Friday, February 26, 2010

Siblings

One of these years Jer and I will get around to having a child.  As for now, the allure of vacations and free time and extra spending money is winning out over baby fever.  This isn't to say we haven't talked about parenthood at length.  We know the day will come when we're ready for that step; it just hasn't happened yet.  Over the past year, I've had it in my head that I only wanted one kid.  One would be enough for me to experience motherhood, pass on our genes, teach our values, and provide a great life to.  Lots of people's reactions to hearing that are, "Your kid is going to be a spoiled a-hole if you only have one."  Well, that's not necessarily the case.  You can spoil or not spoil any number of kids.  My sister's husband is an only child and he turned out pretty dang well.  I also know some people who aren't only children, and they fulfill the spoiled a-hole role quite nicely.  Who's to say that I won't spoil the crap out of my kids, no matter how many I have? 

When our exchange student, Kim, was living with us, she used to tease me about this decision.  I'd say something about my future 'kid' and she would always correct me and say 'kids.'  (It always made me smile, but I would still hold out in the back of my mind that 'kid' was indeed going to be the case). Kim told us we couldn't only have one child because the sibling relationship is so amazing.  She and her brother Mik are very close and share a special bond.

She got me thinking about my siblings, though.  Sure, I can have friends that will occasionally fill the role that a sibling might play, but they can't take the place of my sisters.  I had live-in, anytime playmates when I was growing up, thanks to my sisters.  I had a special pen-pal when I was young because my oldest sister was in college.  I had a cool Senior sister looking out for me in my first year of high school.  I had an older sister whose car I could borrow (and wreck while she was out of town!).  I have sisters that experience things before me, thereby offering advice and sympathy because they've been there before.  And I've got sisters that will go to the end of the earth for me, if I ask.

Since both Jer and I have siblings, we've been lucky enough to play the role of aunt and uncle.  It's one of the best jobs in the world, right up there behind being a grandparent.  We get to take our nieces and nephews out for fun activities, load them full of sweets, buy them fun gifts, brag about them to anyone who will listen, and then send them back to their parents.  We adore each and every one of our 5 nephews and 3 nieces and look forward to Number 9 coming soon!  With multiple siblings, and those siblings having multiple kids, family gatherings can grow quite large (and loud!).  Sometimes it's stressful having so many people in one location and trying to coordinate meals and such, but I really wouldn't have it any other way.  It's nice to have a full house and lots of activity going on during holidays.  There's never a shortage of stories to share, or milestones to celebrate.

Of course, my experience isn't necessarily typical.  Some siblings don't get along as well as others.  But, the opportunity for a special sibling relationship, like I have, is not even possible if I only have one child.  With everything considered, I think I'm comfortable with the idea of having more than one child when the time comes.  (Ask me again, though, when I'm up all night with my first newborn and we'll see if I sing the same tune!)  


Me and my beautiful sisters, then and now

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Michal-ann's Baby Shower

A couple weekends ago I helped host a baby shower for my sister-in-law, Michal-ann.  She's due to give birth to her first child in less than a month!  It's a very exciting time in the family and I look forward to welcoming another nephew into my collection.  :)

The shower was held at the Fireslice Pizzeria.  Don't let the name fool you!  The atmosphere was perfect and the food was amazing.   My other sister-in-law, Felicia, did a wonderful job choosing this location and getting a great menu lined up.

We hung up a little clothesline filled with onesies, washcloths, and bibs.  Who can't help but smile at the sight of these adorable little baby items??
 
Michal-ann's friend Renee made a neat diaper cake and hooked us up with a delicious cake from Belmar Bakery.  They both matched perfectly with Michal-ann's theme colors.
  
We mixed in a few different games in-between opening presents to keep Michal-ann from getting overwhelmed!  We played a clothespin game, where each attendee started with two clothespins and was allowed to steal a clothespin from anyone they caught using the word "baby."  The person with the most at the end won.  The next game involved a tray full of baby-related items (shown in the picture above) that we asked everyone to take a look at and then we removed it from the room.  The guests were asked to recall from memory everything that was on the tray, and the person with the most correctly remembered items won.  The last game we played was my favorite..possibly because I was in charge of it ;)  haha.  I had called Michal-ann's husband earlier that day and asked him ten questions.  Some of them were pregnancy-related questions, some were Michal-ann related questions, and some were questions about how they'd raise their son.  At the shower I asked Michal-ann those same questions, to see if their answers matched.  Whenever she got one wrong, she had to stuff a jumbo marshmallow in her mouth.  These types of games are always fun because inevitably there will be some incorrect answers, and when guys are involved, the answers can be outrageous.  LOL.  Michal-ann was a great sport about it!

