Wednesday, September 30, 2009

365 Days

Gratitude Challenge Day Six: Take a few minutes to call someone you haven't talked to in a while. Tell them how much you appreciate them.

Today's assignment should have been the easiest one of the whole 21 days. When we were young, my older brother would tease me that when our family went camping I would probably die because I wouldn't be able to talk on the phone. I used to spend hours on the phone as a teen -- truthfully, my monthly cell phone usage report shows that I still do. But as the day ticked on, I ran into a problem. See, ever since my dad's stroke I have talked on the phone a LOT! Even more than usual and to many, many friends and family members. And yet I wanted to call and thank someone who is really special to me. Someone I hadn't talked to in a while. And then it came to me. Today is September 30th. One year ago exactly was my last day of "paid work." And my department threw a beautiful good-bye party for me. So I called my former boss and told him that while I was enjoying this season of being an at-home parent, I still am grateful for him. Glad for the adventures we had working together. Thankful for his care for me as a person and a friend. Appreciative of his vision and leadership. And still feeling honored by the lovely reception, heartfelt words and thoughtful gifts that he and my team gave to me. After we hung up, I realized that while I hope he felt appreciated because of my call, I was the one who truly benefited because making the call brought to mind so many great memories. Maybe it wasn't exactly the easiest assignment of the whole challenge, but it was the one I've enjoyed the most.

Freewrite... Go!

Day Five of the Gratitude Challenge: Take five minutes to write about how grateful you are for all of the wonderful things that you currently have in your life. Don't long for what you don't possess -- instead, take stock of all the blessings you already enjoy.

I was crawling into bed when I remembered the Gratitude Challenge. Whoops. So I'm going to set the timer and make a list of wonderful things just as they come to mind. Ready... set...WRITE!

Beautiful healthy kids, giggles from CeCe, Jeeper reading TO me, my cozy home on a cool fall day, crisp grapes, an encouraging phone call from my mom with sweet little stories of my dad's continued progress, homemade brownies, brothers who stay in touch and who say "I love you," the forested park at the end of our street, a husband who stops and rubs my shoulders almost every time he walks by my chair, a little garden that is still producing tomatoes, trustworthy neighbors, a great Montessori preschool within walking distance of our house, amazing friends in my life, plenty of tea in the cupboard, a haircut (finally!), the most beautiful summer EVER that is now turning into a gorgeous autumn, our cat (even though I don't act like it), sunglasses and my pillow.

Good night!

Monday, September 28, 2009

When Life Gives You Lemons

Gratitude Challenge Day Four: Write a short message of thanks for some of the "negative" things in your life.

Dear First Job,
I used to cry every morning on my commute to work. I had dreamed of a long-term relationship with you, but that was before I knew about your back-stabbing colleagues, passive-aggressive supervisor and the micro-management of my day. I began to doubt my self-worth and you nearly broke my spirit. Fortunately, I was able to find a new job behind your back. My next job was so much better for me and soon I realized that I had loads of abilities and contributions -- you were the unhealthy one. I even felt a little sorry for you when I heard that two co-workers left you soon after I did. You didn't know a great thing when you had it! One of those co-workers is still one of my dearest friends. We shared the suffering you doled out and it forged an unshakable friendship. I am so thankful to have her in my life, so despite everything else, I am grateful for you.

Dear Painful, Humiliating Church Experience,
When you hurt my family, I wasn't sure I would live beyond the trauma, but I quickly realized that God was with me all along. Despite the way "God's people" behaved, I felt the presence, peace and comfort of the Creator. The injury caused me to question the religion I had trusted since birth and shoved me (against my will at first) into a fellowship of spiritual seekers much bigger and broader than I had ever imagined. Looking back, I am truly grateful to have come through the fire of fundamentalist rejection into the glory of God's transforming grace. So, humbly, I say thank you.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Ere I Forget All the Joy

Day Three of the Gratitude Challenge: Write about something you feel grateful for in your life today.

I'm home from a wonderful dinner out and trying to quickly finish my gratitude update and get into bed. Today I am grateful for:

my husband
his parents
our wonderful babysitter
red wine, steak salad and creme brulee (yum!)

I've been humming a song all day and it feels like the soundtrack for this post. It is a folk song that I learned from my dad called "Today" that was originally sung by The New Christy Minstrels. The words seem perfect for this assignment:

"Today while the blossoms still cling to the vine
I'll taste your strawberries, I'll drink your sweet wine
A million tomorrows shall all pass away
Ere I forget all the joy that is mine today."

