Monday, May 31, 2010

Just Drive

On Saturday, we got in the car and just drove with no destination in mind.
Beautiful old cemetary
Me. Me. Me.
Throwing rocks
Someone's dress got really, really wet...

Fallen soldier cemetery - some died in 2010
Another beach!!!

Beautiful walk
Reminds me of my home - the Niagara Escarpment
A good time was had by all!
I love our lives. Crazy. Unpredictable. Perfect.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Separate Vacations

About 2 years into our marriage, J and I went on separate vacations at different times. What an uproar that caused!! Not with us, but with a bunch of people we know.

J and I had been working at the same place, less than 30 feet from each other. We drove in to work together, saw each other often all day, had lunch together, drove home together, and spent all of our fun time together. We are best friends and enjoyed each other's company. It was nice.

But then my parents were celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary and J had something going at work. I went to visit my family in Canada alone. My youngest niece asked if J and I were divorced! Haha. Nope. Just practical.

J wanted to go visit his friends in Missouri but I wanted to get a few things on our house knocked out. For our wedding anniversary that year, I arranged for J to stay with friends. He was surprised and thrilled!! Some people thought J and I were having marital problems because he went without me. But when he got home, I had a surprise another for him. I had enlisted the aid of friends to wallpaper and paint parts of our home.

Since then, we have taken a few trips without each other. Most of those were in 2008 when we went different places to clear our minds and get refocused after the lay off. I took the kids to Canada by myself 2-3 times that year as it was so close to just drive up on a whim.

I would highly recommend separate vacations if you spend a lot of time with your spouse. Or if your idea of a vacation is laying out on the beach but his idea is to climb mountains. With kids, it is nice to get away from the kids for a weekend or a week.

Happy vacationing!!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Do You Want The Full Scoop?

Okay, if you are a faithful reader and want the scoop on what I can't write on WidneyWoman, then please e-mail widneywoman at gmail dot com with your e-mail address with the Subject: I'm IN. I will send you a private invite to my other blog.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

A Fine Ending to a Great Weekend

It has been raining or cold or
we've been out enjoying our city.
Today was perfect to take the kids out on their bikes.
It's all fun & learning until....
And so ended our family riding lesson.
Baby Girl trying to hold it together...
FYI, the nose scrape has nothing to do with the elbow scrape. We do not know how Mini Me got the nose scrape. It is a mystery to us. It just appeared about a week ago.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Family Weekend - Summer is HERE!!!

We had the most amazing weekend with our kids. It's one of those weekends that reminded us (not that we needed it) why we love Chicago so much.

FRIDAY Evening
Adler Planetarium to see
Members Only pre-screening of new movie.
Having fun playing without
lots and lots of kids around from
Me & Mini Me in a 'kids only' space.
Fog rolling in on our city
King of the World!!
Walk along the lakefront
Hancock Tower
Buckingham Fountain
2 years, 1 month, 3 days
That's how long it took for us to get here!

We took a cab
to Navy Pier
Sailed on Windy, a Pirate Ship!
It was wonderful and educational
Walked to the end of Navy Pier
Rode the Ferris Wheel
Saw the skyline
We drove home along Michigan Ave with
windows down and Carsie Blanton CD playing
We love Chicago!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Knowing Me, Knowing You - May '10

Time once again for that monthly interview project, Knowing Me, Knowing You, created by The Fairy Blogmother.

1. Coffee or tea?
In theory, I love tea. I collect tea pots. I don't looooove coffee. I do love a chai tea latte. And in the fall, I love a pumpkin spice chai tea latte. And yes, I know chai and tea are the same thing but I promise you, they don't make it the same at Starbucks if I don't say 'chai tea latte'.

2. Are you watching Glee? Have I asked you that already?
Yes, you have asked and no, I don't. I saw maybe part of show once and I thought I'd go insane if I had to watch that every week.

3. Do you sing?
I do. Terribly. I have sung to my kids since they were babies. Poor things.

4. What's your favourite John Cusack movie?
Sixteen Candles. That was the last John Cusack movie I ever watched. I actually had to IMDB him to see what movies he has been in. I don't think I've seen any of them. I don't even remember hearing about most of his movies.

5. Burger or hot dog?
Burger, please.

Please head on over to The Fairy Blogmother to see her answers and to play along!

2 Years Later

It was January 2008. J had been laid off from the media department at our church. We knew there was nothing for J in his field in Oklahoma (not just Tulsa, but all of Oklahoma). The biggest possibilities were Atlanta, Chicago, and Pensacola.
Almost 2 months later, when we were flown to Chicago for our interview weekend, J and I fell in love with Chicago. And with each other again. We officially began a new chapter of our lives on Friday, April 18th, 2008 when we moved all of our belongings to Chicago.

