October 31, 2013

Candy Sorts

Does anyone else sort their Halloween candy? Maybe we're weird that way?  Our children really like to do it, too. We just sort and sort and sort and then eat as much of our favorite stuff as possible...and we put the other stuff back in our candy bowl to give to someone else knocking at our door.

My little baby Graeden turned ten on Monday. Now that it's Thursday, he's declared he's too old to go trick or treating. What?! Too old?! No way. We challenged him about this and then he started saying that it was boring. What?! Boring?! Going to houses all around the neighborhood and getting a surprise in your candy sack? No way. Not boring. Pretty exciting, actually.

I hope he changes his mind next year. He stayed home and passed out candy while we went all over the neighborhood. Then Kira and I stayed home eating as much candy as we could while Tymon took the others to an adjoining neighborhood. When they got back Tymon noticed Kira on the table with a couple of lollipops in her hand. "Why does Kira have two open lollipops?" he asked. She doesn't, I replied. She's got one in her mouth, too.

After scripture reading and prayers, I insisted that the kids brush their teeth really well. I checked each kid's handiwork, which involves me scraping a few of their teeth with my fingernail. If I find any scum then they go back and brush again. Tonight's rule was that if I sent them back then they couldn't have any candy tomorrow. And if I sent them back again then they wouldn't have any candy for a week. I don't know if that is too harsh or not but I thought it'd be motivating. Wouldn't you know it Jocelyn was the only one to pass on the first time...so now we have some upset boys. Yikes! They'll be okay, though. We'll have plenty for quite some time.
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October 27, 2013

Take Two: Haunted Basement

Last night, we had a house full of kids lined up to go through Tymon's second annual haunted basement. The kids love it and went through again and again and again. Tymon loves making it, which is good, because if left to me, it wouldn't get done. We added some new things this year and have a few more effects saved for next year...only because I found them at the store on sale for half off a few hours before the party started. No problem. It's never too late to get started on next year's preparation. Ha ha ha.

Graeden acted as the Grim Reaper to lead through small groups of people. Elliott and my cousin's daughters played a few other roles to really get the spectators' blood pumping.

I remembered the non-success of my mice hors-d'oeuvres last year and this year just did a meatloaf mummy. It was so much simpler and still looked good. The bacon shrunk more than I expected but it still turned out pretty fantastic and our friends loved it. I made a tasty caramelized onion and sweet potato soup that was also a big hit. There were several guests in costume. Tymon and I were Peeta and Katniss. I didn't carry around my bow, though. That was an awkward accessory.

Guest List Included:
  • Maklemore
  • Katniss Everdeen
  • Peeta Mellark
  • Popeye
  • Nurse
  • Whoopie Cushion 
  • Trophy Wife
  • Three Witches
  • Two Monkeys
  • Two Cats
  • Two Grim Reapers
  • Two Zombies
  • Lorax
  • Zebra
  • Lego man
  • Mime
  • Mermaid
  • Ninja
  • Baseball player
  • Mad Scientist
  • Bumble Bee
  • Ben Ten
  • And several of the Johns' friends and neighbors

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October 12, 2013

Self Discovery III: Rebellion

I'm not sure why I'm just now making all sorts of discoveries about myself. Maybe because now I'm looking. Have any of you seen The Shunning? It's on Netflix instant play if you want a good drama to watch.

The story involves an Amish girl named Katie who decides not to marry a guy and  ends up running off at the alter. The entire community, including her family shunned her. Turns out that Katie is adopted and her birth mother came to town after 18 years to find her. She was dying. Katie's adoptive mother breaks the shunning and talks to her as does the village midwife. When Katie says to the midwife that she wants to go and find her birth mother so she can find out who she really is, the midwife stops her and the conversation goes something like this:

Midwife: Who you really are? That's a peculiar thing to say.

Katie: What do you mean?

Midwife: Well, I know how you are. You're that little girl who loved picking flowers of every color, squabbling with your ornery brother, listening to your mama's stories, and always at her father's feet, taking late night buggy rides with Daniel Fisher. All of that child, that's who you are. If you need to go see [your birthmother], then go. Or if you just need to discover the world, then go....but don't go out there thinking you're going to find something that you ain't already found right here. The miracle ain't the life you missed Katie, it's the life you got.

This conversation struck me. Hard. And set me on a path of awareness about my own self discovery.

Today's self discovery and internal conflict: I'm rebellious. Through and through.

Even things that don't outwardly seem rebellious, really are. For example, most people who are really in to health and nutrition do it because they feel better. My diet has always been fairly decent. What I do with kale/pineapple or sweet potato strawberry smoothies is definitely for better health, but not because my body feels so great after drinking them. It doesn't. They take me from maybe a 75% optimal health level up to an 80%. I'm sure more regular exercise would boost me up to an 85% and fermented foods might boost me up to a 90%. I've yet to discover the next step, but that doesn't matter. The fact of the matter is that I enjoy good health on a regular basis. I rarely get sick I'm sure because of it.

