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Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The saga of the cargo carrier and a 366 update

     Do you worry about irrational things? Do little things "throw you off" in life? Well, I am a worrier. As a Christian, I can quote a lot of times the Bible says something to the effect of STOP WORRYING, but it's one of my go-to bad habits. Yesterday my worrying was all about the delivery of a car cargo carrier for our trip.
      As I was preparing for our big trip, many things have been going through my mind about what we need and don't need. Surprisingly, I'm not a person who is anxious about not having what I need when I need it or being in new situations. I am a person who can have a small seed of doubt grow into a nightmare; so begins the saga of the car carrier.  I mentioned that we're going to Yellowstone. You know what is mentioned along with Yellowstone a lot? Wild life... and being gored by it.
      Just this week there was a young woman who thought it would be a great idea to take an up close and personal selfie with a bison. There are lots of times that bear spray is mentioned. Bear spray? What the heck is that? Oh, it's like mace for bears? Ah, okay.There is a whole "bear aware" section on the Yellowstone website.  I don't have to worry about that, right? Let me tell you, as a parent who has had a child attacked by a wild, rabid animal, I began to worry. My main worry was about the campground and making sure that nothing that smells like people or food is out in the open. We're driving in an enclosed space for a week and having many lunches on the road. How are we not going to smell like food or people? Then we got the idea to get the car carrier and my fears started to dissipate. Yes, a great solution- we will put all of our camping stuff on top of the car- completely segregated from people and food. It was set to arrive on Friday.
      Matt met the truck driver outside and watched as he unloaded a long, thin package. As the truck driver pulled out of our driveway, Matt opened the package only to find a beautiful ornamental, wooden ladder from Italy. Uh oh. He quickly flagged the driver down and explained the problem. The driver called the warehouse and said that our package was mislabeled. No problem. Our carrier would be here between 8-9 on Monday
      No problem; until 9:30 on Monday when there is no truck. I called the transportation company and spoke with dispatch. All of the trucks had gone out for the day and our carrier was not on a truck. In fact, it may not even be in the warehouse. What.the.heck. At this point I felt like getting really angry and yelling at someone but I am too polite and have been on the other side of rude people too many times to be a jerk or throw away my integrity. The dispatcher said she would go check the warehouse and then would get right back to me. I explained that we were going on a huge road trip at the end of the week and really do need this in a timely manner. I asked her to let me know as soon as she could, especially if it wasn't there since I'd need to make some alternate arrangements. "Ok, No problem."  I felt okay with this answer and went to run a few errands and surprise a friend with some iced coffee.
      2 hours later- I called back since I hadn't heard from them. My carrier was not there. Apparently, the mistake on the label had been made at the airport. They sent a driver to "recover the package" and "it would be here tomorrow if there are no any problems." I promised to be home between 9-11 the next day. Of course, since this was now the afternoon, it was looking a whole lot less likely that I would find a solution if the package did not arrive Tuesday,  I went on with my day- intending on having a great day but being a grumpy bundle of nerves instead.
     I left home early to attend my PT for my feet (plantar fasciitis- both feet, fun stuff). I relished the extra 15 minutes of quiet time that I could spend reading. I was really attracted to the weird sky- which we had a severe weather watch for. (In MA the weather watches are usually for storms that will have high wind gusts, dangerous lightning, flash flooding, etc. Nothing super scary) The thunder rumbled and the sky was a weird reddish brown under a giant storm cloud. I stepped out of the car as huge booms of thunder  roared. (It would've been a cool entrance if someone was dreading seeing me.) I thought "Great, now it's going to pour on me right as I walk out of my car." It didn't, but at that moment God kind of revealed to me that my attitude was really crappy.
     Was my day seriously thrown off by not getting something that I want? Do I REALLY "need" it? What things would I have to change if it didn't come? Was my short temper with my entire family for the whole day demonstrating how much I love them or that I am a patient woman? Um, nope.  I remember seeing someone post "It costs $0.00 to be a decent human being."  My first thought was "Yes! There are some people I would like to staple that to today!" The irony was not lost on me.
     I skipped my reading time and just sat quietly. My physical therapist was busy with another patient so I went through all of my foot exercises with some time to physically focus on the exercises, but mentally focus on God. I guess the main thing that kept running through my head was "Jen, your worst possible day is so much better than the best days of many, many people- including people who are your friends and family." Ouch, that was personal- and truthful. I usually don't consider myself a selfish person, but I was pretty ashamed of my attitude.
     As I put my "problems" aside and opened my eyes, I saw confirmation of all of my thoughts. I enjoyed watching my kids play. I noticed that the threat of the storm brought the humidity down.  I really thought about what a friend said about how I'm not really being present in the moment if I'm spending all my time worrying about something coming up or past.  I eventually sat down to read. I prayed a few times and purposely scheduled in some time to be quiet. I listened to a friend who was struggling with a medical diagnosis. I noticed that some of my friends have recently lost family members and were hurting. I called my nana and my parents just to say hello. I stepped outside my comfort zone a few times.  I have to tell you, it was refreshing... and my car carrier came today.

