Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Learning Not to Be a Diaper Snob

Believe it or not, I went through three babies being completely, 100%, without exception...loyal to one specific brand of diapers. When Bethany was a baby, I tried several brands before coming to the conclusion that I only liked the one. And it stuck. I didn't even look at any other diapers to see how much money we could be saving. I didn't care how broke we were that week. Once I came to my decision, no matter what, we only bought the one brand.

Then Mattie came alone. I don't know what it was about baby #4, but after a few months Chris was able to convince me to try a less expensive brand of diapers. I was pleasantly surprised. They were completely fine! They didn't leak! They seemed to be comfortable! Suddenly, I was no longer a diaper snob. I started trying other brands and found that they were fine too. Some I didn't like quite as much as my old favorite, but I decided to stop throwing money away on the most expensive diapers money could buy.

When BzzAgent gave me the opportunity to try Kroger brand Comforts for Baby training pants, I was ready and willing to give them a go. Mattie will be three in a couple months, and I am so done spending money on training pants. I would say she is semi potty trained. She can generally stay mostly dry throughout the day, but rarely during the night. I don't quite trust her in underpants for long car rides, or if we're going to be out for more than a couple hours. So she does still wear training pants on a daily basis, at the very least for over night. I am beyond sick of spending money on them! This has felt like the longest, most drawn out potty training endeavor ever. While I can't control that it's not totally over yet, I can cut back on how much we spend on the blasted training pants. I shop at Kroger on a weekly basis anyway, so I used a coupon from BzzAgent and picked up a huge package of the Comforts for Baby training pants. They are cute, with pictures of frogs on them, and Mattie likes them. They are plenty absorbent enough for our purposes, with stretchy elastic around the legs and waist so they fit nice and snug. The material is not quite as soft and comfortable feeling as some other brands we've bought, but it's fine and doesn't bother Mattie at all. Then there's the price, which just can't be beat.

We also received a package of Comforts for Baby wipes, which worked great. They were in the pop up hard plastic container, which I mention because I have bought this brand wipes in the soft pack before and didn't like them nearly as much. These were a good size, soft enough, gentle, and did the job.

If you, like me, are sick and tired of literally throwing your money away on expensive diapers and training pants, give Comforts for Baby a try. You might like them, and then you can find something much more fun to spend your money on!

Comforts for Baby products are available at Kroger and other stores in the Kroger family. You can visit their website to find a store near you and score some coupons to add to your savings.

As a BzzAgent, I received free products to try out at home, but all opinions are entirely my own.

Freschetta's Rally for Real Pizza

FRESCHETTA - RALLY FOR REAL PIZZAIn my family, pizza is probably the most popular food, by far. Pizza is our go-to meal when we need something quick and filling. Ordering out for pizza is great, but for value and a whole lot less grease, we often buy frozen pizzas from the grocery store and cook them ourselves. Through years of trial and error, we have discovered that not all frozen pizzas are created equal. Because we prefer to feed our family healthier options and fresher ingredients, and taste is of the utmost importance, one of our family's favorite frozen pizza brands is Freschetta Brick Oven. Some of us like pepperoni, some like cheese. We generally make one of each to satisfy everyone's tastes.

Right now you can enter Freschetta's Rally for Real Pizza on their Facebook page. Just "like" their page, then submit a photo to the Rally Mosaic to enter to win! Each week, 100 winners will be selected to receive 5 FREE Freschetta pizzas! Plus, on March 30, 10 winners will be selected to receive FREE Freschetta pizza for a whole year! That's a lot of pizza! When entering your photo, you can choose a Facebook picture, or you can upload one from your computer. It is easy as pie, pizza pie!

I hope you win some pizza!

I occasionally receive compensation in the form of products for posts. However, the opinions I share are solely my own.

So What! Wednesday

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

So What! if all I want to do is cuddle with my Mattie on this rainy, cruddy day?
So What! if my kids haven't had a decent meal since Chris decided to go vegetarian a few weeks ago? I just can't bring myself to cook real food if he isn't going to eat it anyway. I guess I need to find some vegetarian recipes for the whole family. In the meantime, I think they're even getting sick of grilled cheese sandwiches, quesadillas, (turkey, nitrate-free) hot dogs, and (organic) mac 'n cheese.

So What! if I thought it was super cute that Mattie was running around and dancing like a toddler on speed all throughout the talent show try-outs yesterday? It has occurred to me that maybe everyone didn't see it that way...

So What! if I can't stay awake through a movie lately? I get all excited for the kids to get to bed so I can pop in a movie for me, and then 10 minutes in I'm snoring on the couch, and the next thing I know Chris is lecturing me that I'm going to burn a permanent image into the t.v. screen by falling asleep with it on.

So What! if I'm sorely tempted to put one of those movies in now, even though Mattie is up. Connor watched the first three seasons of Lost with me when he was 3, until Chris put the kibosh on it. What a party pooper. Even then Connor was afraid of nothing (on the screen at least). Don't worry, I'm sure Mattie won't let me turn off Nick Jr.

So What! if I started cleaning out my closet over the weekend and still haven't finished? I took the annoying sliding doors off to facilitate the long do you thing Chris will tolerate my closet doors being propped up against his closet?

So What! if I am utterly relieved that this is Bethany's last week of basketball? It's been fun, but a huge time commitment. What a wake up call. I am going to need to clone myself if all my kids are involved in sports at the same time.

What are you saying So What! to this week?

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Taking the Stage

I was a shy child. So shy, with no confidence whatsoever. Unless I was in an extremely comfortable situation, I was so quiet. I rarely raised my hand in class because I was afraid I'd give a wrong answer and then I'd be embarrassed. More than just about anything I loathed having attention focused on me. When it was my turn in gym class, I literally wanted to die. Oral reports made me sick to my stomach. Even just having to sit at my desk and read aloud had my palms sweating.

Considering my own background, it never ceases to amaze me that my girls are so gutsy.  They sing, they dance, they are loud and they don't care who is watching. Like legions of other kids, Bethany plays on a basketball team. I would have never dared to dream of doing something so public and out there. She also works on her in-school television station which broadcasts for the viewing pleasure of 500+ students and staff every morning. I think I would have rather gone to the doctor to get a shot every day for all of fifth grade. Bethany and Lucy get up on a stage and dance in front of hundreds of people with hardly a second thought, and I have no doubt Mattie will do the same when she starts dance lessons. I realize that millions of little girls do the same thing at dance recitals across the world every year, and that many might not find this remarkable, but I can't imagine doing something like that when I was a child.

Last year Bethany and her friend sang in their school talent show, and although they were nervous they did not falter. Today Bethany and Lucy, along with a friend, tried out for this year's talent show. They are working on a dance routine together and bravely got up in front of the judges and many of their classmates to try out. Whether they get in or not, I am so proud of their courage and effort. I am so happy they are willing to put themselves out there and take a chance. I know they will be terribly disappointed if they don't make it, but I truly believe they have kicked butt just for trying, and I hope they give themselves some credit for that. I am also proud of Bethany for being so kind and patient with Lucy as she teaches her the dance steps and counsels her that she did a great job, no matter what the outcome. This will be the only year they attend the same school, so it's really special that they've been working on this together.

I didn't know Chris until high school, and by that time he was a musician and lead singer in a band. When he was younger I think he was shy kind of like I was, but I'm glad he came out of his shell and has been able to teach our kids by example to be fearless, and to risk failure, exposure, and criticism to do something you love. For now Connor is more like me, but I know there is plenty of time for him to become more like his dad. And of course I hope my girls never lose their courage, and that it only grows into more confidence the older they get.

Monday, February 27, 2012

More Than a Passing Grade

When I was in college, somewhere along the way I discovered that I had the ability to figure out what each of my professor's wanted - what they each considered "A" work. There were some factors that came into play, sometimes making this harder. For example, fumbling grad students were more difficult to figure out. Thick accents sometimes left me struggling just to take accurate notes, much less glean much else out of the lectures. But for the most part, just by paying attention during class, I could tell what my professors most valued in their students' work. Some wanted just the facts, without adding anything personal. Others wanted details, details, details. Many tested solely off lecture notes, others expected students to thoroughly exam the text books on their own. Some wanted us to get personal and use our individual insights and experiences to embellish our papers, others weren't in the least bit interested in anything outside of x,y, and z. Some were air-headed and very forgiving with minor details, others were quite intellectually sure of themselves, always knowing they were right in every circumstance and wanting us to reiterate their very own words back to them, almost verbatim.

This might sound pretty simple, and I'm not suggesting this is necessarily a special ability. I just figured out that if I went to class, paid attention to my professors, and took good notes, I could get an A if I cared enough. I'll admit that sometimes I didn't. Economics, for instance, made my eyes glaze over with utter boredom. I couldn't get interested enough to care, and I settled for a B. My last two semesters I had two deaths in my family, and I had a harder time getting my butt to class and focusing. My point is that I learned to read people, to give them what they wanted, and to use it to my advantage.

