Friday, July 12, 2013

‪#‎HappyMoments‬ A 30-Day Challenge, Day 30

So, today is the last day of the challenge.  The weather was questionable for the pool or spray park, but perfect for the mountain of laundry that accumulated during the past week or two.  A day of laundry wasn't fun, but it freed up our weekend so we can have a lot of fun as a family and make nice memories.  Plus, since I washed it all, RJ gets to put it all away...what else could be happier?!?

I agreed to 30 days of happy moments but I didn't think that I would be able to do it.  Overall, I'm kind of cranky, cynical, sarcastic, and generally miserable (yet I have friends, family and colleagues who like me, so what does that say?!?)  In 30 days I was reminded of what I knew but often forgot: life is about working to live, not living to work; most of the things we worry about aren't really important and we should let them go; and being on the treadmill with 50-60+ hour weeks, year after year, is unhealthy and we all need a sabbatical from our job so we can relax and re-energize. 

Thursday, July 11, 2013

#‎HappyMoments‬ A 30-Day Challenge, Day 29

We started the day off with house chores and rewarded ourselves by going to the movies.  A local theater shows a different older kids flick each week for a whopping $1.00 per person.  This week was "Hotel Transylvania" and it was the perfect activity for a day with questionable weather.  And it was a decent movie - animation for kids, but humor for adults.  It was Adam Sandler - he's just a big kid so a good time was had by all.

We had lunch with grandma and grandpa and a quiet dinner at home with RJ.  Tonight was the car show in town so we walked over to check it out.  The kids saw a number of their classmates and they enjoyed catching up.  RJ and I also saw a number of our childhood classmates (life in a small town) and we enjoyed catching up and meeting their children.  There were a number of beautiful vintage cars...far more exciting and sexy than my practical mini-van.  My favorite though was an early-model electric car.  It wasn't shiny or sexy, just practical and trying to make the world a better place...kind of like me.  RJ drooled over the Camaros and the kids followed him and loved the Camaro that looked like Bumblebee from Transformers.  We stopped at Vanilla Bean and the kids had cones.  Their cone-eating skills are improving, but there is still work to do...I'm sure they won't mind the practice!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

‪#‎HappyMoments‬ A 30-Day Challenge, Day 28

We are told that it takes 28 days to develop a good habit or break a bad one.  28 days of blogging and I'm addicted! 

Today was a day with many happy moments.  E, the eternal early bird, was ready to play at 6:30am so we gathered a bunch of card games and played Old Maid, War, and Go Fish until the boys woke up.  It was nice to play such simple games in the quiet of the morning.

Although we celebrate birthdays and anniversaries, we don't worry about celebrating on the exact day.  It was quite a surprise to have an Edible Arrangement delivered to the house today as an anniversary gift from J, C, and E (I have a feeling that they got a little help from Grandma and Grandpa).  It was a nice treat after dinner, and RJ and I were even able to get a piece or two of fruit.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

‪#‎HappyMoments‬ A 30-Day Challenge, Day 27

Today was basically a 'groundhog day' of yesterday.  The kids rode bikes and went to the spray park while I stayed home, washed dishes, dealt with the contractor and tried to write.  I made some headway and I think I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.  All in all, it was a productive day and with tomorrow also dedicated to writing, I think I'll be able to send my draft to my advisor soon and
put this seemingly endless part of the doctorate behind me.

RJ had golf plans, so it was just the four of us for dinner.  I was hoping to either take the kids to the outdoor movie in Fanwood or on a walk to DQ for a treat, but a peek outside showed that both wouldn't end well.  I had treats in the freezer so the kids picked their favorite and we headed outside to enjoy.  I should stop taking pictures of the kids when they eat ice cream...I always think I'll get a picture of them looking happy or excited, but I always get one of them looking like they are in a deep meditative state.  Maybe that's the secret of life - sit down, relax, eat an ice cream cone, and the knowledge of the universe will come to you.

Monday, July 8, 2013

‎#HappyMoments A 30-Day Challenge, Day 26

This is becoming a summer of "Childless Monday's."  Like last week my Dad took the kids, today for their swim lesson, playtime at the pool, and then an afternoon of typical indulgences by grandparents - too much TV, candy, and general spoiling, so I could write and be productive around the house.  Like most writing days I've planned, the day was hijacked.  Our contractor was back in full force and ready to work, so it was a noisy day of hanging drywall, digging for concrete footings, getting measurements for stairs, and singing.  A lot of progress was made today and I'm excited for the week's plans - painting the bathroom and installing the subfloor and tile, painting the family room, and pouring the footings for the deck.  I'm hoping the project will be completed before our vacation so we can enjoy the rest of the summer in our updated family room and yard.

