Wednesday, November 30, 2011

BzzAgent Private Selection Frozen Foods Campaign

Through my involvement with BzzAgent, I've been able to try out several products recently. Anyone can join BzzAgent and also have the opportunity to get products for free to try and "bzz" about. The expectation is that in exchange for your free swag, you'll tell your friends and family all about the product you're trying, whether it's in person, on the phone, in an email, on your blog, or via social media such as Facebook and Twitter. You can also write reviews on the BzzAgent website. The more active you are, the more you'll be rewarded with new campaigns.

One of the campaigns I'm working on right now for BzzAgent is for Private Selection Frozen Foods, which are sold at Kroger and other supermarkets in the Kroger Family of Stores. These are marketed as higher end foods made with premium ingredients. I was able to try one pizza, one appetizer, and one dessert of my choosing.

I had noticed some Private Selection foods in the frozen department of my local Kroger before I started this campaign, but the only thing I had tried was ice cream, which was divine. I knew they sold Private Selection pizzas, but I didn't realize there were also desserts and appetizers. All of the Private Selection frozen foods are packaged nicely and look really appetizing. The prices are on the steep side, to go along with the fancy packaging.

For my pizza selection, I chose the Margherita Napolitana. As you can see, it looks really good. And it didn't disappoint. The flavors are rich. The tomatoes were sweet and juicy, although I think there were far too many of them on our pizza. Those little white balls mozzarella pearls. This pizza cooked quickly and needs to be watched closely because the crust is thin and could easily become burnt. I suggest setting your timer for about five minutes less than the recommended baking time on the box. The crust is nice and crisp and the sauce wasn't overdone. I should mention that it's pretty garlicy. I didn't really mind it, but Chris thought it was too much. I also have to mention that all of the Private Selection pizzas available at my Kroger were loaded with garlic and/or onions. I'm not sure if they make any that aren't, but they should. Not everyone can tolerate that stuff, especially Chris. I can't stomach excess amounts either. The price of the pizza was a little high, but not too out of line with other good frozen pizzas. There's a good chance I would buy this pizza again if it was on sale and/or I had a coupon.

The appetizer I chose to try was the Southwest Style Chicken Trumpets. I forgot to take a picture and I couldn't find one, but these are little wraps rolled into the shape of trumpets and stuffed with chicken, cheese, and you guessed it, onions. I couldn't find a Private Selection appetizer that wasn't loaded with onions and garlic either. I'm really not a big fan of onions, but these looked good so I decided to give them a try. The crunchy outer shell was pretty tasteless, and the filling was rather bland as well. I didn't find the onions offensive. Chris agreed, and I don't think I would buy these again. I would consider trying a different Private Selection frozen appetizer if it was on sale and /or I had a coupon, as these were pretty expensive too.

For dessert, I chose the Private Selection Chocolate Lava Cakes. Again, I don't have a picture, but these are little round chocolate cakes with molten chocolate in the center. Each package contains four single serving cakes. When I got the cakes home and took one out to make for myself, I was disappointed to see only microwave directions. I was afraid of preparing it in the oven and ruining it, so I trudged down to the basement  to use the microwave. I very rarely use the microwave, so I wish there were directions on the box for oven preparation. I topped my lava cake with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, and it was a scrumptious combination. These little cakes are quite rich and dense though, so one box could easily serve eight. I couldn't finish mine and ended up sharing it with Lucy and Mathilda. This dessert was surprisingly good for a microwave cake. My kids all liked them too. I might buy them again if they were on sale and/or I had a coupon, or if one of my kids requested them for a special occasion.

Have you ever tried Private Selection frozen foods? Do you have any favorites?

Ditching School

Have you ever received one of those letter from your child's school, the ones that look something like this?

     Dear Mrs. George,

     Your child, ________________, has missed ___ days of school this year. If she misses one more day, we'll see you in court. BOOYA!

     The Administration

For the three years Bethany and Connor went to their old school, I got these letters regularly. The purpose seems to be to put enough fear in parents that they send their kids to school at any cost. At the same time they make sure to let you know that your child had better be fever free for 24 hours before you even think about sending him back to school. So which is it, they want sick kids at school, or they don't? The funny thing is that I'm pretty sure one of the main reasons my kids were sick so often was because all of the other parents were also fearful of getting one of these letters, so the end result was a whole lot of sick kids in school on a daily basis.

The implication of the letter also seems to be: We know you're using said child in either A) An underground child labor ring, or B) As an underage top secret liason in your drug selling endeavors during school hours. Or else that you, as the parent, are too drunk, stoned or otherwise irresponsible every morning to care whether your child goes to school. Basically I felt like a really horrible mother and got a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach every time I opened one of those letters.

This is the third year at the new school, and I haven't received one of these letters yet. I'm not sure if that's because my kids haven't missed as much school or just because this school district has a different way of doing things. Like not threatening parents with truancy trials because their kids stay home when they're sick. 

But I'm so afraid to get a letter that my kids have to be pretty darn sick to miss school. Like puking, or with a raging fever. A cough and runny nose are not getting you a free pass, guys. In fact, my kids have had coughs on and off for weeks. Sore throats, tummy aches, headaches, you're going to school. Every day I'm stymied: is the teacher hating me because my kid is coughing in class? On the other hand, they might have coughs until May, and there's not a whole lot I can do about that. I'm telling my kids to drink more water, have a cough drop, and rest after school. Because what if I keep my kid home just because of the sniffles or whatever, and then a couple months down the road, she comes down with something more serious that really requires a few days off of school? It's a daily dilemma around here this time of year. 

