Thursday, March 29, 2012

Thankful Thursday

It's a cold, dreary March day in Michigan...perfect for cuddling on the couch with Mattie and baking cookies. And of course...counting my blessings...

I'm thankful that my mouth is feeling less and less sore every day & my re-check at the dentist yesterday showed that everything is healing as it should be.

I'm thankful that even though summertime has left Michigan for the time being, yesterday was a beautiful day and I even got a little bit of yard work done.

I'm thankful that I got to meet some friends for breakfast book club Monday morning.

I'm thankful that my friend Tina highly recommended a fantabulous book, which I proceeded to get for my Kindle and read in less than 24 hours. The book is The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, and it is currently on the New York Times bestseller list in the category of children's chapter books. However it is another one of those books, which seems to be so common right now, that pretty much ignores age constraints. In other words, it's definitely adult-appropriate. And it's on sale for $9.99 on Amazon right now (hardcover), or $10.99 for the Kindle edition. The subject matter sounds really depressing, but it's actually a really funny book, to counteract its inherent sadness.

I'm thankful that the kids and I are going up north tomorrow with my mother-in-law for a few days.

I'm thankful that when I pick the kids up from school early tomorrow to head up north, our Spring Break will officially commence. I can't wait for 9 days in a row of no school!

I'm thankful for everyone who has been voting for me in the Wyndham contest. I appreciate the support immensely! (Click HERE to vote!!!)

I'm thankful for morning cuddles with Mathilda after I drove the kids to school today.

I'm thankful that 3 out of 4 kids ate broccoli with dinner last night without complaining about it.

I'm thankful that my wretched skin is starting to clear up a little bit.

I'm thankful that I have a stockpile of cookie dough from a school fundraiser and as soon as I'm done writing this I'm going to get right on baking some cookies, before I work out. So that when I'm done working out I'll have some nice warm cookies to eat. Makes perfect sense, right? My logic cannot be faulted.

I'm thankful that Chris didn't immediately withdraw Bethany from school and send her off to live in a convent after he found the song lyrics she had printed out because she and her friends were going to make a video for the song. I'm not even going to share the name of the song with you. Let's just say...oy.

I'm thankful that I have no errands that I have to run today...there's plenty I could but they can wait. It's just one of those days I'd rather stay home.

What are you thankful for today?

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

So What! Wednesday

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

So What! if it's past 8 p.m. and I'm just getting around to writing my So What! Wednesday post?

So What! if I'm super excited about the book club my friends and I are just trying to get started? I'm a little nerdy like that.

So What! if I've already finished reading (in less than 24 hours!) our first official selection, even though we're not meeting again for two weeks? You might be thinking that time would have been better spent doing housework or whatever, but  I do a lot of reading while I'm doing stuff like waiting for Lucy at dance, waiting for the kids to come out of school, etc. Oh, in case you're wondering what book it was - because it was really awesome & you should definitely read it - it was The Fault in Our Stars by John Green.

So What! if I'm thinking about jotting down some notes about the book because I'm afraid I already won't remember any of it by the time we have our next meeting in two weeks?

So What! if I'm going to continue to bug everyone to vote for me in the Wyndham Women on Their Way Contest right up until the bitter end? Which is March 31, by the way. As a reminder, I'm trying to become a Wyndham travel blogger, which will mean winning 200,000 Wyndham Rewards points, $800 in American Express gift cards, and more! And the great thing is that voting is super easy and involves absolutely NO registration or other annoying stuff!

So What! if I'm not going to win the Nicest Mother of the Year award, based on the fact that I keep threatening to cut Mathilda's hair if she doesn't stop pulling Lucy's hair? Isn't that awful of me? It does seem to work, albeit temporarily, but I'm afraid I'm going to start putting ideas in her head about cutting hair so I should probably stop.

So What! if Mathilda is sweet as pie all day long while the kids are at school, and then when they get home she turns into a holy terror? Actually it's really annoying...

So What! if I can't stand bath time, and longingly look forward to the day when Lucy & Mattie are able to shower or bathe themselves? 

So What! if I think I'm perfectly fine with being a sort of pseudo vegetarian who still eats meat every once in awhile? I'm not really concerned with being a "true" vegetarian or whatever.

So What! if it's now past 8:30 p.m. and I'm still contemplating whether or not I'm going to exercise today?

What are you saying So What! to this week?

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Life List Progress!

I was just looking over my (incomplete) Life List 101, and happily realized I have made a tiny bit of progress on it. It  might not be much, but something's something.
  • I have potty trained Mathilda. Yes that was on my Life List. Felt like it would never happen.
  • I am now about 75% in the habit of washing my face every night. I'll admit, I still have lazy nights, but I'm doing so much better that I declare it counts as progress.
  • I have learned how to crochet a little bit. I haven't done it in ages, so I may have forgotten what I learned - but I'm hoping it's one of those things that comes back to you.
  • I believe I'm on two years in a row of enjoying my birthday. 
  • We banned the children from watching television for a month last summer. However, we made many exceptions (movie nights, etc.) so I know we can do better. They will be thrilled to know they are in for a repeat this summer!                                                  
  • I'm planning a big cross-country road trip with the kids for this summer. Maybe you've noticed that I've mentioned it once or twice?
I'd say I'm doing pretty good. I haven't looked at this list in a good long while, I think I need to refer to it more often. There's one more thing that I'm working on right now, which is that I'm sort of trying out being a vegetarian. Ironically, it was always me saying, "we should be vegetarians, we should be vegetarians," and Chris saying, "no." But then a month or two ago he decided to do it. And I've sort of been following suit. I say sort of because I have still been having a little bit of meat here and there. Today I had some turkey bacon, last week I had a burrito with a little bit of chicken on it. And I want to clearly state that I'm not heading vegan at all. So that means dairy products are still in my diet (and Chris's too). At this point I have no plans of removing the dairy.

Obviously this means I've had some major dietary changes, although I didn't eat all that much eat to begin with. I don't even really miss it at this point. I've been pretty much sticking to one smoothie a day, which gets me at least 3 servings of fruits/veggies in one drink. I've written about my smoothies before, but since then I've tried some different things.
  • I'm no longer using the Agave syrup, because it's full of calories and the smoothies are plenty sweet without it. 
  • I rarely put milk or any other liquid in them now. 
  • Sometimes I use yogurt - Greek or regular, flavored or plain - but not always. 
  • I still like frozen berries, but sometimes I mix it up and use fresh.  
  • I often add an orange
  • I recently started using frozen pineapple (I bought them fresh, cut them up in little chunks, & froze them) and that adds a lot of flavor
  • Sometimes I add fresh spinach and/or cucumber
  • I usually add 4 ice cubes
  • I still usually add a banana
Because I've been trying different things, they're hit or miss. It's kind of tricky getting the right amount of spinach or cucumber. If I get it wrong, the smoothies end up tasting a bit on the sludgy side.Usually they are really, really good though. I've found that it works best (in my Magic Bullet) if I add half of everything - 2 ice cubes, half an orange, half a banana, etc. - mix it up, then add the rest and continue mixing it up. I should maybe try to up it to two a day to make sure I'm getting enough of my fruits and veggies. But I do also try to eat lots of leafy green salads, apples, and whatever other veggies we might have with dinner or whatever.

We've also been eating a lot of beans - something we never ate before. And we often eat meat substitutes, as I've written about before. Some of them are great, some of them are just okay. I've been shocking myself with my willingness to try new foods. And I've been liking most of them. I'm going to try to eat more eggs for protein. Basically I have a long way to go in getting my diet really balanced the way it should be, but I think it's going okay so far. I'm not sure how far I'm going to go with the vegetarianism, but so far so good. Like I said, I don't really miss eating meat at this point. And it might be fine with me to continue having a little big of chicken or whatever a few times a month. I don't feel any more hungry than usual. My skin, however, is in fairly wretched condition. I'm not sure what's going on, but I've read that sometimes people break out for a short time when they take meat out of their diets simply because of the detoxification process. Or it could just be a coincidence.

So anyway, just thought I'd give you all a little update. I think I need to start thinking about the next 50 or so things to add to my Life List!

Do you have a Life List? Have you made a lot of progress on it?

I'm a Tuesday Traveler!

I have guest post over at Carrie With Children today!

