Monday, August 30, 2010

New School, New Adventures!

It was such a joy watching Tyler and Alyssa adjust to their new school last week. It is awesome having them in the same school!

Tuesday was the funniest day of all. We laughed so hard as we listened to their stories about seeing each other and interacting (or not) during the day!

It all started when Alyssa couldn't find her snack in her backpack. Her teacher sent her down to Tyler's class to "borrow" a snack from him. She found some crackers and ate them all, except two. She put them back in Tyler's lunch box.

They told me about this when I picked Alyssa up from school at 11:00, but what they didn't tell me was that Tyler was not in the classroom when that happened. So, imagine Tyler's surprise when he opened up his lunch box to find a snack-size Ziplock with only two crackers in it! LOL!

Then, at one point, Alyssa snubbed Tyler in the hallway -- he said hello, and she ignored him! Later when we were having the conversation about it, he said, "By the way, what were you doing in the hallway alone anyway?" Apparently she was walking a friend to the office for an ice pack.

The reason Tyler saw them in the hallway was because he was going to get a new pair of shorts -- apparently he slid down the slide right into a puddle of water. The office staff got him a "new" used pair to borrow. The funny part about that story is that I didn't know about it. So, when I went into the school later in the day to purchase an additional pair of shorts for Tyler, just because we needed them, they said, "Oh, he already got a new pair today!" Imagine my surprise! Too funny!

It was a nutty, funny, crazy, joyful week! Hopefully this week will be just as fun!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Remembering Grandma D

This is Grandma & Grandpa DeBruyne
last summer at my brother Dan's wedding.
Grandma DeBruyne passed away overnight. She was technically my step-grandmother, although, in our family we didn't use that "step" title. Everyone was just family. The only reason I mention it now is to share the story of her love for me and my brother and sister, who were brought into her family when we were young.

I was about 10 when I met Grandma DeBruyne; my brother Erik was 6; and my sister Kara was 2. Grandma and Grandpa DeBruyne accepted us into their family like we were their own. Like we were always there. If an outsider attended a family event, they would never have known we weren't always there or meant to be there...because we were. We never, ever felt like "step" grandchildren.

How lucky were we? To be accepted into a family like that? Things could have been much more difficult for us if they weren't so loving. By the way, that family was huge! Grandma and Grandpa DeBruyne had 8 children. At the time there were 18 grandchildren!

We spent time with them on every holiday and many other family celebrations in between. Most of these celebrations were held at their welcoming home. Christmas was always one of our favorite times -- as much of the family gathered as could, and the gifts were many. I swear they took up a quarter of the living room!

Grandma and Grandpa DeBruyne always gave flashlights on Christmas. All kinds -- big and small and unique styles, too! They were different every year. We grandkids always looked forward to them. Grandma and Grandpa were very practical like that.

When I got married Grandma and Grandpa gifted me with the flowers for the wedding -- she owned and operated a flower shop. The flowers were absolutely beautiful -- any bride's dream! She pulled out all the stops! I was so lucky.

I'm so grateful for the time Grandma D was in my life. She was a very special person. So, it is with a heavy heart that I say, "Goodbye Grandma, and thank you so much for your love."

--Written with love and admiration and gratitude for Betty DeBruyne

His and Hers top 10 Lists of Why to Buy 11471 Persimmon Court

Paul and I have a beautiful home for sale in Fort Myers that is in need of a loving family! 
We are so fortunate to have lived in this house and raised our children there for the first several years of their lives. It is a fantastic family home! If it were not for Paul's exciting new job, we most certainly would not be leaving the house at this point in our lives.
We know that men and women look at different characteristics when they go to buy a house, so we each made our own top 10 list of our favorite things about the house! Check it out and share this with anyone you know who might be searching for a home in Fort Myers.

The Husband’s Top 10 List of Reasons to Buy 11471 Persimmon Court
1.       Brand New Multi-Color Tiled Roof 2010!
2.       Lightweight Corrugated Hurricane Panels (Google storm stoppers)
3.       Cable wired in all rooms
4.       Wood-burning Fireplace
5.       LifeShield wireless home security ready
6.       Red Sox Stadium Coming Soon!
7.       Heat Exchange Unit (air conditioning heats hot water)
8.       Heat Pump Pool Heater
9.       Newly Resurfaced Pool
10.   Newly Rescreened Lanai

The Wife’s Top 10 List of Reasons to Buy 11471 Persimmon Court
1.       Beautifully Landscaped Pie-shaped Yard
2.       Split Floor Plan
3.       Large Kitchen opens up into Family Room
4.       Vaulted Ceilings create Openness
5.       Nicely Painted and Clean
6.       Lots of Sliding Glass Doors for light
7.       Fully Re-modeled Master Bath
8.       Heated Pool
9.       Fenced, Private Backyard (one of largest in Gateway)
10.   On a Cul-De-Sac with fantastic neighbors

For more information, click here.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Window

Today the UPS driver came to the door to deliver a book from Amazon. No biggie. They usually drop and run, right?

