Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Every Day's a Good Day When You Have Friends Like Mine

There's so many times in my life where I sit and dwell on the negative because something broke in the house or something didn't go my way at work. I don't like that I do it, but I do. But it's days like today - and friends like Jake - that remind me time after time to refocus those thoughts on all the great things I do have. Especially the people I have in my life.

I'm not always good at expressing feelings verbally, but I like writing them down. If you know me, you know that much. I probably don't tell you face to face what you mean to me, but if I can write it down, I will. So I've decided to spend a few blog posts over the next year talking about the great people in my life, and giving them some kudos because they deserve it ;)

Let me tell you a little about Jake. I've known him about 10 years. He was a friend of a friend, and I can't tell you exactly how, but that summer of 2001, we all just sort of started hanging out together. It's one of those great mysteries of life, but somehow, all of us ended up in this little group we affectionately called the Goof Troop.

There was Patty, Jose, Me, Jaime, Jake, Tim, Chris (aka Elvis) and a few others. Over the years, some newbies came and others left, and we built what I now call my second family.

We did everything and went everywhere together. Hanging out, cooking out, playing cards; holiday parties, swimming. They were my friends when I needed friends most, having just gotten out of a really bad relationship. They supplied jokes and hugs, loved me despite my insecurities, and even when we got on each other's nerves, for the first time I really had this structure where yes, we may be upset with each other, but no, they weren't going to walk away and let me fend for myself. They were there to stay, and that was a feeling that made this group more than just friends. (The story continues below, but these pictures should amuse you on your scroll down. Vintage Allie, lol).

I've already talked many times about Patty, but today, I want to tell you a little bit about my friend Jake. Jake is one of our best friends (my husband and I). He is, without a doubt, a person that I could call if I needed something and he'd be there to help in seconds without hesitation. I know that I can count on him if we ever need it. He was - aside from our immediate family - the first visitor to show up within an hour of each of my kids being born, to meet them and hold them. I'll never, ever forget that. Here he is, holding this newborn like he's a pro, when most guys our age were backing away and pretending not to notice those contagious babies, lol. And they still hug and crawl all over him, because they adore Uncle Jake!

He's there at every birthday, holiday and weekend cookout. He's polite, sweet and has one of the biggest hearts I've ever encountered. He makes us laugh, and we spend alot of time with him because he just makes every time you're with him fun.

I admire his willpower and strength, because over a year ago, he started a journey to be more healthy, and he has kept at it, losing over 100 pounds. I struggle to lose 10! He's amazing, and he's really worked hard, and keeps tacking on more fun activities like MMA and such to keep his workouts different. I really, really admire him for how hard he's worked.

And then there's his big heart, like how he gives me thank you cards on occasion. Actual paper cards, in an envelope, with handwriting - something we don't do alot of today! Today, I printed out a picture for him of he and Jaime at the Pearl Jam concert. He came back later with a thank you card, and a gift to help send me to San Diego to see our other friend, Patty, when she has her baby, because he knew I was worried about finances. (I'm still not taking your gift Jake, but seriously, I will totally bask in the sweetness of having you as a friend!) I have cried like five times tonight just thinking about how great of a friend I have. The part that touches my heart is just the thought behind it all - that he knows how much I miss my friend.

It's moments like these - and people like Jake - that I have in my life that constantly remind me that yes, the dryer might be broken and yes there may be a leak, but those are such small things when, at the end of the day, I have this group of friends that so many people will spend their whole lives only wishing they had. My mom had her group of 8 girlfriends, known as the Breakfast Club for their Friday morning breakfast ritual, that I used to hope I'd have a group like someday. I do, but mine just includes a few really great guys, too. And in the end, it won't be the dryers or repairs or cars or houses or any of that material stuff that I remember and that I love - it's the friends I have like Jake, Patty, Jose, Joel and so many others that I'll be laughing with and sipping margaritas with, and loving every second of their company. That's what life is made of - the people and the joy they bring to your hearts.

If you need a friend, I can point you in the right direction ;)

Love ya Jake!!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Back to School...Sending my first baby to Kindergarten

This week, my oldest started kindergarten. Not just kindergarten, but all day kindergarten. Big, scary, tons of kids all around kindergarten.

Okay, maybe that last one is just an exaggeration of my mind. But that's how I felt dropping him off. I had in my head that there would be tears (both of us), hugs (both of us), not wanting to let go (both of us). We got up extra early, got the uniform on (and did he look handsome!), got his backpack together with all his school supplies...and drove over to school.

