December 24, 2008

He's a Smart One

C was incredibly close to being instructed to buy new a new vacuum cleaner today. He's already in purgatory and was forced to go to the mall to get his hair cut on Christmas Eve. I figured that since he was out, he could just buy me a new vacuum instead of me trekking across town.

Normally it wouldn't be a big deal. Eh, so my vacuum is broke. I could just wait until after-Christmas sales on Friday and get one at a smoking deal. It's just a little dog fur and Christmas tree needles.

But I have house guests coming in tonight, and company coming over for dinner tomorrow. My house NEEDS to be vacuumed. The dog fur might rise up in a mutiny and try to overthrow the very fragile reign I hold on this household.

C had hung up some storage racks in our laundry room last night and had the vacuum out to sweep up the drywall dust this morning. When he finished I asked him to leave it upstairs so that I could use it.

He winds the cord and never says anything about it not working correctly. I start vacuuming the master bedroom -- no obvious problems. I have to go over some spots a couple of times to pick up obvious debris but nothing new. My vacuum is almost 10 years old and was the cheapest one we could buy at K-Mart at the time -- it needs to be replaced but for what little carpet we have, I can't justify buying a new one. I pull out the attachment hose to grab the fur balls along the baseboards and under our bed.

This is when I realize that I have NO suction. All I'm doing is pushing the dog fur around on the carpet, creating pretty swirls of white. And there's an odd noise coming from the general vicinity of the vacuum.


Well, maybe the bag is full.

Downstairs I trek, to the mechanical room where the spare bags are. Hallelujah! There was actually 2 down there!

Back upstairs I go, clean bag in hand. After wrestling with our piece of crap cheapo vacuum I finally get the bag changed and realize that I probably need to do our room again. The cloud of dust is thick in the air and I'm covered in a fine film myself.

I plug it back in, hit the power switch and hope for the best. I hold my hand over the end of the hose and nada. No suction through the hose. Then I notice the noise again. Off goes the vacuum.

Crap! Crap!

I panic as the thought crosses my mind that I have house guests arriving in about 12 hours (in-laws no less, so the house HAS to be clean) and my vacuum is broken.

I swear at it, smack it and say a little prayer that it will magically fix itself.

Turn it back on in the hopes that my curse words accomplished something. Nope. Not today.

Mind you, the entire time C can hear me muttering about the vacuum. Turning it off/on, off/on. When I went downstairs to get a clean vacuum bag I mentioned to him as I walked by his cartoon-induced trance that I thought the vacuum was broken because it wasn't sucking. He made some smart-ass comment and continued to be engrossed by whatever was on PBS.

I begin the process of dismantling the vacuum to see if I can self-diagnose it. I may want a new vacuum but the truth is, I hate to spend the money on it. I'd much rather spend it on something frivolous and fun. As I'm starting to pull the hose off, C comes into the bedroom and sheepishly admits that he *might* know what the problem is.

He grabs a wire hanger from the closet and pulls the hose attachment from my hand. I look over his shoulder to see something white stuck in the flexible tubing where it necks down to go into the vacuum. A little finagling and he removes a packing peanut.

And then another.

And another.

And another.

And another.

And finally another.

Yeah. 6 packing peanuts were wedged in the end of the attachment hose. That could possibly be why I wasn't getting any suction through the hose.

But, what?


I haven't been around any packing peanuts. Then it dawns on me. He vacuumed the laundry room this morning and there was a box sitting in there with packing peanuts in it.

"I thought they were small enough to fit through the hose" he quips as he walks away. "Guess not."

He's a smart one, that husband of mine. Certified engineer and all.

Sometimes I think he leaves his brain at the office!

December 22, 2008

Baby It's Cold Outside!

It says that it's 28 degrees right now, but with the wind it feels like 13. Gotta love that wind! It's blowing at 28mph (per The Weather Channel) currently, with gusts up to 35mph. The wind sucks. We live at the end of a cul-de-sac and at the very edge of town. It feels like a vortex of snow crystals outside right now as it swirls through the neighborhood. I couldn't even get a good idea of which direction the wind was blowing from. It seems to come at you from every angle and dances in frozen, piercing swirls across the landscape.