It used to be that I believed it was my right and privilege as a parent to keep my kids home as I saw fit. Now I'm afraid to keep my kids home because I want to avoid court thankyouverymuch. I had to go to court one time. There was a warrant out for my arrest because of a snow emergency parking ticket. (You can stop laughing now.) I found out about the warrant when I went into the court building to pay the parking ticket, so no I was NOT arrested. The experience of being under a judge's scrutiny is not one I'd like to re-live anytime soon, or ever. I've heard horror stories of truancy officers following kids to school everyday, and parents losing their kids because of just one more tardy or absence. If I weren't afraid of those stupid letters and the threat of court along with them, my kids would definitely be ditching school a lot more often.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011


Several months ago, I wrote about an incredible book I read that really changed my way of thinking, The Joy of Appreciative Living by Jacqueline Kelm. I read this book in the summer of 2010. Its basic premise is 3 step:

  1. Each day, write down three things you're grateful for. Really think about these things and feel the gratitude.
  2. Answer this question every day (and write down the answer): What can I do today to increase my joy? The answer can be anything, it doesn't have to be anything major.
  3. Once a week, spend about 20 minutes visualizing. Spend the time writing down a detailed description of your ideal, joy-filled life.
I was basically wowed by how much my attitude changed and how much more joyful my life was after doing these exercises for a month. I strongly recommend you check out this book and follow the exercises. If you sincerely put in the effort, I truly believe you will have similar results.

However...I started that whole process during the summer, which is my happy time to begin with. Even so, I must say that even after I quit doing the exercises and summer turned into fall, the positive results stuck around for quite sometime. But it's been awhile. And now it's getting close to another long, cold, dark and depressing winter. I'm thinking I need to re-read this book and start over. It's been rainy and cold in Michigan, and basically miserable. I'm hearing rumors of snow in the very near future. By 5:00 it's getting dark. I can barely stand it. Being joyful is not quite so easy for me these days, and I need to refresh. This is on my to-do list. Some other things I need to think about are exercising more, because I always feel better when I work out regularly, seeing my friends more often (something else that's fallen to the wayside lately), and getting more sleep.

I recently received a really cool product call the Philips Wake-up Light to try out and review. I'll be writing about that more in depth in the coming weeks, but basically it's a light that you can program to wake you up in the morning, as if you're waking up to sunlight. If you're interested in checking it out for yourself, head on over to Amazon and have a look. If you want to purchase Light Therapy Models HF3471 or HF3321, you can use coupon code C9H9NPER to get $10 off. Maybe this product will help me wake up happier and less groggy in the  morning. I'll be setting up and putting it to the test soon, and I'll do a full review after I've had a chance to try it.

What do you do to keep the winter nastiness from affecting your mood?

A New Year is Coming

Most everyone is busily planning their Christmas festivities by now. We've started shopping but still haven't ironed out our plans quite just yet. But beyond Christmas, we're starting to think about our New Year's Eve plans.

New Year's Eve is typically pretty dull. We rarely have a babysitter and I, personally, can hardly stay awake until midnight. I've never been the biggest fan of New year's Eve, maybe because I've never done anything particularly fun. This year Chris's brother, who lives out of state, will be having his holiday visit over New Year's, and we're definitely planning on spending the last night of the year celebrating with him. The kids will be included too, because that is just how it goes for us, so I'm not sure exactly what to do to make it a memorable and enjoyable night for them and for us.

Good food will be involved, that's for sure. Maybe we'll play some games together too. We will let the kids stay up until midnight, if they can make it, and we'll toast the New Year with some sparkling cider. Perhaps we'll buy some noisemakers and let the kids really go to town. Other than these meager plans, I'm not sure what we'll do. I'm pretty sure we'll be staying in. 

What do families do on New Year's Eve? If you have something fun planned, I'd love to hear all about it so I can steal your ideas!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Confession Time: I Suck at Nighttime Parenting


It might shame Dr. Sears to know that nighttime parenting is not my forte. I talk all the time about how much I love having my kids home with me, and I'm so sad when school starts back up after a break, but make no mistake about it: I also cherish bedtime. When those kids go to bed I can rest a little easier and do things that are more difficult to do when they're awake, such as write on my blog, watch movies or television shows that aren't appropriate for them, read, and talk to my husband for more than 3.2 seconds without getting interrupted from multiple directions at once.

I don't spend my days counting the hours until bedtime. Well, most days, anyhow. But when it's time for them to hit the sack, I'm ready for it. I don't like drawn out bedtime rituals. I'll happily read to them and kiss them good night, but then I start to get impatient when the requests for "fresh" water start coming, and the complaints of "I can't sleep", and the pleas of "can I sleep with you tonight?" Some of my children are worse than others when it comes to bedtime and sleeping through the night, I'll just leave it at that. 

Lots of nights are perfectly fine. Everyone hops in bed without grumbling. Nobody wakes up during the night. There are no tears. But then there's the nights when someone is sick. Or suffering from growing pains. Or thirsty. Or having bad dreams. Or has insomnia. And these are the nights when I feel like a really crappy mom because the truth is I don't want to deal with it. I'm on mommy duty hiatus until morning. I do realize that's not realistic, and that at times my kids will need me during the night. My frustration level depends on several factors, such as what I'm doing at the time, how tired I am, whether what I'm doing is actually pressing and needs to get done that night, and whether or not I'm sleeping. If I'm sleeping it might take me some time to respond because I will lay there and try to ignore my children, fervently hoping and praying that they'll go back to sleep so I can stay in my warm bed. Sometimes they come to me, putting their faces inches in front of mine and shaking me awake, in which case I will try to get by with mumbled, half awake responses with my eyes shut, hoping to get right back into that dream I was just forced out of.

I try to be patient and understanding. I myself suffered through very frequent nightmares as a child, so I remember what it's like to be in a dark room all by myself, shivering in fear. However, my free time and my sleep time are both in terribly short supply, so I tend to get a little prickly when they're infringed upon. I'll try to do better, Dr. Sears. Maybe I'll finally even read that book of yours.


Let Them Eat Cake

This might be a radical idea, but I believe, quite firmly, that every single person on the face of this planet deserves to eat. 

If your parents do drugs, you deserve to eat.

If you do drugs, you deserve to eat.

If you sell drugs, you deserve to eat.

If you live on the street, you deserve to eat.

If you're a college student, you deserve to eat.

If you're a criminal, you deserve to eat.

