Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Oh My Bedbugs!

I would just like to state for the record: bedbugs bite. Really. They bite. And it's annoying! We're clean people. Our house gets messy because we have two young kids, a working husband and me who writes, takes care the kids, tries to volunteer in the school and spends time with the kids. It's a lot and sometimes the housecleaning gets shoved aside. But we aren't gross. We don't have piles of junk lying around and we're careful about the used items we bring into our home.

We bought a set of bunk beds after our last move and somehow ended up with a voracious case of bedbugs.  One infected bite landed me at the doctor's office for a prescription which I am apparently allergic to (the things you learn...) , which in turn landed me in the ER. It made for an interesting month.

Worse than that was sending my girls to school with bites on their arms and just feeling gross. We've finally (knock on wood) successfully nipped them in the bud. So, as someone who has experience dealing with bedbugs, here are a few tips to help you get rid of them before they take over your life:

Deny the presence of bed bugs: Ignore the fact that you brought new furniture into your new apartment and start blaming dust mites or allergies to the wood the new beds are made from. Stay in denial for at least a month before you actually start looking for bed bugs. Use a flashlight and look for the little creepers that like to hide in the seams of the mattress. On the plus side, don't expect a huge swarm of bugs, you likely won't find that.

Soak the buggers in alcohol:  It kills them and after you've been bitten a dozen times you will get a sort of satisfaction from wiping the little vipers from the earth. Note: you will walk around smelling like rubbing alcohol for weeks. Also, if you have wood beds the alcohol will stain the wood, which is of little consequence when you just want to sleep a full night without being noshed on by a bunch of blood suckers.

Wash all your fabrics and store them in the depths of despair: Go on Cinderella, put on your big girl pants and get to work. You'll have to wash ALL of your clothes, towels, bedding, curtains and stuffed animals. At the very least you'll have to roast them in dryers with temperatures high enough to melt gold. Don't forget to spray your drawers with alcohol before you put your clothes back in... just in case.

Note: Your clothes will all shrink because you aren't supposed to dry all of your clothes. So you'll either need to lose weight or buy new clothes. In which case, just chuck everything you ruined, it'll save you a bundle on having to buy those airtight storage bags.

You should only keep out a week's worth of clothes and towels. You'll be sick of seeing your kids in the same clothes after the first two weeks. So you suck it up, you only have a week to go.

Have someone spray your house three times:  The first two times you'll be convinced they've disappeared. So you start to pull out your clothes and such from those giant storage bags only to realize they were just hiding. So go back to step one and start over. Twice.

Rip the beds apart and dance on it's ashes: You'll finally realize that those wood bunk beds you bought have someone become home to a bedbug family. They have found the smallest crevices and moved in. It doesn't matter how many of their relatives you kill or how many times you are grateful your daughter peed the bed again so you can convince yourself you are washing the sheets AGAIN for a good reason, they'll come back. They don't die!

So with the mercy of Atilla the Hun you'll tear the beds apart limb from limb. Draw funny pictures all over them so no fool is unfortunate enough to think they scored a perfectly good bed from the trash can and celebrate as bedbug haven is relocated to trashville. Have your apartment sprayed one more time and continue paying for the brand new bunk beds that have made a home in the landfill.

If you are feeling particularly ambitious, you may consider buying stock in the laundry mat industry because you'll be spending a lot of time there.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Enjoying my Spoonful of Sugar

Photo via Inscrib'd
I had an experience the other day that changed my outlook on life a little. Our family is going through a bit of a rough patch right now, but really who isn't. The economy kinda stinks and there always seem to be too many bills. Some very kind people have offered help and we've graciously accepted what we need and people have generally been polite and very nice about everything.

And then... I found myself being screamed at by someone who had good intentions but wasn't very considerate of me or my time. I was called "ungrateful" and "rude." I can assure you I was neither. It's truly not in my nature to be like that. To make matters worse, my six-year old daughter was standing there watching this person go bonkers at me. She also witnessed my complete melt down after she left and quietly excused herself to another room.

Now, the situation has been handled and I was informed that there are some other issues that may have impacted this person's response, and while it was completely inappropriate, I can empathize with reacting emotionally rather than rationally.

