again, in true form, you didn’t stop there.  You made sure that they had the full experience by taking them to the food court to eat junk food and go on the merry-go-round.  Yes, we know that Thomas had a meltdown when you wouldn’t let him go on any other rides, but you didn’t snap.  You know why?  Because you are amazing.

We know that next week is a busy week, too.  You will be food shopping for the various dishes and meals you will be serving not only during the holidays, but for your everyday needs as well.  You will be wrapping gifts, doing any last minute shopping, and cleaning the house for company.  And let’s not forget doing all the laundry so everyone’s clothes are ready for show time.

We would have liked to have sent you on an all expense weekend trip to the spa, but unfortunately we can’t have you gone for that long of time.  As you can see, your presence is greatly relied on around here.  Not to mention, it is just not in our budget at this time.  Please accept this ceramic travel coffee mug with a splash-free lid as a small token for our enormous gratitude for a job well done.  Actually, better than well done.  A fantastic job.

Keep up the great work.  Without you, Christmas just would not happen with the sparkle, finesse, and magic you lovingly put into each detail. 

Merry Christmas!

Thank you.


The Management

Thursday, December 15, 2011

What Do You Think Thursday: Christmas Song Edition

This week has been crazy with Christmas. Let's just say this week has given me enough material to last a very long, long time.

And as much as I would love to relive every detail, there is still much to be done over here.

In the mean time, enjoy my Skinny Scoop list.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Christmas Traditions: Making It Our Own

Before I get started on today’s post, I would like to thank everyone who came out to the Children’s Hospital of Michigan Foundation Toy Drive sponsored by Detroit Mom Bloggers. It was great to see some familiar faces (Mom, Dad, Uncle Gary), and it was also fantastic to meet some new people (Scott and Lauren from MOBIBO).

Speaking of MOBIBO, be sure to click on the MOBIBO banner because for every downloaded app because they will donate .25 cents to the Children’s Hospital of Michigan Foundation. This app is so great because not only does it tell you of the great deals going on around you, it *pays* you when you click on the adds. (Think along the lines of a mobile billboard). Check it out! Thursday is the last day!

And now on with the show . . .

I love Christmas. I love all the traditions as a kid and now passing them on to The Babes. They like a lot of the traditions that I introduced to them: Christmas cookies, decorating the tree, singing Christmas songs, watching Christmas movies.

Some are fiercely rejected. And by some, I guess I mean just one: Santa. Thomas and Marie are totally and completely scared of Santa. A lot of parents use visiting Santa as leverage for good behavior. Not me. Why just the other day, I told Thomas that if he didn’t stop crying for candy (after the cookies I just gave him), maybe we should go visit Santa and talk about healthy choices. He eventually stopped because meeting Santa face to face was not worth the fight for candy.

And Thomas loves candy more than anything else in the whole entire world.

So instead of sitting on some strange and scary man’s lap, we write letters to Santa and put them in the big, red mailbox at Macy’s. Then we look at Santa and his display on the first floor safely from the second floor of the mall and *maybe* wave to him. If they are feeling especially brave, that is. We did this last year, and it worked out really well this year, too.

I am all for traditions, but I think it’s important to be flexible and respect Thomas’s and Marie’s fears. If forcing them to sit on Santa’s lap is going to be traumatizing, I rather skip it. There’s enough drama with the holidays without creating it, no?

What traditions do you modify in your holiday celebrations?

Friday, December 9, 2011

Children’s Hospital of Michigan Foundation SNOWPILE Toy Drive

I hope everyone is having a great Friday! I would like to extend an invitation to join us for the Children’s Hospital of Michigan Foundation SNOWPILE Toy Drive hosted by Detroit Mom Bloggers. I have also been working with this foundation through MOBIBO, which is an incredible app that notifies you of deals going on in stores around you on your smart phone (kind of like a mobile billboard).

SNOWPILE is a program that gives presents to kids and teens who are hospitalized during the holidays.

Stop on in at Panera Bread in the Target plaza on the corner of Auburn and Rochester in Rochester Hills with a new, unwrapped toy. The address is 2921 Rochester Rd. It’s on Saturday, December 10th from 9-12, and I’ll be there from 10:30 – 11:45.

Hope to see you there!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

What Do You Think Thursdays with Skinny Scoop: The Pampered Chef Edition

Before I get started with my exciting list today, I would like to extend an invitation to the Children’s Hospital of Michigan Foundation SNOWPILE Toy Drive hosted by Detroit Mom Bloggers. If you are in the area, I would love to see you! Please bring an unwrapped toy to the Panera in the Target plaza on the corner of Auburn and Rochester in Rochester Hills. It’s from 9-12, and I’ll be there from 10:30 – 11:45. Hope to see you there!

Within the past few months, I have rediscovered my love for Pampered Chef products. I have used the stoneware in my Raw Chicken Dare. I am creating new holiday traditions with the pizza stone (more on this when it becomes closer to Christmas). I am perfecting my chocolate chip cookies with the small scoop. I love them!