If you're an illegal immigrant, you deserve to eat.

If you don't believe in God, you deserve to eat.

If you voted for Bush, you deserve to eat.

If you're overweight, you deserve to eat.

If you make bad choices, you deserve to eat.

If you're not very nice, you deserve to eat.

If you're illiterate, you deserve to eat.

If you're stupid, you deserve to eat.

If you drink too much, you deserve to eat.

If you lost your job but you still have a decent car, you deserve to eat.

If you can't afford to buy your own food, you deserve to eat.

If you live on the planet Earth, you deserve to eat.

I think it's really pretty simple. Food is essential to survival. Everyone knows that. What makes some people think it's okay to deny certain people this basic necessity of survival? 

Mandatory drug testing for food assistance is wrong, wrong, makes-me-sick-to-my-stomach WRONG. I can promise you, that whether you know it or like it or not, you know someone (and most likely LOTS of someones) who smokes pot. Probably someone you like, someone you respect, someone you would never ever ever suspect of engaging in illicit drug use. Believe it. I want you to imagine someone like that. Now I want you to imagine that that person loses his job and temporarily needs food assistance so he and his family can eat. Now I want you to envision telling that person, to his face, that he and his children don't deserve to eat. That they should just go off somewhere and starve to death.

Whenever I see someones Facebook status update telling all their friends they just took a poll and YES! they believe in mandatory drug testing for food assistance eligibility, I want to puke. Seriously. We live in a world of abundance. Especially in this country, there is so much food wasted every single day that it is ludicrous to believe some people don't deserve to eat, for any reason whatsoever. There is enough food to feed everyone. Why be stingy?

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Shop 'Til You Drop

Chris and I have been doing a lot of shopping together, way more than usual. Generally we mostly shop separately, but it just so happens that we've had several opportunities lately to do our Christmas shopping together, which has been fun. I'm so used to shopping alone, so it's brought back some memories for me.

Some of my best memories from my childhood are of shopping with my mom. When we lived in Arizona and didn't have a car, we would walk or take the bus to the mall. I was young, and I remember being very tired from all the walking, but I still always wanted to go. Later, when I was older and we were back in Michigan, we had a car and would drive to the local mall and shop clearance racks at our favorite stores. Sometimes we would have lunch in the department store's restaurant. At Christmas time, I remember being so hot while dealing with mobs of fellow customers and long lines, and struggling to find the perfect gift for everyone on our list.

Whenever we were shopping for someone else, or didn't have much money, we would invariably see a million things we'd like to buy. Other times when we were specifically shopping for something in particular, it was impossible to find! Actually, that's still the case now that I'm all grown up! My mom is petite, and years ago there just wasn't the selection that exists today. Nowadays, whether you're shopping for plus size dresses or petite jeans, there are so many more choices available.

At back to school time, I made it a point to go out shopping with just Bethany, and Chris took Connor. Juggling four kids and one on one time is tricky, but shopping with mom (or dad) is a special time I'd like to share with each of my kids at least a few times a year. I'm hoping that as my girls get older, all three of them will want to go shopping with me. I've never really imagined myself as a mom with older kids, but I think it will be fun. Connor actually likes to shop too, and I'd love to have shopping time with him as well, but I think he might enjoy it more without his sisters sometimes. They can be indecisive and dramatic, which understandably annoys him when he's trying to pick something out and be done with it.

We're so close to being done with our Christmas shopping now, and I fear that once again we've overdone it just a little bit. But when I suggested to Chris that maybe we should return a few things, he wouldn't hear of it. I guess that's the topic for another post...

Have you gotten a good start on your holiday shopping? Do you love to shop or loathe it?


Wonderful Weekend

I cherish the weekends, especially long weekends like this one. Today has been mostly a homebody day so far. Soon the kids will be heading off for a sleepover with my in-laws and Chris and I will be doing a little more Christmas shopping. We're getting close to done with our shopping for the kids and I'd love to wrap it up as soon as possible.

We've done some chores, watched some movies, played some video games, read some books, played Sleeping Bag Slide down the stairs, ate some leftover pie, cuddled a lot, built a fort in Lucy & Mattie's room, and done a good deal of giggling and chasing each other around the house. I love when my kids play together, making up games and laughing and not needing anyone else around to entertain them. Typically they're inundated with social visits and birthday parties on the weekends, but I suppose everyone is visiting with family and putting up their Christmas trees, because our phone has been atypically quiet. And I have to admit it's nice for a change. I'm looking forward to another short week coming up, with one early release day and two half days.

I know school is important and routine is good for kids, but the best days for me are the ones when my kids are off school and we have no obligatory activities planned. The days when we can hang out in our pj's all day if we feel like it, or go on a spontaneous trip to the park, or even just try to put a dent in the laundry without constant interruptions. 

Before I had kids in school full time, it seems like we were always busy doing one fun thing or another. Whether we were going on a trip, to the zoo, a nature center, a water park, visiting with family or friends, or whatever. I always wanted to go-go-go. Maybe I was just younger and full of excess energy, I don't know. Whatever the case, I find that I don't plan as many activities these days. I think it has more to do with the fact that school and kids' extracurriculars keep our family so incredibly busy on a day to day basis, we're all starved for down time whenever we get the chance. Between school, homework, basketball, dance, floor hockey, catechism, everyday errands, play dates, family obligations, and birthday parties, we often don't feel like doing a whole lot when we have a window of unscheduled time.

I know this is the way things go, and it's going to get crazier as our kids get older. But it makes me kind of sad sometimes. I miss our carefree days of doing whatever we wanted. That's partly why I love summer so much. 

As my kids get bigger they also want to spend more time with friends and less time with me. My days of being able to plan their lives out for them are numbered. Some weeks it seems like Bethany is away from home more than she's home.

We will continue to make family time a priority, whether it's hanging out at home or getting out of here for a change of scenery. Either way, we're together and that's the important thing. However, I'm going to make it my goal to make sure we all get out of the house just for fun a little more often too. 

