Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Be My Valentine


This winter is whizzing by. I can't believe Valentine's Day is just around the corner. Since my birthday is just before V-Day, I grew up listening to the story of how my mom brought me home from the hospital on Valentine's Day, during a huge blizzard. I sort of feel like a Valentine's Day baby, you know?

My kids love making little mailboxes out of tissue boxes or shoe boxes every year, and picking out special Valentine cards for their friends at school. I'm not usually organized enough to do anything clever, but I wish I was! Maybe I will torture myself and peruse the Valentine offerings on Pinterest. Better yet, Tiny Prints has some precious Valentine Cards, many of which can even be personalized with a photo. Since this is Lucy's first year at the big kid school, ordering special Valentine cards would be a treat. I was really pleased with how our holiday cards from Tiny Prints came out. The quality is outstanding, far surpassing anything that can be picked up at a drug store.

Valentine's Day Cards for Kids Enchanted Princess - Front : Lilac

The Tiny Prints selection of Valentine's Day greeting cards is great. Choosing will be difficult! Lucy loves princesses, so I'm sure she would pick something from the princess collection, like this one.

Valentine's Day Cards for Kids Little Ballerina - Front : Heather

But, she also loves ballet. So maybe she'd get a kick out of a ballerina card with her own face on the ballerina's body?

Valentine's Day Cards for Kids Charming Request - Front : Bright Red

I think this is one of my favorites, but I'm not sure the kindergarteners are worthy of such an adorable, way-too-cute-to-ever-trash Valentine card.

Valentine's Day Cards for Kids Picture Puzzle - Front : Bay

The hokey little sayings are fun too!

There are 237 cards to choose from! I'll probably be a nice mommy and let Lucy choose for herself. I'm thinking pink and princessy, but you never know. Sometimes she surprises me. I think this year I'll make the kids a special Valentine treat, like some heart shaped cookies. And maybe I'll find some extra motivation and make something for them to share with their classmates too.

Are you doing anything special for your kids for Valentine's Day? If you're interested in Tiny Prints cards, check them out on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest too!

In exchange for this post, I received complimentary Valentine cards from Tiny Prints. All opinions are my own.

Get the Kids Cooking and Enter the Ben's Beginners Contest

Uncle Ben's U.S.A.I like to get my kids involved in the meal planning and preparation around here. Bethany likes to actually do a little cooking, which was initially difficult for me to allow because I have inherited a little bit of paranoia. But I believe in fostering independence, so when she shows interest in learning how to cook something, I take the cue and teach her. Connor's "cooking" is currently limited to using the toaster oven, but it's a start! He and Lucy also help with prep work, like gather ingredients and stirring. Mattie likes to feel involved too, so if she sees the other kids helping then she's got to get in there and do her part as well. I don't want my kids to be afraid of the kitchen, or to leave home with only rudimentary knowledge of how to turn one of those do-hickeys on (you know, the burners).

Teaching my kids about healthy choices is an important extension of helping out in the kitchen. Dinner table conversation often includes discussions about why certain foods are healthier than others, the health benefits of certain foods, or why some foods are better to be consumed only once in awhile as a treat. We try hard to implement lots of natural and organic foods, whole grains, low fat food, and fruits and vegetables. For months we were letting the kids take turns choosing a kid's pick dinner one night a week, to help get them involved and invested in what they were eating. Our evenings have turned into a nightly circus production more recently, but we intend to get back to kid's pick nights because they really enjoy it and it adds some fun to our family meal planning.

Speaking of meal planning, I mentioned recently that I am working on a meal planning board to hang in our kitchen to help me stay organized with meals and to encourage us to cook more homemade meals. Production has stalled, but I have quite a bit done. Every weekend, as a family we will decide which meals to prepare that week. The kids will have a say in the planning, and they will also be given plenty of opportunities to help out. I'm not a natural cook by any means, and often my biggest challenge is that I don't know what to make. Then before you know it, everyone is eating scrambled eggs or cereal for dinner. That's okay every now and again, but hopefully utilizing a meal planning board will help me. Within the year, I'd like to get Bethany and Connor preparing a simple meal for the family once or twice a month, to get them even more kitchen savvy!

Chris and I are big fans of rice, and we like to include it in lots of meals. Right now, Uncle Ben's is running a contest called Ben's Beginners. They are looking for parents of children ages 5-12 to submit a video of themselves and their kids working together to prepare a rice-based meal. The prizes include $20,000 cash, an appearance on the Rachael Ray Show, and a $50,000 cafeteria makeover for the winner's school! You can visit the Uncle Ben's Facebook page for more information.

Do you like to involve your kids in the kitchen? How do they like to help? 

I wrote this blog post while participating in the SocialMoms and Uncle Ben’s blogging program, for 6,000 My SocialMoms Rewards Points. For more information on how you can participate, click here.

Monday, January 30, 2012


My birthday is coming up next week! For the longest time I hated my birthday. Now I share in a tradition of birthday celebrations with a group of lovely ladies and all of our birthdays are something to look forward to, including my own. This weekend we will be having a party for the February birthdays, and I know it will be another crazy fun night! Although I'm not much of a drinker, I thought this information about the origin of champagne was interesting and fitting of the upcoming occasion. Enjoy!

wine.com infographic
Brought To By Wine.com, Purveyors of Fine Wine and Champagne

Weekly Resolutions

I need to maintain more focus in my life, and I think I'm going to start doing an ongoing to-do list. I have done this in the past and it does seem to help, as long as I don't get carried away and put too much stuff on my list. For starters, here are some things I resolve to get done this week. Maybe I'll try to do this every Monday, who knows?

We were gone for just two nights, and our living room looks like somebody's moving in. Or moving out. Actually, more than one somebody. We can't go anywhere without a crap ton of stuff. Ugh. I resolve to make sure everything is put away by tomorrow afternoon, at the latest.

I've been doing okay with my exercising, but I need to be much more disciplined. I'm starting off small and will add more stuff as I go along. Right now I'm just hula hooping. Last week I did a few days, and I got in 30 minutes today. I resolve to exercise for 30 minutes at least 3 more times this week.

Laundry is totally out of control around here. I need to do a whole bunch quickly so I can kind of get caught up. I'm afraid that's the best I can hope for, and that's dreaming big at this point. I resolve to do a minimum of 2 loads of laundry a day this week (including today...1 down, 1 to go!).

I've been a lazy blogger. I love to update the blog everyday, but I've been letting myself become easily distracted. I resolve to publish blog posts every day this week.

We've been rather lacking in home cooked food around here. I am cooking tonight, and I resolve to cook at least 2 additional nights this week. Hopefully leftovers and pizza will take care of the rest of the nights.

Want to play along? What do you resolve to get done this week?

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Winter Weekend: Great Wolf Lodge in Sandusky, Ohio

Last week, Michigan turned 175 years old. We celebrated by...going to Ohio for the weekend. So uh, yeah, Happy Birthday, Michigan.

The kids and their wolf den
Captivated by the lobby entertainment
Months ago, I mentioned that I was thinking about putting the word out that we'd like cash in lieu of gifts for Christmas so we could plan a fun winter trip. I thought the kids would love it, and it would give me something to look forward to during these dreary months. We were indeed gifted enough money to book a weekend at a water park hotel. Since there are several water park hotels within 2-5 hours of us, and we had never been to any of them, I asked around and decided on Great Wolf Lodge in Sandusky, Ohio. What sold me was the price, location, and the cool rooms. The rates of these water park hotels floored me, seriously! (I may have mentioned that I am kind of cheap...). We wanted to stay two nights and limit our drive to about two and a half hours. Great Wolf Lodge had the most reasonable rates for rooms accommodating six people. The room I booked had a little cave-like "wolf den" for the kids, with bunk beds and their own television. It also had a sofa bed, a table and chairs for eating, and a fridge and microwave (both standard at this location).

