Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Growing Up - The Mom Edition

Sometimes I don't think I feel any different than I did in high school. I still feel like a kid. I want to call my mom whenever I don't know what to do. Other people try to make decisions for me, which doesn't help me feel mature and independent. I definitely don't always feel like I can live freely as an adult - that goes for Chris and I both. My perception is that I am perhaps expected to remain childlike. 

Other times I feel old. I look at pictures of our family when it was just Chris, Bethany, and I; and I was really young then. My life has since changed drastically. It hits me that I can remember my grandparents being the same age that my parents and in-laws are now; and that they seemed so old at the time. Life speeds by and it's surreal. I have four kids, and I'm going grocery shopping and doing laundry and driving my monkeys all over the place and making grown-up decisions a million times a day. It hits me that I have more freedom than I sometimes feel like I have.

I think about what it will be like when our parents get older; stuff no one wants to think about. I think everyone hopes their parents will never need to go into a nursing home, or need a lot of care. We don't want to think of our parents needing assistance or being helpless in any way. I'm my mom's only child, which may someday be a huge responsibility.

I have lots of dreams of traveling someday, or maybe even leaving Michigan, at least temporarily. But leaving our parents could be a concern. Hopefully, if need be, we'll be able to find a service such as New Jersey elder care, where home health aids and nurse assistants come to the home to help seniors. I think that NJ senior care is a great solution for some circumstances. Hopefully, if we needed it, something like this will be available here in Michigan.

What about you? Is age just a number to you? Do you feel old, or do you still feel like a spring chicken?

This post is brought to you by OurVisitingAngels.com.

Friday, August 26, 2011

A Medical Miracle Saved My Husband

The year 2008 was rough for us. Not just us personally, but many people close to us. By June, it had already been pretty bad. Chris had lost his job. His aunt was dying. One of my very best friends lost her baby. Horrible things just kept happening. By the time the kids were out of school, we were ready for some better times. We were ready to have some fun and enjoy life.

Chris's dad was on vacation and we agreed to house sit. He has a nice big house and a nice big pool, and we figured it would be kind of relaxing just to hang out there for a week or so. We were looking forward to it.

The day we arrived we got takeout for dinner from one of our favorite Mexican restaurants. We went swimming with the kids. Chris was having some pains in his shoulders, but he thought maybe he pulled something while fooling around in the pool. The kids went to bed. His pain got worse. Before long it got so bad he began to consider a visit to the E.R. We didn't have any medical insurance and we knew a hospital visit would be costly. We debated. He decided to just stick it out, take a shower to try to relax, and go to bed, then see how he was feeling in the morning.

However, when Chris got out of the shower he was feeling much worse. He feared he might be having a heart attack, so he called a friend to take him to the hospital. We didn't want to wake the kids up for me to take him. They went to a small local hospital, the closest one. After they left, I called my mom and she said she would meet them there to see how Chris was doing.

It felt like forever, but it didn't take long for me to get a phone call. Something was seriously wrong and Chris was being transferred to a bigger hospital via ambulance. There was a tear somewhere in his stomach and his body was filling up with toxins. He needed emergency surgery.

As it turned out, Chris had a perforated ulcer. There was a tear in his stomach about the size of a thumb nail. Just 34 years old, he didn't even know he had an ulcer. If he had gone to sleep that night instead of going to the hospital, he would have died. I'm so thankful that he had the presence of mind to make the right decision that night.

Chris had a 12-inch plus incision on his abdomen and a week long stay at the hospital. His mom nicknamed him Zipper Belly. He had a long recovery, but he was alive and that was truly all that mattered. 

For the record, horrible things kept happening that year. But my husband lived, so despite everything else that went on in 2008, it was a good year.

This is a post sponsored by Bucks2Blog, and I am participating in a campaign for a gamma camera company. However, the story is true and all views and opinions are my own.

It Happened To Me - I Got Sucked Into An iPod App

First off, this is entirely the fault of my children. As I previously mentioned, Bethany recently bought herself a new iPod Touch and gave her old one to Lucy. She left all of her numerous apps on it, and Lucy has been joyfully trying all of them out. She came across Restaurant Story and got hooked, which is slightly problematic because she can't read and it's kind of necessary to read in the game.

So...she was repeatedly asking for my help. Restaurant Story is a game where you run a restaurant, cook recipes, serve them, expand your business, and so on. Like so many other time suck games out there. As I was helping Lucy, I became more and more interested in the game myself. And I started annoying Lucy as she was following me around the house begging for a chance to play her own game on her own iPod.

I did the only logical thing I could think of. I downloaded Restaurant Story on my own iPod Touch. Let's just say, when I've considered spending real money on gems so I can advance in the game and buy more stuff, I know I'm in trouble. Gulp. I haven't done it yet, but darn it, I'm tempted!

I feel this compulsive need to earn more money and satisfy more customers and open more options. Is this what it feels like to be addicted to gambling? 

Do you have any apps for any of your devices that you are totally addicted to? Please share, not that I need any ideas!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Thursday Thankful Round-Up

I have so much to be thankful for this week...

  • Chris's cousin's little girl who was recently diagnosed with leukemia is responding to treatments.
  • My mother-in-law took all 4 of the kids for the entire day last Friday, which enabled Chris and I to get everything ready for Bethany's birthday without having to stop every 2.5 minutes to get someone a snack or change a diaper.
  • Bethany and her friends had fun at her birthday party Saturday night.
  • Bethany's from scratch funfetti peace sign cake came out good.
  • We had a nice family birthday dinner for Bethany on Sunday.
  • A lovely day at the pool on Monday with lots of friends.
  • Dinner with my friends Tuesday night (sans children).
  • Perfect weather yesterday for an afternoon downtown at the Detroit RiverFront, even though it was supposed to storm all day.
  • Fifty cent rides on the People Mover.
  • Two kind men at the Renaissance Center who helped the kids in our group who were reluctant to get on the escalator.
  • Mattie is now saying her name.
  • There are still 12 days before the kids go back to school.
What are you thankful for this week?