For as long as I could remember, J and I had talked about moving to New York or L.A. one day. We wanted to live downtown in a big city. We had even looked into living in downtown Tulsa.
I'm a Toronto girl. My first memories are based in Toronto. We moved to the burbs when I was a kid. When I was old enough, I ran to Toronto. I loved living in the big city. Each time I've tried living in suburbia or small towns, it felt like parts of me shriveled up and died. The first time J took me to the woods where he grew up, I was miserable. My hair kept getting caught on tree branches and the bugs ate me alive. I realized then that I truly 'I AM a city girl'.

J has always been a big lights, big city person. We both wanted to live in lofts with brick walls for as long as we could remember. People were always shocked J was from a small town. They always saw him as a big city boy.
J's career has taken off since the move. Chicago has afforded him so many opportunities to share his work on a national and international scale. He has been published in magazines and has spoken at conferences. It's a great side effect of a big city.

We love how our children have developed a broader worldview as a result of living in Chicago. They get to go to world class museums and see original art and sculptures. They have made friends with children of different ethnic and religious backgrounds. The schools they attend are amazing and simply not available everywhere.
Moving to Chicago was like going home for me. Many of the products I had gone without in Tulsa were in Chicago. In abundance! I was only an 8-hr drive away from my family for the first time in almost 10 years. We had a huge selection in radio stations again. And a Great Lake. I had lived next to Lake Ontario for almost 30 years. World class museums and attractions. People with foreign accents and ethnic pockets throughout the city. Not only could I visit Chinatown and Greek town, but there is an actual restaurant that serves Trinidadian food. Like I said. Home.

Two years later, Chicago is still one of the very best decisions we ever made for our family.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Mother's Day Montessori Style

Mini Me's class has a big Mother's Day celebration in the classroom each year. This is an opportunity for the children to show their parents around their class, taking them to their favorite stations and explaining what all goes on. I'm so thankful to my co-workers for covering for me so I was able to make it!!
She certainly loves the liquid soap!
It's funny her favorite station is one that I remember most from touring the school. Montessori is big on real life learning and growing the whole child. Pouring water from one container to another is actually a pretty important developmental stage for children of this age.
Mini Me is so smart!!
She was able to put the cards in order in no time.
The children read us a story & sang songs.
A gift for me!!
(Those are hand prints, not marijuana plants)
My big girl. I'm so proud of her!!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Life is NOT Fair!

If life were fair, I'd _________ (fill in the blank). What did you fill it in with? Something great and wonderful?

Our 7-yr old son is on a "that's not fair!" kick lately whenever he is denied something. It could be anything from being told to clean his room to not getting suckers 30 minutes before bedtime.

Motor Mouth's constant declaration that life is not fair has gotten me thinking. Life isn't fair. It really isn't. And I think that is a good thing. We need to throw out our internal scorecards that rate fairness. Too much good comes from the bad in our lives. If life were fair, think of all the amazing experiences you would have missed out on.

When our son says life is not fair, it makes me think of what would have happened if life WAS fair. If life was fair, Motor Mouth's birth mom would have grown up in a safe, loving and caring environment. If life were fair, Motor Mouth's birth mom would not have found herself pregnant at age 15. If life were fair, J and I would have been able to have biological children. If life were fair, we would have never found ourselves needing an adoption agency. If life were fair, we would not have the 2 most incredible and wonderful children that ever lived.

That's right, son, life's not fair. And I'm really glad it's not.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Why Moms Need iPhones

When I worked in the corporate world, I could have used a Blackberry but I never wanted to. I preferred staying low tech because I knew, the moment I had a Blackberry in hand, I would have been chained to work. Ever see the movie 2 weeks notice?

When we purchased our iPhones, it opened up a whole new world to me and now, I can't go back!!

GPS Directions
I almost never get lost anymore. 2 years in Chicago, I still have to rely on a map from time to time to get me where I need to go.

Lost Phone
We have Mobile Me. Among other features (like email and email management), we can do a search on a lost phone to see if I left it at work, the restaurant, or if it's most likely just buried in my purse!

My husband's work calendar automatically updates on my calendar.

"Mom, do sardines live in the ocean or a river or stream?" Google will give you the answer to your child's million and one great questions.

I keep up with my blogosphere by reading blogs when I have a free moment. You can also go to sites you have an interest in - check out the GAP Kids new line vs the Lands End line, etc.

My Shopping List
I list all the items I need from each different store I am planning on going to. When I get it, I slide my finger and it is checked off. I have lists for the produce store, the meat store, Target, Walmart, and clothing stores.