Turkey Day

I know I committed to writing thankful posts everyday through Thanksgiving, but I was too busy yesterday getting cleaning, cooking, eating, and entertaining to get on the computer for more than five minutes. But I am thankful that our holiday was perfectly lovely. Honestly I felt a little tiny bit like skipping Thanksgiving this year, or at the very least ordering take out, but it worked out and ended up being a nice day. Next year is going to be different though. I'm thinking the Thanksgiving Day parade downtown Detroit, followed by Boston Market. Or maybe Up North at my father-in-law's cabin with turkey sandwiches.

Bethany stuffs the bird.
We didn't go overboard cleaning, only invited four guests, and it's a fairly simple meal to cook. Plus we ate on Chinette plates. Easy enough, right? The worst part is the clean-up, which, ummmm, I'm still working on. But sometimes I feel confined and suffocated by traditions, instead of comforted by them. I don't really care all that much about a holiday centered around a huge meal. As you all know, I am thankful, and I do like the emphasis on thankfulness, but that's something that needs to be happening on a daily basis, not just once a year.

Connor & his first 3 pieces of pie. Yes, three.
As a kid I always hated Thanksgiving because it was boring. All my friends were busy with their families, there was nothing on television except parade coverage and football, and there were never any other kids having dinner with us. Dullsville. Since Chris and I have been together Thanksgiving has improved drastically in my book. Before kids, he and I used to head Up North after dinner and spend the weekend roughing it in whatever hunting cabin his dad was renting that year (before he bought his own), sometimes dealing with no indoor plumbing. For some reason, we thought that was fun. Later, when his dad got his cabin, we would go up there with his parents and have the traditional meal at the cabin. Since we've had kids, we've spent at least five Thanksgivings in Florida with my in-laws and Chris's brother. Last year we spent 13 hours at the Magic Kingdom on Thanksgiving Day, which beats sitting home and gorging on turkey any day. I should note, however, that we did properly celebrate Thanksgiving the next day, and we have never skipped a home cooked Thanksgiving dinner, even on vacation.

Yesterday was only the second time Chris and I have hosted and cooked the big turkey dinner ourselves. It ended up being a good day, and I'm pretty certain my kids will never look back on Thanksgiving as being sole contender for Most Boring Day of the Year on an annual basis. Maybe the traditional meal aspect of it is important for them, but some years I'd be happy to skip it.

After dinner we had another dance party in the living room. I dug out Lucy's old ballet slippers for Mattie, and although they're a little too big, she was so excited to wear real dance shoes. And it always warms my heart to see those $75 dance recital costumes getting some wear. We all played a couple games and watched Charlie Brown Thanksgiving specials, which taught me more about the Mayflower and pilgrims than I ever remember learning in school.

Today the kids went to see the new Muppet's movie with Chris's mom while he and I did a little shopping and went out to lunch. Then Bethany had a basketball game, which Chris, his mom, and Lucy went to while I stayed home with Connor and Mathilda and tried unsuccessfully to get some online Christmas shopping done. Later on Chris and I did a little more shopping. We got a few pretty good Black Friday deals,yet we didn't deal with terrible crowds or lines since we went after the mad rush. 

I am content to know that the real weekend is just beginning, and we still have two days off before it's time to go back to school.

I hope everyone else had a good Thanksgiving holiday too! Did you do anything special?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

"Download to Donate" to Turning Point, Shelter for Abused Women and Children

I've been posting a lot about things that I'm thankful for this holiday season, some silly and some serious. I am especially thankful that my family and I live in a safe environment. We are fortunate to not have to deal with things like domestic abuse and homelessness. But so many are not as lucky. If you live in southeast Michigan, perhaps you've heard of Turning Point, a local organization that exists to assist women and children who are victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and homelessness. They provide emergency shelter and support, with the goal of helping these victims re-gain control of their lives. Turning Point also runs a resale shop, Second Hand Rose, where local community members can donate used items and also shop to raise money for the organization. Additionally, survivors are allowed to choose what they need from the shop as they begin their new lives. 

Turning Point is a vital organization in our community, and like all non-profits, depends on generous donors to keep it running. That's where MOBIBO comes in. MOBIBO is a free app you can download for you iPhone or Smartphone. It connects to your phone's GPS system and finds local deals that are geographically close to you, wherever you may be. As you're out and about, MOBIBO will notify you on your phone when you are approaching a business that is running a deal. And get this: when you view the deal on your device, MOBIBO pay you 25 cents via Paypal! How sweet is that!? 

How exactly does this help Turning Point? MOBIBO is currently running a program called Download to Donate. From now until November 30, MOBIBO is donating 25 cents to Turning Point every time someone downloads the app! Remember, this app is totally FREE, plus it pays YOU to view deals. This is a win-win deal! I downloaded the MOBIBO app for my Smartphone, easy as pie. Turning Point is using money earned from this campaign to help fund Christmas for the children living in its shelter during the holidays. Can you imagine living in an emergency shelter, especially at this time of year when most of us are busy spending time with our friends and family? These kids are focusing on survival instead of fun, and they deserve a little reprieve from their worries.

There is no limit to how much MOBIBO will donate to Turning Point, so pretty please with sugar on top, help spread the word! There is a link in my sidebar, as you can see, so you can click on that for more information as well. Also, MOBIBO is working with other charitable organizations through the month of December, but since Turning Point is in my neck of the woods, I'd really like to see them benefit hugely from this campaign. Share on Twitter, share on Facebook, let your friends and family know! MOBIBO is a cool app, and downloading it for free will help kids in desperate situations have a slightly brighter Christmas this year. Thanks so much for your help!

