Thursday, December 31, 2009

December Update

December wizzed by just as fast as the previous months--maybe faster! Here's what we did:

First, we found our Christmas decorations, got our tree back from our former neighbors, and decorated the house. Last year, since we were moving, we had NO decorations up, and we loaned our tree to our neighbors, because they were just moving in and didn't have their things that were being shipped from Argentina. They were able to enjoy a Christmas tree, and we were able to visit and enjoy a Christmas tree--a real win for everyone. My only stipulation in loaning the tree is that they couldn't give it back before we moved (mid-January), and they were nice enough to keep it all year! One storage nightmare solved!

We had a sadness occur too. Robert's step-Mom passed away after a long battle with cancer. She'd had T-cell lymphoma and had been fighting that. And then she developed pneumonia. While in the hospital for that, they discovered new cancer in her liver and pancreas. The decision was made to keep Jan comfortable and let nature take it's course, and it did. We will certainly miss Jan and her spunky spirit, but we know that she is in a better place, free from pain and reunited with loved ones she's been missing. We know that we can see her again, and that gives us peace.

At the same time that we were experiencing that loss, we had end of the year stuff going on at school. Both kids had field trips and parties, and then we had some Christmas company! Topher's class went to Old Town San Diego for a field trip on "the old ways." He thoroughly enjoyed himself and walked his little heart out. Hannah's class went to see the Nutcracker, and she looked great! They are asked to dress up when attending "the theater" and Hannah loves to dress up! Hannah LOVED the production--pretty music and lots of dancing (what's not to love?)--even though there wasn't any talking (Hannah's favorite activity).

Mid-week, we had a visit from Robert's Mom and Dan. Doreene calendars her vacation time almost a year in advance, and since we'd announced that we were NOT coming up for Christmas this year, she came to us. We had fun just spending time together and relaxing. We celebrated Christmas with them on Friday (the 18th), complete with Christmas dinner and presents to each other. It was a wonderful evening. The kids LOVE having more than one Christmas, and their enthusiasm could barely be contained.

Saturday morning was Topher's 9th birthday! We celebrated by going out to breakfast at Toph's choice, the Original Pancake House. That's sure the way to start off a great day! He enjoyed his birthday pancakes! Toph enjoyed opening his birthday presents. Then we had to say good-bye to Grandma and Dan, as they started their long drive home. Toph spent the morning playing with his new presents, and then we celebrated the afternoon doing exactly what he's wanted to do FOREVER--miniature golfing. Everyone had a GREAT time, the weather was gorgeous, and we even got decent scores. We asked Toph what he wanted for dinner, and he requested Olive Garden. Normally, we don't go out to eat TWICE in a single day, but we got OG gift cards for Christmas, so we enjoyed dinner out. Toph, my non-bread kid, LOVES OG bread sticks and Alfredo sauce. Thoroughly stuffed, we then got to find room for birthday cake. We had a thoroughly wonderful day. And I can't believe that Toph is NINE!

The rest of the time until Christmas flew by faster than ever! We had a trip up to Murrieta to help Carmen's girls finish their Christmas shopping for their Mom. We made another trip up 2 days later to celebrate Carmen's birthday with her (Pancake house for the Moms and then a movie!), and then the Gibb clan came down to us for Christmas Eve. We had a great dinner, and then we all walked the blocks of Candy Cane Lane. We LOVED spending the time together, and we loved walking off some of our dinner to look at the pretty lights. Good times!

Christmas morning couldn't come fast enough for our kids, and we had a great time being HOME. We opened presents and played with our new toys. We had a fantastic time with NO place to go. We stayed in our jammies ALL day, ate junk and drank soda, and had the most fantastic time just being together as a family. We love our extended family too, but this was the first time we've ever celebrated the holiday with just the 4 of us. We called our other family members, but I will admit that I really enjoyed not having to worry about going somewhere. A simple day at home in jammies was PERFECT!

The rest of Christmas vacation has wizzed by as fast as the other parts of December. Now it's New Year's Eve (day) and I am looking forward to putting 2009 to bed and waking up to a new year, a new decade, and a new start. 2009 wasn't the BEST year we've ever had (probably not the worst either though), but I like new beginnings. Each new year feels like a new start. My health is under control. Toph's medicine is under control, and we've adapted to living with ADD. And our family is looking forward to a very good new year. We've got some good goals and resolutions, and it's looking great from this view!

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

November Nuggets

I don't see HOW it's possible for it to be December already, but it is. November LITERALLY blew past us.

Veteran's Day found us saved from the "normal" routine and relaxing together. Robert took off Veteran's day and the 2 days afterward--and he almost never takes any personal time off of work, so it was nice. The goal was to do some work around the house, but we pretty much just vegged. I was crazy trying to get my cards finished for card swap, so I was no good to anyone. Card swap came, and I had a great time and enjoyed the cards I got. I even ended up liking the card I made (a miracle, really, since I hated it just 12 hours before card swap).

(I borrowed these photos from my friend, Tina's, blog.)

November is one of my favorite months, because it has 2 of my favorite holidays: MY birthday and Thanksgiving. This was a "big" birthday year for me too, and I couldn't have asked for a better day. The weather was GORGEOUS. I got to go out to my favorite breakfast place. I had LOTS of FaceBook well wishes. And I had several friends stop by with nice treats. I felt SO loved! We went out to dinner as a family, and had a great time there too.