What I'm wondering now, many years later, is why I can't use this same ability so easily with my children. These four little people who I know so intimately and love so deeply are sometimes such a mystery to me. Every day I second guess myself. I doubt my instincts. I worry that my decisions are scarring them for life. I fear that I'm not doing them justice as their mother. Should I help them more, or should I step back and let them figure it out for themselves? Should I email the teacher, or wait and see? Does that cough require a trip to the pediatrician, or can we ride it out? Do I let them have enough free time, or should I structure their time more? Am I being too tough on them, or do I actually need to be tougher? Do they know, really know, deep down inside, how much I love them? Do I  need to show them more, or am I smothering them? Should I make them talk to me, or wait until they come to me? Do we have enough fun, or do we have too much fun and not enough time spent on responsibilities? I'm only at age 10, but so far every age and stage has its own intricate complexities that make my head spin on a daily basis.

Sometimes I get something right, and I know it, and it such a beautiful feeling. I know just how much to coax and prod Connor to get him to do something that he's afraid of doing. I know just the gentle words that Lucy needs to calm her down. I know that just now Bethany needs to talk about something important to her, and I need to give her my undivided attention. I know to give Mathilda some cuddly time before she goes off the deep end. I see them helping each other without being asked, or being particularly kind to a friend. They get a good test score, or get chosen as Student of the Month. I sigh with relief. They are okay, I did good. I know my babies, and I know what they need to be happy.

Other times, I'm distracted or tired and I lose my temper. Or they push me beyond my limits with their whining and bickering and I can't take one more second. I'm in survival mode, and all that matters is making it to bedtime in one piece. I don't worry about being patient enough or kind enough or attentive enough. I just worry that I'm going to put them out on the back porch to sleep for the night if we don't get to bedtime NOW. These are not my shining moments of motherhood, but they aren't all that scarce. Like all families I know, we are so busy. I'm so busy being busy, that I don't take as much time as I should to pay attention to them. To learn to read them like I used to be able to read my college professors. To know what I need to give them so I can get an "A" on whatever parental hurdle I'm trying to pass at the moment. We spend days rushing through after school activities and homework and dinner and chores and baths and birthday parties and shopping and errands and doctor appointments and school obligations and family obligations.

Since I have four kids of four different ages, we will always be pulled in four different directions. There is no getting around that. They are each going to have their own assignments and tests and activities and friends and appointments. I can try to multi-task as much as possible, and schedule things together, and satisfy more than one need at once. But sometimes that can't happen. So for now, there is no end to the busyness. I try to see through the haze of bustling activity and find the joy, and often I succeed. I live for those moments. I grab onto them and embrace them, fleeting though they may be. I strive to understand the needs of my children, to fill those needs to the best of my ability, and to do my part on their individual roads toward success and personal fulfillment. I will never stop trying, because it has never mattered more.  

Friday, February 24, 2012

Potty Break

Parenting is a funny business at times. Not always funny ha-ha, either. No matter how well prepared you think you are for it, the truth of the matter is that no one really knows what she's doing. We're all just winging it, some better than others - although that's hard to judge because it could be decades before we see the true outcome of our labor. But we need to keep things in perspective, surround ourselves with supportive friends and family, take time for ourselves, and laugh often.

The safe haven in my house is the bathroom. I can go in there and lock the door, and talk on the phone in semi peace and quiet for a few minutes. Or hide out with my favorite chocolate when I'm not in a sharing mood. But anyone with kids of a certain age knows that the bathroom is a also a source of much frustration as well as juvenile potty humor, and even quality family time. Besides this mom hanging out and fighting for a tiny bit of alone time, here's just a little of what goes on in my bathroom:
  • Potty training woes
  • Fighting over whose turn it is to brush her teeth and/or use the stool and /or go to the bathroom
  • Anger over wet towels and dirty clothes left all over the floor
  • Nagging to get children to clean
  • Drying, brushing, curling, straightening, and braiding hair
  • Bath time fun
  • Clipping and polishing nails 
  • Casually random yet sometimes important and telling conversation
It's a tiny room that no one usually thinks twice about, but a lot goes on in the bathroom. The Clorox Family of Toilet Products recognizes the vital role of the bathroom in the home, as well as the importance of humor in day to day parenting life. Because of that, they've recently launched a new comedy website, hosted by comedian and actress Sherri Shepherd, The Clorox Lounge. The site is meant to provide some comic relief, as well as contests, giveaways, and coupons. Visit The Clorox Lounge now to enter the Last Comic Sitting Competition and Sweepstakes, which is going on now through April 22, 2012.

Finding something to laugh about can get us through the stickiest parenting dilemmas. And sometimes we may find ourselves doing crazy things we never could have imagined would be part of the job. I remember when Connor was little, he hated to have his ears and nose cleaned. Since he was obsessed with Star Wars, I created a rather disgusting game of telling him there were Star Wars guys in his ears and nose and I had to get them out. "Oh no! I hear Chewy! He's calling me, he doesn't want to be stuck in there anymore! Hans and Leia are stuck together, ewwww! Hear that? It's C3PO, he says his mission is over and he's ready to leave the premises!" Can you imagine what someone would have thought if they had overheard me? Desperate times, people! The thing is, it worked like a charm! Connor thought it was hilarious, and he became quite compliant when I had to tend to his personal grooming. Gross yet effective and giggle-provoking techniques just can't be beat. Do you have any funny parenting tactics, or crazy weird things you find yourself doing with or for your kids, in the name of just getting through the day? Please share, and then head over to The Clorox Lounge for more laughs!

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


A few years ago, an IKEA opened up in Michigan, about 45 minutes from us. If you don't have an IKEA in  your neck of the woods, well you're missing out. It's a huge home store that sells everything from furniture to dishes, and everything in between. Visit their website and request a catalog, you won't be disappointed. Even if you have no hope of shopping at an IKEA in the near future, just looking through the catalog is inspirational. They have innovative ways of furnishing and decorating a house, and really creative ideas for organization. The prices range from unbelievably cheap to slightly expensive.

There are rooms set up - bathrooms, living rooms, bedrooms, kitchens, laundry rooms, closets, offices. Strolling through these rooms fills my heads with ideas. With an unlimited IKEA budget, we could have the Ultimate Organized Home. And stylish too, in a sophisticated, European way. If you're setting up house for the first time, or moving, or re-decorating, or trying to get organized, or going away to college, then just walking through the staged rooms would be worth the trip in itself - even if you ended up not buying anything.

Shopping at IKEA is an event. I've only ever been to the one in Michigan, so I don't know if they're all set up the same way. But here is a basic run down of how to shop at IKEA.