The Hot Seat

 Have you heard of Hot Pants? Apparently they're all the rage in workout wear in Europe, and lucky me! I was given the opportunity to try them out.  By increasing your perspiration by up to 80%, they're supposed to make workouts more effective, help you lose jean sizes, and reduce the appearance of cellulite. They work best if worn while working out, but supposedly they even help if you simply go about your daily business while wearing them, or just sleep in them! I'm taking part in a two week challenge! I started wearing my Hot Pants yesterday, but before I put them on, I weighed and measured myself. I'm going to wear them for a minimum of 30 minutes every day, and report back in two weeks to see if my Hot Pants rose to the challenge. So far I can say that they are very comfortable and they do seem to increase perspiration, but not in a way that feels grimy and gross. Look for an update in a couple weeks! In the meantime, you can head over to their Facebook page and enter to win a trip to Rio! Now that's hot!

So What! Wednesday

Today I'm linking up with Shannon over at Life After I "Dew" for So What! Wednesday.

So What! if I could totally live on Nutella, and foods that can be dipped in it or that Nutella can be spread upon? I still don't know how I made it into my mid-30's before trying this perfection in a jar!

So What! if, after yesterday's November Thankful post about my own little "party of 6" I couldn't get Party of Five out of my head, and I ravaged the dark recesses of my memories for hours trying to recall all five siblings? To look on IMDB would have somehow been admitting defeat, but darn it! I finally remembered all on my own! (Charlie, Neve Campbell - yes that's close enough!, Bailey, Claire, and Owen)

So What! if we're hosting Thanksgiving tomorrow and I have barely started to clean my house AND I still need to go to the grocery store?

So What! if everything else gets thrown to the wayside when Mattie says, "Mom, I want to cuddle you?"

So What! if I've pretty much given up on ever having a working bathroom sink again? We do have two other bathrooms and the kitchen sink, and it's amazing how you just get used to not using something for so long that it's no longer a big deal.

So What! if I'm still in my pj's at 11:20 a.m.? My mom took my kids to school and my mother-in-law is picking them up and taking them to lunch, so that I don't have to take my sick little Mattie out today. Yes, I'm spoiled like that. 

So What! if it drives me bonkers when my kids can't decide what movie they want to watch? They only have about a million to choose from, between our DVD/BluRay collection, Netflix, and OnDemand. I think it might be beneficial to pare down the available options to about 3.

So What! if I am just not that into Thanksgiving this year? I'm thankful and all, but I could do without the cooking and cleaning and, I don't know, eat at a restaurant or something.

How about you? What are you saying So What! to this week?

November Thankful #23

In honor of Thanksgiving, I'm doing daily thankful posts. I'd love it if you'd join me by commenting here or on MichiGal's Facebook page.

November 23

Today I'm thankful for impromptu dance parties in the living room. The kids like to transform our bay window into a stage, and voila! We have our own G-rated red light district. Neighbors, enjoy.


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Research Subject

This past weekend, Bethany had an MRI. Don't worry, she's fine. I've already fielded inquiries from concerned parents of her friends who heard it through the grapevine that Bethany was having this procedure done, but whose children forgot to mention that it was for a research study. There was not a lab coat in sight, just medical students and the guy in charge of the MRI machine itself.

For both of us, it was a learning experience to see how medical research is conducted behind the scenes. Since the research is regarding how children's brains react emotionally, it was an opportunity for Bethany to indirectly help properly treat kids with emotional disorders in the future. Plus she got to see how some things work in the hospital, without being in the potentially frightening position of needing an MRI. Bethany had to lie perfectly still for 70 minutes, alternately watching Tangled and playing boring games that required only the slightest movement of one hand. I got to read a book for an hour straight while I waited, which was quite nice. Everybody was really nice, and they were impressed with how well Bethany focused on staying still and correctly completing the tasks in the "game". Soon she'll receive one or two choice portraits of her brain, not your usual show and tell fare.

I couldn't help but think about earlier this year, when I had a medical scare and very much wanted an MRI myself to quell my fears. I never did get one, and while as I was that close to the MRI machine with Bethany, I thought to myself, too bad I can't just hop in there and have my own MRI too...

I've done other medical research studies in the past, like that time Chris and I let ourselves get ruthlessly poked and prodded, as well as helping out Masters level psych students more than once. I wouldn't have let Bethany do anything that would hurt her (obviously), so this was a good opportunity for her to participate in a research study without any scary amateurs coming at her with menacing needles.

Have you ever taken part in a research study?

This post is brought to you by your friends at Check them out for all of your medical attire needs.

November Thankful #22

In honor of Thanksgiving, I'm doing daily thankful posts. I'd love it if you'd join me by commenting here or on MichiGal's Facebook page.

November 22

Today I'm thankful for my family, our little party of six. I grew up in an unconventional family, not that there's anything wrong with that. But as a kid it can be incredibly difficult to explain to friends and teachers why you don't know you're dad and you're living with your grandparents and sharing a room with your mom. Or living with your mom and her boyfriend. Actually nowadays maybe it wouldn't be so difficult, but when I was a kid, anything other than the "normal" two-parent family was completely out of the ordinary. Truthfully I felt like an outcast, always. Add to the family situation the fact that I moved all the time until 7th grade, when we finally stayed in one place until high school graduation, and what you get is a whole lot of awkwardness. There were good things about the way I grew up,  to be sure, but what I longed for was a regular family and a regular home.

Before Chris and I got married we knew we wanted to have children. I myself could not wait to have a baby. I still remember the day when Chris called me at work and suggested it was time to start a family. We had just moved into our first real house and we were feeling pretty domesticated I guess. I made an appointment with my doctor, went off the pill, and poof! was preggers pretty much instantaneously. We were beyond thrilled! I could hardly stand to go to work every day, when I had a nursery to decorate, baby names to brainstorm, and a million baby things to buy. When Bethany was born, it was dizzying how much our lives transformed immediately.

It took us seven and a half years to complete our family. Looking back, it seems so long ago that we had only one baby, and then just two, and then three. But it flew by, much quicker than I could have anticipated. When Connor was born, a lot of people thought we'd automatically be done because we had our boy and our girl. We put the thought of more kids on the back burner, but kept ourselves open to surprises (read: weren't very careful with birth control). Lucy came at the best time, when we were saddened by the loss of my beloved grandma and needed a little light in our lives. And finally, two and a half years ago, we were blessed with Mathilda during one of the most stressful times of our marriage. 

