Dear Santa

Dear Santa,

Elf2

Our elf once slipped off the shelf and was miraculously saved by a stocking!

I’m sorry I forgot to move Elf three nights ago and sent my youngest child into a Christmas spirit panic. I really did feel awful when she came to me all teary-eyed and confessed that even though she didn’t remember doing it, she must have touched the scout elf you sent us and plunged her into some kind of child-germ induced coma.

I’m sorry I then quickly lied to her as I bent over the seemingly lifeless sprite. “No, Sweetie,” I called after stealthily poking the elf into a slightly shifted position. “She did move! She’s just a tricky elf. She came right back to the same spot to see if we noticed the difference.”

That was a good save on my part, so I’m hoping my quick thinking counteracts the effect of my previous blunder. Am I still on the Nice List, or has my forgetfulness (which, by the way, is a symptom of CSSS – Christmas Spirit Stress Syndrome) landed me on the Naughty List?

I have now set three nightly alarms on all of my devices, and frantically searched Pinterest for the most creative elf antics. I promise I’ll make up for this.

Elf

Last year, Elf TP’d the Christmas tree and fashioned one two-plied end into a zipline.

I’ll let Elf zipline through my living room and slurp syrup in my pantry. I’ll even let her make a “snow” angel on my kitchen counter, knowing that the following evening I will have to spend an extra hour cleaning the sticky powdered sugar snow residue from Elf’s red leggings. And if Elf wants to make out with Ken in Barbie’s dream house, I suppose I can look the other way.

If that’s what it takes to get me back on the Nice List, I’ll do it. Just please, please, please bring me those red suede stiletto booties.

Yours in Stressed Out Christmas Spirit,

Stiletto Momma

NaBloPoMo Fun Facts

Once I click the Publish button, I will be a happy blogger. With today’s post, I will successfully complete my first NaBloPoMo (National Blog Post Month)! When I wrote the first post a few weeks ago, I didn’t think I would actually be able to say that.

In fact, the reason I wrote that first post in a string of 30 (3-0!!!) was so I wouldn’t be able to turn my back to the computer when life started to get in the way. If I told the blogosphere about it, the blogosphere would know when I gave up, and I would never be able to return. I think that’s written somewhere in the terms and conditions I accepted when I set up my blogging account.

So here I am on Day 30 at the end of my longest blogging streak, and as I look through my writings of the past month, I have learned some fun facts about what happens during NaBloPoMo:

  1. With quite a bit of planning, I am actually able to write 30 back-to-back posts. Not long after I published that first post, I drew a grid on a piece of paper and called it an editorial calendar. It wasn’t high-tech by any stretch, but it worked for me. Apparently, I think better when I scribble.calendar
  2. With this post, I will have written 11,524 words in 30 days. That’s an average of 384 words per day–pretty impressive when you consider they were all crammed in among a full-time job, gym workouts, girl scout meetings, homework supervision, meal prep and pre-holiday stress.
  3. November is the worst month for NaBloPoMo. I should have had my Christmas shopping finished by now, but I chose to plan my blogging list instead of my holiday shopping list. Now, I’m in a panic because I haven’t wrapped a single present, the house isn’t decorated, and tomorrow is December 1st! Let’s move NaBloPoMo to March.
  4. November is the best month for NaBloPoMo. After I looked at the dates on my hand-drawn calendar I realized, I have a lot to share in November. First came Election Day, which is near to my heart. Then came Veteran’s Day, which is even nearer. The entire month is National Adoption Month which works out great because I’m an adoptive momma. I celebrated the 25th anniversary of meeting my hubby this month, and I celebrated USMA Branch Night with my son. After adding in Thanksgiving and my birthday, I realized I had quite a bit of material to work with. Let’s keep NaBloPoMo in November!
  5. I started a new feature, “Say It Like You Mean It”, which showcases words that inspire me as well as words I wish I’d written first!
  6. I published a new number one post. On the Eve of Branch Night easily broke my previous most-read post’s view count and became my most shared post. Not bad for a post I dug out of the draft files. I started writing that post way back in March when a completely different topic was on my mind. I didn’t post it at the time because it just didn’t feel right. I had thought about pulling it out several times since then, but again, it just didn’t feel right. This time though, when I framed it around my son’s invitation to the Army branch of his choice, it felt like it had been waiting for just that moment to shine, and it certainly did.
  7. I got retweeted! Aside from publicizing my posts to Twitter and the rare occasion when the only way to enter a contest is to tweet about it, I don’t really get into sharing my thoughts in 140 characters or less. During the last two weeks, however, I have been retweeted not once but twice! Don’t look for me to switch formats to micro-blogging, but I admit, I thought about it…for about 140 micro-seconds.
  8. I have a lot to be thankful for. I was actually able to make a list of 100 thankfuls, and still found more to add after I clicked Publish.
  9. The Hubs is my biggest fan. He was the first to like every post. Way to be a social networking cheerleader, Hubby!
  10. Daily blogging is hard work. There is a reason I have never done this before. It’s called life. Most of my posts were penned in pieces…a little bit before work, a few more sentences at lunch, editing and photography in the evening between homework and lunchbox packing. I gave myself a break on Saturdays with someone else’s words in my “Say It Like You Mean It” posts, and on Sundays I tried to write and schedule at least two workday blogs in addition to my Sunday post. It was worth it though because now I can say I did it, and next year, I’ll know it can be done. The precedent has been set, and I won’t be so fearful next time.