The most significant gift I got was from Robert. He's AMAZING! He was like a kid on Christmas morning though, because my gift got here a couple of days before my big day. Robert kept asking me if I wanted to open it early. No, I did not. I like opening presents on my birthday. Well, he pestered me so much that I caved and opened my gift a day early. He surprised the socks right off of me because he got me a Kindle! You might remember that he purchased a Sony book reader for me 2 Christmases ago, so a Kindle was NOT something I'd even think of asking for. I'd never used the Sony reader though, because I didn't know how to work it--and Robert and I had not had a "school" session about it. Well, I have to say, I like the Kindle better. It's FABULOUS!! It has built-in internet, so you can purchase and download your books immediately. You don't have to download them onto your computer and then transfer them over. The Amazon Kindle store even has books that are free! The screen is a good size, and you can change the font size to accommodate your eyes. It has a built-in dictionary too, so I can put the cursor next to any word, and the definition will pop up at the bottom of the page. AND I can take notes when I'm reading. What's NOT to love about the Kindle?! It is absolutely the BEST gift for an avid reader like me. Now I can carry around 1500 books on something the size of a Reader's Digest magazine. LOVE IT!!! Big win for Robert!

Ok, so my personal holiday was a fantastic success. Then we anxiously awaited our first company of the season. The Sunday before Thanksgiving, my sister's family and my parents came for a short visit. The cousins got to play together--which is the equivalent to being a kid in a candy store--and the adults got to visit. My parents only stayed for Sunday and then spent some time with one of my Mom's friends up north. On Monday, the Ward and Nickel clans went to the science museum and spent a lovely afternoon. My kids are total science nerds, and they LOVE to go to the museum. Aimee's kids had never been to our museum, so they had a good time too. Then the adults went out to dinner at our favorite (Yanni's) and the kids enjoyed time with babysitters. Tuesday morning was very sad for us, because the Wards had to go home. Our visits with them are NEVER long enough.

Tuesday afternoon, Carmen's family came over, and I got to experience the Exchange/Commissary on base for the first time. Wow, it was cool. I had fun looking at all of the stuff, and Carmen and I did our pre-Thanksgiving shopping. Then we got to go to Panera for lunch--mmmmmmm!

Wednesday Toph and I started sneezing and sniffling, and I was pretty sure we either had bad allergies (because we were having a Santa Ana wind event) or we were getting colds. That kind of marred our Thanksgiving, because we just didn't feel as good as usual. We agreed to spend Thanksgiving up with the Gibb family, and Carmen "let" me bring mashed potatoes, stuffing, and rolls. She has a little bit of OCD and likes the rest of the meal prepared the way she likes it. We found a 30 pound turkey when we went shopping for the food, so there was PLENTY of food to go around. We pigged out until we hurt, and then we ate more later. Carmen is a fantastic cook, so all of the food was wonderful. I wish we'd do it more often! Carmen introduced me to a new treat this year--pumpkin cake. It has a crust and then a layer that's like pumpkin pie, and then it's topped with a streusel topping. There are not words to express how delicious this is--pumpkin pie will forever pale in comparison! We had a fantastic day with our good friends, and we returned home stuffed and with plenty of leftovers.

(Because the people pictures I took didn't turn out all that great, this will have to do.)

And by the time we got home from Thanksgiving, I was pretty sure that my problem was a cold, and it felt like it was going into bronchitis. Yay. On Saturday morning, after coughing ALL night long, I took myself to the urgent care and got diagnosed with bronchitis. The doctor was wonderful. He actually listened to me and trusted that, with 36+ years of experience with my asthma, I might know what I was talking about! That was a refreshing change. I came away with some antibiotics, cough medicine, and prednisone, AND a sample of my maintenance inhaler with double the steroid strength. I caught it fast enough that I didn't have to go to the prednisone to make a difference. I have coughed and coughed and coughed, and at times I was sure I'd burst my spleen with so much coughing. Those muscles are tired and sore, but I'm finally starting to feel like a human being again--hooray!

That's how we ended our November. It went so fast it all seems like a blur now. We had an excellent month, and we made some fantastic memories. Before I know it, it will be time for Christmas. I swear the time goes SO MUCH FASTER now that I'm older.

Our goals for December include trying to stay healthy, get our home decorated for the holidays (since we didn't last year--moving), and enjoy the season and our friends and family. We're staying here for the first time since we've moved down, and that will be a little bit different. I'm majorly homesick for the people, but I have to admit that I'm looking forward to the nice weather on Christmas.

Halloween Catch Up

It has been long time coming, but I'm finally going to update the blog!

Halloween came when we were crazy busy--but I think that's a constant state of being for us now. The kids decided on their costumes: Toph was Jango Fett (from Star Wars) and Hannah was a Purple Witch (costume was black with purple)--that's a good witch, by the way.

Toph and Hannah were invited to a Halloween party, and because our weather here is kind of schizo, Toph wore his Harry Potter costume from last year (it was way too hot to be Jango Fett). They had a marvelous time at the party. They had snacks and did a couple of crafts, and since the party was on a Saturday evening, Robert and I got to go out to dinner (alone!) to celebrate his birthday (which was the 25th).