  • When you first come in the store, you'll need to decide if you want a cart or just a yellow shopping bag to carry (if you choose cart, you'll still need a yellow bag to attach to the back of the mini-cart to hold your stuff).  You'll have a chance to snag a larger cart later on in your shopping journey. Also grab a little pencil and paper and a measuring tape. After gathering these few essentials, you'll want to head upstairs to start your shopping experience. There are stairs or an elevator available. Just a note: there are restrooms right by the entrance as well as lockers.
  • There is a play area near the entrance where you can drop off your potty trained children for a short time (children are signed in & out and it is a fully supervised area), but we've only used that once for Bethany and Connor. To me it's not convenient because I think the limit is 45 minutes, which really is kind of useless because you can't get much done in 45 minutes at IKEA.
  • Upstairs is where you'll find the display rooms and the various furniture departments. As you're looking around and see something that you like, you'll notice that every single item on display has a tag hanging on it with the item's price, dimensions, and where you can find it when you're ready to buy. Be sure to use your little pencil and paper to jot down this very important information. Certain things you'll be able to pick up right then and there and put in your shopping bag, but most things will be found for purchase in different areas of the store.
  • When you've worked your way through the entire upstairs, swooning over bedrooms and kitchens you wish you had, you'll find yourself in the cafeteria style eating court. There are restrooms up here too. Side note - there are family restrooms and in case you have a diaper emergency, there are machines with free diapers. By the time you get to the eating area, you will probably be starving. So get a tray and get in line. The food is good and fairly inexpensive. One specialty dish you may want to try is the Swedish meatballs. I also love the Lingonberry Juice. In case you're shopping with young children and worried about juggling multiple trays, last time I was there I noticed some odd looking carts near the queue and at first I wasn't sure what they were. Then I noticed a couple people using them and I realized they were for transporting trays. I think you can get three or four trays on one cart. It also took us awhile to realize that there is children's cutlery available (self-serve), as well as bibs and little plastic cups. Since IKEA is very hands-on and do-it-yourself, customers are responsible for clearing their own tables. By the wastebaskets, there is a place to put your trays of dirty dishes.
  • After you've fueled your body, you can go downstairs, where your inspired ideas from upstairs will lead you to find all those items you jotted down on your list. So look at your list to find out in which department to find everything you're looking for. At the bottom of the steps/elevator, you'll be able to switch to a larger shopping cart if you'd like. You'll find dishes, rugs, lamps and light fixtures, towels, and much more downstairs. The larger items can be found in the Self Serve area, which is the last area before checking out. There are carts suitable for large items available when you get here. This area is the most important reason for taking good notes while you shop, because you'll need to know the aisle and bin number of each item you're buying. There are computers and associates to help you in case you get confused or you didn't take good notes, but by the time you've reached this point you'll be tired and ready to go home, so the easier time you have finding your treasures, the sooner you can get out of there. First find your aisle, then find your bin. They are very clearly marked.
  • Just so you're not in for any surprises, most everything in the Self Serve area requires assembly. With many of the items, things like legs, knobs, and handles are optional and sold separately. Look at those tags carefully, they will generally list each item needed to create the piece as it is displayed. The merchandise comes packaged in flat cardboard boxes, which makes it pretty easy to cram a lot of stuff in your vehicle. In my experience, most of the items are fairly simple to put together. That's not to say you won't spend a good amount of time on assembly, but most aren't too tricky. If there are drawers involved, however, all bets are off.
  • When you're ready to check-out, leave the big stuff in your cart and put the smaller stuff on the belt. IKEA does not accept checks as payment, and some lines accept only credit or debit cards, so be sure to look for signs before wasting your time in the wrong line. Also, they don't have bags - unless you decide to buy a large re-usable shopping bag for 59 cents (available at the check-out). The bags hold a lot, but if you have your own bags at home you may want to bring them along.
  • After check-out, you'll have one last chance to buy a snack before the drive home. There is a food counter with a few items, such as beverages, hot dogs and ice cream cones. I highly suggest you take advantage of this, especially if you have a long drive home. The last couple times I was there, I should have got a drink and snack before driving home because I wound up with killer headaches BOTH times. I think I was a little dehydrated. Learn from my mistakes. You can also buy some Swedish foods to take home (including frozen meatballs).
  • Just outside the store, there are parking spots specifically for loading your vehicle. So if you have a ton of stuff, you or someone in your party may want to move the car to one of these spots.
If it's your first trip to IKEA, and you don't have a catalog to look through before you get there, you might want to plan on mainly window shopping and gathering ideas. Definitely grab a catalog to take home with you.  If there are specific things you're looking for, be sure to bring a list, and include measurements of your spaces. If you're looking for an entertainment center, make sure you know ahead of time what your limits are in terms of size. IKEA can be kind of overwhelming. Make it as easy as possible on yourself!

We're on a bit of a re-organization kick around here, so Chris and I went IKEA shopping with Mattie last week. Then my mom mentioned that she wanted a few things from IKEA, so she and I went back a week later - this time with Mattie and my mother-in-law. Each excursion lasted about four hours, not including drive time.

Since we recently did away with our family room carpeting, a need for a rug originally lead us to IKEA. Chris and I found a perfect rug, brought it home and put it down in the family room, then decided we needed a second one.  We also needed to get something to put our CDs in, since they've been in a closet in the basement since we moved into this house. Again, we got home, set them up, and realized we needed one more. So it worked out well that my mom wanted to go back a week later. We got some other stuff too - something for my shoes that I hope works out, some shelves for the bathroom that ended up not quite fitting (but I'm sure we'll find some place else for them), and other odds and ends. And every time I go to IKEA, I keep getting more ideas. The wheels are churning...

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Thankful Thursday

Another Thursday, and so much to be thankful for...

I'm thankful that I got a really good start on cleaning out my bedroom closet last night. I went through all my clothes, and have bags and bags of stuff to get rid of, but there's still a whole lot of other crap in there.

I'm thankful that Chris cleaned out the closet in the basement, which made room for some of the overflow of coats from our coat closet.

I'm thankful that Chris's friend gave us a really cool shelf that he was going to throw out. It is now hanging in our hallway, thankyouverymuch.

I'm thankful that I've been doing a pretty good job sticking to my exercise goals.

I'm thankful that I'm starting to get caught up with the laundry. Yes it really is taking me this long. Sometimes I think we should each have 7 outfits and that's IT.

I'm thankful that there's a possibility of Bethany's Saturday morning basketball game being moved to Saturday afternoon. Pleasepleaseplease...

I'm thankful Chris's step-dad called last night and offered to take Connor to floor hockey. I was sitting there trying to figure out how I was going to get everything done that needed to get done and still get Lucy and Mattie to bed on time, when he called. Connor was happy because I never buy him candy at floor hockey, and the girls were happy that they could stay home.

I'm thankful that Chris and I had an evening alone with Bethany when the rest of the kids stayed the night at his mom's.

I'm thankful that Bethany still comes to give me a cuddle in the morning before she gets ready for school.

I'm thankful for a belated birthday dinner out with Chris's dad and step-mom Tuesday night. And cannolis, can't forget the cannolis.

I'm thankful for my sweet birthday gift from Chris's dad and step-mom. Kindle Fire, anyone? Yep they gave me a Kindle Fire for my birthday! And I've been so busy I haven't even had a chance to play with it yet. That is on the agenda for today, as soon as I'm done with the 2 million other things I have to do first. I am so spoiled. I love being spoiled.

I'm thankful that tomorrow is Friday! And ironically, after my post yesterday about the nice mild winter we've been having, there is talk of  a snow storm in the works. Maybe we'll get our snow day after all?

What are you thankful for today?

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

My Re-Education

When I was a kid, I loved math. Although I remember having a slight difficulty memorizing my multiplication facts, and being initially confused by fractions, once those hurdles were crossed I was golden. Well, to be honest I do recall being slightly thrown by math once I hit middle school (I think it was just the middle school adjustment that was throwing me for a loop; in other words I might not have been paying that much attention). But by eighth grade I was in the advanced math class and cruising right along.  I guess my love for math didn't really surface until high school, when I swooned over algebraic equations and geometric calculations. Yes, I'm serious. It was like solving a puzzle; I thought it was fun. Then the second half of my junior year I had a horrid teacher for trigonometry and the joyful ride was over. I was so lost by the end of the year (I think I got a B as my final grade, my only B in a high school math class) that I gave up and didn't take math my senior year. Back in the olden days, only three years of math was required to graduate. I never took a math class in college. My very last semester of college I somehow tested out of the math requirement. Those years of math bliss paid off, I suppose.

Fast forward many years and most of that math I learned in high school is totally lost to me. I can add, subtract, multiply, and divide, as long as there are no trick questions. But being a parent of school-aged kids has quickly convinced me that I am now a math idiot. Oh, how the mighty fall. Bethany is in fifth grade and I'm not sure I should admit this, but I've been having trouble helping her with her math homework for awhile now. Like since before fifth grade. To be fair to myself, they have different ways of teaching math nowadays. They use different terminology, and it's all very confusing for someone like me who hasn't had a math class in a long time.

Luckily, the modern world has offered me a couple life lines. Email is one, and websites featuring math games is another. I love being able to easily communicate with my kids' teachers whenever I want, without having to call to schedule an appointment. I regularly email them about various questions and concerns, and they are always great about getting back to me right away. So if there is a question about homework, we can usually get it resolved pretty quickly. They're also good about giving us clueless parents (please tell me I'm not the only one!) links to online resources. Whether it's first grade math or fifth grade math, there are several websites out there dedicated to making math fun and more understandable for kids. They provide lots of practice, which is fantastic. My fingers are crossed that there are websites that cover more advanced math for middle school and high school students. I'm hoping my kids won't need my help with their math homework as they get older and it gets more difficult (am I dreaming?), but if they do, I'll need all the assistance I can find.

Nice and Easy

Usually February weather keeps me bundled up from head to toe every time I leave the house, and huddled up under a cozy blanket when I'm indoors. I hate the frigid cold temperatures that are generally synonymous with winter time in Michigan.

Today, on this February afternoon, my kids have been playing outside. But not in their snow pants and boots. They've been riding bikes and drawing with sidewalk chalk. I don't think I've worn a hat more than two or three times all winter, and I've barely had occasion to wear my brand new snow boots. I bought Bethany and Connor new snow pants a couple months ago, and I think they have worn them twice, maybe. Yesterday while the kids were at school it snowed, and I thought, "Oh well, winter will be over soon. The kids will be happy if they get a chance to play in the snow." However, by the time I picked them up from school, all the snow was completely melted. For the first time in their school careers, they have not had one single snow day. Not even a close call. I am not complaining at all, but I'm finding myself oddly wistful for the snow I dislike so much. Not that wistful, but a little pretty snow to cover up the mud would be okay for a short time.

