Monday, September 15, 2014

The Spider In the Doll's House

One thing you might know about me is that I am deathly afraid of spiders. Beyond arachnophobic.

At least I used to be.

There was a time in the very recent past that I would cry if I saw even a teeny tiny spider crawling on my ceiling. I used to shake out my shoes before putting them on, and pulling boots out of storage after a warm season gave me palpitations. I once sprang out of my bedroom crying, tripping over a wooden beam and slicing my knee open because there was a spider on my bedspread. I once had to call the neighbor to come over and kill a spider for me because Scott was at work. I once LITERALLY jumped onto a businessman's lap on the train because a spider had crawled onto my handbag. (Probably made his day.) I was so afraid of spiders that I couldn't even get near enough to one to kill it. If there was a known spider in my house, I could not sleep until it was dead. I had nightmares about flying spiders. Ugh, saying that word over and over is actually freaking me out a little right now.

Before I got married, I had daily panic attacks because my best friend's house, in which I was staying for a month between my apartment's lease running out and moving to Scotland, was infested with all kinds of spiders - big, black, hairy spiders, little skinny brown spiders, black widows, brown recluses - and even approaching the front door of that house would cause my throat to close up and I could barely breathe. I'm not sure I actually slept for a month prior to my wedding, and it wasn't wedding jitters that were keeping me awake. It was the six or seven spiders I saw daily in that little house.

But in the past two years, I have improved significantly. It started with killing teeny spiders. Like the little practically microscopic ones. I'd take one of Scott's biggest, most sturdy shoes (brogues usually did the trick) and smash them dead. Then with half a roll of toilet paper folded up so I couldn't feel the creepy crawly with my fingers, I could clean it up. Anything bigger than a pony bead was still Scott's territory.

I got braver and learned to kill even kind of slightly bigger spiders. I knew by this point I was moving back to Arkansas, land of venomous black widows and brown recluses - not to mention harmless but evil-looking wolf spiders - and would simply have to learn to kill these beasties before they killed me (or my kids). I got really brave. By the time I moved back to Arkansas, I had overcome my phobia of spiders and now I simply hate them. I can kill them now, even big ones. If they are small and of the harmless nature, I can even allow them to coexist in my home - as long as they don't crawl around too much or get up in my personal space. We have some spiders who have taken up residence in a few corners of our home and have been very effective in killing mosquitoes. I've learned to live harmoniously with some of these guys. I'm officially no longer arachnophobic.

To prove this, we even allowed a HUGE (I mean freaking HUGE) garden spider to live in our backyard for a few weeks. However, it was interfering with our kids being able to play freely in the backyard and with actual sadness and regret (actual regret!), we had to give it the old death squash. (It was EW. I mean EW. It was freaking huge.)


But I am currently still shaking, and my heart is still pounding over what just happened.

Scott is out at an awards ceremony at work tonight, so I'm home alone with the kids. I told the girls to go get their pajamas on, while I put Cailean to bed. Suddenly, the two girls came barrelling through the house SCREAMING and crying.

"A SPIDER! A SPIDER! IT'S ENORMOUS! IT LOOKS LIKE A BLACK WIDOW!" they screamed, sobbing uncontrollably.

"Okay! Okay! Calm down!" I could feel a little terror welling up in my chest, because even if I'm not totally arachnophobic anymore, I still hate the wee buggers. Especially black widows. I put on my tennis shoes and grabbed one of Scott's sturdy shoes from the shoe rack.

"Tell me where it is," I instructed Fiona.

She told me it was on the top level of the doll's house. I crept into their room, and from the door could see what they were screaming about. It was no black widow.

"HOLY CRAP," is about all I could say.

Black legs danced around on a creature as big and black and hairy as a tarantula. It wasn't walking away but was moving its legs like it was stuck. The legs were thick and hairy-looking. Each leg looked about three or four inches long. How on EARTH did that thing get in here?!

How the FECK am I going to kill this fecker?!, I thought wildly. "GRAB ME A GLASS CUP." I said to Fiona, trying to keep my composure. Shrieking, she ran to the kitchen.

"None of them are big enough!" she wailed. She was right. Oh my STARS, she was right. So I ran to the kitchen and grabbed a large cereal bowl. It might be big enough. I would trap it under that bowl until Scott got home. Somehow. Oh heavenly gracious, PLEASE DO NOT LET THAT SPIDER RUN! Wanting to pass out, I took the cereal bowl back to their room and crept closer to the doll's house.


Let me pause for suspense.


Feel the terror with me. Let's all imagine catching a bloody tarantula with a cereal bowl.


Do you feel it? Is your skin crawling? Is your stomach churning? Do you feel your intestines twisting?

Now. Imagine this.

As I approached the doll's house, I burst out laughing, maniacal laughing.

It was no tarantula.

It was a fringed trumpet noisemaker, being blown around by the ceiling fan.


I have never been so relieved. I also promptly allowed myself the freak-out that I'd been bottling up for the sake of my children. I threw that evil party toy in the trash and will never look at them the same way again.

I still don't think any of us will sleep very well tonight.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

You May Be a Fitness Junkie If:

1. You plan your social life and appointments around your workout schedule.


"Dr Murphy can see you at 10:40 on Tuesday. Will that work for you?"
"Oooh, sorry, I'll be at Body Pump at that time. Do you have anything after 11 but before 2?"


