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Photo Credit: Sheelah Brennan
Photo Credit: Sheelah Brennan

Today, I turned 39 and I’m eating cake.  Tomorrow, I’m embarking on a year-long journey to be in the best shape of my life by the time I am 40. Yikes. I’m “saying” it out loud.

There is just something about 40 that incites fear…and loathing…and panic, but I figure I have (God willing) at least a much time ahead of me as I have left behind me, so I might as well spend it well.

For the past few years I have been struggling with my weight and with just feeling unhealthy.  My body is definitely on the decline.  I am sore and tired most of the time.  My back aches.  Anybody who knows me knows that I hate exercise.  I can diet until the cows come home, but I really, really loathe breaking a sweat. To my dismay, I have been thinking recently that I really need to add it into my life, even if it’s just baby steps at first.  I work in a building that houses a senior center and on a daily basis, I see seniors, some of them withered and barely moving, walking laps around the building to get exercise.  Every day they faithfully appear, pushing walkers and limping along.  I have this daily reminder that I really have no excuse.

If they can do it, I can do it.  What’s wrong with me?

I’ve also been somewhat down in the dumps and I am fully blaming it on facebook and social media.  I have a serious addiction and it has been impacting the way that I interact with my family.  It also keeps me from doing anything productive.  It really needs to go.

So, I have decided that this is going to be the year that I pull myself together.  I am going to give myself one year to get into the best shape of my life…I’m not just talking about my physique. I feel like I need a total overhaul.  I haven’t decided if I am going to document the journey as I go (maybe monthly?), or when the year is over…I guess we’ll see.

I am 39 and 40 is looking pretty good to me.

The Next Big Thing

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I haven’t been posting much over the past few months.  Truth be told, there is not much to post about.  We’ve fallen back into a working parents’ routine of routines.  Get up, go to work, come home, make/eat dinner, get ready for bed and to start it all over again. Weekends are either busy, busy, busy with family gatherings and other events, or just taking care of the ordinary chores and errands that will keep us going for the week.

I haven’t talked much here about my return to work.  About two years ago, I was preparing to leave my job so that I could be at home with my daughter. I was excited and I got lots of positive feedback from family and friends who all told me it would be hard, but so worth it and it was an awesome thing to do for my daughter and our family.  Evelyn and I had a little over a year together before some financial upset in our family forced me back to work.  I was not happy about it. I wanted to return to work on my own terms.  But, the year that I was at home was a hard one.  I suffered several miscarriages and we decided to stop trying for another baby.  I was sick a lot during that time and probably very depressed. Once I came to terms with the idea of going back to work, I started looking forward to it. Now that summer is approaching, I find myself missing my long days at home with Evelyn.  I miss packing up to go to the park or the beach.  I miss some of my mom friends and their kids.  I miss having a (sort of) clean house. I sometimes think I failed at the stay-at-home mom thing, like I wasn’t very good at it.  And even though I miss it sometimes, I know that God put me where I am right now, so I am trying to give the best I can to both my job and my family with a much more balanced approach.  So far, so good.

It feels strange not to be waiting for the next big thing.  We’re at a place where life is pretty ordinary.  No weddings to plan, no houses to buy, no babies to expect, no new jobs on the horizon.  I’m not really sure how to be here.  It’s a nice kind of calm, but it’s also kind of….boring.

I feel like I have hit a mid-life crisis of sorts.  Now that all the “big things” have come and gone, I’m not really sure what I want to do with the rest of my life.  I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up and I’m sad to say I don’t really have much ambition either.  I guess years of school and work have left me just wanting to take a nap.

At least with this new calm, I can focus on some hobbies that I have been putting on the back burner for so long.  We have some camping trips planned for this summer (3 to be exact) and some vacation time coming up. There is work to be done on the patio and around the house. I guess this is a season to just kind of roll along with the current and enjoy the scenery as it passes by. There are glasses of wine to be consumed, camp fires to enjoy and songs to belt out with my daughter. There are dance parties to be had and road trips to take.  It’s time to slow down…at least for now.  I think it was the wise Ferris Bueller who said, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it.”

RB Winter State Park

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This was our first camping excursion of the year.  I have been coming to this park since I was a kid, so it has a special place in my heart.  I have never really done much camping here though.  We would mainly go to picnic and play on the beach and in the lake, since the park isn’t that far from where I grew up.  Since it’s still early in the season, I opted for a cottage instead of a tent and I am so glad I did.  It was COLD.  I always forget that it’s about 10-15 degrees cooler at the park than it is at home.  So, even thought the forecast was calling for temps in the high 60s, it was much cooler than that….and it rained.  Blah.