Watching the show from a safe distance
The kids loved the place from the first moment they laid their eyes upon it. We got there too late to hit the water park Friday night, but we did spend some money, um I mean time, at the arcade. The arcade was clean and there was a decent selection of games. Almost everything cost two or more tokens, which I thought was overkill considering the place is already denying plenty of mid-western kids a college education as it is by re-directing their potential education funding. But the kids had fun, and that's what the weekend was all about! Well, that and doing permanent damage to their bodies by feeding them more fast food than they'd ever consumed! Just a note, I did pack some fruit as snacks, so at least they had a little bit of nutritional sustenance to counter-act the crap. Next time I will definitely plan better and pack a cooler so we can eat healthier and a whole lot cheaper.

Not looking at the camera has become a game
Saturday we walked down the hall to the water park (how awesome is that?!) after enjoying an extremely unhealthy breakfast in our room. We stayed for a few hours, until mom and dad were ready to breathe some non-chlorinated air. Then we headed back to our room for lunch and relaxation. It was so nice just to hang out together. Chris and the three biggest kids went back to the arcade, while Mattie and I stayed behind so she could take a snooze on my lap. Then everyone chilled for awhile longer before we returned to the water park for a couple more hours. We went back to the room in time to change for the evening children's show and story time in the lobby before having a late dinner in our room. Little did we know we should have gone down to the lobby way early because it was totally packed. However, our kids edged their way to the front and found seats for themselves on the floor. Mattie was understandably a little unsure of the rubber animated trees, animals, and people, so she kept inching backward, until she was practically sitting on the lap of a total stranger and talking her ear off.

Sunday we packed up our room, checked out and went back to the water park for another hour or so. One of the great things about Great Wolf Lodge is that they allow you to use the water park for a couple hours before you check-in (check-in time is 4:00 p.m.) and until closing on the day you check-out. I'm pretty sure many of the other water park hotels do the same. We each packed a plastic bag to take to the pool with our clothes we'd be driving home in, and Chris took the rest of our stuff to the van. So then we each had a bag to put our wet suits in when we changed. There are lockers to rent, but we went with trusting our fellow water park guests and just left our stuff on a table. It looked like most other people did the same thing.

Some random thoughts about our weekend:
  • It was an expensive weekend getaway, but worth it. I'd do it again. The convenience of not needing to leave the hotel was great. Chris did leave to get food a few times, but the kids and I never left. Lucy kept saying, "Best. Hotel. Ever!"
  • We really should have taken better advantage of the in-room fridge and microwave. Next time I will grocery shop for our trip and pack a cooler! Since we couldn't stomach paying $8 for a hot dog pool-side, we ended up eating way too much pizza and fast food. There is a Meijer close by, and Chris did go there to get breakfast stuff for Sunday morning.
  • The pizza right in the hotel is not a bad deal. I think we paid about $30 for a large pizza, salad, bread sticks, and 2L of Sprite.
  • No need to bring your own towels - they have plenty of pool towels right in the water park. A cover up and flip flops or Crocs for walking back and forth from the room are nice to have though. 
  • A surprising number of parents let their toddlers run wild in the little kid area. Hello, parents of the one-year old little boy sitting at the top of slide and holding up a line of 15 kids? Care to notice and do something about it? No? Well good thing the life guard is more observant than you. Also there are many little stinkers happy to take cuts in front of my 2-year old with parents who are either too engrossed in their conversations, or who think it's admirable to fight your way to the front of the line. Don't get me wrong, Mathilda would also be happy to take cuts, which is why I was watching her. I know, I'm such a helicopter parent, right?
  • The water was warm. I'm the biggest wimp ever about cold water, and I'm telling you - it was warm enough to get right in. A few of the splashy areas were a bit cooler, but anyplace there was water to immerse myself in, it was warm.
  • There are life jackets available for free for the little ones to use. Lucy and Mattie used them when they went down the water slides that were a step up from the little kid area. 
  • I got Chris a waterproof video camera for Christmas, and it was the best! He took lots of videos, and even videotaped while going down a water slide. I didn't take very many pictures because I was afraid of my camera getting wet.
  • Connor doesn't like big water slides, but there was still plenty to keep him occupied. 
  • There are lots of skinny moms out there. Wow.  How do you make your tummy look like you never had a baby? Unless...they were the 19 year old babysitters the dads left the moms for during their midlife crises? That was probably it. If that's the case, it happens way more than I knew, what jerks!!
  • A two-night stay was perfect. That way we could relax all day on Saturday, with no driving to interrupt our day. More than two nights would be too much.
  • The only water slide I went on was the one you take a tube on, and it was super fun! Bethany and I did a two-person tube. It was wicked fast and your face barely gets wet when coming off the slide. Perfect for me because I don't like getting a face full of water at the bottom.
Hmmm...not sure this is much better
Getting away for a couple days was fabulous. I'm so grateful we had this opportunity. Everyone had fun and it was nice and relaxing. Now I need to plan some more fun stuff to get me through until spring time...

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Thankful Thursday

It's been an exhausting day, and at 10:00 p.m. I'm finally getting a minute to sit down and write a quick blog post before I crash. I hate to miss a Thankful Thursday post because I believe that it's really important to remain in a thankful mindset. So, although my eyes are not quite open all the way and I may nod off in the middle of this writing, here goes:
  • I'm thankful that Lucy is so far responding to her new asthma meds, and that her pediatrician has patiently walked me through the procedure for treating her.
  • I'm thankful that asthma is no longer treated with the shots I used to get when I was a kid because Lucy would freak the freak out. No lie.
  • I'm thankful that Mathilda is getting better (she has some little infection going on). At least I think she's getting better. Sometimes it's so hard to tell. 
  • I'm thankful that Mathilda has been at least 50% sweet and agreeable, to temper the other 50% of the time that she's been impossible to deal with this week. 
  • I'm thankful that I finally had my MRI today, my first ever, and it was really no big deal. It was actually pretty relaxing to have an excuse to just lay still and do nothing for a little while.
  • I'm thankful that I had my consultation with the oral surgeon today (three doctor appointments today!) and I have my appointment scheduled for my extraction. The doctor was really nice and put me at ease.
  • I'm thankful that somehow the timing of all my appointments worked out today, and I didn't have to wait for too long at any of them.
  • I'm thankful that my mom was available to babysit and pick the kids up from school today so that I could fit everything in.
  • I'm thankful to my fellow basketball/catechism moms for carting Bethany around so much lately, even though I am not often able to reciprocate. I'm pretty sure I've mentioned these awesome ladies before, but their fabulousness bears repeating. Pretty sure none of them read my blog, so I'm not just kissing butt either ;-)
  • I'm thankful for my fluffy down pillows. Can't wait to lay my head upon them in a few minutes.
  • I'm thankful for my Kindle. Turns out it particularly comes in handy for slipping in my purse to kill the time while waiting for doctors.
What are you thankful for this week?

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Road Trip! 5 Mom-Inspired Driving Tips

I've been wanting to take the kids on a long road trip forever. I know this may sound nutty to some, but I have this little fantasy built up in m
y mind about how much fun it would be to be in the car with my kids for 3,000 miles. Doesn't it sound magical? No? I really am nuts? Ah well, so be it. By the time I was nine I had been back and forth across the country four times (two round-trips) so I naturally feel that my kids are deprived. Never mind that they've been on airplanes many times, and I was 16 before I ever set foot on an airplane. And also that I have no particularly wonderful memories from these trips. I'm pretty sure being crammed into the backseat with my mom, my hamster, and most of my worldly belongings doesn't count for much.

