Thursday, January 31, 2008

My Word of the Day - Dawdle

Do you ever catch yourself saying something over and over? I'm not referring to phrases like "Go clean up your toys" and "Did you wash your hands?" Repeating yourself because the kids' ears aren't working and using words frequently are two entirely different things. What I'm talking about are those certain words in your own vocabulary that you fall back on and often don't even realize it. For example, during one of our trips back to Iowa while living in LA, I was told by a cousin that I often said "Dude" without realizing it. (That was before I moved back and regained my Midwest vernacular.)

Then the other day, I had a revelation… I say "dawdling" a lot. A lot. Usually directed at or about Miss M and Miss K. As in "Girls, quit dawdling and eat your dinner." "Girls, quit dawdling and get dressed." "Hurry up, you're dawdling." I'm certain DH could provide me a list of other words I use ad infinitum but I say this one so much that even I realized it. Did I mention that I say it a lot?

Do you know what your word is?

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Classic Car Calendar Contest results

Back in November, I made a plea for people to vote for my brother's car in a local radio station contest. I've been meaning to post a 'thank you' to everyone who voted, but I guess I let it fall through the cracks. When my brother showed up at Miss M's birthday party with the printed calendar in hand, I realized that I still hadn't let everyone know how he did! Here's the update: My brother was the top vote-getter. Thanks to everyone who helped make that happen.

DH helped my brother get the car to the photo shoot… classic car, convertible, December, snow, freezing cold. The car needed to be washed when it got to the warehouse. Some shots of the photo shoot taken from Dwyer's phone are posted on the Dwyer & Michaels website. Not the best pictures, but you get the idea. My brother's car is the first one on their webpage (the white Austin-Healey replica with the chickadee perched parade-style on the back.)

The calendars are now available and they turned out really cool. My brother's car ended up as July, surrounded by blue cases of Bud Light – plus one neon Bud light sign and a scantily clad girl.

Thanks again to everyone for voting!

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Today's RSVP Etiquette

Okay, I'm in desperate need of some input. I want to know if I'm being overly critical of something and hope for some feedback from other people.

Miss M just turned five and we were having a birthday party for her. For the girls' birthdays, we opt for a small gathering at home or a pizza place and invite immediate family plus a few friends. A few weeks before Miss M's birthday, we sent out invitations to everyone, including a note to RSVP.

The RSVP results:
Family let me know during regular conversations that they would be there. Check. The father of one of the kids is a friend of ours and knew about the party before I even sent out invitations. So his RSVP came before he even got the invitation. Check. No reply from the two preschool classmates. We had previously had a play date with one, so I called them after a week of no reply. They immediately apologized and said that the husband and child would be there. I didn't get a "Let me get back to you" response, so I genuinely think they were busy and forgot. I can accept that. Check. Then there's the last one. The family had opted not to have their phone number or email in the class directory so I could not call them. I asked the teachers to forward an additional note to the parents with my phone number in case the invitation was MIA. Still no response. The party came and went. No show. Ummm… yeah. Should have seen that one coming.

I realize that I invited someone that I didn't know, but our kids go to school together. Miss M was only allowed to select two classmates and she was dead-set on these two. The invitation didn't say "drop your kid off with us strangers and leave" and they didn't call to ask if they could stick around for the party. They were more than welcome to… I like being friends with the parents of the children my daughters play with. We tried to prep Miss M by telling her that (classmate) probably would not be attending because his mom had not called me.

When I talked to Miss M after the party to recap how much fun she had, she talked about who was there then said "I gave (classmate) a letter at school and asked him to come to my party. He didn't come. That makes me so sad." I consoled her and reminded her of the fun we had anyhow.

Am I being ridiculous in thinking this is unacceptable and rude? Is it normal for people these days not to RSVP? Maybe I should include a note in the future that says "If you don't RSVP by mm/dd/yy, then it's assumed you do not plan to attend." I'm annoyed but keep telling myself that some people are just inconsiderate.

What's your experience with RSVPs?