I wrote about some fun, family friendly things to do in Detroit for Carrie's Tuesday Travelers column. Check out Carrie With Children, it's a great, positive, family blog with reviews, giveaways, tips, and of course - travel stories. Carrie has two beautiful little girls, one with Down syndrome - so she is also a wealth of information in that department. I'm very excited to be a guest blogger and share my love of Detroit with her readers!

Also, we're down to the last 5 days of the Wyndham Women on Their Way contest! I'm still hoping to be one of the chosen 10 travel bloggers, which means winning 200,000 Wyndham Rewards points, $800 in American Express gift cards, a video camera, and luggage! You can vote daily, please click HERE to support me and give me your vote!

Monday, March 26, 2012

If I Had a Time Machine...

There's a thing or two I would love to share with the younger version of myself, should we ever have occasion to come face to face. Not likely, I realize, but with modern science being what it is, you never know.

  • Use the sunscreen. No, really. I get it - you look better, maybe even a lot better, with a tan. But you'll look even better with good skin later in life. And not getting skin cancer is a really good thing. So learn your way around some bronzers or something, but don't skimp on the sunscreen.
  • Just because you made it out of the teenage years relatively unscathed by the horrors of acne, doesn't mean you're out of the woods. For some of us lucky ones, it only gets worse. Take better care of your skin, who knows? Maybe it will help.
  • Do your Kegals. If you don't know what Kegals are, Google need to know. Trust me.
  • Never. Stop. Working out. Don't get lazy. One day you'll look in the mirror and suddenly realize that now you don't look so hot, but you used to look pretty good.
  • Realize that you do, indeed, look pretty good right now. Enjoy these pre-cellulite, pre-stretch mark, pre-deformed belly years. They are fleeting.
  • Don't be afraid of life. Seize it; it is yours and yours alone.
  • Do more, see more, try more.
  • Keep your friends close and cherish them. And make new ones all the time.
  • Don't ever quit doing things for yourself. Pursue your dreams, do things you enjoy doing, learn new things you're interested in.
  • Laugh a lot. Have fun. 
  • Realize that life is what you make it. That's right: Y-O-U. Don't wait for things to happen - make things happen.
Would you have any special messages for the former you? I understand that my past has made me who I am today, but I think who I am today could be a 'lil better if I could just get my hands on a time machine and have a little chat with younger me.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Learning to Love Suburban Ennui

I actually had a whole post about this which I mostly ditched because it sounded too whiny. So I'm trying again.  

There are advantages to where I live, in probably one of the most boring corners of suburbia anywhere. I love being on a court because there is no traffic. Very rarely does anyone ever drive by our house (we're smack in the middle of the court, so even our neighbors usually don't drive in front of our house). It's quiet, and lots of times that is very nice, even if that means our kids are sticking out like a sore thumb with their noisiness. We have a really decent sized backyard, big enough for a swing set and a trampoline and a pool, with plenty left over. The freeway is only about a mile away, which is obviously super convenient. There are lots of stores and restaurants nearby (not necessarily my favorite stores and restaurants, but at least they are readily available). My mom lives less than 5 minutes away, and Chris's parents each live about 10-15 minutes away (in opposite directions). School is about a mile away, and our church - where Bethany played basketball - is literally right around the block. Yes, there are many convenient aspects to living here.

Convenience, however, does not totally make up for dull. Some of my friends live in lovely subdivisions with dozens of children and people having bon fires on their driveways every night, where the kids flit from yard to yard and the adults hang out and are actually friends with one another. But not us. After three years, we barely know our neighbors. There are  no other kids on our court. People keep to themselves. I went for a walk yesterday, and I saw only one other person out for a walk, in 40 minutes. If I leave our neighborhood, it's all heavy traffic and ugly concrete buildings.

I love walking but I don't like dealing with traffic. So I walk around my neighborhood, all the while trying to pay attention to my surroundings to keep myself occupied. I try to notice the flowers and trees, animals and birds, holiday decorations, and landscaping or masonry that I admire. I try to make the best of it, but it does get so boring. What I need is a friend in my neighborhood, that would make all the difference in the world. Friends for my kids would be good too. Having to drive everywhere to do or see anyone is sort of the pits.

My dream live somewhere with beautiful scenery, right outside my front door. To be able to take long walks, right from my doorstep, and see interesting things and people along the way. To have friends within walking distance. But I live where I live, and since we have no immediate plans of moving, I've got no choice but to do my best with what I have. Hopefully someday we'll live someplace that does a better job of matching my dream. In the meantime, I guess I have a couple choices. I can deal with the traffic, and cross the busy streets to get to our lakefront park, where I can walk while enjoying the scenery and a lake breeze. And I can come to terms with the fact that I need to drive in order to get to do anything good or see any of my friends. I can take long walks that are a lot more fun if I first drive a few miles to meet a friend or go to a larger park with better walking options.

Okay, I'm not sure I can learn to love my version of suburban ennui. Maybe the best I can hope for is dealing with it happily. And not minding driving a lot to escape it. And enjoying my home and yard more thoroughly. I'm pretty sure I can do those things.

When we moved into this house, I don't think we were thinking too much about the neighborhood, except that it looked neat and well maintained. We weren't thinking that we were across two busy streets from the elementary school. We liked the house, and we liked that it was on a court. But honestly we were mostly thinking that we needed to get in a house with enough bedrooms before Mathilda's arrival, and we just barely made it. It was a time of such crazy chaos in our lives. I'm not saying we necessarily made the wrong choice, but I think we were under too much pressure to make a choice at the time. Maybe we would have chosen to live someplace completely different had we been able to take our time a little more.

Do you love where you live? What makes it perfect, or what could make it better? Next time we move, I'd like to put a lot more thought into where we will be living. I need to get a good grasp on what would make a neighborhood ideal for us. Some things that would be on my list:
  • Kids in the neighborhood
  • Being able to walk to lots of places
  • Close to lovely scenery
  • Safe & close enough to walk to school (or maybe buses!)
  • Convenient for shopping, etc.
What would be on your list?  

Friday, March 23, 2012

Spring Break Inspiration

I know everyone seems to have Spring Break at different times now (didn't they all used to be at the same time?), but ours begins in one week. We are all really looking forward to it. At this point we have one short get-a-way definitely planned, and another one tentatively planned. We tend to do pretty low key, fairly close to home trips for Spring Break. Usually we don't have a lot of time and/or money to work with, so we do the best we can with what we've got. It seems to me a terrible shame not to go anywhere, but sometimes it doesn't work out. Nonetheless I always try to plan something special and fun for the kids.

Most people probably have their Spring Break plans fully organized by now, but just in case you're still looking for someplace to go that's not too far from southeast Michigan, I have done a few posts in the past about vacations that won't break the bank and are close enough to drive to. Some might be more appropriate for summer, but hopefully we'll still have some decent weather for the next few weeks.

Five Ideas For Close-To-Home Summer Vacations   Despite the name, some of these would work well for Spring Break too. In fact, two of them we have done during Spring Break (Hocking Hills and Niagara Falls).

Spring Fever   This post focuses more on Hocking Hills State Park in Ohio.

Spring Is In The Air (Or Not)   We always have fun in Toledo!

O-hi-o, O-hi-o, It's Off to the Zoo We Go, Part I   The African Safari Wildlife Park in Port Clinton, Ohio is a blast! And there are deals to be had right now - don't pay full price!

Part II of O-hi-o, O-hi-o, It's Off to the Zoo We Go   The Toledo Zoo is close to home and we love it (although this visit was definitely not our best!).

Winter Weekend   Wow, we vacation a lot in Ohio! Great Wolf Lodge is a definite hit!