Sometimes it doesn't seem real, that these four little people are my own babies. Other things in life haven't gone exactly as I'd imagined they would, but every single day I feel blessed beyond measure that I have this family. When all is said and done, the importance of anything else pales in comparison. The little stresses of daily life (okay, some of them aren't so little) can't diminish the joy my family gives me. The six of us constitute our own party, wherever we go. 

Monday, November 21, 2011

Digital Age

I'm a huge fan of modern technology, with digital photography being near the top of my list of most loved technological advances. My mom took a film photography class several years ago, and once she took me to the college's dark room to see how the photographs were processed. While it was interesting, and something that would be cool to learn, digital photography is so much more practical and easier.

Whenever I see people posting their wedding pictures online, I'm jealously reminded that we didn't have the advantage of digital wedding photos. I got my first digital camera when Connor was a baby. While I took plenty of film pictures of Bethany as a baby, I so wish I had had a digital camera. I love that I can take tons of pictures and choose the best ones to have printed, instead of wasting money printing blurry or otherwise blemished shots.

Another great thing about digital photography is that there are so many photo editing software packages available to make my pictures just right. People used to have to depend upon professionals to edit pictures, but now anyone can do it themselves. Being able to crop, add effects, and improve the photo quality of my digital pictures. Then I have the option of printing them out at home, or using a service which allows me to take my pick of photo products, different finishes and various sizes of prints. Playing around with my pictures is so much fun!

Do you love digital photography too? What's your favorite, most user friendly photo editing software or website that you use? It's hard to recall what life was like pre-digital, but I'm definitely not looking back.

November Thankful #21

In honor of Thanksgiving, I'm doing daily thankful posts. I'd love it if you'd join me by commenting here or on MichiGal's Facebook page.

November 21

Today I am thankful that I have the wonderful privilege of being a stay-at-home mom.  I am with my kids when they wake up in the morning, when they come home from school, and when they go to bed. If they're sick, I take them to the doctor and bring them home to rest. If they have a day off school, I don't have to scramble to find a babysitter. I know this situation isn't right for every family, but since I was pregnant with my first baby over ten years ago, I knew in my heart that I would never be able to leave my children in daycare. We don't have parents who can babysit for free (or very cheap) full time, and child care for four kids would be through the roof, especially during the summer or other times they're off school.

I absolutely think it's important for my kids to spend time apart from me, and all of them do. Obviously, three of them are in school. They all spend time with grandparents, and the three older kids spend time at friends' houses too. I get out every once in a blue moon with no children in tow, and I think that's vital to my sanity as well. But I am my children's primary caregiver, and I wouldn't have it any other way. 

Some of my many reasons for loving life as a SAHM:
  • If one of my kids gets sick at school, I can go pick him or her up without a lot of fuss.
  • If one of my kids needs to stay home from school, I'll be there.
  • During the summer and school breaks, we do fun things together that would be much more difficult if we were restricted to weekends.
  • We also have time for lazy days when school's not in session.
  • I get lots of time with Mathilda and Lucy while Bethany and Connor are in school.
  • My kids are able to bring friends home after school.
  • I can volunteer at school (although no one ever calls me, but that's another subject...).
  • I can run errands during daylight hours instead of in the depressing darkness of Michigan's daylight savings time.
  • I can stay home and clean my house all day. Hahahahahahaha! That one was a joke.
  • Enjoying a semi-quiet house while the kids are at school. I grew up as an only child, I'm still adjusting to the loud chaotic mayhem of a large-ish family.
There are so many more reasons, but it boils down to this: I am grateful that I can be with my kids as much as I am. I think it's best for them and I know it's best for me. I'm not saying other people's situations don't work out perfectly well for them. I'm just saying that for us, this works. Someday I will probably work outside of the home again, unless I can find a way to make some serious cash from home. I even look forward to having meaningful and fulfilling work that doesn't involve wiping noses and cooking mac 'n cheese. But for now, I can't think of anything more meaningful I could be doing than being home with my kids. 

Sunday, November 20, 2011

November Thankful #20

In honor of Thanksgiving, I'm doing daily thankful posts. I'd love it if you'd join me by commenting here or on MichiGal's Facebook page.

November 20

Product DetailsToday I am thankful for Christmas shopping. We put a major dent in our shopping over the past few days, and that makes me a happy mama. I can't actually share what we got for the little munchkins because I'm pretty sure one of them checks into her mom's blog once in awhile.

I love thinking of what each of my children would love to have, making lists for each of them, and then scouring the internet for the best deals. Finding a good price on something on my list is such a satisfying feeling. I love imagining how excited my kids will be when they come downstairs on Christmas morning.

For the past few years we've made an effort to pare down on the gifts because our kids already have so much. I'd say we've succeeded somewhat. We could do better, I'll admit it. But shopping for them is so much fun! I'm just about done with Mathilda right now, and I know I'm going to have a really hard time not buying more for her, but she's two. She doesn't need much. I don't want her to be overwhelmed, and I'll try to keep that in my mind as I keep seeing more things I know she'd love. 

While I know that presents are not the reason for the season, I'm so thankful for the opportunity to bring joy to my children and give them things that make them happy.

Have you started your Christmas shopping yet? 

Saturday, November 19, 2011

November Thankful #19

In honor of Thanksgiving, I'm doing daily thankful posts. I'd love it if you'd join me by commenting here or on MichiGal's Facebook page.

November 19

Today I am thankful for sleepovers. Whether away from home or at home with friends, sleepovers are a childhood rite of passage. I spent many happy nights away from home as a child, and many with friends or cousins staying over at my house. And now I get to see my kids have the same kind of fun. 

My first sleepovers were with my cousins and my grandparents. I lived with my grandparents off and on throughout my childhood, but when I wasn't living with them I would often sleep over, sometimes alone and sometimes with a cousin or three. I also spent many, many nights at my aunts' and uncles' houses having pajama parties with my cousins. As I got older, I started having sleepovers with friends. I first specifically remember sleeping over at a friend's house in third grade. Once I hit fourth and fifth grades and beyond, a sleepover seemed to happen just about every weekend.  