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

How Much We Love our Dogs

Have you ever thought about walking out onto your 4" snow-covered back porch, barefoot, in the middle of the night in nothing but your pajamas? The origin of that question will be clear in just a bit.

DH and I are definitely dog people. Shortly after moving to California in 1995, we adopted Blizzard, a beautiful male American Eskimo. We fell so much in love with the breed that we decided to adopt a female, Glacier, so that Blizzard had another dog for companionship. Eventually, we found ourselves getting involved in animal rescue – helping rehabilitate dogs in our home until they were ready to move on to a permanent family. We were limited by the animal control laws to only three pets so we would foster a dog, work with it and find it a home before taking in another. One dog had behavioral problems; another was just a wanderer that needed to be cleaned up and fed before being placed in a home. A third, a female Chow whom we decided to call Nestle, was a special case. In 1997, she was just a puppy when we found her running as fast as her little feet would carry her - straight down the middle of a busy road in Palmdale, California. We had just headed out to hit some yard sales, so it was very early and thankfully traffic was scarce. We drove as close as we could to her and I jumped out in a feeble attempt to grab her. Being the spring chicken that I was (ha!), she totally outran me. DH managed to safely get the car in front of her, threw it in park and jumped out to scare her off of the road. She got caught in a bush on the side of the road and we were able to wrangle her into the car. She had signs of having been abused by the man of her prior home; she wouldn't go near DH for months. Whenever he would stand up or raise an arm to pet her, she would cower in fear. It was a sad sight because she's a very gentle and loving creature. I never will understand how people can treat such caring and forgiving animals so cruelly.

When it came time to take Nestle to an adoption event, I decided I couldn't do it. We had worked with her long enough that I realized that WE were the perfect family for her. Because of the three pet limit, our days of fostering and rehabilitating were over… but it was all for the best.

We've been through a lot with our dogs. After many years of dealing with infertility issues, we had finally come to grips with the fact that our dogs were the only children we would ever have. (That was before we were blessed with Miss M.) Later, in 2004, Glacier had surgery to remove one of her eyes due to a tumor. We lost our first four-legged child, Blizzard, in December 2006. I didn't realize how incredibly hard that would hit me; it is still a difficult subject more than a year later. A few weeks ago, Nestle started having problems with one of her hind legs. She couldn't manage the flight of stairs so DH and I began to carry her up and down. It gave me flashbacks to all the time I needed to do that for Blizzard. But we love our dogs and we do what we need to. Nestle must have hurt it on something because she's finally started to put some weight on it and only needs help with the stairs about once per day.

Then the other night, during our regular middle-of-the-night doggie restroom break, Nestle slipped trying to come up the three stairs to the porch. Her front paws were on the top pulling with all her might. She looked like she was falling off the side of a building – so helpless and panicked. Immediately, I realized that I needed to go outside… onto the back porch… barefoot into 4" of snow… in the middle of the night… in nothing but my pajamas to help her. As I opened the door to go outside, she mustered just enough strength to make it up by herself.

Without hesitation, I gladly carried her up the flight of stairs to the bedroom.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Air is NOT Free

After reading the dictionary request that Heather made today, I laughed and mentioned it to my husband. Generally, I don't air my grievances with him on my blog but I agree that the "Duhsband" things he does or says are fair game… In our case, the act or statement is usually followed by me yelling "Don't teach the kids THAT." As I mentioned in my comment on her post, DH pointed out the other day that my newest threatening phrase is "Be careful what you say, you may end up as a blog post."