As I was thinking about this incident I thought about how bad it made me feel. I didn't like feeling like less of a person because I am not. As I thought about this, I started paying attention to things I do, like getting testy at silly drivers on the road or groaning at the very long line at the pharmacy or feeling frustration at difficulties but not taking enough credit for my own contribution to the mess. And sometimes, I even judge people in my mind when I really have no idea what I'm talking/thinking about.

So, I decided to make a goal: I'm going to adjust my personality. When people are really friendly to me, I get a buzz or adrenaline. Good customer service makes me feel really good. But, I also noticed that when I'm truly friendly to someone, when I take the time to look at them and offer a genuine smile and a real "Thank you." It feels good. It feels good to be nice, to have the confidence to really pay attention to someone and acknowledge their helpfulness or their presence.

It may also be a little entertaining to see the shock flicker across someone's face when you are genuinely kind. I can't decide if it should make me laugh or cry when someone seems taken aback at kindness. Are that many people rude, or even just neutral?

More than anything, I want my girls to be happy and to be good, kind people. No matter how I'm feeling about myself of about how crappy things seem to be going, I feel good when I am able to lift someone else and for those few moments I actually feel content.

So, Piglet, thank you for the advice: "Sometimes the smallest things take up the most room in your heart."(Winnie The Pooh)

Friday, November 15, 2013

The Art of Driving (Me Insane!!)

Everyone who knows me would say I'm a nice driver, a patient driver, a forgiving driver. Not. I'll admit I get a tad stressed when I'm on the road. I'll be honest, I didn't even get my driver's license until I was 22 and the only reason I got my license was because I was getting married and there was no way I was getting married without a driver's license. It just didn't seem right. 

I've been driving for a while now and I've overcome some major obstacles. I learned to drive a stick shift (ask my sister how well I did when her head stops bobbing from all the jerks and stalls), adapted to driving in a bigger city and made it through last winter without keeping my kids home from school all winter simply because I LOATHE driving in the snow.

Now, I've only been driving for eight years but I've gotten through mostly incident free. I don't count the time I took a friends side-mirror off with a pole (it wasn't my car- so it doesn't count).  I also don't count the time I forgot there was a parking barrier in front of me (there was a road on the other side and I couldn't see the barrier from the driver's seat... plus I was tired from working out) and ended up straddling it like a turtle on it's back, when I gunned the car. 

As I was saying: I'm a mostly-incident free driver so I think I can safely assume I know some basic driving etiquette. Now, I understand that most road rules go out the door in the school parking lot but there should be some sense of "hello I have basic parking knowledge." It's a free for all when when that final bell rings. So I'm generally forgiving (or I at least mutter under my breath) when a car drives the wrong way through the parking lot (it's marked by arrows, hello!), parks in a handicapped spot or darts across the front of my car like a jackrabbit and expects me to stop on a dime. But, I don't forgive parking spot hogs. 

There are a limited number of parking spots at the school. It's like winning a lottery to snag a spot. I have to get to the school 10 minutes early on a sunny day to get a spot and in the winter- I show up 30 minutes early (note that I hate driving in the snow so I take my time). How hard is it to park your car in ONE spot. When you get out of the car and notice you are sitting squarely in two spots, it's time to hop back in and repark. 

I was sorely tempted to write a thank-you note to the guy hogging two spaces after I rolled around the parking lot three times waiting for spot to magically appear but I didn't have a piece of paper, plus I wasn't feeling very kind and you know what Thumper always says... "If you can't say something nice..." 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

A Special Kind of Crazy

My life is a special kind of crazy. Today I needed to get my youngest into the shower. Usually, she loves taking a bath. She'll play in the tub for hours. There are days she begs for three or four baths. But, seeing as we were running late for preschool, a quick shower was on the menu. After several minutes of begging her to "please take her clothes off," I tossed her over my shoulder, tickled her feet and headed back to the bathroom.

I managed to wrangle her shirt off when my oldest, who is home from school with a sore throat, called for my attention. In the 30 seconds it took me to look around the corner and address her, my four year old managed to put her shirt back on. It was inside out and backward, but it was on and she was happy. She then darted between my legs and back into the living room.

