Saturday, May 31, 2014

Office Life: Advancing While Staying Put

I've worked the same job in the same office for 8 and a half years.  Way back when I was being interviewed for the job, it was made very clear to me that this position was not a stepping stone to bigger things; this was it.  There would be nowhere to advance.  Some people might have been immediately turned off, but it was music to my ears.

I've never had the desire to climb the corporate ladder and work my way up to the supposedly-coveted corner office.  My goal was to find a job I like and give it my all.  I didn't want to worry about looking for the next big thing or fighting for a promotion or seeing if I could eventually utilize my experience elsewhere for a fatter paycheck.  I just wanted to get a job, be awesome at it, and stick with it.  I'm sure it sounds like I'm not ambitious and that I've become complacent, but that is not the case.

Doing the same job for several years may sound like monotonous drudgery.  I suppose that can be true, but it doesn't have to be that way.  Although I obviously deal with much of the same each day, there are ways to keep things enjoyable and to improve myself and my work and expand what I do.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Shopping and Swinging

After tackling the porch steps on Friday, Ernie forged ahead on Saturday with many more outdoor projects.  While he worked, Matthew and I decided to go out for a little while.  Our first stop was Target.

Matthew loves riding in shopping carts.  Being a stroller in a store doesn't cut it anymore.  He likes to be up higher and able to observe more freely.

I picked up some boring household items, but I also got a few things for Matthew.  It's getting way too warm for his footie pajamas, so some new summer pajamas were in order.

Once we left Target, I decided to stop at a playground that I knew had toddler swings.  I've been wanting to allow him to enjoy some swinging, but our previous playground stops only had swings for bigger kids.  Matthew definitely enjoyed the swing.

Once he grew tired of swinging, we walked around the park and explored.  When I decided it was time to go, Matthew resisted and ended up falling and scraping his knees on the asphalt.  Poor kid!  I felt so bad.  I cleaned him up as best as I could, and then we headed home.  

At Target, Matthew had spotted one of his favorite books from his day care and was stretching and trying to get out of the cart to get to it.  Obviously, I had to buy it.  I also picked up a couple new toys for Matthew's Little People Farm. I figured these new toys would make up for the knee scrapes he suffered.  Turns out, all I needed were the boxes.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Picture Perfect

We do not have much hanging on our walls.  Our house was brand new when we moved into it back in 2005, and it took a long time before we committed to hanging any pictures.  There is a chocolate lab painting upstairs, two train pictures in the living room, two lighthouse pictures in the downstairs bathroom, and Brett Favre in our dining room (I'm really surprised I got away with that).

I decided I'd like to have some family pictures displayed in Matthew's room.  Something to hang made sense, and I wanted to have pictures from both sides of the family.  At the first store I looked at, I immediately found a frame I loved.

There is plenty of ink in our printer, and I had several sheets of photo paper, so I decided to see what I could put together.  I went through pictures from our wedding and from Ernie's mom and stepdad's wedding.  I dedicated one side to my family and one side to Ernie's family (four pics each).  I'm really happy with how it turned out.

Ernie will be hanging it in Matthew's room sometime this weekend.  Well, hopefully this weekend.  He has a lot of plans for things to accomplish around the house on this three-day weekend.  Last night, he tore apart the front porch steps after he noticed they were unsteady.  He discovered rotting wood and other fun stuff.  One trip to Home Depot and lots of work fixed that though.

Once Matthew wakes up from his nap, I think a trip to a playground is in order.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Trip to the Greenhouse

I do not have a green thumb, but I do love flowers.  Fortunately, my mother is very knowledgeable in that area.  Thanks to her, I am able to enjoy some lovely flowers outside my house once winter goes away.  She told me last week that a trip to the greenhouse was definitely in order.  When I got home from work yesterday, we hopped in my car with Matthew and went to get some flowers.

This was Matthew's first time visiting a greenhouse.  I wasn't sure if he'd enjoy himself or not, but it was quickly clear that he was mesmerized by all of the beautiful flowers.

Matthew and I happily wandered all of the aisles while my mom made the important decisions.  She kept asking me what I'd like, and I did help to narrow down some choices, but I truly consider her the expert and wanted her to just buy whatever she felt was best.  I knew that we couldn't go wrong with whatever she decided.