We arrived on Friday evening and we decided to eat dinner before heading to the park, since it was supposed to rain all night and cooking over a fire would have been difficult…and miserable.  Thank goodness the cottage had heat and a table with benches.  At least we could spend the evening playing games and munching on snacks…and Evelyn was super-excited that she got to sleep on the top bunk for the very first time.

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Saturday was slightly better.  It only rained for a little while in the morning, mainly while we were trying to boil water for coffee over a fire.  That didn’t turn out very well.  Two lukewarm and barely brewed cups of coffee later, I was kind of grumpy.  We took at nice walk around the lake, but it was too wet for Evelyn to play in the sand.

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We lounged around, made some lunch and then I couldn’t help myself…I suggested that we find the nearest coffee shop for a real cup of joe, a little bit of warmth, and for something to do.  So, we drove about 15 miles, took care of my caffeine craving, and also stopped at Walmart to buy a camp stove.  I’m not giving up on trying to cook over a fire, but it’s nice to know we have a back up now if we need it.   26901293765_7548839ec0_k
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So, it definitely wasn’t my favorite camping trip. It was cold and rather boring.  Michael and I agreed that if we hadn’t paid for the cabin, we probably would have packed it in and headed home. We made the best of it.  But, we have a few other trips planned for this summer and I am looking forward to them.  I’m really hoping that our next trip to this park, over the 4th of July weekend, will be more fun. We will be tenting for the first time with Evelyn and we are also taking our dog, which we have never done, so it should be an adventure. We will have several other family members camping at the same time, so that will make things at least more interesting.

The Crayola Experience

The middle of winter always inspires in me an urge to escape.  Yes, a tropical destination would be lovely, but, since we’ve been together, Michael and I have yet to find ourselves in a position to take a week-long vacation in the middle of winter.  So, we make do with little weekend jaunts to nearby attractions, just to break up the monotony a bit.

This particular trip was inspired by a statement Evelyn made in the car one afternoon on the way home from work/school.

“Mom, I never stayed in a hotel before.”

“Sure you have, you’ve stayed in a hotel three times before.”

“Yes, but I don’t remember it.”

A few days prior to this, my co-workers had a conversation in our shared office about staying in hotels just for the heck of it, just for something to do in the middle of winter, even if it’s right in your own town.  My practical (and wandering) mind could understand the appeal, but has a hard time justifying spending the money for a hotel, when it’s just down the street.  I also really like to travel and see new things, so I thought, sure, let’s stay in a hotel, but let’s do something new too.

So, I started looking around online for some ideas.  Enter, The Crayola Experience.  Evelyn is the perfect age to enjoy this right now.  We have a 3 day weekend for President’s Day.  Let’s Go.

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Let me preface this review by saying that I am not particularly fond of crowds.  On their website, Crayola does give some tips on how to avoid the crowds.  Basically, go on a weekday, after lunch time (2:00-5:00pm is ideal).  We went on Valentine’s Day (a Sunday this year).  As we approached the building and entered a nearby parking garage, I could tell that my crowd anxiety was going to be kicked into high gear.  There were families with little kids everywhere, braving the coldest day of this winter.  I mentally prepared myself for the afternoon and  I think I managed to keep it together for most of the time.  We spent about 3 hours there and only got to experience about 1/3 of what they had to offer.  There were long lines for many of the activities and Evelyn spent a lot of time at just a few activities that she enjoyed.  The trip was for her entertainment, so it really seemed pointless to pull her away from the things she was enjoying to make her try other activities that she might have had to wait a long time to do.

The Meltdown – We decided to go straight to the fourth floor to start, where  there were huge stations full of melted crayons.  The kids could dip long cotton swabs into the wax and paint with it.

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Next we ventured into this play area, which was fun for Evelyn, but a nightmare for me.  Once the kids got inside here, it was nearly impossible to see them and instead of only one way in and out, there were at least 4 ways in and out of the thing, on all different sides of it.  My guess is that someone loses a kid in here, if only for a few minutes, on a daily basis.

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Of all things, this was probably Evelyn’s favorite feature.  It was a series of interactive videos projected on the floor.  For example, the floor appeared to be covered with leaves and as the kids walked around on it, the leaves moved away from them, as though they were really walking through them.  The picture changed every few minutes to something new (balls that they could “kick”, etc).  We had a hard time dragging her away from this one.

