Friday, December 31, 2010

A Year In Review..

As 2010 winds down I've been very focused on the year to come and the changes I plan on making. I've paid very little attention to what has passed this year, which I suppose is not a bad thing.. we should all continue to look forward with hope and optimism instead of looking back with sorrow, regret, or pain.

However, since the subject was brought up by a friend of mine, I thought I would take a quick moment to share the things that have happened to me this past year.

Thankfully, when I look back on it, most of it is good. The only bad thing that happened in 2010 was that we lost hubby's mother back in March, and I lost 3 of my cats through out the year (but I recently got 2 new kittens). Also I turned 30 back in May, which isn't necessarily bad for most people, but it was certainly depressing for me! I truly do not want to be in my 30's yet.. I no longer wish to grow up!!

Some of the good things that happened in 2010 are: I participated in a charity event called Great Strides where I raised $100 for Cystic Fibrosis; I lost a total of 80 pounds! (though I did gain a little back); One of my children entered preschool, and 3 others entered their final year in their current school.. next year those 3 will move on to new schools (and I'll have a high schooler!); I have gained new friends and have had new experiences and have grown a little, as we all do every year!

All in all not a bad year, but it also wasn't extremely eventful. I am excited to see what the new year brings!

For a less personal review of last year check out these Extreme Moments of 2010.

Time for New Year's Resolutions!

Are you setting any big resolutions this year? I usually set a few each year.

One of my usual resolutions is to lose weight. I'm rarely successful with this one.. but I was last year. Between October 2009 and April 2010 I lost about 80 pounds. However slowly a lot of my bad habits came back, I got lazy about going to the gym, and got lazy about what I was eating, so I put about 20 pounds back on. In the coming year I'd like to get that 20 pounds off again, stay motivated to go to the gym everyday and push myself the way I used to, and find a healthy eating plan I can be comfortable sticking with!

Another resolution I set every year is to be a better mother and wife. We all have our flaws, there's no denying that! I have very little patience, a short temper, and little things tend to drive me insane! These are some things I need to improve on for the sake of my family. I'd also like to work on spending more quality time with my children.

This year I have a new resolution I haven't set before, though I'm sure it is a resolution most people do set annually. This year I want to work towards getting us in a better financial situation. I am currently hunting for a part-time job to help out a little bit for the time being, but I'm also working on getting into school to earn my associates degree to become an Administrative Assistant. Hubby and I were checking out jobs in that field last night, starting off I could make more money than he makes now, and he's worked at his job for 6 years to reach his current pay rate.. and basically he's at his ceiling. He cannot get anymore raises as his company cannot afford him! So, when I graduate in about 2 years, we should be pretty darn comfortable with both of us working! Maybe after that we can work on sending hubby back to school to earn a business associates degree!

I am a pretty determined person. When I set my mind to do something, I usually have no problem achieving my goals. I'm fairly confident I will keep these resolutions this year, and be successful at them!

For you, my dear readers, I wish you all happiness, health, and prosperity in the coming year! See ya next year!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Small Steps lead to Big Changes..

This has been a changing week in my life.

I've been unsatisfied with my situation for a long time. I had a child in high school, dropped out and got my GED, held many dead end jobs that I quit after just a few months, then I had some more kids and became a stay at home mom. My husband struggles to support us. He works over 50 hours a week yet his paycheck doesn't even cover our bills and food.

I'm not usually an ambitious person. Mostly I just feel sorry for myself. I wonder why my life isn't better. Why do we work so hard yet we've achieved nothing? What have I done to deserve this?

The fact of the matter is, life is what you make it. My lack of ambition has led to a lack of other things in my life. I lack friends, I lack finances, I lack security and happiness.

So a few weeks ago I got to a point where I'd decided I've had enough of this. I want better. I want a nice house. I want to be able to afford stuff.. my bills, extra clothes, food! I don't want to be extremely wealthy, just comfortable and secure. Wishing and hoping to win the lottery isn't going to accomplish these goals.. I need to work for them!

So, this week, I set out to find a part-time, evening job. I haven't succeeded yet, but I've put in a few applications and plan to continue to put in applications until I find a job. Though I know it won't solve all my problems, and it won't allow me to truly accomplish any goals, it will at least help make our bills more affordable.

Today I was going about my usual online activities, when a thought popped into my head. I don't even know why or how it popped into my head, but it did. I need more schooling! I'm never going to get anywhere working a bunch of dead end jobs for minimum wage. What I need is a career, and I can't get a career without schooling.