Being that this is Michigan, pretty much anything goes weather-wise. Sometimes March is one of the worst months of winter, so there's a good chance we're not in the clear yet. I remember one year, before we had kids, Chris and I went to Chicago in March. We had been having spring like weather, but on the way to Chicago we encountered a sudden ice storm. Cars were sliding off the expressway all around us, and the heat in our old car didn't work unless we were driving over 70 mph. That was a perilous drive that I'll never forget. So I know that there is still a decent chance the kids will get to play in the snow some more, and maybe get their wish of a snow day. But at the rate things have been going, I kind of doubt it.

Winter is my least favorite season, by far. But this one has been so easy and gentle on me, I almost haven't minded it. Maybe I even appreciate the snow a little more since we've had so little of it. There's something to be said for that hush that falls over the world of freshly fallen snow. There's something to be said for shoveling the walk, and building a snow fort, and catching snowflakes on your tongue. And don't forget about waiting anxiously to see if our school district is closed for the day!

Give me one or two more of these gloriously mild winters, though, and I'm sure I'll happily forget all about the wonders of snow. I could get used to sunny, barely cold winter days. Maybe this is the universe prepping me for the life I should be living - on a beach in a tropical climate.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Road Trip Inspiration - National Lampoon's Vacation

I've had a hankering to watch National Lampoon's Vacation for a few weeks, but I rarely make time to watch movies. Which is ironic because we have quite a movie collection and a movie theater room in the basement. But movies are more Chris's thing. Anyway, last night I decided to go downstairs and look through our movies to see if we had the Chevy Chase and Beverly D'Angelo classic. I couldn't find it, so I asked Chris to help me find a different movie that I love (In Good Company), and while he was looking for that he actually found the National Lampoon's movie.

National Lampoon's Vacation came out in 1983. I don't know how old I was when I first saw it, but I was a kid, and as I watched it last night I was thinking that I cannot believe my mom let me watch this!?! Maybe it was a censored version broadcast on television that I first saw? I really don't remember, but that probably makes the most sense. Whatever the case, almost 30 years later & I still love this movie. As I continue to plot and plan my family's upcoming summer road trip, it was just the perfect amount of inspiration at the right time. I have to admit that I fell asleep somewhere after Aunt Edna is left in the pouring rain, tied to a chair in her son's backyard. But here are some of my impressions and lessons learned, as I feel I can more personally relate this time around:

     1. Ellen looks remarkably well put together for the cross country trek. She wears skirts, wedge heels, matching outfits, and her hair is perfectly coiffed at all times. Wow, she raises the bar. Obviously, I will dress for comfort when we make our trip. But I will think of Ellen and try my best to look cute too.

     2. The kids don't have DVD players to entertain them for thousands of miles, nor an iPod or DS between them. They do each have a Walkman, so they're not totally without electronic distractions, but they don't even complain that much about how bored they are. As I've been mentally debating the chances of us surviving our trip without the aid of DVD players, Russ and Audrey give me hope.
     3. A wicker picnic basket packed with lunch meat sandwiches, while quaint, is a big no-no. Both for reasons of food safety and because it offers no protection again Aunt Edna's dog peeing on lunch. While we won't be traveling with our dog, I can't help but think the Griswolds are lucky they didn't get food poisoning. I will not make the same mistake! Our food will be well packed in an ultra-cold cooler.

     4. Hopefully I can manage to get our luggage a lot more secure than the Griswolds. I will not take it so lightly if we lose a suitcase or three along the way. As much as possible will be crammed inside our fairly miniscule minivan, yet I'm pretty sure I won't be able to escape the need to bring along the rooftop luggage carrier. I will make sure Chris gets it up there good and tight before we hit the road. Never mind that I will probably also have to bring a step stool so I can reach the luggage carrier when the need arises.

     5. Remember to stop when tired. Clark is lucky that everything turned out okay after he fell asleep at the wheel, but I'm pretty sure I wouldn't be so lucky. I must remember to always take a break when I'm getting too tired, and to not push my limits too much in this department!

     6. Don't be too tied down to a schedule. Although a schedule will be necessary because I plan on making nightly reservations ahead of time, I'll try not to make the same mistake Clark made by scheduling everything down to the minute and not allowing for any spontaneity.

     7. Know where I'm going and pay attention to my surroundings. Getting lost in the ghetto in the dark and running off a closed road are two scenarios I do not wish to re-create. You really dropped the bomb there, Clark. Thank God for GPS, but I will also have a route outlined on a map and/or printed directions because I know all too well that the GPS is not without fault.

     8. Divide the cash and never, ever let anybody see all of the cash in my wallet. Clark, if you had let Ellen hold onto half of the cash, you wouldn't have got yourself in such a bind after crashing your car and being bullied into turning over all your money to the thug mechanics. I'm not sure exactly how I'll work this out yet, but all the money will definitely not be in one place. And of course my preferred method of payment is plastic (Love those American Express points. Maybe someday we'll actually have enough to do something with them!). So I will need to guard that card with my life!

Since I fell asleep, I'll have to watch the movie again. Maybe even tonight, after the kids are in bed. I'm sure I can glean even  more gems of inspiration from the Griswold expedition! Do you know of any other movies I should watch or books I should read as I prepare for a super long road trip?

Monday, February 20, 2012

Long Weekend Love

Today is the last day of the kids' 3-day weekend, aka "midwinter break". Many school districts around here were lucky enough to have a 4-day weekend, or even an entire week off. But we got a measly three days. Oh well, I am pretty sure our school year ends earlier in June, so that's something. Anyway, we'll take any break we can get and we definitely thoroughly enjoyed it.

I've been on a winning streak for the past few months, and this past week has been no exception. I won two tickets to the Detroit Boat show from a local news website. I am not actually a boater, nor in the market for a boat at the moment. But I enjoy boats...big boats with bathrooms and kitchens and comfortable seating. So I thought it would be something different to do on a Saturday afternoon. My mom agreed to accompany the kids and I downtown to Cobo Center for the 2012 Detroit Boat Show. Chris said his dad used to drag him to the boat show when he was a kid and it was a snooze fest, so he took a pass. Although I only won two tickets, kids were free so our only expense was $10 for parking.

It was pretty cool seeing all the boats in a huge expo hall, and being able to go on them too. But Chris wasn't totally wrong. The main reason for the boat show is to, you guessed it, sell boats. So salesmen were naturally crawling all over the place and I felt kind of like if I made eye contact with any of them the next thing I knew I'd be sitting there applying for credit on a $100,000 boat. I studiously avoided eye contact with anyone wearing a name tag and pretended to be texting if I had to stop for any period of time to discourage conversation. The kids enjoyed checking out the boats for a little while, and then we headed out to raid the Detroit Shoppe in the lobby for free samples of licorice and chocolate covered pretzels. They were starving so that satisfied their hunger temporarily.

Cobo Center happens to house a People Mover stop, so we headed upstairs to the station for a couple trips around the downtown area. The People Mover is an elevated train that stops at 13 key downtown locations. This is always a highlight of any visit to downtown Detroit for the scenery and also so the kids can stand up during the ride and try to avoid holding onto anything without falling down. That's probably not safe so forget I said that. Rides are 75 cents (kids under 5 are free), which reflects a recent increase from 50 cents. You have to pay for your ride with cash only (quarters, one-five-or-ten dollar bills), so if you plan on riding plan ahead. This is important to mention for people like me who rarely carry cash. Parking also requires cash payment, FYI.

I could not convince my children to do this at the boat show!
After our ride, I was overjoyed to find that the freeway entrance was right there when I exited the parking garage. I don't know my way around downtown very well, so this was a huge bonus for me. I thought I'd have to drive around a little looking for a familiar street but BAM! there it was. Huge relief. We ended our Saturday excursion with a meal of hot dogs and chili cheese fries at National Coney Island.

Fighting stance with Joe Louis
Saturday night Bethany went to a sleepover party at her friend's house. Sunday was all planned out, but since Bethany decided the party would be a good time to stay up all night long, our plans quickly fell to the wayside. She missed her basketball game and we missed the Warren Symphony Orchestra performance I had also won tickets for. I was a little crabby about this turn of events, but she slept all afternoon and I'm glad she was able to do that. All of us went to dinner at Chris's mom's house, and three out of four children ended up staying the night. Bethany came home with Chris and I, and we all watched Doomsday Preppers on the National Geographic channel. Bethany and I fell asleep on the couch until I couldn't take anymore of her feet kicking me every which way and I transferred myself to my bed.