Case in point… today while I was eating lunch and trying to read the paper, DH decided to try to get the kids riled up. Sidebar. I just had an Aha! Moment… seems that DH gets into the most mischief with our girls while I am in the process of attempting to consume food. (No jokes on how often I'm actually consuming food.) End sidebar. The girls started giggling; I looked up from the paper and DH, who had been hovering near me, jumped away. I think he was putting rabbit ears on me. This continued for a few minutes, off and on. As I attempted to swat him away like a fly, he said "Hey girls, watch how I make Mom mad." He then proceeded to wave his hands all around my head hollering "Air is free! Air is free!" "Arrghh! Stop that! Don't teach the girls that!" Then in a sinister voice, he looks back at the girls (who are about to choke from laughing while eating their mac and cheese), says "watch this" and puts his finger in his mouth. I have two brothers and know full well that the finger-in-the-mouth motion requires immediate defensive maneuvers. Thank goodness I was wearing a sweatshirt that was baggy enough to pull up to cover my ears… while I was simultaneously yelling "DON'T teach the girls THAT!"

As he walked away, he said "I know; I'm going to end up being a blog post. Why don't you call it Air is NOT free."

And here we are. At least he's fun and knows how to be silly, so I really can't complain. He really is the best.

Funny Quote of the Day

Okay, I have to say thanks to Miss K's preschool teacher for the good giggle this afternoon. She obviously had a tough day at school because I received the following email from her:

This is a test. Please e-mail me back by Friday if you have not received this.

Poor thing. Anyone not receiving it isn't going to know that they're supposed to email her back because they didn't receive the notification to do so! Hope she gets as good a laugh out of it as I did!

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Play With Your Food

I generally try to keep my blog focused on personal, individualized content... but occasionally, something on another site strikes a chord and I just want to pass it along.

When DH forwarded me a link to the Evil Mad Scientist site demonstrating how to make edible googly eyes, I was in awe. In a few years, my kids will be doing the whole Girl Scout thing as well as needing cool ideas for school treats so learning some of these tricks may come in handy in the future.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Buy A Pillow, Get a Storage Bag

A few weeks ago while at TJ Maxx, I finally broke down and bought a new set of pillows for our master bed. I love them, I was just too cheap to get new ones when the prior pillows lost all their umph.

I put them on the bed after buying them, but kept the zipper bags that they came in - just in case I decided something was wrong with them and I wanted to return them. Since I'm such a good housekeeper, they continued to sit on the floor until today. When I picked them up to figure out what to do with them, I realized they were about "yay" long - pretty close to the same size as a roll of gift wrap. Completely curious if this pillow holder was destined for the holiday stack, I headed to the basement and pulled the gift wrap off the top shelf. Sure enough, I was able to fit all the rolls we had on the shelf in the bag and still have room for several more.

Then I realized that whenever I get some kind of household item that comes in one of those heavy duty zipper bags, I always manage to find a use for the bag!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Day 1 of the 100 Day Challenge

Today is the first day of the 100 Day Challenge, part of "Live Healthy America." Although I go to the gym regularly, I'm seriously overweight so I felt compelled to sign up for the program. As part of a 5 person team, I'm hoping that I'll be motivated to attend more classes and develop a better fitness routine. I signed up for the gym's (free) wellness program and will begin that on Monday. Ultimately, I want to lose some weight. For the 100 day challenge, I think it's reasonable to drop about 15 pounds, but I'm certainly not going to put that on paper anywhere. Umm, anywhere else, I mean.

I have no self-control when it comes to sweets; I just love them. To further complicate matters, food is my outlet for when I'm bored, frustrated or whatever. That's one of the reasons I so adamantly attend classes at the Y… to compensate. Maybe this challenge and some supportive teammates (and one very supportive and loving DH) will help me get focused on planning better meals and eating right.

Today, I did an hour of Leah's cardio/strength challenge class followed by 45 minutes of Pilates. I've been a little under the weather, but I still survived both classes. It's only the third time I've done Pilates so I totally get my butt kicked in what I previously thought was a laid-back exercise class. At least by doing the cardio class first, I can tell myself that I'm just tired because of that.

I'm actually very excited about the whole program and simply wanted to share my commitment. Good luck and best wishes to anyone else participating in the "Live Healthy America 100 Day Challenge" program. Please be sure to post a comment if you're participating so I know who to cheer along!

Friday, January 11, 2008

How Much are Your Prescriptions?

