ThinkKit Day 22: Today, we’re keeping it wide open – we want you to write. Write the thought ringing in your head this morning. Write what you can’t forget. Write what you want to remember about _____. Write the everyday and the extraordinary.

I don’t make my kids brush their teeth. I know.  Don’t even bother to give me your opinion about what a bad parenting decision that is; I won’t change on this one.  It’s really about my inability to follow through on micromanaged structure.  I am not good at it with the kids.  I am a big picture parent.  Sure, we have strutter but like big structure.  I am terrible at the little things–like monitoring screen time, rewarding for chores, monitoring homework, etc.

Oral hygiene is one of those things that I figure, until it really matters to them–until they care what their breath smells like and decide they don’t like getting cavities filled–they won’t make it a true habit.  I know modern day thought is the opposite and I know the pediatric dentist encourages good oral hygiene of the baby teeth to help ensure healthy adult teeth.  But, I don’t know…I just don’t have the energy to worry about who is brushing and flossing.

This last trip to the dentist, I heard from the other boys that the hygenists were giving Sam a bunch of shit because his teeth were so gross. He never brushed them (Phillip and Andy both do, on their own).  I think he was embarrassed.  He has started brushing his teeth–on his own–twice a day. The other morning he came down ready for school with fresh breath.

He was so proud he wanted me to smell it. “I can’t wait to go back to the dentist and show them how I have been brushing twice a day. When do I go back?” he asked.

“You go to the dentist every six months,” I said.

“Six months?!? You mean I have to do that for a whole six months? Oh man, I will never make it.”

I shared with him that you have to brush your teeth twice a day for the rest of your life.  Obviously, he had never thought of it like that.

ThinkKit day 21: What surprised you this year? Was it a jump-out-of-your-seat shocking moment? Learning something new that really flipped your wig? A moment in time that left you speechless? A friend or stranger’s actions that really blew your mind? Leave us slack-jawed and standing silent…or at least thoughtfully quiet for a few seconds!

You know what really surprised me this year?  Disneyworld.imag0217

Honestly, it was one of those things I had put off forever.  I just wasn’t interested and our kids were not in to characters.  Mostly, I put it off because of the crowds. Crowds are a major anxiety inducer for me.  And, Disney is just crowded.

But, life continues to present opportunities where it is important to challenge myself.  This was one of them.

We had not been on vacation for three years.  We really, really needed a family vacation and we needed a big one.  I planned a 10 day trip that included a three day stay at the Polynesian (on property) and five days at a resort (off property).  It was the most wonderful vacation ever. And, I loved Disney.

It wasn’t so much Magic Kingdom I loved, although we did have some fun moments there.  And it’s great to see things you have only seen through the eyes of a child as an adult; the “Kingdom” itself wasn’t as big as I remembered it. It was the experience. Disney is simply all about the fantasy–whatever you want that fantasy to be.

The hotel was beautiful, every detail thought out and anticipated before we even knew we needed it.  The parks so clean and organized. The food so varied and exceptional for a park (I mean, I would have never expected to have couscous as a side at lunch!). We loved Animal Kingdom and also liked Hollywood Studios, but mostly we loved the “experience” and I cannot believe I am saying this…but I am already looking forward to returning one day in the hopefully near future.

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BEST 

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TRIP

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EVER.

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ThinkKit Day 20: It’s true, we like you a lot – but let’s be noncommittal for now. It’s okay to be unsure! What are you on the fence about? Dig into the meat of both sides. Is it a big deal? A minor quibble? Are you leaning one way…or is the extended forecast just one big gray area? Yes – we’re telling you not to make up your mind!

Nah.  I pass.

Thinkkit Day 19: Strike up the band – what was the soundtrack to your year? Was it the music you listened to the most? A certain song that kept reappearing, or worse…that you couldn’t get away from? Or maybe it wasn’t music at all – maybe a podcast, voice, performance, or significant sound played over-and-over. Whatever you heard: we’re all ears!