Saturday, September 26, 2009

My Gralphabet

Day Two of the Gratitude Challenge: Use the alphabet as a fun and quick format for making a list of things for which you feel grateful. Share this list through email, a blog post or a Facebook page.

The Artisanal Table - a new Pizzeria and Enoteca (Italian Wine Shop) in downtown Bellevue with truly wonderful pizzas and wines.  My new favorite place.

Billings - a fine place to grow up.  And filled with many, many friends who are coming alongside my parents as my dad recovers from a stroke.  I am so, so grateful.

California Baby Calming Shampoo and Bodywash - makes my darlings smell even more delicious.

Daughter - I am thrilled to be Mama to my sweet baby girl.

Elsa Peretti - thank you for designing such beautiful jewelry.  Every time I catch a glimpse of the lovely necklace my husband gave to me, I feel like a princess.

Foster School of Business - I experienced invigorating work, amazing colleagues and inspirational students during my eight years at UW.  Even now, many of my dearest friends share business school roots. 

Grace - God's unmerited favor.

Husband - 10 years of marriage to one handsome hunk.

In-laws - or "in-loves" as my mom says.  I love the people that marriage added to my family: father-in-law, mother-in-law, three sisters-in-law, and two brothers-in-law.  Dear to me, all.

Japan - my first and favorite international experience.

Kim - who inspired me to take this challenge. And who has been a bosom buddy for 15 years.

Lihue - "the Gateway to Kauai."  We flew into Lihue for our honeymoon 10 years ago and we'll fly into Lihue next spring to spend a week relaxing with some of our favorite friends.  Can't wait!

Motorcycle - the one I want to own someday.  Glad for the dream.

Nuclear family - both my childhood and my current.  I have lots of love for Papa, Mom and my brothers.  And I adore my hubby, my Jeeper and my CeCe.

Orange (but not oranges) - Orange is a long-time favorite color.  So bright and fun.

P  my Pals/Peeps/People - Super grateful for my friends.  If this list wasn't alphabetical you all would be at the top.  I love every one of you.

Quilts - My mom just got excited when she read that.  But sadly for her, I wrote quilts, not quilting.  You see, my mom is a quilter and I love the beautiful works of art she makes for my family.  Maybe someday it will say quilting, Mom.  But not today.

Red Tano handbag - I'm grateful that it is beautifully crafted and just the perfect style and color, but my favorite part is that my husband picked it out for me when he was on a business trip in NYC.  Awww, what a guy!

Son - He is my angel.

Triple Thanks - Trader Joes.  TiVo.  Tea (lots of ice, no sweetener and a slice of lemon.)

U2 - thanks to my friend Wolm for the U2 intro and to my husband for the U2 enthusiasm and education over the years.

V  the View out my kitchen window - so green, cool and comforting.

Wedding in the UK - thank you Sonja and Dan for the opportunity to be part of such a warm and wonderful event!  It was the trip of a lifetime.

XoXo - kisses from my kiddos.

Yoga - even though it has been way too long since I've practiced... it really changed my life when I did.

Zoom, zoom, zoom - LOVE my Mazda.  So zippy, easy and fun.  I want the CX-9 next!  Whoops, that isn't gratitude.  Well, I AM grateful for my current Mazda even as I covet my next one.  Heh, heh, heh.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Favorite Photo Friday

'Nilla wafer at Nana's

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Gratitude Schmatitude

Since returning from Montana, I've been "down in the grumps." I called Bea and asked her to meet me at Frost Doughnuts thinking maybe a bacon maple bar would get out of my funk. We are going tomorrow so I'll let you know.  In the meantime I went to see my therapist and we discussed my dad's stroke, my mom's stress, my kid's whining and my disappointment over not being selected as a Verity Mom finalist.  Her recommendation?  Keep up with "self-care."  Umm, oooh-kay.  Easier said than done when you are a busy mom of little ones.  Does a really delicious gourmet doughnut count?  

So, I made plans for my husband and in-laws to give me some time off this weekend, found a babysitter for a grown-ups only dinner on Sunday and scheduled a massage for a week from now.  Still felt grumpy.  Called Moe, our angelic mother's helper and she came over and played with the little ones for a while.  She even picked up all the toys while she was here.  I was beginning to feel a little better.  Met my husband at the door and told him HE was taking the kids to dinner.  Hmm... this self-care business just might work!  I feel less grumpy already.  