While I really want to fulfill this dream of mine, I'm also pretty nervous about it. My kids are good travelers, but the trip I want to take this summer is literally thousands of miles away and would require over 30 hours of driving. I have a lot to think about and plan if I intend to make it happen. To help get me pumped up about the trip, I'm offering up Five Mom-Inspired Driving Tips that will come in handy for any trip.
  1. Keep the kids quiet  Okay, maybe this sounds bad. But I get easily frazzled if I'm navigating unknown territory, and the noise of squealing children certainly doesn't help. Even if we're only driving an hour or two, I make sure everyone has certain essentials to keep them comfortable in between stops - and if I'm lucky, comfortable equals fairly quiet. Everybody gets a small pillow and blanket, a water bottle, and a bag of entertainment items. This generally includes books, small toys, and electronics. Thank God for the electronics. I also have a bag of snacks readily available, because for some reason being in the car for any length of time suddenly makes my kids think they haven't eaten in days. CD's are great to have too, especially because there isn't much in the way of radio options in some rural areas, and books on CD are fun too. The library is a good resource in case you don't have any and don't feel like spending any money.
  2. Know where you're going  As I've already alluded to, I tense up when I don't know where I'm going, but I feel much better if I have clear directions readily available. A GPS is a useful tool to have, and I wouldn't travel across the country without one. But those things are not fool-proof. Actual printed directions and maps provide back-up in case satellite coverage is suddenly and inexplicably lost.
  3. Take frequent breaks  Unless the kids are sleeping or thoroughly absorbed in their activities, stopping every few hours helps to break up the trip and gives everyone a chance to stretch their legs. Sometimes the monotony of the open road is so mind numbingly dull that it can cause drowsiness. Stopping to use the restroom, have a snack, and maybe chase the kids around a grassy area at the rest stop can help to revive a sleepy driver. But if you're too tired and feel like you can't keep your eyes open, either switch drivers or don't get back on the road until you can rest a little bit. Lock the doors, give the kids a treat, put on a movie if you're lucky enough to have a DVD player, or give them a quiet activity to do if you're not, and close your eyes for 20 minutes if you have to. Then when you're refreshed enough to drive safely, get yourself to a hotel! It is not worth the risk to get on the road if you are in danger of falling asleep while driving. 
  4. Establish rules   If the kids know what to expect ahead of time, it'll be a lot easier to get them to cooperate. For example, my kids know that the car doesn't move until everyone is buckled up. No screaming and being overly loud while the vehicle is in motion, no touching each other, and no kicking the seat in front of you either. Don't be afraid to pull over if someone is not following the rules. They want to get to the destination as quickly as possible, judging by the numerous "are we there yet?" inquiries, so let them know that disobedience will make the trip last even longer.
  5. Know your vehicle  This is one I need to work on before I drive anybody across the country. Besides making sure your insurance and registration are up to date, and that you have proof of both readily available, check to see if you have a road service plan and what it covers. Have an idea of how far you can push your car once that low fuel light comes on. Know how to put air in a tire and jump start a dead battery. We have a little portable air pump that hooks up to the lighter, which has come in handy more than once. Knowledge of how to change a flat tire is important too, as I can attest since I once got a flat tire, with a minivan full of kids, in the middle of the boonies. Luckily my friend was with me, driving separately, and we managed to get my tire off and drive it (in her van) to the closest gas station (which was more than 5 miles away, and might I add that my cell phone had no coverage) to be repaired. Allegedly there is a spare somewhere on the underside of the van, but we never did manage to figure out how to get it off. Some other things to think about: figure out how to check the oil and add some if you need to, add windshield solvent, change wiper blades, and change the bulbs in your headlights, brake lights, and turn signals.
You probably have your own driving tips as well, and I'd love to hear about them in the comments. Friendly advice on driving cross-country with four kids is also welcome.  You can also visit the Esurance blog and Facebook page for more ideas.

I wrote this blog post while participating in the SocialMoms and Esurance blogging program for 8,000 My SocialMoms Rewards Points. For more information on how you can participate, click here.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Every Day is Laundry Day


Laundry might be my most hated chore. One problem is that there are a lot of us, and we like to, you know, change our clothes on a daily basis. But I don't like to do laundry on a daily basis (nor do I have time). And right now I'm really way behind (I think I've been saying this for about a year...). So it just keeps piling up, and as soon as I think I'm on a roll, the kids bring down all the dirty clothes that they've had stashed on the sides of their beds for who knows how long. Another problem is that we have crappy closets from another era in this house, from back in the day when two or three siblings could share a room and fit all of their combined clothing in one miniscule closet. So if ever there is a day when I'm totally caught up on laundry, I really have no idea where we would put it all.

It doesn't help that I'm kind of OCD about the laundry. So I'm totally fine with having like six or seven baskets of dirty clothes waiting to be washed at any given time. But never will I mix my darks with my whites! Or wash towels with clothes! Oh no, I'm far too laundry elitist for that. I also have to look over every single piece of light colored clothing before it goes in the washing machine. Stains are sprayed and scrubbed one by one, which makes doing one load of laundry a major production.

My grandma always swore by Tide. She kept a big bushel basket of powdered Tide in her laundry room at all times. She also used an old-fashioned wringer style washing machine until about 1995, no lie. It operated using a foot pump. You most likely have no idea what I'm talking about, so here's a picture to give you a general idea, although hers looked a little different.

I myself am on the, shall we say, frugal side. Over the years I've tried many, many different brands of laundry detergent, including the cheapest of the cheap, in an effort to save a buck. But I am never happy with the results unless I use Tide. This is especially true since I've had kids, because those little runts sure know how to make a mess out of everything. Tide cleans our clothes like no other brand of laundry detergent I've ever used. 

When I was given the opportunity to review Tide Coldwater via SheSpeaks, I was thrilled! Typically I use Tide Coldwater Free and Gentle due to Lucy's ultra sensitive skin. But for this campaign I was given a bottle of Tide Coldwater in Fresh Scent. Using a scented detergent was a nice change. I love the smell, I'm just trying to avoid washing Lucy's clothes with it. I like to do about three quarters of my laundry in cold water to save energy, and it's great to have a detergent that is specially formulated to be used with cold water. While I do use stain sprays on our clothes, and would never just throw in a load of laundry with a hope and a prayer that the laundry detergent alone would remove everything, I have seen with my own eyes that our clothes come out cleaner looking when we use Tide than when we use other brands. The stuff works! A few months ago I asked Chris to pick up some laundry detergent while he was at the store. Of course I was specific, but he was understandably wooed to the dark side of cheap detergents. He came home with a bottle of whatever was on sale. I went ahead and used it because I was desperate, but I ended up needing to re-wash several loads of laundry because I just wasn't satisfied with how everything came out. As soon as I was able to get back to the store to buy my beloved Tide, the offending bottle was assigned towel duty for its duration.

My dream is to someday have an inspiring laundry room that beckons to me and makes me want to do laundry. With the help of Pinterest, I've been cultivating that dream by, you know, pinning pictures of fantabulous fantasy laundry rooms. Because that's real productive. In the meantime, I'll keep trudging along, with Tide Coldwater at my side.

Thank you Tide and SheSpeaks for this opportunity to blog about one of my favorite household products! In exchange for giving my honest opinion, I received a complimentary bottle of Tide Coldwater and a gift card.

I Think I'll Stick With Carpe Diem

Maybe you read this recent Huffington Post article by Glennon Melton that's been circulating the internet: Don't Carpe Diem. Go ahead and take a read if you haven't already. It's thought provoking, and judging by the comments, people really relate to it.

I enjoyed the article and I get it, to a point. Being a mom, I guess it would be impossible for me to not know that there are lots of challenging moments in the life of a parent. Some of those moments are very far from pleasurable, and I can't wait until they're over. Stepping in vomit at 7 a.m. when I go in my daughter's room to wake her up for school, and suddenly being slammed with the knowledge that I have a puker on my hands and endless loads of nasty laundry ahead of me. Not a fun moment that I'd like to draw out and re-live. Realizing half way through my grocery shopping that my toddler is really not going to stop screaming any time soon, and needing to continue anyway because my family has been living off slightly brown grapes and toaster waffles. There's a moment when a fast forward button would really come in handy. We all have our days when bedtime just cannot come soon enough. We all have our nights when we want to tell our kids, in the words of Adam Mansbach (but in the voice of Samuel L. Jackson), to "go the f*%! to sleep." I don't feel guilty for failing to find the joy in these tiresome parenting dilemmas. I strive for joyful living, but I'm not a sado masochist. Every  minute of every day is definitely not worth seizing.