Sleeping over at friends' houses gave me a glimpse into how other families lived. I was given the chance to try things differently and fully understand that not everyone lived exactly as I did. I experienced, a tiny bit, what it was like to have two parents and brothers and sisters. Plus, there is something gained in friendship with spending an extended period of time together, late night giggles, having dinner together and then waking up and having breakfast together too. Of course there are more opportunities for arguments too, but then you're forced to learn conflict resolution with friends as well. Being away from home overnight also helps kids learn a certain level of independence.

All of my kids participate in sleepover fun at some level. Mathilda is so far limited to spending the night at my in-law's, but the the other three have all had lots of sleeping over experience with friends as well as with grandparents. From a parent's perspective, when my kids are away from home it gives Chris and I a little break. Even just being down one kid makes a huge difference in the noise and general mayhem level around here. Then the kids at home have a chance to get a little extra attention from mom and dad. When we do the hosting, we have the pleasure of getting to know our kids' friends more than we normally would. What an awesome opportunity that is, because as parents we need to make a concerted effort to know who our kids hang out with, and what kind of people they are. As they get older, this is going to become more and more important. So I will relinquish a little control and let someone else look after my kids once in awhile. And I will sacrifice a little sleep and put up with a higher than normal noise level (is that even possible??) every so often. It's all worth it, because when my kids grow up their sleepover memories will some of their best.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Dream Destination: Pocono Mountains

I remember when Chris and I were in the beginning stages of planning our honeymoon. Somehow we got our hands on some brochures from resorts in the Poconos. I was intrigued by pictures of bathtubs in the shape of champagne glasses. Ultimately we chose Jamaica for our honeymoon destination, but we thought the Poconos looked like a fun place and figured we'd go there to celebrate an anniversary sometime. Back then we thought it would be easy to just pick up and go away for a few days whenever we felt like it. Young, carefree, and naive were we.

Pocono Mountains, Pennsylvania is a resort area with lots of things to do, such as skiing, snow tubing, horse back riding, and white water rafting. Back in our pre-baby days it probably seemed romantic. Especially with the heart-shaped swimming pools that were calling our name. Nowadays I think of most destinations in terms of how much fun my kids would have. So it's now come to my attention that there are family centered resorts in the Poconos, and it's not all about kitschy honeymooners.  

Now I'm looking at Poconos family resorts as a great place to take the kids for a little getaway. Besides the resorts, which definitely look like enough fun in their own right, there are other attractions in the area which I think my kids would love. For example, the Crayola Factory. I loved that episode on Jon and Kate Plus 8, where they take the kids there and then freak out because they might get a little washable marker on their clothes. If we ever take our kids to the Crayola Factory, we'll let them go to town with the washable markers.

Have you ever been to the Pocono Mountains? Was it a romantic trip, or a family getaway?


November Thankful #18

In honor of Thanksgiving, I'm doing daily thankful posts. I'd love it if you'd join me by commenting here or on MichiGal's Facebook page.

November 18

Product DetailsToday I am thankful for texting. Maybe I've mentioned once or twice that I'm not crazy about talking on the phone? I mean I can sit and chat on the phone for an hour with my mom or my very best friends, but I get phone anxiety about making calls to anyone I don't know or don't know well. (And I virtually never answer the phone if I don't recognize the number). Whether it's to make an appointment, inquire about something, RSVP to a party, whatever; I have to plan out the conversation before I dial. 

The other thing about phone calls is that, like everyone else, I'm so freaking busy all the time. You know how you call someone for just a quick second to ask a question, and then you get sucked into a telephone time warp, and before you know it you've been on the phone for 30 minutes? I'm easily sidetracked as it is, and I feel like I'm being rude if I cut the conversation short or just ask my question and say good-bye. I feel like I need to make some small talk. Texting is beautifully efficient in comparison.

Don't misunderstand: I love when the phone rings and I look at my caller ID and it's one of my friends or someone I want to talk to! But sometimes, time is of the essence, and sending a text is a whole lot easier and quicker.

  • Helps me get my point across quickly and succinctly. 
  • Eases my anxiety of calling someone I don't know all that well. 
  • Is convenient! I can quietly text someone in a place where it might be rude to talk on the phone.
  • Is a good way to relay information and keep it handy on my phone. For example, I can ask someone to text me an address or phone number, and I don't have to worry about writing it down or losing it. 
Technology is a beautiful thing. What will they come up with next? 

Thursday, November 17, 2011

November Thankful #17

In honor of Thanksgiving, I'm doing daily thankful posts. I'd love it if you'd join me by commenting here or on MichiGal's Facebook page.

November 17

Product Details 
Today I am thankful for maps. Yes I realize this may sound lame to some, but I'm a map girl.I love maps, I pore over maps. I love paper maps and online maps. I like to imagine someplace I want to go and plug my destination into Mapquest or Google Maps and play around with the route. Maybe mapping makes other places seem more real to me? I don't know, but it borders on obsessive, once I get going.

Since I want to go everysingleplaceintheworld, I like to daydream about where I'm going to go. How long will it take, how much money will I need for gas, how many nights lodging? Will I have to drive over mountains, and if so can I handle that without totally freaking out? I used to live in Arizona, and I vaguely remember driving along narrow mountain roads with very little wiggle room between our vehicle and a massive drop into oblivion.

By the time I was 8 I had been on three cross country drives, plus one train ride from Michigan to Arizona. The furthest my kids have been on a car ride is the northern border of South Carolina, and I don't think Chris's dad stopped one time the entire way there. Okay, maybe once, but that's it. He had rented an RV to take 8 of us to a wedding, so we had a bathroom and a bed to make it pretty comfortable for the kids. That was when Bethany was in preschool, so Lucy and Mattie weren't even around yet. I have been positively itching to take my kids on a massive trek. Maybe I'm crazy, or masochistic, or both, but I think it sounds like fun! Last year I wanted to drive down to Florida with the kids, but the timing didn't work out at Hotel Uncle Rob. Now I've got some other ideas rolling around in my head for next summer. Hmmm....