It's hard to get mad when she's laughing. So I tackled her, tickled her and told her if she didn't come voluntarily we'd get in the shower fully dressed. This seemed to amuse her, and I actually don't think she believed I would do it. So I tossed her over my shoulder (again) and walked her straight to the bathroom. Needless to say, she was more than happy to strip for her shower.

I was thinking about this, rather typical occurrence, I realized my family is a special kind of crazy. Our favorite friday night activity is pulling the mattresses out of our bedrooms and camping in the living room. Just the other day we spent well over an hour shooting each other with nerf guns and playing "Don't throw me in the hot lava."

Our car trips typically consist of listening to the "Now That's What I Call Disney" album (usually the same four songs over and over), a myriad of "Are we there yet," and "Stop yelling or I'm going to stop this car and we'll go straight back home." It's not always pretty, but it's always pretty awesome. It's just that sometimes the awesome sort of looks like an unbelievable disaster.

I watched this video on YouTube today and I laughed so hard I was crying. Why? Because quite honestly, I think he sums up life as a parent much better than I ever could.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Do you see what I see?

I ran into a charming ( I use that term very lightly in this case) gentlemen tonight when I took my girls to play on the McDonald's Play Place . As I was standing in line to grab a snack, I could hear quite a few shrieks from the play area. No big deal, it's a playground for kids. The guy in front of me huffed and puffed every time a particularly loud shriek rang out. My first thought was that he must not have kids.

And then my four-year-old came prancing out with her pants half down on her way to the bathroom. Now, I realize this isn't sanitary, appetizing or particularly appropriate behavior. Believe me I know. She knows. The whole family knows. Once when she was three, she even disappeared on me in the library only to show back up a few minutes later pants completely around her ankles. I was so proud that she went to the bathroom on her own that I sucked up the embarrassment. But now, she's almost five so really she needs to stop dropping trou all the time.

I leaned over and firmly told her to keep her pants up, she's a big girl and she needed to keep her pants up on her way to the bathroom. The guy in front of me (Sir. Moans and Groans), snickered and then commented that his kids used to do that (my bad for my initial mis-judgement.) I commented that it was something we were working on, to which he replied: "Yeah. I've learned that most of the faults kids have are a result of their parents."

I was little taken aback. I mean, do I honestly look like the kind of girl who drops her drawers in the middle of a restaurant as I head to the bathroom? I should hope not. And then I thought, that was a little cynical... wasn't it? But as I pondered his seemingly insulting comment, I realized he had a point, except I'm not sure if it's the one he was trying to make.

I think I apologize for my kids too much. I mean, they are kids after all. Am I shoving "faults" or bad behaviors on their head simply because I see what they are doing as unacceptable from an adult's perspective. Obviously, I don't condone seriously inappropriate behavior and I do believe children should be taught manners and how to behave.

But, how often are we guilty of quickly getting out kids to button up and shut up because we worry what other people think? Kids will do silly things, things that may embarrass us but otherwise cause no harm. I think for me, the lesson was do I need to be correcting their behavior all the time? No. If they are a little loud in the library I don't need to walk behind them hissing for silence. Kids are kids. They are allowed to be a little loud, a little messy and a lot of fun.

I want my kids to grow up to be normal, fully-clothed adults. But I don't want them to grow up to be uptight and overly concerned about pleasing everyone around them. Maybe, the faults in my kids aren't really faults, just a result of blind parenting.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

My Little Drama Queen

I am directionally impaired. To utilize an old cliche: I couldn't find my way out of a paper bag. Seriously, I still get lost at church and I'm there every week. (To be fair, the building is a ridiculous maze of hallways). So driving new places, especially at night, makes me a little tense. Last night my daughter had a skating party at a fun center I'd never been to before. Add in the fact that it was at 5:30 p.m. and I knew the area it was in well enough to know that traffic was going to be insane, and you have a recipe for an Angela Surprise.