J and E have dominant personalities and monopolize much of my time.  C was feeling a little unappreciated and ignored so we spent extra time together this morning and before bed playing games, reading books, and just hanging out.  C was definitely much happier when he went to bed and I was too.

A friend reminded me that today is a new moon, a time to build new things and be spontaneous.  RJ and I sat down the with kids and wrote a bucket list for our summer, as this summer is different than our previous summers, and we are embracing the change, spontaneity, and enjoyment of the simple things in life.  We're hoping to have a new blog up tomorrow to chronicle our summer of fun.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

#HappyMoments A 30-Day Challenge, Day 25

As the proverb goes, All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.  Well, no work and all play make Cara and RJ people who have a sloppy yard and no food.  So we worked today and our summer of fun took a hiatus for the day.  J visited Grammy and RJ did four hours of yard work in the blazing heat, but now the bamboo planted by the previous owners is at bay, the weeds are gone, the neighbor's ivy is detangled from our fence, and moth balls have been disbursed to deter the groundhog, aka Fatty, to resume habitation under our shed.  C and E accompanied me to Costco and Shoprite and a good time was had by them only.  I cleaned out the fridge, juiced the remaining fruit from last week for tomorrow's breakfast, baked chickens, and tried my hand at mango margaritas.  The margaritas were a little meh, so I don't think they will be the signature drink of our new deck...but they were a good use of our too ripe mangoes and new bottle of Jose Cuervo.  Today is one of those days that I must remind myself that a hectic day at home (with errands - yuck!) is better than even a good day at work.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention that today was a special day for RJ and me.  Thirteen years ago I was given to RJ by my father and RJ decided to cleave to me and not his mother...kind of funny/weird/outdated/misogynistic when you break it down that way.  Anyway, thirteen years of joy and sorrows of marriage, three kids, two jobs, an apartment and two houses, five cars, a masters degree, a PE license, half a doctorate, LEED accreditation, two hurricanes, two surgeries, five grandparents and one parent laid to rest, laughing, crying, yelling, and worrying, and there is no one else I would want to accompany me on this journey. 

Saturday, July 6, 2013

‎#HappyMoments A 30-Day Challenge, Day 24

Do you remember the jingle, "baseball, hot dogs, apple pie, and Chevrolet" - either from the '70's or the more modern version?"  We had that kids of day today, except it went something like "baseball, hot dogs, reuben sammies, and Toyota." 
We took the kids to see the Somerset Patriots and we had a great time.  The stadium was virtually empty so it was like we were watching own personal baseball game being played.  E danced with Sparkee and C was even willing to give Sparkee a 'high five' which is something since he has a fear of amusement park characters. 
After the game we cleaned up and took the kids to Goodman's Deli in Berkeley Heights.  RJ and I have been on a quest for good deli, specifically reuben sandwiches, since Jackie Cooper's in Edison closed a few years ago.  It was not the Goodman's of Elmora Avenue in Elizabeth, and although it wasn't bad, I don't think we'll make our way back again. 
I can't speak for RJ or the kids, but I know that I will sleep well tonight thinking of the good times we are having and the happy memories we are making.

Friday, July 5, 2013

#HappyMoments A 30-Day Challenge, Day 23

Our fence was fixed today.  One would think that repair of a chain link fence after a storm would be completed quickly and with little fuss, but between our neighbor waiting four months to clear her trees off our fence and the fencing company taking four months to finally show for the repair, we finally have remedied the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy.  RJ and I have talked about the fencing endlessly for months.  If the feds were bugging our house, I think they would be very disappointed to find new chain link and not a house full of stolen goods...or at least Zorro.  It's nice to have finally remedied the problems of the fall before the next hurricane season starts.

Fencing delayed our plans, but we finally got to the pool.  C had a date with Grammy, but J and E were happy to splash around and play with the friends they made today.  I didn't have one pool day last summer, so I was happy to sit on the side and catch some sun (too much on my thighs - ouch!).  I think the kids were surprised to see me in the pool and able to swim underwater...little do they know I swam competitively for years. 

The sunburn made me think that maybe I should make a list of things I want to accomplish this summer.  Defending my proposal and starting my research is on the list, but what else?  Running?  Yoga?  Not everything should be serious, so maybe getting a tan on my thighs since I probably haven't had one since I was a kid.  Maybe that will be tomorrow's post...