Baby Books Go Digital

A couple of my kids have baby books around here somewhere, partially completed. Filling in all those pages was such a daunting task. I'm pretty sure I didn't get past kid #2. I personally think they were designed to perpetuate mommy guilt. Although I have to admit it's fun getting those books out now and then and reminiscing. Maybe I would have been better about it if I could have done baby books with the help of an online app like The Day Baby Was Born, a FREE app launched by Tommee Tippee (maker of baby products).

This is a really cool app. You can create an extremely minimal baby book with very little effort. It can include things like news events from the day your child was born and the price of a gallon of gas. Plus you can link up your Facebook account (in fact, a Facebook account is necessary to use this app) and your storybook will include posts pertaining to your child's birth.

But if you want something more, The Day Baby Was Born can accommodate you too. You can create pregnancy and birth announcements for Facebook. You can keep a pregnancy journal. You can fill in the blanks to create a personal story from the day your child was born. You can write a letter to your baby. You can add photos. You can share your story book on Facebook, and you can download it as a PDF file and save it forever (it will also be saved on the website for one year).

I wish I could create complete storybooks for each of my kids using this app, but unfortunately The Day Baby Was Born was developed for brand new babies. It's easy to use and a really great idea. Even though my kids were born too long ago to get full use of the app, I could still create storybooks for them that include personal stories from their birth days, letters to them written by me, and pictures.  

How about you? Have you kept up on baby books for all of your kids? If not, do you guilty about it? Would you be more likely to use an app like The Day Baby Was Born than a traditional baby book?

I wrote this blog post while participating in the SocialMoms and Tommee Tippee blogging contest for a chance to get a gift pack worth $50. For more information on how you can participate, click here.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Double Digits

So my baby girl is 10. Over the weekend, we had fun celebrating her first decade of life. We furiously cleaned our house, which has been pretty much sadly neglected this summer. And I'm glad to know that Lucy's birthday is just a couple weeks away, so when we clean like maniacs for her party the task won't be nearly as foreboding. We need to have at least one good size party a month, to keep us on our toes. But I digress...

Bethany had a friend party on Saturday night. Ten kids came over and seven spent the night. I made this funfetti cake, per the birthday girl's request, except I made it from scratch just because I enjoy extra work like that, and then I decorated it with Skittles. I love the neon food color gels, and I think the Skittles (they're the ones in the orange bag) look good with the green. It was a damp, chilly day, but that didn't stop the kids from swimming and hot tubbing and cavorting like the sugar-hyped, crazed pre-teens that they are.

I love Bethany's friends. They like being at our house and I hope that never changes. I like that once in awhile one of them will just come and sit and chat with me, and maybe even put her head on my shoulder or give me a hug. I don't mind when I'm doing laundry and find an occasional stray t-shirt or pair of jeans that don't belong to anyone in my family. I don't mind making a little extra when I'm cooking a meal.

The girls were loud and stayed up late (of course), although Bethany and Lucy were the first to fall asleep. I actually have no idea how on earth they managed to sleep through that ruckus! The lights on, a movie playing, and lots of giggling and squealing, yet my daughters just obliviously kept on sleeping.

After everyone went home Sunday, we re-commenced with the cleaning because we masochists are always compelled to host at least two parties for each child's birthday. We had grandparents over for dinner, nothing major. Yet we somehow seemed to make a bigger mess with the dinner party than we did with all the kids over.

It was a good birthday weekend for Bethany. I hope ten treats her well.

How to you celebrate birthdays in your family? Do you often end up hosting more than one party as well?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Jack the Barbarian

Years ago, before Chris and I were married, we were camping in northern Michigan with some friends and we found a puppy. He spent the weekend with us, hanging out and swimming in the lake. Since we were pretty much in the middle of nowhere, we were unable to find his owners, and what do you know, we came home with a puppy. I believe we had some ambitious plan of getting Chris's dad to fall in love with him and agree to keep him, but as it turned out we ended up becoming the proud parents of a rascally pup who we named Jack.

Jack had quite a personality. He was a little on the wild side, so we followed our vet's suggestion and had him fixed. That did, well, pretty much nothing to calm him. We took him to obedience school, where we were humiliated week after week by his sassy behavior. I humbly admit our dog was an obedience school drop-out.

Then there was the chewing. That dog chewed for years. Yes we lost many shoes, but that's not all. Pretty much anything he could reach he chewed like he was a beaver living in a dog's body. Luckily we had old hand me down furniture, because Jack destroyed two couches. Like nothing left to salvage destroyed. We gave him dog toys, but he wanted real stuff. Of course back then we thought there was a good selection of dog toys at the local pet shop, but nowadays there are so many cute options available I almost wish I had a puppy to buy some for. 

My grandma used to babysit Jack while Chris and I went to work. One of us would drop him off in the morning, and the other would pick him up in the evening. We were a little dim because it took us awhile to think to get him a crate. And when we finally did, I'm pretty sure it was my grandma's idea. He loved to go in his crate, cuddled up with his pillows and blankets (which he happily shredded to pieces). It was a relief to not be constantly stressing about what Jack would chew up next. 

When I was expecting Bethany, we loved Jack so much and worried about him feeling left out. So we did the most logical thing we could possibly do...we got another puppy. Cleopatra never shared her big brother's obsession with chewing, thank goodness.

Jack has since gone on to the big doggie pasture in the sky, but Cleo is still with us. She is an old lady now and has little use for dog toys. Heck, we can barely get her to go for a walk around the block. 

Having puppies was fun, but the next dog we get will be fully grown and fully trained!

(My laptop is playing mind games with me and I don't have a scanner, so no pictures of Jack this time.)

Brother and Sisters

Since I was an only child, sometimes it is just so foreign to me, dealing with four kids. I love the chaos, yet occasionally crave the peace and quiet I grew up with. However, there are times when I see them together, and how they interact and love each other and it makes every screaming fight worth it, and then some.

