Tuesday, April 30, 2013

One-on-One With My Baby Girl at Chuck E. Cheese's

Using Chuck E. Say Cheese App
A couple weeks ago, while the three big kids were at school, Mattie and I went to Chuck E. Cheese's together. Having one on one time with the kids is so much fun. Nobody has to compete to speak and be heard, and it's quite peaceful. It's a good way to really get to know my kids, because they definitely behave differently when no sibs are around.

Mattie is my little buddy, accompanying me to the grocery store, to Target, to volunteer at school, and whatever else I have going on. I had this time with all of the kids, while older siblings were at school. Bethany, for the first 18 months of her life. Connor, while Bethany was at preschool. Lucy, while Connor was in preschool and most of his kindergarten year, until Mattie was born. And now Mattie. She's typically super well behaved for all the mundane errands she has to endure, so it was great taking  her to do something fun for a change!

What are you looking at, Mattie??

I cannot remember the last time we were at Chuck E. Cheese's. I know Mattie had been there before, but it had been awhile. Nevertheless, she was so excited! I can't imagine that she remembered ever having been there, so I'm going with the theory that their advertising campaign is working.

The place was nearly empty, which is exactly what I had been hoping for. A weekday, in the middle of the afternoon is the perfect time for a visit to Chuck E. Cheese's. I think we were in the company of about three other families. I just followed Mattie around and let her play whatever games she wanted, and ride all the little rides. Being the only kid, she got to set the pace, which doesn't often happen for the baby of the family. Usually she is being dragged around and forced to catch up with everyone else. There were no arguments about which area we should go to next, which games we should play, or who could ride the horsie first. Mattie got to choose.

Almost as soon as we found a table, Chuck E. himself snuck up behind me and started interacting with Mattie. I was prepared for a melt down since she told me in the car on the way there that she was NOT going by Chuck E. because he is too scary. He gave her some tickets, and she didn't scream. She even smiled a little. When she compliantly posed for a picture with a happy face, I was pleasantly surprised. One never knows how Mattie is going to react to anything. She definitely makes life interesting!

We played for a bit at a totally relaxed pace, and when it was time to go I didn't hear one word of complaint. Like I said, one never knows! We traded in tickets for a couple teeny little prizes, and she was satisfied. No begging for the big stuff that costs like a billion tickets. No asking for more. She just nicely chose what she wanted out of the options she was given, and it was a very smooth transaction.

Mattie is pretty high strung, generally speaking, but when it's just the two of us she is a gem. Mostly. I mean, the kid definitely has an opinion, about everything. But spending time alone with her gives her a chance to really speak her mind and be herself. I think when she's with the older kids, she's making up for being low man on the totem pole by being so loud and crazy, trying hard to compete for a scrap of attention.

This week I am looking forward to more fun one-on-one time with Mattie, when I accompany her preschool class on two field trips!

Do you make it a point to have one-on-one time with your kids? What do you do together?

Monday, April 29, 2013

Weekend Rundown x3

I'm running a wee bit behind schedule this week month. Welcome to my life :-)

We have been doing so much fun stuff lately, and every Monday I mean to do a weekend rundown, but it somehow never gets finished.  This post would be WAY too long if I tried to tell you about everything all at once, so I will summarize and then break it down in a few future posts. Because I have no doubt everyone wants to know every minor detail of my ever so interesting life.

A brief synopsis of what we've been up to for the past two or three weeks...

I took Mathilda to Chuck E. Cheese's, just the two of us, while the big kids were at school. They were not pleased, but she and I had so much fun!

I got an iPhone! Yipppppeeeee! Love, love, love. Times a million.

Chris and I took the kids downtown Detroit to see Scooby Doo Live! at the Fox Theatre.

The next night, we took Connor, Bethany, and three of Bethany's friends to a Pistons game. We thought it would be a good experience for Bethany and her best basketball compadres to see a professional game.

Less than a week later, the kids and I were back at the Fox Theatre, this time with my mom to see Peter Pan.

This weekend, I took Bethany and her friend back to the Palace for a dance workshop with the Pistons dancers and choreographer.

Other than that, we've been water logged, with barely a day gone by without rain for weeks. Then there's been sleepovers, birthday parties, a wedding shower, and all the other stuff that makes us crazy on a daily basis.

This week is bringing more fun stuff that I will do my best to share, along with some new giveaways and the regular features - Travel Tuesday, So What Wednesday, and Thankful Thursday. And a Shaklee 180 ™ update too!

What did you do this weekend? Anything fun or interesting? I'd love to hear about it! Got anything good planned for the week?

Happy Monday, I hope you all have a wonderful week!

Sunday, April 28, 2013

ENDED Giveaway: Pampers Baby Dry Prize Pack

Through four kids and a lot of trial and error, Pampers always stood out as my favorite brand of diapers. The folks at Pampers realize that parents are choosy about the diapers they buy, so they want to give you a chance to try them out by winning a pack of your own.

