Saturday, December 31, 2011

Game on!

If you have children and you do not have a family game night on a regular basis, I highly recommend it. My husband and I started this a few years ago with our family and it has been a huge success. Game Night is a great way to bond, stay involved and just have some silly time with the kids. Let down your hair and show them that not every night is about chores and homework and being to bed on time. That little something to look forward to together. The plan was so simple. My boys go to their father's house for visitation every other weekend so we decided to play our games every other Friday night when we have them. First, we have a sit-down-at-the-table dinner together and then we rotate who's turn it is to pick which game we enjoy for the evening. There are four of us so that means we each get to choose what we are going to play about every eight weeks. On every tenth game night we go out and purchase a new game for our collection, which adds up to around two games a year. That Game Night does not count as any one's turn since we play the new game instead. Next Friday night will be our seventieth Game Night! In the summer time we do not get to play every other week because the schedule gets very busy. There are lots of baseball games and practices, extra visitations with the boys' father, at least one week of summer camp at F.P.Y.C. and sleepovers dispersed here and there. We have to be a bit more flexible in the summers.

The games we play are mostly board games. We try to keep the video games to a minimum, maybe for special occasions. Any game goes. I can think of only one time we had to say no to a game choice. It was when I was about eight months pregnant with our daughter and my eleven year son old came out holding Twister in his hands. I'm sure you can understand why we had to veto that choice. No hard feelings.

This Christmas we made sure to get a few toddler friendly games back into the house. Our daughter actually turned two today and we are going to start adding her into the family fun whenever possible. I think the best way to do it will be to play a small game with her right after dinner and then when she goes off to bed we can move on to the big kid game for the evening. I can't wait to get her involved in all the fun.

Usually it is just our family playing but we do have guests join us every once in a while. I feel it is important to keep the Fridays mostly just us so that there are no distractions keeping our focus from the children, seeing as this was the whole point to begin with. It is nice to be able to share our experience with others though. For example, we had not been able to hang out with some very good friends of our in quite a while. We had been saving a couple bottles of Saki we had received as a gift years ago and specifically wanted to share them with these particular friends. We were able to make a night of it. I made homemade stir fry and they brought over some sushi. The kids were able to try new things and we were allowed to catch up with our friends. It was a great time for everyone. I was very impressed to see my boys actually try the sushi. So cool.

I love building these memories together. I don't want to take these nights we share for granted. As the kids grow up and become busy with their own activities and friends, we may have to make some changes. I know this already and am giving myself ample time to mentally prepare. I will keep the tradition going for our family as long as possible. It has been so great for us. I am hoping to still be having a form of Game Night even after the kids move out, move on and begin their own families. I am sure it will not be every other week but still something we can do whenever we can. Who knows, maybe my children will have enjoyed it enough to incorporate it into their own households many years from now. That would fell pretty good. That would make me very happy.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Just Ginny

So, my husband giggled at me when he saw which picture I picked to post on my blog. I get it. It is an old picture. Why would I choose such an old picture? Because it is my favorite picture of me ever taken. I was seventeen or eighteen when it was taken back in 1995. This picture represents a time in my life when I had big dreams. I felt unstoppable. I had a clear picture of where I was going and who I was going to be. I had not been sidetracked by life yet. I had not been distracted by responsibility yet. I was ready for almost anything. I am starting to dream again and this picture will stare me in the face and remind me of those forgotten dreams. I like the motivation.

I was going to be a rock star, model, actress, writer, producer, director, starving artist and a waitress in between. I became a mother, wife, Human Resources Administrator, volunteer, karaoke singer and a waitress in between. So close. (smirk)

I am content with where my life has taken me. The last nine years of my life have been truly the best. I have very few regrets. Although, I am ready for some changes. I am ready to exercise a couple long lost, pushed to the side talents.

As far as the picture is concerned, I have changed just a little. I am, obviously, sixteen years older, about fifteen pounds heavier and my hair is quite a bit longer. Not bad after having three beautiful children. Not much to complain about.

