Tuesday, August 30, 2011

White Girl Can't Zumba!

So I tried something new last night... Zumba!

Several of my friends have been telling me how much fun it is and what a great workout they get from it. Although one friend did tell me that a lot depends on the instructor. (Cue dramatic music.... Dun dun duuunnn!)

I went after work, staked out a spot in the back corner by the fan, and quickly chatted up a few other people before class started. One lady said she had taken the class a couple times already and just when she catches on to one move it would change. But she said it was a lot of fun.

Before I knew it, the music started and everyone started moving together like some sort of flash mob. Apparently, the other 70 people in the class had been here before. I, on the other hand, was like a fish out of water. Literally. I flopped around like a dying fish for the first half hour while most of the other people were able to keep up with our instructor who seemed to think she was auditioning for "So You Think You Can Dance."

I have no other Zumba class to compare, but I'm pretty sure most instructors at least shout some sort of direction at some point. The only words I heard this teacher say was at the beginning: "Forget the workout. It's a dance party in here!"

I should have left when I heard the words "dance party."

I was completely lost for the first half of the class. It was some sort of crazy dance fusion that involved the running man (yes, seriously), the electric slide, the macarena, hip hop, and something that looked like an angry hula dance... all set to techno salsa and Indian music. It was rumba in Bollywood.

This has to be one of Dante's circles of hell.

Did I mention that there were at least 70 other people? Yeah, we were packed in tight. Every time the instructor would lead us in a move that required moving more than two feet, the class looked like a sea of bodies being tossed from one side of the room to the other. I could almost hear the sound of crashing waves above the steady pulse of the bass. A few people needed to be thrown a life raft... me included!

Finally, I was saved when some Beyonce came on. As I joined the others in reenacting her music videos, I looked around and realized there were several others who were also a little uncoordinated. It made me feel a little better and realize that they probably were too busy trying to follow the spastic changes to even notice my own floundering.

After shaking our rumps, we did a little Charleston and a little salsa (two things I can manage). I reached a small comfort level and looked deep inside for my inner Shakira. Realizing there was no disco ball trophy at stake, I let loose and had fun at the end.

Will I try Zumba again? Probably not this class. As my dear Hubby pointed out, I'm not exactly the most graceful person around. I'm much more comfortable taking kick boxing or step aerobics. Roundhouse kicks are a lot easier than shaking my hips. But I might try a different Zumba class.... Someday.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Plum Crazy (or The Hedonistic Rituals of Youth)

Slurp. Slurp. Mmm.

These are the sounds I hear as I type.

My child is enjoying one of his favorite treats... A plum!

When he gets a hold of one of these delicious spheres of goodness, he actually settles down (an unusual moment for him) and stops to savor every bite. I joke that he's a "plum vampire" because he likes to sink his teeth into the flesh and suck out the juice before taking a bite.

I'm happy to provide him with any of his favorite fruits and veggies. And, as most moms do, I'm always trying to expand his palate. The plum find was merely by accident. I bought some for myself and didn't think he would be interested. But when I offered him a bite of mine, I was shocked when he took me up on my offer and finished the entire fruit.

Not every fruit/veggie introduction is always as successful. Sometimes I have to find a compromise (he won't eat strawberries, but he'll drink them in a smoothy). And other times I have to pick my battles and focus on the wins (he doesn't like green beans, but he'll eat guacamole by the bowlful).

Guacamole has been a favorite since he started eating solid food!

And while I'm trying to teach my kid about food, he's teaching me about eating.

1. Savor it slowly. Just like Little Dude and the plum, I need to slow down and learn to enjoy each bite. It would help me to think about what I'm actually eating and give my tummy time to tell me when I'm full.

2. Listen to your tummy. Little Dude doesn't determine if he's eaten enough by the amount of space left on his plate. His stomach tells him to stop eating and he does.

3. Don't be afraid to try new things. Ok, so Little Dude isn't always willing to try everything I offer, but it's sometimes surprising what he will try and how often. There are some foods he'll try and spit out, but the next time I offer it, he'll try it again.

I definitely need to start eating like a 4-year-old. It would do my body some good!

Friday, August 26, 2011

The Closet of Horrors

I'm going to show you one of the most disgusting pictures you'll ever see.

If you have a sensitive stomach, you may want turn away right now.

It is not for the faint of heart.

But it is something that I finally had to face last weekend.

It is gross.

It is dirty.

It is...

...my hallway closet!

I just never seem to have time to clean it out so it had accumulated quite a lot of stuff.

Horrifying isn't it?