The generosity of all the shower guests was wonderful and I think Michal-ann will be very prepared when the big day arrives!  Many thanks to Felicia for coordinating everything and getting the invitations out, to Renee for getting the cakes, to Staci for providing the game prizes, and to Katie for tracking the gifts.  I think everything turned out really well!
 

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Highlights

I'm a little behind in getting to this post, but you know how it goes!  2009 was a really fantastic year for me and it gives me a lot of positive hope for 2010 to be just as good.  Here are some of the highlights from my life in 2009:

- Got Lasik surgery and freed myself from contacts

- Vacationed in Vegas (twice!)

- Joined a sand volleyball league

- Joined a Supper Club

- Watched two Rangers games from the Commissioner's box

- Played Whirlyball  and Top Golf often

- Volunteered with Habitat for Humanity, North Texas Food Bank, and Komen Race for the Cure
- Watched some great friends get married



- Cheered on Tech football in Lubbock, Stillwater, and Dallas

- Welcomed an exchange student from Germany into our home for 6 months

- Took a week-long vacation to San Francisco, Hollywood, and San Diego

- Went to see Daniel Tosh, Jim Gaffigan, and Mike Birbiglia

- Watched my beautiful niece Olivia learn so many new things


I'm sure there were plenty more exciting moments that happened last year, but I had to cap it somewhere!  Here's what I'm looking forward to in 2010 (some have already happened):

- Watching some great friends get married
- Traveling to St. Louis to watch 49ers vs. Rams game
- Donating bone marrow
- Eating at the rotating restaurant atop Reunion Tower
- Participating in Warrior Dash
- Running numerous 5Ks
- Playing sand volleyball
- Seeing Eddie Izzard
- Traveling to Vegas for a friend's wedding
- Going to Wimbledon
- Meeting our exchange student's family
- Traveling to London, Paris, Amsterdam, Maastricht, and Cologne
- Welcoming a new nephew into the world
- Learning Dutch

If there's anything I've learned in the past couple of years, it has been to enjoy every minute of life.  If every one of my weekends from here on out is full of activities, that's fine.  If I'm doing what I love and spending time with family and friends, then there is no time better spent.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Bone Marrow Recipient Update

A donor technician contacted me today on behalf of the Be the Match Marrow Registry to check on my status.  I told her everything was great and any effects from donating bone marrow were long gone!  While we were talking, I asked her if there was any update available on my recipient.  She said that it normally takes anywhere from three to six months for the recipient's doctor to send an update.  Nevertheless, she checked the patient update file for me and we were both pleasantly surprised to find there was already one available!  The file stated that the patient is responding to the marrow donation, he is doing well, and has been recently discharged from the hospital.  Can you believe it?  I could not have gotten better news today.  I'm sure he has a long road ahead of him, but just hearing he is out of the hospital is encouraging.  I so desperately wish for continued positive news about him and I hope I was able to bring some joy to his family.  

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

When did you realize that you had become a grown-up?

Last year I entered an essay contest for Real Simple magazine.  The question posed was, When did you realize that you had become a grown-up?  While I didn't win, I still wanted to share my response with you.  Some of it has probably been mentioned in previous blog posts, so forgive me for any repetition.  Here goes:
  
I sat at a red light on my way back to the office from my lunch break.  The homeless man on the corner caught my eye, but I quickly shifted my gaze out of embarrassment.  If I didn’t acknowledge I saw him, then I wouldn’t have to do the awkward head shake implying I wasn’t giving him any money.  No sooner had that thought passed through my mind, when another one quickly took its place.  Why did I just do that? The light turned green and I continued my drive to my office, bewildered at the experience I just had.  There’s no denying I had averted my gaze numerous times in the past in similar situations, but never before had I consciously questioned myself about it afterwards.

