Thursday, July 29, 2010

A Happy Girl

Happy Thursday from a happy girl!  The little things today have made me so happy. 

The day started with frustration, and the nagging-ness of a task that had to be completed but was dependant on someone else...sheesh it's a long story.  But a major task I have been working on was brought to a screeching halt while I awaited access to a 9-digit number.  Just 9 little numbers to open the floodgate and let things proceed.  But getting that number?  Not so easy.  And then, with one phone call finally returned, I had those 9 numbers written securely on a sticky note, and BOOM!  There went the floodgate flying open!!  Within 20 minutes of that phone call, I had the task COMPLETE!!  I literally felt as if a 50 pound weight pack had been pulled off my back. 

I also got my hair cut this morning.  ALWAYS a happy day!  That's another good 10 pounds lifted off my head when it's all said and done.  You've probably never run your fingers through my hair, unless you are Brad or Marlece, but I have enough hair on my head for all of us.  So getting it cut is truly cutting out a whole lotta weight!

I left for that appointment feeling uptight and frustrated.  Just because of a poor night's sleep, followed by some kid-driven frustration immediately upon waking up, followed quickly by the frustration of the above mentioned task hanging over my head.  Then I had my head massaged, hair cut and much better.  Then I came home to find that the two kids left behind had cleaned the kitchen and all three bathrooms while I was gone!  Talk about an uplift to the heavy mind!  After I questioned them thoroughly on who they were and what they had done with my real children, I let out a big sigh....a sigh of, in that moment, complete and utter satisfaction.

Then the task was wrapped up, three huge boxes were taken to the Fed-Ex man, who is going to return the mountain of uniform samples that had over-taken my living room, and I was feeling so good that we all stopped at Trader Joes to get some pizza dough.  I left without pizza dough, but with lots of totally unnecessary items.  My kids are eating meatless corndogs and eggplant cutlets for dinner tonight.  Why?  I don't know.  They are meat-eaters, but were curious what meatless corndogs would taste like.  And why not?  I also got a frozen carrot cake (gasp!!) that looked good.  I feel all celebrational at having taken so much weight off today!

And it's Thursday, which means date night with Brad!  I'm always a happy girl on Thursday for that reason alone.

And Alex is going to be rehearsing all this next week to perform with a local production of Pirates of Penzance.  His first musical!  And another paid gig!!  My children's success in any form is a great happiness.

And I've discovered that I love running on our high school track.  It's so rubbery and squishy and oh-so-kind to my feet.  AND I get my new running shoes tomorrow.

Can you feel the happiness????

I have spent so much time this last week looking for a good cheer song for my squad's dance this year.  I have it solidly narrowed down to 3 or 4 songs.  I have listened to lots of songs.  Lots. Of. Songs.  Out of those songs, I found this happy song.  It didn't make the final cut, but I think it could be so cute.  And it sure sticks in your head.  And today I'm a happy girl, so I thought I'd share this with you...

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Gifts of Happiness

I have been thinking a lot about happiness this week.  I've been reading the book "The Happiness Project", and it has been very thought provoking.  I didn't expect to gain anything from it, I just was intrigued to read about someone else's "project".  It's one of the fun things I've found with my e-reader.  I can browse the library and find things that I normally wouldn't give a second glance, download it, and see if it's worth my time to read.  I'm only about half-way through this book, so I can't yet give it a ringing endorsement.  I can say, however, that my opinion of it is changing the further I go.  In the first part, I was thinking much more negatively about it, that this author's very quest for "happiness" was actually making her so self-absorbed that she was sure to go in the opposite directions.  Now, however, I am realizing that it is much less about being self-absorbed and much more about just stepping out of her own bubble. 

I've always been a big believer that if you are lacking happiness, you are lacking gratitude.  No matter what our circumstances, there is ALWAYS something to be grateful for.  And I'm an even bigger believer in making JOY more of a focus than happiness.  While happiness may depend on your current circumstances, joy can be in you continually.  Joy can just be IN you!  I could go on and on about this, but I will stay on the path I intended...

So I'm learning some interesting things about what studies have shown about happy people.  I don't know if any of it is new, but just having it pointed out and going, "oh, yeah...that's true!" has been fun.  For example, the very simple fact that moods are contagious.  Stop and think about that.  Happy people (or joyful people) spread happiness.  Angry people can stir up anger in other people.  Whiny people pull other people into whining right along with them.  I think of that in my home.  It's easier than I would like it to be some days for me to set the mood in my home.  If I'm uptight, my kids reflect that.  If I'm outright irritated and snipping at everyone, then surely my kids are going to be snipping at each other.  And on the upside, when I'm in a peaceful, joyful place, more than likely my kids will also absorb that and feel that themselves.  It truly is contagious.