The 366 Project:

Sent:263 (Holy moly! I'm still ahead of schedule. I'm going to complete this goal this year!!!)
Received: 112 (Only 86 behind goal. Ha ha. Feel free to mail me treats! On a good note, this is all personal mail that has been special to me. So, thanks if you have sent me a letter, card, piece of art, package, etc.) 

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Beautiful children's book and postcards

     Yesterday was a great mail day. I got to my mailbox to 3 postcards and no bills. Then, on my porch, I tripped over a package that I hadn't noticed before. It was another Goodreads win. This is a children's book but I entered  to win it because I thought the boys might like it and the art was nice.

Gnoman's  Land is a book by Mark Forker and Shannon Kachline. It is about a young girl named Mya who is looking for an adventure. So, she dresses up as a butterfly fairy and goes to seek her adventure in the backyard. She is sent from one character to another.  If you are a teacher, this would be a cute book to read out loud to the class. The text alternates between poetry and prose and has a few lines that are repeated enough that all of the kids would know what the sentence said. In addition to this, the illustrations were beautiful. (My boys were a little freaked out by the dragonfly but every other page was a hit.) There were many little details in the book that the boys pointed out to each other. Here are a few illustrations. (I took these from the Gnoman's Land website, with permission)

   Shannon's drawing's remind me a little of the artwork of a friend of mine. I would love to be able to draw like that (or even color like that!) Shannon, if you're reading. I love the smiley clouds. David liked the rocks the best. Thank you again for the book. (Mark and Shannon also signed the book and wrote a little note, which I thought was very sweet. So, if you know someone looking for a nice, new children's book, pass along the recommendation or buy one for your school. I might actually buy one for our school's library. 

     I mentioned postcards too. Here are the received cards:
   This one is a postcard I received for the Penpalling &Letters Surprise swap. It is from Heike in Germany. This castle was used in a Cinderella movie that she saw as a child. How beautiful is that place?
 This is a Postcrossing card from Germany. I would love to just stand on that bridge nd look out over the fountain. I would love to visit Germany again. I went a long time ago; in high school when I sang in a tour of Europe. We traveled to so many places that it became a blur, Germany made a great impression and I would love to go back someday.
   This is another card received through the Penpalling &Letters event. It is from Essex, England. Thanks! 
    In other news, I've sent a few penpal letters, a few ChemoAngels letters and a few Postcrossing cards. I'm looking forward to our upcoming vacation. I've put my mail on hold while we're away. I'm hoping to come home to a humongous pile of mail love. :) 

Friday, July 24, 2015

ROAD TRIP and some questions for you!

    A while back I mentioned that our family will be leaving for vacation soon and that I would write about it another night. We have been preparing for the biggest road trip I have ever been on. We live in Massachusetts on the North Shore, about as far East in the US as you can go. I have never been more West than New York, but I will during this trip! We have a lot of adventure packed into this trip. The highlights include:
- Endless hours on the road seeing various parts of the country and watch my children seeing many things for the first time. (Matt and I will be seeing a ton of new stuff too)
- Niagara Falls (first time)
- Meeting my penpal Ashley and her family! (and apparently trying cheese curds)
- Wisconsin Dells
- Badlands National Park
-Yellowstone National Park

     For about a month, my mind has been full of excitement, anxiety, curiosity and plans. I have some questions for you travelers. I would love some help. Please feel free to pass this link to your friends who travel or live in these areas:

1. For the road trip- What are things that you felt you must travel with? Anything you didn't bring, then wish you had? Anything you thought was essential and then realized you didn't need it at all?