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She enjoyed a variety of other features…a computer-generated display of her own artwork, watercolors, a water/boat feature, a diy puzzle, and we got free crayons with our names on them.  Overall, she had fun.  It was a bit too crowded for my liking and the long lines at many of the activities made it hard to do everything.  We were exhausted by the end of it all and since she was so looking forward to staying in a hotel, we didn’t have to fight with her when it was time to leave.

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Michael put me in charge of planning the itinerary for this trip, which was awesome, by the way.  I’ve always fancied myself a travel agent or a tour guide.  Anyway, I found this great little Lebanese restaurant for dinner.  It got great reviews online and it was something very different from what we would find in the culinary desert that we inhabit.

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I know, “Daddy’s Place” sounds a little…I don’t know…   BUT, the food was amazing…AND apparently it was named as such because the owner’s 4-year-old daughter thought that’s what it should be called.  So cute.

We got a mini pie sampler and every single one was delicious.  Michael got the lamb shawarma and got the falafel/hummus plate.  There was seriously enough food to feed six people and every single thing was so amazing. I had to finish it off with a Turkish coffee. If you ever find yourself in Easton, PA, definitely stop here.  Did I mention that they have 250 beers to choose from?

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And finally, Evelyn got to stay in the hotel.  We went for a swim and had some Valentine treats before heading off to bed, which turned out to be a two-hour long process.  I’m going to blame it on the coffee that Michael let her guzzle before dinner.  She told me multiple times that wanted to stay there for at least 10 days. Maybe next time, love.

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And Then She Was Four

It’s been a little while since I have contributed to this space.  We got all caught up in the holiday madness, with places to go, people to see, guests to entertain.  Now that things are a little calmer around here, I can take a breath and reflect on the past year.  What a crazy year it’s been.  Every day, when facebook shows me my memories from the past years, I find myself half smiling/half dying inside.

Last year at this time, I was pregnant and expecting a little boy.  After losing him tragically at 16 weeks, we decided it was too much bear.  We couldn’t go through it again.  While we have decided that we are fine with leaving our baby days behind, I am still coming to terms with Evelyn being an only child.  We are so very blessed to have lots of families in our lives.  Evelyn started preschool this year, so she gets to be around other children all day.  She’s also been cared for by family friends before and after school, so she gets to play with their children as well.  Truly, she’s had the best of both worlds…surrogate siblings with friends and the perks of being an only at home.  Still, she caught me off guard when she asked my why God made three babies for our friends’ family and He only made one baby for our family.  The tears welled up in her eyes as she asked and I don’t know exactly why that would make her sad, but she seemed sad about it.  I could only tell her I didn’t know why and fight back my own tears.  It amazes me how much she has grown and how the questions come when I least expect it.

Aside from the sad memories on my facebook news feed, things are pretty good around here.  I returned to work a few months ago after our financial situation was upended a bit.  Now, Michael and I are both doing work we love and Evelyn seems very happy at preschool.  She seems to have grown so much since she started school, from toddler to a true preschooler.  She’s still having the occasional terrifying tantrum, but they are fewer and farther between and I have been really trying to change my own response to her, which I think has helped a lot.  I am trying to be more patient and positive and she is learning some calm-down methods at school that she actually tries to employ at home.  She will sometimes stop in the middle of a screaming fest to take a few deep breaths and calm herself.

Every day I see updates from friends on facebook….babies growing up, rolling over, sitting up, and crawling for the first time.  It makes me a little sad that those days are over.  Maybe I would have cherished them a little bit more, I don’t know.  But, even though I am sad to see her baby days passed, I am also having quite a bit of fun with this spunky, dramatic little girl that she’s become. Instead of babbling and cooing, we’re playing Uno (and she’s winning) and telling made-up stories at bedtime.  She helps me to cook scrambled eggs for breakfast and rushes the grab the dustpan when we give her dad a haircut. It’s fun to have a little partner-in-crime.

Even though this past year has been a difficult one, I prefer to look back on the fun moments with my 3-year-old girl that I will never get back.

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And, just like that, she was four.

 

Evelyn is 4

The Dollhouse Remade

A few years ago, I posted about my dollhouse.  When I was about Evelyn’s age, I got a dollhouse for Christmas.  Despite the fact that it’s not in it’s pristine original condition, I have been hanging onto it for roughly 35 years.  I can’t even believe I am typing that number.  Makes my head want to explode.  Anyway, I always imagined that one day, I would refurbish it and give it to my own child. Since Evelyn is almost 4, I decided that I have been procrastinating long enough.  This will be the year that I give her my dollhouse.

I started ordering the furniture long before I started working on the house itself.  I chose some sturdy wooden furniture made by Hape.  I wanted the pieces to be durable and appropriate for a preschooler’s hands.  Sure, I love the elaborate dollhouses with delicate Victorian style furniture, but I wanted her to be able to really play with this.