Believe me, I wear the painfully earned badge of Mommy Guilt. By how many actions and grievances have I done my offspring wrong? Let me count the ways. Never mind, we'd be here all night. But I don't berate myself for not loving the horrible moments: the temper tantrums, sassy outbursts, leaking diapers, and all the rest. Nor do I doubt that I've earned every little moment I can glean for myself; whether I've locked myself in the bathroom for two minutes of near peace and quiet, or removed myself from the premises for a few gluttonous hours with my girlfriends. I deserve those moments, even as imperfect as I am.

To me, Carpe Diem means make the most out of every day. Even the bad ones. It doesn't mean cherish the moment when my toddler just pooped her pants at the mall and, wouldn't you know it, I have no fresh diapers in my purse. And it certainly doesn't mean feel guilty if I can't find the joy in bumbling through a conversation with the preschool teacher in which she tells me that my child is trying to steal the dress-up shoes. Carpe Diem also doesn't mean cram every microsecond with "meaningful" and "worthwhile" activities in an effort to make every last moment memorable. Nor does it involve deluding myself into believing that my parenting journey is all gumdrops and lollipops, unicorns and rainbows. It does, however, mean look for the good, really look, because sometimes it's hard to find. It also means laugh when you feel like crying, because laughter has the potential to drastically change your perspective. It means treasure the journey, because isn't that what life is all about? And it means slow down, breathe deep, feel with great intensity, and love with wild abandon.

The thing is, I'm already like one of those old biddies at the grocery store. I've been a parent for just 10 short years, and the speed at which childhood races by already pains me. My best advice to new parents? Enjoy. The time goes by like you have no idea. Don't rush. Take time for yourself. And yes, by all means, Carpe Diem.

Monday, January 23, 2012


Awhile back I posted about one of our credit cards getting hacked. Luckily the credit card company caught it right away and all was well with the world. Since that happened to us, I can't believe how often I've talked to other people with similar or much worse experiences. Recently I talked to someone who went to a wedding out of town, and all the wedding guests who stayed at the same hotel were victims of credit card fraud. Another friend's bank account was compromised. Obviously there are a lot of people who are up to no good, pulling these stunts. Do they think that since the banks and credit card companies are insured, it's no big deal? Do they think it's not "really" theft if the victim is able to recover her funds? But someone is paying - everybody - with higher fees, not to mention the time lost to straightening out these debacles. And stealing is stealing. Unless the thieves are using the stolen funds to feed starving children or provide shelter to the homeless, the Robin Hood defense is out the window. Besides, what I'm pretty sure they're actually doing is treating 20 of their closest friends to unlimited drinks at Applebee's and going on fantasy shopping sprees via the Home Shopping Network.

It's easy to roll my eyes at my mom when she hesitates to enter her credit card  number, or other personal information, online. But truthfully, she has good reason to be nervous about it. Within the past few months, I've received notifications from at least two online retailers letting me know that their accounts were hacked and my information may be in the wrong hands. So far, so good, but the possibilities for fraud are endless in the digital world that we live in today. Even scarier than credit card fraud, the possibility of identity theft is really freaky. Someone pretending to me, applying for loans under my name, using phony identification with my name on it; well it's so creepy it may as well be an episode of the Twilight Zone. You can't be too careful nowadays. Using a company such as IdentityHawk to provide identity theft protection is probably a good idea. Consider protecting yourself before you have a problem.

Sunday, January 22, 2012


In the past week I received good & clear test results for two biopsies and a mammogram. Talk about a huge sigh of relief! When I got the last bit of happy news Friday afternoon, I felt a huge weight lift from me. I still have a dental matter to take care of, and a couple tests the neurologist wants done before I go in for a follow-up. When that's all done, I'll feel even better. As far as doctor's appointments go, I think I'm doing a pretty good job of following my New Year's resolution to take better care of myself. Other than that, eh, not so much. When I went to the neurologist, the nurse weighed me and heartlessly told me the wretched number. I've avoided such knowledge for quite some time. Now that I know I weigh as much as I weighed the day I gave birth to my first born child, well obviously I have to do something about that. I have never dieted in my life as I have zero will-power. Like absolutely none. But I can continue to make long term dietary changes that will positively affect my health and hopefully, my weight. I'm not one to focus on numbers on a scale, but I have a personal mental hang-up with wearing clothing above a certain size. I have to start exercising way more. Stress tends to immobilize me, and I've had no shortage of stress lately, but it's time to clear my head and get moving.

Household stuff is stressing me out too. A couple weeks ago we had a big discussion with the kids about chores and responsibilities around the house. They seemed to get the message, and started out okay. But now they've already totally forgotten everything we said to them. Here's my problem. They are so busy. Bethany, in particular, has a lot going on. Between school, homework, and after school activities, she doesn't have much free time during the week. And if she isn't home, I feel bad making Connor and Lucy do chores. Same goes when Connor isn't home - I feel bad making the girls do chores. And it's definitely not balanced - Bethany is home way less than the rest of the kids. So what do I do? My current wimpy path of trying to be fair is not working out. I need to come up with a happy medium, because for the little time they have to clean, they sure manage to make some massive messes. And I'm not fine with Chris & I just doing all of it, for several reasons. Like they need to learn responsibility, they should know something about how to keep a house in order before they move out on their own, and, well, honestly, I hate cleaning. But if we divide the work up by 6 (okay, more like 4 and a half for the time being) it's not nearly as overwhelming. Two sloppy, unorganized people should not be permitted to procreate. Not that I, ahem, know anyone like that.

I was slightly worked up about Lucy starting full-day kindergarten, but thankfully her first week went well. It was a short week, but that's just as well. The long days are definitely wiping her out, and she ended up at the pediatrician's office Thursday due to another asthma flare up. But she's now on a new preventative medication and I'm hoping that will help. One kid sort of under control, and then Mattie suddenly came down with a nasty cough yesterday afternoon. It's looking like I'll be at the pediatrician's office yet again in the very near future. That's how we roll around here. Putting out fires one at a time, while new ones are starting up in the meantime.

My immediate tasks at hand: Exercise more. Stress less. Get house under control. Healthy kids. I got this.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Thankful Thursday

Thursday is here again, that time of week when I search the innermost recesses of my mind to come up with a list of stuff that I'm thankful for. Not really, it's actually pretty easy to think of lots of things I'm thankful for, even when I'm having a stressful week (or 3) like I've been having.

  • I'm thankful that my friend Shelly went with my Saturday night to see Chris's band.
  • I'm thankful that the Febreze got the smoke stink from the bar out of my coat & scarf. There is no smoking in public places in Michigan, but the show happened to be at a cigar bar, where smoking is allowed.
  • After spending an evening in a smoke-filled bar, I have a renewed sense of EXTREME thankfulness for the smoking ban.
  • I am thankful for my awesome ob/gyn. I heart him.
  • I am thankful that my friend Cathy came over for a lovely visit this week and brought yummy muffins for us to share.
  • I am thankful that Lucy decided, on her own, that she's ready to stay at school all day now. So this week she officially started being a full timer.
  • I'm thankful that Lucy's first couple days full-time have gone really well. 
  • I'm thankful that really wintery weather held off as long as it did. I'll keep that in mind as I'm freezing my butt off today.
  • I'm thankful that I can always, always, always get my kids into the pediatrician's office on the same day. Yes this means I'll be at the pediatrician's office today.
  • I'm thankful that I have this nebulizer at home.
  • I'm thankful that my mom came to babysit last night so I didn't have to take all the kids to floor hockey. I was so not in the mood for entertaining little girls at the hockey arena.
  • I'm thankful that my mother-in-law gave Chris & I her Groupon for Lelli's Restaurant that was about to expire, and that she and her husband came to babysit Tuesday night so we could go out to dinner.
  • I'm thankful for that divine meal at Lelli's. I mean, it was really good. I enjoy tuxedo clad servers waiting on me. And I love a well-done filet cooked to perfection.
  • I'm thankful for our upcoming mini vacation. I can't wait to get out of here for a couple days.
That was relatively painless. What about you? What are you thankful for this week?