One day, as an example. At the park. Connor and Bethany are taking turns letting Mathilda sit on their laps as they go down the big slide.

Later on, at home. Bethany realizes she has enough money to buy the new 4G iPod Touch she's been saving for. Chris says he can list her old 3G on Craig's List so she can maybe get some of her money back. She says that she knows Lucy would like to have an iPod so she's going to give it to her instead of selling it.

Bedtime. I go upstairs to tuck the kids in. I go in Connor's room first, and find that Bethany and Lucy are in there too and they've decided to all sleep together.

Other things throughout the day. Bethany gets Mathilda out of her crib when she wakes up in the morning and brings her downstairs without being asked. Lucy and Mathilda share a snack at the park. Connor and Lucy are running around the house playing and laughing together. Countless other moments.

They fight. Sometimes they're downright mean to one another. But what they have is special and wonderful. The best gift we ever could have given them is each other. I hope someday they realize that, and never forget it.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Living Green At School : Enter Global Green USA's Green Schools Makeover Competition

Living green is important to me. (I'm an obsessive recycler - just ask Chris...). Actually, way back in high school, a looooooong time ago, Chris was responsible for starting our school's recycling program when he helped form an Environmental Club. Kids spend a lot of time in school, so it's vital to promote living green in the classroom as well as at home. Recycling is just one aspect of a green lifestyle. We also try to eat natural, organic foods as much as possible, and to conserve water and electricity. Not only is it good for the environment, it's also cost beneficial and healthier, both for families at home and for schools and businesses.

Pureology is presenting the Global Green USA's Green Schools Makeover Competition. Here are a few benefits of a green school:

  • Better student performance - even improved test scores.
  • Improved health, for students and teachers.
  • More money for student resources (when less is being spent on energy and water).
  • Reduced carbon dioxide emissions, leading to reduced carbon footprint.
  • Water conservation.
  • Encouraging future environmental awareness and education.
I became aware of this competition through Influenster. For more information, and to enter, please visit www.pureology.com/greenschools. Influenster members who participate in the competition are eligible for a special bonus gift from Pureology.

The Grand Prize winner's school will win a green makeover valued at $65,000! Plus, four finalists will win $2500 to use toward green upgrades.

What are you waiting for? Do something for your local school and enter the competition. You have until September 30, 2011.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

I Can't Believe I've Been a Mom for 10 Years!

Growing a tail in preparation of her 10th b-day
I couldn't wait to have a baby. Could. Not. Wait. Ten years ago today, my baby girl Bethany Madeline was born and my wait was over. She came out with a head full of red hair and was making silly faces by the time she was four months old. She made me a mom and changed my life forever.

Bethany was born on a Monday afternoon, and by Friday I was wearing my size 4 pants. I had no stretch marks. I was 26 years old and a mom of one and I used to scrub and soak her clothes until there was not the tiniest inkling of a stain on one little thing. Even her socks. Before she could crawl, I would purposely leave her things around the house and in the car, so I would have constant reminders of her wherever I was. When she started to crawl I didn't have to do that anymore because she did it for me. She liked to take everything out of the kitchen cupboards and crawl inside. 

Chicago - Age 6
When Bethany was 10 months old she started to walk and run pretty much simultaneously. She was totally undeterred by falling down repeatedly. Around this time I discovered that Bethany would be having a sibling and I started to worry about how I could possibly love another little being as much as I loved her. I didn't know yet how my heart would stretch and make room and that I'd never have to worry about being able to love one of my babies enough because it happened as easy as taking a breath.

Bethany slept through the night early on and used to fall asleep listening to Billie Holiday. She was talking in sentences by the time she was one, and by the time Connor was born she was already so grown up, she didn't even seem like a baby anymore. Watching her grow was so exciting, I couldn't wait to see what she would do next. I didn't know yet how time changes when you become a parent, that everything happens so quickly and that I would later wish I could slow time just to savor a milestone or a stage a little longer. 

Age 28 months
From the start, Bethany was gregarious. She liked to talk to everyone. I remember having lunch with my Aunt Char and as we were leaving the restaurant, Bethany stopped at each and every table to wave and say good bye. I don't think she was yet two. Her first day of preschool, she ran in and never looked back. She makes friends easily and quickly and seems, even now, to have no preconceived notions about who she "should" be friends with. One of the best things one of her teachers ever told me at a parent/teacher conference was that Bethany gets along with everyone and is friends with kids from all different groups.

Bethany loves fashion and music and art. She walked on her toes for years and has had unbelievable muscle tone in her legs since she was about three. She's strong and capable and likes to take charge. She can almost fit into my shoes. And now she's 10.

Happy Birthday, Bethany!
Age 3 1/2 - First dance recital 
5th Birthday

Meeting Cinderella @ Disney World - Age 5

Friday, August 19, 2011

School Days Are Coming

Is this lovely summer really coming to a close already? We will be celebrating Bethany's (10th!!) birthday this weekend, which is our annual signal that the summer fun is nearly over. We've done a lot and will be cramming in as much as we can these last days of blissful freedom. I can't believe in less than a month I will be sending Lucy off to kindergarten, Connor to 3rd grade, and Bethany to 5th. Last year of elementary school! How did this happen? Although I will thoroughly enjoy the one on one time with Mathilda, I have already been scouring the school district calendar for days off throughout the coming year. I don't want summer to end.

And here's another thing. Last summer I was super good about keeping Bethany and Connor busy with school work so they would be totally prepared for the new school year. They read everyday, wrote in journals, and worked in their Summer Bridge activity books. This summer...not so much. They haven't been reading or writing nearly as much as they should. I didn't buy Summer Bridge books this year (and I might add that it irritates me that there is a special rewards day for kids who complete these work books over the summer - they cost money, it's a public school...I just think it's kind of crap). So no, I don't think they'll be going back as prepared this fall. And I feel bad about that, because let's face it, there is always something to feel bad about as a parent. It almost doesn't feel like I'm doing my job if I'm not worrying or feeling guilty every moment of every day.