2. You're always trying to get your non-fitness friends to join you for a workout.


"You'd LOVE Zumba if you just tried it! You don't have to be coordinated! Well, you do a little bit, but after a few weeks, you'll get the hang of it!"


3. You have multiple pairs of athletic shoes, a different pair for each activity.


"These are for running, these are for weight training, these are for indoor cardio, these are for outdoor cardio, and these are for running errands in."


4. You post on Facebook at least once a week or more about your WODs or gains.


"Not my best, but you know, we were out of bacon this morning."


5. You use words like WODs, gains and macros in ordinary conversation as if everyone knows what you're talking about.


"I've had to recalculate my macros to factor in my gains."


6. Your idea of a lazy Saturday means taking a light jog or a Pilates class instead of your usual more strenuous activities.


"It was just a half marathon, not a full. No biggie."


7. You have insisted that your friends feel your biceps.


"No, seriously, FEEL THEM!"


8. You know the difference between wrist and chest heart rate monitors and that they don't give the correct algorithms for strength training since they are based on cardio.


"I hate that I can't figure out how to enter my chest reps into My Fitness Pal."


9. When another fitness friend is having a bad day, instead of telling them to go home and relax because they deserve a break, you encourage them to go to the gym.


"Just go. You'll feel better."


10. Even when you're sick or having a bad day, you still choose to go work out.


"Feed a cold, starve a fever. Doesn't say anything about avoiding light cardio."




Thanks to Amy Belk, Kristy McElroy, Angie Schwab and Steve Arnold for lending me your photos!

Friday, September 05, 2014

2014: A Hair Oddessey

For the past sixteen years of my life, I've been dying my hair. Sometimes natural colors, usually not. I've had pink, purple, blue, red, orange, black, brown and blonde hair over the years. I have only looked 'natural' a for a few months within the second half of my existence. (I'm thirty-two, it's literally been some unnatural color for basically half my life.)

For a few months lately, though, all I've really wanted to do is to stop dying my hair. I'm not entirely gray yet, and I know when I go gray I'll want to color over it more often, but until then, I kind of just want to stop messing with my hair. I'm also once again wanting to grow it out, and if I stick with it this time, I don't want most of it to be disgusting and fried. A few months ago I attempted to match up my hair to my roots, and I actually did a pretty good job of matching it. I now had about two inches of root that was nearly indistinguishable from the dyed hair.


My hair on Monday.

The only thing is, I had put that dye on over bleached hair. Knowing what I know now (I've learned a lot about hair in the past twenty-four hours), that is why it had a slight greenish/gray tinge to it in certain lights. Apparently bleached hair pulls in more of that cool ash color in the color I'd chosen, and thus gives off a greenish hue. That was my only complaint about my hair; in certain lights, it definitely looked a little seasick.

I wanted to brighten it up without changing it completely, so I began considering an ombré. For those who have been living under a rock for the past several years, ombré is the hair trend of having darker, more natural hues at the roots with gradually-dyed lightening at the ends (or with a reverse ombré, it goes from lighter to darker). I'd been resisting this trend for a long time, but it looks like it's here to stay, and it kind of did achieve the goal I was aiming for. I wanted to stop having to touch up my roots all the time, and this would allow me to have fun hair without having all the upkeep.

I was going for something like this:


Or maybe even this


Scott didn't want me to do this out of a box. He was afraid I'd mess it up. I on the other hand didn't want to spend a fortune (upwards and over $100). I settled on a compromise. I'd go to the local beauty college to get it done, so it wouldn't mess up my hair but I also wouldn't spend a fortune. Oh the irony. The painful, sad irony.

I printed off, not one, but four pictures of acceptable ombré styles. I didn't want to take any chances. I then of course left the pictures on my kitchen table and drove off to my appointment. Mistake I Should Never Make Again #1.

I had to take Cailean with me too, by the way. It was unavoidable (well, except I could've booked it for another day, but I have him all day five days a week, and I work on Saturday, and I wanted my hair done by next Thursday, so there wasn't really any other day to book it for). He was actually pretty good considering he's a two-year-old boy stuck in a stroller for almost three hours. Mistake I Should Never Make Again (Or At Least Do My Best to Avoid) #2 - Take toddler to get hair done. But he wasn't really that much of a problem. It just meant I couldn't sit in that chair and make her fix it after it was all done. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

I arrived right on time and was taken to my chair promptly, no waiting. I explained to the girl, who was a student graduating in a month, so assumably trustworthy, what I wanted. I explained I'd forgotten my photos but tried my best to explain. I used some words I realized immediately are bad buzz words in cosmetology, and tried to rectify them, but some part of my soul knew the damage had already been done by uttering them. Mistake I Should Never Make Again #3 - Never use the word 'bold' in the same conversation as 'ombré'. I tried to take back the word 'bold', but it was too late. I only meant I didn't want it to be so entirely bland and subtle that it was unnoticeable, but 'bold' is just a word you should never use. Especially with a student.

I explicitly stated I did not want to look like my roots had grown out. Explicitly. I said that very plainly. I used the word 'fade' with 'ombré' multiple times. Even as she was applying the lightener, I reiterated I wanted it to fade to blonde. She assured me it would fade beautifully and 'not to panic'. Her supervisor came by and complimented her on the color. I took this as a positive sign. In retrospect, her supervisor probably didn't know I'd wanted ombré. She probably thought I wanted the bleach blonde crack addict look.