So, what's the rebellion part? I firmly believe our governments are in bed with the food industry, big agriculture, big oil, big business, chemical companies, pharmaceutical companies, and health care industry for power and to get financial gain off the backs of the people. They allow big Ag to poison us with pesticides, fake food-like substances and chemically tainted meat. Then we get sick and seek medical care. Modern medicine doesn't tell us to eat better food but rather doctors are trained to mask the real problems by pushing pills for our latest symptoms. Then we need more pills to combat the side effects of the previous pills.

My move to more and more natural and traditional foods is my way of rebellion against the corruption that surrounds me. I will not participate in their game. I'm opting out. Sometimes, I think we should have good health insurance. I'm not exactly sure why I want that coverage though...it won't cover the alternative medicinal approaches I'd no doubt end up choosing.

So this rebellious spirit of mine has come to garner more and more light in my self awareness over the past several months. Mostly with anyone who inadvertently exerts even the least bit of control over me. Or judges me. Or asks me to do something I don't want to do.

Case in point...I crossed the parking lot to pick up Jocelyn from school. There is a crosswalk in the middle of the lot but I was at the end and it didn't even occur to me to go totally out of my way to use it. So I crossed. A couple of teachers were at the sidewalk where Jocelyn was waiting. Jocelyn took my hand, we turned and were stepping off the sidewalk when one of the ladies said something about using the crosswalk.

I stopped and looked at her but my brain was having a hard time understanding that she was talking to me. A grown woman. Holding my daughter's hand. Checking both ways for traffic.

Before I knew it, I'd politely said to the lady, "I don't want to, but thank you." And I crossed the lot. From the audible surprise at my response, I gather I said the wrong thing.

I posted about it on my Facebook page and haven't seen such a long line of responses from you, my friends, about anything I've posted in a long time. Many of you are rebels at heart. Some of you viewed using the crosswalk as a safety issue. Others wanted me to set a good example.

But this is the example I want my children to see. We need to make sure our actions are safe (crossing the path of cars after we've stopped, looked and listened and found no danger) and trust that the decision we made for ourselves is correct. And second, most people are happy to tell other people what to do. There's a lot of unsolicited advice that floats around in the atmosphere. We don't need to do everything others tell us to do. We can politely refuse to do something that isn't going to work for us.

What was she going to do anyway? Tell the principal? Call the police? I'd love to see the dispatcher on that call. Ha ha. None of this occurred to me in the moment though. I was rebelling just to rebel. 

October 7, 2013

Self Discovery II: Challenges

Perhaps, just maybe, I know myself better than I think. I was so excited to hear about the Tough Mudder challenge last year. The course is 10-12 miles long with 24 obstacles. We started training with TM workouts in our basement  before the kids woke up. I hadn't purposefully exercised since I was pregnant with Kira and needed some endurance in a bad way.

After about a month, the TM date changed from May 2014 to October 2014. A year away?! Yikes! So when the rains started coming and the winter darkness set it, I wanted to put off training. There would be plenty of time to train next spring when the days would be longer and weather better. 

And then we watched TM videos on YouTube. Whoa. After watching some of the more grueling ones, nerves set in and I didn't want to even participate anymore. The TM is too hard for me.

We were offered the chance for a refund, which usually doesn't happen but did this time because of the date change. There was a refund deadline given...and about 3 days too late, I got online to get one. Doh! 

Not wanting to waste the entrance fee, I decided to go through with the original plan....and I was also fully aware that I didn't have to do every obstacle. You're allowed to walk around any that you don't feel comfortable with (or the water ones if you don't swim). So at a minimum, I'd only have to do the running part of the course. That's manageable. 

On TM day, I found that I wanted to do the challenges. It was no longer fear of the unknown setting in, but rather I was looking at a challenge I thought I could do.

Tough Mudder Lessons:

1. I'm most happy in the midst of obstacles and challenges. During the TM, I wore my smile - not on purpose, but because I was having a great time. All those pre-TM nerves were for nothing. Goodbye doubt. You did nothing for me.
Walk the plank - 15 foot drop into a muddy watering hole.
2. The camaraderie amongst Mudders inspired an improved performance. Not just encouragement between teammates, but among everyone. We were in this together. The course was laid out so that paths crossed and we saw many participants with different start times running in opposite directions of each other. As we passed, hands were held out to give high-fives. We cheered each other on. If anyone needed a hand on an obstacle, there was always one readily available. We weren't strangers but rather Mudders helping Mudders.

3. Effective leadership can come from behind. Some of the trails in the course were narrow. As in, it'd be awkward to pass a slow person in front of you if you wanted to go faster. At one point about 8 miles in, we were tired and walking and heard this booming voice behind a line of 20+ people call out, "Let's take it to a jog!" My teammate and I were saying something like, nah, I'm tired. I'm walking. And who was that voice back there anyway? Then a few people up, someone started jogging and it was a chain reaction. When the girl in front of me started jogging, so did I. And the Mudder in back of me, too. It was amazing that one voice could have such power and influence over random strangers fellow Mudders...even when our initial reaction was more of a "meh, I'll do what I want" attitude. Of course, we thought it was possible that the man behind the seemingly pleasant voice might eat us later...so it was definitely better to pick up the pace. 