Your Pampers Pack Will Include:
  • Pampers Baby Dry Diapers
  • Pampers Baby Wipes
  • Twilight Turtle Star Projector
  • Goodnight Moon book
  • Where the Wild Things Are book
  • Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See? book
Sounds amazing, right? Those happen to be three of my very favorite children's books! So what are you waiting for?! Scroll down and use the easy Rafflecopter form to enter. Good Luck!

Must be 18+, U.S. only.

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Friday, April 26, 2013

Family Fun: Visit Ohio's The Beach Water Park

This May, The Beach Water Park (an Adventure Landing Park) in Mason, Ohio, near Cincinnati, will be opening under new management and with $5 million in renovations under its belt! It's like a real tropical oasis, right in Ohio - complete with genuine palm trees, white ocean sand, and waterfalls, all situated among 35 acres of shady, wooded terrain.

Attractions are broken up into three categories: Real Thrill, Real Chill, and Real Fun for Kids.You can take your pick from several thrilling water slides, a heated wave pool, the 1200 foot long lazy river, and MUCH more! There is fun to be had for everyone in the family, from the littlest tot to the most daring thrill-seeker! Seriously, my wimpy self can hardly stand to look at the pictures of some of these water slides. Go check out the website and see for yourself!

May 18-19 marks the opening weekend of The Beach, and regular operations begin on May 25. Check The Beach's Facebook page for updates, because at this moment, a full schedule of special events is being planned for the summer!

If you live in the Cincinnati area, you might want to consider Season Passes, which are available for purchase now!

Want to give your child the coolest birthday party ever? Book a party at The Beach! The park is also available for company outings and charity events.

And because I hate to pay full price for anything, click HERE to print coupons good for $5 off admission! You can use one coupon per person, per day! Coupons are valid anytime throughout the 2013 season, not valid with any other discounts or promotions.

My kids have been asking when we're going to a water park, and they're going to be thrilled when they hear about this one!

Are you a water park lover? Do you prefer the Real Thrill or the Real Chill? I don't think it's any secret that I am a huge fan of the Real Chill!

My family is receiving free tickets to visit The Beach in exchange for this post.

ENDED Warner Bros. Mother's Day Movie Night Giveaway

Mother's Day is coming up on Sunday, May 12. This holiday is one of my favorites because I get spoiled just a little bit, and I get to pick what we do for the day. I haven't yet decided on plans for this year, but if our rain streak continues, it might just be declared a movie day - my picks, of course!

In honor of this most special day, Warner Bros. has put together the Best of Warner Bros. Mother's Day Movie Night Blog App. Check out the Guess-the-Scene Game, Words in Film, and Movie Night Conversation Starters. Then use the Rafflecopter form (way down at the bottom of this post!) to enter to win one of the following Blu-ray classics: either A Star is Born (1976), or Caberet (1972). The winner's prize will be randomly chosen.

For more Mother's Day fun, fill in the blanks to give your family some clues about your ideal Mother's Day! Or ask your mom to fill it out, and surprise her by making some of her dreams come true!

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Thursday, April 25, 2013

ENDED Giveaway: Chick-Fil-A Leadership Prize Pack

Tune into the Chick-fil-A Leadercast on May 10, 2013 and learn tips to lead simply! Click the magnifying glass above to find a location near you, or attend the live event in Atlanta. This year's speakers include:

  • Jack Welch, former Chairman and CEO of General Electric
  • Andy Stanley, best selling leadership author and communicator
  • Mike Krzyzewski, head men's basketball coach, Duke University and Team USA
  • John Maxwell, best selling author and leadership expert
  • Dr. Henry Cloud, best selling author and leadership consultant
  • LCDR Rorke Denver, Navy SEAL and star of the 2012 movie Act of Valor
  • Sanya Richards-Ross, 2012 London Olympic gold medalist, track and field
  • David Allen, best selling author of Getting Things Done, and productivity expert
  • Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of State (2005-2009), via exclusive Simply Lead video interview
Here's what you can win:
  • Copy of John C. Maxwell's new book: The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth
  • Chick-fil-A Leadercast exclusive audio download card, which includes access to audio segments from past and present events
  • (3) Chick-fil-A digital offer cards for a free Chick-fil-A sandwich entree of your choice
Use the Rafflecopter form to enter! U.S. only, no P.O. boxes please!

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2013 Chick-fil-A Leadercast Promo from GiANT Impact on Vimeo.

Thankful Thursday

I am thankful for my new iPhone, which amuses me anytime I have a spare second. Boredom is a thing of the past.

I am thankful for all the fun stuff we've been able to do lately, much of it courtesy of this wonderful blogging thing.

I am thankful for packages. Never gets old seeing the UPS or FedEx guy stopping in front of my house.

I am thankful that next week is field trip week for Mathilda. It's gonna be so much fun!

I am thankful that I took Mathilda to preschool on a day when the 4s class was in session, and now that she's seen what it's all about, she is totally not nervous about moving on next year. Also, she was shocked and amazed to find that they have the same parking lot, the same teachers, the same tables, and the same toys. What a concept!

I am thankful for these preschool years, which are just too precious and fleeting.

I am thankful that my big kids look forward to our reading time every night.