Writing this blog is already helping me the way I hoped it would. It gives me a much needed outlet. There is a feeling of pride and accomplishment. I get to share what it is like to be me. To be just Ginny.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Another Hurricane Christmas

You know it is coming. You have time to prepare. Still the torrent of wrapping paper, clouds of powdered sugar and cinnamon and endless swarms of e-mails, cards, texts and visits just sneek up behind you. And I am beat. Worth all of the trouble? Yes. Would I do it all again? Absolutely. Am I tired? Um, yeah.

Christmas in my world can get sort of complicated. Between me and my husband, we have four pairs of parents that we need to coordinate with during the holidays. Four of my five brothers and I also squeeze in a Christmas cookie baking day with our children, ten little cousins in all. We did this on the 11th of December. One of my brothers lives in Japan and therefore can't make it to all of these events. In the midst of all this holiday madness, I somehow found time to make homemade cards, bake cookies for charity, begin coaching my sons' Destination Imagination team at school, look for my beautiful six year old cat who went missing when a window blew open while we were not home, take on new projects at work, go out a couple of times with some girlfriends and try to keep up with my daily life. No wonder I worry that I'm developing a case of shingles. Ha!

 This season we went to my father's house first, on the 19th of December. There we enjoyed a delicious Cuban food dinner with three of my brothers and their families along with a couple of my father's wife's children and their families too. Christmas Eve was spent at my husband's mother's house. We celebrated with her, her husband and my husband's Great Aunt from his father's side of the family...a long story for another time. We were treated to an amazing prime rib dinner and our three children began the whirlwind of presents that come their way each year. The presents part can be tricky, too. Teaching the children to be grateful and not greedy. Polite and respectful. To not be expecting anything and be pleasantly surprised when there is something. When it just keeps coming from so many directions year after year after year, it can be quite a task. I feel like I am doing a good job keeping things in perspective for them. There is always going to be a little self-doubt though, I think. Time will tell.

One condition of spending Christmas Eve away from my own home is that I want to be home with my children by no later than 7:00 P.M. Over the years I have met some resistance from family members but I have tried to stay strong and stand my ground. I am in no way trying to be rude or disrespectful. I can not control how I am interpreted. As a mother, a lover of tradition and a wife, it is important to me to have the wind down time with my children and husband. We do the whole thing: cookies and milk set out for Santa right next to a carrot for the reindeer, read The Night Before Christmas together cuddled up on the couch, look out the window to see if Santa is up in the sky yet, perhaps with a little red light that may be Rudolph's nose. It is precious time. It can not be replaced or redone. I will not compromise much. It is our turn, my husband and I, to build these memories and traditions with our children. Our parents were allowed to do so when we were little and now it is our time.

And that is exactly what we did. It was adorable. We will never forget it.

Christmas morning started out quite early. My eleven year old actually set his alarm for 5:30 A.M. and my thirteen year old didn't stop him. They share a room, you see. We do have a rule that they can't come downstairs before 6:00 A.M. and that is what time I heard the boys come thundering down. I, of course, knew they had huge stockings to keep them busy, so I let myself sleep one more hour. Then, I gently nudged my hubby to let him know we had to get out of bed so we could wake up the two year old together. She woke up very happy. One pot of coffee later, we were done opening our presents and sat around and played. I made french toast and scrambled eggs. This leads us up to the hardest part of my Christmas schedule. The custody kind. My two boys always have the switch between their father and I at 11:00 A.M. on Christmas morning. We alternate every other year who gets the Eve and who gets the Day. Just one of those many things that happen as a result of a relationship gone south and children are involved. One of the forever consequences.

Once the boys left, the three of us had to get ready to go. Our first stop of the day being just over a half hour away to visit my husband's father and his long time girlfriend. The ride there did not go so well since our two year old had a bout of car sickness and made a little bit of a mess. It was sad to see but we eventually made it and were able to do a load of laundry, including the car seat cover and straps. A couple hours later, with bellies full of warm chili and homemade bread, we were off to the next stop. Another half hour drive brought us to my Mom's doorstep where she and her partner were hosting an Italian feast.  My brothers and their families were there too. Very busy home and really delicious food. It was a good day but by 6:30 P.M. our daughter had had quite enough stimulation for one day and needed to get home. So that is where we took her, straight home. Straight to bed.