I was holding it together. We walked to the drop-off point, introduced him again to his teacher who was telling all the boys and girls how much fun they were going to have, walked him to line up with the other kids, and then stood back and stared for about 10 minutes. I looked at my boy, standing there amongst the 16 kids in his class. Some of them were bigger, some smaller. There were alot of girls, which seemed to be his main concern (they have cooties, you know). And then the teacher looked at all the kids and said, "Okay, wave bye to mom and dad, and let's head inside!"

My son, smiling ear to ear, waved at us for a millisecond, and then was focused happily on heading into the building. And I, standing there amongst the parents, began crying. Partly because even though he's only five, it feels like just yesterday he was this tiny bundle that fit perfectly packaged into the crook of my arm, and needed me for everything; and partly because I wished my mom could be there with us to see this day.

How did he get so big, so fast? Every day, he seems to be another year older. This all-day school thing isn't a huge change for him, since he's been in daycare all day everyday since he was three months old. And here he was, in his polo and dress pants, a Super Mario Brothers backpack outweighing him with all it's school supply contents, standing tall and marching into a brand new chapter in his life, seemingly without a care in the world.

I pulled it together, and when we picked him up at the end of his day, he was all smiles and stories! He met some friends, they ate a snack, he colored. He loved it! Day 2, day 3, and now day 4 have come and gone, and not a sign of "needing mommy." I'm torn between a broken heart and being so proud of him for being such a brave little boy!

I'm sure it's not the only time I'll cry on their first day of school. I cry at commercials, truth be told! And as the years pass, they will probably blur together and every year will be like the next. But I know for a fact that years from now, I will still remember watching him wave and walk in that building, and be reminded of how much love one heart can hold for one little boy.

Hugging his sister goodbye at her daycare: 

Proud Daddy: 

Proud mommy:

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

For my friend Amy...I understand ;)

I have a good friend named Amy, whom I met through an online brain cancer caregivers support group when our moms were sick. Though we were states apart and talked via phone and computer, we became fast friends, unfortunately due to the fact that we both acutely understood what the other was going through.

While I wouldn't wish the experience on anyone, having someone who understood as much as she did was part of what saved my life that year. Friends, family - they all try to understand, and we love them for it. But in each other, we found that missing link of losing our mother before we were married, had kids, etc. - and that allowed us to keep breathing and carry on with life. The simple sharing of a certain sadness.

I got married without my mother, so in turn, I understand what she is going through, preparing for her wedding next year without her mother’s help. It is a heartbreaking thing to do. While all your friends are getting married and preparing with their mothers; picking out their dresses and planning the seating chart, picking out flowers and getting ready that day; she, like me, will put a smile on her face and make the best of it (because it is a wonderful, wonderful occasion, and we are truly blessed and happy to have found someone to love!), but behind every smile will be that twinge of sadness, reminding us that we don’t have our moms there with us.

We both have had amazing family and friends to help with the preparations and the day – and we are both beyond grateful for that. Yet all the friends and family in the world cannot make up for that small percentage of us that, regardless of all the great people we do have, misses having our moms there.

When it came time for my wedding, I wondered what my mom would have said to me that day, what she would have wished for me. The happiness and good times are obvious, but I wondered what other wisdom she’d impart. Now that I have children of my own, I often think about what I want for them in life. I think about my own daughter’s wedding someday, and what I’d want her to know if, for some reason, I wasn’t there like my own mom.

Well Amy, I'm going to give to you this letter, which I wrote and tucked away for my own daughter, worried that maybe someday I won't be there for her wedding - because I know Carolyn would tell you the exact same things. Maybe this is her way of telling you.

First and foremost, you look beautiful. I might not be there physically to see it, but I know from the many minutes, hours, days I spent staring at you and absorbing every freckle and eyelash. You were radiant the moment I held you in my arms for the first time, and that's never changed. I can only imagine that today, on your wedding day, all dolled up for the hundreds of people out there waiting for you (and one very special one) that you are the most beautiful woman to ever walk the earth. I'm sure your glow is doubled by the fact that you have found someone who loves you so much.

On your wedding day, and every day from here on out, I wish for you to have a life filled with happiness. A daughter brings to life a part of your heart that lies hidden away until that little princess is laid in our arms. The part that dreams of pink and ballet classes, sports games and homework help. A little girl who is born and needs us so much, who then grows to a woman that, while becoming adult and responsible, still needs us – and even though we might be eager for you to be out on your own someday, the same part of our heart that lit up when you cried for us as babies lights up again each time you ask us a question as an adult. The happiness that a daughter brings to every inch of our souls is exactly what I wish for you – a feeling of happiness and contentment from the top of your head to the tips of your toes.