A bowl of cold cereal and a half-hour of peace and quiet later, I found the final piece in my grump-banishment plan.  The Tiny Prints Gratitude Challenge.  I learned about it from my friend Kim, over at gratitude365.  She had already started the 21-day challenge and I felt encouraged when I read her posts.  And not only because I am included on one of her gratitude lists.  So I'm going to do it.  And today is my day #1.  The assignment for the first day is to write about why I accepted this challenge and what I hope to achieve.

I accepted this challenge because most of my thoughts today are about why I am NOT grateful:  There are dirty dishes in the sink.  A friend's father passed away yesterday after a long fight with cancer.  The kids broke our laptop this morning.  I could go ON and ON.  But it isn't helping to make a list of what stinks.  I need to shift my perspective.  I know there are hundreds of things that I can celebrate right now, even though it feels like an effort to come up with a list.  Thankfully, I don't need to make a list until tomorrow's assignment!  And what I hope to achieve is the strength to choose grateful.  Maybe not every single time, but more of the time and even when times are rough. I know the benefits will be worth the challenge.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Favorite Photo Friday

I haven't taken any photos this week.  I have been in Montana trying to be helpful to my mom and dad because my dad had a stroke a week and a half ago.  So this Friday, I'm featuring a favorite photo I took last fall when my dad took Jeeper fishing.  My dad is showing improvement everyday and I look forward to a not-too-distant day when he can return to his favorite hobby!   I love you, Papa.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Yer Name's Sundee?

Ask anyone who knows me very well.  I'm pretty picky about my name.  I don't know exactly why my parents named me after the weather or why they decided to switch out the traditional Y for a cheerful I, but Sunni is my given name and I figure that people should, for the most part, get it right.  I assume that the barista will write "Sunny" on my cup when I give them my name and that's no problem for me.  Even when people pronounce it "Sue-knee" when they see it written for the first time is okay... as long as it doesn't happen a second time.  

Just like anyone else with an unusual name or a name with a non-traditional spelling, I've tried to figure out ways to make my name easy for people to understand and easy to remember.  The following dialogue took place when I was a teenager working at a snack counter.  It gives you a glimpse into my life with the name Sunni. This story isn't even about the unusual spelling -- that is a whole other blog post!  Anyway, here is one of the many funny conversations about my name:

Older gentleman:   Yer new here.  What's your name?
Me:  Sunni
Him:  Sally?
Me:  No, Sunni.  Like the day. 
Him:  Yer name's Sundee?!
Me:   No Sunni.  Like the weather.  Sunny day.  Like that.
Him:   Yer name's Sunny?
Me:  That's right.  Pleasant customer service smile.
Him:   Oh. Sunny... like Sonny Boy.... That's a boy's name.
Me:   Giving up.  Here are your nachos, sir. 

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Airplane Carry-on: Then and Now

Before I was a mom, my carry-on would include:
Emoillient lip balm
Hydrating face mist
Extra-moisturizing hand lotion
Nail clippers (for the rare hang-nail that might disturb)
Lavender-scented buckwheat neck pillow
Eye mask (on long flights)
Ear plugs
My own (sanitary & comfortable) headset
Fully charged laptop for working and playing Solitaire
Handful of my favorite magazines purchased in the terminal
Printed copies of trip paperwork in folder
1-2 Luna bars
Mentos (the freshmaker)
Sparkling water or iced tea purchased right before boarding plane

Traveling with my children, my carry-on includes:
Umbrella stroller (gate-checked)
"Cozy blankie" (my daughter's huge fuzzy blanket)
LOTS of diapers
Changing pad
Plastic bags for soiled diapers
Two complete changes of clothes for each kid (don't forget socks)
Nursing cover
Diaper ointment
Teething tablets and cream
Small bottle of infant Tylenol
Binkies (5 would be ideal)
Empty water bottle & sippy cup for filling with water in terminal
Many small baggies of snacks for kids
Inexpensive paperback books that I'm okay with losing
An endless array of small "disposable" toys
Post-it notes (can entertain a toddler for a LONG time)
iPod with many preschool-age videos loaded in advance
Old over-the-head earphones (for child who doesn't like iPod ones)
A few more kid snacks
Chapstick, any chapstick (please tell me I threw one in here!)