I created a list for What Do You Think Thursdays with Skinny Scoop that includes all my favorite items. Check them out. Maybe some of them would make the perfect gift for your foodie! (And if you are looking for a Pampered Chef consultant, check out my friend Michelle’s website).

What are your favorite Pampered Chef products?

*I was not compensated for this post at all. I bought each of these items and used them myself. I am just sharing my opinions of favorite products.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

On Raising Boys

Three years ago, I cried when I learned that I was pregnant with a boy.

Not tears of joy. Tears of fear. I was afraid that I would not know how to raise a boy. Afraid that Marie would never be close to her brother and would feel alienated as the only girl among her brother and all-boy cousins. Fear that our family would be divided as the boys went with the boys and the girls went with the girls.

In addition to all these fears swirling around my head, *everyone* was telling me just how challenging raising a boy would be. Family and friends would go on and on and on about how easy I had it with Marie and how hard it was going to be with a boy getting into everything.

After the initial shock, I analyzed each fear and found the root was within my own experiences. I have had a tumultuous relationship with my own brother, and I often felt left out because my boy cousin and brother were so close. In Harrington’s family’s, the boys went to hockey with the boys, and the girls stayed home.

After I wrapped my mind around these fears, I resolved that these experiences, though mine as I was growing up, are not my family’s destiny.

As soon as I laid eyes on my little boy, I fell in love. I felt all those magical, lovey feelings that everyone talks about, but I had never experienced (Marie’s birth was so traumatic). As my son’s personality emerged, I could see that he was both more assertive and more vocal than Marie.

Now at two and a half years of age, his tantrums are Off. The. Charts. My patience has reached its edge, as they say in yoga, and I understand how a parent can become unglued and yell at their toddler.

But I am trying to find the strength to shelve my first reactions so that I can teach him a more positive way to express his emotions. I want to nurture his fiercely independent spirit.

But this route of emotional literacy? Is far from being easy. And sometimes it can be a lonely path. Fortunately, I met The Mother Company this year at BlogHer. I did a review awhile back about their show, Ruby’s Studio, which helps parents teach emotional literacy. I was happy to find a partner in the philosophy of raising good people.

As I struggle to maintain my cool in these intense situations, I try to remember it’s all a series of moments.

Thomas’s last two-minute time out seemed like an eternity. He kept getting off his marker and yelling at me that I was a bad mommy for turning off the TV. There were a lot of moments in those two minutes.

I was angry and hurt. And it took work not to react.

After the time out, I explained it’s OK to be mad. I told him that he can say, “I feel frustrated.” I made sure to say that it’s not OK to say you hate mommy; we practice kindness.

Once we settled down for a story and cuddle time before a nap, I said, “It is hurtful when you say you hate your mommy. Can you tell me what it looks like to practice kindness?”

Thomas said in a serious voice, “I don’t like taking naps.”

I felt the clouds parted and heard a choir of angels burst into song! A year of my practicing kindness mantra may have finally clicked!

I replied that it must be frustrating to have to do something you don’t want to do, but taking naps is part of being healthy and strong. And he seemed OK with that.

I am hoping that he felt heard because it is my belief that teaching emotional literacy means practicing empathy. I believe that people, regardless of age, just want to be heard. I know that when I feel heard in a disagreement, I feel less defensive and more willing to be empathetic.

I am also not going to accept some antiquated standard that “boys will be boys,” implying bad behavior is accepted.

Boys have emotions, and emotional literacy is not gender specific. It is human specific.

It’s my job as his mother, a job both frustrating and infinitely rewarding, to raise this person, tantrums and all.

But after the glimmer of hope that shone through today, I feel that I can move forward with a bit more confidence.

So tell me; what are your thoughts on raising people?

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Happy Birthday, Mom!

Today is my Mom’s birthday:

My Mom has given me the gift of unconditional love and that has provided me with a strong foundation to be a good mom to my kids. It sounds so simple when I write it, but it has been so powerful. She’s the person I can go to about anything at any time, and I know she’ll be there for me. Always. My Mom has also taught me about the importance of integrity and honesty, not only by words, but by actions. She is the kind of person who does the right thing even if it’s not easy. She has always put my needs and the needs of my brother ahead of her own. I realize the sacrifices she made as a mother more now than ever. She didn’t have a lot of help when we were growing up because my dad worked a lot of hours and often second shift. She did a lot on her own, and her spirit of independence is a huge inspiration to me. She is now retired and getting back in touch with herself. I wanted to do something special for her because she is an incredible person and has been so giving of herself. She has taught me what true, unconditional love is, and for that I am grateful. Our family might not be perfect, but I know that no matter what, I am loved. As I get older, I realize what a gift that is because not everyone has that foundation.

Yeah, she’s a pretty incredible lady. Happy Birthday, Mom! I love you!