I wish for you to have courage and strength, because you’ll need it in marriage. It’s not a fairytale or a walk in the park. At times it’s a never-ending parade of fun, and at times it is that job you wanted to quit because you only wanted to punch your coworker right in the nose. But you’ve been through hard times, and you’ve seen them through, which is why you are who you are today – a strong, smart, intelligent woman who doesn’t settle. Always keep in mind compromise, and keep the fire in your heart, and learn to take and give and play fair. It won’t be easy, but it is well worth it to wake up each day with the person you love.

I wish for your heart to let go of the sadness or regret from your past, and open up to new experiences. It won’t be easy, that’s for sure, but the past is behind you, and what lies ahead are some pretty great things. You’ll be amazed at all you can overcome in life if you continue putting your mind to it. Don’t let the past drag you down, and don’t let it keep you sad. We might not have had all the times we wanted to have together, but the truth is that I am always, always with you, because you came from me, and you are a part of me. Your smile is my smile, your adventures are mine. You are a part of me that keeps on living, keeps on moving, and keeps on loving. And someday, when you stare into the eyes of your own children, they are a part of me too, because they came from you. People are always alive, as long as you remember them.

I wish for you smiles and tears, because without either, you wouldn't understand and appreciate the other as much. Life is filled with good times and bad times, but you'll survive them all and become a better person. Celebrate the good, let the bad slide, and smile every morning like it's the best day of your life.

If a problem isn't going to matter in 10 years, it's not worth worrying about today. Sage advice, and very true. No sense in working yourself up or worrying if, in the grand scheme of things, this is just a blip on the radar.

Dance every opportunity you have. In the car, in the kitchen, while you're washing clothes. It brings a smile to your face instantly, and will make every day a better one.

And finally, enjoy your wedding day. The world keeps turning, and people come and go, but we're never far. You might be looking for a sign or a symbol that I'm here, but all you need to do is look in the mirror - as long as you see your beautiful face smiling back, you'll know I'm standing behind you, my arm around your back and my cheek resting against yours.

Well, except tonight after the reception. I'll totally leave you alone for that ;) 

Happy wedding day. I love you forever and forever and for always. Nothing could ever change that.

Monday, August 8, 2011

In the digital day and age...I still love a good, paperback book...even if I have to read it with glasses.

Now, don't get me wrong. I love my iPad. It allows me to do so much from anywhere I'm at. It saves my sanity on trips to the store or in the car, when I can't take the "Are you almost done yet?" or "Are we there yet?" anymore. I love downloading books to it for it's slim storage and functional convnience.

But I realized last night, as I finished reading an amazing book called "The Middle Place" by Kelly Corrigan, that I love a good, paperback book. They have a certain smell, a certain feel, that provides perhaps some memories of growing up. Settling into a bubble bath with book in hand to read chapter upon chapter, imagining the characters and their homes, the stories coming to life in my head. I don't just read books, I seem to really feel them and see them, like a movie playing over the course of a few nights.

I was a bookworm my whole life, up until about 2005. My mom died that year, I had a baby, and well, free time for reading went out the window. In fact, the only books I read were books on caring for babies, or books for babies. And honestly - that wasn't bad. Nothing beats the look on your little one's face when you're changing your voice for the characters in the book, and they are taking in not just the story, but the time you are relishing upon them. What I did read was anything and everything else I could get my hands on that wouldn't take up immense amounts of time - such as magazines, mailers, etc. Lame, but reading all the same.

By the time I was back to having any spare time to read books, about 2008, I found that I couldn't read them anymore. Don't laugh - I could read the words and such, but I mean I couldn't focus. I would find I read a whole chapter and didn't remember a single thing I read. My mind was going a thousand miles a minute, focusing on everything else but the story in front of me. The grocery list, what I would do when I woke up, what work needed to be done, if the baby's diaper was changed. Quite honestly, it made me stress a little bit, because I thought perhaps my love of reading had dissapated along with the formerly single, childless me. I wanted to sit there and get through a book and know what I had read, and after trying different types of books thinking perhaps I just wasn't into the material, I found that it didn't matter what the material was - I simply couldn't focus intently on any lengthy, written material.

As a side note, I was also severely dissapointed again that year when I realized I couldn't play softball anymore. I loved playing on a co-ed league, but I just couldn't catch the ball anymore and wasn't a great hitter. Sigh. I figured I was getting old!