So, I applied for a part-time college.. and surprisingly I got a return phone call half an hour later! The ball is rolling. I am working towards getting everything in line to enter this school by January 12. I will take 2 online classes per semester and have an Associates degree as an Administrative Assistant in 20 months!

A few small steps.. but they will lead to major changes! And at the moment, I'm super excited about it!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Potty Training Time Again!

You'd think that after potty training four other children, the youngest would be super easy! Not so much!

I'd been attempting to potty train him for awhile now. We'd start and stop and start and stop. He wasn't really keen on sitting on the potty for any length of time, so I was usually unable to catch that first pee, which of course is the hardest part of potty training. Once you catch the first pee the child typically understands the concept, and after that will usually go much easier once seated on the potty. Then the next hurdle is getting them to tell you they have to go, which isn't usually as difficult. Using a public or unfamiliar potty, and doing #2 in the potty are also challenges for most kids.. but nothing like the patience and endurance it takes to catch that first pee!

I'd have to say our most successful attempt was over the summer. We had a pool membership, so the children wanted to go swimming often, but I rarely had the money to afford those expensive swimmy diapers! So, we worked on using the potty. He was actually pretty good at telling me he had to go when we were at the pool and he wasn't wearing a diaper.. but he wasn't good at going. I'd hold him on the potty for close to half an hour, then finally we'd both give up, I'd set him on the floor, and that's when he'd pee!

I do not have a lot of patience, so after a few frustrating attempts with no results, I gave up and bought the expensive swimmy diapers!

We eventually tried again, but had even less luck as he was suddenly totally against sitting on the potty at all! Anytime I'd try he'd spend the whole time crying until I gave up and put a diaper on him again.

I do take the blame on this one, of course. I think he was ready to use the potty quite awhile ago, I just didn't have the patience to pursue it. Another set back was my fear of forcing him to use a public toilet. We go to the gym everyday, where he spends a minimum of an hour in the child watch. This isn't really conducive to potty training! He's either going to have a lot of accidents, or I'm going to inconvenience the staff by making them help me with my potty training efforts, or I'm going to have to put him in a diaper (pull ups are diapers in my opinion, and in most children's opinions too.. totally useless, just more expensive!) which I feel erases all the progress we'd made to that point.

So, potty training isn't always on top of my list of priorities.. but it is something we need accomplished soon. He's going to be 3 in a couple of weeks, and I'm tired of spending a bundle on diapers! It's time to just do it and get it over with!

Well, tonight one of my Facebook friends posted on her status that her son had finally done a #2 in the potty. This got me thinking about the whole potty training situation again. So we went in the bathroom and sat on the potty. After about 5 minutes of waiting and nothing happening, I was ready to give up that attempt for the time being. I left him sitting on the potty while I began to draw his bath. Low and behold, the moment I turned on the bath water, he peed! Yay! I cheered and applauded, like a good mom.

After his bath I sat him on the potty again, and again, after a short wait, he went again! Yay! More cheering and applauding!

At that point I put him in underwear.. let's see how far I can push this!

He did wet his pants once, but then went on the potty an additional three times in the past three hours!

I'm being very brave and actually sending him to bed without a diaper! Let's see how well this works!

Not the Christmas I expected!

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas. I am personally glad it's over for another year!

My Christmas was not exactly what I expected. My kids did not react the way I thought they would. My oldest son is usually extremely excited about his gifts.. this year he was not, and I really thought he'd go crazy over some of the things he got. He liked some of the smaller gifts, seemed pleased with a NY Giants cup, Axe body spray set, honestly his best reaction was for the football cards he pulled out of his stocking. I thought he'd flip when he opened his Skechers since he's never owned a brand new pair of name brand shoes in his life! Nope, his reaction was "Well, I didn't really need shoes." I thought he'd LOVE his new coat, a Nike jacket with the NY Giants emblem on the chest.. basically he just thought it was cool. He was happy with his 6 month Sports Illustrated subscription, but was not pleased with his Avatar video game, the cd player, or the cd I picked out for him.

My middle son was also less than pleased with the CD player.. I got a big "Oh, great" very sarcastically. I think his favorite toys were is Nerf gun and Darth Vader guy.

My daughter was happy with most of her gifts, but wasn't as excited about all of her Hannah Montana things as I thought she'd be.. she had a huge reaction for the HM outfit her grandpa got for her, which was the first thing she opened, but after that it was "Oh.. more Hannah stuff.." sarcastically. She was happy with the Disney Stars CD she got though, and her favorite (from her reaction to it) was her Furreal kitten.