Some other ideas, that I haven't written about in any blog posts:
  • Chicago  There's just so much to do! My kids have only been there in the winter (except Mattie, who has never been), so sometime we are going to do this when the weather is nice.
  • Grand Rapids  We haven't been there in a few years (again, Mattie has never been), but I'd love to go back. This was on my wish list for last summer, but we didn't make it. Meijer Gardens and the zoo are fabulous, and I've heard that the Children's Museum is really great too.
  • Toronto   I haven't been there since I was a kid. It's not that far from home, so I think I need to go back. With or without kids is fine with me.
If you're more in the market for day trips, might I suggest:
  • Ann Arbor  Only about an hour from home, this college town offers some cool museums, shops and restaurants. Once we took the train there for the day (we got on in Royal Oak) and walked everywhere. The Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum is a good choice for kid-friendly fun, as is the University of Michigan Museum of Natural History.
  • Green Field Village / Henry Ford Museum  The village is an outdoors attraction and doesn't open for the season until April 14, but the museum is indoors and open year round. What I love about this place is that there is so much to see and do, and it is so big that even if the parking lot is jammed it generally doesn't feel like it's that crowded once you get in (goes for both the museum and the village). I'm not a huge fan of crowds, so this is important to me.
  • Downtown Detroit  Unfortunately budget cuts have not been kind to some of our wonderful attractions this year, but there is still enough to do to keep a family busy for the day. Some of my favorites include taking a walk along the RiverFront, riding the People Mover, walking around Greektown, and visiting the Detroit Institute of Art. My goal this year is to get to the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, which I hear really good things about.
Do you have any special plans for Spring Break this year?

Let's Move to the French Countryside, Shall We?

I love memoirs. I especially love memoirs written by people who take a huge leap of faith and do something drastic to renew their lives. In my last post, I wrote about my love for my Kindle(s), and the awesome website Pixel of Ink, which lists free or deeply discounted Kindle books daily. Recently I took advantage of one of the deals they posted to combine two of my loves: Kindle + memoir.

Because I often dream of leaving Michigan and starting a new life somewhere far away (even temporarily would be okay with me), reading of other people who are fulfilling my dream is a fun pastime. Seriously, it gives me hope. So when I saw this memoir, Tout Sweet by Karen Wheeler, available for just 99 cents for the Kindle version, I jumped on it. At last check, it was still available for 99 cents, if you're interested. 

The author gives up her glamorous big city life in London, where she works as a fashion and beauty editor, to move to a dilapidated old house in rural France. She is single, so I can't totally relate - obviously my story would be much different if I decided to up and move to the French countryside, with a husband and four children to complicate matters further. I do admire her bravery: moving to a foreign country all alone, roughing it as she renovates her house, struggling to communicate and learn local customs, trying to overcome heartache, leaving her career and re-creating herself as a freelancer. She meets many colorful people, has lots of adventures, and learns to really love and appreciate her new way of life. Yes, Wheeler is definitely an inspiration. The story reminds me quite a bit of Under the Tuscan Sun (the movie, I have yet to read the book).

Turns out Wheeler has a blog, Tout Sweet, and two other books, Toute Allure and Tout Soul, that sound like they might be sequel-ish.

Are you a fellow fan of memoirs? What are your favorites? And do you share my dream of moving someplace far away...if so where would you love to go?

Kindle Comparison

I never, ever thought I'd be a Kindle convert. But guess what? I am. Don't get me wrong, I still love actual books. I still buy them, I still read them. But I've been getting so many free & super cheap books for my Kindle, and I love (LOVE!) that I can have so many books at my disposal on one little device. I love that I can slip my Kindle in my purse and take it with me wherever I go. And that when I have a few minutes to kill, I can take out my Kindle and choose what I feel like reading at the moment. It's so convenient.

I actually have two Kindles. Yep, two. First I got a Kindle Touch 3G for Christmas. Then for my birthday I got a Kindle Fire. I am keeping both of them because I love them both.

The Kindle Touch 3G: easy on the eyes - more like a book than a computer screen.
...fully charged, the battery lasts a really long time (they claim up to 2 months, but if you use it daily I would say more like a few weeks - which is still pretty awesome!)
...the (FREE) 3G lets you order books without wifi. I love this feature.
...holds 3000 books. simple and easy to use.
...has lots of other great features that I haven't even begun to figure out yet. I really should play around with it more and learn how to do all the cool stuff.

The Kindle Fire: a reader and a tablet (think iPad, but smaller). This means it has full internet capabilities: you can check your email, your Facebook, or go on any website you want; and you can get apps for it. full color and lit up more like a computer screen - which means I can read in bed without a book light.
...can play movies from my Netflix account (or other similar).
...has a super easy to use touch screen (just as easy as an iPad or iPod Touch)
...keeps books in (free) cloud storage. Now, I'm not 100% clear on the cloud storage thing and what all it means. But I do know that when I purchase books on Amazon, I direct them to be delivered to my Kindle Touch 3G, yet they also show up in my Kindle Fire's cloud storage. At first I was irked because I didn't want the same book to be taking up space on both Kindles, but then I realized that it's not taking up space on the Kindle Fire - unless (maybe?) I decide to read it on the Kindle Fire. I think you might have to be within wifi range to get a book out of cloud storage the first time (don't quote me on that), but once you've accessed it once, you can read it anytime & don't need wifi (this I do know for certain). very user friendly.

If you have a Kindle, make sure you "like" Pixel of Ink on Facebook. Every day they post free or very low cost (think 99 cents) deals on Kindle books.

Also "like" Amazon Kindle on Facebook, because they post lots of good deals on Kindle books too.

Do you have a Kindle? If so which one do you have, and what do you love about it? Maybe you can share some cool features that I have thus far been too lazy busy to figure out?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Thankful Thursday

I'll be honest, I've had better weeks. But nothing good comes of focusing on the negative, and I always have tons to be thankful for. Such as...

I'm thankful that my ultra congenial Bethany has some truly great friends & that she has been having lots of good times with them.

I'm thankful that Connor got some time with his buddies over the weekend at a friend's birthday party.

I'm thankful that I got to catch up with my crazy busy friend Cathy this week.

I'm thankful for the warmest Michigan March in my memory. My kids are wearing shorts to school. In March, people! I can't even express how uncommon this is.

I'm thankful to everyone who has been voting for me in the Wyndham Women on Their Way contest, and sharing my entry, and saying lovely things about me. Really, I can't get over how nice people are. (Click HERE to vote)

I'm thankful that I made the decision to quit keeping track of my standing in the contest. I do not know if I'm still in the top 10, I can only hope that I am. It was way too stressful, and now I'm at peace. Que serra, serra and all that.

I'm thankful I finally broke down and got dental x-rays a couple months ago, otherwise I would not have known that my tooth which had already had a root canal and had a crown on it was in imminent danger of infecting my jaw.

I'm thankful that yesterday, when I had my appointment to have the tooth in question surgically extracted, the office called regarding a cancellation - which allowed me to get the procedure over with two hours earlier.

I'm thankful for novicaine, which allowed me to be totally pain-free during my oral surgery.

I'm thankful that the surgery is now a thing of the past.

I'm thankful that the dentist prescribed Vicodin, which has been helping me stay more or less pain free.

I'm thankful that I'm not too terribly hungry, which is a good thing because yogurt, ice cream, and smoothies are not all that filling.

I'm thankful for the 3 pounds I've lost since yesterday. See above.

I'm thankful that Mathilda finally fell asleep last night.

I'm thankful that every morning Mathilda wakes up wanting to cuddle.

I'm thankful for all the time my kids have been playing outside lately.

I'm thankful for our new trampoline - thank you again Hilary & Milo!

I'm thankful for the book I just finished reading - Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, by Jonathon Safran Foer. Apparently it is also a movie, so I'll have to check that out too.

I'm thankful that Chris was able to pick the kids up from school yesterday, and his step-dad was able to take Connor to floor hockey, and that my mom was able to pick the kids up from catechism and come over to help me last night while Chris was at band practice. It would have been a rough day without so much help.

I'm thankful that I'm feeling much better today.

I'm thankful that my mother-in-law took Bethany out for some one-on-one time the other night, and bought her a whole bunch of stuff for her upcoming trip to Florida. She needed summer clothes pretty badly, and now she doesn't need nearly so much.

I'm thankful that I realize how much I have to be thankful for.

What are you thankful for today?

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Seeing Clearly

When I was about 12, I got my first pair of glasses. I'm fairly certain I don't have a single picture of myself wearing those glasses because I pretty much never wore them. They were for distance, so perhaps I slipped them on from time to time when it was really important to see what the teacher had written on the blackboard. For the most part, however, I didn't consider myself a person who wears glasses.

Later, when I started to drive, it became imperative to wear my eyeglasses, for obvious safety reasons. During high school and college, I was better about wearing them during school when necessary, and they sure helped at the movie theater. But I still took them off as soon as I could. Even though I was wearing them with more and more frequency, I still didn't really consider myself to be a person who wears glasses.