Today the kids and I went out to lunch with my mother-in-law, and then Bethany decided to go home with her for the afternoon (...and the night, as it turned out). We decided it was a perfect day to go Toys R Us shopping with unused Christmas gift cards, plus a coupon Connor got in the mail for his upcoming birthday. Meandering around a toy store is always fun, and I got gift ideas for Connor's birthday, as well as Mattie's birthday, and a cool game I want to get before we go on our big summer road trip. Which is over $10 cheaper on Amazon, by the way.

I love long weekends! I do wish it was longer, but now we have a short week to look forward to, and I'll definitely take it!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Tilex "Cancel the Mold Show in Your Bathroom" Sweepstakes

I am about the furthest thing from a clean freak that you can imagine. But there are certain things I'm rather persnickety about. One of those things is my main floor bathroom, the one that everyone always wants to use (often at the same time) even though there are two other bathrooms in this house. Since there are six of us, and we often have guests, this room gets a lot of use, which means it needs to be cleaned a lot more frequently than other rooms in my house. Because otherwise I'd be totally grossed out. There are other reasons too, for example, it's the smallest room in the house, and therefore fairly easy to clean pretty quickly. So I feel accomplished without too much effort. Also, it's the one room my guests go in and close the door, so they have lots of time and privacy to notice how clean (or not) it is. We have an older house and we don't have a ventilation fan in our bathroom, plus we have a window in the shower (genius, no?), so we struggle more than usual against mold and mildew build-up. Trying to keep the walls as dry as possible by using a squeegee after showering helps, as does frequent cleaning. Cleaning with a bleach-based product, in particular, helps to kill mold and keep the bathroom mold and mildew free.

Keeping the bathroom clean while battling the ever-encroaching mold and mildew can be a challenge in any household. I, for one, need all the help I can get. To meet that challenge, Tilex has released some new products to help you keep your bathroom fresh, clean, and mold and mildew-free. To celebrate, they are hosting the "Cancel the Mold Show in Your Bathroom" sweepstakes. From now until March 16, 2012 you can visit the Tilex Facebook page for more information and to enter the sweepstakes. While there, you can check out Sonny Mold and Frankie Mildew and watch their funny video. Tilex is giving away three 40" flat screen televisions and 10 Netflix subscriptions, so you definitely don't want to miss out! Share the sweepstakes with your friends and you'll get an extra entry for each friend you invite to enter!

What are your tips for keeping mold and mildew out of your bathroom (or other areas of the house, for that matter)? How do you "Cancel the Mold Show in Your Bathroom?" Do you have particular products that you can't live without?

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

Confusion is Nothing New

I've had some odd health issues over the last year and a half which, for a variety of reasons, I've just been getting really checked out in the past month. My chiropractor has been a godsend, truly, and I believe that it is due to his care that my problems have been kept at bay. However, I still thought it would be a good idea to see a specialist to see what they have to say. Although I've been doing better, I wanted to be certain there wasn't something serious going on with me, scary stuff. Like a brain tumor, or evidence of having had mini strokes. So I went to a neurologist, who ordered a brain MRI and an EEG. And this is where it gets interesting. Or frustrating. Or confusing. Or all of the above and more.

I went last week for a follow up visit to go over my test results. An MRI is a test where they slide you into a big imaging machine, and you have to be very, very still, and if you're claustrophobic they might give you a Valium beforehand. (I'm not). My MRI showed no sign of tumor, stroke, swelling, or anything frightening like that. There is a small lesion on my brain stem which could be something or nothing. Basically they don't know. The EEG is when they stick electrodes all over your head and hook you up to a computer to measure your brain activity. And my EEG results came back...abnormal. There are spikes where there shouldn't be. And this means...hmmm? Does anyone really know? I was told it could mean that I'm more susceptible to seizures. But again they don't really know. And here's where I was blindsided. The portion of my visit when the PA (the doctor, by the way, never even stepped foot in my room. The PA went to find him and apparently consulted with him in the hallway) (PA = physician's assistant) told me they were going to prescribe me a drug called Keppra. Huh? Based on what? I mentally tried and failed to process this as I was told my dosage would be very low, it could cause me to be a bit tired while my body got used to it, and to come back in 6-8 weeks for a follow-up. I literally didn't know what to say. I made my follow-up appointment, checked out, and went home to find what I could about Keppra.

Keppra is an anti-seizure medication, typically prescribed to people with epilepsy. Do they think I have epilepsy? Every website said not to operate a vehicle while taking Keppra until you're sure how your body will react to it. The PA never mentioned that. I kind of have to drive everyday, what with my kids being in school and all (no buses here). A common side effect is depression, and in fact 1 in 500 users of Keppra report suicidal thoughts. Maybe I'm crazy, but I don't like those odds. Many Keppra users are prescribed anti-depressants to counter-act the negative side effects. I have no problem with anti-depressants except when they're used to treat artificially created depression. There are several other common side effects, such as nausea, dizziness, irritability, and sore throat.

So far I can't see the benefit of this medication for me because, well, have I ever even had a seizure? When I think of a seizure, I think of convulsing wildly. I've certainly never had anything like that. So I tried to find what I could about seizures. Turns out there are many, many different kinds of seizures, and I think it's safe to say that I may have experienced a different type...maybe? Does the doctor think I may have had seizures based on the symptoms I described to him, or does he just think I have a lower seizure threshold based on my EEG results and that I could have one at some point in the future? Is that enough reason to medicate? I don't know the answers to any of this because no one told me anything except "take this drug and follow up in 6-8 weeks."  I realize I should have spoke up and started asking questions, but I was totally (TOTALLY) not expecting to be prescribed anything. It wasn't really until I got home that I started to sort things out a bit.

Do people generally just blindly take whatever medications their doctors prescribe to them? Am I crazy to not fill that prescription? This is not a short term kind of treatment. It's the kind of drug people never stop taking. It never crossed my mind that the neurologist would want me to take medication. I thought maybe he'd want to do more testing. A different type of MRI maybe, or (gag me) another EEG. I guess I'm naive. I also don't understand why I would be prescribed something when my test results were anything but conclusive. Nothing was explained to me, and that is not cool in my book. My chiropractor (have I mentioned how much I love him?) explained to me that because of the congenital abnormalities in my neck, the first couple vertebrae put pressure on my brain stem which could lower my seizure threshold (ie: make me more likely than the average person to have a seizure). He also said I should not take the Keppra.

What I think I'm going to do for now is keep a log of any unusual symptoms and go to my follow-up appointment as planned. Then tell the doctor I'm not comfortable taking drugs at this point. Have you ever had anything like this happen to you? Did you ever receive a prescription you weren't comfortable filling? Did you take it anyway? Did you feel pressured? I live in a bubble because I rarely go to the doctor (read: I go to the doctor when I'm pregnant. And that's it. And I am 100% in love with my ob/gyn who would NEVER prescribe me anything without sitting down to talk to me about it thoroughly first) so I would love to know if this is the standard MO for most physicians?

Okay. That's it. I promise not to bore you with my health problems for at least another week or two. Thanks for listening (umm...reading).

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Shopping for Less

I think it's become a federal offense to pay retail for anything. Every day I get emails from at least half a dozen different websites offering various discounts and deals on everything from vacations to clothes to restaurant meals. It's gotten to the point where I find myself weeding through my old emails before going out to dinner with Chris, just to make sure we're not overlooking a deal that's been emailed to me for the restaurant we're heading to. Lots of these websites cater to local establishments, which is really great. We've used several and as a result it now feels sort of like we're being cheated if we don't have a discount of some sort for just about anything.

Other online discount websites, such as, are more about offering deals on internet shopping. In addition to regular deals, this particular website features random "insanity deals", which are products sold at crazy discounts of 80-95% off the retail price. Your deal isn't confirmed until the payment is complete, so they do require customers to register. That way you can quickly snatch up the deal you  have your eye on, without wasting time filling in all of your payment and shipping information. Each deal is good for one day only, and shipping is $2.00 per item (U.S. only). By using a unique referral code and getting friends to sign up for nomorerack, you can earn prizes. Your friends don't even need to make a purchase for you to get credit, they simply need to register! Plus, you get to choose your prize.

Have you used or a similar website? What was your experience?

Thankful Thursday

I've been busy and had a headache that was trying to kill me. Hence my absence the past couple days. But I have so much to be grateful for, like always. For example...

