Thursday, July 31, 2008

Military Troops Calendar

In August of 2006, after the death of LCPL Randy Newman, one of our local soldiers who was stationed in Iraq, a handful of people set out on a mission to find a way to support our troops who serve both stateside and overseas. The inspiration resulted in the Military Troops Calendar. It is a tribute to ALL U.S. soldiers who bravely serve and for those who have given their life so that others may have freedom.

A soldier who received copies of the 2008 calendar and is stationed in Iraq recently wrote:

"I wanted to convey my thanks once again for sending me the 50 calendars. I have distributed them to more than 6 separate units in the Army and Air Force to be shared by more than 1000 troops as they are hung in common areas. The Soldiers and Airman have expressed their thanks for the gift of these calendars and I wanted to forward those thanks on to you. You have raised morale a small bit, and every bit counts when you are so far away from home for so long. Again, on behalf of the Airmen and Soldiers serving in the Diyala and Sala ad Din Provinces of Iraq, we salute you, and thank you."

It is humbling and an honor for those of us at Military Troops Calendar, to do what we can to help boost morale and show our support of all the brave men and women who serve in the Armed Forces.

Check out our website at and feel free to give us a shout out - we'd love to hear from you.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

And They Thought They Had it Rough...

Everyone is talking about the state of our union lately. Gas prices have skyrocketed, home values have taken a dive, sales are at a standstill and foreclosures are at an all-time high. The dollar doesn't goes as far at the grocery store, businesses are closing their doors and the list of an economy in the tank goes on. I bet the same concerns and then some were voiced by the masses

in years past and this is what they were saying 50 years ago (that would be the late 1950's).

'I'll tell you one thing, if things keep going the way they are, it's going to be impossible to buy a week's groceries for $20.00.'

'Have you seen the new cars coming out next year? It won't be long before $2,000.00 will only buy a used one.'

'If cigarettes keep going up in price, I'm going to quit. A quarter a pack is ridiculous.

'Did you hear the post office is thinking about charging a dime just to mail a letter?'

'If they raise the minimum wage to $1.00, nobody will be able to hire outside help at the store.'

'When I first started driving, who would have thought gas would someday cost 29 cents a gallon. Guess we'd be better off leaving the car in the garage.'

'Kids today are impossible. Those duck tail hair cuts make it impossible to stay groomed. Next thing you know, boys will be wearing their hair as long as the girls.'

'I'm afraid to send my kids to the movies any more. Ever since they let Clark Gable get by with saying 'damn' in 'Gone With The Wind', it seems every new movie has either hell or damn in it.'

'I read the other day where some scientist thinks it's possible to put a man on the moon by the end of the century. They even have some fellows they call astronauts preparing for it down in Texas .'

'Did you see where some baseball player just signed a contract for $75,000 a year just to play ball? It wouldn't surprise me if someday they'll be making more than the President.'

'I never thought I'd see the day all our kitchen appliances would be electric. They are even making electric typewriters now.'

It's too bad things are so tough nowadays. I see where a few married women are having to work to make ends meet.'

'It won't be long before young couples are going to have to hire someone to watch their kids so they can both work.'

'Marriage doesn't mean a thing any more, those Hollywood stars seem to be getting divorced at the drop of a hat.'

'I'm afraid the Volkswagen car is going to open the door to a whole lot of foreign business.'

'Thank goodness I won't live to see the day when the Government takes half our income in taxes I sometimes wonder if we are electing the best people to congress'

'The drive-in restaurant is convenient in nice weather, but I seriously doubt they will ever catch on.'

'There is no sense going to Lincoln or Omaha anymore for a weekend, it costs nearly $15.00 a night to stay in a hotel.'

'No one can afford to be sick anymore, at $35.00 a day in the hospital it's too rich for my blood.'

'If they think I'll pay 50 cents for a hair cut, forget it.'

