Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Best Christmas Present Ever

I can't believe Christmas has come and gone already and we are getting ready to start a new year.  And a new decade!  Life is passing by at warp speed and I don't see it slowing down anytime soon.  Where does the time go?

The boys were good this year so Santa brought them some special gifts.  Nicholas is so enamored with his new Nerf-N-Strike Stampede ECS blaster that he actually sleeps with it.   He carries it downstairs with him in the morning and every attempt to bring it to the breakfast table is met with, "please put the Nerf blaster down until you're finished eating."   He carries it upstairs, he carries it downstairs and he carries it everywhere in between. 

Christopher's puppy dog Pillow Pet fits in nicely with the other five or six puppies he has piled up on his bed.  Christopher is all about the puppies.  If our 10-year old dachshund actually paid any attention to him it would send him over the moon.   Unfortunately she doesn't so he is satisfied with the love he receives from his stuffed animals.  When he's sleeping and snuggled up with his Pillow Pet the content look on his face is priceless.

Other fun presents were found under the tree but I was as surprised as the boys to find that Santa left the Best Christmas Present Ever outside on the front porch Christmas morning.  As the boys eagerly tore open the huge plain brown boxes, each one found a Flexible Flyer sled and a note from Santa asking him to share his sled with mom and dad.

We love to sled and we have some great sledding hills by our house.  Over the years we've tried different sleds like saucers, foam sleds with slick bottoms and other plastic types.  While those sleds are OK and do the job, none of them is as good as the Flexible Flyer.  Made from birch wood and powder-coated steel, the Flexible Flyer lets us cruise down the hill at high speeds using the flexible steering bar for control.  While all the other novice sledders are crashing into burms, sledding backwards or flying off mid-hill, we sail by with complete control over our direction. Yes, I am now officially a sled snob.

These Flexible Flyer sleds are built to last so hopefully our kids will enjoying using these sleds with their kids one day.  The times we spend together sledding are some of my best memories and hopefully will be some of their best memories, too.  When we are out on the sledding hill we are enjoying each other's company, having fun and getting some much-needed wintertime fresh air.  We are also taking turns, encouraging each other and helping carry each other's load when someone gets too tired.  It's teamwork at its best. 

When I hear other people lament about how cold it is outside or how drab and dreary winter is here in Michigan I'm convinced they've never been to the sledding hill.  When you're sledding, you get to act like a kid again.  Kids don't pay attention to things like cold or dreary - they just have fun.  I rarely see anyone on the sledding hill who isn't having fun.

So, when life gets so busy that we can't even remember which day it is, we will take our sleds out and spend a few hours zooming down snow-covered hills.   Our only worry will be whose sled went the farthest.  In those few hours we will create special memories for years to come. 

Thank you, Santa, for reminding us that the best present is the gift of time spent together.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Year of Forgetting Things

I used to remember stuff.  In the good 'ol days I got by without a day planner, a Google calendar or email reminders.  I dashed between meetings while putting the finishing touches on projects and answered phone calls and instant messages at the same time without - get this - forgetting a single task!  I think back to the days when I used to juggle what I thought was an excessive amount of to-dos and got everything done in a timely manner.  Who was that girl?

That girl was obviously not a mom.  She had the advantage of pre-baby brain cells that were still multiplying.  No one tells you that after you have kids your brain cells diminish at a rate far faster than they used to increase.  In other words, you start forgetting things.

I remember being pregnant and forgetting things.  I blamed my forgetfulness on my hormones because everything was out of whack.  Then I remember taking care of babies and toddlers and forgetting things.  I blamed my forgetfulness on lack of sleep.  Now that my kids are both in school I am forgetting far more things than I actually remember.  What gives?

I write things down on the calendar and still forget.  Christopher had a soccer game that started at 10:00 am.  Both of my calendars and the official schedule hung on the refrigerator listed the game as 10:00 am but for some reason my brain was convinced the game was at 12:00.  Needless to say, Christopher's team was minus a player that day.

I received numerous emails from the media specialist at Nicholas's school reminding us about the Scholastic Book Fair.  I was told many times that Nicholas's class was shopping on Tuesday.  I remember reading all of the emails and thinking, Tuesday-book fair-got it.  Wouldn't you know that Tuesday came and went with nary a thought from me about the book fair?  I need more help remembering.  From now on, it's up to Nicholas to remind me when he's scheduled to shop at his book fair.  It obviously doesn't matter how many email reminders I get.

I have to continually apologize to Christopher's Kindergarten teacher because he doesn't bring in his library book or turn in his homework on the right day.  I chalked my forgetfulness up to getting used to our new school schedule, but it's well into December and I'm still forgetting.