On the flip side, they've spent more time swimming, playing outside, and just plain old hanging out with no structured activities. And that's important too. I'm trying not to feel like a horrible mother because I've primarily been letting them relax and have fun. It's been an absolutely fabulous summer, so I'm just going to let that outweigh everything else. Although we will be practicing ABC's and multiplication facts in between our end of summer fun these next few weeks...

Identity Theft - Has It Happened To You?

Recently I wrote about our American Express account being hacked and fraudulent charges being billed to our account. We got lucky because American Express was on top of it and called us because the charges were made in New York, and we never go to New York. It seems that everyone I tell about this incident has a story of her own to share, or knows someone who has been similarly affected. And I think we've all heard horror stories, whether in the news or personally, about people who have not been so lucky, and in many cases even had their identity stolen. 

The thought of someone stealing my personal information (or that of my children - even more disturbing!) totally creeps me out. Unfortunately, it seems to be ridiculously common. I would really like to know who these people are, and how in the world they justify their actions. I have heard of people fighting for years to clear their names and their credit reports after having their identity stolen. Identity thieves purchase cars, open new credit card accounts, apply for mortgages, and basically destroy their victims financially. Not to mention violating the victims' peace of mind and privacy.

I've recently learned that there are certain services that provide identity theft protection. For example, I've heard of Identity Hawk, a company that assesses your risks and works to prevent identity theft. (And I noticed on their website that they're offering a free 30-day trial).

Do you have any horror stories involving identity theft? I can only imagine what a nightmare it would be (and I fervently hope I never have to do anymore than imagine!). Besides using a service like Identity Hawk, do you have any practical tips for avoiding identity theft?

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Book Review: Flashback by Dan Simmons

FlashbackDepressing, yet compelling. That about sums up Flashback, by Dan Simmons, for me. The book takes place in the dismal, not too far off future. The world is an entirely different place, a much more unpleasant place. Yet it all seems so very possible.

Flashback is a drug that has taken over the lives of most Americans. Used to hallucinate/dream back in time and re-live happier moments, it prevents people from facing the wretched reality in which they are now living. A reality where the U.S. is crumbling and its citizens have grown accustomed to living with violence and destruction. A world where it is far too dangerous to gather in large numbers in public places, thus forever eliminating such things as sporting events and concerts. A world with few jobs, where most people can't afford to shop - thus the malls have been converted to low income housing.

The main character is a widower, flashback addict, and former cop. He cares about nothing more than wasting away what's left of his life by re-living the happiest days of his marriage. But everything changes for him when he is hired to solve a murder mystery. His life has a focus that's been missing for years, and he eventually discovers that it is still worth living after all.

There's a lot of (to me) mumbo jumbo talk related to things like weapons and tanks in Flashback, not to mention a plethora of violence and melancholia. Yep, totally depressing. As I read I kept thinking to myself, "wow, I could totally see this happening," as well as, "crap, I hope this stuff never really happens." It was a thought-provoking story, and I could envision it as a movie. Read it yourself and see if you think the world of Flashback is the world we'll all be living in a few years down the road.

Thursday Thankful Round-Up

I have a lot to be thankful for this week!
  • I'm thankful for Taco Tuesday at Rojo - all you can eat $1 tacos at a nearby Mexican restaurant.
  • I'm thankful for Waffle Cone Wednesday at TCBY - $1 waffle cones.
  • I'm thankful for my Smart Phone which allowed me to download a Groupon app, access my account, and use my TCBY Groupon without having to print it out, so I could get ice cream cones for my family and my friend and her kids. I love technology!
  • I'm thankful that the kids got to see Chris's band, The Smiths United, play on Sunday...at a super cool venue in Ferndale - The Rust Belt Market. And that my friends came and brought their kids!
  • I'm thankful that my friend's kids stayed overnight Sunday night and everyone played nicely and got along - it was a great time!
  • I'm thankful that I got to go to the movies and see The Help the other night with my friend, and that she brought Canadian candy to share. And that her husband (my chiropractor) graciously gave me an adjustment after the movie...at 11 o'clock at night!
  • I'm thankful for a beautiful afternoon spent with friends.
  • I'm thankful that Chris's mom and step-dad took all of the kids overnight, leaving Chris and I free to go out to dinner and go shopping together.
  • I'm thankful for $10 jeans at Old Navy and bonus bucks - I'll be back to use them next week!
How about you? What are you thankful for this week?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

My RoC Challenge Has Come To An End

My RoC Look 10 Years Younger Challenger has officially come to an end. To recap, over 12 weeks ago I started using RoC Retinol Correxion Deep Wrinkle Night Cream each night before going to sleep. All in hopes of looking 10 years younger in just 12 weeks.

Basically, I love this product. To be honest, I don't think I'd say that I now look 10 years younger. However, it has most definitely erased lines in my face. I do think my skin looks better and more youthful, but I don't know about 10 years more youthful. My skin feels smoother and softer. The challenge is over, but I will continue to use RoC Deep Wrinkle Night Cream.

12 Weeks
Since some people do have a sensitivity to retinol, it might be a good idea to start off slow, using a small amount of the cream a few times a week. I happen to have pretty hardy skin so I started off using it full force from day one. A few times I noticed some minimal irritation (tenderness, minor blemishes), but nothing major at all, and never enough to make me reconsider using it. The good news is that RoC carries a milder formula for more sensitive skin. If you decide the start the challenge for yourself, you may want to consider using the sensitive night cream first, and when that is gone, then moving on to the regular formula.

I would recommend RoC Deep Wrinkle Night Cream without hesitation, because it works! I'd like to thank RoC and SheSpeaks for providing me with the opportunity to try a product that has now become a permanent fixture of my nighttime routine.

Disclaimer: I was provided with RoC Deep Wrinkle Night Cream in exchange for reviewing it. All opinions are 100% mine, and I was not compensated in any other way.