Next to the checkout, there was a bin with free watering cans for "junior gardeners."  Matthew proudly grabbed a watering can before we left.  The owner said that he would hire Matthew in a few years, once he got a little taller and a few more muscles.  My mom said, "He should probably stop wetting his pants too."  Ha ha!  Poor Matthew.  It's hard being 18 months!  The owner said that wasn't a big deal though and that "it happens."  I think you're in, Matthew!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

1 Year and in the Clear

I took the day off from work yesterday to take Matthew to the doctor.  He was diagnosed with hip dysplasia when he was a newborn and had to wear a corrective harness.  It came off in May of last year, with the scheduling of an appointment to follow-up in a year.  Matthew had to be x-rayed, and unfortunately, the x-ray machine in the doctor's office was broken.  We had to go elsewhere to get the x-ray done, which meant going to a huge, overwhelming x-ray room.  Matthew freaked out and was really upset, but he cooperated well.  When we went back to the doctor, we were told that Matthew looked "absolutely perfect" with no need for any additional appointments.

I'm so grateful to have this experience behind us!  Because of the x-ray machine issue, our appointment took a little longer than expected.  Matthew was ready for a nap not long after we got home.

We are having a potluck lunch at work today, so I put a dish together yesterday to contribute.  I decided to make Buffalo Chicken Pasta Salad.  I made it once for us for dinner and loved it.  I had served it warm then, so this is my first time making it in advance and serving it cold.  I hope it goes over well.  It's obviously a bit spicy, so we'll see if people like it or if I should just go back to bringing cookies on potluck days.

For our dinner, I decided to make beef burritos.  The only thing I omit from that recipe is the garlic.  That's odd for us, as we are big garlic lovers.  The first time I made these burritos though, the garlic seemed to stick out too much.

I spent a lot of time in the kitchen yesterday but also plenty of extra time to play with Matthew.  I love days off with him.  He seemed to have recently went through a phase where he was extremely independent in playing, but now he seems to prefer having us around, even if it's just to sit on our laps while he plays.  He really enjoys books, blocks, puzzles, and his Fisher Price Little People farm.

Speaking of which, I think Matthew could use a lap to sit on right now.

Monday, May 19, 2014

The Simple Things

Thursday night was another round of preliminaries for Your Hometown Idol.  Now there won't be any action until the finals in July.  I had planned to write about this on Friday, but I woke up that morning extremely sick.  There was no way I was making it to work.  I couldn't even bring myself to watch TV or read a magazine.  I was too miserable to sleep, so I basically spent the day in bed doing nothing.

That was my entire Friday, pretty much (how thrilling).  I couldn't even keep down water for most of the day but started seeming a little better in the evening.  Ernie and Matthew walked to the store to get me some Vernor's.  I sipped it slowly for a couple hours, and it made me feel better (oh, the magic of Vernor's!).

I felt better on Saturday but was still very sore and achy and had a headache.  It was pretty much another day of doing nothing but hanging out.  Chewie was a good companion for that.

I woke up on Sunday and felt amazing.  I was so excited!  Ernie and Matthew were already awake, so I rushed downstairs to join them.  I brewed some coffee, got a load of laundry going, and sat at the computer to pay bills.   I was thrilled by my ability to be able to accomplish these mundane tasks.  It really made me appreciate how wonderful it is to just wake up and be healthy.

Since Matthew basically didn't get any attention from me for two days, I was eager to hang out with him.  We ran errands together and had a blast, although he was a little angry at me for not letting him run around the parking lot at Trader Joe's.  How dare I not want him to get hit by a car in the small and busy parking lot!  The parking lot at the next grocery store was quieter though, so he was able to walk from the cart return back to the car with me.  He loves his independence in situations like that.  Occasionally, he will be fine with holding my hand, but he normally just wants to forge on his own (with me right by his side, ready to yank him out of harm's way, much to his dismay).

Ernie had mowed the lawn while we were gone, so we got to enjoy some time in the freshly groomed backyard when we got home.  While we were playing, we found a little friend.