That sounds so much like a commercial, or spam, that I should probably rethink the title. Nah, it's better than my first title "Are you paying too much for your prescriptions" because that definitely sounded like the beginning of an advertisement. I assure you, it's not an ad or even a lead-in to a product commentary… it's just another trick-of-the-trade for saving a little cash.

Last night, while having dinner with my parents, my mom mentioned that she's paying $14 per month for a prescription (through Medicare, I think) and was disappointed that she couldn't fill it for more than one month at a time. I mentioned that if she disregarded her insurance, she could get a 90 prescription and probably save some money. Then I started having flashbacks to my quest to pinch pennies while living in Los Angeles.

Before moving back to Iowa, my insurance plan stated that I would pay a $10 copay for each 30 day prescription. Since I take thyroid medicine daily, I was locked into a monthly expense that frustrated me. Being thrifty, I would find the latest "Transfer your prescription" coupon offer available and take advantage of it. Typically, Albertsons, Ralphs, Vons and Target were my go-to places with an occasional CVS, Rite Aid or Walgreens thrown in. Each month, I would transfer my prescription to the next store and get the advertised bonus of anywhere from a $10 gift card to a $25 gift card. The little extra work in planning, coordinating and driving, was justified in that I was getting a free gift card to spend on groceries or whatever each month. On months where DH or the kids had prescriptions, the total on the gift card was very nice. Unfortunately, they started putting restrictions (such as couldn't have ever had that type of prescription at that location before) on the coupons so I wasn't able to take advantage of it every month unless I wanted to increase the distance I was willing to drive. At least I was saving every once in a while now and it was good while it lasted.

Then again... there's nothing quite as ego-deflating as figuring out that you're not getting the best deal out there. Before we moved back from Los Angeles, I wanted to get our prescriptions refilled so it would be one less thing to worry about during the packing-and-moving-cross-country-trek-and-unpacking-settling- in-chaos that was about to ensue. Our insurance was no longer active, so I was looking for the best rate on prescriptions – online or B&M – to save a little money. I was absolutely sick when I realized that I could have gotten the prescriptions much cheaper all along by not using my insurance. My $10/month copay (and related cheapskate song and dance) could have been traded for what's behind door #1… just buying my prescriptions outright. For one specialized prescription that was costing more than $10/month even with insurance, I was able to get a 90 day prescription for $24 through the pharmacy at Sam's Club. Hmmm…One trip every 3 months to a store I would typically shop at anyhow and save money. Although I had done okay with the transfer coupons, in hindsight, I felt like an inside joke between the folks at the insurance company and the pharmacies. "Ha ha, look how much she's paying for her prescriptions and she thinks she so smart transferring from store to store. What a sucker!" Sucker indeed. My regular thyroid prescription would be $12.95 for a bottle of 100. When we kept researching, we talked to the pharmacist and found out that if the doctor rewrote the script for one of our medications (changing it from 1 pill per day to 2 pills per day of a smaller dosage), we would save significantly. As I mentioned in my blog about saving on bloodwork, it really helps to learn about your medications and treatments so you be an informed patient and save money, as well.

As it turns out, you don't even have to be a member of Costco or Sam's Club to utilize their pharmacies. I called Sam's this morning to find out how much my mom's prescription would be without insurance and was told $4.90 for a 30 day supply or $14.70 for a 90 day supply (compared to $14/month with insurance.) So I ask again - how much are your prescriptions? Try calling your local Sam's Club or Costco pharmacy and ask for a quote and see if you would be saving money by NOT using your insurance card next time.

Ah... maybe I should retitle the post "Does your insurance company laugh at you too?"

Monday, January 7, 2008

Enjoying a Good Iowa Steak

I grew up in Iowa and took for granted that steaks are pretty tasty. When I moved to Los Angeles, I realized that not all steaks are created equal - if you wanted a good steak in LA, you really needed to find the nearest Ruth's Chris or Morton's. Granted, there are other steakhouse chains that had decent steaks, but to truly understand what a great steak is, you just need to fly to Iowa and experience it for yourself.