Not today. After ringing the doorbell, the man stood there. I'm guessing he's around 40 based on our conversation.

I greeted him with a smile and walked out the door to accept the package. He handed the package in my direction, but he did not actually give it to me. I looked around wondering if he wanted me to sign something, but, there was no sign of anything to sign. He just stood there holding the book.

I looked up at him, and he looked at me. He very politely and carefully said, "Do you happen to know Irene?"

"Ohhh." I said, finally understanding what was going on. "I'm her granddaughter. She's living in Wyoming with my Aunt right now. She has Alzheimer's Disease, but she's doing well." I felt my face smile a big, huge smile, knowing he would feel better about her whereabouts.

With a very relieved look on his face he said, "Oh. Oh. That's great. I'm glad she's OK." He went on. "I've been delivering packages here for about 20 years. I got to know Ralph pretty well, and through Ralph, I got to know Irene. Ralph was a really good guy."

Everybody we meet around here says that about my grandfather -- and they don't just say it normally. They say it with reflection and emotion and admiration. It's unreal.

But, the UPS driver? Really?! First, it's amazing that someone would have the same job for 20 years ... but it's also amazing that my grandfather had such an impact on him. My Aunt told me he cried when they told him about my grandfather's passing. Wow.

It just makes me think of what a gift it is to be living here in my Grandparent's house. To meet all of these people who were impacted by them. It's like a window into their life. Every time something like this happens -- and it happens quite often -- I feel so warm, like one of them is hugging me. I feel so lucky. So lucky to be living here right now. What a gift!

Written with unconditional love for Grandma and Papa ... all my love ... Kristina

Monday, August 16, 2010

Treasured Friends

I wanted to write about a recent visit we shared with some great friends -- the Norman family.

We were friends with the Normans for about 13 years while living in Florida. We knew each other for quite a while before we had children.

When we started having children, we happened to have them right around the same time, so we shared tons of fun on the kid front -- birthday parties, baptisms, play dates and more!

Eventually, we started a poker group and played together once a month with 2-3 other couples. We were all good friends and spent all kinds of time together.

About two years ago, the Normans left Florida for D.C. Keith took advantage of a fantastic job opportunity. Logically, I knew I would be OK, but when they left, a part of me felt my life would never be the same without them. We shared some of life's most precious moments together. I considered them family.

Of course, we've kept in touch across the miles and got to see them last year when they came back to SWFL for a visit!

Little did I know back when they moved, that our family would be moving out of the state, as well. As luck would have it -- if you believe in that kind of thing -- Liz just happens to be from Peoria and visits Illinois often!

They came to visit us last week as part of their summer vacation! How sweet is that?! What a GIFT! Here we are ... two families from SWFL meeting up in the Windy City!

It felt so wonderful to be able to share our new surroundings and my old stomping grounds with them. My heart felt huge and satisfied and fulfilled with them here. I felt hope for the future and validation that good friends can always be good friends if they try.

The Normans are very special to us. The kind of friends who have always been there ... and always will be. We are so grateful for them!

Written with love and gratitude for all of our friends ... We love and miss you all! Please come visit!!!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

5 Steps to Peace After Anger Strikes

What do you do when someone makes you angry? Whether it's your spouse, friend or co-worker. Sometimes we lose our cool, blow our tops and say or do something to retaliate. Or maybe we do the opposite -- we just hold it in and don't deal with it. Either way, you are left feeling badly...and those bad feelings don't just evaporate. They must be dealt with.
Here are 5 simple steps to take the next time someone makes you angry. Try it and see if it works for you!

1. Immediately after the event, get pen and paper and write down exactly how you are feeling and what you are thinking. Get all of the negative feelings out. For example, "I am so frustrated." "I am so pissed off." "I can't believe she said that to me." "I can't believe he did that." "What a jerk!" Just get it all out! Write until you can write no more about it.

2. Now write down your intention for how you desire your relationship with that person to be. For example, "I intend to have a peaceful, loving and honest relationship with my spouse." or "I intend to have a positive, professional relationship with my coworker."

3. Next, write down everything you are grateful for when it comes to this person and this experience that has caused you grief. This can be tough, but it's important for you to soften your heart and realize there are gifts that come out of every negative situation. For example, "I am grateful I have a husband." "I am grateful he loves me." "I am grateful he helps around the house." Write down everything you can think of that relates to this relationship and the situation at hand. Once you have done this, you will be able to take the fourth step...

4. Write down what action steps you can take to own your part of the negative experience and move forward. You can't control the other person, but you can control yourself. What can you do? A big action step is to apologize. Maybe you could have done a better job communicating. Maybe you forgot to do something you said you would do. Or maybe you shouldn't have lost your cool. There is always something we could have done better.