I am thankful for the beautiful forecast in our immediate future. Sunshine! A reprieve from rain! Warmth! YES!!!

I am thankful that I went to sleep early the past couple nights, even if that means I didn't get lots of stuff done that I needed to get done.

I am thankful for gym time. Nothing clears my head like a good workout!

What are you thankful for today?

ENDED Giveaway: Fun Fridge Magnets

Here's my real world confession. I'm not the greatest communicator. I convey my thoughts much better through writing than I do via the spoken word. In general, communicating in real life, person to person is just not a strength of mine. It's a big reason why I love texting and blogging and social media. But sometimes those avenues of communication are not exactly convenient. I can't tell my family to wait for a text to find out what is going on in my head.

What could be more convenient than letting them know on the refrigerator? Like, WARNING!!! Red alert! Mom is feeling overwhelmed/stressed/exhausted/choose your adjective today! Or, it's safe to ask for whatever you want because mom is feeling happy/peaceful/amused today! That is what Fun Fridge Magnets are for. To make your moods transparent so your loved ones know what they are in for!

I received the Pregnancy Moods and the New Mom Moods magnets for review, and these would have really been useful at a certain time in my life. We all know how quickly moods can change during these times, when the hormones are raging and your world is being flipped upside down. These would make a fun and unique baby shower or new baby gift!

Even dad-to-be can chime in


The magnets are 5x8, so they don't take up much room on your fridge. Every day (or multiple times a day!) you can move the little "I feel" magnetic window to your mood of the  moment. Besides New Mom and Pregnancy moods, New Dad, Kids, and Mom/Dad mood magnets are also available. They are $8.99 a piece, but I noticed a couple sales going on right now on the website. For more information, check out the Fun Fridge Magnets Facebook page.

Here is a short, cute video to demonstrate how Fun Fridge Magnets work.

And now the giveaway portion of the post! Here's what I have for you!

Two winners!

One winner will be able to choose ANY TWO Mood Magnets from the Fun Fridge Magnets website.

And...since I'm not pregnant, nor do I have any plans of ever being pregnant again, winner #2 will receive the Pregnancy and New Mom Mood Magnets that I received for review purposes.

Please indicate on the Rafflecopter form below which prize you'd like to win! Good luck, and thanks for entering!

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I received complimentary magnets for review purposes.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Pistons Dance Academy This Weekend at the Palace

Do you have little dancers in your family? I always wanted to take dance when I was a little girl, but never did. So of course now that I have daughters I am living vicariously through them. They've each started dance classes at or before age three, and since then I have spent countless hours of my life sitting in dance studios, shopping for leotards and dance shoes, and trying to put wispy hair in neat buns. Sock buns have changed my life, by the way, I don't know how it took me so long to find out about them!

If you're in the metro Detroit area and have dancers ages 5 and up, you might be interested to note that the Detroit Pistons Dancers are teaching dance workshops this Saturday, April 27 at the Palace of Auburn Hills. We saw these girls perform when we were at a Pistons game recently, and they are really fun to watch!

You can see the flier above for all the details, and visit the website. Call or email Cassie Wilkinson for more information at 248-371-2030 or cwilkinson@palacenet.com.

Please note that the workshops are broken up into age groups, and that there is an additional $10 charge for walk-up registration the day of the event.

Bethany is really excited about this, and I think it will be so cool for her to get some lessons and tips from real professional dancers! We will be at the 10:15 session for ages 8-12, let me know if you'll be there too!

In exchange for helping to promote this event, I am receiving free admission. All opinions are my own.

Tuesday Travel - Florida Spring Break Edition: Easter Sunday at the Magic Kingdom

This post has been moved to MichiGal Travels. Just click the link below to read it now.

So What! Wednesday

So What Wednesday

I continue to be perpetually behind. This week I will once again be publishing a Travel Tuesday post on Wednesday. With any luck, that is.

I have totally fallen of the wagon when it comes to running. However, I did run a 5K at the gym the other day. I am super proud of myself for running the whole time, even though my time sucked and I stopped two times to tie my shoes and have a sip of water.

Despite my best intentions to eat healthier and feed my kids healthier foods, I bought two boxes of Cap'n Crunch yesterday. #1, it was on sale. #2, Mattie was begging for the rainbow cereal (aka Crunch Balls). #3, there is a new cinnamon flavor, how could I not try it? #4, Cap'n Crunch is just too wonderful not to share with my kids every once in awhile. They have been informed that they are not to eat it for breakfast before school. I try not to let them get all sugared up before school.

Remember how I said I was going to start cooking breakfast for my kids more often? Yeah, well they've been on a multi-week cereal streak. I'm just not feeling the motivation in the morning. Could have something to do with the average four hours a night of sleep I've been getting? I do usually cook breakfast at least once every weekend, that's something!

Last night I was in bed before midnight, and it felt good to get a good night's sleep! However, I still didn't get up and cook my kids breakfast.

It's raining AGAIN. Not sure what that has to do with So What Wednesday, but dang it, our basement has had enough of this already!! The grass is super green though, and flowers are blooming all over the place.