So What Wednesday

I'm linking up with Life After I Dew for So What Wednesday. Here's what I'm saying SO WHAT to this week.
  • SO WHAT if I choose sleeping on the couch when I'm greeted by a bare mattress at (my very late) bedtime because I stripped the bed earlier and totally forgot to put fresh sheets on and I really don't want to do it at this ungodly hour?
  • SO WHAT if Mathilda wore the same dress 3 days in a row and no I didn't wash it in between?
  • SO WHAT if my toe nail polish has been severely neglected lately?
  • SO WHAT if  I complain incessantly about the fact that none of my clothes fit me, yet I'm absolutely powerless in the face of ice cream? Especially if it includes hot fudge and a cream puff.
  • SO WHAT if I haven't had a hair cut since...oh who am I kidding? I have no clue when the last time I had a hair cut was. 
  • SO WHAT if it's taking me forever to read The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy? I love it, I've just been a slow reader lately.
  • SO WHAT if I want to see the BBC miniseries based on The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, even though Chris says it looks totally cheesy?
  • SO WHAT if I hardly ever watch t.v. and I never know what the heck anyone is talking about when they're referencing shows that I'm pretty sure everyone else watches?
  • SO WHAT if I scrape the sauce off of my pizza? I like crust and cheese and just a hint of tomato sauce flavor.
  • SO WHAT if I'd like to move just we can thoroughly clean out all our crap?
What about you? What are you saying SO WHAT to this week?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Making a Difference

Our good friend Sandra just recently participated in the Susan G. Komen 3-Day, a 60 mile walk to raise funds for breast cancer research and awareness of this horrible disease which affects so many women. I'm really proud of Sandra because it takes a lot of hard work and dedication to participate in the 3-Day. I've been wanting to take part in this fundraising walk for a few years, and now that I know I'm done making babies and nursing babies, maybe I'll actually make the commitment to sign up for one of next year's 3-Day walks. I'm a little nervous though, not so much about the walking 20 miles a day but more about the fund raising - walkers have to raise a minimum of $2300 in order to participate. But I'm sure Sandra would be happy to give me some pointers (right, Sandra?!?).

There's a pretty good chance that you yourself or someone you know has been affected by breast cancer. I know, off the top of my head, three survivors. I'm thankful they beat cancer, but the sad fact is that not everyone is so lucky. I had an aunt, Caroline, who didn't make it. Breast cancer took her from this world before I had the chance to ever meet her. It saddens me that I didn't get to know Caroline, and I would like to walk in her memory. When I do, I found a website that sells a huge variety of Breast Cancer t shirts, and I'll be sure to get a different one for each day of the walk.

Have you ever participated in the Susan G. Komen 3-Day? How have you been affected by breast cancer?

Monday, August 15, 2011

How Has the Internet Changed Your Life?

Way back in the dark ages before the Internet, how did people know anything? The net may be a huge time suck, but in many ways it sure does help make life simpler. For example...

  • Social planning. Gone are the days of playing phone tag to plan a get together. Now just hop on Facebook or sign into your email and send out an invitation or a message with all the details and wait for everyone to respond. Same goes for class reunions. No need to make a huge production of tediously tracking classmates down when 95% of them are on Facebook or otherwise easy to track down online.
  • Maps and directions. After you respond to that evite or RSVP "yes" to a Facebook event, just type the address into an online map and direction website to find out exactly where you're going, how many miles away, how long it will take you and alternate routes. 
  • Shopping. You can visit a consumer product comparison website to find all kinds of information about what you're thinking about buying. One site to try is the Consumer Rankings blog. Whenever I'm considering buying something, I look for consumer product reviews and I compare prices on store and online vendor websites. I also sign up to get sale and coupon information from my favorite stores (both brick and mortar and online) emailed to me directly.
  • Vacation planning. Planes, trains, and automobiles; as well as hotels, museums, amusement parks and just about everything else you might need to know while traveling. It's all online - prices, schedules, hours of operation, nearby restaurants. 
  • Information for any topic. Sometimes this is a bad thing. Maybe you have heard of med student syndrome, where medical students learning about diseases suddenly feel like they have the symptoms for every disease and disorder they are studying. Well now everyone who uses the Internet has the same opportunity to scare themselves witless by looking up their symptoms online and imagining every worse case scenario. But mostly I think access to limitless information is a good thing. Not sure what to feed that frog your kids caught and brought home (surprise!)? Look it up. Wondering what the car seat laws are in a neighboring state you'll be visiting? Look it up. Need to know a definition, or what time your local pharmacy opens, or the year a book was published? Look it up!
How about you? How has the Internet made your life easier?

Saturday, August 13, 2011

A Place Of My Own

A couple years ago we moved into this house, which is much bigger than the house we lived in before. But even with more rooms and more space, I couldn't figure out a place to set up an area of my own. A place to sew and keep my stuff and just do whatever. I'm pretty easy going and mostly I got over it, but sometimes when I started thinking about it a lot I got pretty annoyed. Every time I wanted to sew it was such an ordeal because the dining room table was it. Chris and I would talk about it once in awhile and try to figure something out, but nothing ever came of it.

Well I'm happy to report that finally we figured out where I can have a work space in the family room. Chris rearranged some stuff and started setting it up for me, and even though there's still a lot to do, my area is now usable. Hooray!

I already made my first project. I wanted a little pouch to keep my sewing scissors in and other little things that I use often. I found directions online for exactly what I had in mind, made a pattern, and got down to business. I'm pretty much a learn as I go kind of girl when it comes to sewing, and my technique has a lot of room for improvement. I somehow missed an important step in the directions (duh! moment) and had to remove some stitches, but I still finished in one night. I'm really happy with how it came out. I can't wait to try something else! Now we're in the midst of re-arranging kid bedrooms and trying to get some things organized, but I'll be thinking of what my next project will be...

Friday, August 12, 2011

It's Time To Face the Back to School Shopping Music

This post brought to you by Bealls. All opinions are 100% mine.