It wasn't until I worked doing data entry for a year or two during and right after college that I realized I was destined to wear prescription glasses pretty much all the time. That job did wonders for my vision, and not in a good way. This happened to be about the time Chris and I got married, and I was determined that I would not be wearing glasses at my wedding. I was still kind of in denial about being a person who wears glasses. I briefly considered contacts, but in the end decided to simply go blind on my wedding day. I probably would have enjoyed that time a little more had I been able to see.

Nowadays, I have succumbed to being a person who needs glasses to get by on a daily basis. But it's okay, I really like being able to see. Luckily, there are so many glasses frames to choose from, picking out new ones is not an easy decision. has a huge selection of frames to choose from. Plus they're running a Spring Sale! For 30% off any pair of prescription eyeglasses and free shipping, be sure to enter the code SPRINGSAVINGS. Please note that for sunglasses, this discount applies to frames only. But hurry, because this sale ends Sunday, March 25! Check out the website for other current specials. They even have a virtual Try-It Mirror, so you can upload a picture of yourself and then "try on" glasses.


Monday, March 19, 2012

Yearbook Memories


I  remember when I was a kid, sitting for hours and poring over my school yearbooks. Up until high school, they were black and white, stapled together and rather flimsy.  In middle school I worked on the yearbook committee, and I seem to remember that creating photo collages was all the rage. In high school, I was co-editor of the yearbook, which was a lot of fun for someone like me who is obsessed with photographs. My co-editors and I went to a summer workshop to prepare for our big job, and there we learned how to create page layouts. All year, we worked hard to create a quality memento in which everyone in the school was represented as much as possible. That was a difficult task considering we had a very limited number of pictures to work with.

Photography has changed so drastically since those good old days. With digital cameras now the norm, I imagine that having a limited selection of photos is no longer an issue. Nowadays it is probably hard to choose yearbook pictures because of a much vaster selection. I wonder how different my old job of yearbook editor would be today.

I just learned that Shutterfly is making yearbooks. And wow! They look considerably different from the yearbooks of my youth. They are full color and professionally bound. Bulk prices are as low as $5 each, which sounds like a bargain to me. I can see elementary and middle school yearbooks being revolutionized. These books can be completely customized, to the point that each classroom gets a slightly different book (if desired) to place extra focus on the students and activities of that particular class. I also like the idea of having a class yearbook, instead of a school yearbook. That way the entire book can display photos special to the kids who will be buying it and looking at it over and over again. They won't have to search high and low, hoping to catch a blurry glimpse of themselves in one or two photos - instead there would be many pictures of each student in the class. Siblings would each have their own unique book, so parents wouldn't be paying for multiples of the same yearbook. The website has a lot of information and tips for creating the perfect yearbook. It is necessary to contact Shutterfly to request bulk pricing.

Do you still have your school yearbooks? When was the last time you got them out for a trip down memory lane?

To keep up to date with Shutterfly:
  1. Like them on Facebook
  2. Follow them on Twitter
  3. Follow them on Pinterest
This post has been sponsored by Shutterfly. All opinions are my own.

    A Little of This and a Little of That

    • For awhile I was kicking butt with my daily to-do lists. It felt so good crossing stuff off that list every day. Really good. But I've been distracted by life and have not been doing my to-do lists. Consequently, my productivity has sunk to abysmal levels. Funny how a little list helps me so much. I guess I better get on that.
    • The kids and I spent a large portion of Saturday cleaning the heck out of the house (Chris was out of town). Two days later, and guess whose house looks like it hasn't been cleaned in weeks?
    •  Bethany's basketball banquet was Saturday evening. Her team was the undefeated league champion! She got a trophy and a couple t-shirts, and ended the evening with a sleepover with a few of her basketball pals.The girls did such a great job, it was awesome watching them get better and better as the season progressed. While it was definitely very time consuming, I hope Bethany plays again next year. Both she and Connor have been playing quite a bit on the driveway. Maybe we'll even get Connor to sign up next year.
    • It is not quite the official start of spring, but it sure feels like spring - late spring even! I honestly don't remember a March that's ever been this consistently warm. They're calling for temps in the 80s this week! Of course they're also calling for highs in the 40s by the weekend, so we'll see! I'll enjoy this lovely weather while it lasts!
    • Last night I said my final goodbye to my friends before they left for Washington. I've sort of been in denial, even though every time I went to their house the past week, more & more of their belongings were packed away in the moving truck. I'm so glad we are already planning to visit them this summer, so we have something positive to focus on. Plus we came home with their trampoline last night, which the kids are so excited about. I will miss these fabulous people so much! 
    • I feel slightly guilty that I hide the Ben & Jerry's in the back of the freezer. It's just that one little carton of it doesn't go far with four kids. If they get at it, it'll be gone in about 2 minutes flat. 
    • The leprechauns didn't visit our house this year. What kind of mother am I, anyway? Bethany and Connor made a little scavenger hunt for Lucy because she was really looking forward to some St. Paddy's Day fun. They hid green stuff all over the yard for her, pretending that it was the leprechauns. And they each chastised me separately for not turning the milk green or doing anything else festive. Next thing you know, I'll be counting on them to keep the whole Santa thing alive.
    •  I can hardly wait until Spring Break. Even though we are getting fewer days off than in years past (and that really irks me), I am looking forward to taking a break from the daily grind. And since we've made plans to visit Chris's aunt for a couple days, I'm even more excited. 
    • I am still begging for votes in the Wyndham Women on Their Way contest. Please do me a HUGE favor and click HERE to vote for me.  I decided several days ago to stop checking the other entries to compare votes and see how I'm doing, so I have no idea if I'm still in the top 10. But I hope that I am, and I need all the help I can get! The last time I checked I became really discouraged because a couple other contestants were gaining 500-700 votes overnight (and mysteriously getting very few votes for days at a time...), and for all I know more and more contestants might be going the way of the middle of the night vote influx as the contest progresses. But nonetheless, I'm not giving up. You never know, I could possibly win, stranger things have happened. And so many wonderful people have been sharing my entry on Facebook - you guys are all awesome, thank you so much!
    • I just got done re-reading one of my favorite books, One Year Off by David Elliot Cohen. I don't think it's in print anymore, but you can get a Kindle edition for $5.99. The book is about Cohen's round-the-
      world trip with his family. Although I wish it had more...details, and information, and pictures...I still love it and find it to be quite inspiring. 
    • Mathilda just suddenly looks huge to me the past week or so. I don't know if she's truly had a growth spurt or if I'm just seeing her differently all of a sudden, but she is a big kid now. There's no going back.
    So, it's not really a "true" blog post, but I'll be back with something more substantial soon. And I'll be announcing a cool giveaway this week too! Hope ya'll have a good week (since my friend Paul said I should try harder to appeal to the southern folks).

    Friday, March 16, 2012

    Tax Day

    There's just four weeks until the big day. You know, the day your income tax return is due. Thankfully, ours has been done for weeks. Often times we hire someone to do our taxes for us, because they aren't entirely cut and dry. Having 1099s tends to complicate matters somewhat. For more information about form 1099K, specifically, you can check out a website such as This year Chris did our taxes himself online, and since he figured out that our refund would actually be more than it was last year when a CPA did our taxes, it worked out very well. Plus we had to wait forever for the CPA to get it done, and Chris was done in one evening. What a relief to have that chore done and over with!

    Brought To By

    Are your taxes done? Do you get yours done months ahead of time, or are you one of those crazy people lining up at the post office at midnight? Or do people even do that anymore? If you're owed a refund this year, do you have any fun plans? I mean anything has to be more fun than our plans, which are purely practical. So if you get to do something cool with your refund, please share so I can live vicariously through you!

    Thursday, March 15, 2012

    Plumbing Nightmares

    I remember years ago when my Grandpa died and my Grandma went on a wild and crazy spree, spending money on all kinds of things that her husband of 50 years never wanted to buy. Stuff like central air conditioning and new windows. Then she went too far, in my opinion, and decided to have the large tree in her front yard removed and completely de-stumped. I loved that tree. I remember playing around it as a child with the kids in the neighborhood. She muttered something about getting rid of it before the roots got in the pipes, and because I was young and naive, I thought she was over-reacting. Now that I'm a  homeowner and have experienced the plumbing horrors of tree roots in the pipes, I realize she was quite prescient in her decision.