The night started out so well. We got on the road, I was getting through the traffic with only a few honks and muttered words under my breath. And then, I realized I was lost. I thought I was going the right way, so I was focusing on not dying in the mad rush of traffic and not paying attention to the street signs. Turns out, I had gone just a few blocks too far, not a big deal, but traffic was nuts and I was stressed. So I turned quickly, thinking I would be able to find a street that cut off and take me where I needed to go with little fuss. Not so. I drove for another 15 minutes before I finally pulled over and yanked out my GPS. Mind you, I had already been hollering at anyone that cut me off or tried to talk to me for the last 10. My poor kids.

In total the trip took about an hour, when it should have taken 25 minutes. And.... the mood was set. The kids had a good time skating and climbing through a gargantuan play area. I had a good time averting a migraine, sneaking in a game of skee ball and people watching. When it was time to go, it got ugly. "Wait," you say. "But, the trip there was ugly, surely going home couldn't have been worse." But, you'd be wrong.

I am pretty aware that my oldest is a little bit of a drama queen. She's one of the sweetest kids and really well behaved....except sometimes she's not. I'm grown up enough to admit that while I think my kids are the most amazing kids on the planet, they have their faults. And I'm also willing to admit they get a few of those faults from yours truly.

After letting her skate around "three" more times (read about 12 more times) I finally got her shoes on. She suddenly decided she wanted to jump on one of the bouncy houses "just once." I firmly replied that we needed to get home so she could finish her homework and go to bed. Of course she kept arguing, this wouldn't be a good story if she didn't. She tried to make a run for it after I refused to pay $3 for her to jump just one time. Fortunately the guy guarding the entrance was the size of a linebacker and she decided not to try and swindle her way past him.

The entire time we walked out she kept muttering the traditional "You don't love me. This isn't fair. But my friends..." I've heard (and used) those complaints enough to just tune them out. By the time we got to the car she wasn't speaking to me. (To be quite frank and probably a horrible mother... I was a little relieved. Tuning out the complaints was getting a little wearing and I didn't want to get mad at the kids after I'd let out my lost-driver induced hail of crankiness earlier).

As we drove I turned the radio up to relieve a little stress and an oldie, but goodie came on.  Green Day's Time of Your Life. I crooned along with it and as the last words faded out (I hope you had the time of liiiiife...) I heard my drama queen in the back mutter, "Well, I didn't."

Fortunately, I'm pretty good at making me kids not hate me any longer than necessary and she even told her dad how fun it was when we got home, completely editing out the ugly parts. The way I figure it, when you cut out the ugly part of most days it's a lot easier to see how good it really was, because the ugly parts are only parts and usually not very big ones at that.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

What's the Difference?

I was watching Biggest Loser the other night, and I thought, what do they have that I don't? How are some of these contestants able to lose over 100 pounds and keep it off? As my personal trainer was kind enough to point out, they have: 8 hours a day of pure exercise, a strictly monitored diet, no distractions and little else to do but work.

Working out for 8 hours is not only impossible for most people, it isn't particularly desirable either. Now, offer me $100,000 and I may sing a different tune. The day after my training sessions I normally wake up sore. Really sore. I work out with my trainer for 30 minutes and then add another 30 minutes of cardio. I cannot even begin to comprehend how sore I would be if I had to do it for even four hours a day. I guarantee I would not be able to roll off of my bed, much less walk myself back to the gym and hop on the elliptical again.

My husband and I are both trying to lose weight, so we've come up with this plan to do a Biggest Loser challenge together. The contest is going to run for about 12 weeks, enough time to lose a pretty good amount of weight and roughly enough time to get our tax returns back (we file pretty early). Hello cash prize.

We are not well off by any means, so the promise of a $500 prize for the biggest weight loss in 12 weeks is sufficient motivation for me to get up and get moving. I have already informed my trainer of this challenge and he's more than willing to hop on board and help me win.

I'm only going to have an hour a day to work out. I have a lot going on. But, I really am going to have to think a lot more about what I am putting in my mouth. I've already learned a lot but I'm sure I'll learn a lot more. It's also quite possible I will be writing some of my posts in a pasta/bread-free haze so you may have to ignore any lunatic rantings result.

I feel like I've been down this road a dozen times. I start and I don't finish. But as my girls get older I see them forming similar eating and behavioral habits and I really want to put a stop to it while they are still young enough to forget the torture of sugar withdraw.