She wrapped my hair up in a cap to process for a while before washing it out.  It looked awfully.... brassy.... to me while wet and not very.... blended... but I didn't get worried right away. Surely there was still toner to go over it to create that coveted faded, blended look I'd spent hours on Pinterest looking for.

But no.  She dried my hair (with no soft, silky product, which is the best part of getting your hair done), and left it feeling sticky, mushy and frizzy.  She didn't style it, which I didn't expect her too, but it looked, well, AWFUL.  It was such a mess. She proceeded to 'trim' it, and by 'trim' I mean she snipped a few ends off here and there.  I was waiting for her to fix the dark roots/ bleached blonde hair line, but the supervisor came, handed me my ticket without so much as looking at my hair, and that was that. She was done.

I squirmed. I HAVE to say something, I thought. I hate confrontation, and I hate hurting people's feelings, especially people who are just learning, but I had to say something.

"I have to say, it's not really what I expected...' I said slowly.  I told her, overly apologetically, that I expected the blonde to start much lower and for it to fade better.  She looked surprised (hurt?) and said she could fix it if I wanted, but by this time, we'd been there almost three hours and wee Cailean, who'd been sitting in his stroller spitting at everyone and throwing his shoes, socks and Spiderman all over the place for three hours, had had enough. I needed to get him home.  She said she could fix it if I came in again, so I took her card, paid the $38 ($5 of which was for Cailean's haircut, which she did fine on) and left. Fighting back the tears, I got to the car and immediately called Scott.

I didn't want him to see this disaster before I'd warned him.

Also, he was right. He's always right, by the way, which is one of his more intolerable qualities. Mistake I Should Never Make Again #4 - Doubt Scott.  If I had just gone to a salon in the first place, my hair wouldn't have ended up looking like this:





Why - no seriously - WHY would anyone think this is what I wanted?! Is this considered ombré? Is this even considered a hair style?! I spent almost $40 making my hair look like I needed to get my hair done. My hair was in bad enough condition before this, but now it was absolutely, positively, utterly destroyed.  I'm talking Death Star destroyed.

I googled home hair repair remedies.  I needed something to make my hair feel more natural than phony plastic doll hair; my twenty-year old Barbie's hair looked more conditioned than this. I gave myself a hot oil treatment with real coconut oil and a steamy hot towel. I later washed it out and conditioned it as well as I could and went to bed with wet hair. Maybe I'd wake up to realize this was all just a cruel warning dream.

It was not.

Thanks to Facebook, I had lots of messages with recommendations for what to do about my hair - go back to the college to get it fixed, go visit so-and-so's salon, DON'T color over it, etc. I eventually went with my friend Angie's recommendation of a local friend who would be sure to know how to fix it. I called this girl at 8am this morning, crossing my fingers she'd be able to see me today. Luckily, she finishes early on Fridays and her last appointment was at 2pm.  I warned her that my hair would take a long time, as it is very thick, and if she was willing to see me after her last appointment, she may not get that early Friday.  I'm not sure if she really believed me when I told her my hair would take two to three hours. I wasn't exaggerating.

I printed off several more pictures.  I wanted to offer her several different options, since I didn't know how realistic it was going to be to fix my hair.



I figured she'd maybe just be able to go over most of the hair with a dark color and leave the bottom tips that bright yellow. I even brought a picture of pink hair - Scott's suggestion - since part of me was thinking that since my hair was already bleached and ruined, I might as well take advantage of it and go crazy. But really, all I wanted was to be normal for once in my life. Just once. 

At 2:30, having left Cailean with Scott who was working from home today (bless him), I spread my photos out before Marissa and told her the story of my hair.  She gingerly touched my hair, hiding her cringe face, and admitted it was pretty, er, bad.  We talked about each picture and how possible it would be to do each.  She really liked the idea of the pink too, and I think she kind of wanted me to go with that one, but I just wasn't sure I wanted to commit to more upkeep; the idea was less upkeep. And normal.

We decided on a plan best for my hair, and Marissa got to work.  I felt nervous, understandably, but really, she couldn't have made it any worse than it already was.  Yet by the time she'd put in the toner, foils, and over all color, I felt very confident that this was going to turn out really good.


I had been at the salon already for two and a half hours. My hair is thick, ya'll.  Once all the color had been washed out, she got down to the problem of the damage.  I haven't had my hair cut in almost a year, so the ends were pretty messed up already, not withstanding the recent bleach fiasco.  She trimmed it up beautifully though, thinned it all out with thinning shears, taking out a lot of the damaged hair without sacrificing length, and put in some nice oils.  Then she hot ironed it and worked that hairdresser voodoo on it.

The girl performed a miracle.


Now that's what I consider ombré!  We had decided that with the shape of my hair (that year old grown out bob) I should only keep blonde in the front and do the back all the same color. It turned out really pretty, and my hair feels so good now! It's still damaged, but it doesn't look as damaged anymore.

I had been at the salon for over three hours at this point.  I wasn't going to be home in time to make dinner, so I ordered pizza while Marissa finished my hair. That meant that including the thirty minutes drive beforehand to get there*, and the pizza pickup afterwards, I'd left Scott for four hours, three of which were with five kids**.  (I'm pretty sure he wins Father and Husband of the Year.)