Thursday, July 4, 2013

‎#HappyMoments A 30-Day Challenge, Day 22

I wonder how other countries celebrate their independence day.  It doesn't keep me up at night and I'm sure that I could find out by surfing the web, but I'm pretty sure that people do something beyond having a barbecue and stores don't use it as an opportunity to have another sale to generate business. 

Since we are living in the middle of a construction zone and our summer of relaxation is getting more and more stressful each day, we decided to bypass the early-morning township fun run and sleep-in instead.  We took the kids to Turtleback Zoo for two hours of stingray touching and train and carousel riding and then out for hamburgers (should you happen upon 25 Burgers in Bound Brook, do yourself a favor and keep driving).  When we got home the kids played and I napped.  We capped off the day by walking down to the end of our street and watching the township firework display. 

This has been a year of firsts...first big interior construction project, first summer of seasonal unemployment, and first holiday spent without our extended family.  I like when our little family is alone together and we have time to enjoy the day and each other without fuss and work. 

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

#HappyMoments A 30-Day Challenge, Day 21

The sarcasm fairy has visited our house and waved her wand over J.  I know you are thinking sarcasm, one of your children?  Really?!?!?  It went something like this - J tells me that they are playing a game with something to do with Mario's brother and I ask if that's Luigi.  He turns to me, straight-faced, and says, "Who else could it be? Yoshi?" and then rolls his eyes like I'm the lamest person ever.  J may never be the biggest or the strongest, but he can be the one with the best quips. 

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

#HappyMoments A 30-Day Challenge, Day 20

Today was a writing day for me - the first I've had in weeks.  But before I could ship the kids off to my parents, the kids decided to be extra rowdy and silly.  They were loud and silly at breakfast and downright out of control when they got dressed.  I'll just say that underwear don't make the best hat and leave it at that.  And as much as I tried to be stern and responsible, I just laughed and laughed with them.  Their silliness and laughter was contagious (except no underwear hat for me) and it resonated with me all day.  I longed for them to be home and I was not as productive in my writing as I should have been.  Maybe a thinking cap next time will help...

Available for purchase from


Monday, July 1, 2013

#HappyMoments A 30-Day Challenge, Day 19

I left the house twice today - this morning to run around the block 2 times and this evening to go to yoga.  So, I was home between 6:30am and 7:00pm and I was not motivated to blog.  at.  all.  The kids and I were busy having fun - eating breakfast, playing Monopoly Jr, watching a movie on my laptop while cuddling in bed, having lunch, individual book time, reading and acting our Where the Wild Things Are, playing BrainQuest, juicing the leftover fruit from last week, and having free playtime while I cooked.  We were happy and cheerful when RJ came home (even me considering I washed dishes, dishes, and more dishes).  I think looking for the positive in each day and appreciating the small things has left me unmotivated to write about it with the same enthusiasm I had less than three short weeks ago.  For years I have told myself that I had no reason to be depressed and instead should be happy, and something has clicked in my brain that I find enjoyment and happiness in the things I previously did but felt meh about.  I agreed to a 30-day challenge, and I will follow-thru, but I'm finding personal progress which makes me happiest of all.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

#HappyMoments A 30-Day Challenge, Day 18

Today has been a bit of a challenge.  I had happy moments - having a date with E that included buying a new laptop (after my laptop crashed which did not make me happy at all), new shoes, and weekly groceries (also not so exciting), going to lunch, having good conversation, and just hanging out with my best girl, but I'm struggling to be happy while looking at a week of 50% chance of thunderstorms and kids who are antsy to go to the pool, needing to write a letter that will be emotionally challenging as I summarize a horrific year, and motivating myself to finish my dissertation proposal after losing momentum in June.  I've spent the evening reminding myself that a rainy day allows for "school at home" and learning lessons missed or not taught in the previous school year, moving ahead and starting on the curriculum for the next year, and acting out a book, which is our favorite, wrapping up cooking the fabulous produce in our farm box, cleaning and organizing at the house, and just relaxing, playing games, and enjoying each other. 

18 days ago, the forecast of a week of storms and a crashed computer would have sent me into a total tailspin and I would have felt miserable and probably behaved the same way too.  The fact that I have been able to find the good in the lousy weather forecast with chores such as school, cooking, and cleaning, is a stop in the right direction.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

#HappyMoments A 30-Day Challenge, Day 17

Today I'm tired.  Not the usual hectic, stressed-out, overwhelmed, and depressed tired I usually feel on Saturdays, but a happy, contented tired. 