Whew! A movie on the couch snuggling with my Love and we called it a night. Wake up bright and early the next day and head off to work for my average Monday. The hurricane has passed...for now.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

342 Cookies and Counting...

Five hours in the kitchen and I accomplished baking 342 cookies. Whew! I only have a few dozen more to go tomorrow. I would have been done tonight but I did not read the last recipe all the way through before I began. A rookie mistake, I know better. The darn dough has to chill for three hours and I really don't want to start another batch at 3 A.M. Our almost two year old will have me up by 8 A.M. I am sure.

Something I have realized about myself is that I always have some kind of project going on. This particular project I discovered last year while at a coffee shop. I came across a brochure for The Aliveness Project in Minneapolis. They are an organization that helps people and families suffering with AIDS/HIV. The cookies are for their holiday basket program. Apparently they make and deliver over seven hundred baskets in the Twin Cities area. When I read about them I knew this was something I could help with. I love baking and cooking. I always have. I was lucky to be raised around many wonderful cooks. The best part about cooking is letting other people enjoy the finished product. That warms my heart.

It feels so wonderful to help others. I don't get time to do many of these charitable things. I enjoy it very much and I hope as I get older and the kids get older I can work more things like this into my world. The more financially stable we become, the more I can do. The older and more independent the children become the more time I will have. It is not always easy to find the time when you work full time and have three children in school. There is always going to be baseball practice, band concerts, plays and any other thing they need to do. This is alright though. It is all a part of my life I love so very much. I am just looking forward to the ever changing future. The possibilities. The ride.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Say you're sorry.

We tell this to our children all the time. In those exact words? Maybe when they are little. As they get older we get more creative and maybe slip into a bit of a lecture. But let's face it, when they get older and you have to say again the thing you have been saying, nearly daily, all this time, you need to get a little more specific. Why should they say they are sorry? Interesting question, thanks for asking. Maybe they smacked Mommy on the back with their hand during a terrible two tantrum, maybe they knocked the side mirror off the passenger side of your car while dragging the garbage can down the driveway or maybe they just forgot to call you after school to tell you they were home safe and you don't have to keep glancing up at the clock on the wall at work and have the most awful scenarios running through your brain at a mile a minute while trying to keep your cool and stay focused on work. The reason is not as important as you may think. The lesson they learn from admitting a mistake and dealing with it timely and appropriately is the key. The best way to show them is, of course, by example. Tell your kids you are sorry. It might not be easy but it is oh so important. I didn't realize this until a few years ago and I felt much better when I did. It is not their fault if I had a rough day at work, came home all wound up and raised my voice at them over some stupid little thing. I apologized. It is not their fault that I bought a second puppy and two years later conceded that it was a poor decision for our family and had to give him up. I apologized. How specific are the apologies? That depends on the situation. You must be honest, or at least as honest as their age deems appropriate. "I am sorry I yelled at you. I had a really bad day at work. I am feeling upset about it but I am not angry with you. I love you very much and I will try not to do that again." "I am sorry we had to give away our dog. The life he had with us was unfair and he deserves a better home. I love him very much too and that is why I have to make this hard decision. Grown ups make mistakes too. This is a hard lesson for all of us and when you are older and consider getting your own pet, hopefully you will remember my mistake and how we all feel. Pets are a big responsibility and you need to be as sure as possible when you commit to them."

I hate to be wrong. I really do. If I expect my kids to apologize, I need to respect them enough to do the same.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

I am no writer.

By no means am I a writer. I have many talents and sadly writing has never been one of them. I wish I could write. I have tried and in my mind never succeeded. Nothing worthy of even showing another living soul, in my opinion. I'm full of opinions, ideas, thoughts, secrets even. Never brave enough to just put it out there and let it fly. It has been one of my many Tangerine Dreams, so to speak. By beginning this blog I hope to tap into a little of what I have held back and bottled up. Always too busy with everything and everyone else around me to even bother taking some time for myself and process and feel and wish aloud. Admittedly, worried about what others might think. There are other things besides writing I wish I had the courage to do. Maybe this is my baby step. I have grown so much in the last ten years but I know I can not possibly be done.

This is an opportunity to show my children it's never too late to change, to grow up, to try new things. I am afraid of failing, procrastinating, giving up.

I deserve the time. I have to take some. I hope I do.