Friday, September 11, 2009

Favorite Photo Friday

You may be thinking I need to take a few more pictures if this is my favorite photo of the week!  But wait, let me explain.  As most of you know, I am a contestant in the Verity Mom contest -- a chance to win a job as a blogger/spokesperson for Verity Credit Union in Seattle.  And a primary part of the application process was making a one minute video.  The rules specified that applicants had to script, film, edit and post the video by themselves.  And so I did.  And this, dear readers, is a photo of my amazing cameraman.  I call him Bob.  (grin)

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Multi-tasking Mama

Tonight, I ever so carefully super-glued a toy airplane to myself.  Which is shocking because I was giving the task my complete and undivided attention.  Well, okay.  Dinner was cooking, CeCe was wildly yanking dishes from the cupboard at my feet and Jeeper was standing next to me asking rapid-fire questions.  And I didn't really plan to fix the toy tonight.  It had been sitting on the kitchen counter for nearly a year and all of a sudden tonight I felt convinced that I had to fix it right now.  And I DID fix it.  But I also glued it to my thumb.  And then I panicked because I couldn't remember what to do.  Dish soap and hot water?  Nope.  A good yank?  Ow!  No way.  Fortunately, my husband walked through the door right then.  And of course he knew.  Finger nail polish remover.  Phew.  So, other than a little pale blue paint residue, I'm good as new again.  But the whole  adventure did remind me to slow down a little.  And to save any super-glue projects until after the kids have gone to bed.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

In addition to all my tension, worry, stress and upset because my dad is in the hospital recovering from a stroke (almost 1000 miles away), yesterday was stinky because:

Jeep broke a beautiful little dish that I brought back from Japan over ten years ago.

CeCe "the Destroyer" found (by getting past the kid-lock on the bathroom cupboard) and ruined my favorite lipstick. Lipstick under tiny fingernails is OH SO fun to clean up!

My mom (understandably) had a huge emotional breakdown.

Mother Nature brought me a "gift." (Let's pretend I didn't just write that.)

More great moms applied to be the Verity Mom. Including a professional blogger. She probably has a clean house and nice handwriting too. Grrr.

My husband got a speeding ticket. Okay, that was actually a couple of days ago, but I was still really mad about it yesterday.

Jeep whined. CeCe fussed.

And some other stuff. That I can't think of today. But it sure seemed like a really bad day. Except for the moments when it didn't. Like when we took a walk as a family to the local park. And during the phone calls from dear friends who wanted me to know they love me and are thinking of me and my family. And when my husband put the kids to bed so I could go to the gym. And when I was eating the brownie sundae I made when I got home.

So maybe it wasn't exactly a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. But I hope today is better.

Monday, September 07, 2009

I Don't Like This Sandwich

In the middle of this weekend's usual events -- dishes, bedtime routines, a trip to the store -- and extraordinary events -- homemade raspberry pancakes, our 10th wedding anniversary, an afternoon to myself -- I received a call that my dad had been admitted to the hospital and appears to have had a stroke.  Diaper changes and meal preparations were suddenly interrupted by frequent phone calls, sobbing fits and internet searches for flight schedules to Montana.  His condition is stable enough that the testing that will give insight into what happened has to wait for the holiday to pass.  So I am on hold.  And in limbo. Sandwiched between worrying about my dad and working with my kids.  I pick up CeCe's stack of blocks and at the same time I fall apart at the thought of my dad struggling to communicate.  My dad!  One of the most talkative, verbal and opinionated people I know.  I sit and sound out words with Jeep and I get a lump in my throat because, in his current state, my dad can't remember how to read.  My dad!  The one who taught me to love reading with his example of devouring book, after book, after book.

As a parent myself, I don't have the freedom to give my dad all the attention I want to give him.  I want to be on a plane yesterday.  I want to be at the hospital asking questions, holding his hand and making sure my mom gets time off to rest and eat.  But who will look after our kids while I take care of my dad?  Do I take one or both or none with me?  What favors do we call in from friends and neighbors and when?  How can we choose between the plane tickets and preschool tuition?  How do we make responsible financial decisions for our family -- our whole family?  There isn't a guidebook or one clear black and white answer right now.  And so I pray for the strength to make the best decision I can -- for my kids, my husband, my self, and especially for my dad.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Celebration Saturday

Happy tenth wedding anniversary to us!  We had a lovely evening out at Cinebarre and Preservation Kitchen.  One of my favorite parts of the whole day was my husband's facebook status update: "Loving the Sunni side of life for 10 years and counting."  Awwwwww.  Just one of the thousands of reasons he is the one for me.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Favorite Photo Friday

This week our family picked blackberries at our neighborhood park.  We came home with two quarts!  I made a cobbler with one quart and we ate the rest over the next couple of days.  CeCe LOVED them!