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Rearranging Walls

Once in awhile, I get this bug. I look at walls and imagine knocking them down with a sledgehammer. Not because I have aggression issues, but because I want to change things up in my house. At our old house, I actually convinced Chris to take down a wall once, and I think we'd both agree that it was a great decision. The wall separated our dining room from our living room, and it was really refreshing to have a big open space.

Our current house was majorly renovated long before we moved in. Originally a three-bedroom ranch, it was converted into a four-bedroom colonial. Two of the original bedrooms were combined and turned into a family room, and the third bedroom was left untouched for the most part. An upstairs addition added three bedrooms and a bathroom. I suspect the kitchen also had a major overhaul, albeit sometime in the 80's or early 90's. While I'm no architect or designer, I can't help myself from looking around my house and thinking to myself, "Why the heck did they do it that way? What a waste of space!"

I think Chris secretly wants to run away from home when he hears me muttering about remodeling our house. Okay, so maybe it's not such a big secret. I can go months just going with the flow, and then suddenly I can barely stand to look at that half wall that annoys the heck out of me as it stands there innocently separating my tiny foyer from my dining area. I want to take the wall down that separates my kitchen from my dining area, and totally re-configure the kitchen cabinets. I'd like to take down at least part of one of the family room walls too, and switch our stair case around so that it opens into our living room instead of our family room. Of course I really don't know what I'm doing, or what is aesthetically proper. Maybe I just crave change, and sometimes rearranging the furniture just doesn't cut it. Eventually, though, one of these walls is coming down. Mark my word.

Have you ever given into the urge to take down a wall? How did it go? Did you make the right decision, or do you wish you could back in time and undo it?

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Mammogram Testimonial

Once again I've been busy in "real" life and absent from my blogging. There's been a lot going on, and a lot of stress which I'm trying to rein in so it doesn't overwhelm me. My resolution to take better care of myself  in 2012 was brought front and center when we received word that Chris's cousin passed away very suddenly and unexpectedly. Just 50 years old, he complained of indigestion, went to bed, had a heart attack in his sleep and never woke up. Jim was a good man, with sweet, beautiful children, and I pray that his passing was peaceful and pain free. I don't know that he had any clue whatsoever that he was in danger of having a heart attack. My heart aches for his family and I am reminded how important it is to keep these uncomfortable doctor appointments I have scheduled.

A few days ago I had my first mammogram, an event that I have dreaded for quite some time. I think it's pretty universal that women are afraid of mammograms. But if you've never had one and you're due for one, I'm here to tell you: it's not that bad. I think the worst part of it is waiting for the results, but the procedure itself is nothing to fear. The recommended age for a first mammogram is 40, but I had mine early due to a family history of breast cancer. I believe my doctor told me I should have one at 35, and I'll be 37 next month so I only put off his advice for 2 years. (As opposed to that mole on my chest that my doctor told me to have checked over 10 years ago...yes...seriously!).

Of course all offices are run somewhat differently, but this is what I experienced when I went in for my mammogram. I signed in at the desk, filled out some paperwork and sat in the waiting room until I was called back. Then I was brought to a changing room and given a half size hospital gown that snapped in the front and was about waist length. I was told to undress from the waist up and put on the gown, then take a seat right outside the changing room and wait for someone to come and get me. It was freezing cold in there (most of the staff, I couldn't help but notice, were working in North Face jackets), and the flimsy gown only had 2 snaps. So this part was a little uncomfortable because I am a modest person and felt weird sitting there half naked and holding this gown closed with another woman sitting next to me, also waiting. But talking to friends about their mammograms, I know not every facility works this way. If you're running a facility that does mammograms and have any say about the set up, this is definitely not ideal. I mean, seriously? Women are already nerved up and scared enough about getting a mammogram, they don't need the added discomfort of feeling exposed in front of strangers. But it was only for a couple minutes, so it wasn't a huge deal. And it definitely wasn't a big enough deal that it would prevent me from going back again.

After a short time (I'd estimate less than 5 minutes), I was summoned and brought to the room where the actual mammogram was to take place. It was a private room with a door that closed, you'll be relieved to know. Or at least I was. I stood in front of a machine and was squished and maneuvered to get four pictures from different angles. That's it. The whole thing was over in less than 5 minutes. Yes it was slightly uncomfortable, physically, because the squishing kind of hurts and the positions I was contorted into were anything but natural. There was just one lady doing all the work, and she would position me and then quickly hop over to push the button to take the picture and then come back to relieve me for a minute and move me around and squish me some more. Is standing there half naked and freezing cold and being squished and prodded this way and that a fun experience? Well, no. But honestly, it was so fast and really nothing at all compared to the nervousness I felt leading up to my first mammogram. To make yourself a little more comfortable, if you're the self-conscious type like I am, wear some comfortable pants that don't show off your muffin top too much. If you don't have a muffin top, Idon'twannaknowaboutit. But good for you (said with no resentment if you have no children and a whole lot of passive aggressiveness if you have four).

That was it. Including all my wait time, I was probably in the office for a total of 30 minutes or so. The majority of that time was spent fully clothed, reading a book on my Kindle in the first waiting room before I was called back to change. There was no major pain involved, and the minor physical discomfort was over very, very quickly. I am a really major wimp, so you can count on me to be totally straight with you. Have you ever nursed a newborn baby? Well that hurts about 100 billion times worse than having a mammogram.

My verdict is: if you need a mammogram, don't let fear get in your way. Get her done. Listen to the wimpiest woman in the blogsophere - it is no big deal! It is quick & easy. Compared to a Pap, a mammogram is cake. Even if you suspect something is wrong, it is far better and easier to treat if you find it sooner rather than later. Take good care of yourself, you deserve it, and so do the people who care about you!

Monday, January 9, 2012

2012: The Resolution Edition

I've had lots of thoughts of New Year's resolutions rolling around in my head lately, but I've been too tired and busy to really sit with them and let them formulate. The holiday hubbub has died down, the kids are back in school, and I'm ready to get this show on the road.

This year I've got some kind of broad resolutions, with several more specific goals within each. First I'll list them, then I'll go into more detail below.

  1. Take Better Care of Myself   
  2. Enjoy my Children More
  3. Streamline & Organize my Entire House
  4. Stay Zen, Even When the People Around are Far From Zen, and in Fact Seem to be Conspiring Against Me
1. During the past decade, the only time I've seen a doctor has been while I was pregnant. Concerns have been nagging at me. Before Christmas, I went for my "annual" exam (ladies will know what I'm referring to), and just before the New Year I went on a scheduling rampage for the month of January. I'm having all sorts of nerve wracking appointments I've been putting off for ages, some at the advice of my lady doctor. I went to the dentist for a cleaning and a check-up, where I found out I have to have a tooth surgically extracted (sounds like fun, hey?). I'm still waiting back from the oral surgeon's office so I can schedule that. The next day I went to the dermatologist to have a couple little spots checked out which have noticeably changed in recent years. The doctor removed one right away, and depending on the biopsy results might remove the other when I go back in two weeks. I got a call that my Pap test came back abnormal, so I need to return for further testing and possibly a biopsy. I'm going in for my very first mammogram this week (precautionary because my aunt had breast cancer). And I'm also seeing a neurologist regarding the incidents I've had of passing out and numbness/inability to move. Does this not sound like your idea of a fun January? I don't think I've ever in my life had so many appointments in such a short time. I'm making up for lost time, but that's stupid. If I had been looking after my health a little better, then I wouldn't be freaking out all at once now. My kids need a healthy mama, and there is a lot I want to do in life, so a billion doctor appointments is just the beginning. From now on, I'm going to make more of an effort to take care of problems as they come up, instead of putting them off and letting them pile up indefinitely.