A fun statistic I learned (I love statistics, wherever they come from) is that a hug needs to last 6 seconds in order for all the feel-good endorphins to be released.  Try it.  Especially when you are uptight.  I know that when I've had a long day, and I get a long hug from Brad, I truly do feel myself relaxing.  So lately I've been taking longer hugs.  I told Brad that he had to hug me for at least 6 seconds when he comes home.  He was happy to oblige.  Of course, it has to be someone you want to hug for that long or you probably instead would have your blood pressure rising instead of your endorphins rising!  (And I'm so curious how they get those statistics!)

Another interesting section I read last night was discussing how we need to simply define what makes us happy, with no regard to what we think should make us happy.  It was so good, because so many times we can get sucked into thinking we should enjoy something because everyone tells us we should.  Or "everyone else likes it so I should too".  That one really made me think. 

And also, taking the time to be silly.  The author talks about how as a mother, she often is so focused on finishing a task, that she overlooks opportunities to make the task fun.  Oh, that is so me.  She gave an example of unloading groceries, trying to get them put away and her husband pulled out 3 oranges and started juggling, to the great delight of his kids.  Instead of enjoying the moment, she was irritated that the groceries were not being put away.  Yeah, I've been there.  Maybe not with juggling oranges, but in some similar way.  So that's a new be willing to have a little fun doing the mundane things.

So I'm intrigued enough to finish the book. 

And on a similar note, here is a rush of happiness I had the pleasure of experiencing yesterday.  In the midst of being buried in a bunch of administrative busy-work, the UPS man delivered a package to my door.  I hauled this very large but very light box inside, saw it was addressed to Brad, and set it aside to get back to my busyness.  A short time later I was talking to Brad and asked him if he was expecting a package.  He said, "Oh,it came!  You can open it, it's actually a surprise for you!"  Well, my heart went all a-flutter at the excitement of opening a "surprise".  So I opened it, and here's what my man sent to me:

Well, be still my heart from going all a-flutter.  I didn't even know I wanted this.  Or needed this.  But apparently I wanted it and needed it.  I'm using it now as a matter of fact.  Now I need to end this and go buy Brad a new cookie sheet.  And I'll be very happy doing it!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Monday Menu ~ Bow Tie Lasagna

This is a recipe you must try, specifically on an evening where time is very short.  Which pretty much means Sunday through Saturday, right?

It is extremely fast to put together, and it is really great.  Everyone loved it and asked me to make it regularly.  And it has so few ingredients...things you probably keep around, so you can make it quickly when you have that irritated/panicked moment of "WHAT are we having for dinner??"  Throw in some bread and salad, and it practically looks like a meal that you put some thought into!

Bow Tie Lasagna

1 lb. ground sirloin or ground beef
12 oz. bow tie pasta
1 24-oz jar of your favorite spaghetti sauce
1 TBSP olive oil
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup mozzarella cheese (I used a mozzarella/provolone combo)

Brown beef until no longer pink.  Cook pasta according to package directions.  Drain the pasta and return to the pot.  Drizzle with olive oil.  Add beef, sauce, seasonings and sour cream.  Mix well, then stir in the cheese.  Allow to heat on low for about 5 minutes or until heated through.  That's IT!!  The Pioneer Woman featured this as a "16-minute Meal" recipe, and I think it really did take about that long.  Easy, but really yummy.  Hope you enjoy!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Here's To You

I'm a day late, because I was busy living in the moment and celebrating...but this still goes out to you, Brad:

Happy 40th Birthday to my favorite person!  40?!  Welcome to greatness.  Or even greater greatness, with greater things to come! 

We talked recently about how great the 30's were to us.  You did your 30's well, and they were good to you.  We grew so much, worked through so much, and fell more deeply in love. 

I have no doubts the 40's will bring more of the same.  We'll grow some more.  We'll work through some more.  We'll probably struggle with something.  And we'll fall more deeply in love.

Thank you for being so patient, so loving, so kind, so strong, so encouraging, so...willing.  You lead me well.

Thank you for taking such good care of yourself.  All the time you run, swim, are taking good care of the man I love and the father of my children.  We want you around for a looooooong time.  Like forever.

You are a good man, Brad.

I love you so much.  I like you so much.  You are the love of my life...forever.

And if you decide to have some sort of mid-life crisis during this next decade, please choose something exciting like wave runners, or a boat, or a lake-side one bedroom home, or a condo in Hawaii....need some ideas?  I'm your girl.

I love you, Mr. 40.

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Rest of The Story

It's time to get out the last of the vacation pictures.  So many great times, so many pictures!

On our first full day of vacation we went to Leavenworth and found this great hat shop.  We all had a great time becoming different characters:

Hippie meets hot dog

The stunning Miss Emily

Thomas displaying how I feel today!

My quirky Bethie

Quite the look, eh?  I think I may let myself go grey and embrace it!  Or not.


And there was so much more...

Nap taking:

S'More eating:

Game playing:

Friendship growing:

And, I must end this vacation recap with..........

