Sunday, November 21, 2010

Family Gatherings

When you are young, you assume that the way your family does things is the way all families do things.  As you get older and begin to venture into the outside world, you begin to realize this is not always true.  Take, for example, a typical family birthday.

On Friday, my family gathered to celebrate my brother's birthday.  The plan was to meet at 6:00 at my parents' house, have appetizers of veggies, dinner, and birthday cake.  Those in attendance were my parents, the guest of honor and his wife, their four beautiful children, and myself. 

Here is your play-by-play:

6:05 The arrival of the guest of honor.  (He was lucky.  Once I arrived a little late for my birthday dinner to find everyone already eating!)  The munching of veggies is already in progress.

6:10  Dinner is served.  There is a table in the kitchen and one in the living room, however only eight of nine diners have seating.  No worries, Dad will sit at the counter in the kitchen.

6:35  Dinner is over.  25 minutes is a bit longer than normal for the main course, but there was a fight over remaining broccoli amongst the children.  Apparently, it is a family favorite.

6:45  Candles are lit.  It's time to sing Happy Birthday.  Unfortunately, some of us forgot to save our forks from the dinner course causing a delay as more forks are found.  We will all try to do a better job of remembering on Christmas Eve.

6:55  Cake has been served and consumed. 

Traditionally, this would be the signal to grab coats and head to the door.  The two youngest nieces, however, are still learning the process.  (They are only 4 and 6 after all.)  They begin to pull out games to play.

7:00  Game time.  Being the productive family we are, we have three games going at the same time.  Tic-Tac-Toe is happening on the couch,  Old Maid by the stairs and Dominoes in the middle of the floor.

7:10  Gathering of personal items.  Time to get those coats, shoes, purses, and anything else you may have carried into the house. 

7:15  Hugs and kisses and out the door.

That's right.  An entire evening completed in just over an hour.  I believe my parents are considering installing a drive thru to make the process even faster.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Changing Seasons

After neglecting things around the house for the past few weeks, I took advantage of the wonderful weather to go outside and survey my surroundings. 

The trees once that once provided shade have lost their greenery leaving a full view of the sky.

Those same leaves that once filled the trees have turned brown and now make haphazard designs on the ground.

The flowers that once provided such beautiful colors struggle to find the warmth of the sun despite a visit from Jack Frost.

All the signs point to the fact that winter is indeed on its way.  And then I found this.

One almost perfect gerber daisy.  Despite the fact that these particular flowers have not bloomed in my backyard since May, this little darlin' decided to share its color one more time before saying goodbye. 

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Change of Season

For me, winter started yesterday.  It was gray and gloomy, the trees were basically bare, and I had to break out my winter coat for recess duty.  It was not a happy day weatherwise.

Growing up in the midwest, you would think I would be prepared for such changes in weather, but I'm not.  I don't enjoy cold weather.  Cold weather brings extra layers.  Cold weather brings children who can't zip their coats.  Cold weather brings runny noses pressed up against the classroom windows looking longingly at the empty playground equipment.  It can be a sad time of year.

So I went home yesterday (after being eaten by plastic dinosaurs--occupational hazard) determined to break the beginning of winter blahs.  I started my little wood stove and watched the flames dance.  Suddenly, all the fun aspects of winter came flooding back.  The "special" toys reserved for the endless days of inside recess.  Baking bread in the classroom and filling the entire school with the smell.  Trying to catch the first snowflakes of the season on our tongues.  So many opportunities for new things.

So, maybe I won't have to hibernate until spring returns.  And, who knows, maybe I'll get a snow day or two .

Monday, November 15, 2010

House Warming

One of the features I love about my house is the little wood stove.  It's tucked away in the corner of my dining room waiting patiently to fill my house with warmth this winter.  Sitting near it is a little stool.  My grandfather made it when he returned from World War II.  It was used in his house by my mother and her four sisters.  They would sit on it by their woodstove during their days on the farm.  It is now my favorite spot during the winter.