As much as it pains me to admit it, back to school time is quickly approaching. I'm soaking up every second of summer, but at the same time I have to face the reality that it's time to start preparing for fall. I'll have three in big kid school this year (boo hoo!), which means quite a bit of shopping needs to be done.

We've started a little bit, but since I'm pretty sure Bethany, Connor, and Lucy have all had growth spurts this summer, and I don't intend to send them to school wearing floods, there's a lot more to do. Last year we started doing some one-on-one school shopping with Bethany and Connor, and this year we'll do the same - adding Lucy to the mix of course! This way each of them will get some individual attention while shopping for their school clothes.

I don't like paying full price for anything, so I watch for sales and coupons. I get many emails alerting me to special discounts at some of my favorite stores. I do some online shopping too. One good online resource for back to school shopping is Bealls. They have all sizes and many fashionable options at good prices. They also carry uniforms, so if that's what you're shopping for, you may want to check them out.

Bethany is going into 5th grade, and she is a definite fashionista. She is really into accessories, like scarves, jewelry, hats, and even fake glasses. I'm sure she'll be wanting some skinny jeans, over-size tops, hoodies, and cool boots. She also likes retro looks, and can sometimes be found perusing the internet for 80's fashion inspiration.

Connor is going into 3rd grade, and as long as he has jeans and a t-shirt, he's good to go. He wears short sleeve t's when the weather is warm, and moves onto long sleeve t's when it gets cooler. Sometimes he layers a short sleeve t-shirt over a long sleeve one. He prefers his shirts to have some kind of cool picture, whether it's a familiar character or a skull and crossbones, he doesn't really care. This year I'm sure he'll want new jeans, hoodies, and short and long sleeve t-shirts. His color palette is mostly black/grey/blue.

Lucy is starting kindergarten. That's a whole other post (or 10), but she is a little princess. She loves wearing pretty, girly things, and would prefer skirts and dresses every day of the week. Anything adorned with jewels, glitter, lace, sparkles, or princess images is right up her alley. We'll be shopping for leggings and oversize tops (a nice, warmer alternative to skirts and dresses when the cold weather hits), tights, and feminine, embellished jeans.

How about you? How do you make back to school shopping affordable and fun? What are your kids wearing this fall?

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Potty Training Help From the Looster Booster

I've potty trained three kids. It was no fun but I got through it more or less intact. One might think potty training a fourth kid would be no biggie. Hmmm. Just one more example of how very different each kid is. Mathilda is stubborn. She likes to be the baby. She likes to act like a baby. She makes me want to scream on a daily basis. And definitely not just for potty training reasons.

We have a little potty. We also have an insert for the big toilet. We have books and movies about the potty. We have older kids who are happy to encourage her and demonstrate how to use the potty. Goodness knows she never leaves me alone while I'm in the bathroom. So she's seen plenty. She knows what to do. She tells me pretty much every time she's gone potty in her diaper. Sometimes she tells me before she goes, and then holds it indefinitely as I rush to get her on a potty in time. She won't be bought with bribery and promises of treats and goodies. She has no problem running around the house naked and relieving herself wherever she happens to be at that moment. She's nonchalant about going potty in big girl panties. Wet squishy panties? Eh, whatevs.

Little Looster Booster Step Stool
One problem was that she was unable to get up and down from the toilet on her own. Well, without putting herself in perilous danger every time she tried. That's where the Looster Booster came in. The Looster Booster is a kind of step stool that goes around the toilet to help little ones get up and down securely. It's plenty big enough and sturdy enough, and it doesn't slide around the floor. There's a raised pattern all along the top of it too, which helps little feet not slip. Some kids don't like their feet to be dangling several inches from the floor. With the Looster Booster they can rest their feet and feel safe.

Mathilda likes to be able to climb up on the toilet by herself, and get down with no help. But unfortunately she still doesn't like to actually use the toilet. Sigh.

I think the Looster Booster is a great product. Once Mathilda is ready to get down to the serious business of potty training, I know it will be a big help. Plus I will feel better knowing that she has a safe way to get up and down (my friend's daughter broke her little leg falling off the toilet).

I do have to note, the Looster Booster is pretty big. We have a small bathroom, and I find it a little awkward to use the toilet with it in place. So we do end up shuffling it around sometimes. However, I'm happy to accept the size because I know it will be a temporary fixture in our bathroom, and it will help my daughter to feel more secure and to be safer while learning to use the potty.

Have you seen or used the Looster Booster? What other tools do you have to aid in the potty training process? I want to know what tips and tricks have worked for you, because I am really terribly sick of buying diapers!

Disclosure: I received a complimentary Looster Booster for review purposes. All opinions expressed are 100% my own.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Thursday Thankful Round-Up

Here's what I'm thankful for this week...
  • My friends. I love you all!
  • Summertime.
  • Beautiful weather.
  • Perfect day at the splash pad/nature center/park yesterday.
  • Free concert in the park last night.
  • Awesome time at the park today.
  • Connor's recent swimming accomplishments.
  • That my mom got Lucy a super cute new backpack for kindergarten, and a whole bunch of school supplies for the kids.
  • My father-in-law's pool.
  • The opportunity to have my friend's kids as guests in our home for four days last week. My kids were ecstatic and we had such a great time together.
  • My friend Cathy for giving Connor a place to go hang out with boys for a couple days while we had our guests (all girls!).
  • That we made at least some money at our garage sale last weekend. And that we got our garage sort of cleaned up in the process of getting ready for the sale.
  • My own little area that I'm working on in my family room, where I can sew and do my own stuff.
What are you thankful for this week?

Connor the Conqueror

Connor is sometimes a tough egg to crack. I understand him pretty well because we're a lot alike. Trying new things can be scary. Fear can be paralyzing. I get this all too well.

A couple weeks ago, Connor was pretty much terrified of the deep end of the swimming pool. Getting Connor to face and conquer his fears is a challenging feat, but sometimes necessary because we want him to feel a sense of accomplishment and to do things we know he'll enjoy once he stops being afraid.