The school did their annual Halloween parade on the 30th, and Hannah was extra excited, because her teacher got to lead the parade. I stood around with the other parents and watched the kids do their march, and then discovered that my camera batteries were basically dead. Good job, Mom!

On Halloween eve, the kids and I drove up north to go visit our friends, and Carmen and I went shopping (and scored GREAT bargains) while Carmen's oldest helped the kids carve pumpkins. It was the best of both worlds for me, because I HATE carving pumpkins, and I found great stuff. The pumpkins turned out great--and I have the pictures to prove it.

Halloween night found our kids excited to go trick-or-treating. Robert took them out, and I handed out candy. We were the "lame" house this year, because I've been trying to support Robert in his quest for good health, and I bought mostly pretzles and fruit snacks to give out. Right at the last minute, I bought some candy, but it was mostly handed out and didn't sit around and get eaten before Halloween. What was left over was good for the kids' lunches.

All in all, the kids had fun and Halloween was a success. Next year I might even decorate the house! (Don't ask me what happened, I don't remember.)

Friday, November 6, 2009

Our Swine-Proofing Adventure

Today was our happy day. The kids were able to get their swine flu vaccines. Do not think that this brought joy to them. I purposely waited to announce our adventure until I'd picked them up from school--and we were on our way to the Doctor's office. Hannah cried for 25 minutes in preparation for the shot. Toph cried some, but was trying to be quiet about it. Not Hannah.

In the waiting room the kids were fine. Toph was subdued, but Hannah was obnoxiously friendly. Then they called our name and the drama began again..... Hannah started immediately crying. Toph wanted to know what the nurse was doing with "the stuff on that tray." He kept telling us that he didn't really want to do this. Dr. Rachel asked which kid wanted to go first--they pointed to each other. I let Hannah go first (she was closer to me). She was crying louder now and flinched and ramped it up a notch when the nurse wiped her arm with alcohol. Then came the poke, and she stopped crying and announced, "That didn't hurt at all!" One down, one to go!

Toph had moved to the door by this point, and had to be bodily dragged over to the chair. He was crying a bit too, but not loud. Sister kept repeating that it didn't hurt at all. He got his poke and kind of made a whimper sound, but that was it. Bandaids all around, and we got to go pick out stickers. Then Dr. Rachel announced that we'd need a booster in a month, if they had any. That kind of made me a liar about the whole "we're just getting ONE shot."

When we have to get shots, it's our "reward" to do something afterward. I'd already told the kids that we could go out to eat, so they got to fight about where. It was a pretty easy choice. We decided to go to Cheeburger Cheeburger (gotta love those milkshakes!). For those of you who have not had the experience, Cheeburger is a 50's style diner with AWESOME food. We love it all. You can have a burger made YOUR way--how "done," what cheese, and what toppings (choose as many as you like from a list of like 50). Onion rings are delicious. Pepsi is served (NOT Coke!). And the milkshakes are to die for--and just about any flavor/combo you can think of. There's lots of chrome and neon. There's 50's music piped in. There's paper towels on the table (instead of napkins). And there's Trivial Pursuit cards on the table too.

Hannah reads EVERYTHING now that she can read. We like looking at the Trivial Pursuit cards, and tonight was no exception. We got the "fun" cards though:
(Remember that Hannah is reading these.)
Q: What is a capon?
A: A castrated rooster.

Q: What illustrated sex guide did Alex Comfort write?
A: The Joy of Sex.

Needless to say, we stopped reading the cards after this one--Hannah didn't know why. We were laughing pretty hard, and our server was mortified--until he realized that we were just amused and not mad. But he asked for the card anyway--I don't think it's going to make its way back to the table again.

After stuffing ourselves, we decided to see if our favorite hair lady was working, and she was! Hair cuts all around completed our swine-proofing adventure. Not bad for a Friday night. Fun was had by all--and some good chuckles too.

Thursday, November 5, 2009


The calendar says it's fall. Two days ago it was more than 90* so I'm not sure that Mother Nature has gotten the memo.

I think this tree is sunburned.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Social Experiment

This morning I conducted a social experiment. I needed to mail 4 boxes at the Post Office. The boxes reached to my chin and were awkward, but not heavy, so I elected to carry them in rather than use a cart. I had to walk about 20 yards from the car to the door of the Post Office, so I decided to see if anyone would offer to help. Only about 5 yards from my car a woman (who was going the opposite way) asked if I needed some help. I assured her that the boxes weren't heavy and thanked her. About 5 yards from the door, a man walked out, looked at me, and kept going. It would have been easy for him to hold the door, but he offered no help. As I was close to the door, a woman inside saw me coming and rushed to open the door.

Final score: women--2; man--sucked. Apparently this man had parents who did not teach him to help others. Sad.

It was interesting to see what happened. I had no preconceived notions on who would or would not offer to help. My son's teacher has 3 pages of "GC" (good citizen) rules for his classroom. I thought it was overkill at first, but they're really common sense things that parents used to teach their children when teaching them how to be polite (many parents no longer do this). One of their rules is to open the door for others. Between Mr. Miller's "GC" rules and the Nickel home rules, we'll have that situation covered!

***I realize that I'm behind, and I swear I'll catch you up on what we're doing this week--complete with pictures and everything!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Let's Catch Up....