    When we first bought this house, and I was nine months pregnant, trying to pack up our old house while taking care of three young children; Chris was staying at the new house, painting his tail off and working nonstop to get the place move-in ready. It was spring time, and we had a big thaw. And then...the basement flooded. Not just a little bit either. Thank goodness we didn't have anything down there yet, but Chris was stuck with the added job of pulling out sopping wet carpeting and a layer of ruined tile beneath that. A visit from our plumber let us know that we were saddled with my Grandma's worst nightmare: Tree Roots in the Pipes. He explained to us that we would have to have our line snaked about twice a year to prevent a re-occurrence.

    We've been pretty good about following the plumber's advice, and we can generally tell by looking in our basement drains that something bad is going to happen soon if we don't take action. But there was a time last year when we knew we were getting close to needing the line snaked, and then we simultaneously went into a mini monsoon season here in Michigan. Late one weekend night, Chris was watching television in the basement, got up to use the bathroom, and realized that the water was getting even higher in the drain. He anxiously checked on it throughout the night until it became apparent we were in for a flooding, which is when he woke me up. I groggily got out of bed and began the thankless work of moving every single thing in the basement up off the floor. Chris tried getting in touch with plumber after plumber, getting voice mails with every call. The water got higher and higher, spreading throughout our basement. We used our shop vac to suck up water and carried it up and down the stairs repeatedly to dump it outside. As you can imagine, that was a little rough on our backs. We tried using a pump to remove some of the water. Nothing was working enough, and we were absolutely relieved when one of the plumbers finally called back and then showed up a short time later.

    We do have a giant tree in our backyard which is probably the root of all our plumbing trouble. My Grandma would have been happy to see it go. As much as I love how it shades our yard and keeps the back half of our house nice and cool in the summer, I am beginning to see her point.

    I wrote this post while participating in a Bucks2Blog campaign and was compensated, but it is a true story and all opinions are my own.

    Thankful Thursday

    Ever have a day when every little thing just annoys the crap out of you? Well that is the kind of morning I'm having, so I think it is definitely time to take a few minutes to focus on my blessings and make an effort to turn this day around. Aaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhh! Okay, I got that out of my system. Here we go.

    I am thankful to be a stay-at-home mommy. It is not always easy, in more ways than one, but it is so rewarding to be home with Mattie, and to be here when my kids are sick or have a half day or an early release or time off school. I am so thankful that somehow we have made this work for the past 10+ years.

    I am thankful for all the support I have received in the Wyndham Women on Their Way contest. At this point contestants are coming out of the woodwork getting 500-700 votes in less than 24 hours, and even though I think I'm still in the top 10 I'm not sure how much longer I can pull that off if these incredible vote influxes keep happening for the other entries. Nonetheless, I'm still in it to win it, and I won't quit trying until the end. All the people who have voted for me and shared my entry on Facebook and Twitter make me feel all warm and tingly, so thank you from the bottom of my heart, I can't tell you how much I appreciate it. And I'm thankful that the contest is half way over because I am so done with voting contests! So done!!

    I am thankful for real Springy weather in March! It has been glorious. March weather can go any way at all in Michigan, and it has been a real treat! My kids have been playing outside and loving it. Right now it's raining (and hailing) but at least it's not cold!

    I am thankful that winter is just about over and we made it through the last couple months with hardly any sickness for my kiddies. In fact, they've been doing great. Generally they're afflicted with all kinds of respiratory yuck this time of year. Of course I'm probably speaking too soon...but usually March in particular is a horrible month for sickness in my household - we've had to re-schedule Connor's birthday party two times in years past due to illness - and I'm so happy and relieved that isn't the case this year!

    I am thankful for great conferences and report cards for Bethany, Connor, and Lucy last week.

    I am thankful that Chris is starting a nice, long contract next week. It should keep him busy for the next year or so.

    I am thankful for the Castile soap that was delivered yesterday. I fully intend to be making some homemade, environmentally friendly and chemical-free cleaning products in the very near future.

    I am thankful for a night out with my friend Shelly over the weekend, and for seeing old friends I hadn't seen in quite awhile.

    I am thankful for mini cupcakes. They are just so darn cute, and the perfect size treat. I don't even feel bad sending my kids to school with one in their lunch box. Not too bad, anyway.

    I am thankful for chocolate chips. Desperate chocolate fiend here, raiding the baking supply cupboard.

    I am thankful for a couple more days with my friend Hilary before she moves thousands of miles away. And that she lets me come over and help her pack and stuff so we can hang out. That's right, my "help" is purely selfish. (Just kidding, Hil. You know I am happy to help, even if it means you're one step closer to leaving!)

    I am thankful that we are planning a short trip to visit Chris's aunt during spring break. Yay! We can't wait to see you, Aunt Donna!

    I am thankful that the finger I cut on the tape dispenser the other day seems to be rather numb and healing nicely. Which brings me to Aquaphor. Once again, I am thankful for Aquaphor. It is a wonder product, no doubt.

    Okay, I'm feeling a little better and a little less annoyed. Focusing on your blessings works, you should totally try it.  What are you thankful for today?

    Tuesday, March 13, 2012

    Competition Kills Me. Literally.

    I didn't get that competitive gene. Maybe it's because I never played sports, or maybe I never played sports because I don't have the gene. Hard to say which it is. And really, is it a gene? Either way, I just don't have it, whatever "it" is. Which seems so un-American of me, or something. Maybe I should try to be more competitive? Maybe I would be more successful in life if I worked on that?

    I don't know. All I know is that this contest I entered is driving me up a wall. But I am trying to win, so maybe that means I actually am competitive? Hmmm. But I'm not enjoying the process. I want the prize, but I hate having to beg for votes and "sell" myself so much. Maybe I am quietly and privately competitive, but I don't like having attention focused on me, so therefore competition makes me uncomfortable? Whatever the case, the next couple weeks until the contest ends are truly going to torture me. I know I need to not stress about it, I mean it's not the end of the world if I don't win. But it sure would be sweet if I did!

    Bethany is my competitive child. Every since she was very little she has not been able to stand losing. Anything. Like losing "Pretty Pretty Princess" would be enough to drive her right over the edge. Someone else getting the Queen Frostine card in Candyland would make her pretty much homicidal. She is still like this. A game of Sorry or Battleship is just not complete without some good old pouting and whining and glowering, Bethany-style. We have sort of convinced ourselves that someday this competitive streak will serve her well, along with her inability/unwillingness to take "no" for an answer. We'll call that "persistence", shall we? But I have no real experience with having a competitive nature (I don't think?), so I don't know exactly how to guide her so that she can turn it into a positive. I'm not trying to pick on Bethany, she is a strong girl who knows what she wants. As much as we are extremely alike in many ways (sometimes blows my mind, as I think of my own 5th grade self, how much we really are alike), there are just some facets of her personality that I don't get. The competitive thing is definitely one of them. Maybe I should take some pointers from her.

    I know I have been harping on and on and on about this contest. As I've mentioned before, I won't really be done babbling about it until it's the end of the month. But I just really felt inexplicably drawn to entering it. It is definitely outside of my comfort zone, outside of the box for me. And I do think it's important to make sure I do things that are outside my typical range of normal from time to time. Entering a contest like this might seem like a small thing, and it kind of is. But it's also kind of big. It's putting myself out there. It's focusing on me. It's asking people for help. It's thinking that just maybe I have a chance of winning this thing. Something about all of that makes me real uncomfortable, and that is generally a good indication that something is going to stretch me in some way, in a way that will help me grow. I want to be a good example to my example of someone who is not afraid to do something new, of someone who is not afraid to compete (oh, but I am!) to get something she wants, someone who is not afraid to try. So even though it might kill me, I am sticking with this contest until the bitter end...pleading for votes all the way. Whether I win or lose, I will know that I tried my hardest to win. Hopefully they will remember that, and it will stick with them when they are faced with something they want to win.

    Please take a moment - a quick and painless moment! - to vote for me in the Wyndham Women on Their Way contest! Just click HERE. Thank you so much, I totally appreciate every single vote!