Fast forward to October 2010. After days months years of loving pestering by my husband, I finally caved and went to the eye doctor. I figured I was paying for eye insurance, so I might as well use it, right? Plus, I knew I didn't need glasses. Please. I had perfect sight. I was bionic woman, as a matter of fact. So I'd go and prove him wrong. My headaches were from staring at a computer, so maybe they could tell me how to fix that - and that's why I went.

After two hours of eye tests and charts and "this or this, this or this, one or two, a or b," I was at the front desk of the office...ordering my new, necessary glasses. I was SHOCKED when I had my eyes pressed behind what I like to call the owl mask and she was flipping back and forth and asking this or that - sometimes, with a "this" or a "that," I could actually READ what was on the board. Without it - nada. It was all a big blur. I hadn't realized that my eyes had slowly been causing blurred vision, until I saw what I COULD be seeing clearly with glasses.

When the glasses came in, they took some time to adjust to. My son cried when I walked in the door with them, because I didn't look like mommy. (Side note: Now he cries if I take them off, because I don't look like mommy without them, lol). They made my nose break out where they touched the skin. But within a week I noticed two things: I could see, and I did not have one headache even after staring at a computer all day. It was amazing.

With that knowledge in hand, I thought I might try to read a book. Who knows, I thought, maybe I can get back to some of my old habits. When I picked up that first book, I read and read and read for a couple hours - and afterwards, I remembered every part of the story thus far! It was such an amazing feeling. I hadn't lost my love of reading - I just had vision problems, which weren't letting me truly focus on what I was doing. The vision problem was causing me to do anything else but read because my eyes were too strained, and once that problem was lifted, I was able to start flying through books again - and play softball. The reason I wasn't catching balls was only partly because I'm 15 years older than the last time I played on a school team ;) The other part was my depth perception was off, causing me to be scared of the ball. Once that was corrected with my glasses, bam - I was able to play again ;)

And now, as I sit here looking at the next book on my list - a book by Nora Roberts - I can smile knowing that I am back to doing something I love. And while I could have downloaded that book on my iPad and propped it up to read in bed, I will be basking in the feel of the pages between my fingers as I read that old book that has been sitting on my shelf for years, just waiting for me to get those glasses.

Happy reading all!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Everyday is a Good Day

The past two weeks have been a bit rough. Our dryer broke. My husband's car was hit around midnight while it was parked outside by a hit and run driver (thankfully, no one was in the car). Our septic overflowed in the basement, thanks to roots growing through the pipes. And my car was almost hit yesterday by a teen driver who swerved into my lane (causing me to swerve into oncoming traffic) - but luckily, no one got hit.

And it's weeks like this where I often find myself taking a few deep breaths and remembering it could be worse. No one is sick, no one is hurt. Those broken things are replaceable and fixable.

In the midst of these days, I've come to find that I truly look forward to every single morning. Not just because I wake up breathing (thankfully!), but because of how each morning starts.

Around 4 a.m. when my hubby gets up for work, my daughter climbs into bed with me to snuggle. Okay, 80% snuggle, 20% flail every limb and bruise me. But snuggling trumps ;)

Then when my "cuddle" alarm goes off (this is what my son calls it, because it's set for a half hour before we get up, so we can snuggle), he crawls out of his bed and into mine. My daughter snuggles up against my back, I snuggle my arms around my son, and for a half hour I am in heaven.

I know it won't always be like this. He's nearly six, and the days where snuggling mom are no longer cool are rapidly approaching. And before I know it, my little girl will be growing up and I'll be snuggle-less in the mornings.

When the real alarm finally goes off, I give them each some tickles and their smiles light up the room, before they attack me with kisses and ask for five more minutes of snuggles.

It's in moments like this that nothing broken or frustrating even enters the realm of my mind, because I'm too busy experiencing first hand how lucky and blessed my life really is. And on weekends, when the whole family is snuggling in that big ol' bed, I know I never felt more complete than with my wonderful little family. They are my whole life, and I'm perfectly okay with that.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Spicing up the Little Black Dress

I recently had a wedding to go to. In typical girl style, I had to find a new dress. What I came up with not only saved me money, but became a useful way to change up plain t-shirts, too! (and I make them for my shop, here).

Obviously, right? Because the 20 I have in my closet just wouldn't do. (I don't understand either. Apparently, this is just how it works.)

So after at least 10 stores, and what felt like 10 million dresses, here were my thoughts:

1) I'm too fat.
2) I'm too pale.
3) This dress is too hot.
4) That dress is too thin.
5) This dress is too long.
6) That dress is too short.

Oh, the comments could go on and on. When I got home, and was playing around with flowers for headbands, I thought, hmmmmmm....