The little 2 were plenty excited at everything they opened.. the only disappointment with them was that my 4 year old remembered that he'd asked Santa for a Diego toy and did not receive one (I couldn't find any at Walmart and ran out of time and money to go shopping around at other stores). I hoped he'd be so pleased with his toys that he wouldn't remember he'd asked for a Diego toy.. I was wrong!

Man.. what's a mom got to do to please her kids on Christmas??

Well, now that it's all over with the kids seem to be happy. They're testing out all their new toys, my oldest is even playing his Avatar game that he didn't seem happy to open. So although the original reaction was not what I was looking for, they still enjoy their gifts, it's not like they're refusing to play with them. The 8 year old is even really enjoying his CD!

Maybe they just got their hopes up too high?

Though I am pleased to announce that as far as my gifts go, I'm very happy. My husband usually isn't much of a great gift giver, but this year he got almost everything I asked for and even things I didn't ask for but was hoping for. The #1 item on my wish list was the Twilight Saga Scene It game and I did get that, as well as all three Twilight movies. I also wanted the last two Twilight soundtracks (got the first last Christmas) but I did not get those.. but I did get two CDs from artists I've recently discovered that I liked, so I was really happy with that.

Of course I already have a plan in place for affording next Christmas. I know my downfall this year was starting too late.. so for next year I'm starting right now!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Don't Worry, Be Happy

You can only do what you can do, and give what you can give. No one expects more from you. So relax if you aren't relaxed. During holidays many of us instinctively want to do and give more... or create the perfect event. Then suddenly we lose sight, go overboard, get overwhelmed, anxious, and it's not fun anymore! Remember, It's about spending time with others, love, giving, helping, and being grateful. So slow down. It's okay as it is. Don't worry, be happy. And be grateful for family, friends, what holiday you are celebrating this season, and love.

This quote came from "Simply Positive", a group I follow on Facebook to help lift my spirits from time to time.

When I read it I thought it really hit home for me. I've been stressing over the last few weeks, like many people. Christmas snuck up on me this year and I'm far from organized. Usually I start a little earlier, I put the majority of my purchases on layaway to help afford it, I sign up for Christmas baskets from charities to help with gifts and food.. and come Christmas Eve I usually feel satisfied with what we've accomplished. This year is different. I didn't start a layaway, I didn't sign up for baskets from charity. I've been attempting to work on my Christmas shopping each week while grocery shopping.. and attempting to not go over my usual weekly grocery budget, which means we've been less than satisfied with our food situation recently.

Having five kids doesn't make it easy. I remember last year the older kids each got 14 gifts. The youngest got a little less and was upset when he did not have more gifts to open. I know for the little ones it's not about what they get but that they have a lot to open, even if it's cheap $1 toys. So this year I stressed myself out with the importance of making sure each child got an equal amount of gifts. Sadly for me it seems certain children are easier than others in my home. Some years I'm less than satisfied with the final outcome for a particular child, but more than pleased with the outcome for another child. This year it seems my oldest son and my daughter were the easiest ones to shop for. I had to pass on a few things I wanted for each of them because I knew that would mean one more thing I'd have to find for the others and I just couldn't afford that.

In the end each of my children have 11 gifts.. and hopefully they'll be happy with the gifts they recieved. Of course I've been driving myself crazy hoping they'll like the gifts enough, and what if one of them thinks someone else's gifts are better than theirs.

That is why this quote really hit home for me. When I think back to all my childhood Christmases, there isn't one that stands out as better than the rest. I never got any gifts that were really amazing in my eyes. But I did always get a decent number of gifts that I liked. Most of them were inexpensive as we never had a lot of money, but at the time that didn't matter. Of course I didn't have siblings to contend with or compare my gifts to.. but my children aren't the type to compare or compete with each other. They're usually appreciative and greatful.

This quote has helped me to see that I'm making a big fuss over nothing. This Christmas my children's joy is my #1 priority.. and although they won't have as many gifts as last year, or as expensive gifts as last year, they will still be plenty pleased.

Wishing you all a stress free, enjoyable holiday!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Adding Walmart to my Boycott List

For years I've shopped at Walmart for my groceries to save money. I'm usually shocked by the prices at other stores, charging usually twice as much as Walmart would charge. I've hated Walmart all along. Anytime I step foot in that store, regardless of the location, I have an extremely stressful experience! The other shoppers are rude and inconsiderate, the employees are rude and slow, stockers working in the middle of the day leave their carts in the center of the aisle making it impossible to move around through the store, they're often out of particular items that I need.. I probably could go on forever! I still continue to shop there however, to save money, which is far more important than my stress level!