C shoveled once this morning before he left for work. I opted to go out and bust through it mid-day so that it was more manageable later on. It will probably need to be shoveled yet again when C gets home from work.

I just burnt 412 calories as I shoveled the driveway and sidewalk. The snow is wet and heavy today -- unlike the light, powdery stuff that normally accumulates. Normally the wind wouldn't be able to blow such wet, heavy snow around but at 30mph I suppose it can move more than normal. So I shoveled with sunglasses on to keep the snow from whipping in my eyes. If I had known where my ski goggles were, I would have worn them instead. Fashion clearly goes out the window when I don my winter snow gear.

As I look out the window I'm already beginning to think my efforts were futile. The sidewalk is drifting back in already. I guess if anything, it was good exercise and gives me a reason to not drive through the knee high snow on the street to go to the gym tonight.

The forecast is calling for snow 9 out of the 10 coming days so I would imagine our shovel gets good use in the next 2 weeks. Perhaps C is 2nd guessing his decision to NOT buy a snow blower. Last week I put the suggestion on the table, saying it wouldn't bother me to spend the money. He said it wasn't necessary. He might kick himself for that shortly.

December 17, 2008

When Real Life and the Internet Collide

Shortly after I went off of my birth control back in 2004, I joined an online community for women trying to get pregnant. After a few months of browsing through the forums I noticed a post put up by a girl trying to get pregnant with her first child. She was looking for other women to start a buddy group with -- a group of girls to chat with about the struggles and frustrations. Her intent was to have a small circle so that everyone involved would feel welcomed and included. I had tried my hand before with some buddy groups, but they always got too big and it was hard to keep track of everyone. So with the hope of this one staying small I responded to see where it would lead to.

This was back in January of 2005. Throughout our time together on that online community, 9 members drifted in and out of the group. The dynamics of the community changed and we opted to take our group to another website to chat. There have been a couple of disputes and a falling out, but 6 of the original 9 are still very close. We post on our board daily and offer support no matter what the situation. Some in the group have moved on to subsequent pregnancies; some are happy with 1 child; some are still battling for their first.

The friendships that I've formed within this group of girls is amazing. They've kept me sane when I've felt like I'd been beaten down; they send flowers and gifts to celebrate the joys. It's always amazed me that a group of people who had never set foot in the same room together could be so close. More than once, C has teased me about my "friend in a box".

Over the last few years, we've talked about trying to get the group together for a vacation. We throw around some ideas and tentative dates and then lives get busy and it gets pushed to the wayside. "Someday" we'll all get together...

That someday finally came to fruition, with one friend in the group.

Back in October, C told me that I needed to get away and have a weekend to myself. To get away from it all and be Mandy for the weekend, not just Mom and Wife. He wanted me to make a trip to New Jersey and take the opportunity to have some face to face time with Kristen. Some careful sleuthing on my part, put me in touch with her husband and we began to hatch a plan. A weekend was decided on, tickets were booked and the excitement began to build. I ran scenario after scenario through my head about knocking on her door. What would be the best way to pull this all off? What should I say and do to get the best reaction?

Surprisingly, her husband and I kept it from her for almost 2 months. I flew into Philadelphia on a Friday afternoon and had the weekend to spend with her and her family. As I walked through the airport into the baggage terminal, the butterflies began to flutter. I felt like I was getting ready for a blind date.

What if she didn't like me in real life? What if we couldn't hold a conversation when sitting across the table from one another?

About an hour after landing, her husband and I pulled up in front of their place and I had to keep myself from running to the front door. As I lifted my hand to announce my presence, I could feel the tears welling in my eyes and a lump building in my throat.

When she opened the door, the look on her face was priceless. She truly was at a loss for words. Which is rare for her!

My hope is that we don't go another 4 years without a visit.

