Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Oh the Places We Shall Go

I have written parts of this post in my head many times over the last 5 months. I would sit and think about what my relocation experience has been like and what I want to share. But then I was afraid to post anything and jinx it. I finally feel like we are starting the next phase of our journey.

In the last few months I had settled in an apartment in Wisconsin and begun my new job. I tried to get home to see my family at least every 2 weeks or they would come see me. I have built up quite a few Sky Miles in these last 5 months and painfully miss direct flights.

Fortunately I have no regrets about the position which is moving me from the only city I have really ever considered home. The job is everything I have been craving these last 15-20 years and since I haven't gotten any negative feedback or vibes, I think I am holding my own. I can't imagine how much this move would suck if I was struggling with my new role.

The only way to tolerate missing my family was to focus on each day at a time and the specific task at hand. When I was in Wisconsin, that was 100% devotion to my job, learning the ins and outs, building relationships and I kept myself busy on those insanely cold nights working while binging on Bravo and E! quality TV. I was doing pretty good with a workout routine until I attempted hiking and had an old soccer injury come back to bite me. I am just now finding my grove.

We put our house on the market and in just under a week we had a contract on it. Fortunately the new owners were able to let us extend our stay so the kids could finish the school year in our home and I had time to find a new one. I think I went through close to 30 homes. I liked several, put in an offer on one, lost out on one, and ended up purchasing a different one.


I thought house shopping was going to be fun, but I discovered I hated it almost as much as I hated shopping for a new car. Being under a time constraint was tough. I ended up purchasing a house Pete didn't get to see in person (and still hasn't) and I only got to see once (rather quickly on a day I went through 12 so they all blurred together). I closed on it and had a few nights last week where I was able to start painting. Unfortunately as I got a closer look, I suffered a bit of buyer's remorse. Every surface, E-V-E-R-Y SURFACE of the home needs painting. When I looked in the fridge and kitchen cabinets, they were - well gross. Crumbs, dog hair, dead bugs… My heart sank. This is the 3rd home we have purchased and the first time if it was dirty, I was too excited to notice. The 2nd one we purchased from people we knew and they were kind enough to hire a cleaner so it was in good shape when we took occupancy. An added plus was that I loved her taste and didn't need to paint anything immediately and was able to make small updates over the 11 years we owned the home. I was spoiled and had no idea.

But this one, sooooo disappointing. We will be painting every room, walls and ceilings. We need to finish the basement so we have a comfortable space for our out of town visitors to stay. Their dog did a number on all the woodwork so we are going to refinish/replace floors and paint the doors and trim. I am not a fan of the kitchen and bathroom cabinets and fixtures so thanks to Pinterest, I am going to take a stab at painting them. And I need to clean every room, drawer, shelf prior to starting. Lots of projects to tackle and I spend very little time in the state SO I started thinking what have I just gotten myself in to now?

Pete and some white paint on the ceiling made me feel better about my decision. While it is a huge project to take on, we have time and will eventually make it our own. It is a solid house and someday I will love the area (I am sure) as much (or maybe close) as I love our current neighborhood.

Life moves on, so rather than drown in my anxiety, I drove home to supervise the movers who are quite impressive to watch. Seeing every item (and some that we will likely pitch as we unpack) get wrapped, boxed and loaded is surreal. And we are so incredibly grateful we do not have to tackle this task ourselves. It allows us the time to scrub the house for the new owners. I hope they don't experience the same disappointment I did.



This summer the kids want to hang with their friends so our family has been generous enough to take us in. A few more weeks of separation. I will head back to WI, Chicago, Columbia, etc… for business travel, Pete and Ella will stay with his side of the family and Alex and Anna with my side.

I haven't let myself think about what we are leaving behind. Through all of this I hadn't shed a tear. I came close, but I had to look ahead and move forward. Yesterday a really sweet Facebook post hit me that we are saying good-bye to some wonderful people. And yes we will come back to visit but Ella won't be able to just run down the street to play with her buds and we have packed our inflatable babysitter (the bounce house) where the kids were entertained and we grownups could sit and catch up.

I am certain my movers thought I was nuts as finally the tears fell.

The kids are handling this all far better than I would have at their age. Hopefully we all keep our sanity over the next 6-ish weeks and that they adjust to their new schools with ease. That is probably the next biggest hurdle in our lives - that I know of...