Connor's always loved the water, in a safe way. As in, being able to touch the bottom or being held or being in a floaty or sitting on the steps. He didn't take very well to swimming lessons. But in the last year or two we convinced him to start swimming underwater to get him more comfortable, which he loved...in the shallow end. This summer we vowed we'd get him swimming for real. And lo and behold, he started swimming. In the shallow end. 

Swimming in the deep end was the next step. We gently encouraged him and pushed him to try. Chris's dad has a big pool that's 10 feet deep. He told Connor he'd pay him $20 each way if he'd swim back and forth across the deep end. Connor doesn't forget much especially if it involves the promise of 40 bucks. I'm sure he was thinking about that money every time he went swimming.

Just over a week ago we invaded my father-in-law's house on a Sunday afternoon with a bunch of extra kids. And Connor earned his $40. We were ecstatic!  We surpassed our goal of getting him to swim this summer - he is now swimming in the deep end like a pro. 

But we didn't stop there. Right away we started badgering him (gently) to jump off the diving board. His response was pretty much "no way!" But we're persistent and we know our kid. We knew he would love to conquer the diving board. So this past Sunday we invaded my father-in-law's house yet again, this time with even more kids. Chris walked him out on the diving board, just so he could get the feel of it. And Connor said, "I'm gonna do it!" He let go of Chris's hand and jumped off the diving board. Now we can't keep him off the diving board or out of the deep end.

Overcoming fear is hard, but Connor did it. We knew all along that he could.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Wishing Well Wednesday

What I'm wishing for this week...

  • I'm wishing for a miracle for Chris's cousin's little girl, who was recently diagnosed with lymphoma. 
  • I'm wishing for good health news for my friend Shelly.
  • I'm wishing for new flooring in my family room.
  • I'm wishing for Bethany to know her multiplication facts inside out, upside down and backwards before school starts.
  • I'm wishing for Lucy to love kindergarten.
  • I'm wishing for August to stretch on and on and on.
  • I'm wishing for some exercise motivation.
  • I'm wishing for Mathilda to sleep at night.
  • I'm wishing for Mathilda to want to use the potty.
  • I'm wishing for the cleaning fairy to come and clean my kids' bedrooms.
How about you? What are you wishing for this week?

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Stepping Out

Last week I had the opportunity to attend a parenting leadership training conference. A friend had emailed me the information and application a few weeks ago. It sounded interesting, and bonus! it was a paid gig. So I applied and was accepted.

First of all, the conference was at a college in a town I had never been to, about 2.5 hours from my house. Since it was so far away, my hotel and mileage were covered. This is just sounding better and better, isn't it?! And guess what? All the meals during the conference were included as well. But my point that I'm getting to is that my independence level was really stretched which was a great thing for me. I had never driven so far all by myself, or stayed by myself in a hotel. I didn't know anyone else at the training. Plus Chris had never stayed overnight with the kids by himself, so that was a good experience for him as well.

I had to leave our van with Chris in case he needed to transport our troop anywhere, and his car had just had a big repair done the day before I left, so I was a teensy bit leery of driving it that far alone. Since my phone is virtually always on roaming or out of service basically whenever I leave my neighborhood (I'm barely exaggerating...), that wasn't much of a consolation for me. So my mother-in-law offered me the use of her convertible. The drive was really lovely (although no top down - couldn't destroy my hair since I wouldn't have had time to fix it before training started). I wish I had had more time so I could have pulled over to take some pictures a few times, because the hills and farms and fields and animals I passed truly made for a scenic ride. 

The hotel was right on campus, and the training conference was literally right down the hall from my room. Everything was so easy to find, and I was relieved that I didn't have to search all over the place for the hotel and the right building for the training. Sometimes easy is really nice. I arrived hours before check in time, yet I was able to get my room key right away. Over the course of the two days of training, all of our food was either right in the conference room, or set up buffet style in the hall with the dining tables at the back of our room. There were snacks and drinks and bowls of candy available to us all the time. Convenient and comfortable!  

However, I was way out of my comfort zone, to be honest. And yet everything worked out so well. The group was a great size - about 20 people. The leaders were personable and kind. Everyone was friendly. I don't think I could have picked a better opportunity to go somewhere all alone, in a town I was completely unfamiliar with, without knowing anybody else there. 

I'll do another post and actually share some of what the training was about. But I am really so glad I went. Staying overnight alone was scrumptious (yes I missed my family, but I still enjoyed the peace and quiet), and the drive home alone was with the top down was pretty great too.

Monday, August 8, 2011


A few days ago we got a call from a number I didn't recognize. In my typical fashion, I of course didn't answer it. So as the phone is ringing and ringing, and I'm sitting there with the phone within grabbing distance, Chris walks by and asks who's on the phone. "Nobody I know," I told him. He doesn't have my phone phobia so he answered.

And sometimes it's a good idea to answer calls even if you don't recognize the number. Turns out it was American Express, asking if we'd been in New York recently because there's a bunch of charges to our account at businesses in New York. Nope, haven't been to New York so holy cow! Someone has hacked our account. I keep reading scary statistics about how common it is to have a credit card or bank account hacked, and now we are part of that statistic. Thank goodness American Express is on top of things and contacted us right away. We won't be responsible for the charges and they overnighted us a new card. I'm still left scratching my head, wondering how someone racked up $500 in charges at Appleby's (?!?) and paid using our credit card that was in Chris's wallet at the time. 

Just a couple weeks ago a friend shared that her bank account had been hacked, and she didn't notice for a few months. She thought her bills were being paid automatically but they weren't because someone was taking money out of her account instead. Thank goodness she caught it and was insured so she got her money back. We were both lucky.   

I don't know who these people are who so blatantly take what doesn't belong to them, but there are a lot of them. Protect yourself. Check your accounts regularly and make sure there are no bogus charges or withdrawals. Check your credit score and credit report. There are ways to get a free credit score/credit report. Do some searching online. Don't let some stranger with no conscious ruin your credit and steal all your money. I hope you don't become part of the statistic too.

