Friday, August 26, 2011

Friday List

I love lists so I think I'm going to make the Friday List a regular thing here at FUMC.

In keeping with my theme of gratitude...

A List of Reasons Why Going Back to Work Isn't That Bad

1.
I have a freakish love for new school supplies, always have.  I was so excited last year when I got to relive the thrill of shopping for school supplies with my own child for the first time. ( I took that photo, by the way!  One guess how I did it).


I added this one just for you THL!  Photo Credit: Tracy Weston Photography


2.  When I go to the bathroom at work, generally speaking, my coworkers rarely bust in and ask me to make them a snack or try to climb onto my lap.  So, that'll be nice. 

3. 




Thursday Treat Days-Every Thursday is "treat day" at one of my schools.  We all take turns to bring in a smorgasbord of goodies.  I purposely arrange my schedule so I'm always in that building on Thursdays.  That is the main reason why I always lose 10 pounds every summer and promptly gain it back by Thanksgiving. C'est la vie...

4.  During the 8 hours I'm at work, it's far less likely that I will have to deal with someone else's poop than if I'm at home.  I work in elementary schools so I can't say it's completely out of the realm of possibilities on any given work day but I'll settle for far less likely.  After 6 + years of parenthood under my belt I'm so over other people's poop.

5.  On a daily basis I will witness other people's children having tantrums, making bad choices, and saying horrifyingly inappropriate things which will remind me that my little devils angels are not the only kids that behave that way which is always good for my self esteem. 

6.   I will no longer be forced to listen to the voices of Phineas, Ferb, or Candice during the day.  If you don't know what I'm talking about consider yourself very, very lucky.


7.


Grey's will be back on the air!  Is Meredith going to have to raise the baby she and Derrick adopted by herself?  Is she really going to get fired from Seattle Grace?  All of these burning questions will soon be answered, thank God.

8.  Apple picking!  I've never picked apples or made my own apple sauce before and this year the Martha in me is just giddy with the possibility of trying it.  You may recall from earlier this summer that I have an odd fascination with picking my own fruit so it's going to be fun to carry that little quirk into another season.

9.  Snow Days!!  There's almost always a snow day around here every winter...a day that's either so cold or so blizzardy that they cancel school.  When you work at a school that means, they cancel work!  There's nothing like getting that glorious phone call at 5 am in which a recorded voice tells you to stay in bed cause the apocalyptic weather conditions are preventing everyone from going anywhere....ahhhh, I love a good snow day!


10.  Having to go to work every day forces me to shower every day.  That's a good thing for everyone.  There may or may not have been a day or two this summer during which I counted running in the sprinkler with the kids as my shower for the day....

Have a great weekend everyone!

xoxo
Jen

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Sunshiny Day

 It's not actually a sunshiny morning here in Wisconsin (my part of Wisconsin anyway)-it's foggy and gross.  The humidity is suffocating.  Thank goodness I don't have thick, curly hair.  I hear people with thick, curly hair turn into show poodles on days like this.  Days like this actually give me a rare chance to feel grateful for my boring, stick straight locks. 

Gratitude.  It's my new thing.

So, in effort to cheer myself (and perhaps, you!) up this fine foggy morning, I thought I'd share a picture I took yesterday of the sunflower I planted near my deck that finally decided to grace us with its presence and bloom already!



Isn't this dreamy!  I'm in love with this photo.  It's another one I took with my iPhone using Instagram.  I know, again with the me and the Instagram but I can't help it--I'm all about it lately. 

*Disclaimer*(I'm not getting paid to plug Instagram or anything.  I hear you can plug stuff on your blog for money but I am way not cool enough to even know how to go about that.  If I ever become that cool I will let you know.  But, for now, I'm just innocently enthusiastic about Instagram.  Thank you.)


Sunflowers make me happy...they're just such a happy flower, don't you think?  (I have Meg Ryan on the brain.  Name that movie.  Hint: she was actually talking about daisies, not sunflowers). 