As another part of this resolution, I'm going to make more of an effort to work out regularly. Sure, I'm not exactly thrilled with the muffin top I've got going on, but more importantly, I need my body to be healthy. That is more of a motivation than fitting into my skinny jeans. I'm implementing more fruits and vegetables into my diet, and more home cooked meals. Right now I drink one smoothie most days, but I'd like to increase that to two smoothies everyday. I want to get more veggies into those smoothies. I want to try harder to remember my calcium pills everyday. I want to drink more water and get  more sleep. There's a lot to think about, but it's important. Baby steps...

2. I actually do enjoy my children quite a bit. I think they're pretty awesome. But I spend a whole lot of time harping at them to do this, that, and the other, and nagging them because they didn't do it the first 10 or 15 times I asked. I want to play with them more, be silly with them more, and have more meaningful conversations with them. I want to spend more one-on-one time with each of them. I want to lose my temper less, a lot less. And basically, I just want to be a better mother. I'm hoping to host a Love & Logic class at my house in the near future, to learn gentler and more effective ways of dealing with my kids.

3. We've only lived in this house for two and a half years, yet with the amount of unorganized crap we have amassed, one might think we've lived here for a couple decades. So much went unfinished when we first moved in (have I ever mentioned that I gave birth to Mathilda 5 days after we moved in?), and it's time to get her done. The tentative plan is to work on one room or area at a time. So far that's been the hall closet and main floor bathroom. I've got a lot done, but it ain't over 'til it's over. What I really should do is make a list. Good idea, I'll get right on it. Well, maybe tomorrow.

Another part of this plan is to get the kids involved, very involved. We've been working on some new chore routines. I've some chore lists printed out and ready to hang, but still need to iron out the specifics of a chore chart. I want to walk into my house and feel good about it, every time. Is that too much to ask?

Also, I mentioned above that I want to start eating more home cooked meals. One of the reasons we don't eat more home cooked meals is because I am seriously lacking in meal planning skills and kitchen organization. So I'm also working on a big meal chart to hang in the kitchen that will hopefully help us out in that area.

4. Most of the stress in my life is the direct result of other people. I'll be in a fabulous mood, when suddenly I encounter whomever, who promptly sucks all the joy out of the room and makes me feel like crawling into a warm dark cave for a day or three would be just the thing.  I need to be responsible for my reactions and separate myself from the negativity, but this is so hard for me. I have a difficult time being happy unless everyone around me is happy too. I know that I can't change other people, I can only change how I react to other people. I have a lot of work to do in this department.

One of the things I need to do is start up my gratitude journal again. I keep saying this, but seriously, for the sake of my sanity, I need to do it. Focusing on gratitude and positivity makes a world of difference. I don't know what else to do. Hopefully exercising, eating better, and being more organized will help too. Maybe I need to start meditating. I need to laugh more too, definitely.

I have other goals for 2012 too, but these are the life-changing ones. What about you? Care to share? Or give me tips on how to avoid losing my head when a Debbie Downer or Judging Judy tries to rain on my parade?

Friday, January 6, 2012

NYC New York Color

nycOnce again, I love Influenster! In December I received my second Vox Box full of great new products to try out. One of my favorite products this time around was the NYC New York Color lip gloss. I'm a lip gloss lover, so this was right up my alley. I like to use it plain or on top of a regular lipstick for a little something extra.

I received a complimentary tube of Nude York City Liquid Lipshine. My very first impression was the smell. Oh my goodness, it really smells delicious. The color is versatile and would be perfect for any skin tone. My lips are rather pink naturally, so used alone, this color adds more shine than anything else, with just a hint of color. Shine and a hint of color is just what I'm looking for in a daytime lip color, so I use it often. The applicator doesn't feel very firm when applying the gloss, it feels a bit flimsy and flexible. Maybe that helps the gloss go on nicely, but I would suggest being a little careful with it, as it is kind of delicate. I've tried several different types of lip gloss, and I would say that NYC New York Color Liquid Lipshine is definitely less sticky and goopy than others that I've used. It lasts a reasonable amount of time, but does need to be reapplied regularly, as that is simply the nature of lip gloss. But it smells good, looks good, and feels good so I have no complaints whatsoever! I would love to try some other colors.

Liquid Lipshine sells for $2.49 and is available in 10 shades. NYC New York Color products can be found at Walmart, Target, Rite Aid, CVS, Family Dollar, Duane Reade, Kmart, and HEB. Thanks to Influenster and NYC New York Color for providing me with this great product to test!

imPRESS Press-On Manicure

impressI recently received a complimentary imPRESS Press-On Manicure kit by Broadway in my Holiday Vox Box from Influenster. If you like trying new products, I highly suggest you high tail it over to the Influenster website and sign up now. This was my second box, and it's been such fun to have the opportunity to check out new products.

Broadway's imPRESS Press-On Manicure kits are sets of fake nails that come in a clever nail polish bottle package. Mine were a solid pinky color, but they also come in fun patterns. When Bethany saw my kit she couldn't wait to try it. I told her to go ahead, but unfortunately she rushed through without first reading the directions before I could stop her. Therefore she didn't use the enclosed cleansing pad to clean her nails before putting these on, and I think she also may have put them on upside down. The result was that they didn't stay on. Within a very short time, several fell off, and she ended up removing all of them. She was disappointed, but maybe she's learned a lesson about following directions.

I decided to give them a try, even though fake nails are truly not my thing. I never, ever use them. Even on my wedding day I had natural nails. A variety of sizes come in the kit, and I was able to find nails that fit mine pretty well. If anything, I would say they are a little big, which is okay because my own nails did not show at all. I carefully cleaned my nails with the included cleansing pad, let them dry for a minute, and applied them to the exact specifications of the directions. Each nail has a little tab where you pull of the adhesive covering, and the side with the tab is the bottom, which goes along the cuticle line. I pressed them on really firmly, holding each one down for several seconds before moving on to the next one. The directions suggest to lay the nails out in order before getting started, and to do the thumbs last. That is what I did and it worked out well. For my first time applying fake nails, I think it was really easy and I give myself an A+. I have to admit, they looked good. My nails are kind of small, and I don't keep them very long, so it was fun to see myself with some really nice looking nails. They made my hands look totally different.

Unfortunately, as I said, fake nails are just not my thing. I kept them on for a couple hours, did some typing, and washed my hands and face with them on. They never felt loose at all and I was surprised that they didn't feel as unnatural as I feared they would. But I was still desperate to get them off. There was no way I was going to bed with them on for even one night, so I was unable to test the claim that they last for up to a week. I'm sure if you're a normal woman who doesn't suffer from claustrophobia at the thought of artificial nails being stuck on your nails, you'll do just fine. I followed the directions for removal, and applied nail polish remover along the edges of each nail with a cotton swab and let it sit for a minute. Then I peeled the nails off from the sides. They were definitely a lot more difficult to get off than to get on, which is great when considering most people want them to stay put for as long as possible. I went over each of my nails quickly with a little polish remover, and there was no residual adhesive at all.

My verdict is that I don't think I'd buy these for myself, but I would get some for my daughter to try for a special occasion. And I would put them on for her next time to make sure she fully understands the correct way to do it. I think they're perfect for a wedding or a night out when you want to look extra spectacular.

ImPRESS Press-On Manicure kits are available in 36 colors and patterns, with solid colors retailing for $5.99 and patterns retailing for $7.99. They can be found at CVS, Rite Aid, Duane Reade, Kmart, Walmart, and Walgreens. Visit imPRESSmanicure.com to download a $1 off coupon and check out all the colors and patterns. Thanks Broadway and Influenster for giving me the chance to try something new!

Hot Pants

Way back in November I posted about something new I was going to try, Hot Pants. Basically, Hot Pants are exercise shorts that look like bike shorts. They are engineered to help you lose weight by increasing your perspiration up to 80%. In theory they can be worn to maximize a workout, and even aid in reducing the appearance of cellulite. Notice I said appearance - the cellulite is actually not going anywhere, sorry to say.