I can't believe that it's already October!!!

Let's see, what's been going on around here? We had an *incident* 10 days ago which resulted in a little of this:

Hannah has been physical from conception. While she baked in my oven, she'd kick so often and hard that she bruised my belly--no lie! She's been in perpetual motion ever since. She was WAY too busy to sit and be cuddled--she'd rather bounce in her crib. And she's the more physically violent kid too. More often than not, she'll explode with a kick or hit instead of words, no matter how she gets punished for her actions. We had a repeat episode 10 days ago. Toph was going upstairs at the same time as Hannah, and he told her to hurry up. So her response was to punch him in the heart! Now, punching someone in the heart can kill them--remember that baseball player who died last year? I don't think Hannah has skills that good at this time, but it's still not something I want her to do! I'd much rather she yell instead. Or in this case, just hurry up!

Robert and I were in disagreement as to how to proceed. She needed to be grounded for a week--this was a serious offense. But I wanted to make it relevant. So instead of taking away ALL privileges, I started a "bad behavior book" and made her write about her behavior each day. It's just a composition book where we write what the behavior is and what the punishment is, and then Hannah had to sign it. And every day for her week of grounding, she had to write about her offense. First, she wrote an apology letter to Topher. The next day she answered questions like, "What did you do to get in trouble? Why shouldn't you get physical with someone when you're angry? What could you do instead?" Each day she had 3-5 similarly themed questions she had to answer for me. This way she was reminded again and again of what she'd done in the first place. We weren't just being mean by not letting her play on the computer.

Our little jailbird served her time and wrote that she would NOT do it again. Her answer was something like, "No NO NO NO NO NO NO NO I will NOT do it again." Maybe she's learned her lesson? I'd like to hope so!

Aside from that excitement, we've done a lot of the same stuff. Kids go to school. Mom tries to get a handle on the laundry and the house and cook stuff that's good for us. Robert tries to go surfing as often as possible and bring home the bacon and get his homework done in time. We go to scouts. We try to go to Church--and have managed to do so! We've spent some time with our friends, the Gibbs, and said good-bye to their dad, as he began his deployment.

Last Saturday, Robert and I even managed a DATE! The kids had a practice for their Primary program at Church, and while they were practicing, Robert and I snuck off to the Original Pancake House for some breakfast. All I can say is that their pancakes are like no other, and now I'm craving them again! It was wonderful to have some time alone with my Honey. The program the next day was very nice! The kids did a great job and managed to sneak in waves and I love you signs often.

We had about 7 days of HEAT--I'm talking over 100* heat. It got up to 107* in our back yard one of the days. It doesn't happen often, and it usually doesn't last long, but those HOT days are hard to handle. And, to make matters worse, Fresno was cooler than we were during that time. Now we've entered into the time of bi-polar weather. That's when our temperatures will vacillate 20* over 2-3 days. It's hard on the body. We'll be in the 90's and then drop down to the low 70's for a couple of days and then rinse and repeat. I've also discovered that my fibro body is very unhappy when there's a big difference in the daily temperature. Yesterday, for example, it was 50* when we woke up and 100* in the afternoon--fibro doesn't like changes like that (or maybe it's just a barometer thing).

I've gotten chummy with the chiropractor lately. The muscles along my shoulders have felt like a rubber band stretched to the limit. NOTHING I do seems to relax them. I finally decided that it's probably a fibro cycle and that I'll just have to stick it out, but it HURTS! So I go get my neck and back popped and my chiropractor suggested that I might benefit from muscle stimulation therapy. OMGosh!!! It helped SO much! She puts these stickers on me and they're attached to a machine that puts out an electrical stimulus that makes my muscles contract and relax. It does this every second for 14 minutes, and I end up feeling like I've had a massage without someone having to touch me (because that hurts). It basically exhausts those muscles. LOVE IT!!! Love it so much, we'll probably be buying a machine. Especially if the insurance will pay for part of it.

Hannah's class has been working on a bear unit. They have learned all about all different bears and they've made a bear--so cute--out of grocery bags. Today they wore their PJ's to school and had their teddy bear picnic. Yesterday they made bear buns (bear shaped rolls) and they got to eat them today with oatmeal. She had a great time. She's been a reading nut lately too. She brings home a chapter book to read every day, and at first there were "stop here" post-it's after 3 chapters. This week she read an entire book every day. The kids take quizzes on the books afterward too, to check their comprehension. Hannah does much better if we make her read aloud to us--but again, she's in perpetual motion. She's not hyperactive though, lest you get the wrong impression.

Toph's class has been working hard to earn their first reward party of the year. You must read 1 chapter book and either write a book report or pass a test on your book AND you must not be in the "oops" book more than 3 times in order to qualify. Toph's goal is to not be in the "oops" book at all, and he did that. He finished his book and passed his test, and this afternoon he was rewarded with a game afternoon (board and card games only). Toph is enjoying school this year and really likes his teacher. He's getting his meds adjusted, so we'll see if it helps him even more. We still go see Dr. Mantell--world's awesomest psychologist--every 2 weeks or so, and he's helping us learn how to live with it. Toph is enjoying the Roald Dahl books, like, The Twits and Matilda. We watched the movie Matilda a couple of weeks ago, and that's the book he'll start next.