I'm confused by the fact that I get different colored tulips every year. This year I had purple and purple with white. The bunnies gobbled them up before I had a chance to take a picture.

I think it's so cute how the bunnies run wild in my neighborhood, I don't even care if they eat all the tulips. Every time I look outside I see bunnies.

Mattie is watching The Great Fairy Rescue again. I don't know how many times she's watched it this week alone. She still pretends to cry at the "scary" parts. Which are not really scary.

I need some new shoes that are somewhere between boots/winter shoes and flip flops. I've been wearing my running shoes far too often when I'm not actually running. And those things are too expensive to waste tread on non-fitness activities. What kind of shoes do you wear when it's way past time to pack up the winter stuff, but the temps are barely out of the 40s most days??

What are you saying So What to today?

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Bon Jovi Special Announcement

Did you hear? Bon Jovi is coming to Ford Field on July 18, 2013! And today it was just announced that the J. Geils Band will be the opening act! How fun is that?!

With tickets starting at just $19.50, you can't go wrong. Ford Field is a terrific venue in the heart of downtown Detroit; it's clean and easy to navigate. So you've got affordable ticket prices, a fabulous location, and let's not forget: two great bands! Sounds like a recipe for a perfect date night or girls night out!

I was in middle school when Bon Jovi first entered my radar. Jon had long hair (there was a reason they called them 80s hair bands), and I was quickly hooked by such hits (which have since become classics) as "You Give Love a Bad Name" and "Livin' on a Prayer", which were the band's first and second number one hits.  Almost 30 years later, I still crank it up and sing along when these songs come on the radio.

All these years later, and Jon is still considered a heart throb, Bon Jovi's music still gets a lot of airplay, and the band is still known for putting on fantastic concerts.

I will always associate The J. Geils Band with their hit single "Centerfold", which I've been singing along to for over 30 years. The group officially disbanded in 1985, but has been performing occasional reunion shows and short tours in recent years.

Will YOU be at Ford Field on July 18?

Maybe, just maybe you will...even if you don't know it yet! Be on the look out for an AWESOME giveaway in the next couple days!

In the meantime, click HERE for more information about the concert.

Monday, April 22, 2013

ENDED Giveaway: Jillian Michaels Maximize Your Life at the Fox Theatre

In our quest for healthy bodies, many of us have suffered through Jillian Michaels' workouts, or been inspired by her on The Biggest Loser. She is well known as a health and wellness expert, and now she is touring as a motivational speaker!

On Thursday, May 9, 2013, Jillian will be making an appearance at the Fox Theatre in Detroit, where she'll be speaking about goals, will power, and maximizing productivity - among other subjects.

Interested? Click HERE for more information! Tickets start at just $25, using code LIFE. VIP seats are available and include a Q&A after the show, a surprise takeaway gift, and other perks.

I'll be there with my mom and a couple friends, and it promises to be an incredibly interesting evening. I'm thinking of it as an early Mother's Day present to myself!

And YOU can go too! I'm giving away four tickets to one lucky winner! Just use the Rafflecopter form to enter!

Please note: The tickets are for the Detroit event at the Fox Theatre on May 9, 2013 ONLY. They are not valid at any other location, or for any other event.

I will be provided with complimentary tickets to this event.

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Book Review: The Happiest Baby Guide to Great Sleep by Harvey Karp, M.D.

My first two babies were the best sleepers. They napped at regular times every day, and slept for 12 hours a night from a very young age, with very little coaxing on my part.  They were self soothers, and just all around dream babies. I was a stay-at-home mom and able to completely cater my daily schedule around them.

When baby #3 arrived, one week after my eldest started kindergarten, and one day before my son started preschool, I was still a stay-at-home mom. But now I had school aged kids, which meant my third child had to adjust to our new schedule of driving back and forth all day. Naps happened in the car and were often interrupted. I had to make sure the big kids got plenty of sleep so they'd be well rested for school, so I did anything to keep the baby quiet at night. Translation: while Bethany and Connor never slept with Chris and I as infants, Lucy slept with us most nights until she was about 18 months old. Life was even crazier by the time baby #4 came along, and the same patterns ensued. I vaguely recall hazy, sleep-deprived memories of utter exhaustion. We were overwhelmed with sleep issues, but somehow managed to get through to the other side semi intact.

How I wish I had had The Happiest Baby Guide to Great Sleep, Simple Solutions for Kids from Birth to 5 Years, by New York Times bestselling author Harvey Karp, M.D. You're probably heard of or read his other works, The Happiest Baby on the Block and The Happiest Toddler on the Block. His latest guide serves as an instruction manual for sleep-deprived parents everywhere.

This book would have helped us so much back then! But the good news is that it can still help us now. It is full of practical, easy to implement tips for creating a healthy sleeping environment for kids up to age 5. Actually, many of the ideas in this book can be used beyond the fifth birthday.

The book is set up into three sections; Part 1 covers birth to three months, Part 2 covers three to 12 months, and part 3 covers one to five years. There is also a section that goes over napping and special situations, such as travel and illness.