4. Most challenges were mental. So if you can get over the dirtiness/temperature/shock of it all, then the actual activity wasn't hard or even physically challenging. If you can't swing from one ring to the next, it's okay. It's just done over a pool of water so you get wet if you drop. Not a problem if you can swim, which is what I did.

My hardest challenge came from combining my physical grit with my mental fear of being cold. I'd been mostly dry for over an hour and it was late afternoon and a little bit chilly when we got to the monkey bars over water. I'd tried monkey bars at the playground. I used to do them at recess all the time. Skipping rungs and everything. Uh, yeah, not anymore. I fell. I knew I'd fall into the water and then I'd be wet and cold and the sun was going down...so I'd be cold for a while.

I watched Tymon go across. His method was long. One hand to one bar. Then the other meets it. Then one hand to the next one. It seemed simple enough. I tried it on the first couple of rungs. It worked. I kept going. I thought I'd fall, but didn't want to. I was going to complete this. I do not want to get wet. I'm not getting wet. No water for me. My faced scrunched in determination. I was past the halfway point. My palms wished they had some callouses to ease the pain. It'd be terrible to drop three rungs from the end. And there's nothing like kick your physical abilities in motion. And after 3 days the muscles I used to cross those monkey bars were no longer sore. But the mental boost remains. I can do hard things.

5. Failing hurts. The first time I tried to get up the greased quarter pipe, I couldn't jump high enough to reach the helping hands and slid down. Each seam in the pipe hurt and scraped my legs as I slid down. I honestly didn't think this challenge was going to be so hard.

See me here? This was my second attempt. Once again, I couldn't get to those hands. I'm falling backward and ended up hitting my head. I was a little embarrassed with so many eyes on me. And my head really hurt.

This next collage is my third try. Sometimes, we just have to keep trying even when we fail and even when failing hurts. I made it up thanks to some fantastic guys on the top pulling me up...and the determination to keep trying despite failure.

Sometimes, we fail because we don't get the right help. Tymon was one of those guys helping on top for a couple of our team members. The first one was one of my friends, a girl - not so heavy. The second was a guy. He was bigger and couldn't just be pulled up. He said to Tymon to grab his hand in a different way. That way he could use his strength to help leverage and pull himself up and not be totally dependent on the guys helping from above. It worked for him. Another one of our team members I watched at least 4 times try to make it up. He got a hold of the hands at least 3 times...but each time the help from the top wasn't enough to pull him up. How frustrating! 

Our entire team finished the Tough Mudder challenge and most of us completed every obstacle. I didn't go in thinking I would do everything, but I did. And am happy with my finish. There were three on our team that skipped one or two of the challenges, but they tried them...especially that quarter pipe. Failing hurts. And sometimes, the pain is severe.

From Tymon:

1. The Tough Mudder is not a race but a challenge. Same with life. Our team finished together in 6 hours. The average time is 3-4 hours. But everyone made it.
2. You forget yourself when serving others. Without the help of Tymon and others some of us would probably still be in a mud pit somewhere.
3. Sometimes you don't realize how beat up you got until you clean up later. He broke his toe going down the mud cliff. We both had some skinned knees and random bruises here and there.
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October 1, 2013

Bunny Bunny Bunny Bliss

There's a competition in my house to see who can say, "bunny bunny bunny" first on the first day of the month. My parents taught it to me. My father's parents taught it to him.

Tymon went to bed last night at 11:56 PM. I stayed up 4 minutes longer before going in to brush my teeth so that I would be the first one past midnight to say it. I'm not sure if we really need this imaginary luck or not, but we certainly vie for it. Jovana, 9 hours ahead of us in Europe, will either get us early, when it's the first day of the month for her, or she will get us at 9 AM her time when it's midnight our time. She gets my dad, too. It's ridiculous, really and our children are starting to get in on the action. The power of example. And the cool factor. You're definitely cool if you get it first.

So I get home this afternoon and start unloading groceries out of the car as the kids get home from school and Graeden starts telling me that he got bunny bunny bunny first this morning and he stayed up past midnight just so he could get it. I say, really? And he goes on and on. I explain how it doesn't count if you don't wake any one up and then he looks out the window and says he sees a bunny. For real. There's a bunny outside our house.

His declaration sounded like it may have been real...but his latest trick at the dinner table is saying, "look over there!" and then either stealing food off someone's plate or giving someone something he doesn't want to eat.

So, a little reluctantly, I looked outside. There was a bunny alright. But he didn't look wild. He didn't act wild. We caught him and asked around and found out that another family in the cul-de-sac bought two female bunnies recently. Now they have six. And next week, I'm sure they'll have twelve. Ha ha ha. All the same, we had fun for a bit trying to catch this one.

Jett finally got him trapped in one of our stools. He's yours if you want him. Let me know if you're local and looking for a pet. There are several that need new homes.

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