Robert is surfing as often as humanly possible. He's lost enough weight that he had to have his wet suit taken in! And that's a really good measure of how his body has changed, since it was custom-made for him in the first place. He's chugging along at work and learning how to work in the new environment (not a new job, just a reorganization of the roles they all play). He had a really good day yesterday, and we hope that happens more often. School has started for Robert, so his evenings and weekends include homework again. I can't complain much, since it's all online and we get to spend time together.

Last weekend we went to the iPhone store and got Robert his NEW iPhone--and I got the old one ("old" being the one he purchased in May)! I didn't *have* to have an iPhone, but it's nice to be on the same plan again and be able to talk to each other for free. Also, AT&T has rollover minutes, which Verizon did not. I wasn't unhappy with Verizon, because here the coverage is great, but they don't have an iPhone. I LOVE having my calendar and pictures and music (and now games) all in that tiny box. The kids love it too. I especially love that Robert finally taught me the trick--you have to use your FINGER, not the nail. I had been trying to use his phone with my nails (because that's how I used my phone) and I was reconsidering my desire for the iPhone--but it's easy. Now I just need to learn how to do my own ringtones.

We had an interesting thing happen earlier this week. There was a tsunami advisory for California, Oregon, and Washington--due to the earthquake in Samoa. I'd never given much thought to the risk of a tsunami. It ended up being not much more than 8-12 inches higher than normal waves, but it did make me pause for a moment. My heart goes out to all of those people in Samoa who lost homes and/or loved ones. I can't even really comprehend it. And then again in Sumatra and Bolivia. It does warm my heart though, to see the rescue workers drop everything and rush to help.

Not much else going on around here. It's starting to feel like Fall in the evenings and early mornings. I love that it gets a little bit chilly and we need to use the blanket on the bed. I miss the colors of fall--not much of that here, since palm trees don't turn colors. I went to Panera with my friend, Carmen, for lunch this week. THAT was a nice treat. And before we left, I got all kinds of crazy and ordered a pumpkin muffie (for you non-Panera people, that's a muffin TOP). I don't really even like much pumpkin stuff. OMGosh! It was DELICIOUS!! And now I want the recipe. But that won't do me much good when it's virtually impossible to find canned pumpkin on the store shelves. Maybe I'll find a good recipe right when pumpkin is available again--wonder what the chances of that are.

I've been having more good days. I was telling Robert that I hadn't had an entire BAD day in a long time. And then I did, but not lots in a row. So I feel like I'm making progress. My energy level is still below what I'd like, but I haven't been in total pain much of the time. Again, the cooler weather is not so nice on the fibro, but I LOVE it--so I'll have to figure that out. Now that I've been introduced to muscle stimulation, I foresee good things in the future.

We're into the birthday countdown time of year now. Robert's birthday will be in 23 more days, and then I will enjoy calling him an "old man" for 3 weeks. Then I will have a big birthday this year. NO idea what we'll do to celebrate that, but I'm even feeling good about the number. Then we'll celebrate Thanksgiving and then Toph's birthday. We'll spend Christmas at home this year, celebrate New Year's, and then celebrate Hannah's birthday. It's a BUSY time of year.

Now I need to get jazzed about getting out decorations. Since we're not moving this year, I can decorate for all of the holidays. I need to do that this year. Yes, I'm a crazy holiday fool, but I like to do it. I also need to get myself in gear and get my next cards for card swap figured out and made. I'm going to try not to procrastinate EVERYTHING and get some things done before the night before--kind of like turning over a new leaf.

This weekend is one of my favorites. It's General Conference weekend. That's when LDS families all over the world will get to listen to the Prophet and Apostles speak. Since it's broadcast over the internet and cable, we get to stay home--or go to a friend's house. We'll be going to the Gibb's to spend some time with them. Robert will probably do homework while Carmen, the kids, and I play. It will be a great time. We'll get to listen to sessions of Conference on Saturday and Sunday, and one of the things I like about Conference weekend (besides getting to stay in my jammies) is enjoying some delicious treats.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

September 11, 8 years later

My September 11th this year was a bit focused on me and my family.... lots going on, as usual.

I started thinking about September 11th at the very beginning of the month though, knowing that it was coming. When it happened, I had a young baby, and I had the TV on in the morning as I was feeding Toph. I was so shocked when I saw what was happening. We were glued to the TV and those same images day after day after day. Our hearts went out to all of the families who lost loved ones, and we felt a special compassion for those who were still waiting to learn if they'd lost loved ones. Our hearts swelled with pride as we heard stories of ordinary people risking their lives to help save others. As a nation, we felt pretty united.

A lot has happened since that tragic day. Families have tried to mend. Rescue workers have trained in new areas. We've grown apart as a nation. But every year, as we "celebrate" this day, we can all remember what happened. It's totally a "where were you when JFK was shot" kind of experience--you'll never forget where you were and what you were doing when you heard.

I've got a different perspective on 9/11 now. Over the past 8 years, I've met rescue workers and people in the military. I've spent time with their families. I've grown up some. The selflessness of the rescue workers and ordinary people who risked their lives to help the people in the World Trade Towers amazes me to this day. Without a thought for themselves, they risked (and sometimes lost) their lives to help someone else. We can never repay that debt. When our country went to war, thousands of soldiers left their families and friends to serve our country. We owe them a debt of gratitude that we can never repay. But both of those groups have some unsung heroes in them too--their family left behind. Each fire fighter, police officer, and soldier have family members who serve this country by supporting their hero. By giving selflessly of their fathers, mothers, husbands, wives, etc. We owe them a debt of gratitude too.