Of course, now I wake up this morning feeling sick to my stomach.  I couldn't even finish one piece of dried toast or a glass of my beloved Vernor's (breakfast of champions!).  I'm trying to look on the bright side and compare how I feel now to how I felt on Friday.  I'm hoping I'll feel better as I get on with my day.  I better, as I've been looking forward to being able to complete the routine tasks I take for granted.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Wish List: For Our Home

1. Our front door is very worn looking and could use a fresh coat of paint.  It is currently a deep burgundy color, but I'd love to convince Ernie that we should take the plunge and get a purple door.  The purple door on this page is beautiful!

2. Our kitchen island tends to become a dumping ground for keys, mail that Ernie needs to look at, and various reminders.  This mail center would be a great solution.

3.  I have long dreamed about having a gorgeous photo or painting of the Mackinac Bridge hanging above our couch.  I'd love to get a 20" by 30" canvas of this print by Angie McCullagh. Her photos are gorgeous!

4.  Our current towels are are a little worn out, to put it politely.  Ernie has been clinging to a couple of Tommy Hilfiger towels in particular that he doesn't want to give up, so I think these towels would make us both happy.  I know he would want navy, but I could also go for some blue, grey, and sand ones.

5.  Before Matthew was born, we had a computer room on the first floor that Ernie kindly painted a dark, bright purple per my request (yes, it's my favorite color, hence #1).  With Matthew needing his own room, the computer room was converted to our guest room.  The current bedding doesn't fit in well and is a little worn after a well-meaning guest machine washed the dry clean only comforter.  This comforter set would simple and beautiful.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Long Night

Yesterday was a pretty normal day.  I made Cheater Korean Beef for dinner, which is super easy and tastes awesome.  I follow the recipe as stated, except I omit the ginger.  I don't know what it is, but the last time I made it and used the ginger it called for, Ernie and I both thought it tasted like soap.  Last night was much better.   There is a little bit of spice to it, so Matthew ate some chicken tenders instead.

Matthew was a little cranky going to bed last night.  I read him a couple Dr. Seuss books that he pulled off his bookshelf and sang to him (everything from nursery rhymes to Conor Oberst), but nothing did the trick.  Ernie rocked him for a little while, and we thought everything was fine.  Not long after Ernie and I went to sleep though, we were suddenly jolted by the unmistakable sounds of a sick child.  Our poor little guy was sick several times.  He didn't have a fever, so we just tried to make him as comfortable as possible and take care of him.

Matthew slept in a little bit this morning and seems much better.  I'll be fine too, as soon as I get some extra coffee.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Lord Snappington II

We had severe weather in the area yesterday.  There were a lot of tornado warnings, and local schools were on lockdown.  This all started late in the afternoon while I was still at work, and Matthew was at daycare.  Storms make me nervous in general, so needless to say, I was a little freaked out.  Fortunately, it seems like we mainly got slammed by thunderstorms with tons of rain; wind wasn't really a factor.

The rain was definitely significant though, and our section of road is flooded.  Chewie suddenly started barking while looking outside at the driveway, which really isn't too shocking (she barks a lot.  A LOT.)  Ernie peeked outside though and realized she was barking at a snapping turtle that was making his way up our driveway.

This is the second snapping turtle we've seen at our house.  A few years back, there was one that I named Lord Snappington.  I took several pictures of him and hoped he'd be back, but that was our only sighting.  Obviously, this turtle had to be dubbed Lord Snappington II.  I had quickly raced upstairs to throw some clothes on so I could go outside and get some pictures, but Lord Snappington II was pretty darn fast and had already disappeared back into the water by the time I got outside.

Although not the greatest picture, Ernie did snap this one quickly through the window while I was upstairs getting dressed, so at least we have something to remember him by.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Mother's Day

I wasn't expecting anything on Mother's Day.  Ernie isn't one to make a big fuss of holidays, so I was just looking forward to another nice weekend day at home.  Ernie was kind enough to get up with Matthew in the morning and let me sleep in (which he actually usually does on the weekends, which is awesome).  When I did come downstairs, he immediately asked me if I'd like to go out for breakfast.  It was still some what early, so we figured we'd beat the Mother's Day crowd.

Ernie and I had excellent omelettes.  We ordered French Toast for Matthew, which he'd never had before.  We sampled it, and it was really good, but Matthew was happier nibbling on some of my wheat toast.  At home, I opened my cards: one from Matthew, one from Chewie.