    Monday, March 12, 2012

    Letting Go

    When it comes to parenting, I think I would say that Chris and I are somewhere in the middle. Between strict and lenient. Between over-protective and laissez-faire. There have been times when I have been horrified at what my children have been allowed to do at friends' houses, or what my kids tell me that their friends get to do (which is always taken with a grain of salt...). There have been other times when I've felt like we're horrible parents because we let our kids do something that a certain friend is not allowed to do. I'll never forget when Bethany's friend Lillian slept over one night and I gave the girls Pop Tarts for breakfast. Then Lillian told me she had never had Pop Tarts before and I told her to make sure to tell her parents they were ORGANIC!! (Yes Hilary, I let your daughter eat a Pop Tart. But truly, it was organic.). We sometimes let our kids watch PG-13 movies. We let Bethany & Connor go around the block, and sometimes they take the little girls with them (only if Mattie is in a stroller or wagon). We let Bethany walk to the corner with her friends to get a pizza. Then last week she had some friends over and they went for a walk and one of her friends was nervous because she felt she was too far from our house. I felt bad and second-guessed myself a little. But Bethany had her phone and they were only gone for about 10 minutes. In the future I will be cognizant that this particular friend is not comfortable in such a situation, but I am not going to stop letting Bethany go for walks with her friends.

    There have been times, too, when my kids' friends' parents have helped push me out of my comfort zone a little bit. I've been encouraged to let Bethany cook, ride her bike to the library (Not from my house, local friends who are thinking I'm crazy right about now!), and try her hand at a little short-term babysitting. I'm sure there have been lots of other things too. Sometimes it's hard to know the time is right for something until I see that parents I know and trust are letting their kids do it. I'm not saying that I feel like we always have to follow the crowd, just that my own initial instincts might be a little more protective than is necessary.

    The thing is, I don't want my kids to be terrified of everything. I want them to sometimes push themselves out of their comfort zones and learn something new. I want them to be (safely) adventurous. So it is that Chris and I are letting Bethany fly to Florida by herself to visit my brother-in-law in May. I know lots of other parents do this. One of Bethany's friends flew all the way to Oregon by himself a few years ago to visit family, and he made it intact. I reassure myself with this type of information. But I just can't imagine that I would have been remotely comfortable getting on an airplane without my mom in 5th grade. Bethany is a little nervous, but she's mostly excited, so we're going with that. As an underage flyer traveling alone, I will be allowed to take her to the gate and she will be looked after by a flight attendant. I will not quite rest easy until I get the call that she has landed safely, but Bethany is not afraid of flying and I have no doubt that she can keep herself occupied for a couple hours. Her uncle has a very exciting vacation planned for her, and I'm pretty sure he is looking forward to it just as much as she is. I'm grateful to my brother-in-law for giving her this opportunity, and that Bethany is adventurous and independent enough to do it, and that Chris and I are both willing to let her go. Because sometimes the letting go is the hardest part of being a parent.

    **Please don't forget to vote for me daily in the Wyndham Women on Their Way contest! It is super duper easy, no registration is required & it honestly just takes a quick second! There will be 10 winners, so please help me stay in the top 10! Just click HERE to vote! Thank you!

    Sunday, March 11, 2012


    In just one week I will be saying good bye to my friend and her family as they move to Washington. I've known this was coming for awhile.  Friday night two of her girls came over, Bethany's best friend and Lucy's best friend. As I watched them all piled on the couch together, taking turns holding Mattie and laying down with their heads on each other's laps, I was suddenly struck that this was the last time they'd be together at my house. I was so sad. I am so sad. I know that when life changes it can feel like a big fat downer lots of the time. This move is a huge exciting deal for their family, and I am super happy for them. It's just that it's a turning point, and things will never be the same again.

    Months ago, when Bethany learned that her BFF would be moving sometime in the not-so-distant future, I told her that we'd visit them wherever they went. Later when we found out they were moving thousands of miles away to Washington and Bethany promptly burst into tears at the thought of losing her friend to such a distance, I immediately tried to comfort her by reminding her that we'd visit. Yes, even as far away as Washington, we will visit. Bethany and Lillian met in kindergarten, and somehow managed to form a quick and strong friendship, even though they weren't even in the same class. Honestly, I still don't know how that happened. When we moved a few years ago and Bethany switched schools, instead of drifting apart, their friendship grew exponentially. As I watched them hug good bye yesterday morning, my heart broke to know thing are about to change so drastically. They will see each other again this week, I'll make sure of it, but it will probably be hurried and rushed and busy...and just not the same.

    I promised a visit, and so we have been planning a visit. A trip to Washington is a big deal, especially with four kids and a husband who won't be able to come along. Add to that my brilliant idea of a cross-country road trip. I watch in awe as my friend prepares her family to MOVE across the country, knowing how challenging it is just to plan a vacation. In the beginning, I quietly had my doubts. Would we be able to really do this? So I jumped in with two feet. I talked to my aunt in Idaho, who had also invited us to visit, and told her we were thinking about doing it. I told the kids, knowing I wouldn't want to disappoint them by backing out. I started saving money. I started planning routes and searching for the most interesting sites along the way. I bought an atlas and some other travel books. I began shopping for a new GPS. Although it is still months away, this trip is starting to feel real. Planning it is helping me to not be sad about my friend moving away. It's a really good distraction.

    A few weeks ago I received a random email regarding a Wyndham contest. On a whim, I clicked on the link and decided to enter. They're going to choose 10 travel bloggers, who will each win 200,000 Wyndham Rewards points, $800 in American Express gift cards, a video camera, and luggage. Each winner will be required to use her winnings to take a minimum of two trips and blog about them for Wyndham. I quickly submitted my information and wrote a short essay as my entry. I entered even though voting is a big component of the contest. I'm not really competitive and I tend to avoid these types of contests and situations like the plague. But I thought that winning this contest could help us tremendously with our trip. And I would love to blog about it for Wyndham - truly, that is right up my alley. So I did it, and now I've been begging for votes every single day and probably driving lots of my Facebook friends totally nuts. If you'd like, you can go ahead and click HERE to vote for me right now. (Thanks.) You can vote once a day, and I promise it is quick and painless, with no registering or anything else annoying like that. To my surprise, I'm doing pretty well, tenuously hanging on to the #5 spot out of 201. But it is a tough competition with lots of great entries (and a few entrants I strongly and sadly suspect are dishonestly increasing their votes), so I really need all the help I can get. Yes, here I am begging for votes some more, and since the voting continues through the end of March, I can even promise this won't be the last time. I am so happy and thankful for the all the people who have taken the time to vote for me and even share. Thank you to everyone who is helping me stay in the top 10! I really hope I can win, because then our crazy long summer road trip will be even more of a reality! No matter what, we are taking this trip. But Wyndham Rewards points (which = free hotel stays) and American Express gift cards would sure be helpful!

    Also last night one of my friends on Facebook posted a "100 Places to Visit Before You Die" app. I clicked on it and found that I have been to only 8 of these places. Eight! That's pitiful. Of course I've been to plenty of awesome places that didn't make the list, but still...8!!! Ugh. That depressed me a little. Then I realized that I hope to visit three more places on the list on our trip this summer, and that made me feel a little better. Plus if I win the contest then I'm planning for my second trip to be one that's just for Chris and I, and we've already talked a little about some places we'd like to go together. And then...I'd maybe get to visit a couple more places on that list. That's not the most important thing, but it would certainly contribute to my happiness quotient.

    Anyway, this is just a long winded post to reiterate that I'm going to miss my friend, and that I'm sad for my girls because their friends are moving too, and that I'm looking forward to our trip, and also that I'm really hoping you vote for me. Do you think I've covered enough ground? And I'm sure I haven't had my last word yet, about any of this. So. I have one more week to try to see my friend as often as I can, while trying to be helpful enough that she doesn't want to kick me out of her house too badly. I have three more weeks to plead shamelessly for votes. I have a little more than four weeks until I find out if I'm one of the lucky winners. And I have over four months to continue planning and saving for our road trip. Wish me luck.

    Thursday, March 8, 2012

    Thankful Thursday

    I have so much to be thankful for, today and everyday.

    I am thankful that Mattie is sitting on my lap and chattering my ear off as I type this. I could just hug my little chubkins all day long.

    I am thankful that Connor has been cleaning the heck out of his bedroom this week. This is an odd turn of events, as he usually stubbornly maintains that he doesn't know where to put anything. I have not, however, looked in his closet...could be an avalanche waiting to happen.

    I am thankful that the spider that fell off the ceiling above Lucy's bed as I was trying to kill it last night did not re-surface. It quite likely spent the night crawling all over my girls, but if so, at least it didn't wake them up.