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Good Morning Sunshine

I have to thank LinkedIn for posting my 4 year Anniversary of TryFection in my news feed. Several people liked it and I even got a few congratulatory notes from my peers. Since I am a sucker for a guilt trip and I haven't written a post in a few years, I figured now is as good a time as any.

Why the silence?

I love having an outlet to express myself and that is exactly what TryFection is. It brings me so much joy to share the things I love with whoever pops in to listen. 2012 was definitely one of my most challenging years in every aspect of my life and having TryFection as a release was critical to my sanity:

  • My heart broke over a job with a company I felt let me down but I also have to take responsibility that I failed to make it work
  • I started a new job days later that provided all the challenges I longed for with the freedom to make the work my own, however the time commitment needed to succeed did not enable a work-life balance let alone time for blogging as the year progressed
  • Pete and I faced the toughest challenge as parents we had yet to endure when the relationship with a school we adored fell apart and we realized how toxic the environment was to our children
  • My dad battled stage 4 cancer
2013 and 2014 were a breath of fresh air:
  • My dad was proclaimed cancer-free and hopefully I am not jinxing any future scans by cherishing that
  • My kids thrived in their new schools, each found a group of wonderful friends, and you could actually see the growth of confidence in their faces and even their posture
  • I achieved professional successes I had never experienced and my confidence grew leaps and bounds as well. I owe so much to my team.

It is so true, what doesn't kill you makes you stronger and Pete and I were as strong as we had ever been. It took every ounce of my time to grow personally and professionally and TryFection gathered dust.


In barges 2015…

Have you ever wished you could change everything in your life? I certainly never have. I was perfectly content. I loved our neighborhood, my career, our friends, closeness to our families... While nothing is perfect, it was everything I had ever wanted.

But then a professional opportunity knocked on my door. With Pete's support we decided it couldn't be passed up. I left a company filled with friends to start a new direction. I said good-bye to the agency world and entered the corporate side which also required a relocation almost 500 miles away from all our loved ones. We decided it would be easiest on our children if they finished the school year in Kentucky so I have begun our journey alone while Pete is flying solo holding down the fort.

I can honestly say I think it is going pretty well. I have to focus one day at a time and on the future. If I stop to think about what I am missing, I will have a breakdown. I am in a nice apartment and without anyone else to take care of I am putting all my energy into my new position, my health, and learning about our new home. While this has been an isolating experience, it has given me a once in a lifetime opportunity to devote a lot of time to reflect on my life.

I recently took a personality profile sort of test as a team building exercise and discovered I am yellow. I have taken a few of these in the past and while they are all pretty similar, this one was the most accurate by far. It was a little stunning to answer 20-ish questions and get back a full booklet with such deep insights on myself that couldn't be more true. It was almost creepy, actually.

Yellow is basically a free thinking optimist who needs constant stimulation and hates boring things, process and lots of data/facts to sift through. I am off the charts yellow. Here are some things in my report that deep down I have always known but never put it so simply and on paper from some computer-scary:
  • warm, open, realistic and radiates optimism
  • prepared to attempt almost anything
  • enjoys socializing but likes to plan her entertainment for maximum effect
  • seen by most others as friendly, practical, realistic and down-to-earth person
  • may find it almost impossible to say no, even when the demands are unreasonable
  • finds the diversity in the world immensely appealing
  • has a tendency to want to procrastinate
  • good at "reading" people and situations and will seldom be far wrong about the motivation or intent of another person (see, it's in writing)
  • fiercely loyal to her friends
  • prepared to sacrifice her own wants for the needs of others
  • her home is a haven for people to have a good time
  • proficient at alleviating the concerns of others
  • may be prone to embellishing the truth
  • rather self promoting and talkative (ya think?)
  • may be perceived as too trusting
  • may open her mouth and fall in (yes, but I can/have delivered many heart-felt apologies)
  • her solutions may appear rather "off the wall" (which explains so many meetings in my past)
Anyway, I couldn't get over the details. This booklet was 20 pages of who I am and the only thing I could really argue was that it stated I would not be able to keep my commitments because I over-extend myself too much. In reality I will pull an all-nighter and have many times because I would rather die than fail to deliver.

I hope in 2015 I have time to spend on TryFection. I know I am one of many who uproot and re-root but I would love to share my experiences with you. Lord knows I could use the support. I hope to share the places I find, the tools and tips I learn about, and I know I owe recipes to a couple of you. With any luck, I may convince some of you to stop up for a visit and come play with us. As always, I thank each of you for your continued encouragement, friendship, love and support.