Have a happy day (foggy, sunny, or otherwise)!

xoxo
Jen

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Summer's End, Peace, and Gratitude

Summer is rapidly winding down to a grinding halt.  This seems barely possible as it seems it only started a week or so ago.  Summer's yearly end brings with it big changes for our family.  It marks the end of the Stay At Home Mom portion of my year and begins the Frantic Working Mom part. 

Every year I try to enter this transition with gratitude and peacefulness but it doesn't always work.  Gratitude for the fact that I get to have the best of both worlds...I get to spend the summer home with my babes and I also get to spend a portion of the year focusing on the career I've worked so hard to establish.  The career I spent so many years in school for.  I get to make a difference in the lives of children and their families and I have time every day with other adults...many of whom have grown to be great friends.  Gratitude that I have a job at all when so many are without one now a days.

The real truth though, the truth that's hard to say out loud, is that the career is not where my inner heart lies. That, if given the opportunity, I would give it up in three seconds flat.  The most raw and honest parts of me would give anything to stay home full time.  That desire came as a shock to me...I never saw myself as a SAHM while I was in college and grad school.  I knew I wanted to be a mother and I purposely chose a career that would give me more time at home but I never ever expected that I wouldn't want to work.  That I wouldn't need the title of "Psychologist" as a building block for my identity.  That "Mom" would be enough. 

The harsh reality is that due to an intricate web of circumstances both financial and otherwise, staying home full time is not an option for me.  So that's that.  And that is where the need for gratitude and peace comes in.  I have compromised as much as I can and reduced my hours starting last year.  This year I will be working every day from 8:00-2:30, which means I get to be home to get my boy off the school bus at 4:00.  There are so many working moms who would kill for my schedule and I need to remember that.  I have it pretty good and complaining seems selfish and ungrateful.  So I rarely let myself go to that place. 

 Last summer I spent the last week before going back to school in a crying jag.  I was angry and desperately sad and feeling sorry for myself.  This was due in part to the horrible summer of stress and anxiety we had in trying to sell our house and all of the complications and set backs we faced.  I entered the school year in a tizzy of uncertainty and angst and I think that set me off on a path to have one of the worst years of my life both personally and professionally. 

This year is different...I can already feel it.  We had the most wonderful, relaxing summer.  It was filled with fun and adventure and quality time and bliss. We gratefully enjoyed every minute in our new house and our new town. I took time to take care of myself and do some things just for me.  One of them was starting this blog....which has upped my happiness factor immensely! (I have successfully been filling up my cup if anyone is wondering).  While I'm a little sad about the end of my favorite season...for the first time in many years parts of me are actually looking forward to the school year ahead!

Whenever people have said that they can't wait for Fall and all of the things that come with it...cool weather, big sweaters, football, apples and pumpkins, beautiful colors in the trees....I would always think to myself, "I love those things too, it's too bad I can't look forward to Fall."  I had an epiphany this year....I CAN look forward to Fall if I decide to.  Huh.  Imagine that!  And so I am.  And that's that...PEACE!

Here are some pics of one of those adventures this summer.  We started off just going on a quick walk to the park and ended up jumping into one of the lakes in our clothes with wild abandon.  I took these shots with my iPhone!  I used the Instagram app on my phone to process some of these....I'm so in love with this app!  Check it out!










See what I mean?  Bliss. 

Savour these last weeks of Summer everyone!

xoxo
Jen

Monday, August 15, 2011

Hamburger Noodle Pleaser

You know when you read through a recipe and you get to the very end and there's a note about how that particular recipe would be just fantastic if you doubled it and froze one portion for "a later use"?  Yeah.  I often think to myself that that would be a wonderful and wonderfully practical idea but for some reason I rarely follow through with it.  Something about freezing main dishes and heating them up later just seems overwhelming to me.  I'm not sure why. Logically, I realize that makes no sense.  In the big scheme of life's overwhelming tasks freezing half of a casserole probably rates very low.  But still.