  • I'm thankful that we finally got the old carpeting out of our family room.
  • I'm thankful that Bethany's cell phone/text message Valentines that we made together came out pretty cute.
  • I'm thankful that my nausea-inducing killer headache is gone.
  • I'm thankful for lunch with my friend Shelly on V-Day.
  • I'm thankful for yummy salads. Now if only someone would make me one for lunch and dinner everyday, I'd be all set.
  • I'm thankful that Chris suggested we go to IKEA this week. And that Mathilda was a good girl, used the potty twice while we were there and stayed dry in between; we had a good lunch together; and we got lots of cool stuff for the house for not a lot of money. Most importantly: a cool rug for the newly naked family room floor!
  • I'm thankful for IKEA, just to be clear.
  • I'm thankful that my kids helped me survive last night as I was laying on the couch dying of a headache. I had them doing everything from fetching me cups of Gatorade to washing Lucy's hair in the bathtub, and they were all so kind and helpful about it.
  • I'm thankful my mom took Connor to floor hockey last night because otherwise he for sure would not have been going.
  • I'm thankful for a quiet house today. Mathilda is spending the day with Chris's mom.
  • I'm thankful that my friend Shelly gave me homemade laundry detergent (that she made!) for my birthday (along with Thin Mints, don't want to forget those!). I can't wait to use it. The only reason that I haven't used it yet is because I keep forgetting to bring a spoon down to the laundry room, and Lord knows once I'm down there I'm not coming back up for a spoon.
  • I'm thankful for the upcoming 3-day weekend!
What are you thankful for today?

Monday, February 13, 2012

Reap What You Sow

You reap what you sow. This is something I think about often, and in my mind I always hear it in an Australian accent because it was a line spoken by Toni Collette's father in Muriel's Wedding. And Adele sings it in Rolling in the Deep, which is ingrained in my brain because Bethany likes to listen to Adele overandoverandoverandover again. She especially likes to listen to the same song 10 times or more before she moves onto the next one. And I can't really talk because I have listened to Somebody That I Used to Know about 500 times in the past week.

But reap what you sow. For me sometimes it often happens very quickly. I am more apt to immediately notice the negative. The other night when I was leaving Bethany's basketball game, someone was pulling out of a parking space as I was driving out of the parking lot and came within inches of hitting me. I honked (mainly to avoid being hit) and was annoyed. And pretty soon after that I was turning down a street in my neighborhood and apparently didn't look very well because I very nearly hit someone. I cringed because I knew that other driver was annoyed with me. That was my reminder. We all get distracted at times. We all make mistakes, do stupid things, say things we don't mean, hurt people's feelings (intentional or not), forget stuff. I am not above that or immune to it. Remember that, Alysia.

This doesn't mean I should let people walk all over me and treat me like crap. It just means I need to remain conscious of my own humanness. As Alexander Pope wrote, "To err is human; to forgive divine." Remember that I'm human and strive to be godlike. This is but one mission in my life, which sounds simpler and easier than it is. When I feel that I have been wronged, I need to calm my temper and remember. I don't know what anyone else is going through. I don't know the motives of anyone else. I don't know the intent of another person's actions. And I certainly cannot control what anyone else says, does, believes, or thinks.

I can only control myself. I can choose to take a big breath and let it go when a stranger is rude to me. After all, I'm fairly certain I've been rude on more than one occasion. I can practice forgiveness in my everyday life. And I can decide to spread happiness and good will. Because you reap what you sow.

I live a blessed life. Everything isn't perfect because perfection is a myth, but it's pretty good. Even on a bad day, it's pretty good. There's a lot of love in my life. I give it and it comes back to me, tenfold. There's a lot of abundance in my life (does that even make sense??). I give freely, whatever I can, without expecting anything in return. But yet it comes back to me tenfold. This isn't a magical formula and it doesn't mean that nothing bad ever happens to me. Bad things happen to everyone. There are no exceptions to that rule. It also doesn't mean I will necessarily notice right away when it comes back to me. I might not notice right away; I might never notice. I might think at first that something that happens in my life is bad, only to realize months or years later that it was actually very good; that it was actually exactly what I needed. You reap what you sow. Words to live by.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

And it's Outta Here!

Some people take comfort in familiarity and routine, but I thrive on and crave change. Familiarity and routine have their place, but after awhile they begin to feel stagnant. Maybe this is purely a product of my upbringing, but I think it's more likely a combination of nature and nurture. Chris talks about us moving into the big bedroom upstairs when the kids are grown and we're empty nesters, and I can't help but look at him funny because I have no desire to still be living in this house 15 or 20 years from now. I ask him if he's ready to move on a weekly basis, but it's not because I necessarily have anything against this house. The house is great. It's just that I want to try other things. It's just that staying in one place for too long starts to feel suffocating after awhile. For now he wants to stay, and I can't fault him for that. There are worse things for our kids than sticking in one place for an extended period of time, maybe even until they're all moved out, something that I can't quite fathom at this point in my life. Both the staying here that long and the kids living away from me. My life is so deeply enmeshed in my children that I can't separate us yet, even in my imagination.

So I like to travel. Without travel I would surely lose my mind. We never really have any money to speak of, so we don't go too far, but going anywhere is a much needed breath of fresh air. Somehow we manage to get away several times a year, and as much work as it is to pack and get everything ready for all of us, being someplace different for a few days refreshes me and so the effort is always worth the trouble.

And then sometimes I get an itch to change something around the house. I'm sure Chris inwardly (and sometimes outwardly) groans and wants to kill me pretty much anytime he hears me say something like, " I've been thinking and I have this idea..." Well I've been not too subtly hinting for quite awhile that I'd love to get rid of the carpet in the family room. This afternoon Mathilda spilled a cup of hot chocolate on it, and as I was cleaning it up I mentioned that this would be a great time to just rip the carpet up. Chris agreed that maybe we should think about doing that soon, and the stars must have been aligned because he barely protested when I said, "why don't we just do it now?"  Within minutes we were pushing furniture aside and ripping out the carpet. When the time is right, it's right, you know? I've found that to be the case in many situations, by the way.

Over three quarters of the carpet is out, with just some small pieces under our desk and entertainment center left. Chris was going out tonight so we couldn't get all of it. I'm motivated, but not enough to do it myself. There are about a billion cords to deal with by the entertainment center and I'm not about to be held responsible for messing any of them up. Even so, I'm really happy with our progress. This morning I had a carpeted family room, and now I have a hardwood family room. This makes me happy. Three cheers for old houses made standard with hardwood floors! The floor is definitely looking a little rough, but it's not that bad. We'll get a rug or two. This summer when I get the kids out of here for a couple weeks, we'll get someone to come and re-finish the wood. I know from experience that there's no way we can stay here with the smell. But that's okay, I can be patient. I've been waiting for this moment since we moved into this house almost three years ago. A wall is coming down next, just you wait.

Friday, February 10, 2012


Since yesterday was my birthday, and I wrote about that instead of my typical Thursday Thankful post, I thought I'd do my thankful post today instead. Today I'm thankful for:

  • My birthday party (actually co-party for my friend Angela & I) that Miss Tina hosted last weekend. People cooked and everything, even Tina's mother-in-law (who wasn't even at the party)! And Tina's husband and kids left over night so that our fun could go on until 5 a.m. (and it did!).
  • Meeting my cousin at Tim Horton's after morning drop-off.
  • Since Lucy has started her new asthma medication, she is doing so much better. I think I've only had to give her 2 breathing treatments, which is really great!
  • This mild winter. Today is cold and some snow flakes are blowing around, but I do not miss the tension of driving on the ice (on my never-salted street). Spring is in sight!!!
  • New tires. We definitely weren't planning on that expense, but the van is driving so much better!
  • Chocolate bumpy cake.
  • Planning our summer road trip. I could look at maps 24 hours a day and never get bored.
  • My friends. Oh my gosh I love them all!
  • Birthday breakfast with my friend Angela and her little boy. And a birthday voice mail from her other son later on!
  • Homemade cookies from Angela on my birthday.
  • Birthday presents.
  • Clothes shopping all by myself.
  • Clearance racks at Macy's.
  • My chiropractor. Love, love, love him!
  • Extended chat with my friend Hilary on my birthday (and Starbucks gift cards!!)
  • Birthday breakfast with my friend Julie and her little girl. Mattie came with me because Julie's little girl is her BEST FRIEND. She cannot talk enough about how much she loves her. They are so cute. Every time we go anywhere together, I just know everyone is looking at them and thinking about how stinkin' cute they are. Either that or they are praying for us to leave because it's a known fact that the baby in the family is always way loud (and they are both the baby  in the family...). 
  • Homemade cherry cheese pie from Julie for my birthday. I can't wait to dig into it! Can you even believe how spoiled I am???
  • That one of my favorite local bloggers ( posted a link to this video on her Facebook page. Thank you, I am now totally obsessed with this song. That link is a cover by Walk Off the Earth, but I'm also loving the original by Gotye. I keep alternating them. It never gets old.
  • Looking forward to a birthday lunch with my friend Shelly next week. Can't wait to see her!
  • My new black leggings, which I'm wearing right now with a new sweater, which I also love. Only problem is I feel like curling up for a nap, that's how comfy I am.
  • That I found a certain bill which I had misplaced, and it's not even due until next week. Phew!
I could go on, but I promised Mattie I'd read to her before we pick the kids up, and she's been waiting so patiently. What are you thankful for today?

Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Birthday Post

I decided to have a good birthday today, and so I did. I stayed up a little too late last night, and Chris tried to let me sleep in, but my children have a conspiracy to never, under any circumstances, let that happen. So naturally there were kids crying, and kids climbing in bed with me, and so on and so forth. Except Connor. In my experience, boys listen and girls need somewhere in the neighborhood of 15 million reminders. But it was still nice to stay in bed later than usual, even if I wasn't actually sleeping.

After the kids were off to school, I met my friend Angela for breakfast. Then I came home to do my hair (yeah, seriously) before heading to Secretary of State. Like every year, I put off renewing my tabs until the last possible day, and then realized I also had to renew my drivers license. It was a sunny, beautiful day for February, and, unbelievably, Secretary of State was not too busy, so I was in and out in about 20 minutes. For those who are not from these parts, Michiganders are so special that we have our own (not so) little name for the DMV, and it's Secretary of State.  I did get my enhanced drivers license, which will allow me to enter certain countries like Canada and Mexico (via land or sea) without a passport. But not until I was thoroughly interrogated. Here are the questions I was asked:

What hospital were you born in?
Were you a single child or a triplet?

Wow, they're not messing around, are they? Also, when I checked online ahead of time to see what documentation I would need, the website said to bring my drivers license, birth certificate (original), social security card, and original marriage license if my name is now different than my birth certificate. Amazingly I located everything, and it was actually all together exactly where it was supposed to be (talk about rare!). And because I found everything easily, they only asked for my drivers license and my birth certificate. I can guarantee that if I hadn't brought my social security card or my marriage license, the Secretary of State lady would have insisted that I needed them. But oh well, at least I know where everything is now. It was probably the quickest and most pleasant trip to Secretary of State that I've ever had.

I had some time to kill before my afternoon appointment with my favorite chiropractor, so I went through the McDonald's drive-thru for a caramel frappe and headed to the mall. I've had Macy's gift cards that have been taunting me since Christmas, and I was so excited to finally have a chance to do some shopping. I was hoping for some new boots, but they were all on clearance and totally picked over, so no dice there. But then I went upstairs and found a bunch of cute stuff. The best thing is that I am now the proud owner of a pair of leggings, something I haven't owned since the early 90's. This of course means that they will promptly go out of style. But I don't care. I'm never giving them up. They are so comfortable, they feel like cozy jammies. And they are slimming. I can't go wrong with these pants, they're elastic for Pete's sake, and I'm trying to figure out why the heck it took me so long to break down and get a pair. Sometimes I'm stubborn like that. Another epiphany I had at Macy's: I need one of those fitting room mirrors at home, for a little reality check before I leave the house.

After my successful shopping excursion, I went for my adjustment. I love my chiropractor, and he made me feel a  lot less crazy and confused regarding that prescription I referred to yesterday from my neurologist. I still don't totally know what I'm going to do, but I feel better. Plus his wife is my good friend so I got to hang out with her for a little bit too. She showed me the Kristen Bell sloth video from Ellen and we had a good laugh. Go ahead and watch it. It's pretty funny. You can watch the original and the autotuned version.

Later in the evening, my mom came by for a visit and so did Chris's mom and step-dad. It was a typical busy night, with basketball and dance and homework and Mathilda throwing her princess chairs around the living room until I got fed up and hid them in the basement. I got some cool gifts, including an electric hand mixer from my mom, so I no longer have to mix my cheesecake batter with a wooden spoon like I have been for the past year or so.

The whole day was just chill. I felt lots of love, with phone calls, wall posts and messages on Facebook, and spending time with my friends and family. And my birthday continues...breakfast with another friend tomorrow morning,and then lunch with yet another friend next week. I love it! Did I mention that my birthday celebration actually started last Friday with a party hosted by my friend Tina? I am so blessed. I think I'm finally starting to catch on to the appeal of this birthday thing.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

So What! Wednesday

I'm linking up with Shannon at Life After I "Dew" for So What! Wednesday. You should really visit her blog and give her some love, she's been having a rough time in the blogosphere this week!

So What! if I'm at a total loss over what I should do about a certain prescription I was given from a certain neurologist today? Life can be so confusing at times.

So What! if it's the night before my birthday and I'm not really feeling the birthday spirit. I'm feeling a little irritable, actually. Hopefully I'll be magically transformed when I wake up in the morning.

So What! if I'm going to be 37 tomorrow and I still feel pretty dang young? Am I old? Never mind, I don't want to know.

So What! if I procrastinated 'til the last minute and now I have to go to Secretary of State on my birthday to renew my tabs AND get a new driver's license? I'm just glad I opened the envelope today to get my surprise notice of driver's license renewal, instead of waiting until I got to the counter to pay, so at least I'll, you know, brush my hair or something before I get my picture taken. 

So What! if I'm super excited that I'm going to get a new enhanced driver's license tomorrow? Pretty lame thing to be excited about, I know. But then I will be free to drive over to Canada anytime I want. Not that I have any plans of doing that anytime soon, but just in case I'll be ready! (In case you don't know, I live about 20 minutes from the Canadian border).

So What! if I'm not actually sure I'll be getting that enhanced driver's license because I don't know where my social security card is and I'm pretty sure I need it to get the dang thing?

So What! if I sneak a little bite or three of chocolate bumpy cake every time I walk through the kitchen? It is too good to pass up!

What are you saying so what! to this week?

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Credit Who?

When I went away to college, I was a largely ignorant teenager. I was utterly clueless as to the importance of something as simple as a credit report. Thus I was easily swayed by the credit card vultures who hovered around campus, snaring unsuspecting kids and promising them credit cards, even without an income. And there began my journey through credit card hell. I wonder if they're still doing this to kids? 

Bethany claims that she cannot wait to move out of the house. Maybe this should be a stab to the heart, but I get it. I was the same way. I yearned for freedom. Plus I'm pretty sure that if someone told her she could leave home tomorrow and be on her own, she'd change her mind real quick. Which is a good thing, because I question the ability of someone who can't even remember to do her homework, feed the hermit crabs she begged and pleaded for, or bring home her boots, to take care of herself . So hopefully she'll stick around at least until college.

Perhaps with a little guidance she can avoid the kind of traps I fell into. If we teach our kids about being financially responsible, including what it means to have a credit card and the importance of looking into getting a free credit score report every once in awhile, then maybe they'll be a lot more savvy than I was at that age. I've heard they teach some of these types of concepts in high school now, and I hope it's required for all students. We've got a little time to transform them into financially responsible and knowledgeable young adults, thank goodness. 

I'm an Obsessive Planner. There, I Said it.

So yesterday I wrote about how accomplished I feel, fulfilling my weekly resolutions and checking everything off my to-do lists. Today I'm writing about my current obsession, which is becoming detrimental to my daily to-do list. Uh-oh.

The problem is that I am obsessively (yet also sort of tentatively) planning our summer trip. Just this week, it's suddenly looking more and more like it is going to become a reality. Now that I've been talking to the kids about it and getting their input, I'm sort of on a forward momentum that won't stop. And it's really a huge undertaking, so I want to get it right. Driving over 2000 miles with 4 kids is going to require quite a bit of forethought. I want it to be fun and memorable; not just a painfully long, car-sickness invoking blur.

Right now I'm thinking about taking different routes on the way there and the way back, so that we can see a wider variety of scenery and landmarks. I've been immersing myself in information about National Parks and Laura Ingalls Wilder sites. In fact, I am pretty sure I'm getting in a teensy bit over my head. The more I research, the more stops I want to make. And, well, there is a limit to how long I can stretch this trip. I'm probably going to have to make some hard choices. But at the same time, I'd really like to make frequent stops so the kids don't go completely bonkers in the car. We'll see what I can figure out.

Some states we will likely be driving through (including both the route to get there and the route home), in no particular order:
  • Wisconsin
  • Minnesota
  • Iowa
  • North Dakota
  • South Dakota
  • Wyoming
  • Montana
  • Idaho
  • Washington
  • Michigan (including the U.P.)
And here are some of the places I'd like to stop:
  • 2-3 Laura Ingalls Wilder/Little House on the Prairie museums/historical spots (Iowa, Minnesota, South Dakota)
  • Badlands National Park (South Dakota)
  • Mount Rushmore (South Dakota)
  • Devils Tower National Monument in Wyoming
  • Glacier National Park (Montana)
  • Various stops along the Dino Trail in Montana
  • Theodore Roosevelt National Park (North Dakota)
  • Mall of America (Minnesota)
I'd like to definitely plan at least one stop in each state, so the kids (and I, who am I kidding??) can actually say they've been to each state, not just driven through. I know, I know, weird obsessiveness but whatevs. And let's be real here; some of these states are huge. Planning to NOT stop would be kind of a death wish. Death by whining. My list so far covers most of the states we'll be traveling through, with the exception of Wisconsin and Michigan. We'll be driving through a lot of Michigan, including parts of the U.P. that I've never been through. So even though it's my home state, I'll still want to plan a couple cool stops. We'll be visiting family and friends in Idaho and Washington. I'm sure we'll see lots while we're there, but the purpose of the trip is the visiting, so for now I'll leave those two states alone. Like a scab begging to be picked, I'm quite sure I won't be able to refrain from researching must-see attractions in these states too, but I'll wait at least until I'm done writing this blog post.