Every week my husband and I will have a different challenge and we'll need to journal about our journey in some way. Welcome to my journal. I need your help too! If you have any motivational stories, tips and recipes, please share them!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Let your Conscience be your Guide

Today I dropped my youngest off at preschool. As I left, I had this plunging feeling in the pit of my stomach. It's a feeling with which I am very familiar. Guilt. As I was driving home to work, I had the thought that of all the human emotions, I think I can honestly say I predominantly feel guilt. Not happiness or sadness or anger.

I feel guilty when I have to work and my kids want my attention. I feel guilty when I'm playing with my kids and not getting more work done to help pay our bills. I feel guilty that I am struggling so much to lose the weight that I know needs to get gone. And I feel even worse that my kids are picking up my eating habits. Much to my chagrin I feel guilty when I drop them at the gym playroom so I can work out with my trainer. Then I spend the first half hour after they go to bed feeling like I didn't do enough.

I like to think that perhaps this guilt is just a normal part of being a mom. That maybe I'm just one a regular mom trying her darndest to make her family function, and then feeling responsible when life isn't perfect.

I read an article in Glamour magazine today about recovering from a breakup. I thought it was interesting because the author talked about how we have to really accept the loss. We have to embrace the heartache and move on. I think to some extent, guilt is the same way. If we hold on to needless guilt it keeps us from moving on.

For the longest time if someone asked me what I felt the most guilty about, I would share this story: When I was in ninth grade (believe me, it's long enough ago to make the fact that I still felt guilty about this pretty darn ridiculous) I was asked to a dance by a boy I really liked. Really really liked.We'll call him Bob. So of course I told him yes. However, my family had a rule: no dating until 16. And I wasn't 16.

I was too afraid to tell Bob that I couldn't come, and too afraid to even ask my if I could go. The whole night of the dance I stared at the clock and my stomach stayed clenched in knots the entire time. The next day I tried to talk to Bob but he just ignored me. I later found out he stood around waiting for me most of the night. Bah. Even as I write this I get a little clench in my stomach.

Fast forward to last year and I happened to find Bob on Facebook (oh wonder of technology). I still felt so guilty that I sent him a note of apology for an event that happened 15 years previous. Not surprisingly, I didn't get a response. But, much to my surprise, I did feel better.

I think as moms there are things that we should feel guilty about. Guilt motivates us to make better choices and to focus more on the important things. But feeling guilty when we do things that are necessary, especially when we really are doing our best, is pretty silly.

When we learn to embrace the guilt, look at it and decide whether it is important enough to dwell on or not, we will learn to find more balance in our lives and spend less time wasting away on pointless guilt and more time focusing on changing the things that need fixing.

That being said I'm off to spend time with my family as my own personal Jiminy Cricket is telling me to lay off the blogging and read my kids a story.

Monday, November 4, 2013

The Three Hotels of Disneyland

That I love Disneyland is no secret. I LOVE it. But, my kids love it too. We're always planning another trip. Our latest trip has been postponed but I'm still planning and dreaming.... and occasionally rewatching the vacation DVD to get my fill of the magic. One thing I love about Disneyland is staying at the resort.

You'll find a lot of budgeters arguing that you can enjoy the magic just as much, and at a lower cost, if you stay at a site off the resort. I'm sure you can enjoy the magic ALMOST as much. Personally, I don't want to risk it. I also don't mind that I may have to walk just a few minutes more to get to the gates than some of the offsite hotels. Strollers were invented for a reason.

The perks of staying at the resort are enough for to opt for one of the three hotels that are part of the Disney property. If you stay on site you get to enter one of the parks one entire hour earlier than guests who do not stay at the resorts. You can use this time to hit up some of the more popular rides and secure fastpasses.

If you are insane enough to go during a holiday when the parks are most likely to reach capacity (think Christmas week, Thanksgiving, Fourth of July...) resort guests do not get turned away even when other guests get turned back for full capacity (I imagine the resort built some sort of safety number to allow for maximum capacity with resort guests included...).