This is not one of those times.  A few weeks ago I actually made a big double batch of one of my most favorite casseroles and last night it was our dinner.  We had a lazy Sunday around here.  There was some cleaning and organizing to be sure but mostly it was just lolling around.  It was nice.  When dinner time rolled around it took us all by surprise.  It was then that I looked in the freezer in a desperate attempt to come up with something to feed my family. When my eyes rested upon the frosty casserole dish in the back I fell deeply in love with Jen From Three Weeks Ago.  The Jen that so conscientiously froze a yummy casserole for "a later use."  Jen From Three Weeks Ago rocks.  I heart her.

And now I am sharing this delightful little gem of a comfort food recipe with you.  Even the name just makes me tingle with delight.  This recipe originated from a lovely woman named Allison Wagner.  Allison Wagner is a friend of my BFF Lisa's.  I have never met Allison Wagner but I've heard nothing but good things.  Sometimes I think maybe she's not actually a real person but a mythical figure that represents all that is good and perfect about noodle casseroles.  I can't help but have a little girl crush on her.  Her casserole is just so damn good, how could you not?  You'll understand when you try it...and when you do, I highly recommend you follow through with the note at the end and freeze half of it for "a later use" like a lazy Sunday in your future.   I promise you that you will fall deeply in love with You Three Weeks From Now. 

Allison Wagner's Hamburger Noodle Pleaser
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Ingredients:

1 package softened cream cheese
12  ounces sour cream
1 lb. ground beef
3/4 cup chopped onions
1 clove garlic, smashed
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
pepper
2 15 ounce cans tomato sauce
1 16 ounce package extra wide egg noodles
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated

Directions:

Preheat oven 350.

Combine softened cream cheese and sour cream.

Cook beef, drain fat and add onion, garlic, salt, sugar, pepper, and tomato sauce. 
Cover and simmer on low for 20 minutes while you cook noodles. 
Layer half the noodles, cheese, meat sauce, then repeat layers and top with cheese. 
Bake until bubbly, about 30-45 minutes. 
Can be divided into 2 small casseroles and be frozen for later use. 

I fully intended to take a photo of the finished casserole for you but I was so excited to dig in that I completely forgot.   It's that good!


Enjoy!

xoxo
Jen

Thursday, August 11, 2011

When You Are Six

My little boy is not so very little anymore.  Six years old is quite big if you didn't know this.  When you are six you have a mouth full of missing teeth, you shout weird grown-up-ish phrases like, "Yeah, Baby!", and you no longer have any interest in hearing The Very Quiet Cricket over and over again before bed but instead, enjoy having the entire series of Harry Potter read to you and you ask intricate questions about plot and character development along the way.  It's mind boggling.

It's mind boggling because when you are six, your mother still has vivid memories of the extreme heat during those weeks of summer before you were born, and she can remember talking to you and calling you by name when you were still in her womb.  And the memories of the 26 agonizing hours it took to bring you into the world are still fresh.  Very fresh.  Trust me.  

How is it that there are 10 hour days spent with young children that seem to crawl and never end but then the years fly by at light speed?  I can literally recall the first time my boy laughed as though it was three days ago.  It's scary.  It's scary because if the first six years passed this quickly that means I could wake up tomorrow and he might be 12.  Noooo!

In honor of Mr. Man's very recent sixth birthday here is a list of my most favorite things about him:

1.  His amazingly blond blond hair.  He is my genetic proof to the world that I am a real blond.  Or at least I was once.   And his crowd stopping gorgeous green eyes.  Those are my proof to the world that I did not have an affair with the mail man and he is, indeed, my husband's son.

2.  His nurturing spirit and kind heart.  I overhear these tender moments between he and his sister that melt me.  He is the first to run to her side when she is hurt and is often the first to stoop down and teach her something new when she doesn't understand. 

3.  The look of genuine befuddlement on his face when his sister lashes out at him with irrational rage for no good reason.  He clearly doesn't understand women yet.  He gets that from his dad. 