*That's considered 'local' here. America, sheesh.
**Five kids because we've been watching my neighbors' two kids this week while they've been house-hunting out of state.

My hair looks so much better. I'm so happy with it! And now, after all this faffing about, I have also made myself a pledge to never do my own hair (or go to a beauty school - sorry, trainees) ever again.  I'll even go in for fringe trims. By trying to save money, I ended up spending way, way more than I intended. Mistake I Should Never Make Again #5 - Trying to cut corners in all the wrong places.  Which, incidentally, messed up my September Shopping Challenge. After that $110 getting it fixed, and the wasted money at the college, plus the pizza, I spent well over my allotted budget for hair this month. Oh, and throw in a pity Sonic shake I bought for myself on the way home yesterday in which to drown my sorrows. Sweet, chocolatey sorrows. But all's well that end's well, and my blonde ends are looking well***!


***Actually they are looking 'good', not 'well', to be grammatically correct. But that ruins the parallel structure of my wee quip, dammit.


Monday, September 01, 2014

A Day at the Lake... But First - A Challenge Update!

Day 1 of September Shopping Challenge down!  It's harder than you think.

I actually did this week's shop yesterday, since I knew we'd be at the lake all day today. I was super proud of myself. I made a menu, checked what I already had in and made a shopping list, guessed each item's price and concluded my shopping would cost $167.

It was $160 before I remembered a few more things.

I went to the grocery store, stuck to my list (only bought four things that weren't on the list - two of which I actually needed and simply forgot about) and only skipped one thing on the list because I couldn't find it. My total came to $162!

I call that a super success.

I also covered all the other little payments - bills, Fiona's monthly swim team fees, wedding present purchase (stayed under my budget by literally 1 cent!) and school lunch cash.

Now the plan is to stay away from stores and shops all week. This won't be easy.  In fact, I had to go into one today. On the way to the lake, I realized I'd left Cailean's arm floaties at home. Not wanting to be miserable all day chasing after a drowning two-year-old, I stopped into a Dollar General to pick up some floaties.  Luckily, with summer stock being replaced with Halloween (already?!), the floaties were 50% off - making them $1.  I got two packs and... erm... a box of ding dongs.  Impulse buy confession. They shouldn't have Little Debbie's snacks just RIGHT THERE at the checkout. That's playing dirty!

Soooo....

Spider Man Floaties!
The lake, yeah, we went! I actually can't believe we've been here for two summers, and this was our first trip to the lake, only an hour down the road. It was practically empty, despite being Labor Day weekend, so we practically had the whole "beach" to ourselves. The kids LOVED it. Cailean got a huge kick out of throwing sand at everyone.  Fiona enjoyed snorkeling and trying to find fish.  Isla, of course, made best friends with the kids of the one other family on the beach with us.

Swimming with Mimi.
The Sandman.
Snorkel time.
We swam, played in the sand, and ate a picnic.  Unfortunately the leisure was cut (quite literally) short when Cailean cut his knee open. We didn't have any first aid with us (I'm a crap mum, I get it), so we cleaned him up as best we could and gathered up our stuff early to head back to my mom's camper site.  I figured we'd just doctor him up and head home, but we ended up hanging out with Mom and my step-dad (and my brother and sister-in-law) for another few hours, drinking beer and Diet Coke and whatnot.

That bad mother thing again.

Shell Collector.
The ride home was glorious... we all fell asleep. Except for Scott, luckily, since he was driving, and actually, I think Cailean may have stayed awake the whole time - how he didn't konk out straight away, I cannot fathom.

Me and my beach babe.
Oh, and even though I failed a little today with my ding-dong purchase, I DID manage to resist the urge to stop on our way home at Wendy's or Pizza Hut or something else junk foody and effortless and money-costing.  Even though we toyed with the idea, we were strong and came home instead, and I made delicious, if I do say so myself, homemade pizza for dinner. I even made an extra calzone to put in Fiona's and Isla's lunches tomorrow.


Errbody.
Thanks to my tripod, you see.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

SSC14 Helpful Lists

I mentioned earlier making a list of non-food items that should be checked before going to the store on my weekly shopping day. I've rewritten the list and thought I'd share it with you, saving you the effort of doing so yourself. You're welcome!

Add/subtract what you need off the list, print it and hang it on your fridge.  When you look through your fridge and cupboards while meal planning (which of course we are all doing regularly right? Right?....), you'll have this list to check through too.

If I've forgotten something major - particularly in the "Baby" section (it's been a while), comment and let me know so I can update the list.  Happy September Shopping!