When I moved into my house, a friend of mine filled my woodshed as a house warming gift.  I couldn't think of a better or more appropriate house warming gift.  It went a long way to warm my house and make it feel more like a cozy home.

So, imagine my surprise when his truck showed up in my driveway filled with wood again this year!


I was responsible for creating a Photo Story to kickoff our school's major fundraiser.  I took my job very seriously working for 12 hours to create this four minute display that would melt the heart of anyone with a child in our school.  And then I tried to test it.  I opened up my laptop only to discover I was no longer a recognized user on the computer where my masterpiece was stored.  Kiosk was the user. 

Now, Kiosk is not a friendly user.  He doesn't like to share.  He was determined not to let me through the walls where he had locked away all my work.  He only laughed that silent laugh of a computer and continued to greet me with countless error messages.  Yes, Kiosk knew my limited knowledge of computer work was no match for his mighty fortress.  Thankfully, my white knight of technology came to the rescue and was able to find Kiosk's weakness.  All was well...or so I thought.

Guess who greeted me this morning. 

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Thanks Kids

For years, my only friends were my co-workers.  They are truly lovely people, but let's face it.  When your co-workers are you friends, you never really get away from work. 

But how do you make friends as an adult?  I looked at the kids in my classroom.  The answer became clear.  All you have to do is play.  You don't have to ask if you can play, too.  You just play and somehow the invisible walls crumble and suddenly you have a new friend.

I took a page from my kids' playbook and I went out to "play."  I revisited an old interest and started helping out backstage at the local community theatre.  I was scared and nervous, but I took a deep breath and did it anyway.  I didn't really have a clue what I was doing, but sometimes "playing" is the best way to learn.

That was a year ago.  Tonight, I was at a reunion party for a show I helped out with this fall.  As I sat there around the fire pit, I was glad I found enough courage to play.  So many people have entered my life during that time.  People I would never have met otherwise.  Some are friends, some are on their way to becoming friends.  But now I have a little refuge from the job I love allowing me to recharge my batteries. 

So, thanks kids, for reminding me to play.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Advice for the First Time Homeowner

As a single gal with a less than substantial income, owning my own home was something I never thought would happen.  I had made peace with a life of renting apartments and dealing with the sounds of the always heavy steppers who would live upstairs.  Sure, I may never get through a night without hearing the sound of my neighbors from above flushing the toilet, but at least the smells of their food could possibly help me decide what to have for dinner.

But all that changed.  A year ago, the stars all alligned and I bought my own house.  Having reached the first anniversary of home ownership, I would like to share a few lessons I have learned along the way.

1.  Be careful who you take house shopping.  Furnaces should be functional, not cute.  Anyone who confuses these terms should not be considered the voice of reason.

2.  Expect the unexpected on moving day.  My entire family backed out of the move.  It was me, a friend and two trucks. 

3.  Live in the house before making big changes.  Sure, that paint color may not be ideal and the guest bath may be hideous, but those other expenses like lawn mowers and new garbage disposals are going to add up quick.  The paint color may grow on you and you can avoid the guest bathroom.

4.  Be prepared to do battle.  Many of the servicemen who have come to repair or look at things in my house seem to think the female brain is not equipped to comprehend certain types of information.  I have taken them on and won every time (so far!).  If all else fails, play the "Just let me call my husband" card.  For some reason, the information become so much less complicated.

5.  Do not let your house become a dumping ground.  In the interest of "helping" you, your friends and family will offer you all of the "treasures" from their homes.  You know, the same "treasures" they have tried to get rid of for years.  Stay strong and take only what you really want.

6.  Do not wait to have people over to your home.  Sure, I would love to painted the walls and scraped the popcorn ceiling before having people over, but those experiences with the people I care about are what makes a house a home.  Besides, you never know who will volunteer to help you.

So, there you have it.  My short list of advice to the first time home owner.  When all is said and done, may you be as happy in your home as I have been in mine.