Now, I have a cute, little black dress. Very simple, with some ruffles at the bottom and a drop waist. It's thin so it's great for summer, but it is so plain. And black. And this was a wedding I was going to. I didn't want to permanently alter my dress, but I thought of an even better solution - make a clip that I can clip onto the neckline, and change out!

I made two, and from there picked one. One was multi-colored with spring colors, the other was a royal blue. My husband's favorite color is royal blue, so I went with that one. I even made an extra flower to clip on my little black purse, but I forgot to take a photo :(

So anyway, I apologize in advance for the quality of the pictures, but it was a point and shoot, and it was dark. I did make a couple for my shop, too.

Fourth of July Dress

Okay, I am definitely a little late on this ;) I'm sorry for the lack of posting lately, but between trying to squeeze in all the summer fun we can (let's face it - here in the midwest we have all of what, like 3 months of nice weather?!) and running Prose Boutique and working full-time, I have been neglectful. But I do love you, dear blog followers, and will work harder to try and post ;)

So here is the dress I created for my daughter for the 4th of July. The dress itself was from Walmart for $5. I liked it because it was lightweight and red. I sewed on the stars from a blue starred fabric I had, and then created a blue floral headband for her to wear with it. Everyone loved it at the party, so that was nice. I always worry people won't like the stuff I've made, so it's nice to know they do!

Hope you are having a GREAT week, blogland!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Sick Day Fun

I live in the midwest, and this year, Mother Nature has pretty much rained on us five out of seven days a week for months. And the sunny days are always mid-week when I'm working. In fact, this was the first week we didn't have to wonder if our son was going to get to play his baseball game. At the end of the game (1.5 hours of 3 to 6 year olds playing baseball - oy!) our daughter, who is 2, started acting really out of it. I mean, scarily. She had been eating, drinking, playing, then all of a sudden she was just lethargic. We darted home, got her in a lukewarm bath, called the doc, put her in an air conditioned room, got her temp down. Thought it was heat stroke. Until this a.m. when our son woke up with a 103 fever, too.  (P.S. our daughter's temp came down, thankfully!)

And both days were gloriously sunny. So, after being trapped in the house all day yesterday worrying about our baby girl, we were all a little stir-crazy today knowing we'd be in the house all day again on such a nice day. With a little medicine and lots of popsicles, you wouldn't even know they were sick except for the fevers.

I decided a little fun experiment would make the day a little more lively for us, so I got out the tub of old, broken crayons I've kept. We go through a lot of crayons, lol! I decided to make some new, multi-colored crayons for the kiddos.

**Note before you start: Be careful not to try and speed the process. I did this one on purpose to show what will happen - your crayons will not melt enough to seal together, or if you get water in they won't bind.

You need:
  • your broken crayons
  • tealight candles (in a holder - I got a pack of like 20 from the dollar tree, and they are perfect)
  • an old pan
  • a small tray of some sort

Pry the tealight candles out of their thin metal holders (they normally pop right out).

You want to put a little water in the bottom of your pan (about 1/4 inch or so) and put it on the stove til it is really hot. You don't want the water boiling though, so make sure once it starts to boil you turn it down til it settles.

Take out your crayons, unwrap the paper from them, and use a butter knife or scissors to chop them into pieces. The sizes don't matter - some can be bigger chunks, some smaller. Put the chunks into the holders.

Place the holders with the chunks into the pan with the hot water. Keep adding chunks as they melt, but don't stir them (otherwise you'll get a big brown crayon every time). This is when you'll want to add in some shavings, to fill in the top layer. I just use the butter knife to shave some shavings from different colors, and sprinkle it on top of the mix.

You can put a lid on if you want, but make sure the temp is somewhat low. You need to let them "cook" for probably about 20 minutes, maybe more, as they melt. The shavings will help the chunks of crayon mold into place and stay together.

Now, fill the tray (I used a meatloaf pan) with about 1/4 inch of cold water. once your crayons are melted, take them out carefully (with tongs or a spatula) and slide them into the cold water. Once all of my little tins are in there, I normally add ice to speed the cooling process. If you do this, in about 10 minutes your crayons are ready to go.

Use old pans if possible, because you WILL get melted crayon on them (unless you are superwoman. If so, I want your tips!)

Lastly, let the kids color with new rainbow crayons that cost you a dollar at most ;)  The great part is you can use those metal tins over and over again, they are GREAT. I just let them dry, throw them in a ziplock and tuck them away with the broken crayons for the next time we want to make some ;)

see? spillage all the time ;)


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