5. Take Action. Now is time for the hard part. The apology. Yep, even though that person made you angry first. You are going to apologize first. And, when you do apologize, don't try to defend yourself by explaining why you did what you did -- especially if it puts blame on the other person -- that won't help. Just sincerely apologize. Tell that person you love them and that you will try to do better next time. Then, listen to what they have to say. Acknowledge your error. Tell them again that you love them and you will try to do better next time. Repeat this as many times as needed.

Some situations certainly will be more complex than a simple apology. Let me know if you need further guidance.

Written in honor of my family and friends -- the people I intend to experience loving, peaceful, honest and fun relationships with....

Monday, August 9, 2010

You Get What You Give

I've been trying to decide what to write about for days now. I haven't had any hugely interesting storeis to tell...but one concept keeps coming to the forefront of my mind, and that is "you get what you give." Basically, treat others the way you want to be treated.

This is such a basic concept, but one we don't always remember. Many of us talk about how we wish people would treat us. What we don't realize is that we have the power to influence this. When we catch ourselves wishing someone would treat us differently, we should stop and ask ourselves, "Am I treating him or her the way I want to be treated?"

Happy, silly parents = happy, silly kids!
Let's think about this in terms of our children. What happens when we lose our cool and snap at them? Do they smile and tell us they love us? No. They snap right back, don't they? So, imagine what would happen if we took a deep breath and thought about our words and tone before we snapped.

I have been teaching this concept to my children. Here's an example. Alyssa is working on the computer, and in a whiny, yucky voice she says, "Aaaarrrrrrgh...this computer keeps doing this wrong." Then she looks at me as if she is waiting for me to jump out of my seat and run over to help her.

Only, at this point, I won't help her because she didn't speak nicely or use the word "please" or even directly address me. She simply complained. She made my skin crawl. I am now feeling totally frustrated and annoyed because she came at me with negativity. As a result, my response is equally rude. I say something like, "Alyssa, mommy is trying to do her work, and you are making me crazy with this computer stuff."

Imagine how this situation could have gone better if Alyssa would have said, "Mom, can you please help me? I'm having computer problems." I would not have felt that negative energy coming from her, and I most likely would have been much happier about helping her out.

Now, I can't expect a 4-year-old to know this already -- I'm in my 30's and just learning it. So, I look at it as an opportunity to teach Alyssa that she gets what she gives. If she wants mommy to respond with love, then she should ask with love!

It seems like every day is a new opportunity to be a better parent! Thankfully, our kids give us plenty of opportunities to try again!

Written with love and adoration for Tyler and Alyssa ... mommy's most influential teachers!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Never a Dull Moment!

There's never a dull moment! Last Friday was our big tree planting party, as you know. My first order of business was to pick up my 13-year-old niece, Katlin. She lives about 45 minutes away. My plan was to stop half-way there at Costco to pick up a nice ham dinner for her family since they just had a baby.

When the kids and I came out of Costco, the car wouldn't start. It was the battery. Why does that always happen as such a surprise!? You never know when those darn things are going to quit!

My first thoughts were panic -- "OMG! I'm only half-way to Katlin's. I've got to get her and get back to Arlington Heights to buy all of the food for the party tonight! I've got two kids in this stranded car. It's getting hot in here. I have cold food I just bought -- I don't want it to go bad. OMG! I'm hosting a party tonight! I have no time to be stuck here at Costco!"

I called Paul, who was downtown Chicago at work, and we talked about the options. As we were talking, we remembered Costco sells batteries. So, all I had to do was go into Costco, get a battery and find someone to install it for me.

I called my mom, who just happens to live in the town we were stuck in, and she said her significant other just happened to be working in town that day and might be able to swing by and put the new battery in for me!

Gee! Turns out I got stuck in a great place! Within one hour I had a new battery and was back on my way! We ran an hour behind our "schedule" for the day, but that experience gave us many gifts! Here are a few of them:

  • The opportunity to keep a positive attitude and realize this was not the end of the world.
  • The opportunity to keep my cool and show the kids calmness in what some would perceive as a crisis.
  • The opportunity to teach the kids that sometimes life does not go as planned, but it will still work out anyway.
  • The opportunity for my mom's significant other to help his daughter-in-law and grandchildren -- he was happy to do so ... and how funny for this to happen just after I moved back to Illinois near my family -- it helped me realize they really are here for me!
  • The simple amazement of how life works -- that truly was a great place for my battery to die that day!
In the end, the party went off without a hitch, and we all had a great time! 

I share this story because I believe we all have the ability to make life what we want it to be. We have a choice for how we look at our experiences -- big and small. Are they the worst thing that could have happened, or are they a gift in some way?