Here are some of my favorite songs this year:

You’re Beautiful (James Blunt)

And, to go along with it…I love this story about James Blunt taking to Twitter at the urging of his label.

Stronger (Kanye West)

It’s one of those songs on all my running play lists that my iPod usually knows just when I need to hear it.  It gets me through the roughest parts of my runs.

Birthday (Katy Perry)

This was my birthday anthem this year.  Katy Perry is always about fun.  My kids showed me the video and I instantly loved the song.

22 (Taylor Swift)

Lover her or hate her, it’s kind of hard to hear a Taylor Swift song and not sing along.

The Fighter (Gym Class Heroes with Ryan Tedder)

Also on all my running lists, it’s such a great inspirational song when pushing yourself beyond where you think you can go-or rather, where you want to go (I really don’t like running).  If you ever see me running and pumping my fists at the same time, it’s because this song is playing and it makes me think I CAN DO THIS!2014-12-22 12.24.50

And if I can last thirty rounds, There’s no reason you should ever have your head down, six foot five, two hundred and twenty pounds, hailing from rock bottom, loserville, nothing town, text book version of a kid going nowhere fast, and now I’m yelling, “Kiss my ass.” It’s gonna take a couple right hooks, a few left jabs for you to recognize you really ain’t got it bad. Until the referee rings the bell, until both your eyes start to swell, until the crowd goes home, what we gonna do ya’ll? Give em hell, turn their heads. Gonna live life ’til we’re dead. Give me scars, give me pain. Then they’ll say to me, say to me, say to me there goes the fighter, there goes the fighter. Here comes the fighter. That’s what they’ll say to me, say to me, say to me, This one’s a fighter.

Astral Weeks (Van Morrison) 

Sometimes, what’s old is new again.

Purple Rain (Prince)

Even my kids jam out to Purple Rain.  I mean, seriously.

 

 

ThinkKit Day 18: Have no fear – no numbers needed here. Who (or what) made a difference for you this year? Were they cognizant of their effect? Did it add to your life…or detract? Was it a momentary encounter? A year-long helping hand? Someone who took a chance on you, or vice versa? What would’ve changed if you’d had to go without, or go it alone? Imagine the alternative scenario.

I feel like I have so many people who have made a difference for me this year–too many to list.  I rely heavily on mentors and the support of friends and family.  It takes a village, you know.

I rely on two friends to help me get one of my kids to school. I have three kids in three schools with three different start times.  I spend two hours each morning getting everyone up, ready and delivered to their respective school.  But, without the help of two friends, it would be much harder and my other two kids would have to ride along for an extra hour in the car just to get to school on time.

I rely on my husband, who is my partner in everything–good and bad.  He makes a difference for me every day.  I love that moment each day when we finally connect.  A smile, a hug, a moment together just to recharge.  He really does make everything better.

My friends offer support and encouragement.  I take time to be with them and savor those moments, the laughs and the tears.

There are a group of people who have made a big difference in my life this year related to my health.  This includes my trainer who has pushed me hard and made me believe in my strength, my doctor who celebrated my success over the past year, my family who encourages me and my kids who often join me on runs, my tennis pro who I love to hear say (in his eastern Indian accent) “Kris….you getting better again,” my friend Jamie who always posts inspiring messages on her Facebook and all of the people in my life who have noticed my outward transformation.  I think some people don’t notice because my weight loss has been so gradual; but it now totals 25 pounds+ and 19+ inches.

And of course, my kids who make my heart warm and full every day.

I cannot imagine the alternative scenario.  All the people who are in my life make a difference and that’s because I choose them.  I don’t let people in who do not offer something rewarding to me (no drama, no negative energy, no bad attitudes). I love them all. I am so lucky!  My life wouldn’t be the same without the difference they make in my life. I really try to tell them this as often as I can but if you are reading this and I haven’t told you lately, YOU MATTER TO ME!