Some Blueberry Hill lovin':

I kid you not, I salivate just looking at this picture!!

Gotta end it with the beauty shot:

Okay, false alarm...I'm not done yet!  Have I mentioned the pie?  Oh, the PIE!!  We bought a pie at Blueberry Hills and I ate that whole thing by myself over the course of the week.  And I didn't think even once about sharing it.  Most things are better shared, but not this pie.  It was a scrumptious peach pie that has stayed with me to this day.  I'm trying to run it off, but it is so still there.

All I have to share with you is a picture of a half-eaten piece of positively precious deliciousness.  I hope you can feel the love.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Ridin' Wild at Slidewaters

I have an outrageous number of water park pictures...and some of these just crack me up.  It's hard to believe that all of us rode the same rides.  (Do you ride a ride at a water park?  That sounds all wrong.  I guess you go on a ride.  Or go down a slide.  Or whatever.  It's Friday night.  I'm tired.  I'm easily distracted when I'm tired.  Actually I'm just easily distracted.  Period.)

ANYWHO!!!  Back to what I was saying.  I love how these pictures show the personalities of all involved.  Some shots were not captured, so I regret to not be able to show you the shot of Brad and I coming out on a double tube, flipping in the air and landing upside down underwater.  Oh, you know the way that did NOT thrill me.  Brad and Alex assured me that being on the front of the tube is great.  I so easily forget that their idea of great and my idea of great are not the same idea.  And how easily they forget, too.  I think they both harbor a quiet hope that one of these times I'll come up from under the water, sputtering and stumbling and say, "WOW!!  That was GREAT!  Can we do it again???"  Silly boys.

So here's the recap of our great day at the water park:

this is the view from the top of the body slides.  beautiful...

Now, for the people shooting down the slides: please note the looks of utter delight on their faces.  Please also note the way they are laying down, to achieve the greatest speed...

Amanda, a beautiful smile,

Emily, a beautiful smile,

My beautiful Brenna, a beautiful smile,

And then there's Alex...

And Brad...

And here I finally come.  I'm trying my best to put on a big smile.  And note that I am sitting up ram-rod straight, trying not to gain the most speed, but to stay in the most control.

And then Emily plops into the pool, still smiling!

And now we will move onto The Downhill Racers!  This is one that took me forever to build up the courage to ride last year.  This year I knew exactly what to expect, which is exactly what I prefer to know.  So I got into it right from the beginning, and was determined to make it further than the last finish line.  I kept being told, "It's all technique!"  And the lifeguards even got into the teaching mode, trying to coach me on "the technique".  Well, I'm proud to say that after going down more than 20 times, I finally got it figured out!!  And you know what was slowing me down?  I was keeping my head way up so I could keep my eyes on where I was going.  Right before my last run, the lifeguard told me to try to put my head down behind the mat and to just trust that I'd go the right way.  He told me, "You can look at the finish line after you finish."  Hmm.  Good advice, huh?!  So I tried it, and I sailed right past the 3rd finish!  Woo-hoo for me!!

me, Amanda and Brenna ready for the first run

coasting into the finish...

looking up at the finish, too soon

A few minutes after this shot was when I finally made it all the way down!

Jack, Alex, and Thomas.  I love how much air Alex gets on his decent!

And finally, some shots of the the River Rapids.  Oh, my.  This one was new to me this year.  It was a wild ride, for sure.  I kept getting stuck in all the "pools" on the way down, and needed assistance just about every time.  Even from small children.  Who weren't even mine.  And I love, love, love the different expressions on the faces:  serene smiles, panicked excitement...we had it all:

Alex, preparing to throw himself down the final slope...

Beth, gliding down gracefully...

Emily, trying the backwards approach...

Amanda, taking the serene journey...

Now here we go.  This is one of the times I was stuck, that Brad so kindly captured on film.  Please notice the oh-so-kind 5-year old who tried valiantly to come to my rescue.  That's some fine husband material, if any 5-year old girls are looking:

Bless him, look how hard he's trying to throw me down that cliff...

And here's the evidence that it was a wild drop to the bottom:

And now I offer photographic evidence that the ever-so-sweet Brenna is truly my child:

'nuff said!

Next a break for the hot tub:

Scattered throughout all this fun there were the wild double tubes that sent me a-flying.  Here are pictures of those who enjoyed that part:

Like father, like son...

Like big boy, like little boy...

Even Amanda and Brenna!

I do love Brenna's expression in this picture!

At one point in the day, Brad and I sat on the edge of the pool and watched Beth try (quite successfully!) to swim against the current.  It makes us smile.  And it makes us remember how beautiful the simple moments are.  We never take them for granted.

"He has made everything beautiful in its time..." Ecc. 3:11
And this is a beautiful time, sweet girl...

and this is what exhaustion looks like at the end of a fabulous day!