NaBloPoMo has come to an end. My fingers hurt from all the typing and my brain feels a little fuzzy from all the thinking, but I’ll be back for my second round next year. Who knows, maybe I’ll even buy myself a real calendar!

The Feast

This quite possibly is my favorite part about seeing Big Hero 6 with the Young One this afternoon.

Disney’s 3D short film Feast, the opening act before the main feature, tells the story of little Winston, a homeless pup who is rescued while dumpster diving. He and his new human bond over junk food, and in true puppy love fashion Winston eventually rescues his human right back.

I won’t give away to perfect ending to this little flick, but I I highly recommend splurging on the 3D version of Big Hero 6…even if you only hang around to enjoy the Feast.

 

The Worst Thanksgiving Ever

Every Thanksgiving as we sit around the table enjoying the turkey and all the trimmings, the Hubs and I reflect on the day. One of us will inevitably say, “Well, at least it wasn’t the worst Thanksgiving ever.” Then we’ll chuckle and smile and share the story all over again.

Thanksgiving

This is NOT the perfect turkey I expected to find on my first Thanksgiving without family. (Photo source: Flickr, Sharon Mollerus, cc-by-2.0)

The Hubs was stationed with the Second Armor Division at Fort Hood, TX, that year. We had celebrated our first wedding anniversary in September, and the Older One was just three months old. This was our first Thanksgiving without family…at least without immediate blood relations.  The Army was our family now, so when the Hubs’ captain extended the invitation to join his wife and their two small children for a Thanksgiving lunch, we accepted.

We were just getting ready to leave our little apartment for the meal, when the phone rang.  I listened as the Hubs said a few “Yes, Sirs” into the phone. After hanging up, he told me our plans had changed. We would not be having a Thanksgiving lunch after all.

The captain’s wife had taken the turkey out of the freezer the night before, he said, and was baffled that the bird was still frozen when she got up that morning to start preparing it for our feast. The new plan called for football at the captain’s house while the turkey roasted, and instead of an early lunch, we’d eat mid-afternoon.

Mid-afternoon came and went. By 2:00, the bird was still frosty and hadn’t yet seen the inside of the oven.

The captain and the Hubs’ made a quick trip into post to visit with the enlisted soldiers during their holiday meal while the wife and I made small talk and snacked on half a box of stall crackers and overly sweet wine coolers. My baby napped, and I mentally calculated if I’d brought enough formula and diapers to get us through dinner…that is if we ever had dinner.

Around 4:00, the turkey finally made it into the oven. The Hubs and the captain returned, and we all waited.