Camera and Video
I know other phones have a camera but do they have a video camera as well? And can you download the Photoshop app and edit pics on your phone? I have been to several bday parties where the parents did not have a video camera so I video tapped their kids' blowing out the candles and put it on YouTube for them.

I always ask my husband what the weather is going to be like, but I could just as easily look on my iPhone where I have 2 weather apps. I even know what the weather is like in my home town and a few other places I like.

I am always talking to parents and people and learning new things, new places to go, new programs for my kids, names of good schools, etc. I just enter the info in my Notes app and I have it at my fingertips.

I no longer carry a Bible to church. My iPhone has 15 different translations to choose from. One less thing to deal with on Sunday morning!

Red Laser
Ever wonder how much something costs or if you are getting the best price in your area? Let you camera scan the bar code and Red Laser will tell you the stores closest to you that sells it, how much and the online prices. Seriously.

I can do my banking from my phone. Transfer money, check balances, pay bills. Easy.

Bus Tracker
For city moms, you can find out when the next bus or train is coming and figure out the best route to take on public transit.

Get caught up on your reading while waiting at the dentist or doctor's office. There are hundreds of free books, or you can pay to download a book. It's nice to not have to lug a book around with you.

Kids Games
Of course, there are plenty of games your children can play - educational and simply fun games. I don't let my kids play with my iPhone after that one incident....

Period Tracker
Yeah, there's an app for that too! You can track your period and your moods!!

Social Networking
Twitter, Facebook are all on my iPhone. I can manage all of the Twitter accounts I tweet on (about 5).

I listen to Pandora stations on my iPhone. It's nice to be able to plug it into the car and have the music pipe through

Most blog sites have a mobile upload option. With the iPhone, you can actually pull up your site to see if you like it or not.

Store the same great music from your computer on your phone.

I forgot you also can check your email. I have about 10 accounts I check from my phone.

Silly, silly me. It's a phone too!!

There are lots more features and apps that you can download. That's just what I use the most. So, if you were on the fence, I hope this helps to push you off onto the iPhone side!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

I Won An Oscar!!

Not really, but I did get a blog writing award from a fabulous writer, KatMom over at Mercy Me, who has been a real life inspiration to me as a writer and a mom for more than a decade.

This is the award.

Technically, I won this award last August. So why the delay in posting about it? I typed it up and didn't realized I hadn't posted it until I found this in my Drafts today.

Getting this award from KatMom is like getting an Oscar in my books. So here is my Oscar acceptance speech:

"I would like to thank my homeboy, Jesus. Thanks Mom and Dad for your sacrifices, without which, I would not be the me I am. My favorite person ever, my grandfather, for choosing me as his favorite grandchild and not being afraid to admit it. To my oldest brother and sister - thank you for always being there for me. I don't want to thank my other brother because he didn't acknowledge me in the first printing of his book but I will, seeing as he was my biggest influence growing up.

"Oh, the music is playing... Wait! This may never happen to me again. I want to thank my husband, J for making all my dreams come true, including the ones I never knew I had. And to my children for giving me so much to blog about. Last, but not least, to Kathy for bestowing me with the honor of this award. Kathy has been an inspiration to me as a wife, mother, friend, fellow writer for over 13 years. Thank you. Thank you. Alright! I'm done. Play the music. What do you expect from a writer - a simple thanks?"

Now it is my turn to pass this honor on to 5 deserving bloggers:

For writing a bold, honest real man's point-of-view that puts a smile on my face

For being a creative influence on the church world

For being my inspiration as a mom, blogger, crafty person and over committed volunteer

For being a pioneer in journaling and one of the nicest, best people I've ever met

For coming up with original blog memes that people love and for stepping out of her comfort box to meet me

The award does come with some rules.
Here they are:

1. Pass the award on to 5 most-deserving blogging friends.

2. Link to the author and blog name from whom he/she received the award.

3. Display the award and link to its explanation.

4. The receiver must visit the explanation post and add their name to the list of winners.

5. Winners must repost the rules.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Survival Skills for a Production Wife

I met J Widney at 1:00 am when he was crashing at his aunt’s house after volunteering all day for a Christmas production at his church. We soon became best friends. I subsequently worked alongside J on several productions and projects. In fact, 3-1/2 years later, my "marriage proposal" was cut short because J had to get back to a graduation production he was working on.

Knowing all of that, I still wasn’t prepared to be a ‘Production Wife’. When J and I married, he worked full-time for his dad. It was a great gig – no late nights, no weekends. Within a year, J was on staff at our church. We both were. And it was fine. We didn’t have kids so working late at night was easy.