RJ and my Dad went on their annual overnight to play two rounds of golf and support the local YMCA, so the kids and I packed up and spent the night with my Mom.  "Pack up" sounds funny and dramatic for an overnight, but with three kids and a basement that does not allow for us to hang clothes to dry at this time, "pack up" is what I did.  Bags and laundry baskets of both dirty and clean clothes, hangers, video games, Transformers, superhero action figures, books, stuffed animals, a broken laptop (that I thought I would be able to fix because I moonlight as a member of the Geek Squad), cell phone charger, and three pairs of shoes (plus the ones on our feet - these kids must think life is a fashion show) were shoved in the car and off we went on the 0.75 mile drive.  The night was simple and quiet, and this morning we took the kids to see Monsters U and to buy new sneakers (at least needed because of a growth spurt).  We had a nice day, not just because of the movies and shopping, but because of the simplicity and relaxed nature of it. 

As I type, I hear E and C playing DS in my bedroom, helping each other with games and sharing, and I think that this is what we all need...more time together to enjoy the simple things in life and just enjoy each other.

Friday, June 28, 2013

#HappyMoments, A 30-Day Challenge, Day 16

Over the past few months I have been plagued by the same disturbing dream.  I'm driving a car that I can't control and I keep looking around but the scenery doesn't change.  I crash, and when I get out of the car I learn I have hit a wheelchair.  The wheelchair is not damaged and the person standing next to it says that it's fine, nothing happened, and I should go about my business.  I think this dream sums up the unbalanced, out-of-control life I have been living for the past year (or eight).  Over the past 16 days I have been working hard to make priorities (because if everything is important than nothing is important), find happy moments in each day, and remind myself to be thankful, live in the moment, and that many of the things I worry and stress about don't matter.  Maybe it's the mindset, maybe it's the purposeful happy moments, or maybe it's just too much white wine last night, but I did not have that dream and woke up rested.

My summer started today, and in many ways, summer started for the kids too.  I feel today was a new beginning - an opportunity to heal the wounds of the previous year as a family, enjoy a more relaxed pace of life, and focus on each other.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

#HappyMoments A 30-day Challenge, Day 15

My much anticipated seasonal unemployment started today at 5pm.  It was a good day, probably the best day at work I've had in a long while.  I was all business this morning responding to emails and wrapping up unfinished projects.  I packed up my office about 30 minutes before I left - and there was something cathartic about it.  In the past, co-workers would joke that I could move out of my office with just one box or bag, but about a year ago I brought in a few boxes of books that didn't fit into my home office bookshelves.  They were second-tier books from college and grad school...books that I may never use again, but I might if I ever taught the right course (and I couldn't bear to sell them or give them away).  Two boxes were all that was needed for my books and personal belongings and other than three personal photos, an inspirational to-do list, personalized stationary, and an amethyst gem tree (all to be displayed proudly in my home office), I have no plans on bringing these things to work in September or beyond.  A co-worker asked if I thought that I wouldn't return in September and although I am sure that I will continue working, I am not sure if I will return to that office, or at least return with a feeling other than that I am short-timing the job.   I don't think I'm cut out for sharing my personal life with my professional life (I'm really OK with co-workers not realizing I have children and thinking I'm more clueless that I look).  Work ended with a few hugs with co-workers and goodbyes to the students, a margarita and too much queso with Sarah Beth, and LIFE began at 6:10pm.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

#HappyMoments A 30-day Challenge Day 14

Today was a happy day for all those who believe that "all men are created equal" and that "man" includes women, people of all races, nationalities, places of birth, socioeconomic status, abilities, sexuality, and anyone else who does not identify as white, educated, heterosexual, land-owning man.  The Supreme Court stuck down a key part of the Defense of Marriage Act that denied legally married same-sex couples the same federal benefits provided to heterosexual spouses as it violated the Fifth Amendment, specifically, that "no state shall ... deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."  I hope that this will encourage the LGBTQ communities and allies in the states where same-sex marriage is not legal to rise up and demand civil marriage equity.

Wendy Davis (Democrat, Texas) filibustered for thirteen hours yesterday to block a bill that would greatly restrict abortions and because of her untiring work, SB5 is dead and will have to be reintroduced...if the anti-abortionists dare...  Yet again, I hope that this will encourage more like-minded people to stand up and not allow our politicians to continue to chip away at Roe v. Wade.  Rick Perry, Texas Governor and former Presidential candidate, said that Texans "value life and want to protect women and the unborn."  I know that this would not have been uttered and that abortion would not be an issue if men, and not women, got pregnant.  Politicians would not dare make laws that limit a man's control of his own body.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