Good times folks.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Happy Place

Everyone should have a happy place and mine is Mexico. I love it there. So much so that my kids tell me I'm obsessed with it. I can't help it. Time stands still there. No phones, computers, television, people in a hurry - just white beach, blue water, lazy days, ceviche and Pacifico... We recently discovered the wonderful town of Tulum and fell in love with it. I'm thinking I need another Happy Place fix...

One-In-A-Million Shot

I recently took my kids to Virginia to visit my brother, sister-in-law and 11 of their 12 children. Yes, I said 12 and no, they are neither Mormon nor Catholic. They just wanted a big family. Period. We had a ton of fun and after being with them for a week I think big families probably have more fun than the average American family with their 2.5 children.

I got to take the older kids to Washington DC for a day and one of the sights we took in was the Iwo Jima Memorial. This memorial is massively awesome and I was, of course, snap-happy with the camera trying to make sure I got a good picture of the kids standing in front of the memorial. When I was going through the pictures much later, I was shocked to see how one of the pictures turned out. Now that is my one-in-a-million shot.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

My Ridiculously Irritating Irritation

There must be a full moon or something because I am irritated today – at little dumb things that don’t normally irritate me to the extent that I’m irritated. I was totally convicted of my irritation and how I let it seep out when my husband pointed out how overly-harsh I was being when I replied to an email he sent.

I hate when I have to be convicted like that. It’s that little God-tap on your shoulder and he’s saying ‘Uh, Annie K, check the ol’ heart there sistah – it’s looking a little on the sketchy side right now.’ Darn it if my humanness doesn’t get the best of me sometimes. Thankfully God has put people in my life (gracias Juan) who can ever-so-subtly and lovingly put me in heart check mode when I need it most. Now that is a ridiculously excellent thing.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

You've Got to Like Your Spouse

I know married people who don’t like their spouse - which is quite sad really. I happen to like my husband, a lot. I know that you’re supposed to marry someone who you love, cherish, and share similar interests, dreams and goals with and yes, that is important. But I think it’s a pretty big deal to like your spouse.

I’ll admit that at times he’s stubborn to the max, frustrates the heck out of me and I can get ‘mad-seeing-red’ at him. But I throw enough grief his way to make up for those times so I guess we’re pretty even as far as that goes. Honestly though, I think the biggest reason I like him is because we have so much fun together. We have the same sense of humor, think a lot alike, have great conversations, share similar interests and are even one of those ‘I can finish the others sentence’ kind of couple who have our own secret handshake. Corny? Maybe. But through all the good, bad and downright ugly that we have been through, by the grace of God we still really like each other. And that, most definitely, is a very cool thing.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

How Step-Parents Really Feel About Their Step-Kids

Ok, I'll admit that I do not feel that 'I gave birth to you and you're of my flesh and blood' love towards my step-kids. And just for the record, my husband doesn't feel that way towards my kids either. Is it morally wrong? Absolutely not. Is it normal? Absolutely.

I'll admit though that I've become rather fond of my husbands youngest son. At first he drove me nuts. He is what we call undiagnosed ADHD to the max (and before all of you 'you're not a doctor and don't self-diagnose or put a label on kids' type of people get your panties in a wad, please know that I have done hours of research and read all the books because I happen to have a teenage daughter that is diagnosed ADD and on medication so I kind of know what I'm talking about. And if you're going to 'Tom Cruise Sciontology drugs are glib' on me, I will happily debate you but know that I am going to totally 'mama-bear-matrix-ninja-jackie-chan-your-butt into tomorrow when all is said and done).