For Christmas one year, my mom and dad actually purchased a freezer for us so we could have an Iowa side of beef shipped to us. About that time, I (finally) got pregnant and beef was absolutely on the bottom of my list of tastebud pleasers. In fact, I had a tough time with many meats and significantly reduced the amount I consumed of each. My poor brain continually tried to remind me that I'm not a vegetarian but pregnancy tastebuds will win every time. Needless to say, we didn't place that order for the Iowa beef. It didn't come up in discussion again until we started talking about moving back.

So what do you think we did our first summer back in Iowa? I talked to my Mom/Dad and brother/SIL and they agreed to let us become equal shareholders in their annual beef purchase. The freezer got stocked with lots and lots of delicious corn-fed Iowa beef. We opted to go for just the main cuts - roasts, round steaks, T-Bones, porterhouse, ribeyes… mmm…ribeyes with everything else arriving in lean ground beef or patties. The nice part of going direct to the locker (read: slaughterhouse) is the luxury of requesting all the steaks cut to your specifications (for us that meant thick) and having the round steaks seriously tenderized. Since order #1 went over so well, we placed another order this past summer and split a side with my folks (the owner found a buyer for the other side.)

DH is the grill chef of the family and we were both perfectly happy every time a plain ol' steak came off the grill. It was such an improvement over what we had been eating in California that nothing needed to be done to make them taste good. I'm not sure what compelled him to search for recipes/techniques or if he just stumbled upon it, but he found a post titled "How to Turn Cheap Choice Steaks into Gucci Prime Steaks" on the Steamy Kitchen blog. You absolutely have to read her post because I'll never be able to explain all the technical aspects of it and, as a bonus, she's a hoot. To paraphrase, you salt the steak A LOT for about an hour before cooking it. The result is a very tender, slightly salty steak that doesn't need to be slathered in A-1, 57 or any other letter/number combination steak stuff. Unfortunately, you may find that you want steak on the menu more often.

Since discovering the recipe, we've used this technique about 30 times and shared it with anyone who will listen. Basically, depending on the thickness of your steak, you adjust the technique slightly. Our steaks are typically 1¼" so we heavily salt each side and let it sit on the counter for one hour. This is a perfect amount of time because we've found that a steak should be allowed to rest (come to room temperature) for about an hour before grilling it anyhow. We had a few opportunities to try it on ¾" cuts and decided that it was best to only salt one side of the steak in those instances. After the rest period, thoroughly rinse the steak off and pat it dry before sending it off to the grill.

During these winter months when we're freezing our tails off, shoveling snow or simply not enjoying the subzero wind chill, I remind myself that Iowa does bring some advantages with it… then I head to the freezer to pull out a steak.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Always Room to Learn Something New

Late last night, I was monkeying around with FeedBurner to change my RSS feed. I spent quite a bit of time reading about Atom, RSS and XML. Found out about a ton of different RSS reader services (I personally use Google Reader and love it), and generally experimented with some changes to the blog. FeedBurner has a bunch of fancy features and I'm excited about learning what it has to offer.

I tried changing the template around some, too. There were a few bumps in the road that needed to be smoothed out, but I think (we) eventually got there. What resulted was a long conversation with DH about my blog and the technical aspects behind the RSS feed. It was an enjoyable conversation and I actually felt like my brain was working. Being a SAHM, I don't get a lot of deep thought-provoking technical issues to deal with. The blog has been an opportunity for me to really push myself to learn something new. And thank goodness that DH is sharp when it comes to computer stuff. What he doesn't know, he reads about and quickly absorbs. Tech Support available just one room away for all those times when I goof things up on my computer.

I'm learning, little by little, and that's what counts. Eventually, when I decide I want to return to work, I won't feel like I spent the child raising years eating bon bons and watching information and technology pass me by. Thanks DH for all your help and encouragement!

PS: This is my first new post since switching to the FeedBurner RSS - hope it makes it to everyone safe and sound!

