Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Junk Mail Pays

You never know when a random piece of junk mail can turn into something interesting. A couple of weeks ago, we received a piece of mail from Arbitron, the organization that gives ratings to radio stations. Enclosed was a request for both of us to record our radio listening habits for a full week; also enclosed was two dollars. We accepted the challenge and a few days later, we received our ratings booklets and ten more dollars.

So for the past six days, Ryan and I have been writing down what stations we listen to and when. We also have to tell where we heard the station, whether it be home, work, car or other. I've learned quite a bit about how I listen to the radio. For instance, I only listen to the radio in the car and with the help of the convenient 'change stations' button on the steering wheel, I found that I tend to change the station a lot. Of course, with this survey, I haven't changed the channel as often since it would be too hard to record such changes in my radio log.

Our week is up tomorrow and I'm quite thankful that I can go back to habit of changing the station when commercials come on. I never realized how annoying they were until I heard the same ones played over and over. It's definitely made me think about the luxury of my iPod and the fact that I can control what I listen to and when. Apparently Ryan's already figured that out because his log is practically blank due to his iPod usage.

So the next time you hear the phrase, "Arbitron rated number one...." you'll know how those ratings come about. And if you get a piece of junk mail from Arbitron, you'll know not to throw it out because, you, too, could help shape what's on the radio. And you could make twelve dollars out of it, too.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Update on the Resolutions

It's now one month into my New Year's Resolutions and I'm actually doing pretty well. My first goal was to lose weight, specifically ten pounds by the end of the year. I've lost two so far, which is not much, but it's something. Ryan says he can see the difference in my face and legs so apparently running three or four miles several days each week is working for me, albeit a little slower than I'd like.

Second, I've kept to my promise to read a book a week. I've read four, the most enjoyable being 'The Historian' by Elizabeth Kostova. It involves the search for Dracula throughout Europe and Turkey and contains fabulous plot twists along with beautiful descriptions of various countries, primarily those in Eastern Europe. It's long, but definitely worth it, especially for someone like me who is fascinated with the intertwining of history and geography.

My third goal was to get our yard looking better. Two full garbage cans and 12 bulging garbage bags later, we can once again see the walkway on the west side of the house. I'd almost forgotten it was there seeing as that side of the house became our 'jungle' due to neglect. Only three more sides to go!

"Slow and steady wins the race' will be my mantra over the next year. Perhaps this will keep me from burning out when it comes to keeping up with my year-long goals.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Nature vs. Nurture

I took only three psychology courses while in college so I am no where near an expert on the whole "nature vs. nurture" thing. It has been interesting, however, to watch Sydney develop skills and habits and then delight (or despair) in the realization that her actions mirror our own. Now whether she is genetically predisposed to these behaviors (nature) or she is picking up on our modeling of them (nurture), we can't really tell. But it sure is fun scrutinizing every new thing she does.

"Nature" Examples:
1. Her looks (eyes, eyebrows and face shape from me, nose and mouth from Ryan)
2. Sleep position (on tummy with one leg hiked up - from me)
3. Facial expressions (most from me, sticking lip out when concentrating from Ryan)
4. Bathroom habits (going two dozen times a day - from Ryan)
5. Great teeth (straight, no problems - from Ryan)

"Nurture" Examples:
1. Loves reading (from both of us)
2. Verbal expressions ("Hush, Daddy" or "GO!" when she hears a car horn honk - most from me)
3. Insistence on being barefoot, even at school (from me)
4. Insistence on not wearing pants around the house (from Ryan)
5. Food choices (YES to dessert, NO to green vegetables - from both on dessert, from me on vegetables)

Unknowns (could be nature or nurture)
1. Her temper (definitely from me)
2. Her love of exercise/the outdoors (definitely from Ryan)

I'm sure there are more, I just can't think of them. Regardless of the number, we really have to watch what we do and say because she repeats everything ("Shut up, Daddy) and does everything we do (lies on the couch to watch TV). It's amazing how having kids makes you want to be a better person, not just because you want them to grow up to be fine, upstanding people, but because you don't want them to embarrass you by showing the world what you're like behind closed doors.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

What a Memory!