I chose to make one of my favorite recipes for dinner: Mexican Stuffed Shells.  It's an easy recipe, but it takes a little time, so it's not an ideal recipe for a weeknight after work.  It's a perfect Sunday dinner.

It was a beautiful day, not too hot outside.  We spent time in the backyard playing with Matthew.  I blew bubbles that he had a blast chasing, and we also kicked around a ball.  Matthew loves being outside.  I am not an outdoors person, so I'm trying to adjust for his sake.

I spent the majority of my life planning on never having children.  I was perfectly content with not being a mother, and my husband also didn't want kids.  For some unknown reason, we both changed our minds in 2010.  We got engaged later that year, married in 2011, and Matthew was born in 2012.  I can't believe I spent so many years not wanting this.  Being a mom is hard, but it is so incredible.  I feel so lucky each and every day.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Your Hometown Idol

Last night was the teen preliminaries of the Your Hometown Idol competition.  There was a low turnout, but that meant I got to sneak out a little early.  As much as I enjoy being involved with this event, that was pretty nice, as my dad is staying with us.  He needed a Matthew fix and volunteered to baby-sit him for a couple days this week.  Matthew is having an awesome time with his grandpa!  My dad also generously treated us to pizza for dinner, which goes over very well in this house.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

18 Months

Matthew had his 18 month checkup yesterday. He weighs 26 pounds, 3 ounces, and he is 34.25" tall.  His weight is in the 80th percentile, and his height is in the 97th percentile.  He's nice and healthy!  The doctor also assured me that it is perfectly normal for him to moonwalk.  I mean, he's not as smooth as Michael Jackson, but it's still pretty impressive.  I didn't know toddlers were capable of such an activity.

While waiting for the doctor to come in the room, I glanced at the assortment of books and magazines scattered along the wide windowsill.  There are several books that are made by area students.  One in particular really caught my eye:

My sister's name is Julie, and my family calls me Kate, so I of course thought this was awesome.  My sister still lives back home in the U.P., and I miss her so much.

After Matthew's appointment, we grabbed some lunch and headed to my work for a visit.  He hasn't been to the office since he's been walking, so he was due for an appearance.  He was a little shy and was also tired, as it was past his nap time, but he seemed to enjoy it.  I had a few little stuffed animals on my desk that he liked to play with.  I tried to give him one of my Aaron Rodgers action figures to play with, but he wanted nothing to do with it.  I hope that isn't a sign that he is going to eventually  rebel against our cheesehead ways.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Squared Bars

Over the weekend, Ernie suddenly got a craving for chocolate chip cookie bars.  I thought of a recipe I'd recently seen on The Girl Who Ate Everything for Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Squared Bars.  The only ingredient I didn't have was unsalted butter, so I just used salted instead.  My bars had to bake a few minutes longer, but other than that, I followed the recipe exactly.

The bars turned out really well!  They are not only the best bars I've ever made but maybe the best ones I've ever eaten.  The recipes from that site have yet to let me down.  She is awesome.  I'll definitely be making these again!

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Matthew's First Library Card

On Saturday, Matthew and I went to the local library to get his first library card.  I also needed a library card.  I have lived here for over 9 years, and I'm embarrassed to say that I have never been to our library.  I loved going to the library as a kid.  Whenever there is a library millage on the ballot, I don't hesitate to vote yes.  Why I quit going as an adult, I really don't know.  

Our library is beautiful, and I can't believe all of the amazing stuff there!  I am so glad that Matthew has a library card.  I hope that he loves the library as much as I did as a kid, and I hope that my library love will be rekindled.

I am looking forward to going back!  

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Your Hometown Idol

Last night was the first preliminary round of the local Your Hometown Idol competition.  I was asked to be a judge.  Kids performed last night, and the finalists will complete at a local festival in July.  It is so fun to be a part of this, and I loved watching the kids sing.  I detected a little bit of nerves in all of them, but any kid who will participate in something like this obviously has a confidence within them.  I was very moved by each performance and felt so much pride for these kids, even though I didn't know them.  I wanted to give them each a huge hug after their performances, but that would have been slightly (majorly?) creepy.

There will be two more preliminaries this month: one for teens and one for adults.  I look forward to them!