It's actually a fairly deep closet and as I was pulling stuff out of it, I was surprised at how much it could hold. At one point, I think I found spare parts to the International Space Station and a small family of contortionists.

It took 5 hours to clean the entire thing. Luckily, my child and Hubby were both gone so I was free to finally tackle the job alone. And now I can actually find everything I need:

Now I just need to work on my other closets! Yikes!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Kid's Say the Darnest Things

The things that come out of Little Dude's mouth often surprise and amaze me. He is quite a master of conversation. He'll throw out large words like "disgusting," "fabulous," and "marvelous," which will surprise us.

My favorite was when he told his teacher at school that his shoelace had "lost its aglet." The teacher didn't even know what an aglet was! (Thanks to Phineas & Ferb, our family is well acquainted with the word.)

Sometimes, Little Dude has a way of stating the obvious that just makes us smile. For instance, before his birthday we were talking about how he'll one day be a teenager and then an adult. He threw up his hands in exasperation and said, "I just keep getting older and older!"

Sometimes, Little Dude will add his own little twist of fiction to fact. Like the other Saturday morning when he informed us (while eating a donut), "If I eat too much sugar, I'll turn into a cow and jump over the moon!"

And other times, Little Dude is just filled with so much imagination that I don't even know what is wandering through his little brain.

Wednesday night at church, he was learning about Jonah and the whale. He told his Bible study leader that a few weeks ago I got upset with him, but then an alligator swallowed him. He was in the gator's stomach for 5 weeks, and I was sad until Jacob was finally able to get out.


When I asked him about that story the next morning he said, "Well, when I was Jonah I got swallowed by a shark."

"You did?"

"Yes. And other kids got swallowed by the shark too. But I steered the shark."

"You steered the shark?"

"Yes. And we were in there for 3 weeks."

"That's a long time."

"Yeah. But then the shark pooped and we came out."

"Wait... are you sure the shark didn't throw up and then  you came out?"

"No. The shark pooped. It was gross. Ew... poopy shark behind." (Followed by hysterical laughter.)

Sure, I obviously need to read him the story of Jonah a few more times before it sticks, but I do enjoy his wild imagination.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Knight in Plastic Armor

I've blogged before about how Little Dude pretends to be the Red Power Ranger. He's also learned that in order to be a hero, you have to have a bad guy. It's apparently part of the Fantasyland laws - you don't have to have a reason to fight for, just a bad guy to fight. So Big Dude occasionally fills the role of antagonist to Little Dude's hero, and they go to war in our living room armed with foam swords and witty lines like, "I'm gonna get you, bad guy!"

Furry Dude and I watch this bloodless combat from the safety of the couch where I'm usually folding laundry while dodging zingers like, "You're no match for me, bad guy." (Wow. I have got to work on his rhetoric!)

Somehow, the knowledge of how to wield and thrust a sword must be encoded in a dude's DNA. It's not like our son was born at a Renaissance Festival and raised by method actors. Yet, before he even owned his first foam sword, he was already using straws and crayons to engage his enemies.

Understanding a hero's need for proper equipment, Big Dude bought Little Dude his first set of swords. Then his second. ("The foam swords are starting to fall apart.") Then his third. ("These ones glow in the dark.") And by now, Little Dude has amassed quite an impressive armory of plastic and foam swords. If we ever have to go to war against Mattel, this family is ready!

Little Dude has also discovered that you don't have to be a Power Ranger to carry a sword. Papa and Grandma taught him about knights.

As an expert swordsman, Little Dude is able to defeat his foe with one hand.

They took us to Medieval Times.

If you've never been to Medieval Times, you should check it out sometime. They change the storyline quite often, but the premise is that you are attending a medieval tournament.

You get to eat with your hands and scream hysterically... basically, you can behave like a toddler for a few hours.

We were lucky to get a front row seat to the action - horsemanship, jousting, sword fights and more.

Little Dude loved it! It was a fantasy come true for him. He was completely mesmerized by the live action. He was cheering. He was waving a flag with our knight's colors. And most importantly... he got to see a bad guy defeated.


And yes, Big Dude bought a couple more plastic swords while we were there!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Florida! - Leapin' Gators

Yes, I realize that it might seem like my family has a slight obsession with gators. First, there was gator hunting (not quite what you think) near the Everglades and then a visit to Gatorland.

Top Right: Oh, sweet nostalgia! The gator jaw no longer covers the entrance, but it still smiles for a photo op.
Bottom Right: No gators were harmed in the taking of this picture.