Friday, January 4, 2008

RSS Feed - Heads Up

I'm in the process of trying to implement FeedBurner (yet another member of the Google family) and am about to change my settings. It's my first attempt at such a customization so I'm crossing my fingers that it works!

If everything goes well, you shouldn't see any interruption! Otherwise, grab the new RSS feed link.

Thanks for subscribing!

A Reason to Watch Commercials

My DVR currently has 27 programs set to record "regularly". They aren't all shows that I watch; WordWorld and Super Why are for the kids. The main thing the DVR has done is get me hooked on more shows than I ever watched before. During the regular season, I record new shows to see how I like them. Chuck and Journeyman are my most recent additions – while others like K-Ville became victims of my delete key. I save other new shows like Bionic Woman for the rerun season. If I decide I like it, it will get added to the queue. Each year - Lather, rinse, repeat. Yeah, that strategy is how we got up to 27 so easily. Thankfully, shows like The Shield and The Amazing Race have short run periods. And Lost seems to have been, well, lost, for quite a while. Some shows like "Fore Inventors Only" and "Everyday Edisons" are up there just in case they have another season. Oh wait, Cold Case only records so that I don't miss The Amazing Race when it runs late because of football.

I enjoy being able to record a show and watch it at my leisure, regardless of whether I plan to fast forward through the commercials. In the beginning, it was simply so I could watch shows in their entirety – something that previously only occurred when the kid(s) went to bed AND stayed asleep. My first reaction when we got the DVR was "thank goodness for the pause button" because I could run upstairs to check on the kids if I heard a peep. Now that I'm addicted to the friggin' gadget, I'm not quite sure how I watched TV before.

I have the DVR and fast forward at my disposal and what do I do? I go to the computer to voluntarily watch commercials. Boy, that sounds pathetic. In actuality, it just proves I'm cheap. The reason I watch commercials on my computer is to get free stuff – in this case, free magazines. If you're curious what I'm referring to, check out AdPerk. Their current list of free magazine offers is Ode, Good Housekeeping and Popular Science but their "Coming Soon" list boasts heavy hitters like Smart Money, Cosmopolitan and Marie Claire.

How it works – you select your magazine of choice, pick from a list of potential commercials, "watch" them then punch in a validation code when it ends. They range in length and have various values associated with each commercial. You can pick products that interest you or just shoot for the highest valued commercials. After you have watched a designated total, the subscription is yours. Their list of commercials was pretty small when I did my last two subscriptions (several months ago) so I ended up watching some for things I had no interest in. I'm not sure if the selection has improved at all but I did find some interesting products in the mix. I figured it was worth watching a few commercials to get a free magazine subscription and I was saving the time by fast forwarding through some on the DVR.

And yes, the magazines do come – my first Good Housekeeping just showed up the other day (the inspiration for this post) and I noticed that DH's Popular Science has another year added on to it. If you're looking for an easy way to add to your magazine library, give AdPerk a try.

If you know of other programs like this, post them in a comment so I can check them out!

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Watch Milk Come Out of Mommy's Nose

Miss K can be a pistol sometimes. No matter how long we play with her, the minute we're done, she asks "Do you want to play with me?" When we tell her "Not right now, honey, we just got done playing with you." She sulks away muttering "Nobody is going to play with me" or "Who's going to play with me?" It's actually a really sad sight and sometimes works – which is why she continues to use it. Note to my future self: beware the teenage years when she has the whole guilt-trip thing mastered.

As soon as we got home from the gym today, DH and I each got something to eat. Sometimes exercising makes me hungry and today was one of those days. No sooner do we sit down to eat when Miss K starts up her "play with me" macro. My mom had just called to tell us she was in the neighborhood and wanted to stop by. So I said to Miss K "Why don't you go stand by the door and see if anyone talks to you over there." I figured my mom would be arriving within a few minutes so it would work out. To our surprise, a few minutes later, Miss K shouted out to us "Nobody's talking to me here, either!" Thank goodness I was in-between bites because it totally cracked me up. DH was not so fortunate – I thought he was going to laugh his lunch out.