Finally, at 7:00, the captain made the first slice into our Thanksgiving turkey only to find that the meat inside was raw. By then, the side dishes were growing cold, and we were all too frustrated to wait on the bird. The captain carved up a few of the cooked pieces and served the cranky kids while his wife finished off the raw pieces in the microwave.

The Hubs and I juggled our sleepy baby between us while we gnawed the rubbery poultry, and as soon as was socially acceptable, we made our escape.

We had survived the worst Thanksgiving ever and lived to tell the tale…over and over and over again for more than 20 years.  And over and over again we laugh at the mistake that set off that worst of the worst—a frozen turkey that someone didn’t know enough to take out of the freezer well in advance of the big day.

That someone was a young wife and mother, not much older than I was at the time. I imagine she was excited about the prospect of hosting her first Thanksgiving and about offering her hospitality to a young couple alone for the holiday.

She probably went to the commissary the day before full of anticipation about the recipes she would share with me. She probably spent more time than necessary selecting the perfect produce and agonized over how big that infamous bird should be. I imagine she was horrified the next morning to find it still as solid as it was the night before.

I’m pretty sure the reason we were not notified of the schedule change until it was too late for us to change our plans is because our hostess was busy praying to the culinary gods for some kind of Thanksgiving miracle to save the perfect day she had planned.

In her shoes, I would have been mortified to confess my cooking inadequacies to my guests. I would have repeatedly excused myself from the tense conversation with the lieutenant’s wife to check on the turkey, knowing I really just wanted to hide in the kitchen and cry.

I sincerely hope that captain’s wife looks back on that Thanksgiving and laughs like the Hubs and I do.  We may call it “Our Worst Thanksgiving Ever”, but if the worst thing that happens on Thanksgiving is a frozen turkey, I’d say we had it pretty good.

We had nowhere else to go, and no one to spend the holiday with until virtual strangers opened their home to us. That may actually be the best thing that has ever happened to us on Thanksgiving. We may not have had a perfectly prepared meal all those years ago, but we had a place to go for the holiday, and for that I am thankful.

Hopefully, that Thanksgiving didn’t prevent the captain’s wife from trying again the next year. I hope right now, she is preparing for this year’s feast with her grown children and maybe even some colleagues her husband met at the office.

I also hope she has remembered to take the turkey out of the freezer!

Picture It: Handmade Holiday

With the Older One on his way home for Thanksgiving, my mind has officially shifted to thoughts of all things festive. I have given into the urge to unbox my Christmas decorations and start the massive undertaking that is dressing up my home for the holidays.

Within the storage tubs that have been hidden away for the past 10 months…Handmade10

I have found plenty of handmade ornaments…Handmade1…and I have reason to believe many more are on the way.Handmade3But buried underneath mountains of bubble wrap…

Handmade7…are handmade treasures I look forward to unwrapping every year….Handmade8From the whimsical…

Handmade6…to the peaceful…Handmade2…to the beautiful…Handmade9Each are handmade by my own momma, and are treasures I’ll cherish forever.

100 Day Dash

On August 18, I decided to take a walk. I laced on my shoes, stretched a little, and set out to see how far I could go.  First I walked one block, then another and another. Pretty soon, I had trekked an entire mile, then another and another.

100DayDash3On and on I went. I had a goal, but I wasn’t quite sure I could make it. I would have to be dedicated if I wanted to succeed. I would have to make this my number one priority if I wanted to count myself among the best.

For the next 100 days, I would have to take an average of 10,000 steps every day because I intended to walk 1,000,000 steps as part of my employer’s annual 100 Day Dash fitness challenge.

I work for a healthcare company that is committed to having not only healthy customers, but healthy employees as well. As part of that commitment, it encourages employees to get moving and stay moving through healthy lifestyle programs like the 100 Day Dash.

Soon after the event kicked off in August, pedometers became a fashion statement. Throughout the office, I could see everything from bulky step trackers on belts to sleek wearable fitness devices wrapped around wrists.

Fitbit

My Fitbit Flex is the height of fashion these days!