4.  He still calls me "Mommy."

5.  When he says, "I think I just need to be snuggled."  He'll still do that when he's 17...right?

6.  He is wicked smart.  (I've been using "wicked" as an adverb ever since my trip to Boston..sorry.  I'll stop soon.)  He makes these amazing connections to the world around him and has an unbelievable mind for math.  And reading.  He looooves a good book.  He amazes me.

7.  He's still so blissfully innocent.  Although I'm starting to see hints of influence from the big bad world starting to creep in, he really is the purist of souls at the moment.  He has no idea that the world can be a horrible, painful place sometimes.  And that not everyone is going to love him or have his best interests at heart.  He has no idea that there are things like sex, drugs, rock and roll and pure evil.  He's just happy and loving and optimistic. 

8.  I can get him to do anything for a dollar.  It's awesome. 

9.  He's so easy to please.  He doesn't ask for a lot and is sincerely grateful when we get to go on a special trip or he gets a new little something.  He just likes to be around his dad and me.  That could be at an amusement park or in our own back yard-it's all the same to him.

10.  He's very responsible.  He never forgets to feed the dog or clear his plate.  He often reminds me of important dates-"Mommy, I have parent teacher conferences tomorrow night, don't forget.  And you have to sign my permission slip for the field trip by Friday, okay?"  Seriously.  That happened. 


At his party the day before his actual birthday.  He had 6 friends from his kindergarten class attend.  He was so genuinely happy.

The morning of his real birthday.  It's tradition that he gets chocolate doughnuts and strawberry milk for breakfast on his birthday.  This year we also added "Go Gurt" which is apparently a super cool thing to eat.  Yogurt in a tube...really? 


Happy Birthday my little man!  I couldn't love you more.  You are now officially forbidden from getting any older.  There will be none of this turning 7 business...do you hear me?!  Good.  That's settled.

With love,

Your Mama
xoxo

Friday, August 5, 2011

Long Overdue

Do they hand out Worst Blogger Of The Year awards?  If so, I will likely get nominated.  I was alerted by a few friends and loyal readers that it has been two whole weeks since I last posted. Wow.  Time flies-it really really does. 

I was trying to come up with some elaborate excuse tale about why I've been MIA for so long.  My computer was stolen in the middle of the night by Ninjas was a front runner but in the end I decided to go with the truth....so here it is.....*ahem*

I got an iPhone and I can't stop playing Angry Birds.  There.  I said it.

My name is Jen and I am an Angry Birds addict.  It has been 27 minutes since I last flung a bird at an infuriatingly stupid green pig.  I'm not proud.  I will not confirm or deny that in the last 72 hours I actually hid in my own closet to escape my children for a few uninterrupted minutes of bird flinging. Okay, it was 30 minutes but who's counting? I will also not confirm or deny that I possibly have stayed up until 1:30 in the morning three times this week because I could not rest until I cleared an entire chapter.  It's not pretty. 

I'm haggard and sleep deprived and filled with self loathing.   Any and all of the few spare minutes of free time I've gotten here and there that were once reserved for blogging and umm...bathing have been spent on those damn Angry Birds. Why are they so angry anyway? Why do they hate the pigs enough to go on suicide missions to eliminate them from the planet?  These are the questions that have been rattling around my head for the last few weeks. 

So now you know.  Are you happy?  Please help me.  I've hit rock bottom and I'm ready to admit that I have a problem. 

I feel better already.  Thank you.

I was able to carve out enough time to celebrate Mr. Man's 6th birthday a couple weeks ago.  I'll do an entire post on that later this weekend (I saw that-stop rolling your eyes!  I really, really will! I promise!  Pinky swear!) but here are a few sneak peaks...

I made it myself!  I rule.



Thanks for sticking with me if you're still checking in!  I promise to be a much better blogger from here on out.  :)

Have a wonderful summer weekend everyone,


xoxo
Jen
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