My youngest is one month away from turning four years old, and we still experience frequent sleep issues with her. I skipped right to Part 3 of the book, which deals with the toddler and preschool years. I have found that the ideas and tips are great for gentle behavioral modification and not just bedtime. Lack of sleep tends to do some not so pleasant things to us parents, like shorten our fuses considerably, so it's nice to feel like I have an arsenal of easy to use tools at my disposal for those times when it feels like we are heading downhill fast.

What I read focused quite a bit on preparing for bedtime all day long. Creating a happy daytime environment and deliberately switching gears well before bedtime helps set the stage for a successful night of sleep. Starting the process of calming down and quieting the household ahead of time helps kids to wind down naturally.

Some of the tips I love are patience-stretching, speaking toddler-ese, and gossiping. I have been utilizing all of these and having some good results both with bedtime as well as power struggles throughout the day.

Patience-stretching involves training kids to wait for things by making up excuses when they ask for something. For example, if they would like a drink of water at bedtime, tell them yes, but then pretend to have something to do that requires them to wait just a short time - you can even start with a few seconds and work your way up. With four kids, my offspring have a lot of practice with this since I can't be in four rooms at the same time! When you do what you say you'll do - come back with a cup of water, for example, they learn that they can count on you and that they are capable of waiting or soothing themselves. Practice this during the day and they'll be used to it at bedtime, eventually putting themselves back to sleep while they are patiently waiting for you to return.

Mathilda is no longer a toddler, but she does have a hot little temper. I've been using toddler-ese with her to help calm her down during the day when she gets out of control (usually involving a power struggle over getting dressed or what she is wearing). What this means is mirroring her emotions at her level. I learned this in peer education counseling in high school, but it won't do much good to tell my three year old, "It sounds like you are frustrated because you can't wear a bathing suit to school today" when she is in the midst of a highly emotional outburst. Instead, I break it down into a short and simple statement and repeat it to her several time, so she understands that I empathize with her. I might say something like, "Mathilda is sad, so, so sad" if she is crying uncontrollably. Discounting her feelings won't help in times like this (for example, saying "it's okay" - clearly it is NOT okay to her!), but once she hears that I get where she's coming from, she starts to calm down and become rational enough to talk to about the situation at hand.

Gossiping is a fun little trick that lets kids overhear what you have to say about them. Because they are eavesdropping, they are convinced that what you say is true. You could actually call grandma or some other special person and tell her all about the wonderful thing your child did (used the potty, got ready for school without a hassle, etc.), making sure that your child is within listening distance. Or you could simply have a little chat with a favorite doll or stuffed animal. I actually try to do this with all of my kids. With Mathilda, I've even used gossiping when she is having undesirable behavior ("Teddy, I'm so sad that Mattie isn't listening. It's so much more fun when she listens nicely!").

Toddler-ese and gossiping can be used throughout the day to set the stage for a pleasant bedtime, and they can also be used when problems crop up when it's time for bed or during the night.

These are just a few of my favorite tips in The Happiest Baby Guide to Sleep. There are many more where those came from! If you are the parent or parent-to-be of a child up to age five, I can't recommend this book enough. It is a must-have addition to your home library. Even if your kids are older than five and you're dealing with sleep or behavioral issues, this guide would still be quite useful. It would also make a terrific gift for a baby shower or for new parents.

THE HAPPIEST BABY GUIDE TO GREAT SLEEP: Simple Solutions for Kids from Birth to 5 Years (William Morrow Paperback; $15.99; ISBN: 9780062113320 was released on March 19, 2013. For more information, visit The Happiest Baby website. To read more about Dr. Karp, check out his bio.

Have you read any of Dr. Karp's books? What is your favorite tip that you've learned from him?

I received a complimentary copy of The Happiest Baby Guide to Great Sleep from Harper Collins for review purposes, via One2One Network. All opinions are my own. My participation in this campaign enters me into a drawing to win a gift card.

ENDED Giveaway: Recess! The Family Music Festival

Does the very thought of listening to children's music bring to mind visions of a sappy cacophony of plague-like catchy tunes that you would be embarrassed to admit you're humming? Well it doesn't have to be that way! If you're looking for a fun way to celebrate music with your kids that even you will enjoy, I have the perfect idea for you!

On June 22, 2013 Meadow Brook Music Festival will be hosting Recess! The Family Music Festival. This is an event that is meant to entertain the whole family, even mom and dad, while embodying multicultural, socially and environmentally sound ideals. National and regional family music acts will be performing, including:
  • The Laurie Berkner Band
  • Dan Zanes & Friends
  • Ralph's World
  • The Verve Pipe
  • Candy Band
  • School of Rock
But this musical festival has even more to offer! In addition to the performers, families can enjoy interactive musically themed "creative spaces". For example:
  • Improvisation & Imagination  A hip hop workshop teaching rhyme, scratch, and beat box. Take home a CD of your very own hip hop track!
  • Rhythm  A drum circle, with instructors to teach participants how to use percussion instruments.
  • Movement  Dance and movement workshops, including break dancing, tumbling, and double-dutch jump roping.
  • Discovery  A rock band will be set up so kids can try out different roles, including drummer, guitarist, and vocalist. Learn the basics of songwriting while pretending to be in the band.
  • Arts & Crafts  Learn how to make instruments out of wood, and take them home with you!
  • Become a Rock Star  Treat your kid to a (temporary) tattoo and a punk rock hair-do, then stop by the photo booth for a picture.
Doesn't this sound like loads of fun? Even if you don't  have any kiddies of your own, this would be the perfect excuse to borrow one for the day and channel your inner child.