Always,

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Grateful for this Father's Day

This is probably the first Father's Day I haven't taken for granted. Last year, like every other I bought a card, rounded up my kiddo's and headed over to which ever meal my mom had planned to celebrate. Of course I gave my dad a hug and enjoyed watching him chuckle over the card I had selected, enjoyed the 2-ish hours with my family then headed back home to my normal routines.

Last year, as far as I knew my dad was healthy and I would have another 20-something days just like that. A few weeks after this typical Father's Day we learned my dad had cancer. He has spent the last year going to treatments and undergoing a few surgeries. I am elated to say so far so good and am optimistic that later this year he will officially earn the cancer survivor badge.

This year, while I still bought a card and am about to go to the usual gathering, will still give my dad a hug and perhaps on the surface it will appear just like last year, for me it will mean so much more. I can't say why some people get second chances and others do not but for those who have lost their fathers I promise not to take this day for granted.

A very Happy Father's Day to all of the men in my life. You help keep me sane-ish.




Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Pinterest Inspired Pink Party


Yes, I have created a monster. Ella turned 3 yesterday and about 2 months ago she started telling everyone about her pink birthday party with:

     • pink balloons
     • a big pink present
     • pink cake
     • pink candles
     • pink party hats
     • pink cupcakes
     • pink flowers
     • pink, pink, pink


I do love an excuse to have a party and I have to thank Pinterest for making Pink Princess Parties accessible to the average mom. I swiped some awesome ideas. Since Sunday was only a week after Mother's Day and we have so many little girls in the family, we had a Mommy/Daughter Pinkalicious Tea Party.

I found her dress on Zulily. If you haven't checked it out, you really should. Super cute clothes for kids at really reasonable prices. I think I paid $22 for this dress, $26 after shipping. It did take almost a month for it to come in though so order early.

Then I moved on to Pinterest for decoration ideas. Anna helped with almost everything. She made the lollipop tree and we filled different cups & jars with everything pink we could find.


I have been dying to try to make these tissue paper pompoms and yes, they are ridiculously easy and a cheap decoration. The large ones make 1 per pack of 10 sheet tissue paper - $1 at Hobby Lobby or you can make 4 small ones out of a pack.


Story of my life is that I work so hard making sure the party is going smoothly, I forget to take pictures. I really should task someone to be the photographer.

For the tables, I used simple pink plastic table cloths and a darker pink runner I actually had, but never used. The plates I purchased at Old Time Pottery years ago for a Pink Tea Party for Anna. They ran $1 each as did the glass tea cups which I dressed up with a pink flower. I didn't have enough tiered serving platters for each table so we improvised with a few trifle bowls topped with a silver charger plate. That worked well because we could fill one charger with the lunch course then another with the desserts and switch them out for an easy change over.


I did buy a set of paper lanterns (around $10) as a back up to the pompoms. I wasn't sure how they would turn out, but I recommend just sticking to the pompoms. We also made around 100 of the little pink flowers and attached 3 to a ribbon and hung them on all the windows & doors. Soooo easy. You get about 25 flowers out of a pack of tissue paper but the over-sized flower punch was $25. Knowing Anna, it will get plenty of use.


My menu was kid friendly: Mickey shaped Turkey & Cheese sandwiches, Chicken salad Croissants, Salame & Cream Cheese Roll-ups, Fruit, Mini Muffins, Mini Spinach Quiche and I had planned on PB & J but ran out of time and figured we had enough.

For dessert we had the sugar table pictured above, and at each table sugar cookies with pink sprinkles, brownies, rice krispie treats dipped in pink chocolate, mini cream puffs and chocolate covered oreos.

Beverages were chocolate milk, Pink Lemonade with Sprite to add a little bubbles and iced tea.

I had hoped the weather would have been nice and we would have gotten out the bounce house to burn off the sugar high, but that didn't happen.


We put out a basket with enough boas, beads, tiarras and ginormous diamond rings that all the girls could princess-ify themselves to their hearts' content. I think they all had a lovely time.


But by the end, this one was ready for a nap. (Yes, it is beyond time to lose the pacifier, but I am old and dreading that battle. One of the perks to being the youngest.)


Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Being Aware

I posted on Facebook a run in I had this past weekend that I think is a good reminder to be aware of your surroundings. Many people have shared it, which I think is great and I have really enjoyed all the comments and personal stories people have added. One comment has stuck with me which is why I felt compelled to post this entry.


"Don't be so scared all the time."

It was around 6:30 a.m. on Saturday and I was starting my long day off with a trip to a local Kroger to fill up on gas. The sun was still working its way up so not fully light out and things were pretty calm and quiet. As I pulled up to the pump, I noticed one other car. The man fulling his vehicle gave me a look as I unscrewed my gas cap. No biggie.

As I waited while my tank filled he asked me if I was from around here. I said, "yes," assuming he was about to ask me for directions. But instead he asked me if I would be able to come over to his car to see if I could recognize the dog in it. He had almost hit it in the road.

Without really thinking about it, I said no. It wasn't that I didn't want to help, but there are thousands of local dogs and the likelihood that I would know whose dog was in his car was slim to none. But even as I said it, I looked in his car from my position to see the dog.

I couldn't see a dog but he quickly added that it had short little legs and had been running all over the road. He mentioned that it looked like he had broken his chain.

I think I just shrugged my shoulders in a "sorry, I can't help you," sort of way and he got in his car and drove off. I watched his car as he did, and I never did see any sign of a dog. I did make a mental note of his appearance and his car because the entire conversation seemed off. As I watched him go, I realized there was no one around. No other cars at the pumps. Not a single car drove by in the 1-2 minutes of our chat. I looked at the window box where a Kroger employee typically sits, but it seemed to be empty (in all fairness, I didn't walk up to it to double check).

I literally got back in my car and used my phone to post the encounter on Facebook as a warning to other women just in case this guy was up to something funny. Many people said I should notify the police, so within an hour or so, I did. They said no one else had reported anything similar but thanked me for calling it in. I honestly felt a little foolish since nothing really happened, but was glad I did.

My gut told me something was not right. Maybe it is women's intuition but we all know when a guy hits on you in a creepy way. That is precisely how this felt. My biggest concern is that at 37 married with 3 children that is not the attention I want but a 14-24 year old version of myself thought any attention was fun and I would probably not responded the same way.

I have spent a large majority of my career working downtown. I am ridiculously familiar with being asked for all kinds of things and heard more lines of crap than you can possibly imagine. I must have one of those "I'm a sucker, come talk to me," kind of faces because I have literally seen people cross the street to ask me for spare change when there were plenty of other people closer to them.

I make a practice of walking with a purpose, head up, looking around corners, parking in lit areas and being aware of my surroundings. All things women are supposed to do. In my college years I put myself at risk on 3 occasions that I can think of. Fortunately nothing bad happened but on one of those times a woman confronting me actually stopped and said, "I can't do this to you. You are just a kid." I have no idea what she intended but am grateful to this day she didn't proceed.

None of those events changed who I am and the idea that I am scared is laughable. I just hope people don't confuse educating yourself on potential dangers, being aware of your surroundings, and trusting your inner voice when it says something feels wrong, with being scared. 

Monday, May 6, 2013

Stupid Simple Ideas

I have come up with a few ideas lately that are so simple yet so, "why didn't I think of this with my first two kids?" that I assume everyone else is already doing them. Just in case you aren't, I thought I would share.

Sprinkles make everything taste better. Ella LOVES pink. I noticed that she always asks for pink yogurt but then barely eats it. It took the yogurt companies putting packets of sprinkles on top for me to have my ah ha moment and now I keep a variety of pink sprinkles on hand for yogurt requests and she typically eats it all.

Since I figure that was a duh, here is how I moved on. She wanted a cupcake. I didn't have one, and although she is utterly spoiled, I was not about to make cupcakes to avoid a tantrum. Glancing around the kitchen, I spotted the bananas and had nothing to lose. Banana slices are sticky and sure enough, sprinkles stick perfectly to them. This new treat is one of her favorite desserts. If I am feeling extra fancy, a little dab of whipped cream and/or a drizzle of chocolate syrup and you practically have a banana split.




Locally, you never know what the weather on Halloween will be. One year it could be 80 and sunny, the next 35 with snow flurries. It makes costume planning for little ones a bit more challenging. This past year Ella went as Minnie Mouse. She had a super cute short sleeve dress but it was turning out to be one of the cold weather years. Rather than a coat, I opted to go with a black turtle neck and leggings. 