I was especially upset at my forgetfulness when Nicholas auditioned for his school talent show.  I volunteered to help at the auditions so I signed Nichols up for a slot 1/2 hour after he got out of school thinking he could just walk down the hall to my volunteer table, change into a more presentable outfit and maybe have a few minutes for a quick practice.  I told Nicholas repeatedly not to get on the bus because I would just meet him at the school. Mark would pick Christopher up from his school and meet us for Nicholas's audition.  We all knew where we were supposed to be.  Everyone knew the plan. Or so I thought.

The one person I forgot to tell all this to was Nicholas's teacher.  Because she didn't have a note from me letting her know that it was OK for Nicholas to stay after school, she directed him to the bus - which was the right thing to do (I almost stopped at Nicholas's classroom before the bell but figured he knew what to do so why check in on him?) When he didn't meet me at my volunteer table, I assumed he got on the bus but it didn't dawn on me why until I saw her in the hallway and immediately thought - crap, I forgot to tell his teacher!  I called my neighbor to meet Nicholas at the bus stop, called Mark and rerouted him to pick up Nicholas after he picked up Christopher and head back to the school.  Nicholas's audition was at 4:30 and they managed to walk in the door at 4:25.  Whew

Nicholas didn't get to change his clothes or practice before his audition and was flustered from all of the miscommunication, but he handled himself with much grace under much pressure.  He rocked his audition and did it with a smile on his face.  I, on the other hand, was cursing myself for forgetting the most important detail of the day (I will never forget to tell his teacher about his after school plans again) and trying really hard not to cry.  Will this forgetfulness fog ever lift?

I could blame my absentmindedness on lack of Vitamin D or lack of sleep or some other malady.  But, the truth is, we all make mistakes.  I've made more mistakes in this Year of Forgetting Things than I care to admit, but I'm learning that I can't do it all.  I can’t volunteer or take the lead on every project or be in two places at once.  I have to learn to say no more often.

I've also decided that next year will be The Year My Kids Became More Responsible. In order for me to forget less I will hold them accountable more. I will let you know how all that goes, if I can remember.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Trust Your Instincts

I'm not sure how long it will take me in this lifetime to learn to trust my instincts, but let's just say I'm still working on it.  Hindsight being 20/20 I can see where my instincts or first impressions were usually spot on in the past, so I have concrete evidence of my ability to make a good decision.  But why do I fight those first impressions so hard?

After 41 years on this earth I've learned a thing or two about myself.  One thing I've learned that never, ever changes is that I have to make every project I undertake about 10,000 times harder than it has to be.  I am a glutton for punishment.  I must...MUST...spend inordinate amounts of time obsessing over minute details and internally debating my choices.  If I had to choose between two paths, one that said, "take this path if you trust your instincts and you'll finish faster" or the other that said, "take this path if you want to second-guess your decisions, change your mind 956 times, berate yourself and develop stomach ulcers," I will always, without fail, choose the second path.

We had some rooms in our house painted this week and choosing colors was hard.  Damn hard.  Every time I thought I narrowed it down, I noticed a color I hadn't seen before and started obsessing over that color.  For those of you who trust your instincts choosing paint colors would be no big deal because you would say, "It's only paint.  If you don't like it paint it again."   But we were paying someone else to paint so I pretty much had to nail down my choices or risk paying double for making a color mistake.  For a Type A, anal-retentive obssesor like me, choosing colors was more monumental than building the whole damn house. I wanted my choices to be right, perfect and flawless.

I had color swatches from Sherwin Williams, Benjamin Moore, Valspar and a host of others.  I plotted color combinations on my computer using Photoshop and compared magazine layouts to my rooms to determine whether or not I should use one or two colors, an accent color or some other faux-finishing technique.  I spent weeks (not days) going over every possible color combination.  I narrowed down my choices and felt confident until I asked for other people's opinions.  Big mistake.

Not that the opinions received were bad ones, it's just that other people have other ideas.  Not good or bad, just different.  I knew what I wanted my rooms to look like and I had an idea of colors in my head, but each time I saw another magazine article or listened someone else's advice, I started second-guessing my choices - which pushed the project back because I was tortured with indecision.

When I finally decided that enough was enough I chose the colors I was originally drawn to when I started this project.  If I had just trusted my instincts in the first place I could have saved some serious time and stomach pain.  I can't get those hours or minutes back, but I can mark this is a lesson learned. 

My rooms turned out beautifully. I couldn't be happier.  I made good decisions.  Maybe next time I can spare myself the stomach ulcers and shave a few weeks off of my project time if I remind myself that I don't need to obsess.  I don't need to chase perfection.  I just need to trust my instincts.

A girl can hope.


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