Like with so many things in my life, I had fabulous intentions. I was going to wear those Hot Pants every day for 2 weeks and work out every one of those days for best results. I started strong, and then...I got sick. I was sicker than I've been since childhood, with a hacking, suffocating cough. This kind of put a damper on my exercising. And my kids took turns being sick, and the holidays happened, and pretty soon I completely forgot about my Hot Pants. So I never completed my 2 weeks. However, I've started over at the beginning of this week. I'm trying again.

In the meantime, this is what I can tell you about my experience with Hot Pants. The material is synthetic, but pliable and comfortable. They have a snug, but not binding, fit. I ordered a size Medium, and I generally wear a size 6 or 8 in jeans. The instructions say to hand wash, but let's be real here. I don't hand wash a single solitary thing I own, no matter how delicate. That's what the hand wash setting is for on my washing machine. I've washed my Hot Pants in cold water, on the delicate cycle, and hung them to dry. They wash very nicely and retain their shape. My Hot Pants keep me warm! I only wish they were ankle length! And what's great about them is that they do indeed increase perspiration, but I haven't found the extra sweating to be uncomfortable in the least. In fact, I don't even notice it until I peel my Hot Pants off. The directions suggest wearing them for 30 minutes a day, but I often wear them for as long as a couple hours.

I've been wearing my Hot Pants when I exercise, but even on days when I find I'm just not going to be able to squeeze in the workout, I still put them on for a bit. I'm typically not a very heavy-duty exerciser. Right now I'm aiming for about 30 minutes of exercise a minimum of 4 times per week. I've been playing games on the Xbox Kinect (does get me sweating, for real!), using my weighted hula hoop, and going up and down the basement stairs repeatedly. Doesn't sound like much, but it's better than nothing. Excuse me while I get defensive about my rather weak exercise routine. I'm pretty sure the Hot Pants would have better results if I were training for the Olympics or something, but for now this is what I can do.

I've taken measurements of my waist, hips, and thighs (I checked and they're all the same as when I measured back in November. At least I didn't gain inches during the holidays, right?). In a couple weeks I'll measure again and see if there's been a difference. Unfortunately, I'm not quite brave enough to take a close up snapshot of my cellulite. I like to pretend it doesn't exist and that works for me. Just as I never peak at the scale when I'm being weighed at a doctor's appointment.

At this point I can happily affirm that Hot Pants are comfortable exercise shorts that do indeed increase perspiration. Stay tuned to see if I lose any inches in the coming weeks!

I received a pair of Hot Pants free of charge for review purposes. All opinions are my own.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Thankful Thursday

I'm in a really glumpy crunky mood, but nonetheless I have tons to be thankful for and I'm thankful for this forum to express my gratitude.

I'm thankful that I hardly felt a thing when I had a slightly suspicious spot removed from my back at the dermatologist's today. I was so nerved up about going, but was keeping myself calm by assuring myself nothing would be done today, today the doctor would just be looking. WRONG. I just about freaked the freak out when he told me to lie down on the table so he could remove it NOW. Um, okay? But really I am thankful that he was pro-active and removed it just to be safe, and that it's over with. Now I just have to worry about the test results. And honestly it was over in about 30 seconds, he was that fast. And I am thankful that I finally worked up the courage to go have it checked out. Just call me cowardly lion.

I am thankful that I went to the dentist and had my teeth cleaned yesterday. I love how my teeth feel after a cleaning. And I'm thankful that everyone at the office was so nice because I really hate going to the dentist.

I am thankful that Bethany had sealants put on her molars this week. Even though she has not stopped complaining about it since...

I am thankful Bethany does not have a basketball game this weekend. Hallelujah.

I am thankful that I had an all out Land's End shopping spree yesterday, and between gift cards (which I won), sales and coupons, I only spent $15 out of pocket. And I got 2 dresses, 2 cardigans, 2 shirts, a pair of shoes and a scarf. At the regular prices, everything would have cost $376, plus tax!

I am thankful that I found a pink & navy blue plaid scarf (see Land's End comment above) to go with my "new" navy blue coat (which was $5 at a little church resale shop). Heck I'm just thankful for pink. Thank you God for giving us pink.

I am thankful for the Macy's gift cards I got for Christmas. Oh I love Macy's. I always find the best deals. I can't wait to have a little kid-free time to go clearance shopping and make those gift cards stretch. Or splurge on one pair of nice boots. Haven't decided yet.

I am thankful for free Kindle books. I'm going free book crazy shopping on Amazon. So far I've only spent 99 cents twice on Kindle books. I can live with that. I'm reading Lucy & Mattie The Wind in the Willows, I'm reading Bethany and Connor Tom Sawyer, and I'm reading myself a book of which the title eludes me at the moment. But one of those feel good-be happy-change your life for the better type of books that I love and gobble up for mental fortification. And I'm thankful for my Kindle. So much fun. Don't worry all you book purists, I will always love my paper books as well. It's just nice having a library at my disposal right in my purse, wherever I go!

I am thankful for being able to call a friend to distract me and make me feel better when I'm worried about something (thank you Julie!).

I am thankful for January weather that is not frigid cold.

I am thankful that after writing this post, my mood has greatly improved! Try it, it really works!

So what are you thankful for this week?

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Moments to Remember

Monday morning the kids were ecstatic to wake up to snow on the ground. Not much more than a light dusting, but they all had new snow boots and snow pants they've been itching to put to use. After breakfast, they got bundled up, the big kids helping little sisters, and went outside to savor the snow which I so dread every winter. The grass was poking through and the driveway wasn't even covered, but they lugged out the saucer sleds and plunked down on the snowy grass for snow angels. I was thankful for living in the middle of a cul de sac, as they repeatedly slid down the driveway on their sleds, right into the street. I was also thankful for older siblings watching out for younger siblings so I could get a little laundry done in peace and quiet as they played outside. Bethany brought Mattie in to use the potty once (no accidents, even with the layers of clothes that needed to be peeled off before she could finally go!), and then back outside they went. They were out there for a good hour or so, and when they came in for good, Bethany made hot chocolate for everyone, and they sat around the table together and drank it. When Bethany asked if it was chocolaty enough, I heard Connor remark good-naturedly that it was actually not all that chocolaty, but that he didn't mind; and indeed he drank down every last sip. I have to admit there's generally a fair amount of snipping and sniping amongst siblings around here, a lot of he-did-its and she-won't-shares. But sometimes it's like Monday morning, and they all remember that they're best friends and that they love each other and that it's pretty fun to have a constant play group of four when school's off and they're stuck at home. I hope they remember those times the most when they're all grown up.

Tuesday was the last day off before heading back to the school grind. Bedtime was a bit tricky since Chris and I have been foolishly letting the kids live it up and stay up late almost every night. I know it would make things easier if we continued to enforce bedtimes when they're on break, but I like to give them a hiatus from their normal day-to-day constraints. That also means that some days, cookies were allowed before breakfast, and that lunch and dinner were consumed in the family room quite frequently. But Mathilda, who has a hard time getting to sleep on a good night, had a real heck of a time falling asleep when she and Lucy went to bed at their normal bedtime. She had had a short nap, which is pretty much always a bedtime killer. However, when she falls asleep from exhaustion in the middle of the day, I feel that she's so sleep deprived that she must truly need the rest. I tried to curtail bedtime problems by waking her after a short time, but no dice. Because she was keeping Lucy awake up in bed, or waking poor Lucy every time she manged to drift off, eventually I was at my wit's end and had to bring her downstairs. I was knee deep in an organization project (finally having at the hall closet, which had become a safety concern due to falling objects every time the door was opened), so I set her up on the couch with a pillow and a blanket, a favorite doll and a cup of water. Then I ignored her while I continued working. I was becoming more and more frustrated with her until I decided that I had got as much done as I could for the night and I went to sit with her on the couch, to try to help her simmer down and get to sleep.