She had 8-10 really cute summer dresses that still fit her, probably wouldn't the next spring but it was too cold to wear. Ah ha moment #2. I went out and bought a few more turtle necks (2 white and a pink to be exact) then she wore her summer dresses through the winter with either leggings or tights and some stylish boots.

I did the reverse of that even when Anna was little. A lot of the cute little sun dresses would still fit a year later but they are too short. I pair those with some capris (or leggings from the year before that are really too short = instant capris) or shorts and they make super cute baby-doll style tops. Ella is probably officially a 3T but she is wearing some 2T and even a few 18 month dresses from last year. The ones that work the best are flowy with spaghetti straps. Of course that is assuming they aren't completely stained up after a season of wear and you still want to use them. Sorry I don't have any suggestions for little boys, though I guess the turtle neck could work for them too.

See, stupid simple. Please share if you have any of your own. I love simple.


Saturday, April 13, 2013

Sweet Science Fair Project

I absolutely hate science projects. I hated doing them when I was in school and I hate them even more now. Growing up, I was always able to do something that wasn't really a science experiment like once I took apart a phone and labeled the parts with a report on the history of the telephone and how it works. This time I had no such luck. Anna was required for her 5th grade, mandatory, science fair project to:
  • research a subject
  • form a hypothesis
  • conduct an experiment to test this hypothesis
  • analyze the results
  • write it all in a report
  • design a presentation
  • showcase it all at a science fair
Which we all know means I had to do these things with her kicking and screaming the entire way. Back in December we received a packet with step by step instructions of everything we needed to do. It included a timeline which if you did a little each week you would have it all completed in plenty of time with no cramming or stressing out to get it completed in April.

But what fun would that be?

She had to pick her topic back in December which was a pain in its self. I was looking for something easy, something I could understand, preferably something I had the answers to without having to do much research and something she could help with. Several arguments with Anna later we ended up stealing an idea from Alex. You see, he joined the science club at school and this basically meant he was in a group of 3 other students who met once a week (or a month, I can't remember now) to work on a science project for a competition. He was in a group with 3 girls and being a 13 year old boy, I don't get a lot of information out of him. I knew very little about their project but with the bits and pieces he gave I was able to plug together what I thought was the best science project ever.


Science, meet cupcakes.
 





















The idea is to test the effect color has on your perception of taste. Here is how we did ours:
  • We (I) baked 288 mini cupcakes all from white cake mixes (4 boxes). There were made exactly the same. I even used packaged egg whites from a carton so you couldn't say the eggs differed.
  • Then we (I) dyed 3 of the batters different colors, counting the drops of food coloring so they would each get the same. We had white, yellow, blue and brown.
  • We (I) made a large batch of white butter cream frosting and separated in into 4 groups and dyed them to match the cake colors.
  • That gave us 72 sets of 4 mini cupcakes one in each color for the test.
  • Anna took 20 sets to school with her so she could run the experiment with her peers
  • I took the rest to my office so I could run it with my peers.
My office was set up like this:



Here is the survey each respondent filled out:

 Given the research we did on-line I was actually expecting different results. Basically the adults for the most part figured out they were all the same flavors and the colors had little impact.

Of the 50 adults ages 30-60:
  • 1 listed each as a different flavor
  • 5 listed all vanilla except brown as chocolate
  • 5 listed all as vanilla but subtle variations on the type of vanilla
  • 3 listed one color as having a different flavor
  • 36 listed them all as the same flavors

Of the 18 students ages 11-12:
  • 14 listed them all as having different flavors
  • 4 listed them all as vanilla
A few even after hearing they were all vanilla insisted the brown was chocolate. 

During the research we learned after age 20 most people lose 50% of their taste receptors so I sort of thought the kids' taste perception would be less impacted by color than the adults. But we all know kids have a much better imagination and are hopefully more impressionable than adults so maybe that explains the findings.

Anna still has to finish writing her report and make her tri-fold for the presentation but I will say this was a pretty fun little experiment to do. Of course after I had already baked the cupcakes we found examples of the same idea on-line using yogurt or clear soda dyed different colors. That would have been so much easier but who doesn't love cupcakes?

As for Alex and his science group, we just learned that they were regional finalists for their project and won $1,000 in savings bonds. They are preparing for the next round to see if they make nationals. We will find out in May if they made the cut to go to Washington D.C. I haven't met the girls in his group or even seen their project but they have already captured my heart. Look out Ms. Stewart.