The hotels are nice. The cast members are even nicer. Quite frankly you will be hard pressed to find another hotel as close as these hotels are to the park with pools half as nice.

The hotels do cost more than you will spend at most of the offsite resorts, so if your budget is really tight one of these resorts may not be an option. That being said there are several off site resorts that are nice too, I'll discuss those in another post.

The three resort hotels of Disneyland and California Adventure:

Disneyland Hotel: 
This is my personal favorite. It has the classic Disney feel and as the original Disneyland Resort hotel, it should. The hotel was finished a remodel in early 2012. The results are stunning. The rooms are very nice, clean and comfortable. The headboards light up and the mattresses are insanely comfortable. A silly note, but one of my favorite parts of the room, was the retractable clothes line in the shower. It was super easy to use and provided a place to hang up wet swimsuits. Also, do not be afraid to pack up those shampoos and conditioners (they smell AMAZING) and its like taking a little piece of Disney with you when you go.

This hotel is very close to Downtown Disney. If you don't mind a little extra walking, stay in the Frontier Tower. This tower is behind the new pool area. If you get an upper level room with a view, it's totally worth it. You will be treated to a lovely walk back from the parks each night. The live music from Taradoga Terrace is relaxing and a great way to end your day. It literally feels like you are in another world.

Paradise Pier:
This hotel is priced the lowest of the three. The charming California boardwalk feel really is a lot of fun. The Paradise Pier is also home to my absolute favorite character dining, the PCH grill. This hotel is one tower, which is nice for getting around the hotel. Paradise Pier. The hotel features a little theater that plays kid's movies and an arcade as well as a roof-top pool.

Views of California Adventure are pretty awesome from this hotel and you are within very close walking distance of the Grand Californian, which has a private entrance into California Adventure. The rooms are a little larger here than at the Disneyland Hotel so if you need to bring a playpen, you will probably have a little more moving around room here. As with the other hotels on the resort property,  you get to use the private entrance at the Grand Californian to enter California Adventures.

The only complaint I have heard about this hotel is the elevators get pretty jammed in the morning and at night. You may need to plan a little extra time or be willing to take the stairs.

Grand Californian:
The Grand Californian is very high-end. If you want luxury, this is probably the hotel for you. The lobby is absolutely stunning. The dark wood interior is open and large. It really is beautiful. This hotel is the closet of the three to the parks and has a private entrance into Cali Adventures (any resort guest can use it). The Grand California hooks directly to downtown Disney, so the walk is really quite short. But, you will pay a bit more for the extra convenience.

The Grand Californian has a high-end spa as well as three pools and several restaurants. This is the only resort at Disneyland for which you can buy Disney Vacation Club points. The Grand Californian is the newest of the three hotels and the only one Disney actually built. The hotel was constructed in 2001. This hotel is pretty fancy and has a more adult feel. Younger kids may enjoy the other two hotels better (despite persistent attempts to convince our kids to give it a whirl they both enjoy the Disneyland Hotel and Paradise Pier too much to cave.)

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Thanks Giving Month

November is a unique month for my family. First: November is Epilepsy Awareness month. My youngest daughter was diagnosed with myoclonic seizures at 18 months. They are more commonly known as absence seizures. Fortunately they aren't nearly as severe as a grand mal seizure, but they have impacted her life and ours as well.

About a year ago this same little girl, fell out of our third floor apartment window. She was transported to the ER and spent three days in the hospital. By a miracle she was largely uninjured. She suffered a minor concussion, bruised lung and minor cracks in her spine. She has since fully recovered and hasn't had a seizure since the accident.

November is also the month of Thanksgiving. To me it feels especially relevant to our little family of four. We have so much to be grateful for this year. Despite a recent job loss, financial struggles, a cancelled vacation, the death of a family member and a seriously annoying case of bed bugs (brought in through a brand new mattress we bought), it's been a tough one. But, it's been a good year too.

We have so much. When I look at others who are not surrounded by helpful loving people, friends who care and family who offer what support they can, I realize that despite our trials we truly have been blessed. So I dedicate this November to my little angel. I truly am grateful for an entire month I get to count my blessings!!

What is one thing you are thankful for this year?