Watching someone make laps through the office suite while on a conference call (thanks to wireless technology) turned into a common occurrence. Fitness bikes with a laptop attachment were also installed, so multi-taskers can pedal and type at the same time. The stairwell is now almost more well-traveled than the elevator.

I set my goal of one million steps and started walking. I parked at the back of the parking lot. I took the long way to the fitness center at lunch time, and I devoted my workout to cardio exercise. I walked the pups more often than usual and on those nights when the Young One had soccer and field hockey practice, I chose to walk the perimeter of the field instead of sitting idle in my folding chair.

Last weekend, I am happy to say I hit my goal, and I kept right on going. As of today, I have taken 1,050,892 steps. That’s approximately 525 miles.

Tomorrow is Day 100, but I don’t think I’ll rest now that the challenge is nearing its end. I like knowing I am more active than not. I like making the choice to take the stairs. I like being active and knowing that my legs are strong enough to take me any place I want to go.

How do you stay motivated to keep moving?

Keeping With {a New} Tradition

Thanksgiving festivities are just around the corner. I started receiving the first of the out-of-office replies from colleagues last Friday. The annual Grandparent Thanksgiving lunch at the Young One’s school is on the calendar for Tuesday. Cornucopia embroidered flags are waving in the breeze, and the first text for emergency baking supplies just made its way through the neighborhood. Kroger is a war zone these days, and all of us want avoid breaching that line at all costs.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving!

The Hubs and I haven’t hosted a Thanksgiving meal at our house since the Older One started as a Plebe at West Point four years ago. As a member of the football team, he either spent the majority of the holiday practicing or playing a game.

Last year, he was in Hawaii for the holiday preparing for a post-Thanksgiving game. The year before, he took a bus to Boston with a teammate, and the year before that, my parents braved holiday travelers to take him in for the few free days he had available.

After that first Thanksgiving without him, I decided making his favorites when he isn’t here to enjoy them is too depressing. So now instead of chopping vegetables and baking pies, the most I do to prepare for the Thanksgiving meal  is pick up the phone to make reservations at a local restaurant.

The first year we did this, I admit, things felt very different. Usually, I’m up long before everyone else, stuffing the bird and rolling out dough. If I was lucky, I might have enough time to sit down to review the Black Friday ads before it was time to baste again.

That year though, with no bird to roast, I slept in and had a leisurely cup of coffee by the fire.  I watched the Thanksgiving Day parade for the first time in years.  I took time with my hair and makeup because, well…I had time.

Previously, I had spent weeks planning the menu, carefully managing a balance of tried and true recipes with new ones. Then I’d be too worried about which ones turned out right to really enjoy the food.

At the restaurant, however, I was treated to a true stress-free feast–roast turkey, deep fried turkey, ham, salmon, oyster stuffing, cranberry dressing, pecan pie, pumpkin pie, chocolate cake, cheese cake.  The buffet went on and on. Everything tasted wonderful, and I didn’t have to do anything but lift my plate to ask for more.

And when the meal was finished, I walked away. No dishes to wash, no turkey carcass to dispose of, no post-meal work at all but to collect my family and go back home where I made a cup of tea, web chatted with the Older One and spent the rest of the day just being with my family.

After that first year of paying for someone else to prepare my meal, I knew I had found a new tradition. The Older One will actually be home with us for Thanksgiving this year, but I don’t intend to cook a turkey for him. I intend to spend the day with him and the rest of my family, enjoying their company instead of watching them from the kitchen.

I know in time, I will get the urge to take on the meal prep again, but for now, I am happy with dining out on Thanksgiving. As long as I have my family around me, that’s all I really need.

Say It Like You Mean It: Learn

LearnMalala Yousafzai  was only 11 years old when she began using a pseudonym to blog about her right to learn–a right the Taliban threatened repeatedly to take away.  In October 2012,  a Taliban gunman boarded her school bus, asked for her by name and fired three shots at her head–one struck its target. Malala survived the assassination attempt, and last month, at the age of 17, she was named co-recipient of the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize for her struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education. She is the youngest Nobel Prize laureate.