And....I'm giving away four tickets! Please note, the tickets are for Recess! The Family Music Festival, on June 22, 2013 at Meadow Brook Music Festival ONLY! The tickets are not valid at any other venue, nor are they valid for any other performance! Must be in the Detroit area, or willing to travel to the Detroit area. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

L-R: Verve Pipe, Candy Band, Dan Zanes & Friends, Ralph's World, The Laurie Berkner Band

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Thankful Thursday

Today almost seems like summer. This makes me so happy I can't stand it, even though I know it's going to get cold again this weekend.

Today Mattie's preschool class was able to play and have their snack outside. When I picked her up they were still outside and Mattie was sad because she said she would miss her friends. One of her classmates ran and hugged her good bye as we were walking to our van. I am so thankful that she is enjoying preschool. She has liked it from the start, but she's been a bit wary the last few months, being clingy at drop-off, etc. This week has been a huge improvement. Just in time for the school year to end.

One of my headlights has been out for quite awhile and today I decided to go to the auto parts store, buy a replacement, and put it in myself. I watched a YouTube tutorial (I'm a dork but yeah, thank GOD for YouTube). And I did it! It was pretty easy, actually. I am thankful (again) for the nice weather because I wouldn't have been changing my headlight in the rain/cold/sleet. I am also thankful for YouTube and that now I have two working headlights. Woo hoo.

Since it was so nice out, we took the dog for a walk when I was done working on the van. My dog is 12 and not exactly the peppiest thing you've ever seen. Going around the block is the extent of the exercise she will tolerate. But I am thankful that she is gentle and slow enough that I can let Mattie hold the leash, which is quite thrilling to a 3-year old for some reason.

Twice this week my friend Tina has met me at the gym. Every time it makes my day. I am thankful for my friends and for my gym membership!

As I've mentioned once or twice, I got an iPhone and I'm in love. Mattie is having fun with it too. I am thankful for my new phone, and for Chris since he is the one who went and bought it and had it set up for me.

Connor got the worst haircut the other day. I am thankful that I only paid $5 (salon just moved into my 'hood and is having a grand opening special) for this craptastic hair cut. I made him an appointment for my girl to fix him up right this weekend.

Tomorrow night my mom and I are taking the kids to see Peter Pan. I think they are all going to love this one, and I'm excited and thankful to be able to take them!

What are you thankful for this week?

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

So What Wednesday

So What Wednesday

I am so off my game this week. This morning I posted my weekly Travel Tuesday. Later today I plan on posting my weekend rundown. I'm just running on my schedule, calendar be damned. Not even coffee is helping. Going to bed earlier might help.

I had an awful twitch in my leg for DAYS. It was driving me crazy. It felt like a pulsing heartbeat on my knee. I cut back my caffeine and poof! It disappeared. I only have one cup of coffee a day at the most, but I was also trying to get in my Shaklee 180 tea, 3 Shaklee metabolic boost tablets (which contain green tea extract), and a raspberry ketone. Way too much for me! I don't know how people drink cup after cup of coffee, my body just can't handle a lot of caffeine.

I got an iPhone and I love it so much. I already had an iPod Touch so I knew I would love it. I am loving that I can download more than 5 apps without completely screwing up my phone! With my Android I was always having to delete one app to make way for another, and then do it all over again when I needed to use another app. What a pain!

Mattie has a doctor's appointment in 35 minutes and she is still in her jammies and I have wet hair. Yet here I sit, blogging.

Chris informed that I've been letting Bethany and Connor stay up too late on school nights. He is probably right. We're going to work on that this week.

They are usually up too late because I am reading to them. They are 10 and 11 and I still read to them before bed almost every night. Right now we are reading Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. When we're done I'll rent the movie. Next they want me to read Tom Sawyer.

The rain in Michigan was really getting to me. I know we needed it, but cold, dreary, and wet just plain sucks after awhile. We've had a little sunshine off and on the last few days, and temperatures above the 40s, and I feel so much better!

I always have at least 10 So Whats, but I really must stop here so that Mattie isn't too late for her appointment!

What are you saying so what to this week?

Travel Tuesday - Florida Spring Break Edition: The Star Wars Exhibit and Downtown Orlando

This post can now be found at MichiGal Travels. Just click the link below to read it there.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Thankful Thursday

I don't feel much like writing a thankful post at the moment. I feel more like complaining about the stubborn 3-year old who makes us late for everything, and the crappy weather and lots of other things. But. I'm not going to do that. (Even though I kind of just did??)