#HappyMoments A 30-day Challenge Day 13

Today was the last day of school and I'm not sure who is happier, RJ, me, or the kids.  I don't think I could stomach one more day of school dropoff and pickup, homework, and various school communication.  My summer starts on Thursday at 5pm and I can't wait for two months of enjoying the children and filling in the gaps of what was missed in school, making headway on my dissertation, organizing the house, and finding balance (if there is such a thing).  I stopped myself several times today from writing a to-do list for the summer because I envisioned a tome with endless chores and errands that I would never accomplish and beat myself up about.  So I think, instead, I should follow the to-do list given to me from a colleague and friend because I think it will help me have an enjoyable, peaceful, and truly enlightening summer:
  • Count my blessings
  • Practice kindness
  • Let go of what I can't change
  • Listen to my heart
  • Be productive yet calm
  • Just breath

Monday, June 24, 2013

#HappyMoments A 30-day Challenge. Day 12

Today had it's ups and downs.  J woke up sick and had to stay home from school - I think he's going to have to stay home tomorrow on the last (and probably best in his opinion) day of school.  At work we celebrated a birthday, had a few laughs, and there were moments of the "good times" we had in the past.   When I got home, my Dad told me that J decided to stay at my parents tonight instead of coming home (probably the most selfish happy moment of any parent- a child who is sick somewhere else) but that meant RJ and I had just C & E. After a quick dinner, we settled down for a family game - Yahtzee - and we played girls against boys.  E started off with a large straight on the first roll and from then on the girls dominated the game.  I told the kids we should make it higher stakes next time - the winning place get to choose the place for ice cream and the losing team has to pay (basically RJ and I pay anyway!), but I think the kids would enjoy the friendly competition.  I'm definitely looking forward to more family game night this summer!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

#HappyMoments A 30-day Challenge. Day 11

My kids love this book and it's one of my favorites to read to their classes at school.  Being kind to each other and allowing everyone to have self-worth and dignity is, unfortunately, something that needs to be taught in our schools and mandated by the state as bullying is such a problem.  The book is simple - the reader learns that it is easy and gratifying to be kind, empathetic, and show friendship and love and that doing these things "fill the bucket" of both people, but that being mean or exclusionary leaves both the victim and the perpetrator feeling empty inside.  I have made a concerted effort over the past ten days to be less snarky, but I know a number of adults who need to read this book every. single. day. until they comprehend the message.

I think 30 Days of Happy Moments started as a way for us to look at things more positively (especially me - I can be rather cranky), but after ten days of mostly selfish happy moments, I thought about what I could do that would make someone else happy.  And I did something tonight for someone and although I think it will make her happy, I think it made me happier to do it.  Sometimes the old dog can learn new tricks...

Saturday, June 22, 2013

#HappyMoments A 30-day Challenge. Day 10

With the resolution of being more spontaneous and the inability to use our family room (and our living room beginning to look like a variety store), we decided to take the kids to Hyatt Hills for golf and then to DQ for a cone.  We were definitely slowing people down - the group ahead of us was two couples and at least four kids and with the five of us following, all the couples behind us had more than ample time to rest on the benches and enjoy the scenery.  It was the usual, the kids hitting the ball like they are teeing off and later getting more ice cream on their face, hands, and clothes than in their bellies.  But it was a good time.  There was a lot of smiles (mostly the kids - we were worried about losing our teeth) and I'm glad that we broke out of our comfort zone.

Friday, June 21, 2013

#HappyMoments A 30-day Challenge. Day 9

Today has been quite a day!  It started with me finding a bat flying around the house after RJ left for work.  Fortunately, E's bedroom door was closed, but before I could dash into the hallway to close the door to the bedroom that J and C share (so I could hide in my bedroom and call RJ or my Dad for help), the bat flew into their room.  I forced myself to face my fears, grabbed a broom and towel, and went into their bedroom, where yes, I thought I would be able to hit the bat and scoop him into the towel (because when I take a break from being a feminist scholar I moonlight as an exterminator).  I was able to get the boys out of their beds and down the stairs while lying to them that it was a harmless bird.  With the door closed and the bat trapped in their room, we were able to have breakfast, get to school, and pretend that it was a normal day.