At dinner time, the three kids (Miss M, Miss K and DH) were being ornery, in a fun kind of way. He kept getting them all giggly and when I wasn't looking one time, did who knows what to make it worse. I'm usually pretty uptight about dinnertime because the girls take way too long to eat and it drives me crazy. Tonight was a nice change to that. Miss M and DH were showing each other their teeth and Miss K joined in. I'm happy to report that nobody's mouth was full… except mine. So when Miss K asked me to show her my teeth, I covered my mouth and mumbled "I have food in my mouth." I tried to chew quickly and just as she started to say "When you're done eating…" I reached over and picked up my glass to drink. Without losing a beat, she restarted her sentence with "When you're done drinking…" It doesn't sound that funny on paper, but when we were sitting here, having a 3 year old switch so quickly to rephrase just tickled me. I had so much trouble swallowing that mouthful of milk that DH chimed in with, you guessed it, "Hey girls, watch milk come out of Mommy's nose." He was sooo close to right. I guess I deserved it for laughing at him at lunchtime.

She's on a roll and I pray that she doesn't figure out that her whimsical little comments crack us up or we'll never be able to eat around her again!

Our Very Own Igloo

During the summer months, when I step out on my back deck, I see two trampolines, three swing sets and an inflatable water slide in neighboring yards. This past summer was the first time we felt the girls were old enough to play by themselves in the yard, so we spent some time trying to figure out what yard gear we should invest in. During a visit to see MIL in Alabama, we stopped in the Costco and found the coolest jungle gym – the perfect size for the girls. MIL purchased it, we brought it home with us, assembled it and watched the girls climb like monkeys. Here's a picture of MIL playing with Miss K during one of her summer visits.

It hadn't been in the yard very long before DH's brain started churning. He said "It will make a cool igloo this winter." I thought he was joking at the time, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized he was right. It WOULD make a cool igloo. Personally, I've always thought it would be neat to have my own igloo!

We had our first major snowfall and were not prepared for it. Our friend Mr. Jason lent us one of his tarps after we mentioned our plans. DH and I bungied it down and waited for the next major snowfall…

And one more snowfall made it complete!

The weather is so cold right now that the kids haven't been able to enjoy it, but at least we have our own igloo now!

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Back on Track at the Gym

When we signed up at the gym a year and a half ago, I never expected it to last. I signed up because I was tired of being overweight and out of shape. As I mentioned in a previous post, the weight gained as a result of having undiagnosed hypothyroidism, umpteen years of varying levels of infertility treatments, pregnancy (thankfully) and related chaos, had just become too much for me. I was unhappy and I figured the gym was a good starting point. Even if I only stuck with it a short time, I had decided that every minute I was at the gym was better than an equivalent minute sitting on my tail side watching TV or vegging at the computer. It was also a better alternative than snacking on something in hopes of feeling better. What I discovered is that exercising actually makes me feel better and my time at the gym has become exactly that, my time.

But with the holidays, things got hectic (preaching to the choir, I'm sure). I helped in the classroom or shuttled kids for a field trip. I needed to get Christmas stuff done or stayed up too late watching a movie. Oh yeah, there was also a spell of really crappy Iowa weather that made me want to stay in bed all day. What resulted was a two week hiatus that, surprisingly, frustrated me. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, but who would have ever expected that to hold true for something like working out at the gym?

Today was my first day back since a week before Christmas and I couldn't be happier. It was a difficult workout, as usual, but that's the way I like it. Leah, the instructor, encourages us to work at our own pace… whatever that may be. I worked as hard as I could without overdoing it.

Even after a year and a half, I'm still out of shape but at least I have some muscle-tone now. I feel better about myself and have realized that the scale doesn't tell the whole story. I also am stronger and more confident than before and must be emitting that vibe. For the first time in I don't know how long, (maybe ever) my brother didn't make any attempt to steal my garlic bread at this year's Christmas dinner.