I've met some of these unsung heroes in the past few years. I've seen the sacrifices they and their families have made in our behalf. It's not easy for the families who have been left behind when a parent deploys to go to parts unknown. They are lonely and scared--and have to learn how to live without their missing member. Their sacrifice is personal, but it belongs to us too.

Whether we agree with the war or not is pretty unimportant. The fact is that we have soldiers who are willing to risk their very lives to protect our freedom and help others. Rescue workers have important jobs as they willingly risk their lives to make ours safer. The flag is a symbol of our nation, and its composition has some real significance. Today the flag consists of thirteen horizontal stripes, seven red alternating with 6 white. The stripes represent the original 13 colonies, the stars represent the 50 states of the Union. The colors of the flag are symbolic as well: Red symbolizes Hardiness and Valor, White symbolizes Purity and Innocence and Blue represents Vigilance, Perseverance and Justice.

We need to be proud of those who work to defend that symbol. We need to recognize their selflessness in serving us. WE benefit from their work. We benefit from their sacrifices and we benefit from the sacrifices that their families make. So as we move forward, it's my hope that WE NEVER FORGET. I hope we never forget to be thankful for services rendered in our behalf. I hope we never forget what it was like to be unified--and I pray that we can work toward that unity again. BIG things can happen when we all work together.

So, as we see September 11th on the calendar each year, my heart swells with pride. I love living here in this great nation. I love what has been done to give so many of us freedoms that we take for granted. I am so grateful for the many men and women who have sacrificed so much for me, a stranger. Let us NEVER forget!

Deep Thoughts

I've been thinking on the subject of "family" for a while now, and I think that's the subject I'll address today.

When I was teaching, I taught a short unit on the family. We defined "family" as "a group of people who live together and love each other." Many of my students were not from a traditional family, and so we decided the expanded definition was better. But our definition covered the people in a home--the definition of "family" is much broader than that.

We have, to my way of thinking, several "families" that we belong to. Of course, there's our blood family. They're related to us and we have special ties to all of them. We have "families" of people we work with, associate with, and go to Church with. And then there's our "chosen" family members. These are the people who we've chosen to become part of our family. They're as good as a blood relative. You love them as if you were related.

Does this make your blood family less important? Of course not! But we don't always live in a situation where we have access to our blood family. Sometimes they can't (or won't) step in to help us. Sometimes they've died, and we don't have access to them at this time. And our "chosen" family can fill in the cracks.

In our Church, we believe that we lived with God in Heaven, BEFORE we were born. This belief makes us somewhat unique, I know. But I like to think that sometimes when we "connect" with someone and feel like we've known them forever, it's because we have. Our spirits recognize each other from "before." I've met many such people.

I never fully understood the importance of my "chosen" family until I moved away from my blood family. For 30+ years, almost all of my family lived within a 30-minute drive. I have been very fortunate to have known all of my grandparents, and some of my great-grandparents. I saw my family on a frequent basis, and moving away from my hometown was VERY difficult because I couldn't just go see them whenever I wanted. When we first got here, I was so relieved to go to Church the first time, because I knew that I had a new Church family who could help me if I needed help. In the 3 years that we've been here, I've made some new "chosen" family members. Because I spend a lot of time with other Moms, most of my chosen family are "sisters from another mother." We don't have the history (or baggage) that I share with my own sisters from birth, but my relationship with them are equally important. I can pick up the phone and call my sisters (and brother), and I can see them a few times a year when I go back and visit (0r they come here), but I don't get to share in their lives like I used to. If I got into an accident and broke my leg, my birth family couldn't drop everything and drive 6 hours to come help me. But my chosen family members could band together and help me. Because we do stuff like that for each other.

They are the "other" mothers of my children. And through them, I have "other" children too. It's great! We uplift and serve each other as if we really were related. When they have great things happen, we cheer with them. And when life throws them a curve ball, we cry with them. And when our circumstances change and we must move away from each other, we grieve that loss as if we were related by blood.

I'm so grateful for my "chosen" family! They go beyond the bounds of friendship to really earn a place in my heart. They teach me things and enrich my life. And I don't think I say thank you enough for all that I have gained by having them in my life. So thank you "chosen" family, thank you to ALL of my family!

Sunday, September 13, 2009


Someone recently commented that I haven't posted in awhile, and I was missed. Thanks for missing the posts. But there really hasn't been much to tell. It's the Same Stuff, Different Day around here.

School is going well. The kids love their teachers. Homework just started--so we'll see how long they still love their teachers. I imagine the homework won't really change their opinions. I am enjoying my new-found freedom of not having to personally fetch Hannah after school. She's a big 1st grader, after all! But we were having issues with "what am I supposed to do today" and I had to get creative. I made a set of tags to hang on the kids' backpacks with their after school instructions: car pick up, WAIT for Mom, park, and playdate. So far, the tags are really working. It's win-win for all of us. Now we just need to get the kids to cooperate on the whole "car pickup" thing. Hannah and Toph are supposed to walk together. Hannah gets impatient, and instead of walking across the walk to Toph's room, she just heads to the pick up place. Toph takes his responsibility as big brother very seriously and will go to the office and ask for an all-call for Hannah. I *think* Hannah's got it down now. (I hope!)