ThinkKit Day 17: Time to go through your (actual) desktop, junk drawer, or coat pockets and share an artifact from your past. A half-torn ticket stub, once-washed receipt, coffee-stained map, anything in a frame: it’s all fair game. What springs to mind from your artifact? The smells, sights, and sounds? A specific feeling? Hold it in your hand, close your eyes, and go back in time to a moment.

This living scrapbook is in our bedroom. It’s a giant bulletin board where we can post memories as we make them.

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Here is a memory from this year: Pam’s Party photo booth and behind that, you can see movie ticket stubs (for movies I don’t even remember)

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Here is a picture from our trip to Philadelphia in 2003, Sam was just about 9 months old. Behind it, a ticket stub for a Bears game Jeff went to in 2008.

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A Valentine’s Day greeting from the boys (made with the help of their Granny) in 2008.

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Memories from my 20 year high school reunion.

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A note from Andy to Jeff on Father’s Day.

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Ticket stubs from our trip to the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, TN (2008) where we saw Carrie Underwood, Statler Brothers, Brooks & Dunn and a few other country singers I didn’t know I liked but had a great time listening to live. Plus, ticket stubs to our first Red Wings game at the Joe in 2012.

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The blue and green stripped box of crayons in the upper lefthand corner is from the Biltmore (the restaurant at the winery), the beads on the right side are from Jeff’s 40th birthday party, the ticket stubs from movies over the years, the picture of the boys from 2003, a wrist band from this summer’s trip to Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, a card from the boys, pictures from a birthday party of a friend that Jeff went to where Morris Day & the Time was the headline act (I was out of town, in Philly).

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#ThinkKit Day 16: Take a moment to dip into the deep well of the past year’s 24-hour news cycle. What world event moved you this year? What story, series, or moment fascinated you? Made you scratch your head? Brought you to the edge of tears…or past the edge of your seat? Did an outside perspective change the way you felt, or make you take action? Share the headline(s) that resonated with you. 

I may be stretching the connection to the topic here, but this is worth sharing.

Every year (…well, I intend to every year but upon further review, it appears it didn’t really happen “every year”) we decorate gingerbread houses.  For some reason, it is important to me that these houses are completely homemade.  I make the template.  I make the dough and use the template to cut the house sides and roof. I set the houses using royal icing on cardboard we cover with aluminum foil.  The houses dry overnight.

Here I am in 2008 cutting the dough using the stencils.

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Once the houses are assembled and dry overnight, the kids use more royal icing to attach a wide range of candy, cereal, cookies–you know, the regular gingerbread house kind of stuff.

The kids love all the candies in the different bowls and I have always let them decorate their houses totally on their own.

2006

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 2007

This is one of those years that, for some reason, we must have not made the gingerbread houses (or we made them and the pictures are some place I cannot locate them).

2008

Back at it in 2008.

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2009

Phillip had a friend join us for decorating this year.  My templates got bigger (too big…I remember how long it took and how much candy/icing it took to cover). And this was the year of the beautiful long hair for our boys (we often refer to it as the BL period–before lice).

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2010

I am guessing this year was the first of the busy Christmas season at the store (as we would call it…you might call it a restaurant).

2011

Still busy at that little adventure I called my life dream, also known as the store, also known as the restaurant and officially known as Avec Moi.  I really thought we did them this year, though…and maybe we did but those photos are also somewhere other than in the one place I think I keep all my photos.

2012

Still busy with Avec Moi, you remember…the store?  Still flushing cash down the toilet with no regrets.  Livin’ the dream, baby. I was livin’ the dream.  The lack of gingerbread houses is just one example of how that venture sucked every ounce of me out, leaving nothing for my family.

2013

Avec Moi was now closed and I spent this holiday season doing nothing.  And, apparently nothing included not doing gingerbread houses. I am sure everyone was disappointed

2014

This was the year.  We were back at it. I promised and I was excited about it.  We made a list of what we wanted to bake for the season. Each kid has their own “favorite” and collectively, we agreed we had to do gingerbread houses.