2. Random- What are some regional foods that we should try? Any kids eat free deals out that way?

3. Yellowstone- What was your favorite spot you visited and why?  All the warnings about the bears are kind of freaking me out, any incidences in the campgrounds when you were there?

   I will share some of my trip when we get home. I'm sure I'll have plenty to talk about!

Friday, July 17, 2015

Postcards and GoodRead wins

   This past week I took part in the Penpalling& Letters (Penpal Group on Facebook) Surprise Postcard Event. I have a ton of cards and my mailbox was slow so I decided to send a card to almost everybody who signed up. (Rather, I sent a card to everybody who was signed up by the time I printed the address list.)  I realized as I was logging things that I have sent over 125 postcards this year! I wish I could say the same about letters.
    I got some good mail over the past few days too. Here are the books and postcards that have come in!
 This is my first received card from the P&L Postcard event. This is the Trifels (3 rocks) Castle in the Palatine Forest. It is sent by Melanie, who spent time as an au pair fairly close to where I grew up.
      I loved the title of this book when I saw it on the GoodReads giveaway page. As part of my job, I'm used to talking to 150 different personalities a day. (Sometimes all in 1 kid! Just kidding!) I don't struggle to converse with people I don't know well but sometimes I, honestly, have a hard time if conversations I have with people are shallow all of the time. I also have a hard time "loving" or being around annoying people. Ha ha... because I'm NEVER annoying, sigh. In all seriousness, sometimes I can be judgmental or have a tendency to not give people a chance if they have made mistakes. Honestly, I am glad that I recognize this in myself because it helps me to be open to people that I might not feel that I fit in with. It also makes me notice if I'm sounding a little "holier than thou."
    On the other hand, I'm friendly and I genuinely like spending time with people. So, sometimes when I see an acquaintance and speak with them for a while, I actually remember their name or say hello if I see them again. Sometimes, especially being a New Englander. people look at me like I'm really weird for being friendly. (This is why I married Matt.. he's super anti-social.. again, just kidding.) I actually had a conversation with a few moms at a birthday party yesterday. They were trying to figure out how long we've known each other and both said that I am "a person you feel like you've known for years." My insecurities yelled- "yeah, because you talk so much" or "it's only been 1 year? Gah!" but they said it was a good thing and that I was personable and they felt like they could talk to me on a "real" level. I laughed when I got home and saw this in my mailbox right after that conversation.
 This is a postcrossing card from a grade 10 student in China. "My love, you are like a flower"is printed on the back. I don't know what is written under the heart on the front.
    Another Goodreads win. I am not a huge mystery reader but this seems a little different. I look forward to trying the recipes. The author also signed it and wrote me a small note on the inside of the book. Thanks!

   In other news, I still haven't shared too much about our upcoming road trip but let me tell you right now that I have been worrying endlessly for at least a week. I have also discovered a few things about myself this week. Some of these things I already had glimpses of but many things have been put into a different perspective this week.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Great mail day!

    I was excited to see my mailbox full of personal mail today. (Plus one of my favorite magazines) No bill either. Score.
      I got 4 Postcrossing cards:
    This is a picture from the historic village of Shirakawa-go in Japan. It is located in a mounrainous region of Japan and was said to be cut off from the rest of the world for a long time. These villages subsisted on the cultivation of mulberry trees and the rearing of silkworms. Check out the thatched roofs. I think this is located in the Chubu region of Japan. The village is a UNESCO world heritage site- and I collect UNESCO cards. :) Thanks Yuki! As a huge bonus, her stamp was the Kanazawa-jo Castle, which is also a UNESCO site. Awesome. 
    Yuki also wrote about the Yoshida brothers, who are shamisen players. Here is a video of them from YouTube. I love all the music samples that Postcrossers send me. The Yoshida brothers are Yuki's favorite musicians. I have heard lots of shamisen music, but have never heard the shamisen play music that is not traditional music. Very cool.