OK, you may be asking Gatorland? But I'm here to tell you it is FUN! The first time we visited Gatorland was right after I graduated from high school. While we were in Florida visiting relatives and Disney World, my parents let my sister and I each pick something to go see. I cannot remember what she picked, but I chose the most intriguing billboard I had ever seen... Gatorland!

It was a strange choice, but my parents were willing to humor me. And it ended up being the highlight of the trip. The park's gaping gator jaw entrance led to unexpected entertainment!

Gators, gators everywhere!
Top Right: More of those creepy vultures. They were everywhere we went in Florida.

Hubby had heard us talk about Gatorland with such genuine fondness that he was game to go. Of course, the thought crossed my mind... What if it's not as good as I remember?

Yes, I encouraged my child and hubby to hold a python. What loving mother wouldn't?

The park is much more commercialized now than when we first visited it. There are Gatorade vending machines all over the place. They have several photo booths where you pose astride a giant gator (or in its mouth). They have a water park for the kids. They have a zip line that goes across the park... over the gator exhibits. And now you can even sign up to wrestle a gator (albeit with it's mouth taped shut) before watching the professionals do it in one of the shows.

Left: Professional gator wrestler. Do not attempt.
Right: Nope... not naptime. The wrestler flips a gator on his back to end the match.

A bird awaits service at the bait shack where you can buy hotdogs to toss to hungry gators.

But the magic of seeing hundreds of gators resting, eating, and leaping through the air still remains.

OK, maybe not leaping through the air, but those guy can jump pretty high when a piece of chicken is dangling above the water! The most popular show at Gatorland is the reptilian answer to the Shamu show at Sea World.

Look at the last picture... he managed to keep all ten fingers! I'd celebrate too!
*Professional. Do not attempt!

So did Gatorland live up to our memories? Absolutely!

Of course, Hubby spotted the most exciting non-gator action in the park. Just before we left, he took us back tough the wooden pathway that led through the gator compound and pointed out a little white fluffy spot among the tree branches.

There were two baby cranes in a nest perched above the gator marsh.

See? Not everything at Gatorland is covered in alligator hide!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Happiness Happens

So I'm taking this brief break from chronicling my vacation to Florida to celebrate Happiness Happens Day!

Despite the fact that it's a Monday, I've been pretty happy so far. I have a family that loves me. I have wonderful friends. I love what I do. I'm pretty healthy. And I have some really fun hobbies that keep me busy.

Plus, today I learned that happiness can actually be trained. Yep! All those sourpusses out there who live with a little dark cloud above their heads can actually be trained to be more cheerful. The first step is forcing themselves to smile. The actual act of smiling (whether fake or real) increases one's endorphins. The next step is to do a random act of kindness for someone. If you do five acts of kindness or expressions of gratitude a week, you'll become happier over time. Another step is to write something down every day that makes you happy... a little "Happy Journal."

Despite the fact the the US Constitution actually guarantees the American people the right to pursue happiness, we're not the happiest nation. We're actually the 16th happiest. Of course, as C.P. Snow once said, "The pursuit of happiness is a most ridiculous phrase: if you pursue happiness you'll never find it."

Here are some other quotes I found...

"Some pursue happiness, others create it." ~ Unknown

"Now and then it's good to pause in our pursuit of happiness and just be happy." ~ Robert Brault

"It is strange what a contempt men have for the joys that are offered them freely." ~ Georges Duhamel

"We are no longer happy so soon as we wish to be happier." ~ Walter Savage Landor

"We tend to forget that happiness doesn't come as a result of getting something we don't have, but rather of recognizing and appreciating what we do have." ~ Frederick Keonig

"If only we'd stop trying to be happy, we could have a pretty good time." ~ Edith Wharton

"The happiness of most people is not ruined by great catastrophes or fatal errors, but by the repetition of slowly destructive little things." ~ Ernest Dimnet

"Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things." ~ Robert Brault

"Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be." ~ Abraham Lincoln

"In order to have great happiness you have to have great pain and unhappiness - otherwise how would you know when you're happy?" ~ Leslie Caron

"You cannot always have happiness, but you can always give happiness." ~ Unknown

"I am a king of paranoiac in reverse. I suspect people of plotting to make me happy." ~ J.D. Salinger

"Three grand essentials to happiness in this life are something to do, something to love, and something to hope for." ~ Joseph Addison

"What a wonderful life I've had! I only wish I'd realized it sooner." ~ Colette

"Happiness is a conscious choice, not an automatic response." ~ Mildred Barthel

"Those who can laugh without cause have either found the true meaning of happiness or have gone stark raving mad." ~ Norm Papernick

What's your favorite happiness quote?

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Proud Mama

OK, so I'm a proud mama. What can I say?