The second grade put on a production of The Story of Ferdinand, a children's story of a bull that would rather smell flowers than fight in bullfights.  J was in the ensemble which was the perfect role for him - he's introverted and I was surprised that he participated at all.  The children were so happy and proud of themselves and it was an excellent performance. 
Friday is CSA pickup day and that is always a pleasant surprise.  Turnip greens, arugula, lettuce, broccoli, cabbage, radishes, pickles, yellow squash, peas, and fresh pasta...I see cavatelli and broccoli, risotto with peas, and arugula salad with hot bacon dressing in my future (and stay tuned for my book, Why I'm not a Size 0 in stores soon).
After CSA pickup, it was time to address the bat again.  I called an exterminator who apparently prefers termites to bats.  He was on a termite call but I was told to open a window and let it fly out on its own because they would feel bad charging me a service fee to do that.  I told them that I had exhausted all my bravery in getting the boys out of their bedroom and didn't have any left to open the window (my Dad did it for me).  And, I didn't mind paying the service fact I might have given them all of my savings to be free of the bat.
When RJ came home he checked the room and said that the bat was gone.  We started to discuss dinner plans and put away laundry (which is an endless chore when you have children) and RJ discovered that the bat was still in the boys room.  Being very brave, donned in work gloves and goggles and waving a trout net and tennis racket, RJ went upstairs to slay the beast.  He was able to trap it in the trout net secured by the tennis racket and release it into the world when it can eat mosquitoes, torment other people, and make more little bats (I would have killed it, but don't tell PETA).  Batslayer RJ got to choose dinner after his impressive and daring capture and off to Lidia's we went.  A day of many happy moments (even the whole bat thing was's gone!) was capped off with sangria, a delicious dinner, and flan. And since the kids are sleeping at my parents, eight hours of uninterrupted sleep!


Thursday, June 20, 2013

#HappyMoments A 30-day Challenge. Day 8

This week has been bittersweet.  My colleague and friend Rosi is leaving Rutgers for an enriching job and healthier environment and life in Northwest Massachusetts.  And I have only four short workdays before I am voluntarily and seasonally unemployed this summer so I can spend more time with my children, conduct research for my dissertation, and reflect on the path my life should take.  I define myself, in part, as a working mom (although I am cognizant that SAHM's work), and I think we are both anticipating and fretting these changes in routine and environment.  I'm sure, these changes will be challenging and also rewarding, and bring us strength and to a new level of self-actualization.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

#HappyMoments A 30-day Challenge. Day 7

Today was a day of many happy moments.  We wished a fond farewell to a great colleague and friend as she embarks on an adventure at Williams College.  Rosanna's presence will be missed by her many friends, Rutgers has lost a strong academic woman, and our students have lost an advocate, but the staff, faculty, and students at Williams will be fortunate beyond their expectations to have her as their colleague and ally.

At home, the contractor was able to dismantle the dilapidated sun porch and we have a clear view of our back yard.  For eight years we've lived with blinds on the sliding glass door that leads from the dining room to the porch so we didn't have to see the disaster built by the former owners that we couldn't comfortably afford to address.  I am positive that in the future we will only close the blinds to block the blinding sun that streams into the room in the morning.

With the school year coming to an end and minimal homework, more lenient bedtimes, no television, and limited access to a good portion of our house, we've had more time to spend together as a family.  E's and C's preschool homework this week included learning the nursery rhyme, Little Miss Muffet.  I'm not big on reciting nursery rhymes or reading fairy tales with the children.  I think they are a little frightening and cause children to have nightmares and I'm not sure they teach children the right lessons.  Cinderella's step-sisters cut off their toes and heels for the glass slipper to fit - that is gruesome and no man is worth disfiguring your body.  But E and C worked hard to recite the nursery rhyme and it went something like this...

Little Miss Muppet
sat on a tuppet
eating her turds and hay
along came a spider
and sat down next to her
and scared Miss Muppet away

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

#HappyMoments A 30-day Challenge. Day 6

It's a rare occasion that I get home from work before RJ.  32 miles on the GSP is much faster than any route involving Route 18 to the NJT.  But tonight I was able get home before RJ and even before my Dad brought the kids back from karate, so I had a few uninterrupted relaxing minutes in the house to get comfortable and start dinner.  But best of all, I was able to spend a few minutes with the kids before RJ came home and just enjoy their energy and stories of the day.  Maybe it's a little selfish that I'm so happy to have them all to myself, but I don't care...I work hard and deserve a little indulgence.

Monday, June 17, 2013

#HappyMoments A 30-day Challenge. Day 5

I'm a bit of a foodie.  I like to cook, eat, read cookbooks, food blogs, and browse produce and farmers markets.  This year I purchased a share in a local CSA.  I like stopping at the local farm stand on Friday mornings and being surprised by the goodies found in my share box.  Zucchini and yellow squash have been included for the past two weeks.  I like both and after the kids went up to bed, I decided to shred them and make my gluten-free version of the zucchini tot recipe from Skinnytaste.  This was a happy moment for many reasons.  First, I had some much needed solitude in the kitchen - I get little alone time.  Second, I purchase the food share with the expectation that I'll be able to make creative and healthy food and I was actually able to do that - wow!  Third, I didn't have enough mix to make more large tots, so I made tiny ones that I think are adorable and they make me smile.  And,  what I'm most excited about, I'll have yummy squash tots to share with my family and friends tomorrow!