Do you have a similar story? Have you been hacked too?

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Why I Choose to Live Forgiveness

I know people who cling to their grudges and grievances like they're life lines. It's somehow offensive to them for someone to even suggest maybe they might want to consider forgiving their offender and moving on. Living with the misery becomes a sort of badge symbolizing...what? Perseverance? Pride? Righteousness?

I'm learning and growing and sometimes still find myself thinking of things that happened years ago that deeply offended or hurt me. And if I get stuck in a melancholy groove and focus my thoughts and attention on such unpleasantness, I can feel it. The way the negative thoughts begin to permeate my mind and change my attitude for the worse. The way I feel drained by the weight of the burden of holding on.

However, I've come to realize that I have a choice. The big choice for me is: live happy or live miserable. Sounds like a no-brainer, but obviously it's not so cut and dry. The thing is, whether I'm happy or miserable comes from myself, not from how people treat me, or what the weather happens to be, or any other outside source. I have to consciously make the choice. I choose happy. Some days it's harder than others. Some days it feels impossible. But every time I choose happy, guess what? I'm happy. It's not magic, it's just that happy is as happy does. I prefer to be happy (don't think I'm an idiot for stating the obvious - some people - I know some of them and I'm sure you do too - really seem like they prefer to be miserable).

Withholding forgiveness is not congruent with living happy. Carrying a chain of grudges on my shoulders interferes with the way I want to live. It holds me back and prevents me from growing. It chips away at my happiness. It sucks me dry of the joy of living. 

Forgiving doesn't have to mean excusing anybody for anything. It can mean loving people despite their weaknesses and mistakes. Or not loving them, but moving on and letting go. It's a way of saying to a wrong-doer, even if only within my own heart and mind, I accept that you are human and imperfect, that you sometimes make bad choices, and that your choices and actions are not going to control my life. Take away the negative power those who hurt you hold over you by forgiving them.

Friday, August 5, 2011

The Thumb

Going for another hole in 1
One of the first trips Chris and I ever took together was to Port Austin, in Michigan's thumb region. He had been going there his whole life and wanted to share it with me. Since then we've been many times with our kids, both to Port Austin and nearby Caseville. For maybe 4 or 5 years we stayed at the same cottages in Caseville, and we had a great time there but this year decided to do something different. 

Instead of the rather rustic, poorly furnished, non air-conditioned cottage, we rented a townhouse right in the heart of Port Austin. An air-conditioned, squeaky clean, nicely furnished, 4 bedroom/4 bathroom townhouse. Instead of having to drive miles to get to anything, we could walk to the beach, the park, the farmer's market, and the shops and restaurants in town. At the cottage, the beach was much closer and private, but honestly it was more than a fair trade for us. 
A grindstone in Grindstone City

Here's some of what I love about Port Austin:
  • two awesome public beaches, both with play grounds
  • the water is warm and shallow, the kids can walk out quite far and the water is never more than about waist high
  • the weekend farmer's market
  • The Farm - yummy restaurant (we did have to drive to this one)
  • The Bank - restaurant located in an old (1800's) bank building
  • Cherry sodas at the ice cream counter in town, a tradition from my mother-in-law's childhood 
  • Knoblock stables - we didn't make it this year, but usually we visit for pony rides and horseback riding
My good friend was also in Port Austin with her kids and parents the first couple days we were there, just down the street from where we were staying. It was fun hanging out with her family on vacation. She has two boys, so Connor was really thrilled to have guys to chum around with.

The kids and I went with my mother-in-law, but Chris, his step-dad, and his brother (from Florida) joined us for a couple days. We had a great time with them, and did lots of fun things...like swimming in the lake (including a game of water catch involving a certain 2-year old), eating at The Farm and The Bank, going to the go kart track, having cherry sodas, fishing, and going putt putt golfing. A word about the putt putt golfing. First of all, there is a little cheesy place to putt putt right in town. Then there is another place a little outside of town. But if you drive a bit further toward Caseville, there is a really nice putt putt place, with hills and waterfalls and so on. Also, Lucy got a hole in one on her very first putt, the very first time she's ever been putt putt golfing. She actually beat all of us. My little golfer...who knew?

Without the guys we had fun too. We went to the farmer's market. We had a horse drawn wagon ride (free, courtesy of Knoblock stables) through town. We spent lots and lots of time at the beach. We drove into nearby Grindstone City for ice cream. We went to Caseville just to go to the thrift store. Leaving at the end of the week was really hard. We took the scenic route coming home, along Lake Huron. The drive was beautiful, and we made a few stops along the way...like the Pointe Aux Barques lighthouse, lunch in Harbor Beach, and an evening stroll in Lexington.

As much as I love variety, change, and seeing new things, I have to say it is nice having a place to visit every year that we know well. I think it's fair to say our Port Austin tradition will carry on.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Home Again, Home Again

A few days ago the kids and I returned home from a week-long vacation in Port Austin, in Michigan's thumb (non-Michiganders: hold up your left hand, palm facing away from you, for a makeshift map of Michigan. Tip of the thumb, that's where we were.). It was wonderful and hard to come home. How quickly I adjust to hanging out at the beach every day. (Mexican beach house...)

A trip to Port Austin circa 2008
As always, I'm trying to get sort of back to normal after being away from home, but like usual life will not pause for me to give me a chance to catch up. In the morning I'll be leaving for a parenting/leadership conference, which will keep me away from home overnight (in a hotel room all by myself!). Then I'll come home to having a few extra kids staying with us for a few days, and the garage sale we're planning on having this weekend.

This is just a long winded way of saying that I'll post about our vacation, including lots of pictures, just as soon as I get a chance. Chris has been going to Port Austin since he was a baby, and we started going there together when we were dating. We've gone just about every year with the kids. I'll tell you all about it asap...