Aside from school, we're really enjoying the return of park days. We've had a few HOT ones (yes, it does get hot here in paradise), but we enjoy them anyway. Since our cub scout night changed to Tuesdays, we don't have to rush home either, and I'm liking that! Yes, we still have cub scouts. I've got an interesting mix of boys right now, so Hannah gets to go to boy scouts with Robert instead of coming with me. It's working out well for both of us. Toph is still LOVING his den and being in scouts. He recently got his Wolf award.

The other thing we're enjoying is our sessions with Toph's psychologist. Dr. Mantell is a gift to us all. He's helping me to learn how to parent an ADD kid, and he's helping Toph learn how to be a more effective ADD kid. He's SO smart! We just love our session times, because we leave feeling so positive about life. I'm glad we have the option of having this time with Dr. Mantell. It's so helpful to know if the frustrations I'm having are from Toph's condition (and something he really can't help) and it's helpful to look at things from a different perspective and learn how to "tweak" how I'm doing some things to make them better for Toph. There's a fine line between knowing what he can't control/help and using the ADD as a crutch. Toph knows that ADD just means that he has to work harder in some areas of life. It's not an excuse for bad behavior.

Toph, Hannah, and I also got to go visit Dr. Rachel on Friday. The kids had been complaining of sore throats for most of the week--and we HAD been exposed to strep. After Hannah woke me up 3 times during the night, I figured we'd skip school and determine if the sore throats were from strep or not. NOT! Just cold/allergies. We doubled up on the Benedryl at bedtime, started Sudafed for the stuffies, and we all enjoyed milkshakes for dinner on Friday. Please, no lectures on how the milkshakes will increase the mucous--they felt good on the sore throats! Hannah had a rough night with the stuffies, but she's doing much better today. Toph was better Saturday. There's something healing about visiting the doctor's office sometimes. Now let's cross our fingers and hope that we didn't pick up new germs while we were there!

I'm doing well with the fibro. I'm still WAY tired all too often, but I'm looking forward to the day when that's not the case. I've had many "good" days in the last month, and I'm looking forward to more. I'm a bit nervous about my November appointment--hoping that my doc doesn't up my doseage. That would put me back in misery again, I'm afraid. But I'm enjoying all of the things that I've been able to get done and all of the good minutes. I'm learning to listen to my body and be realistic with my expectations. I'm learning how to ration out my energy for the things that are really important. And I'm currently enjoying NOT being a vampire!

Last week I got to participate in card swap again. It was really fun for me this time. I found a stamp that I adore! It's a moose stamp, so it's close to my heart. I thought I was SO ahead of schedule--because I stamped and colored when school started back in August. But then life got in the way, and I was quickly finishing things up the day before the card swap. The cards I got were really nice too. It was nice to get out of the house and spend time with some friends. Next swap: I'm doing a Christmas card! I've got one of the papers already, but that's it. I've got until November, so it's not urgent yet.

Oh, and I was able to get a "tune up" in the last couple of weeks. I got to visit the dentist and get my teeth cleaned and my filling (the one that fell out) replaced. I got to go to the chiropractor and get adjusted (need to do that again). And Wednesday I got to go to the eye doctor. I'm having a decade birthday soon, and my eyes have noticed. I have been wearing the same glasses since before Toph was born, and they're in pretty bad shape. But they have been the best glasses I've ever had. So I was nervous to replace them. But lately, I really need the reading portion of the bifocals, so I made the appointment. The good news is that my prescription hasn't really changed much. I got to see pictures of the inside of my eye (new technology is cool), and I have 2 freckles inside my right eye--nothing to worry about. And I'm going to have some really nice, NEW glasses in just about 9 days! Then I'll be able to SEE! The old ones are so scratched up that I can hardly see out of them.

That's all that we've been doing. SSDD. Sorry, no photos this post either. I'll try harder to find more stuff to write about that goes with pictures. And I'll try to remember to have the camera with me when it happens. Oh, I could awe all of my readers with a photo of my NEW DISHWASHER! It *only* took a month. Have I mentioned that I really don't care for the property management people we have? They have no incentive to please us, so they don't try very hard. It was a long month with lots of phone calls. I was kind of under the impression that when you've got a property management company and something breaks that THEY make the arrangements for the broken stuff to get fixed. Not these guys--they like to delegate. So I call them to report my dishwasher broken and then I call back later to find out if it's going to get fixed and get the number for the fix-it guy. I call that number and the guy comes and pronounces the old dishwasher dead. He gets a price quote on the broken part and phones the PMD's (Property Management DORKS) and leaves a message that never gets delivered. So when I call back 10 days later to tell them that I felt I'd given a reasonable amount of time to contact the property owner, they don't know what I'm talking about. Then I get a call from the fix it people to schedule a repair--Huh? I need a NEW dishwasher! And I get to make 3 more phone calls before THAT gets worked out. The PMD's get contacted and don't call me back. After hearing from the owner that she approved the new dishwasher, I waited 4 days (long weekend) and called the PMD's again, and got the number for the repair people. The repair people gave me the number for the intaller they subcontract to. And I did a LOT of the work to get that dishwasher installed. Somehow, I think someone else wasn't doing their job! But they also weren't doing my dishes, so they didn't really have any incentive to do their job, did they? But we have a dishwasher now, and it reminded me of the time when we were building our house in Fresno.