Everyday I am amazed at how quickly Sydney learns things or picks up a new word or concept. In the past couple of weeks, we have been blown away by her memory skills. Here are just two examples.

We went to New Orleans over New Year's and visited with Ryan's great aunt who is very fond of Eeyore from the Winnie-the-Pooh series. All of her pajamas have Eeyore on them and the last time we were there (July), she took Sydney to her room to show her all of them. On our last visit, after a few minutes in the house, Sydney asked about Eeyore and ran off to Aunt Elaine's bedroom. We followed her and there she was, pulling on the exact drawer containing the pajamas. She'd barely turned two the last time we'd been there!

Last week we went to the zoo since the weather has been so mild. The children's portion has kiosks with animal pictures and buttons that when pushed, will give you the corresponding animal sound. Most are quiet and harmless, like the owl or a cricket. However, one is a mountain lion and the last time we were there (probably July), Sydney pressed it and ran away from it faster than we'd ever seen her run. This time, she pushed all of the buttons as usual, but when we approached the kiosk with the mountain lion on it, she grabbed my hand, pulled me the other direction and told me she was scared of it.

I'm sure all other two year-olds have great memories, too, but since I've only had in-depth experience with this two year-old, I have to say I'm very impressed with her memory. Of course, I'm just a little biased.

Friday, January 6, 2006

Willful 2 year-old + PMS = Chaos

While I am thankful that Sydney is back in school twice a week, this week I wished she was going five days a week. It's bad enough to have a willful two year-old, but when you add a bad case of PMS into the mixture, it makes for an unpleasant week for everyone involved.

Friday (today) is cleaning day in our house and while I'm usually not bothered by Sydney's "help", today I just couldn't take it. Her "help" usually adds an extra twenty minutes (and extra work for me) to each chore so rather than lose my patience with her, I asked her to go play by herself while I finished up a task. She obliged and I finished whatever it was I was doing. Then I noticed the quiet. It was way too quiet.

I found her in the bathroom applying paper mache to her arms. She had taken strips of toilet paper and dipped them in toilet (which she had just filled with pee pee and not flushed yet). She then wrapped the wet strips around her arms. There she was, pants around the ankles, covered in wet toilet paper. Oh, what a mess!

Next time, I think I'll close the bathroom doors before asking her to entertain herself. Of course, being two and half, she'll finding something else to get into, I'm sure.

Tuesday, January 3, 2006

New Year's Epiphany

While thinking about my "New Year's Resolutions" I came to the inevitable conclusion that nothing worth anything in life is easy. Of course, I've heard some version of this idea my entire life, but it really hit home as I made a mental note of changes I'd like to make this coming year.

Just like millions of other people, losing weight is my number one goal. There are countless ways to shed the pounds as evidenced by the multitude of diet pills, exercise machines and health clubs being advertised this time of year. However, after talking with a friend who recently lost quite a bit of weight herself, I decided to tackle my issue the old fashioned way: eat less, exercise more. It's not as easy as taking a magic pill or ordering all of my meals from some diet service, but I'm hoping that the lifestyle change it brings about will help me keep the weight off permanently, rather than ballooning back up once the magic pills run out.

My second goal is to read more and watch less television. I've already checked out several books from the library and plan to keep it up throughout the year. I'd like to read a book a week and with any luck, I'll be a very well-read person by the end of 2006. Turning off the television is another issue in itself. I love watching TV, but I'd like to set an example for Sydney that there are plenty of fun things in life that have nothing to do with a TV or a DVD player.

My last goal is to get our yard looking better. I've despised yard work since childhood, but every time I pull into the driveway I cringe. Just a few solid hours a week could get it looking healthy and green. So as much as I dislike it, I'll be out there raking, pulling weeds and watering our parched plants. It's not my idea of fun, but at least it will contribute to my first goal of the new year.

None of these goals is easy, but if I succeed at them, the effort will definitely be worth it in the end. Perhaps this time next year I can report that I've lost at least 10 pounds, read at least 52 books and made our yard look better than the ones manicured by local yard crews. Keep your fingers crossed - I know I am!

Happy New Year!