If you've been to, or through, any of the states I listed above, and you have suggestions, I'd love to hear them. Also, if you've visited any of the places I listed, I'd love your input. Specifically, how much time do I really need at these places? For example, am I nuts to think we could possibly visit Badlands National Park and Mount Rushmore on the same day?

Okay, I feel much better now that I can go cross "write blog post" off my to-do list.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Weekly Resolution Update

Last Monday I made a few resolutions for the week, and I did a pretty good job sticking with them. A re-cap:

  • Put away stuff from vacations - DONE!
  • Exercise for 30 minutes at least three more times - DONE! I actually exercised for 30 minutes 5 times last week!
  • Do 2 loads of laundry a day - DONE! I did skip Saturday, but other than that I've been diligent. 
  • Publish a blog post every day - DONE! Again I skipped Saturday, but I'm okay with that. Especially because I'm pretty sure there were a couple days when I published more than one post.
  • Make at least 2 more home cooked meals - Sort of done! I did cook, but stuff like chicken quesadillas, which I would not necessarily classify as a "meal". I've got lots of room for improvement with this one.
I feel pretty good about what I accomplished last week. I've also been keeping up with my daily to-do lists (except for the weekend), and they are helping me so much!  This week I'm going to keep building on what I what I started, with just a few changes. My resolutions for this week:
  • Exercise for 30 minutes at least 4 times. Add one other form of exercise (besides the hula hoop) at least one time.
  • The laundry pile is not receding quickly enough. Do 2 loads of laundry a day, but add a third load at least 2 of those days.
  • Publish a blog post every day.
  • Make at least 3 home cooked dinners.
  • At least get a start on cleaning out the coat closet.
  • Enjoy my birthday, which is Thursday.
Three cheers for to-do lists! I hope this becomes a long lasting obsession!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Is There a Game on or Something?

I happened to see a Super Bowl sign somewhere yesterday, and I asked whomever I was with, "oh, is that tomorrow?" That might give you a clue about how (un)informed I am with when it comes to football. Sports have just never been my thing. Chris isn't much into sports either so I've never had occasion to try to transform myself into a big sports fan. I can say with positive certainty that I've never known Chris to watch a football game, that's for sure.

So often I find myself on the other side of what everyone else is doing/saying/liking. I spent Super Bowl Sunday cleaning, doing laundry, reading, critiquing a friend's writing, and prying Mathilda's sticky fingers out of Lucy's hair. Most people I know spent the day preparing for Super Bowl parties, and they're now happily settled onto their couches, placing bets on how many touchdowns whichever team is going to score. In this age of Facebook, I probably know more about football than I've ever known just by reading my friends' status updates. I feel like just about everyone I know is swept up in this game in which I'm not even slightly interested.

The same goes for television. Besides the small handful of shows I bother to watch (and not one of them is in season right now), whatever is going on in the world of T.V. viewing is beyond me. I catch little tidbits here and there, but by and large I'm a total T.V. ignoramus.  Now if we're talking Backyardigans, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, or that annoying Australian mermaid show, well then I'm totally informed. Actually, not really. But I'm at least aware of them and might be able to hold my own in a conversation about them. Not like any of my friends are discussing the latest episodes of anything that airs on the Disney Channel. They're talking about what's happening on Glee or the Real Housewives of ___________. And I am merely a clueless bystander.

Watching the news (or reading it) depresses me to no end, so there again I am totally out of the loop. I know I should be a more socially responsible human being and be knowledgeable about what is going on in the world. But when it leads to nightmares and long periods of melancholy, then I have to conclude that my mental health is more important. Again, thanks to Facebook I get the gist of the big stuff. And Chris is a newshound so he keeps me marginally informed. But generally speaking, the news is just one more thing I can't have an intelligent conversation about. If I hear of something that's of particular interest to me, then I will look it up and read various online newspaper articles about the topic. But if it involves a psychotic baby-killing mother, I'll probably pass.

Being an introvert and someone who doesn't generally like the things most other people like puts me at odds with the world. Double whammy. I appreciate my friends for their unique interests and personalities, and I'm pretty sure they return the favor. As a child, I went through a long period of having to adapt and being forced into learning how to effectively make friends because I moved so much. Then I went into a long period of complacency when my introversion got the best of me. And now I'm more or less in a happy place, where I'm more comfortable in my own skin and more at ease with cultivating friendships, despite the fact that it's sometimes challenging to find a common ground.  It's a nice place to be.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Preparing for Good Bye

My friend is moving. Not to the next town or even a neighboring state, but clear across the country. And I just realized that I haven't lost a friend to a long distance move in many years, not since I was a kid actually. My best friend Emily moved to Florida in the middle of kindergarten. We kept in touch off and on for several years, but eventually lost touch. Then I moved to Arizona after kindergarten, and back to Michigan a couple months into 3rd grade. And of course after high school graduation, several friends went off to various far away locations. Now we keep in touch via Facebook. How times have changed. After 6th grade I moved 20 minutes away to another county and it felt like the biggest deal ever. My friends and I used to write letters to each other, you know with paper and pen? And get in trouble for racking up the long distance charges on our landlines.

Anyway, I've forgotten what it's like, and while I am very happy and excited for the new adventures my friend and her family are facing, I'm sad for me. There's a part of me that selfishly want her to stay. It's not like we'll have much occasion for visiting, with 3000 miles between us. I know things are different now than they were when I was a kid, and we truly will be able to easily stay in touch via telephone, text, and Facebook. But that is such a far cry from huddling together over hot chocolate at Starbucks. We've known each other for years, but over the past year have really gotten to know each other. I feel like we've just cracked the book on our friendship, and now she's leaving. Our girls have been friends since kindergarten. They have so much fun, I feel like they are their truest selves when they're together, if that makes sense. The two of them are planning to start a restaurant together some day. They've already been creating the menu. I hope they keep in touch, I really do. And my friend's husband has been my life-saving chiropractor for the past year. I will feel the loss of her entire family.

Maybe some people do this kind of thing easily. The truth is I'm not sure how I'll deal with it. My friend's departure date is not set in stone yet, so I'm sort of lingering on denial just a little bit. We got in Starbucks twice this week (not easy to do!), and hopefully we manage to squeeze in several more trips for hot chocolate before she leaves.  I will throw myself into helping her pack up her house or whatever else she needs and worry later about missing her. Then I will plan to visit her and put off missing her even longer.

Malaria No More - Dream Big for Africa

Ever since I was a little girl, I've dreamed of visiting Africa. I'm not sure what originally spurred my interest - possibly my grandma's National Geographic magazines. But now I'm all grown up and this is still a dream of mine. Of course not until I was much older did I begin to gain a bit of an understanding of the unimaginable plights of hunger, poverty and disease so prevalent in Africa. I was thinking more along the lines of pyramids and safaris.

Living my insulated American life of comfort, it's difficult to envisage what if might be like to live in a place where people are dying in massive numbers from preventable diseases like malaria. Did you know that in Africa a child dies of malaria every minute? That's over half a million kids every year! Do you agree that this is utterly inconceivable to an American, living with clean water, a warm home, plenty of food, and access to medical care?

Right now the organization Malaria No More is teaming up with Katharine McPhee for a special campaign called "Dream Big for Africa". From now until February 16th, you can donate $10 to the cause by texting the word "DREAM" to 85944. Those who donate will be entered to win a trip to Africa with Katharine McPhee. Please note that this is not a "free" donation - the $10 will be added to your phone bill or deducted from your pre-paid balance, as well as message and data rates if applicable. Within a day of making your donation, you'll receive a text message with a link to an online form where you will be directed to enter your contact information and one sentence about your dream for Africa. Ten finalists will be notified on February 17th. The finalists will be asked to write a 300-word blog post and submit a 30-second video about why they're the best person for the trip, both due by February 24th. The winner will be announced on February 27th. The winner will travel to up to two African countries with Katharine McPhee at the end of March 2012, learning about malaria and passing out mosquito nets and medication. For more information about this campaign, please visit A donation is not necessary, you can also enter by visiting Good luck!

I still want to see the pyramids and go on an African safari. But if I do ever get to Africa, I also hope to go on a similar mission, doing what I can in my own little way to help.

I wrote this post as a member of Mom Bloggers for Social Good.