I can’t say with certainty where I learned my behavior towards homeless people, but it was definitely something I had been doing since as long as I could remember.  I sat at my office desk that afternoon and tried to think of good reasons why I should ignore destitute people seeking my help.  I filtered through a myriad of thoughts. Why doesn’t he just get a job?  Why should I give him money when I have to work hard for it?  How can I be sure he’ll use it on food or water?  I knew I was just repeating phrases I had heard other people use in the justification of their behavior.  As I thought about it longer, some new questions emerged.  What if he is hungry?  What if my dollar goes towards the only meal he’ll eat today?  What if my generosity makes him smile?  It was like the cliché light bulb switching on in my head.  No matter which way I looked at it, that man was worse off in life than I was.  He was standing on a corner in tattered clothes, in the blazing heat, asking for help.  If I chose to give him a dollar, it wouldn’t have even mattered what he spent it on – it would undoubtedly have been something that made him happier that day.  The potential cost to me?  A soda at lunch; a lunch I was probably eating with my coworkers in a climate-controlled, over-priced, full-service restaurant.  It really put the situation into perspective when I thought about it in those terms.  I had definitely reached grown-up status that day.

As children, we tend to adopt the philosophies and tendencies of our parents, older siblings, grandparents, and other elders.  We don’t usually have to justify our behavior or attitude regarding certain issues, because it was inherited. For better or worse, these tendencies often go unevaluated as we get older.  It reminds me of the story of the new bride who cut off the ends of the roast before cooking, emulating the actions of her mother and grandmother before her, only to find the grandmother started that tradition because her pan was too small.  This tale, in its many variations, is intended to teach the importance of understanding why we do certain things.  It’s the reasoning behind a tradition that is the most crucial part, not merely the act of repetition.

The change in my attitude concerning homeless people was only the beginning for my “growing up” and it epitomized what was to come.  It was the catalyst that made me realize there were many traditions I needed to question and many issues I needed to address with a fresh, open mind.  My religion, my political affiliation, my views concerning people who were different than myself – these were all blindly inherited from others. No longer could I use my age as an excuse for not critically evaluating my thoughts and actions.  I needed to determine the reasons for the things that I did and the beliefs that I held.  Now, as a grown-up, I am obligated to analyze and make informed, personal decisions.  Whether the results coincide with my parents or siblings or friends is unimportant.  What is important is that they are MY beliefs, and were arrived at through careful, deliberate consideration.
      
Some people dread growing up because of the fear of increased responsibilities, decreased free time, and the inevitable journey closer to death.  I think the day I grew up was the best day of my life, however!  As a result of that day, I am more compassionate, more generous, more humanistic, more empathetic, more analytical, and more focused on living my life to the fullest, in the short time that I have.  I decided what my purpose in life should be, and I wholeheartedly began living it on a daily basis.  As it turns out, I was 25 years old when this happened.  I had already graduated from college, gotten married, and entered the workforce in the years before that.  I think people can look back on any of those milestones and justifiably credit them for their passage into adulthood.  However, it wasn’t until that day, sitting in my car at a red light avoiding eye contact with a homeless man, that I truly grew up.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Bacon Explosion

Jer and I and a few other couples meet every other month or so for "Supper Club."  (Yeah, we're trying to come up with a cooler name!) We always have a different theme and rotate which couple will be hosting, and each couple attending contributes to the meal.  Since I've joined, we've had Mexican, Greek, and Italian-themed nights.  Last night's theme was Bacon Bonanza.  A couple members of the group might have what you call a little bit of a bacon fetish.  Haha.  Every dish brought to the dinner needed to incorporate bacon somehow.  Jer and I threw around a couple of ideas, and finally decided on "The Bacon Explosion."  I think our friend Haydel gets credit for sending us the recipe.  When I first saw it, I thought it was a joke!  It's actually relatively easy to make, but probably a little heavy on the heart to eat.  :)