Well, no more!

It started off as a typical Friday, I go to the gym, leave there about 10:30 and head over to Walmart to do my grocery shopping. Rarely do I ever leave Walmart later than 12pm, which gives me plenty of time to get home and even put away the groceries before my preschooler's bus comes home at 12:45.

Well, this time I guess I took a little too long at Walmart because I was attempting to finish my Christmas shopping. The store was packed, they were out of a lot of the items I was looking for, and it was just an all around bad experience, as usual.

I finish the shopping and get to the register and realize it's now 12:25 and my house is about a 20 minute drive from this store!! Well, I picked a short lane so hopefully I can get out quick and make it home in time...

Wrong! I managed to pick the slowest cashier in the store! But I had so much stuff ($300 worth) I didn't want to have to come back and reshop for it all.. and much of it was my groceries, so milk and meat.. it's not like I could just leave it there waiting for me to come back for it an hour or so later.

So I warned the cashier I was in a hurry.. she said "I'm going as fast as I can".. then I swear she purposely went slower, and kept stopping the conveyer so I couldn't finish loading my groceries, which of course made the transaction longer as she had to stop and hold the button to make the conveyer move and she could have spent those precious seconds scanning my items to get me out quicker!

I asked her to call over a customer service rep so I can ask him what to do since there's no way I'll have time to finish this purchase and get my son on time. The CSR comes over and I tell him this cashier is too slow and I'm going to be late.. he says "There's no reason to speak like that about her." Um.. but I'm the customer and I'm unhappy! "Well you don't need to complain right in front of her.. she's been here for years" blah blah blah. Then he tells me I should have a professional attitude! Excuse me! I'm the CUSTOMER why should I have to have a professional attitude??

Now, in hindsight I can see that I should have made different choices. I could have either kept my mouth shut and let the slow cashier ring me out at her own pace, which would have actually saved me about 5 minutes of arguing with the CSR. Or I could have suspended the transaction and left my $300 worth of groceries and Christmas gifts, and come back for it all after driving the 20 minutes home to get my son. So, yes, I will take some of the blame for this.. and I'm not exactly mad at the cashier though it was annoying that she had to purposely go slower after I asked her to speed things up a little.

No, what I'm mad at is that CSR. Since when don't customers have the right to complain about poor service? Considering I was obviously already stressed out, shouldn't the CSR have diffused the situation by just apologizing and doing what he could to help me out? Did he think he was going to accomplish anything by arguing with me and telling me that this cashier I disliked was a good asset to their company who'd been there for years?

I've worked in customer service before.. I've had about every type of customer service job you can imagine! One of the first things they tell you is not to argue with a customer, especially one that appears to already be having a bad day! They'll tell you never to take it personally if a customer has a bad attitude towards you, because you don't know the whole story.. sometimes a customer just wants to yell at someone and you happen to be the one who's standing there.

I've always known Walmart has had bad customer service.. but this experience just takes the cake!

In the end I'd missed my son's bus by about 5 minutes, and he was driven back to the school where I had to go pick him up.. the poor boy! The school informed me there had been an accident nearby, so they assumed I was stuck in that traffic.. I didn't correct them!

At least there was no real harm done.. except that Walmart will be losing out on my $1,000 (minimum) a month and I'll probably be spending a bit more each week by shopping elsewhere, but at least I know I'll get great customer service and hopefully a less stressful shopping experience!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Getting Lost In the Christmas Shuffle

So this year has totally flown by! I feel like the end of the year has snuck up on me. One day I think "Oh, I have plenty of time to do this and that." and the next day "Oops, one week until Christmas and we haven't done any of our usual stuff...". Anyone else feeling this way? Well, we managed to cram a few things in. Today we brought the kids to A Dickens' Christmas in Skaneateles, NY. That is a ton of fun.. characters from A Christmas Carol wander the streets, conversing with folks, acting out scenes from the book, singing carols. There are little treats like a horse drawn carriage ride and roasted chestnuts. Last year we did this at the end of November.. this year, we went on the last day.. that's how far behind we are!

Another fun outing here in Central, NY is Lights On The Lake. We did this one last week.. another one we do every year. Two miles of amazing light displays.. what a wonderful Christmas tradition!

Of course there are also the Christmas movies and specials.. which we don't seem to have the time to watch all the ones we'd like to this year. I really don't remember ever feeling so rushed during a Christmas season! Is it just me?

Thankfully Christmas is almost upon us, and will be over with in a flash.. then we get to look forward to the New Year! Wishing you all the very merriest of Christmases!