    I am thankful that I've been able to spend lots of time with my friend Hilary this week, especially considering that she is moving far, far away in less than 2 weeks.

    I am thankful for Mexican food.

    I am thankful that Mathilda was a good girl yesterday while Hilary and I were busily packing and shuffling boxes.

    I am thankful that Lucy and Bethany get to spend some time with their very best friends tomorrow night, before they move across the country in less than 2 weeks.

    I am thankful for everyone who has been voting for me on the Wyndham Women on Their Way contest. Last I checked, I was hanging onto a spot in the top 10. You can vote every day through March, & it is really easy - no registration required - so please keep voting! (thank you!)

    I am thankful that the weather has been rather spring-like.

    I am thankful that Connor is having a friend over after school tomorrow. My poor son needs a little more testosterone around here more often.

    I am thankful that Chris's step-dad once again took Connor to floor hockey last night. This is such a huge help to me, I can't even describe.

    I am thankful that Mattie and I got to hang out with my mom for a little bit earlier this week while the big kids were at school.

    I am thankful $1 argyle socks from Target.

    I am thankful that there's leftover pizza in the fridge to feed the kids for lunch.

    What are you thankful for today?

    Wednesday, March 7, 2012

    Recipes for Fun

    I'll admit that I hesitate to let my kids get dirty. It is not always easy for me to let them be free and, well, child-like. So maybe it's my fault that Mattie freaks out if her hands have the slightest speck of dirt on them. I am possibly contributing to her OCD. But I also know that getting dirty is good for them. They have fun getting dirty. So I suck it up and let them get out the Play-Doh or the sidewalk chalk, or dig for worms in the yard. It makes me cringe inside, but I let them do it. 

    Clorox knows that sometimes kids just need to get messy, so they have a new Recipes for Fun website, and they're sponsoring the Ultimate Mess Party Contest. You can visit the website to get inspiration to let your kids get messy in four different categories: Wacky Science, Arts and Crafts, Kiddie Cooking, and Creative Cooking. And while you're there register and enter to win $10,000 for the an Ultimate Mess Party, or lots of other great prizes like gift cards and coupons for free Clorox products.

    Getting messy in the kitchen is always a good time for my kids. One super messy activity they love is making and decorating cut-out cookies. That might not sound very original, but they really make a huge sloppy ordeal out of it. They help with the rolling and cutting of the dough, and when the cookies come out of the oven they go to town! I make frosting out of powdered sugar and milk (I have no specific recipe for this, just pour some powdered sugar in a bowl and stir in milk, a tablespoon or so at a time, until the frosting is a consistency that is easily spreadable), and add food coloring, so that we end up several bowls of different colored frosting to choose from. Plastic knives and tooth picks are used to spread the frosting and add details. The tooth picks are good for creating a marbling effect. We also have a wide array of various sprinkles for the finishing touches. These are traditionally done during the Christmas holiday season, but when I was a kid we also made them at Easter time. So think pastel colors and bunny rabbit cookie cutters.

    One other messy but fun Easter tradition we have is decorating Easter eggs. When I was a kid, I used to decorate eggs with my Grandpa, and he was quite particular about those eggs. So particular, in fact, that he actually did most of the decorating. This is a shame, because no one in my family quite knows exactly how he decorated the eggs - but they came out beautifully. I remember coffee cans, a strong vinegar odor, and drops of food coloring. The end result was vibrantly colored marbled eggs. Since I don't know his secret method, we typically just use store kits. Even though we go the simple and easy route, my kids look forward to egg decorating every year.

    Whatever the messy project we're working on, I like to protect my table and make clean-up easier by laying down a vinyl tablecloth before the fun begins. I have one with an Easter print on it, to make things a little more festive.

    Do you have any messy traditions in your family?

    I wrote this blog post while participating in the SocialMoms and Clorox Clean-Up Recipes for Fun blogging program, for 8,000 My SocialMoms Rewards Points. For more information on this program, click here and see the Terms link.

    So What! Wednesday

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

    So What! if I have been shamelessly begging for votes every single day to help me win the Wyndham Women on Their Way contest? Yep, I'm doing it again...just click HERE to vote for my entry!! You can vote once a day and it is super duper easy (promise!). There is also a judging component to the contest, but I figure I have a better chance if I have enough votes to keep me in the top 10. Thank you SO MUCH if you have taken the time to vote for me and/or share! I really appreciate it! I'll only be bugging you to vote until the end of the month ;-)

    So What! if my neighbors' recycle bins are all neat and tidy looking with the lids securely in place, while ours are so overflowing there is now way we'd ever get the top on them? I think this is actually a good thing. 

    So What! if I'm still not done cleaning out my closet? I got some more done last night. It'll get there, but Chris might be getting a little sick of my closet doors being propped up against his closet, which is making it a teensy bit difficult for him to access his clothes.

    So What! if I've fallen off the to-do list wagon? Actually, I need to get back on, pronto!

    So What! if I simply cannot resist ice cream in my freezer? If it's there, I'm going to eat it. No getting around that one.

    So What! if my 2 year old is totally OCD? For weeks it was pig tails, now it is shoes. You may as well just cut off her left foot if you suggest that she take her shoes off.

    So What! if I need a reminder from my third grader that today is an early release day? I suppose I should double check my calendar, but he's pretty good with dates.

    So What! if I am cutting this short today because I have a whole bunch to get done this morning? Sorry, I'll try to do more "so whats" next week!

    What are YOU saying So What! to this week?

    Tuesday, March 6, 2012

    I Heart Chocolate

    Ghirardelli Chocolate CompanyI am a walking stereotype: a woman who loves chocolate. I don't remember loving chocolate quite so much as a little kid - I was more into gummy bears and licorice. I'm not sure when it happened, although I do remember eating quite a few of tho
    se candy bars I was supposed to be selling to help fund my 11th grade trip to Washington, D.C. Somehow over time I have turned into a chocoholic. I am humble enough to admit it.

    When SheSpeaks offered me the chance to try out Ghirardelli's new Milk & Truffle squares, I certainly didn't have to think twice. I have tried other Ghirardelli chocolate squares and loved them, so I was pretty sure these would be no different. Of course I was absolutely correct in that assumption.

    In a desperate situation I will eat just about any kind of chocolate, but I definitely prefer higher quality. Ghirardelli, without a doubt, fits that bill. My favorite is dark chocolate, but in a higher quality chocolate it doesn't matter quite as much. The Milk & Truffle squares are rich, smooth, flavorful, and delicious. I loved them just as much as I typically love dark chocolates. I savored one or two a day until my bag was empty. I even shared a few with Bethany, which is a testament to how much I love her.

    Ghirardelli chocolates are made right here in the U.S., using high quality cocoa beans. Their new Milk & Truffle squares, available in a 4.63 ounce bag, can be purchased at Target.

    Thank you SheSpeaks and Ghirardelli for this opportunity. I received one complimentary bag of Milk & Truffle squares. All opinions are 100% my own.

    Monday, March 5, 2012

    Finding Balance

    So often I have thought to myself, in one way or another, that my struggle in life seems to be balance. When things get super crazy, I have this vision in my head of juggling, and the balls just flying all over the place because I can't get it together. There have been times I have thought that I really have it together, and I'm feeling great, and I start pushing myself to do more and more. Then everything falls apart and I'm back to square one.

    I have mentioned many times that my chiropractor has been heaven-sent this past year, helping me with my mysterious health problems. As I've been struggling to understand test results and grappling with the decision of whether or not I should take a potentially harmful prescription medication, my beloved chiropractor has succinctly put things in perspective for me and helped me to clarify something that has bothered me for years. Using the analogy of a teeter-totter, he explained to me what should be obvious; everyone is always trying to remain in balance, to keep that teeter-totter steady, with equally distributed weight. For me, he explained, it takes less to upset that balance, and I then have a greater reaction to the resulting imbalance than the average person.