You need two pounds of thick-sliced bacon, two pounds of loose sausage, some barbecue sauce, and some barbecue seasoning.  We used spicy sausage to give it more kick.  You start by laying out a 5x5 (or bigger) square grid of bacon, and basket-weave it.  Then you douse it with seasoning.  Next you lay out a layer of the sausage, making sure it reaches the edges and is uniform in thickness.  Then you fry up a couple pieces of bacon, let them dry, chop them up, and sprinkle them over the sausage layer.  Follow this up with a drizzled layer of barbecue sauce and some more seasoning.  Now it's time to assemble!  Grab the sausage layer (while leaving the bacon basket weave), and roll it on itself.  It's easiest when someone else is helping!  Once you're done rolling, pinch off the sides to seal it up.  Then, starting from the end of your sausage roll, take the basket weave and roll it back over the roll in the other direction.  Sprinkle some more barbecue seasoning on it and the preparation is done!  Here's what it will look like at this stage:
 


Now it's ready to be cooked in a cloud of hickory smoke at 225 degrees.  You can always brush another layer of barbecue sauce on it to keep it intact during cooking.  When the internal temperature hits 165 degrees, you are good to go!  It can take a few hours, so don't rush it!  I think ours took a little over 3 hours.  Here's what it looks like, sliced and ready to serve:
 

As weird as it sounded, it actually tasted amazing!  The spicy sausage was a good choice, and the barbecue flavoring topped it off nicely.  I recommend giving it a shot at your next barbecue.  The link to the full recipe was included above, and here it is again: Enjoy!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

One of THOSE Mornings

You ever have one of those mornings where nothing seems to be going right, so your best bet might just be crawling back into bed?  Yeah, I had one of those today.  Our dog, Juneau, had a vet appointment, so I decided to put her in the crate for transport since she gets carsick easily.  I opened the back hatch of the Jeep, displaying the open crate that was waiting for her.  What does Juneau do when she sees this?  Jumps into the car right next to the crate.  No, Juneau, I need you IN the crate.  I grab her collar and try to coax her back out, and she freezes.  Her body turns rigid and she makes it clear that she doesn't want to move.  Awesome.  I go back inside and grab a rawhide.  It takes me a few minutes, but I finally entice her into the crate.  We arrive at the vet and walk inside to find a small dog & its owners finishing up at the registration desk.  I get a little hesitant, but I decide to keep my cool and hope that my good vibes rub off on Juneau.  The two dogs sniff each other and say hello, and for a second I think everything's kosher.  Wrong.  The little dog makes one tiny, barely aggressive "sneeze" at Juneau and she explodes.  The teeth come out, the hair stands up, and the barking commences.  I pull her back quickly and try to calm her down.  The elderly owners of the other dog understandably get nervous and I feel like a total douche.  When they finally leave, the nurses focus their attention on Juneau.  First up is getting her weight.  The scale is on the ground, and pretty wide, to make it easier to work with dogs.  Or so you'd think.  Apparently this scale had the black plague on it because Juneau was just not having it.  "That's okay.  We'll just try to get her weight in the back room."  Cool, my kid is the misfit.  We take her back to the exam room and you can tell she's nervous.  The vet can sense her instability and decides it's probably best if they handle her away from me.  (We've come to realize that Juneau acts differently when I'm around.  She's either more insecure or more protective, but it's somehow related to being around me).  While the nurses are drawing blood and giving her a vaccine in another room, the vet comes back in and says, "Wow, she's really riled up."  Yeah.  I know.  When the exam is over, we begin to leave, but quickly have to return to the room since there's another dog finishing up at registration.  (I'm glad my kid is the antisocial one who can't ever be around anyone else).  When the coast is clear, we head to the desk and finish out our visit.  I'm hoping this is the end of my crappy morning, but really it was only the beginning.