I liked hanging out at the church with J and the guys. I quickly became the designated production wife who took care of getting meals for the guys. I would take everyone’s orders, pick up the food and setup the table. Then I’d clean up after them. Usually, I stuck around reading or doing work in my office. Basically, I hung out and avoided being home alone for hours on end. I’m pretty good at sleeping stretched out on a row of chairs.

It should be mentioned that I am not a cook. A more domesticated production wife would have fixed home cooked meals for the guys. In fact, the senior production wife (of J's boss) did this a number of times. I did what I was capable of doing.

I couldn’t help J as I didn’t know anything about lighting or sound or set design or videos. I was pretty good at giving my opinion. Still am, really. Sometimes, I was able to unpack par cans (basic stage lights) or untangle strings of Christmas lights. And I could tell if something was centered or not.

Sitting in conversations with guys talking shop was not fun when I didn’t know what they meant. So I started reading Lighting Dimensions, Church Communications and other trade magazines. Jason kept them in our master bathroom so it wasn’t like I was wasting time reading. Soon, I found myself understanding the conversations and able to ask not so dumb questions. It made me feel more connected to my husband and his world. Dinners with the guys became more fun too!

And I did listen to what the guys were saying. I’ll never forget the first time I commented that a song sounded ‘open’. J and his boss stopped and stared at me. I was right and they were shocked. It made me want to learn more about their world of sound.

Another thing I did to draw us closer was to volunteer in the sound booth with J. I started running the words for songs and putting up slides, starting videos. Then one day, a camera guy didn’t show up. I ran camera and loved it!! Soon, I was on the rotation. I’m Miss Organization, so it was natural to be stage manager for a couple of productions. So much fun!! For the most part, it was a great experience. And I got some cool things to add to my resume. More importantly, it drew J and I closer together. It showed that I had an interest in his life and career.

Then our son was born. At first, I just brought Motor Mouth with me. It did get a bit crazy when I realized I had to get a baby carrier, 4 large pizzas, 3 bottles of pop, cups, plates, and napkins in the church building. In the snow. Uphill. When Motor Mouth became mobile, I stayed home more. I would bring Motor Mouth by the church so J could spend a few minutes with his son. And so we could see the progress being made.

When our daughter was born 3 years later, it was increasingly difficult to attend church on a regular basis, much less commit to volunteering or spending hours hanging out in the church auditorium late at night. I had to stop being the designated production wife. That’s when I transitioned to ‘Production Widow’.

Suddenly, I found myself as a single mom that happened to be married. It was hard at first and hard not to resent my husband’s career choice. Fortunately, I had family and friends to hang out with. And, with the busyness that comes with being a mom, I started to really enjoy the solitude after the kids went to bed and it was just me.

When we moved to Chicago, I found myself alone. No family. New friends, but no developed relationships. J hit the ground running when he started. The new church building opened 3 months after our arrival. I was lonely. That summer, I drove to visit my family in Canada 3 times. Just me and the kids.

Production husbands might miss out on important events in their kids lives - like their daughter's first tap or ballet class. In his defense, J was very purposeful about his Friday day off. It became Family Friday. We went to a different museum every Friday. Often, J would take the kids to do something fun and let me have hours of me time. I implemented Widney Wednesday, a themed family night. We created family moments and memories when we could. Our pastor was amazing and always asked how I was doing. If I wasn't okay, I knew he had our backs.

During that season, I learned that I needed to get busy. I started homeschooling our son, put both kids in swimming, put our son in Awana, karate and baseball and our daughter in tap and ballet. I took a couple writers workshop classes then learned to crochet. Before I knew it, I was so busy, I didn’t even notice J wasn’t home. And I didn’t mind because I had my own thing going.

Sometimes, the kids and I hang out in the Green Room or the Parent Room, watching movies, napping, reading, playing. We are just down the hall from J and it feels like family time. J walks over every hour or so to check on us and get hugs. We get visits from staff, too. Our kids have become everyone’s kids. They know most everyone on staff and have developed special relationships with many. (Like Uncle Schraeder below)

In this newest season of our lives, our kids are now old enough to go to church with J and run around the auditorium. It is their playground. They get excited when they hear they are going to church because it might mean they get to watch a movie on the big screen or the back wall of the stage. Motor Mouth has played Wii on the wall of the auditorium. How cool is that?!

I don’t have as much time these days to read every trade magazine. But I do skim them and ask questions. When we go somewhere with production value, I get an earful and I ask questions about how things were done. I read every one of J’s blog entries and I follow most of the trades people J follows on Twitter. I attend all the conferences I can with J so I can understand his world. Daily, I am in awe of the level of creativity that flows from my husband. I wish I had a pinky worth of his creativity. In the meantime, I’m learning, interested, and engaged.

And now, our kids are pretty skilled at falling asleep on a row of chairs in church, too!