Cleaning Supplies:
Kitchen disinfectant spray
Dishwasher detergent
Dish soap
Rinse-Aid
Toilet disinfectant spray
Toilet bowl cleaner
Disinfectant wipes
Sponges, etc.
Bleach
Floor cleaner
Dusting spray
Laundry detergent
Fabric softener, dryer sheets
Stain remover
Air freshener


Paper and Plastic Products:
Paper towels
Toilet paper
Cling film (plastic wrap)
Foil
Baking paper, wax paper
Sandwich bags, freezer bags, etc
Coffee filters
Air filters
Lightbulbs


Health and Hygiene:
Shampoo
Conditioner
Hair styling products
Soap
Body wash
Contact solution, etc
Deodorant
Face wash
Make-up
Shaving cream
Razors
After shave
Loofas, etc
Feminine hygiene products
Toothpaste, floss
Hand soap (for bathrooms and kitchen)
Vitamins
First Aid kit items (Band-Aids, anti-bacterial ointment, etc)
OTC drugs (ibuprofen, etc)


Baby:
Diapers
Wipes
Diaper cream
Pacifiers
Baby shampoo and bath wash


Pets:
Pet food, treats
Pet cleaning supplies (pet shampoos, accident cleaners)
Cat litter, puppy pads, etc


*************
31 August


In addition to yesterday's non-food essentials checklist (which I've updated about three times with things I'd forgotten like toothpaste and laundry products!), I've created another list for other easily forgotten grocery items - from the fridge and pantry.

The worst thing ever is to start making a recipe just to discover you are out of flour or butter.  This happens to me all the time.  (A little tip by the way:  Hang a chalkboard in your pantry to write down items as you run out! I keep a piece of chalk in the front corner too.)

Below is a list, which will probably be updated a couple of times until I think I've covered it all, of pantry items and condiments that are easily overlooked when meal-planning and shopping list-making.  Again, if I've forgotten anything glaringly obvious, let me know.  Hope these lists are useful! They certainly have been already for me. (See the chalkboard? I'm out of baking soda!)

Pantry Items:
Flour (plain, self-raising, other)
Sugar (white, brown, icing/powdered, Splenda/Truvia, etc)
Baking soda/bicarbonate of soda
Baking powder
Cocoa
Yeast
Vanilla
Oils (olive, vegetable, coconut, etc)
Cooking spray
Vinegar (white, malt, apple cider, etc)
Salt
Pepper
Spices (check use by dates and replace if necessary!!)
Bouillon/ stock cubes
Peanut butter
Coffee
Tea
Lemon juice/ lime juice
Honey
Oats


Refrigerator:
Ketchup
Mustard
Mayonnaise
Barbecue sauce
Soy sauce (or fish sauce, etc)
Jam/ jelly
Butter/ margarine



September Shopping Challenge Time (Again)


You know me and my challenges. Last year I started the September Shopping Challenge to help me take charge of my budget and spending. I learned a lot about meal planning, budgeting, and self-control. I hate to spend large amounts of money all at once, but don't think twice about several small expenditures which really add up.

This year we're on a much more even keel, seeing as we aren't in the rebuilding our lives stage that we were in last year; we now have all the couches, beds, tables, dishes, towels, lawn mowers and cute wall decorations that one needs when moving into a house and owning nothing.  However, the challenge was so good for me last year, that I'm doing it again this September.

I'm still in the habit of meal planning, and I plan out my grocery shopping for two weeks at a time. I still set aside money for petrol (I insist "gas" be called petrol) for both cars.  What I'm not so good at is keeping track of cleaning supplies and other non-food necessities, and resisting impulse buys (aka clothes).  So these will be my focus this month.  

I made a list a few months ago - that I subsequently never looked at again - of household supplies that we inevitably run out of between grocery days.  The idea was to check the list before my shopping day, so I could avoid all those midweek trips to the store for toilet paper that end up costing $80 because of poor planning and unnecessary purchases.  You know the routine: you go in for toilet paper and come out with three bags of junk food, two sale rack t-shirts, new socks for the kids, a weird and wonderful wall hanging and an over-priced checkout line Diet Dr Pepper. And no toilet paper.

My plan for this month is to recreate that list.  I've also added lunch foods to my meal plan calendar to avoid running out of lunch supplies and having to pay for school dinners that weren't planned.

My goals for this September Shopping Challenge:

1. Only hit the shops one day a week.  Hit them hard but only once.  Get everything I need on that one day. On my schedule I have them alternating Mondays and Sundays.  

2. No eating out if it isn't planned.  We like to go to Zaxby's on Wednesdays every once in a while because kids eat free (yahoo!), but I've put that on the calendar.  We are also going to Nashville in two weeks for my college BFF's wedding (yay!) so there will be eating out a lot that weekend, and probably some extraneous spending, but it's on the calendar.  We have budgeted and planned for that.

3. Put money in savings.  With the spare money we will hopefully have saved from me not spending way too much, I'd like to bulk up our emergency fund.  I have a wee job now, and that money really ought to just go straight to savings. Other than the weekly milk, bread and cereal top-ups, I'd like to see that paycheck go mostly into savings.

4. Conserve petrol. I'm already pretty good at this, making my van's tank last about three weeks, but I'm putting it on the list because it's an easily achievable goal. 

5. No impulse buys.  When I do hit the shops on my one day, or if my planning turns out still poor and I absolutely must go on an extra day, stick to my list.  Just because there is a sale rack does not mean I have to visit it.  Just because cake mixes are 10 for $10 (gotta love Kroger) does not mean I need ten cake mixes. (Or one for that matter.)

6. Plan ahead with birthday gifts and cards. I have birthdays on my calendar so it's not like I have an excuse, but I always forget to check it.  I'll try to remember to check my birthdays before I go shopping.  And though I don't think I have any September birthdays in Scotland that I haven't already taken care of, I'll plan and budget for postage too.  

My one exception I'll allow myself is regarding Christmas presents.  I like to start my shopping early, and already have a stack of gifts on the top shelf of my closet.  If I see a good deal at the store while I'm doing my weekly shop, I'll consider it and possibly buy it.  That's it. That's my one SSC exception.