December 16, 2008

Christmas Fun

1. Egg Nog or hot chocolate?

I would much rather have egg nog, especially if it has a shot (or 2!) of spiced rum in it. But this holiday season I'd probably go with hot chocolate as it's somewhat healthier.

2. Does Santa wrap presents or set them under the tree?

Gifts from Santa are always wrapped, but they go under the tree Christmas Eve night.

3. Colored lights on tree/house or white?

Our Christmas tree has white lights on it; I hate colored lights with all of the crazy decorations/ornaments we put on. The only lights we have outside (I wanted lights put up but C refused to do them) are white and they're just on the one tree in the yard.

4. Do you hang mistletoe?

Not anymore. I did for a few years when we were newly married. It was some fake stuff and somehow got destroyed; I never replaced it. Guess we must be past the lovey-dovey stuff!

5. When do you put your decorations up?

Usually the 1st weekend in December. This year it was the weekend after Thanksgiving because I wasn't home the 1st weekend and I wanted them up early for KT. I will never, never, ever put Christmas decorations up before Thanksgiving.

6. What is your favorite holiday dish (excluding dessert)?

I love holiday meals in general. I always make a ham for Christmas though and that's probably the thing I look forward to the most.

7. Favorite holiday memory as a child:

My youngest sister, A, would always set her alarm for an insanely early time on Christmas Day. She'd wake us girls up and then we'd spend a good hour getting my Mom out of bed. Mom would keep asking for 10-15 more minutes. My sister would even go so far as to make Mom a cup of tea and take it into her.

8. When and how did you learn the truth about Santa?

I don’t remember. I know that my parents were still together so it was before I was 8 but played along for my younger sisters. My guess is that someone at school enlightened all of us on the playground.

9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve?

We never did growing up and we don't when we're in our own home on Christmas Eve. On years that we travel to Michigan for the holiday, we do open gifts with one set of family that day because of logistics.

10. How do you decorate your Christmas tree?

Hodge podge all the way! I will probably never have an elegant tree that is all one color or has a theme. I'm okay with it though -- I love my tree. My grandpa had a tradition of buying the grandkids ornaments every year so I have 25 or so from that; C has ornaments from his folks that he got every year; and then we have an assortment of stuff we've collected together.

11. Snow! Love it or dread it?

LOVE IT! I'm weird, I know. But as long as I'm prepared for it, winter is my favorite time of year. I love to be out playing in it or just sitting watching it fall. It's all about being dressed right for the cold!

12. Can you ice skate?

I tried once and it was not a pretty sight. The night/day itself was memorable but that's another story...

13. Do you remember your favorite gift?

One that stands out the most is the year my Dad bought me a leather jacket.

14. What’s the most important thing about the Holidays for you?

Letting people know that I'm thinking of them. We don't travel to see family every year, and I try my hardest to let everyone know that even though we're not there, we're still thinking of them!

15. Dessert?

I'm a sucker for anything chocolate. Christmas candy is hard for me to resist.

16. What is your favorite holiday tradition?

Decorating the Christmas tree. It changed this year considerably with the assistance of a 2-year old but was still fun.

17. What tops your tree?

A wire angel with white lights.

18. Which do you prefer giving or receiving?

Giving. I'd buy gifts for so many people if we had it in our budget. I wish I could afford to buy stuff for more people, even if it was just little gifts for them. C and I always have a disagreement every year about the number of people on our list. So I send out a boat load of cards instead.

19. What is your favorite Christmas Song?

I love "The Little Drummer Boy" by anyone. It's my favorite traditional song. Willie Nelson sings a song called "Pretty Paper" that I love. It reminds me of my Dad. There's also an a capella version of "I'll Be Home for Christmas" done by Rascal Flatts that is on my must-have list for this year.

20. Candy Canes! Yuck or yum?

Mint chocolate ones are one of the few kinds I like.

December 15, 2008

Dashing Through the Snow...

I think it should more appropriate be titled, "Dashing Through the Holiday".

All I want to know is how did it get to be the 15h of December (crap--it's my BIL's birthday today)? Wasn't it just Halloween? Or even Thanksgiving?