Speaking of Japan:
    Welcome to the Tanabata Festival, which will take place in Miyagi August 6-8. It looks so colorful! Check this page out. Akko, if you're reading, have you ever been to this festival? Apparently it is tradition to write wished on paper strips and hang them from the bamboo. Maybe I'm nosy, but I would love to wander around and read the wishes. :) Thank you for the beautiful card Mimiko!

Off to the Philippines!

  In addition to the cool panda card (I've never seen a panda that was not black and white), Mao told me about El Gamma Penumbra. They performed on Asia's Got Talent and Mao says that they show a lot about Philippine culture. Watch this performance. It is beautiful!

     The last card I got was from the UK:
    One more musician for you to check out! Will Pound. He's on the harmonica. I loved this band and this set. Timmy has done some folk dancing in music this year and he loves it. He was excited to hear this too. 

   Another Goodreads win:
    Another nerd alert. This book is called "Thinking About Video Games" by David S. Heineman. This book includes interviews with people across the gaming industry about various topics. It includes information on game development, game studies, and the past, present and future of video games. I'm often the mom that doesn't let my kids play games that other kids their age are playing. I've read some fascinating/horrifying neuroscience about how the brain (especially in young men) processes certain types of games so I'm curious to read the perspectives of and studies done by more people. Gaming is not a topic I usually read about so I suspect I will learn a lot.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Package from Finland!

   Back in March (?), my friend Johanna in Finland sent me a package which got absorbed by the international post somewhere. So, she was kind enough to send me another package, which arrived today. She knows I like Moomins, which are Finnish characters that I wrote a little bit about in my first ever blog post.  Here is what she sent me:
 Look at all these glorious stamps! David was so excited to see the Angry Bird stamps.
 Yum! Fazer chocolates :) I can'r wait to try them, especially the chili chocolate. I've never had that before.
 My favorite strawberry soup. She sent 2 packages. (Now I don't have to hoard the remaining packets from my last Finnish package. lol)
 More Moomin tea! I got tea from the same brand in my other package, but they were different flavors. These are all roobois tea. I look forward to trying them. Johanna, I know that you usually do your devotions in the morning over breakfast. This summer I have started being more disciplined about spending time in devotions so I have been reading at breakfast too. I have often thought of you and prayed for your family at this time. Maybe I'll add some of your tea into my breakfast time. It's nice to have a sister in Christ all the way on the other side of the world.
 Moomin tote bag.
 Cute Moomin notepad. I plan to bring this to school and stick it to my desk. It will be fun explaining what Moomins are to all the middle school students who look perplexed.
 Postcards! There are 2 super cute cards in the bag at the top.
 Don't I wish?
    This is my other mail from today. This is from Germany.  What's up with me and blimps this week? ;)

    In other news, we tried the spicy licorice lollipops from the last Finnish package. We did NOT like them. lol. The lollipops from China were a hit though.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Random- life, cards, etc

   Tonight is going to be a bit scattered because I have a lot of stuff we've done but am not feeling focused.
    Regarding mail, I've been really good with sending at least 1 piece of mail a day out but most of it has been Postcrossing cards. The good thing about that is that pretty much guarantees that I will be getting mail back. The bad part is that I still have some major penpal guilt. Here are some of the pieces of mail that have come in this week:
 From Belgium
From China- from the same Postcrosser who sent me the mystery lollipops!
From Spain, depicting Don Quixote. 

    Family adventures:
Timmy had a baseball practice and David and I had a few hours. So, we went to see a local band perform at our town's summer concert series. They were great and I caught a picture of David having a blast dancing around. We had just stopped giggling at 2 older women to the left of them dancing to "All About the Bass."

David asked to go to the library to do Lego club. he has always been very orderly. Some kids had some extremely creative, piled up creations. David had a simple house with a garage. He's very like me in a mathematical/orderly sense.

 On the 4th of July, our town has a Horribles parade. David's kindergarten teacher from last year retired and a whole bunch of families marched in her honor. Her daughter brought her to the parade and it was so cool to be a part of the 35 people or so that came out to recognize her. The kids won a trophy for "Most like" our town and they cheered and jumped up and down. Then they grabbed the trophy and immediately ran and gave it to the teacher without any adults asking them to, Super cool moment. This is the sign David labored over (for 2 hours) and the shirt we made together.