So, there it is. The September Shopping Challenge of 2014.  If you want to join me in this endeavor, please do, and let me know about it.  Or even better, blog or Facebook about it! I'd love to hear about your progress!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Love My Body Project - Final Postscript

For over a year, a tripod has been on my wishlist. A 50" tripod is only like $15, but every time I went to buy one, I found I couldn't justify it. My purpose for a tripod is so totally self-absorbed that I felt guilty spending $15 on one.

Well, with the October Dress Project coming up in just over a month, I finally decided to break down and get my tripod. Without a small child around to take photos of my October dress, I'd need it for selfies, right?

Self. Absorbed. I'm embarrassed.

Anyway, so I got it out this morning for my first selfies. Workout selfies. Eek.

The thing is, it just goes to show how far I've come. Not weightwise. I've lost some weight, and I'm super proud of that, but that's not what I'm talking about. I've come so far in another way.

You see those shorts I'm wearing? I've NEVER been comfortable wearing shorts to the gym. Like ever. Even when I was fifteen pounds lighter than I am right now, I couldn't wear shorts to the gym. Too self-conscious, too ashamed of my legs, my body. But since doing the Love My Body project in July, I've gained a totally new confidence about my body. My thighs will always be disproportionately large compared to the rest of my body. My hips will always be wider than my shoulders. But you know what? I don't care! I actually, truly do not care. As it turns out, I love the way I look now.

I have never been able to say that with such honesty and confidence before. In my life.

I'm not as thin as I used to be, but I'm so much healthier. I have more control over what I eat now. I don't deprive myself (which is why strict diets never worked for me), but I choose my "battles". I feel that I truly control what goes in my mouth - for the most part. Sometimes I choose poorly, but in general, I feel I have learned to make good food choices.

I am stronger. I go to the gym just about every day, Monday through Friday, and work out from one to three hours. GRANTED not everyone has that luxury. I'm lucky that I am a stay-at-home-mum and that my gym offers cheap childcare. I'm lucky that if I don't have time during the day to go to the gym that my husband happily lets me go in the evenings while he looks after the children. I don't take this luxury for granted. I'm thankful for it though. I'm thankful that my body has developed the stamina, after months of exercising, to withstand hard work. I remember going to Kickboxing at the very start of my fitness journey and being unable to breathe after twenty minutes. In fact, I remember being ready to leave after the warm-up! Now I get to the end of the class and think, "That was it?"

I can wear shorts. Even more amazing is I can take pictures of myself in shorts and not even think about what you're going to think about it.

Sweet Socks, not fat thighs, are what I see here.


Shaped like a human.  A lovely human. Like you.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Things You Should Know About Me

Lately I've been wanting to dispel some myths about atheists. Since "coming out", I've had a few people seem, I don't know, uncomfortable maybe? around me. It's as if they don't know what to think of me anymore.  I began writing out some myths about atheists, but I soon realized that there is no way to categorize all atheists and what they are or aren't.  Just as you can't categorize all Christians in the same way, atheists, believers, and everyone in between come in all shapes, sizes and temperaments. Since it would be impossible to dispel myths about "atheists", I simply want to dispel some assumptions about ME.

1. I don't hate Christians. Or God for that matter.
I still have total respect for my friends and family, just as I always have. I've not always agreed with everyone on everything anyway, and I good-naturedly argued various points with them, but I've never hated them or what they believed, and that hasn't changed now. In fact, I still very much enjoy a good theological debate. If you want to talk to me about your relationship with God, I still want to listen. I still understand you and empathize with you. I've been there. Talk away.  And I don't hate God either. I just don't think there is one. I'm not going to start saying mean, insensitive, blasphemous things to you. I still ask my kids not to use the Lord's name in vain, because I know it's insensitive. I also don't insult Muslims, Mormons, or Jews for what they believe either. I don't hate any of you or any of your beliefs. I just don't believe the same things as you.

2. Similarly, I'm not just angry at God either.
Just because I don't believe in something doesn't equate anger with that thing. To use a very poor, inadequate example, I stopped believing in the tooth fairy once, but it wasn't because I was mad that she forgot to pick up my tooth (true story). I just started putting all the pieces together and realized my mom was the tooth fairy and I hadn't told her I'd lost my tooth. I know God and the tooth fairy aren't the same thing, but the concept still holds - disbelief does not equal anger.  While I might have once been angry at God (and I was), I did not stop believing in him just to get back at him.

3. I have not lost my morals.
Some of my ethical and moral philosophies have shifted, true, but that does not mean I am now amoral. Just because I no longer fear divine retribution or eternal damnation for wrongdoings does not mean I now give myself license to wrongdoing. I care about my fellow man. I care about my children. I care about my husband. I don't want to hurt people, not by stealing, gossipping, cheating or injuring.  My motivation for being good has always been personal, out of my own desire to be a good person. I used to also feel accountable to God for my actions. But without that accountability, I still have that same personal desire to be the best person I am able to be. And when I do mess up? It's not because I've "lost my way" and "turned my back against God". It's because I'm human and fallible, just like I was before, just like you are, and we all make mistakes, with or without a god.