So, back to my step-son and why he has driven me nuts for three years is a kunundrum in itself because he and my daughter are so much alike - except for the hyperactivity thing. But in the past few months, I really have seen a different side of this kid and to be honest, get quite a kick out of him. I think part of it is that I am ultra-competitive and so is he. Not that we necessarily threaten to have 'throw-downs' and do the ultimate smack talk thing, but when he invited me to ride a pretty tricky bike trail and I had to take a rain check he knew I was serious when I said "Dang, I have to get ready for our 4th of July BBQ, but next time you ask me I'll be happy to show you how to ride those trails like a real woman." OK - so maybe I didn't word it quite that way, but I did mention eating dust and make some reference to him sucking air behind me. Anyway, it'll be fun to ride with him and see what he's made of.

I guess the biggest thing for me is just seeing my step-son for who he is and accepting that. I don't know that I'll ever love him like my own, but when I made the decision to just see the cool stuff about him and quit focusing on what drove me nuts that's when it changed. What do I like most about him? That I can throw down a challenge and he'll say "Bring it on Sistah." That indeed is a kid after my own heart.

The Brady Bunch Does NOT Live Here

My husband and I have been married for three years and between the two of us, we are one-child-shy of being the Brady Bunch. And that is the closest we come to having anything in common with the very-merry Bradys. Believe it or not, all that we have ever known to be holy, pure and true about that family we can just throw it out the window because yes folks, it’s pure fiction. I have not met one blended family that comes remotely close to the world of Brady-fanstastica that we spent endless afternoons of our childhood absorbed in. Zip. Zero. Zilch. Nada.

I understand that I probably just pulled the rug out from underneath those of you who may be headed naively into Blendedfamilydom, but trust me, you could save yourself thousands of dollars in therapy bills, books on successful ‘step-parenting’ and Prozac prescriptions if you will just accept the fact that blending a family is sometimes going to stink. Not just a little stink, but a skunk-in-the-room-just-sprayed-me stink. I have no doubt that I married the man I am supposed to spend the rest of my life with, but honestly, the past three years have been more challenging than trying to birth an elephant. And for the next six years, until the last little cherub goes on their merry way to college, there is going to be some more stink. Here are a few suggestions on ways you can avoid some stinkage in your blended family:

Accept the fact your spouse’s kids drive you nuts and vice versa. It’s true and please don’t act like you have that ‘they are my flesh and blood parental love’ for them because you don’t. You may grow to like them over time and even love them, but until then, just admit when they have pushed you to the edge and they need to remove themselves from within your vicinity as quickly as possible or they may witness one of your head spinning while spewing vomit episodes.

The kids were not friends before you got married and they probably won’t be after you’re married. Let’s face it, they wouldn’t hang out with each other on the playground at school anyway and just because they are now step-siblings does not mean this has changed. Don’t expect them to suddenly spend their evenings playing rousing games of Monopoly, eating air popped popcorn with real butter and throwing high-fives while watching reruns of the A-Team. They may just totally ignore each other for days and that’s ok.

When your step-kids come for their visit your spouse just wants to spend time with their kids. I have learned to tell my husband “Have a great week with your kids and I’ll see you for date night next Friday.” I figure I can share him for the next six years because after that, he’s all mine. Plus, allowing him to have all that time uninterrupted with his kids brings him great joy and come date night he’s a much happier man - which in the end is to my benefit. (Ladies, you’ll learn it really IS all about you and in a later post I’ll share more of these great tips).

Your spouse’s kids will probably hate the way you do certain things, like cook, so get over it. I happen to be somewhat of a Julia Child in my own mind and my husband will attest because he complains about the 20 or so pounds he’s added to his manly frame because of my cooking. But his kids are picky eaters and for one reason or another don’t like gourmet cooking and prefer steak and potatoes. That’s cool. I don’t have a problem accommodating them a few days per week, but on the nights I want Coq au Vin with steamed asparagus a la benedict there are an assortment of frozen burritos and hot pockets to their liking.

Get over being a neat freak – the quicker the better. Most of us do not have an ‘Alice’ and the more kids in the house the more dirty dishes, dirt on the floor, laundry, fingerprints on the windows, popsicle-stick garbage there is around the house. Assign chores if necessary but deal with the fact that as long as the kids are there you can’t expect a perfect house and it makes everyone miserable to do so. From now on just look up when walking through the house.