I had it on my list since right after Thanksgiving.  This past weekend, I finally had the time required to make the dough, cut and bake the pieces and assemble.  Those first steps really must be done all at once–and for the first time since Thanksgiving, I had the uninterrupted time at home to get it all done.

I made the stencils.  I made the dough (four batches). I rolled the dough out and cut each piece (10 of each side, a total of 50 pieces).  I baked them.  Jeff cut the cardboard and the boys covered it with foil to host the gingerbread houses. Phillip helped me assemble the bases and he used the royal icing to seal up the seams where each side met.

As the bases dried and I prepared to put on the roofs, Jeff offered to lend a hand.  And, then all of the sudden–I realized I screwed the template up for the front and back of the house and left off the pitch of the roof.

“Oh shit. It won’t work. I screwed it up,” I said as I was trying to figure out a solution on the fly.

“Well,” Phillip said, “We will just have gingerbread trailers.”  And there you have it, folks.

Our gingerbread trailer park.

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ThinkKit Day 15: Time to get mathematical – and yes, you may use a calculator. Was there a significant number in your year? A birthday? A first? A personal record? A date now carved in the annals of time? A number that represents a streak, whether winning or losing, good or bad? A bellwether or a lagging indicator or just…three.

I believe in numbers.  I mean, like really believe.  One of my most influential advisors is a numerologist.  I seek her advice anytime I am feeling uncertain, lost, confused or even just overly joyous.  She’s not a psychic; she’s my mapmaker.

One of my most favorite people on the planet who I have been friends with for many years is also a numerologist.  If you have never explored what numbers mean in your life, I would encourage you to do so–put that on your 2015 to do list.  You don’t have to believe, but I think you would be amazed at how much numbers influence our paths, our decision making and our state of mind. (check out my friend’s studio where she offers open paint, numerology and the practice of joy)

Judge away my friends, but don’t knock it until you try it. I have made many a believer just out of one session.  The universe has a plan for you; your numbers help you unravel that plan.

 

ThinkKit Day 14: By telescope or microscope, or no scope at all – what did you discover? A new aspect of yourself? A favorite artist, musician, or variety of cheese? Did you discover something about a loved one? A familiar or new-to-you place? Be broad, be narrow, or be surprising.

I just looked inward and down on the paper where I wrote my Target list.  Apparently, even as an adult, we can become a product of our environment.

I just wrote “Shampoop” on my list.  Seriously.  Shampoop.

ThinkKit Day 13: Put down your blog and pick up a pen! Or pencil. Heck – we’d settle for a crayon. You don’t have to stay in-between ruled lines, but we do want you to write something by hand. Sure, a letter comes to mind. But so does a recipe you discovered this year. A poem. A series of tweets that is a poem. A contract with yourself – or someone else. Whatever you get on paper – write it, then photograph & blog it. Cursive or manuscript, we promise not to grade on penmanship.

Andy  has always been a note writer. I could keep him happy in the cart at the grocery store for as long as I needed to by giving him a tiny notebook, a pen, and spouting off a list of items I pretended to need so he could write them down.

He would write me notes-pages and pages of notes- that were simply squiggly lines that he had intently worked on a the kitchen table with a wide range of colored markers.  I would cook and listen to that high pitched squeak that screams a toddler pushing too hard, with too much determination.

Two years ago, Andy gave us this note for Christmas.  He wrapped it in pretty paper and used a gift tag sticker to write “To Mom and Dad.”  It was precious.  And then, we read it.

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And that sweet note was quickly followed by this reminder of our circumstances at the time.  This was in the final 9 months of Avec Moi’s life (the restaurant I started to fulfill a lifelong dream…remember?).  It was a difficult time around our house and our financial issues had permitted our family life, as illustrated below.

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At least he still takes the time to note that he has be[e]n a “wond[er]ful dad.”