Even when I'm crabby and irritable as all get out, I still have endless blessings in my life. In fact, when I'm feeling like crud, these are the times when it's even more important for me to take a few moments and focus on the positive.

Deep breath.

My family is so blessed to have taken an awesome Spring Break vacation this year. It was really beautiful, and I hope and pray that my kids treasure the memories of this trip. We did so many fun things, and a lot of it was made possible by:

  • Being able to stay at my brother-in-law's house (his big, comfortable house, with 2 guest bedrooms!).
  • Chris's parents giving us a little cash for our trip, which help to fund all the extra things we ended up doing.
  • Chris's mom letting us borrow her van, since our van needs a little work done before it could be trusted to take a 2000+ mile journey.
  • Legoland coupons in Lego Club Magazine (and my friend Jill for giving us one of hers, which meant we were able to get 3 of our kids in for free). Kids' tickets are $71 a pop, so this was no small thing.
  • My mom, who stayed with our dog while we were gone; and my father-in-law, my cousin, and our babysitter, who all took turns checking on and feeding the dog while my mom was at work.
  • Groupon for giving us a good deal on admission to Jungle Adventures
  • American Express points, for getting us into Sea World for free.
Also, the weather was wonderful the whole time we were in Florida, and the kids were little troopers throughout our marathon drives, there and back. Every single day was full of fun, and I am so thankful for the great times we had together.

I just realized that there's only about eight weeks left of school. Big reason to be thankful!

All this rain is hopefully going to give us some nice green grass and higher lake levels for all the boaters.

My mother-in-law picked Mattie up Wednesday night for a sleepover, & is taking her to & from preschool today.

We are all going to see Scooby Doo Live this weekend at the Fox Theatre, and I'm really looking forward to it! Should be a fun family day!

Chris is starting a new job next week, which should be a really big positive thing for us.

Catechism is over at the end of the month, which means a little less running around.

It's supposed to be in the 50s next week - I'll take it!

Okay, that's about all I can muster at the moment. What are YOU thankful for this week?

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

So What! Wednesday

So What WednesdayI fell asleep on the couch last night about 30 seconds after I sent Bethany and Connor to bed. I only intended to rest for a few minutes, but I woke up at 6:30 this morning. Now I feel like I need to get my pajamas on and get in my warm comfy bed.

The relentless COLD rain is not helping to motivate me this morning.

I know we desperately need rain in Michigan - I don't think I've ever seen the lakes so low - but come on! Couldn't it be like 60 degrees and raining instead of 45 degrees? That would totally be tolerable!

I just remembered that Bethany asked me to wash some of her clothes last night, when she woke up complaining that she has nothing to wear to school. Oops. I'm 99% sure she is exaggerating. If not, third day jeans never hurt anyone.

Chris is starting a job that requires afternoon hours. Planning out my schedule just got a whole lot more fun.

I'm sitting here blogging when instead I should be in the kitchen making Lucy's lunch.

My kids are like an obnoxious little herd of baby elephants, stomping through the house, up and down the stairs.

I must sheepishly admit that there is STILL a suitcase in my living room and a cooler in my kitchen. Maybe I should do something about that today?

I also still have not scheduled a hair appointment. And it's needed...badly!

I am literally pining for summer. I cannot wait!

What are you saying so what to this week?

Monday, April 8, 2013

Book Review: Changing Gears: A Family Odyssey to the End of the World by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

I love serendipitous events.

A few years ago, I stumbled across a blog, Family On Bikes, about a family preparing to commence a bicycle journey from the northern most tip of Alaska to the southern most tip of Argentina. I'm always looking for blogs about families who travel extensively with their children, so of course I was intrigued. But then it slipped through my fingers into the never ending depths of the world wide web, and I lost track of the Vogel family.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago, when a local blogger friend posted about a book review opportunity on a Facebook forum for Michigan bloggers. The book sounded interesting, so I contacted the author and told her I would love to review her book. As soon as I started reading, I realized that this was the family from the blog I had read about, and I was excited to be "reunited" with them and read about their trip in its entirety.

I don't have a dream of taking my kids on a bicycle trek from one end of the world to the other. I haven't even been on a bicycle since I was approximately 11 years old. But reading about the Vogel family, chasing their dreams across mountains, fields, rain forests, and international boundaries, I experienced a familiar tug of wanderlust; a longing to go and to feel myself uncoil with freedom to stretch and roam and experience the world.

From beginning to end, Changing Gears: A Family Odyssey to the End of the World, by Nancy Sathre-Vogel, enchanted me and held me captive. I could scarcely tear my eyes away from this inspiring tale about facing down your fears and going after your dreams, impossible though they might seem.

I don't like to give away many details in my book reviews, because I firmly believe you should read those details for yourself. But know this: Changing Gears is full of excitement, dedication, and doubt; and it will inspire you to live your dreams, whether they entail traipsing the globe, switching careers, or going against the grain of what's expected of you, in any way, shape, or form. I came away from this book feeling that if the Vogel family could conquer all of the obstacles they faced and persevere for three years in pursuit of a shared goal, then what am I capable of? What could I accomplish if I took a leap and ignored my fears, paying no mind to the naysayers?