.....A long, long time ago, we bought a house. We got to pick the plan and the lot and the outside color and the flooring. We LOVED that house. We visited "our dirt" as often as possible and watched it being built. And we called the builders when we saw things we didn't like. Then one day they installed the appliances. From that day forward, I'd go to the house (alone if I needed to) even more often just to stroke my appliances. I LOVED my brand new gas stove/oven. It was so pretty! But I loved the BRAND NEW dishwasher even more. Most of my life I'd never lived where there was a dishwasher (or one that worked). I was like a kid on Christmas morning. Since then, I've been spoiled. I know that a dishwasher is a luxury, and I'm very capable of washing the dishes by hand. I just like the dishwasher.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Things I NEVER Imagined I'd Hear.....

We were having a discussion about Hannah's clothing choices this morning, as we do EVERY morning of school, and she really didn't want to wear a skort (skirt/shorts combo) because some of the kids think that it's just a skirt and think she's showing her underwear.

Then I heard the words I never expected to hear my kids say: "Yeah Mom, we have a RULE at school that says you can't share your underwear."

Huh? I'm not sure I hear that right..... You can't SHARE your UNDERWEAR? Yeah, I heard it right. You need a RULE for this??

Yes, it means you can't show your panties to other people. So you can't just lift your dress up like this (Hannah demonstrates with her nightgown).

I see, because what, without the rule all the girls would just lift up their dresses and show off their panties?

Well, the boys can't share their underwear either.

At least the rule is fair. But seriously, what does this say about us as a society? We really NEED a rule to tell us not to show our panties to other people? I remember back in the old days before electricity was discovered when I went to school--after walking uphill in the snow for 5 miles without any shoes--that I lived in mortal fear of someone else seeing my panties, so I'd wear shorts under my dresses just in case. Now we need a rule.

Sometimes I wish the adults who wear the mini skirts or droopy drawers had the same rule.....

Monday, August 24, 2009

Paralyzed with indecision

One of my favorite blogs to read is "The Meanest Mom." She's freakin' hilarious! I love the way that she takes everyday happenings and looks at them through the eyes of humor, reminding me that we don't have to be so serious.

So Meanest Mom is having a contest. When she was questioned about her claim that Chrohn's Disease is the sexiest autoimmune diseases, she opened up a contest of a different kind--the Ms. Chronic Disease of America e-Pageant. How creative!

Only I couldn't enter the contest--because which disease would I choose?! Instead, I did the noble thing by not entering, thus making the contest more fair for others who are less fortunate than I am. Because really, Ms. Asthmatic PCOS Fibromyalgia has quite a ring! Can't you just see that on a sash!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

School has STARTED!

Today is the day that many mothers look forward to more than Christmas--because it is like Christmas for us. It's the day that school starts again.

I know, I was SOOOO excited for school to be OVER in June. I couldn't wait for summer vacation. Then I realized something. I'm used to my kids being gone all day. They create a LOT of noise--I mean a LOT. And they're not used to being together all day, every day. So it was kind of a relief for school to start again today. I'm not excited about early mornings and I'm not excited about homework, but it will be good to have the structure back and get into some kind of routine.

The kids were kind of taken aback this morning when I was rushing them to take a picture before school--this is a tradition! I *need* a picture of each child at the beginning of the school year. So they appeased me and posed. Another tradition we have at the beginning of the school year is new shoes. Each kid gets a new pair of sneakers--look at their new shoes!

I think Hannah has kind of a Punky Brewster look--remember Punky Brewster? Well, Hannah loves to wear fun socks (that don't necessarily "go with" the outfit) and now she's got high top sneakers. She'd love to have pig tails again, and has asked me to put her hair in low pig tails just last week. And she's got a style that's completely unique. It was freaking hilarious to watch her walk onto campus this morning too. She was SOOOOO excited to go back to school. Social creature that she is, hanging out with just the 4 of us was not stimulating enough. But she walked around, flicking her hair with her hand, and showing people her new backpack--it's pink and it has a monkey on it. You'd have thought that she had a gold brick! I just love this girl!

Toph is trying to be more independent. He's in THIRD grade, after all. He found his line and walked to class on his own, but he also looked glad to see me when I found his classroom. Toph is getting bigger--as is evidenced by the size of his shoe! He's growing up, but I hope he always loves his cuddle time with Mom. He had a hard time sleeping last night, so I had to wake him up this morning. We didn't have that 15 minutes of cuddle time, so I hope his day wasn't completely "off."

Both kids are going to like their teachers, I think. Both teachers seem very nice and structured. Hannah was just anxious to go back. I think she likes the work of school, the challenge, and the social aspects. She definitely likes the playground and will be happy to get to play on the playground every day. I think Toph is going to like his teacher too. He's very structured and strict--but kind too. I know that Toph isn't necessarily looking forward to the work aspect of school, but he's missed his friends and is looking forward to renewing his friendships. I think this will be a good year for the Nickel Family.