4. I am not "militant".
I may talk about my non-beliefs to or in front of you, but I have no intention of "shoving it down your throat." Similarly, I have no desire to make you change your beliefs. In fact, that is very much NOT what I want to do. I know firsthand how painful the exit from faith is. I don't want to force that on anyone else. If something I say resonates with you, that's different, but it's not my intention to tear apart your faith in any way. Just as I don't regard you merely talking about faith as shoving it down MY throat, I hope you'll see that my talking about my experience is the same. The only way we'll all understand each other is if we listen to each other. When anyone starts getting defensive or offensive, the lines of communication shut down. I understand your need to talk about what matters to you. If my talking about what matters to me is upsetting to you, just stop listening. I'll never talk about it as a backhanded way of denigrating or criticising you.

5. My life is not meaningless and death is not hopeless.
If anything, I feel my life has more meaning now than ever before. Now that I realize this is my only shot at life, and there is no life hereafter in which to atone for my mistakes (and there is no God to fix what I've done wrong), I now live life a lot more intentionally and purposefully. I try to repair my mistakes myself, now, rather than leaving it up to God to rectify. I am grateful for every second I am alive in which to awe at the splendor of this universe.  I don't believe in eternal damnation or glorification. I wish, oh I definitely wish, that I could one day watch the continuation of life progress from my comfortable mansion in heaven, but knowing that I can't just means I must appreciate every moment of living now. As for death, I'm not going to pretend the loss of the heavenly concept isn't a bit disappointing (I really wanted to prove I'm right about so many things to Scott after getting to ask God), but it's not hopeless. My body will be donated to science to be practiced on by the nation's future doctors, and then I will return to the earth. It's kind of wonderous. My energy, whatever energy is left of me when I die, will return to the earth and keep the process of life moving on. I came from nature and will return to nature. I think that's fascinating.

6. I'm not trying to be edgy and trendy.
Far from it. I never wanted to be an atheist. I assumed all atheists were licentious, angry and intolerable. I'm still a little uncomfortable with the label. I could just do away with labels altogether, but at the end of the day, it does accurately describe my view of divinity. I was much prouder of my Calvinist label than I am of my atheist one. It's not about being edgy. I got over the excitement of rebellion sometime around the age of 19 (except for when it comes to my hair color, piercings and tattoos!). That's about the extent of my edginess, says the girl with a Soccer Mom plate on her white minivan.

7. And finally, it's not just a phase.
I go through lots of phases: crafty phases, bento phases, pet phases, fitness phases. This is not one of them. I'll always miss certain things - the community of church, the comfort of believing in divine protection, the dream of an afterlife. I'll talk sometimes with longing about my past beliefs. But that doesn't make me a Christian in remission. I don't know for certain what the future holds for me, of course, but I'm pretty certain it doesn't hold a reconversion to religious faith. However, if you want to keep praying for me, I won't be offended by that. Prayers (honest prayers) come from a place of love, and whatever our beliefs, love is universal. I hope that our differences in religious beliefs won't displace love.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Kindergarten Concerns: A Fairy Tale

Isla's a little uncertain about starting kindergarten next week. So I told her this story.


Once upon a time, there was a little girl called Isla. She was getting ready for her first day of kindergarten. She was a little frightened. What if she didn't make any friends? What if her teacher didn't know her name? She didn't know how to read or add yet. She decided she didn't want to go to kindergarten after all. She hid her new Pikachu backpack and all her new school clothes under her bed.

The day before school started, Isla said to her mummy, "I'm NOT going to kindergarten tomorrow."

Her mummy said, "But don't you want to go to school to learn to read and add?"

"NO!" she shouted. "I'm not going to kindergarten and that's THAT!"

The next morning, Isla stayed in her pajamas. Her big sister Fiona ate her breakfast, put on her new school clothes and pretty new backpack, and got ready to go to school.

Isla said, "I'm NOT going with you."

Her mummy sighed and said, "If you REALLY don't want to go, then you can stay home." Her big sister left without her.

Isla played all morning, happy that she didn't have to go to school. After a few hours, she said, "I'm going next door to play with my best friend Brayden."

"But Brayden is at school," her mummy said.

Isla frowned. Who was she going to play with? She realized she'd have to just play with her baby brother all day until Fiona came home.

Fiona came home after school full of excitement. She told Isla all about her new teacher and all her new friends and how cool school is. She told her that Isla's teacher had asked where she was and that all the kids wanted to meet her. "Don't you want to go to school with me tomorrow?" Fiona asked.

"NO! I'm not going to kindergarten and that's THAT!"

The next morning, Isla stayed in her pajamas while Fiona got ready for school. Isla played with her baby brother for a while, but he wasn't really very much fun. All he did was punch and throw toys. After a few hours, she said, "Can I go play at Emily's house?"

"But Emily is at school," her mummy said.

Isla frowned. "Can I go play with Jonah?"

"Jonah is at school."

"Lila? Lilliana?" Isla suggested.

"Both of them are at school too," her mummy said.

This is rubbish, Isla thought. There was no one to play with. Not any of her friends and not her little brother. She was bored.

In the afternoon, her big sister Fiona came home. She said, "Isla, your new teacher wants to meet you! All the kids in your class want to meet you too! Won't you come to school with me tomorrow?"

"NO! I'm not going to kindergarten and that's THAT!" she said, but a little less sure of herself now.