Sunday, June 16, 2013

#HappyMoments A 30-day Challenge. Day 4

I don't know a lot about rabbits.  I had a friend or two growing up who had rabbits and seemed to be scarred (literally!) by them.  I think of them as a sign of good luck, prosperity, and fertility, otherwise, I've never given them mind.  In years past, on occasion, we've have one or two rabbits that visit our yard to eat clover, tussle (they can really jump!), and rest in the shade, but this year we have three and see them multiple times each day.  The rabbits have become a constant source of entertainment for all of us.  RJ and I watch them from the kitchen window and the kids would camp on the family room sofa and watch them from there.  We decided to venture out today to look at furnishings for our soon-to-be renovated family room and the rabbits were out in the front.  The five of us spent nearly 15 minutes watching the animals.  They seemed to be protecting their own territory in a standoff similar to the last scene in "The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly." This, of course, is totally unnecessary as there is enough clover and crabgrass to go around.  The scene provided us happiness for many reasons...the rabbits are adorable, without television we're looking for a few minutes of viewing something that is mindless and entertaining, and most importantly, we had a few minutes to be outside, relax, enjoy nature, and just be.  I don't know why the rabbits have decided that our grass is best, but I'm glad they have come to hang with us for a while.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

#HappyMoments A 30-day Challenge. Day 3

"I don't believe an accident of birth makes people sisters or brothers.  It makes them siblings, gives them mutuality of parentage.  Sisterhood and brotherhood is a condition people have to work at" - Maya Angelou

I'm an only child, so I don't understand the politics of sibling relationships.  I never had to share a room, I was always the favorite child, and I never developed a personality or interests to stand apart from another person.  And now I'm trying to raise three children who are individuals, feel special in their own way, and are friends and can support and rely on each other well after they live in our family house.  I tell each of the children that they are my favorite, each for different reasons. I think they believe me, which is good because it's true.  Maybe it's the sibling relationship between the oldest and the youngest or the relationship between the siblings who both have strong personalities and desire control, but J and E are usually tussling over something - borrowing video games, who looked at who during breakfast or choose to eat the same meal (two options, three kids - at least two people always choose the same thing), who showers first or last, who gets to play on one of the two swings and who gets the trapeze, and so on.  With construction at the house, we've all been a little short on patience.  Today I took the kids to my parents so I could wash laundry and they could watch TV, but instead E and J choose to play DS together.  One DS, two children, no was heaven.


Friday, June 14, 2013

#HappyMoments A 30-day Challenge. Day 2

"Use a picture. It's worth a thousand words" - Arthur Brisbane, newspaper editor

I had a really nice day today...a much anticipated vacation day from work.  My son and his fellow second-graders were celebrating their "moving-up" to the blended upper elementary and middle school they will attend next year with an afternoon of pizza, Italian ice, freeze dancing, board games, and face painting.  I don't usually volunteer to assist with these types of events.  I'm always happy to contribute something tangible for the party, but I don't usually participate  I'm not much of a joiner, I'm not part of the Mommy Club, and maybe it's related, in part, to raising my own family in the town where I grew up, my family has lived for four generations, my parents taught at each of the middle schools so EVERYONE between the ages of 22-59 has been a student in one of their classrooms (including me, my husband, friends, etc.), and many of the school personnel call me "Cara" and not "Ms. M" or "Mrs. W" like they do the other parents, but I guess that happens when they remember when you were born, you were their student, and you were a classmate and friend of their child or their classmate and childhood friend.  Anyway, it was a lovely afternoon.  The kids enjoyed playing games, dancing, eating, and a Friday afternoon at school without writing and the usual spelling test.  In thinking about today's photo for the challenge, which of my pictures would be appropriate?    I think this one is the best...J wearing a gold t-shirt, is in the foreground.  I think it was suggested that the children wear their school shirts, but J is not much of a joiner or conformist either, so I dressed him to show school pride in a more non-traditional blue and gold ensemble.  The clear photos of him with his friends will be ours to enjoy...but I think this one shows the festivity and fun of the afternoon.