Jer has already left for work by the time we arrive home, so I know this means that the other dogs are in the backyard (with access to the garage).  I park out front and begin to get Juneau out of her cage.  As I start walking her to the front door, I realize I don't have a house key.  Yeah, me, the one who always makes fun of people who lock themselves out of places because I thought it was nearly impossible.  See, what had happened was.....Jer has a house key on his keychain.  I have a house key on my keychain.  I borrowed Jer's car today to use the crate, and as I was leaving the house earlier he yelled out, "Don't take the entire keychain because my work key is on there too.  And also make sure and leave me yours since I'm driving your car."  I was already frazzled at that point since Juneau had been uncooperative in getting in the crate, so instead of separating just his car key from his keychain, I left the whole thing there and grabbed the spare car key.  I also left my entire keychain so he could drive my car.  Fail.  I forgot about the house keys being on both of the sets he would now have.  So I stood there for a moment thinking about how fantastic the situation was.  Our garage has an electronic code entry, so I knew I could get inside, but this would mean opening the garage door while two dogs were inside.  FREEDOM!!  is the battle cry I was expecting to hear as surely two dogs would run barreling past me the moment the door lifted.  I decided my best bet would probably be to have Juneau by my side (on a leash) as I opened the door, in hopes that the other two dogs' curiosity would kick in and they would want to see where Juneau had been for the past hour.  Luckily I was right.  The door opened, the dogs started to run out, but they quickly came back in when they realized Juneau was back.  I hurried them over to the back door of the house and hit the garage door closer button as soon as I could.  Whew, the door was closed and all three dogs were safely inside. 

I went into the house to change out of the clothes that were now covered in muddy paw prints.  Deep breath.  It's all over.  I found a set of spare keys so I'd be able to lock the front door behind me.  I went back out front and got the crate out of the car so I wouldn't have to drive around with it all day.  I carried it back in the house and decided to just set it right inside the door in the office and deal with putting it back in its proper place later.  As I set it down, something on the office floor caught my eye.  A nice, fresh pee stain.  You've got to be kidding me.  When did this happen?!?  Our dogs never have accidents in the house because I let them out first thing every morning, and they know to just whine by the back door when they want to go out at other times.  My guess is that, since I wasn't able to let all the dogs out this morning since I was only taking Juneau, Riley couldn't hold it while Jer was getting ready for work.  Flippin' awesome.  Now I'm stuck cleaning up dog pee to top off my wonderful morning.  And what comes after that?  Then I get to go to work ALL DAY.

On a side note, our friends are getting married in Vegas in April, so this was the perfect day to book our trip there.  Done and done.  Nothing like the allure of Vegas to brighten up a crappy day!                       

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Kim's Farewell Weekend


Well, our journey has come to an end.  Our hosting experience was amazing, and we are so glad we did it.  To celebrate Kim's time in America, we planned a fun-filled weekend for her and the friends she's made along the way.  Even though it was long overdue, I took Kim to downtown Dallas for a little sight-seeing.  We went to the sky lobby of the Chase building and had a really neat view of the city.
We walked around and visited some of the other skyscrapers, then made our way over to Dealey Plaza.  We saw the 6th Floor Museum and the JFK Memorial.




We met up with Jer for dinner at Five Sixty, the restaurant at the top of Reunion Tower.  The food and the view were spectacular!  It's really hard to take pictures from up there, so you'll have to take my word for it!

On Saturday night we held a going away party for Kim.  We covered the entire house in German-inspired decorations and served some of her favorite American foods.  I had printed out every picture of our fun adventures taken over the past 6 months and had them scattered throughout the house for people to view and for us to reminisce about.  Everyone that attended the party was asked to get their picture taken and write a message for Kim to go in a memory book.  I contacted those that weren't able to attend and had them send something to me separately to include.  The finished product turned out wonderfully!  Everyone had a great time, but it was a bittersweet moment for Kim to realize she wouldn't be seeing some of those people ever again.


On Sunday we got a group together to play Whirlyball.  It was a blast, as usual, and Kim even scored a goal!

Once the weekend's festivities came to an end, we knew we only had a couple days left with Kim.  I took her for one last trip to Rosa's Cafe for delicious tortillas and queso, and then to ColdStone for her last American dessert.  My sister Jo and I also took her for a pedicure (her first one ever!), and let her spend as much time as possible with Jo's daughter, Olivia.  Kim and Livy formed a special bond in her time here, and it's really cool that she got to witness 6 formidable months in Livy's life.  My sister will attest to the fact that Livy wakes up some mornings and says, "Mama?  Dada?  Kim?"  Too cute.  Thursday's trip to the airport was a sad experience.  We were so sad to see her go, but knew her family and friends in Germany would be overjoyed at her return.  We feel very lucky to have welcomed such an amazing person into our home for 6 months and are excited at the life-long friendship that is sure to be ahead of us.  Cheers, Kim!  We love you!