Now these are not psychologist-tested, non-medication Scientology approved methods, but they work for me and have brought some much needed peace to our household. And that is very-Brady indeed.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Bitter Truth About Getting Along with 'The Ex'

My ex-husband and I don't get along. At all. His wife and I don't get along either. It's a sad thing really. Just yesterday my 12 year old son told me that he wished his dad and I could get along like my husband and his ex-wife do(I hear you son, I really do). They have a great relationship. My husband made a decision when he got divorced that he would do whatever it takes to have a positive relationship with his ex-wife for the kids' sake. Well, it has paid off and they get along lovely. They converse via phone, shoot emails back and forth, sit within the same vicinity of each other at the kids' extracurricular events, heck - they even rode together to another town to watch their daughter perform in a play, just to save gas. (Now, I'll admit that I was not particularly comfortable with or happy about that and it's not because I'm jealous of his ex or anything like that. It's strictly a woman thing and I'm sure I was just being pissy because that is my job in situations like these. I did give him my 'whatever' blessing just that once because I knew he was doing it show his kids the importance of their mom and him having a good relationship. But now that they know how great the relationship is, can't we just stick to phone calls and emails from now on?)

As for my ex-husband and me, the battle started soon after our divorce - 6 months after to be exact- when he moved in with his current wife and her two kids. Now I'm not going to get into all of the particulars of why we can't get along, or begin a great 'hash-fest' of everything they have done that is horrible and immature according to Annie because that hasn't solved anything so far and in my educated guess it still won't. Also, they have their own list a mile long and admittedly, I have done my share of being the big 'B' word, digging my heels in and doling out the verbal-spankings because I am the 'mama bear' and I have to protect my young. There have been some actions I have taken that have been justified and some not so much. And if I could take back the 'unjustified just to be a pain in the butt and seek revenge because I am human and want them to suffer for hurting the kids' stuff I would. Both sides have been pretty darn stubborn and crummy at times and I want to know when do we just draw the line in the sand and say enough is enough, can't we all just get along for the kids' sake?

Wouldn't it be great if we could just sit down and have the 'Ultimate Forgiveness Olympics' or UFO for short? Instead of 'Let the Games Begin' it could be 'The Games Stop Here' or 'It's All About the Kids'. Sportsmanship would be of utmost importance - like no unnecessary dissing the other side(honestly stating how we have felt or feel about the other person is allowed as long as it's done in a non-hostile manner), no throwing F-bombs, no name calling, and we could call a time-out if we need to regroup and get re-focused on the ultimate outcome should those involved start getting a little tense. We could do the I Accept Responsibility for My Own Actions game and it would go something like this: I accept the fact that I have at times in the past said horrible things, flung dirt and called you (but never your kids) bad names, held grudges and withheld forgiveness, been stubborn and hard to get along with, secretly wished you'd get four flat tires while driving down the road, and considered you two of the crummiest most immature people I know. It would then be the next persons turn to state what they will accept responsibility for. The winners are the ones that can tell the other person if they are willing to forgive them for those things (and yes, we would hand out blue ribbons and only blue because forgiving gets 1st place no matter what).

For the closing ceremonies we could have a UFO flame. This would be a torch and each person writes down on a piece of paper what grievance they have against the other person and then we could burn those papers with the torch and sing Kumbayah. Once those papers are reduced to ashes, we can never re-hash or bring up these things again. It's done and over with and we take our blue ribbons and just focus on the kids.

Then we could just chat on the phone about the kids, shoot emails back and forth, drive to kids' activities together (ok, that's pushing it and absurd) - but at least we could sit within the same vicinity of each other at the kids' activities and when we look over at the other parent actually give them a genuine smile or the s'up nod instead of a smirk.

Now that would be awesomeness to the max indeed.