Thursday, June 13, 2013

#HappyMoments: A 30-day Challenge. Day 1

Today, I, along with my colleagues and friends Sarah Beth and Rosi, decided to endeavor in a 30-day challenge.  What could we do that would link us together in some way and help us grow as we move and begin a new job (Rosi at Williams College), write a dissertation proposal over the summer and not feel abandoned by her two favorite lunch buddies at Bishop House (Sarah Beth), and enjoy much-anticipated seasonal unemployment with her kids while conducting interviews for a dissertation (me).  30 days of running seemed unlikely, especially considering the heat, humidity, and chance of thunderstorms that seem to be the daily weather report of New Jersey summers.  30 days of lunching, a challenge we never officially endeavored but probably met many times over, was also not an option.  What could help us be more positive and help us grow?  30 days of documented HAPPY MOMENTS was born.

I love Bikram Yoga.  I love everything about it - the poses, the packed room, the heat, and even the sweating.  My favorite part though is the daily meditation what is read by the instructor.  Each passage speaks to me, some reminding me how far I have come and others reminding me how much further I need to travel on my journey.  Journey to the Heart: Daily Meditations on the Path to Freeing Your Soul by Melody Beattie makes me happy, not just today, but every day. 

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

What defines you?

Are you defined by your shoe size? Does it tell the world you are a good person? A success? A good mom? A good daughter? Supportive partner? Fabulous manager? Stellar employee?

You wear a size 9. I wear a 7. Will you have a better day than me? Are you worthy of a larger salary? Are you a better daughter? A worse mom? I read that Shaq wears a 22 or 23. What does that mean about him? Is he a better citizen than both of us? Other than knowing your size so you can purchase a pair of shoes that fits correctly, does your shoe size matter? Do all of your hopes and dreams depend on the size of your shoe?

OK, this sounds crazy, right? It does, when foot size and shoes are the example.

So, if I agree that this is crazy, then what is the point? Every day, many of us we define our mood, whether it will be a good day or a bad day, if we are a success, a good mom/daughter/partner/employee/neighbor/friend, worthy of a better job/car/vacation/alone-time on something as inconsequential as shoe size. Maybe we judge ourselves on weight...down one pound = good day/good mom/good manager! Up a pound = bad day/bad employee/bad partner. Or maybe we judge ourselves on a job title or salary, yet knowing deep down that we are better educated, work harder, and are a better leader than people who make more money and have better titles than we do.

So, take a good look at yourself in the mirror. Focus on the strong, independent, hard-working, caring individual you are and all the good that you do for humanity. You are a good mom/daughter/friend/colleague/partner/neighbor and deserve all the best in life, not because of your weight, salary, or shoe size, but because you care enough about people to listen to their woes, cheer their victories, and give of yourself.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Putting an I in Me

I am everything to everyone, but often fail myself.

I make sure my kids get to bed early so they are healthy, well-rested, and ready for the next day, but I am regularly sleep-deprived. I treat my kids to “date with Mommy” where they choose how they want to be spoiled, but I don’t plan a date with my Mom, husband, or make time to be alone. I read and reread books to my kids, but don’t read books that nourish my soul or will help me achieve my educational goals. I read and reread dissertations for fellow graduate students, but I do not make the time to write mine.  I listen to my friends talk about their struggles, but I don’t burden them with things that are bothering me, and so on. I talk negatively to myself, would never accept someone to treat me the way I treat myself, and I ignore my own needs.  

From today, I resolve to treat ME as well as I treat others.

Monday, January 14, 2013

New Year's Resolutions

I go to yoga, not as often as I should, but when I'm in a groove I never miss Sunday at 4pm.  This is my favorite class of the week.  Maybe because it allows me to get centered before the juggling of getting kids off to school, being at work (and on time!), homework, dinners, and the last minute everything that starts on Monday.  Or maybe because the instructor is tough (really, it's a LONG triangle pose) and always reads a reflection that speaks to me.  Tonight's reflection was about winter and that although it seems bleak and cold, it is a time of quiet growth before the lushness of spring and summer.  After tonight's reflection, the instructor told us that within two weeks of the new year most people have three resolutions they haven't kept, and if this is true for us, we should vow to keep them.  I only have one resolution I haven't kept this year - writing 30 minutes each day so I can finally finish up my dissertation proposal so I can defend.  The truth, I haven't written one word.  I haven't even looked at my draft.  So, tomorrow I start.  30 minutes of quiet growth so I can bloom in spring and defend.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

You have to start somewhere...

There are only two mistakes one can make along the road to truth; not going all the way, and not starting - Buddha

We all have to start somewhere.  As babies we start by rolling over and 12 months later we are pretty steady on our feet and exploring the world - even if that just means pulling all the pots and pans out of the kitchen cabinets.  So, this is my start.  Today I pushed myself and I was able to roll over and start a blog.  I'm positive that I'll be walking (and trashing the kitchen) pretty soon.