In the meantime, I will obsessively pore over maps, and occupy myself with pseudo-planning. Are you a map junkie too, or is this totally weird?  

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

It's the Holiday Season

I can't believe Thanksgiving is just a week away. I've officially started Christmas shopping, which is a fun process of making lists and comparison pricing. Some years I find it more difficult to shop for one or two of my kids, and I really have to do some research and clandestine investigating. So far it's going well this year, and I haven't run into any problems yet.

Hasbro has a new line of building toys out called KRE-O that look like a lot of fun. My kids love to build things with blocks of all kinds, and Chris and I enjoy joining them too. I particularly like huge model sets with two 75-page instruction manuals. No seriously, I do. Here are a few things I really like about KRE-O:
  1. They are compatible with other brick sets. This is a huge deal, and totally genius. Mix and match - I love it!
  2. The sets are versatile. The Transformers sets allow you to make either the Transformer robot character, or the corresponding vehicle, how cool is that? Plus my kids love Transformers!
  3. The sets come in a variety of prices for every budget, ranging from $7.99 to $59.99.
I know KRE-O sets are something my entire family would enjoy, even Mathilda who, I can imagine, would joyously steal key pieces and throw them down the laundry chute.

While I love Christmas shopping, there are many aspects about the holiday season that just make this time of year magical. This is how I like to keep spirits bright and spread holiday cheer:
  1. Christmas music! While I have a full on Christmas music ban in effect until the day after Thanksgiving, after that I will be playing Christmas music often and loudly. We have one or two radio stations in the Detroit area dedicated to Christmas music, plus we have some Cd's. Additionally, we have a few Christmas carol books, and the kids love when we get them out at story time and sing our favorites together.
  2. Baking. I love Christmas baking. Every year I carefully choose several cookie recipes, shop for all the ingredients, and get busy. There are some favorites, like sugar cut-outs, and I also like to try something new ever year. The kids get involved, and we like to share with our friends and neighbors.
  3. Host at least one holiday get-together. Most years we host two or three. Whether it's Christmas Eve dinner, breakfast on Christmas morning, or a big holiday party in between Christmas and New Year's, we always open our home to family and friends during the holidays. This is the best part for me. It's a lot of work, but so worth it.
What about you? What are your favorite holiday traditions?

I wrote this blog post while participating in the SocialMoms and Hasbro blogging program, for 8,000 My SocialMoms Rewards Points and a KRE-O gift. The opinions expressed in this post are mine and don’t necessarily reflect the opinions of SocialMoms or Hasbro. For more information on how you can participate, click here.

November Thankful #16

In honor of Thanksgiving, I'm doing daily thankful posts. I'd love it if you'd join me by commenting here or on MichiGal's Facebook page.

November 16

Product DetailsToday I'm thankful for crock pots. This simple little appliance makes life so much easier, and solves the dilemma of how to feed the family home cooked food when no one is going to be home until (past) dinner time. This evening I am going to cook dinner while Bethany and Connor are at catechism, and then throw it in the crock pot to keep it warm while we are at floor hockey. If I had remembered that I needed to cook dinner early today and taken chicken out of the freezer at a reasonable time, then I would have simply let it cook in the crock pot to make my life even easier.

Two of my favorite crock pot dinners are so ridiculously easy, I feel like I can only get away with making them each about once a month. Here goes, prepared to be wowed:

  1. Chicken and salsa. That's it. Just put some boneless, skinless chicken breasts in the crock pot and cover with salsa. Let cook on high for 6-8 hours if frozen, 4-6 if not frozen. Shred up the chicken and serve on flour tortillas with cheese and sour cream. If you really want to get fussy, make some Mexican or Spanish style rice to go along with it.
  2. Pork chops and barbeque sauce. One more two-ingredient wonder. Put boneless pork chops in the crock pot, cover with barbeque sauce and let cook for 4-6 hours if fresh and 6-8 hours if frozen. Shred it and serve it on a bun. Shredded cheddar optional. Great with a bag of frozen french fries or sweet potato fries also good with chips if you don't have time to cook the fries. 
I may have even posted these recipes on here before, but I don't care. They bear repeating. I have an entire cookbook dedicated to crock pot recipes, and yet I always come back to these two, because they are so easy, I don't have to look anything up, and I don't need any special ingredients. 
Do you have any favorite, stupid easy crock pot recipes? 

So What! Wednesday

Time to link up with Shannon at Life After I "Dew" for So What! Wednesday!

So What! if Chris faxed paperwork into work the other night and didn't realize until later that one of Bethany's science flashcards was stuck to one of the pages? They're studying the skeletal system, and the flashcard just happened to say "Pelvis." Bethany could not figure out why I thought this was hilarious.
So What! if I feel a twinge of hope every month that maybe I'm pregnant, even though we have 100% agreed that we're done having babies AND Chris had the big V at the beginning of the year? I think I'm just one of those people who is always going to secretly kinda want babies, no matter what!
So What! if I have this horrible cough that keeps me up at night, but yet I insist upon eating ice cream every single day? I'm weak, and I have no other answer for this dilemma.
So What! if I doze off while watching Punky Brewster with the kids almost every night, even though they are so careful not to start an episode without me and insist on pausing it every time I have to get up for any reason? It's the togetherness that counts,right? (regardless of the wakefulness...)
So What! if I cannot for the life of me keep up with all the crap the kids have going on? I know I need to be more organized and more on top of things, but am I really responsible for going through my fifth grader's agenda with a fine tooth comb every day to realize that she has a social studies test BEFORE the night before the test? 
So What! if I'm not getting done nearly as much as I would like every night because I'm sticking to my new bedtime? My complexion will thank me, even if my laundry will not.
What about you? What are you saying So What! to this week?