     After the parade, I surprised the boys with a little red, white and blue treat. Yummy.
 Can you find David? The other day we spent a few hours at the playground and came home for some rest before baseball. Timmy is reading (as always).. in the middle of our driveway.
 Find David yet?
And there's David.. in the tree.
Timmy made a new friend. Ew. Notice that his eye is STILL black from the beginning of baseball season. This is after all of us went mini-golfing. Matt won... as always. 

     Other random items:
Just got a brand new vacuum. I'm going to use it right now. I've never been so excited for a cleaning product.
Bissell PowerForce Helix Bagless Upright Vacuum

   This freaky blimp has been flying around our area. It feels like it's staring at you. There's a contest that if you take a picture of it in your town, you can win a ride on the inside. It's nice in there, but I'm not interested.
The 125-foot long, 44-foot high blimp has a top speed of 35 mph and operates on 69,000 cubic feet of helium.

Friday, July 3, 2015

July mail so far

     Well, July has been pretty slow so far. We have had a few practices for Tim's new team and I've gotten some chores done around the house, but nothing exciting. Many of my friends are away so it's been a little lonely.
     Speaking of friends who are away, one of my best friends sent me a postcard from their family trip.  They went to the Hallmark Visitors Center in Kansas City, Missouri and thought of me when they saw the postcards. :) I love that they sent me a few and that their daughter wrote out the message on one. They have 3 daughters and their whole family is like family to us. It really brightened my day to get these. Thanks!

 This is The Four Seasons Mural. It's really pretty.
The Kansas City Spirit by Norman Rockwell and John Atherton. I have also seen it listed as "The Spirit of Kansas City."  This painting was commissioned by Hallmark founder J.C. Hall to commemorate the rebuilding of Kansas City after the Great Flood of 1951. (I learned all this today- this is one of the reasons I love collecting postcards and interacting with people from all over the world.)

     This next card is from Jane in Belarus. It's the first Postcrossing card she has sent out. Yeah for new Postcrossers! On my profile, I have asked about musicians from around the world. She has introduced me to Hurma, a Belorussian band. There seems to also be a Finnish band named Hurma as well. I listened to them both. I liked them. I wish I spoke more than 1 language fluently. Sometimes the sounds of languages fascinate me. I would share one of the songs, but I have no idea what the lyrics mean so I don't want to send something bad. lol 

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Today's adventures

     What a day! Lots of adventure today. First we started out having a nice family breakfast (except Matt, who was working.) The boys are starting to learn that, even though Matt usually cooks during the school year so we can eat as a family, I actually can cook. 
     Then we went to see Inside Out. I'm sure you have heard all about the movie by now. I thought it was good but I wasn't blown away by it. The kids seemed to like it too but, again, not super excited about it. After the movie, we went to Panera for lunch.
Image result for inside out
   After lunch we came home for some quiet time before our big night.  Not every "adventure" needs to be huge.

 However, some big adventures are great too. We headed off to see Newsies at the Boston Opera House through a trip organized by the local rec dept. This is David's first professional show. Look at the excitement on those faces. You should've seen mine. I was 100% more excited. I loved the movie and really looked forward to seeing the show.
   Did I mention David was also excited about riding a coach bus? Small adventures, remember?  If you've never seen the Boston Opera House, it is pretty cool. Here's a horrible picture from my cell phone:

David's reaction: "Woah! Naked people!" This led to a long (and loud) conversation about why they have naked people on the ceiling, why people draw naked people, why people would be naked in a painting and a lot about nudity. I don't think he was satisfied with my answers. Lol
Image result for newsies on tour
    We loved it. There was a weird thing where the actor playing Davey came on for the first scene and then about 3 minutes later (during a scene) there was an announcement saying that due to illness, another actor would be playing the role. I've never seen that before. Hope the actor is okay.
     So, this show was full of adrenaline. If you like the movie, I think you would like the show- though there are some major changes. I don't know if I think the changes were for better or for worse yet. I didn't mind them. I will say that if you can appreciate dance, you'll have a great time. If you don't like people breaking into song and dance, probably not. My boys were really excited by the set, the effects, the dancing, singing and the whole package.

Did I mention I hate my cell phone camera?

   This is David with one of the "papes" they threw into the audience. Someone gave it to him.

     No big plans for tomorrow. Timmy is starting on a new baseball team for a tournament. Happy July!