In what very little spare time I have, I'm realizing that my schedule is getting tighter and tighter and I'm running out of time to accomplish everything I think needs to be done.

A big part of it, is the sheer amount of crazy stuff that I take on. That I choose to do. I know that I could cut some of it out but they are traditions that I'd hate to see fall to the wayside.

Yeah, 120 Christmas cards eats up a fair amount of time. As does making Christmas candy to give to our friends/neighbors as gifts. Shopping probably can't be done away with but it adds an extra element of pressure to make sure gifts are bought and shipped to family back home in enough time to account for holiday shipping delays. I can't wait until the last couple of days and dash around town to check names off my list.

Add in making dishes for work parties (how did I get volunteered to make a dish for C's work party? One of these years I'd like to just be able to buy a couple dozen rolls and call it good.), prepping my house for visitors, making gifts for Secret Santa exchanges, planning for a holiday dinner which I keep inviting people to, and just the general chores of life and working 40 hours a week and it's easy to see why I'm running out of time and feeling rushed.

I woke up this morning to realize that it was Monday, yet again, and I was busy all weekend long. My hope is that by next Monday I will have everything finished and can actually enjoy the holiday a little bit.

December 4, 2008

Taking Requests?

As long as I can remember, I've always seen myself as "chubby".

Growing up I was usually a size or 2 bigger than my girlfriends. When many girls in High School could trade formal dresses for dances, my options were more limited as most things were too tight. As my sisters grew up I was envious of their weight. Both of them took after my Dad and were incredibly thinner than I was. When my Mom had to buy husky/plus sizes for me as a middle schooler, she was buying the thin/slim sizes for them. At an early age I took to wearing baggy sweaters and oversized t-shirts to cover the extra flab around my middle. In High School gym class I picked a back corner of the locker room to change in. Doing so as quickly as possible so no one could see my bare skin and laugh at me.

Clothing manufacturers have only helped to manifest this image. As clothing got more form fitting and jeans more tight the size I wore went higher and higher. I hated to shop for clothes and only did so when absolutely necessary. There was an episode in Provo once that made my head spin as I scrambled to get out of the dressing room and to my car with any dignity. It's hard to see yourself as even average when you're buying x-large shirts.

I'm finding that it's really difficult to change that mental picture I have of myself. It's a hard image to get out of your head. I think I could be down to a size 4 (which will never happen due to my body shape) and still think of myself as needing to lose weight. I'm beginning to fit into mediums now where I never could before. But old habits die hard and I grab the large and extra-large off of the rack to try on.

Requests have been made to post some before and after pics. For years I've tried to stay behind the camera, designating myself as the picture taker instead of the subject. I hate to see pictures of myself.

But I'll see what I can come up with.


December 1, 2008


Just in time for holiday dinners, trays of Christmas goodies and company parties -- I hit my goal weight.

It took me 16 weeks to lose:
  • 17 pounds
  • 4% body fat
  • a combined total of 13".
For the first time in my life I'm happy with how I look (minus the 3" I lost in my chest). My BMI is well under the top range for normal and my body fat percentage falls into the very upper range of the "fitness" category. As long as I can remember I've been overweight (BMI) and acceptable (body fat %). I'm seeing definition of muscles that I've never seen before and I physically feel better than ever. All of it combined feels great.

More importantly though, I'm proud of myself. Dieting is hard for me. I like to eat. Especially things that aren't healthy for me -- ice cream, chocolate, breads, etc. Being on the core program of WW helped me to cut that extra junk out and to focus on eating healthy foods in smaller portions. I think too, that paying the monthly fees made me commit to it. I was wasting my money if I wasn't following the program.

Once I hit my goal weight, WW put me into what they term "maintenance" but didn't drop the monthly fees since I am doing the online program. I've found a calculator online that explains the formula for figuring points and I have printed off the list of core foods. So for now, I think I'm going to stop my subscription and have a go at it on my own.

My next goal is to make it through to the first of January and maintain this weight. That will be the true test as to how well I can do it on my own.