I think I had originally planned to take my time and work on it slowly.  Yeeeaaahhh, that didn’t happen. I am a master procrastinator.  I started working on it approximately one month ago.  I removed the wallpaper and discovered that the walls are a little rough.  I bought some wood filler to try to smooth out the texture of the wood a bit, but soon discovered that working in the tiny spaces was challenging and I didn’t have enough time or patience to bother with it.  So, I just started painting.

At one point, I invited Evelyn to help me work on it.  I showed her how to dip her paintbrush just so to prevent drips from getting on the carpet. Even though we had a moment when she came close to tears after she accidentally started painting the floor instead of the walls, we mostly worked side by side and just chatted about our work.  I told her how I had received the dollhouse when I was her age and that I had been saving it just for her for 35 years.  I told her how I was going to paint the walls to make it look like our house and she started to verbally plan out the rooms.  She even wanted to add a toilet to the basement, just like we have.  I knew that I had made the right decision to invite her to help when she told me, “I love helping you, mom.”  All the dreams and plans I had for this dollhouse were right there in that little statement.

So basically, I just painted all the walls, reattached the borders around the windows and doorways, and gave the exterior a good coat of paint.  The dollhouse used to have a balcony and a staircase. The opening where the staircase used to be left a huge hole in the floor, so I got the idea to cover the hole with carpet to make better use of the space.  Now, I am not so sure that I like the look of the thick carpet, so I might eventually try to rebuild a staircase and try some different materials for the carpet.  I would also love to try to rebuild the balcony someday, but for now the master bedroom has a big doorway to nowhere.

Once I finally got everything painted and felt like I was close to being finished, I started looking at dollhouse tutorials on Pinterest.  That opened a huge can of worms.  The possibilities are endless and I had no idea.  After seeing some of the beautiful dollhouses out there, I am almost embarrassed to post pictures of my own.  I decided that I just had to at least add some wallpaper and some little artwork on the wall.  Eventually, I would also love to make some curtains and add some other little touches.  I imagine this is something that Evelyn and I can do together for as long as she is interested.

It’s not perfect.  I wish I would have started working on it sooner and done a little research ahead of time, but I know she will love playing with it and we can make changes to it as often as we want.  I was already looking for tutorials on how to make a little Christmas tree!

The pictures are a little dark…it’s hard to get in all those little corners, but without further ado…

the Dollhouse

That room at the top was my nemesis last night when I was trying to wallpaper it at the eleventh hour.  I could not get the paper to stick.  I will eventually have to pull it out and start over.  Maybe we’ll turn it into a nursery or a game room.

The living room…

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The dining room….  I think this one is my favorite.

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The kitchen….   I had a blast picking out little pictures to hang on the walls.

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The bathroom was one of my biggest challenges.  It’s the narrowest room in the house and the furniture doesn’t fit very well.  We probably could make do with just the tub and no shower, but the set came with both.

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The kids’ room…

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The parents’ room…

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I think it’s safe to say my girl loved it.  Now, I wonder who’s going to play with it more??

Old Becomes New Again

Photo Credit: Dustin Lee
Photo Credit: Dustin Lee

Once upon a time, I thought I might try to increase my followers here on the blog and try to use my writing to earn a little extra money for our family.  The first thing to do, all the best bloggers said, was to move over to a self-hosted site.  So, I did that.  However, I soon discovered that I just didn’t have the kind of time and energy that is needed to monetize a blog.  I also wanted to stay true to myself and write on my own terms.

I’ve been thinking a lot about where I want to go with my blog and the truth is, I’m not really sure that I want to go anywhere.  I mainly just want to write about my life and my experiences so that I can stay in touch with family and friends and so that I can leave our history for Evelyn someday.  When it was time to renew my hosting services this year, I started to worry about what would happen to my blog if something should happen to me.  If nobody had access to it and if nobody paid the fee to renew it every year, my blog would just shut down and the people who I most want to share it with would not be able to see it anymore.  So, after some thought, I have decided that it’s time to return to my free wordpress site.  All that means for you is that you can find my writing at a different address now.  Previously, I was blogging at ascenicdetour.com.  Moving forward, you can find me here at ascenicdetour.wordpress.com.  I have moved over all my old posts, so they are still available here and I have been working on a new design and layout.  The plan is just to keep it simple and write about whatever strikes me at the moment.  I’m still working on some details, but if you have been following along, it shouldn’t be too hard for you to keep in touch with what’s new.

I hope to see you as I move forward into this new chapter.