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Smells Like A Budget In Here

This post was written as part of my application to be the Verity Mom for Verity Credit Union so it also appears online at

Before I stopped "working for money" (my previous career) to "work for love" (become a stay-at-home-mom,) I saved a little chunk of change for use in case of emergency as we transitioned to living on one salary. Every month I would find myself writing a check from savings to cover any number of "emergencies"-- from date nights (cheaper than marriage counseling, I told myself) to new shoes (on SALE) and car repairs (okay, that truly is an emergency.) And yet I was surprised when I realized the fund was nearly depleted. How did that happen?! Wouldn't I have noticed the rapid decline? Well… the truth is, I didn't. Two young kids kept both my husband and me very busy and our finances were not getting the attention they deserved. We had made a few spending changes and I was proud that we weren't using our credit cards, but for the most part we were living like we did when we both drew a salary.

After a brief period of panic and worry, I reminded myself that living within our means is a choice. I knuckled down and went carefully over our fixed expenses and bank records and made a budget. Candidly, it was EYE-OPENING! We are fortunate to have enough money coming in to cover our daily needs, but we don't have a lot of wiggle room. A couple of expensive dinners out, a few thoughtless purchases and one of those ever-present unanticipated expenses and wham-o, we are over budget! No wonder the emergency fund evaporated.

Now we pay fixed expenses with our online banking and liquid expenses with cash that comes out of an old-school envelope system. In our family are certainly still learning how to use our budget muscles -- we've been out of shape for a while. It isn't easy, but the challenge is balanced with a great feeling of satisfaction. I know I am making good choices for my family and our future which brings me more pleasure than the convenience purchases I was making before.

Today, instead of buying a treat from a Starbucks drive-thru (a too-busy mom's snack salvation), we are having fresh baked cookies. The grocery store had Marie Callender's Chocolate Chip Cookie mix on sale for $1.79 so even when I add butter and eggs, I'm getting a dozen cookies for less than I would have spent on two cookies a few months ago. And a mix is still manageable for a too-busy mom. It isn't true every minute, but right now, living on a budget smells pretty sweet.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Light the Fire

I've written many, many blog posts since last September... unfortunately they have all been in my head! But a couple of weeks ago I found something that inspired me to return to the actual keyboard.

A local credit union is basically having a contest... for a part-time job as a "mommy-blogger" and spokesperson! I am a little surprised that I am so interested and excited by this idea. I tend to be a bit of skeptic and I get frustrated at how marketing departments can push, push, push for never-ending, thoughtless and wasteful consumerism. But this seems different. Sure Verity CU is doing this for a reason -- and I'm sure a numbers-based reason -- but it feels like there is heart behind it. That while they want to find new customers, they are also interested in those customers on a more holistic level. And that yes, their research shows that moms make most of the buying decisions in a family and so, of course, let's capture those banking customers, but let's also make their lives a little bit easier by giving them a space, and a voice, that supports the important, all-consuming yet so rewarding work of being a parent.

So, I'm in. I still need to write a blog post for my online application, but yesterday I borrowed a flip camera from a friend to make my application video. Today, I taped myself talking on my back deck while Jeep watched "kids TV" and CeCe took a nap. And the perfectionist, former working-for-money professional, detail-oriented me wanted to shoot it about 25 more times in various outfits, from multiple angles and in different light, BUT the baby woke up after take number 3 and my real-life as an at-home parent brought me back to the sweet reality of "good enough." Afterall, in addition to all I do everyday as a mom, I still need to get the video onto YouTube, finish my Facebook "Sunni Bannon for Verity Mom" fan page, and send a few more Tweets. grin

So thank you, Verity Credit Union for this great idea. It has recharged my blogging brain with loads of new ideas and I'm glad to be back!

And also thank you to Tim who kindly granted me permission to use Verity Credit Union's "Verity Mom" logo.