My heart started melting as I looked at my precious, beautiful little 2-year old girl, who will soon be so big that she'll be off to preschool. I decided that instead of pulling my hair out and losing my temper, that I would enjoy my baby girl for a little while. She threw her arms around my neck and told me that she loves me so-so much. She told me she had some dry skin and that I needed to put some Aquaphor on it. She stroked my head and told me that my hair is getting long, just like Rapunzel. She patted her pillow and told me I needed to put my Rapunzel head down right there and cuddle her. She said Connor and Bethany and Lucy are upstairs sleeping and that she loves to cuddle them too. She said she loves Uncle Robby and Daddy so much, and that Uncle Robby had to say bye-bye. Chris came in from a late night trip to the grocery store, and she said Daddy has come home to cuddle me, then she patted the couch and said that maybe he would lay right there and cuddle her up. I gave her lots of hugs and kisses and whispered to her that she is mommy's little angel and that I hoped to memorize the moment and never forget it. So then of course as soon as I could I had to hop on my blog and write it down so that I can always go back and read about the night that Mathilda was being an utter stinker, yet irresistible and sweet as pie at the same time. Eventually she decided to go back upstairs to bed, and after a few more trips up and down the stairs to cover her up or find a doll, I think it's possible that's she's asleep at last.

In the morning, my kids will be back in school. I will miss them, but I'll do my best to enjoy the school routine and the relative quiet. At least it's a short week, and the weekend will be upon us quickly. 

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Welcome, Welcome 2012

First picture with my brand new camera!
I feel sort of like the reality of everyday life has been suspended in a holiday fog. The last couple weeks have been...hectic, fun, busy, messy. I've been lagging in lots of responsibilities, including (but not limited to): cleaning my house, feeding my children healthy foods, grocery shopping, exercising, blogging, and thinking about my all important New Year's resolutions.

What I have been doing...playing new games and puzzles with my kids, testing out our new Kinect, spending time with family, eating Christmas cookies, scheduling tons of doctor appointments for the month of January, and booking our first family trip of the year.
I heart Lucy's new waitress outfit.

I am so happy to report that Santa delivered and I got a new camera for Christmas. I'm still trying to figure it out, but I'm looking forward to much improved photos in 2012. I also got a tripod, so I'll definitely be playing around with that too. I feel relief washing over me. Seriously. That little pink camera of mine stressed me out in 2011.

Well at least they're all in the frame.
Enjoying dessert atop the Renaissance Center
My kids got some games for Christmas that were childhood favorites of mine. I have been enjoying Scrabble, Battleship, Mastermind, and Sorry with them. My wimpy husband has so far refused my Battleship challenges. I can only assume he knows he will get his butt whipped. I also love our new Kinect, although I will admit it is a bit frustrating and finicky at times. However, it gets me moving way more than the Wii, so I plan on using it often. My friend Tina is going to loan me her copy of Zumba for Kinect, and if it works in my little bitty family room, I will be buying it and practicing lots so maybe I don't look like such an uncoordinated fool next time I go to a real world Zumba class. I got a Kindle too, and I've downloaded a bunch of free titles but other than that haven't played with it much. I just finished reading The More Than Complete Hitchhiker's Guide, which I've been reading for an embarrassingly long time (Tina, if you're reading this, I'll return your precious tome when I pick up Zumba! Thank you for your patience!). So now I'll feel less guilty starting new books on my Kindle.

Watch out Bethany, someone has an eye on your cheesecake!
I am also the proud new owner of a pair of those toning tennis shoes. I want to put a lot of miles on them this year. Like a lot. For this I'm going to enlist the help of my friends, because I've come to a point where I find it mind numbingly dull to go walking by myself. Maybe if I lived someplace a little more exciting, I wouldn't mind it so much. But there is really no people watching to be done in my neighborhood, except for the occasional person tinkering in the garage this time of year. But walking with friends is great because it kills two birds with one stone: catching up/socializing and exercise. I live within three miles of a really great walking/biking path, and within a mile of a lakefront park with a walking path, so if I keep my priorities in order this shouldn't be too much of a challenge.

I'm pretty sure all the kids had a pretty awesome Christmas, but for Bethany it was particularly exciting. After begging for a cell phone for years, she finally got one. Chris and I grappled with this decision for a long time, but finally decided to give in allow her to have one, mostly for our own peace of mind when she is away from home. It's odd remembering life when it wasn't vital to be 100% available 24 hours a day. I mean, if my mom left me at home and went grocery shopping and I had to, I don't know, ask her if she knew where the remote was last seen or something equally as important, I guess I would have had to either #1, have her paged at the grocery store, #2, delay my gratification for an hour, or #3, find the damn thing myself. But seriously, if Bethany can prove to be responsible with her phone, keep it charged, keep it turned on, and answer it every time we call, I think we'll all feel better when she's away from home, be it at basketball practice or a friend's house. My brother-in-law also surprised the heck out of Bethany by telling her that his Christmas gift to her is a plane ticket to Florida to visit him (we still have to finalize the date) and her choice of two parks (did I mention he lives in Orlando?). That pretty much rendered her speechless, and she has been busily perusing theme park websites trying to come to her final decision.

We had dinner at Coach Insignia, at the top of the Renaissance Center downtown Detroit. It's a really nice restaurant, and we saw only one other child when we were there, and that child was actually a sleeping infant in a bucket. But brave people that we are, we brought our kids along. Our philosophy has pretty much always been that our kids will never to learn to behave in restaurants if we don't take them to restaurants, and I would say that with the very big exception of Mathilda, our little gang did a great job of using their fancy restaurant manners. Mathilda had a grand ol' time, so what if she spent about 10% of the 3 hours we were there in her seat and refused to eat a single bite of her dinner? She dug into the bread basket, appetizers, and dessert, and asked to use the potty two times. And she didn't cry once. I'd call that a successful dinner.

Chris's brother was here for a few days. He went to dinner with us at Coach Insignia, along with Chris's mom and step-dad. He and my mother-in-law took the kids to see the new Chipmunks movie. My mother-in-law and her husband also hosted a big holiday party while he was home, and we got to see lots of Chris's family who we don't get to see very often. And we spent New Year's Eve together too, along with my mother-in-law and her husband, and Chris's aunt & uncle who are staying with the in-laws for a few days. Since the kids don't get to see Uncle Robby very often, it was cool that they were able to spend so much time with him during the holidays.

New Year's Eve was low key. We had a wonderful meal together, played some games and watched the Times Square festivities on television. I was shocked that all four kids managed to stay up until midnight. I think that may be a first. Bethany, Connor, and Lucy chose to stay at Meema's house for the night, and Mathilda decided to come home with Chris and I. Although we had a good time, this year I vow to not be sitting in front of a television on New Year's Eve. PERIOD. New Year's Day started with a phone call that Connor had thrown up. Happy 2012! We went to pick the kids up and so far it seems to have been a one time occurrence, with no siblings doing any copy-cat puking. Fingers crossed. The rest of the day has been more or less lazy. Like really lazy. The kids have two more days off and we plan on utilizing our child laborers to the max during that time. Some school districts around here have the entire week off, and I wish we did too. Our district is being inexplicably stingy with vacation days this year. Short Christmas break, short Spring break, and no mid-winter break. Phooey.

We got to spend a little time with friends as we celebrated the 7th birthday of a sweet little girl. Other than that all of us have been on friend hiatus for the past couple weeks, even Bethany - which is really unusual. Although I'm sure she is texting them nonstop. I look forward to spending lots of time with my friends this year.

With Mattie deciding it was time to be potty trained, and Lucy's first two visits from the tooth fairy, it's been a pretty exciting end of the year. I'm putting some real though into my resolutions and will dedicate a post to that subject within the next day or so.

Happy New Year! I wish you all a happy, healthy, and prosperous 2012!

Lucy and Connor with their cousin
Demonstrating her blow drying techniques