The next morning, Isla stayed in her pajamas while Fiona got ready for school. She quietly watched Fiona leave and suddenly felt very lonely.

She imagined Fiona at school, learning all kinds of new things. She imagined her own class learning how to do new things like read or add. And then she got scared.

"Mummy! What if all the kids in my class learn how to read and add without me?!" she cried.

"Well, if you want, I can help you read and add here at home, so you don't get behind," her mummy replied.

Isla sat with her mummy at the table, while they looked at the alphabet, but Isla couldn't help but be worried. She didn't want all the other kids to learn to read without her. She wanted to learn to read, she really did. Later Fiona came home from school and told her all about how much fun school was and didn't Isla want to go with her tomorrow?

Isla didn't say anything. That night she couldn't sleep. She didn't want to miss out on learning to read and add. She quietly got her new Pikachu backpack and new school clothes out of their hiding spot under her bed. She thought about school all night.

The next morning, Isla put on her new school dress. She said to her mummy, "Maybe I'll try school just this ONE time." Her mummy said that was fine. Feeling a little worried and a little shy, Isla left with her big sister to go to school.

When she got to her new classroom, she saw the nicest looking lady she'd ever seen.

"Why, hello, Isla! I'm your teacher, Mrs Holland. So nice to finally meet you!"

Her teacher knew her name!

"Why don't you sit at this little table with these children?" Mrs Holland said, leading her to a table with five other little boys and girls.

"Hi, Isla! Want to sit with us?" the little boys and girls said, and they pulled out a little chair for Isla to sit on.

That day was the funnest day Isla ever had. They played Duck Duck Goose and did art crafts and learned about the letter D. Isla already knew the letter D, as well as the letters she'd missed, A, B and C. She wasn't behind after all! They learned how to add 1 + 2, and Isla already knew how to do that on her fingers too. She wasn't behind on adding either!

She ran home after school to tell her mummy what a fantastic day she'd had. She told her mummy all the wonderful things she'd done and all the friends she'd made and even showed her mummy a picture she had drawn.

"I LOVE kindergarten!" Isla exclaimed.

"Do you think you'd like to go again tomorrow?" her mummy asked.

"Well, I'll maybe go again, just this ONE time," she replied. And she gave her mum a big cuddle.

The End.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Saying Goodbye To Summer

My alarm woke me up a little too early this morning at 6am. Though I promised myself I wouldn't, I hit snooze until 6.20. The girls' alarm went off at 6.30; Fiona got up and went back to sleep on the couch, and Isla stayed in bed.

School starts next week meaning this week is that dreaded time where we start getting used to going to bed early at night and waking up early in the morning. While the girls very obediently went to bed at 8pm last night, I on the other hand stayed up way too late.

I crawled out of bed when I heard Cailean in his room shouting 'Mama! Mama!' and stumbled through to get the kids their breakfast. The goal was to be 'school ready' by 7.30, as if it was a real school day. The girls whined and moaned as I prodded them out of bed (or off the couch as the situation may be), coaxed them to eat their breakfast, cajoled them into appropriate clothing and nudged them to brush their teeth. Amongst all that, they had to do their morning chores, like feed the cats and organize the shoe rack at the door. And guess what? They were ready by 7.30! Hair brushed, socks on and everything. I even had myself dressed and Cailean, well, somewhat dressed. It was a successful dress rehearsal for the real thing next Monday.

Morning Checklist

***

This morning we went to the gym, where the girls went to their last Monday KidFit class. The very last KidFit class for them will be on Wednesday. On Mondays, they play games in the gym, and on Wednesdays they get into the pool. It was kind of sad for me. Isla has been going to KidFit twice a week since February. Fiona was excited to get to join her all summer. But now, my little Isla is starting Kindergarten, so our little routine is about to change. It makes me feel a little weepy, not so much because she went to her last gym-room KidFit class, but because our little year together is coming to a close. I'm looking forward to easier days with just Cailean, but I'll miss my little Isla.

Furthermore, there were noticeable absences at my own Kickboxing class. All the summer regulars - the teachers - were back at work today. The class felt kind of empty.

Socks and Shoes

***

In the mail this afternoon, both girls got postcards from the school telling them about Open House on Thursday and providing their teacher's names. I don't know who either teacher is, but I guess I'll meet them on Thursday. Just another little reminder that school is starting very, very soon.

You've Got Mail

***

Fiona and Isla went over to a friend's house today. It's just me and Cailean, a little taste of things to come. I love the quiet, the no-fighting, the relaxed atmosphere, the running errands with ease, but I think I might just miss the little monsters next week when they are at school. They drive me freaking crazy, but gosh, I love them anyway. Without two big sisters to lug around, Cailean and I came home from the gym and took a bubble bath, got dressed leisurely, took a bag of clothes to Goodwill that has been in my room for over 7 months, went to Sally's Beauty Supply to buy pink wash-out hair dye (for Fiona and Isla) and bought some groceries at Walmart. It was easy peasy. We came home and had lunch, then I made a meatloaf. In a few minutes, I'm going to make a recipe to take to my Pampered Chef meeting tonight. All with leisure. I really can get used to this; I'll miss the girls, but wow, life is so easy with just a single child! (If you'd told me that when I had just Fiona, though, I might've hated or at least glared at you.)

Mummy/Son Selfie

It's just about time to say goodbye to summer.