    These words have been on my mind for weeks, and the more I think about what he said the more I think I understand. Now it's a matter of trying to figure out how, why, and when I'm getting out of balance. I'm beginning to see that I can't rush myself. As much as I'd like to, I can't jump into a rigorous exercise routine. I have to start out slow, and gradually increase the time and intensity of my work outs. This is probably good advice for anyone, but I'm finding that I have to take it painfully slow unless I want to throw myself into a tailspin. I have to get a decent amount of sleep, which slapped me in the face today. Last night I had a second wind late at night. After falling asleep for a short time I woke up and started doing stuff, and didn't get nearly enough sleep. All day I've been off. Headachy and woozy and feeling almost sea sick. I took a nap, which helped somewhat, but not enough. I can't go too long without food and drink throughout the day or I'll be nauseated and miserable and maybe even wind up with one of my super doozy headaches. So if I know I'm going to be out for several hours, I need to either plan on making more than one stop for food and drink, or pack my own stuff in my purse and/or van. I just can't go three or four hours without eating or drinking anything. My time of month presumably means changes in hormone levels. This is often a time of severe, nauseating headaches for me which make it difficult to function. I'm not really sure what to do about this one, except to make sure I take something for the pain the very second it begins, because if I let it go for too long, getting the pain under control becomes impossible.

    What I'm discovering is that I can't juggle too many balls at once. I have to add new ones slowly and gradually. I have to be gentle to myself. I have to pay attention to my needs. I need to find my own ways to stay balanced. I can't rush. I can't over-do it. This is hard because I'm busy and there's always a lot of things I want to be doing or should be doing, but the alternative - which I've learned the hard way time and time again - is to be knocked on my butt with a severe headache, nausea, exhaustion, mental fatigue, and sometime even a chest cold, sore throat, or cough. Then I get nothing accomplished, so it's better if I just listen to my body to begin with. I'm learning to pick up on my own cues and to roll with them. It's a process to figure it all out, but I'm doing my best.

    Please, please, please help me out by heading to Wyndham Women on Their Way and voting for my entry in the contest. I'll be begging and pleading for votes all month, and you can vote daily. It truly only takes a quick second, just click on the link & then click on the green thumbs up to like my entry. Thank you from the bottom of my heart to everyone who takes the time to help me out by voting for me. It would mean so much to me to win this contest!

    21st Century Communication

    Although I am a huge fan of modern technology, it took me awhile to jump on the cell phone bandwagon. I mean, I've had a cell phone for years. But until the past year or so, I rarely used it. I watched my husband, my friends, and family members being tethered to their cell phones and  I thought, "what's the point?" I don't totally live under a rock, so I heard about the advent of the iPhone and the Smartphone, but honestly I wasn't really sure how they differed from standard old cell phones. I didn't think too much about it. Chris got a Smartphone and I still didn't think too much about it.

    Then I discovered the world of texting. I discovered that for someone like me, who doesn't love talking on the phone, texting is the perfect solution. It's so efficient. But I had an ancient phone and texting on it was time consuming and ridiculous. I started paying attention to Chris's phone and my friends' phones. I realized I could do a lot of cool stuff on a Smartphone. So I got one last year and I love it. I love being able to check my email wherever I am. I love being able to text with ease. And I really love the apps. I will sheepishly admit that my 10-year old probably knows more about apps, Smartphones, and texting than I do. But I'm getting better! She would most likely know the best ringtone app, for example, while I am still pretty clueless in that department. Mobile17 is one such app that I've heard of, which allows you to actually create your own ringtone.

    I'm still learning, but so far I've been able to do some cool stuff on my Smartphone. I am embracing this technology. Do you love your iPhone or Smartphone too? What do you love best about it?

    Sunday, March 4, 2012

    Looking Forward

    I am looking forward to a  lot of good things in the next several months. Very good things. 

    Getting this stupid tooth of mine pulled. I am so sick of not eating on the left side of my mouth for fear that the crown is going to fall out again before my appointment. Then I can get an implant and not worry about this crap anymore. I hate dental work but I am anxious to have it behind me! 

    Ninety-six days until summer break. I realize I should be counting down to the first day of spring, but you just never know with spring in Michigan. It could be freezing and gross through most of spring, and then there is the mud.

    But I still am looking forward to the longer days of spring, and particularly 5 (measly) days off for Spring Break.

    Spending Easter up north, like we did last year.

    The kids' last day of catechism, in early May. One less thing to do after school...until next fall when I'll have 3 kids in catechism and Bethany will have to go at a different time 'cause she'll be in middle school. I can't think about the fall just yet, or I will quickly become overwhelmed. Four kids in three schools...

    Dance recital! Last year we made the kids take a year off of all extra-curricular activities, and I really missed seeing my girls perform at their dance recital. So much fun!

    No more diapers. This is coming very soon. In fact, I could just put Mattie in a pull-up over night now, but I'm still a little nervous when we're going to be out of the house for a long time, or in the car for awhile. She does still wake up wet pretty often, but I'm okay with nighttime pull-ups for a few more months.

    Two glorious weeks in Port Austin in July. I can't wait to be sitting on the beach, with warm sand beneath my feet.

    Road trip! I'm like a kid waiting for Christmas morning. I am so excited to hit the road for a nice, long, cross-country road trip this summer. It's a good thing I'll have those two weeks in Port Austin to rest up and relax before our big journey, I have a feeling I'll need it.

    Get-away with Chris. I don't when or where this is happening yet, but it is happening this year. For one or two or three nights...I don't care. As long as my husband and I can go somewhere alone together for a little trip, we'll both be happy.

    Bethany starting band. It blows my mind to think that my baby girl will be in middle school this fall, but I am looking forward to her learning a musical instrument. I played the violin when I was her age, and it was really fun. I wish I had been able to stick with it. Her school sadly does not have an orchestra, but I hope she enjoys band. Being in a musical family, I hope all of our kids opt-in to band or choir.

    What about you? Is there anything in particular that you're looking forward to right now?

    Please don't forget to vote for me daily for the Wyndham Women on Their Way travel blogger contest. Just click right HERE, then click on the green thumbs up to "like" my entry. Ten winners will receive 200,000 Wyndham Rewards points, $800 in American Express gift cards and more. Right now I am in the top 10, and I would love to keep it that way! Several entries have TONS more votes than mine, so any sharing/tweeting would be doubly appreciated! Winning this contest would be an awesome honor, and those prizes would sure help with a couple items I listed up above! Thank you!

    Saturday, March 3, 2012

    Lucky #9

    Today Connor is 9 years old. I remember so clearly going to the hospital on the day of his birth. He was my biggest baby and my easiest labor and delivery. About two hours after I arrived at the hospital, he was born. Easy peasy. And that is pretty much how things have gone with him ever since. I never really know what people are talking about when they say that their sons are wild and crazy. Connor is mellow, kind hearted, easy going, patient, a good listener, goofy, and just plain great.

    With his KitKat cake
    In honor of his birthday, Connor invited some school friends to a small bowling party. Chris and I were pretty much in shock because we never have this many boys over at one time. They are crazy. They are loud. They are nutty. They are rambunctious.They are very physical. They are emotional too. But they also love to have fun. They laugh a lot. We had to stop and ask ourselves if Connor would have ended up being more of all these things if he had brothers instead of sisters. Because holy smokes I don't think either of us were prepared for piles of boys rolling all over the floor at the bowling alley, and climbing all over each other, and knocking each other down, and chasing each other all around, and throwing pop cans at each other. Um. Wow. So it was eye-opening, but also really fun. I think they all had a great time. There was a little drama too- yes there is drama with boys too! Nothing compared to girl drama, but nonetheless it was there. But I'd say the party was a success. And I can definitely say that I am 250% relieved we decided not to have his party at home this year.

    Chocolate overload ~ is there such thing?
    I also have a new goal, which is to make sure Connor invites his friends over once in awhile. Our house is always full of Bethany's friends, but Connor needs some more time with his buds so he can embrace his inner wild child. He rarely asks for much of anything, and is the exact opposite of demanding. So it's easy to just let things roll without asking him what he wants. His sisters are very vocal about what they want, extremely demanding, and loud if they don't get it. There is  no misunderstanding there, no way of escaping their demands. But seeing Connor have so much fun with the guys let me know that it's up to us to make sure his voice is heard too, until he learns how to make that happen for himself.

    Happy birthday, Connor Patrick George. You are just the perfect son for us. Dad would go crazy without your male reinforcement. Your sisters have no idea how lucky they are to have you for a brother, but they will one day. I love your silly sense of humor, thanks for always making me laugh. I love that when I ask you to do something, you do it. I love your creativity and your insistence on wearing t-shirts every single day. I love that you love to read and that you are so kind to everyone. I love every little red hair on your head. We are so blessed to have you for our son. I hope 9 is good to you.