Changing Gears: A Family Odyssey to the End of the World is a beautiful and riveting book. It is available for purchase on Amazon, along with Nancy's previous books:

Twenty Miles Per Cookie: 9000 Miles of Kid-Powered Adventures

Bicycle Touring with Children: A Guide to Getting Started

What Were We Thinking?: Bicycling the Back Roads of Asia (co-authored by Nancy's husband, John Vogel)

One of my favorite messages in the book is that people are good and kind and want to help. If you start moving in the direction of achieving your goals, the universe will place in your path endless resources, including what Nancy refers to as "Road Angels". These are people who helped the Vogel family along in their journey, somehow managing to show up just when they were needed, to offer food, directions, a place to stay, or even a police escort through a busy city.

I can't stress enough how much I loved Changing Gears! If you want to be inspired to live the life you've been dreaming of (and maybe you don't even consciously know that you've been dreaming of it), I encourage you to order this book today! While you're at it, like Nancy's Facebook page and follow her on Twitter, @familyonbikes. They are also working on a documentary, which should hopefully be released soon because I can't wait to see it!  **UPDATE** The DVD is out! Click HERE to order!

The Vogel family in the Andes

Just one more thing.

Nancy has agreed to an interview for MichiGal, and I'd love to know if YOU have any burning questions for her? Leave me a comment of let me know on Facebook or Twitter!

Weekend Rundown

The end of a school break is always bittersweet. I love having the kids home...ignoring bedtimes, sleeping in (as much as they'll let me), not setting alarms, eating meals when we feel like it. I love the freedom. 

But it's also kind of hard to get much done when the little folks are buzzing around me, making noise & asking for stuff 24/7. Just having Mattie buzzing around and asking for stuff constantly is kind of a relief, I have to admit. But I am still counting the days until Summer break! 

This weekend was basically spent trying to get re-acclimated to everyday life after escaping to Florida for a week. Although I admit there is still a big fat bulging suitcase in my living room and a cooler in my kitchen! This is the hardest part of vacations for me...the getting back to reality, and putting everything away.

After a marathon driving session last Thursday night, we arrived back in Michigan at about 10:30 Friday morning. Having been in the car all night, it was kind of disconcerting to be home with the rest of the day ahead of us. We did a lot of vegging and showering our dog with affection. The rest is a blur. It was just that kind of day. We missed Florida, but were happy to be home at the same time.

My mom had been dog-sitting and was at our house when we got home. She was in the middle of cleaning out my fridge. I mean like taking the shelves and drawers out and everything. That was a nice surprise, especially because it was over-due for a thorough deep cleaning. Somehow those leftovers get piled up and before we know it, they start to take over! Chris's mom came over for dinner and we got Chinese. Not having to think too hard about dinner was pretty much a necessity that first night back!

Saturday I had to kind of get with the program because Connor had a birthday party to attend. Which meant I had to shower and make myself semi presentable to be seen in public. Bethany was chomping at the bit to spend some time with friends, so my in-laws offered to take her and a few friends to a gymnastics/trampoline place where the kids like to hang out on Saturday nights. Trampolines are so de rigueur these days, that it's common practice for kids to want to practice their back flips and stuff to get ready for summer. One of Bethany's friends came back to spend the night afterward, and when the girls were searching for a comedy to watch, I gently led them toward one of my all-time favorites, Raising Arizona. Introducing our kids to classic films of my youth is such a joy and pleasure! Somewhere along the line, my mom stopped by with pizza and dessert from two of my favorite places in Greektown. Night #2 of not having to think about dinner - thank goodness!

Sunday morning I struggled to make breakfast out of the non-contents of my fridge and pantry. But I couldn't feed a guest cheese slices and granola bars, I just couldn't do it! I debated making a fast food run, but in the end I managed to scrape together some makeshift ingredients for an oven pancake. My kids love oven pancakes, they are popular weekend fare in our home. I had no eggs, but I did have a carton of egg whites. Score. I had very little milk, but I managed to make do with a half cup of regular milk and a half cup of almond milk that my mom had left behind. And my oven pancake was bigger and fluffier than ever before! I am sticking to egg whites from now on. The thing was majestic! I just wish it would stay all puffed up for longer than a minute once it comes out of the oven. 

Connor was invited to a friend's house, which meant I once again had to get myself semi presentable to face the parents with minimal shame. Plus I thought it might be a good idea to hit up the grocery store after I dropped him off. The grocery store on Sunday afternoons is bad news. Note to self: don't do that again. 

While I was out, I realized it was an absolutely gorgeous spring day, so as soon as I got home I kicked the girls outside to play. Mathilda protested loudly. She actually loves to play outside, she just enjoys a good argument. Once she was out, she only came in for bathroom breaks for the next two or three hours. I went out with them and did the spring thaw poop scoop clean up. Bethany was anxious for me to help her put the trampoline back together, as a big wind storm had knocked a couple legs off a few months back. Because she doesn't like to wait, she put it back together by herself. She is self-sufficient like that. When I was done with dog poop, I cleaned off the slide and then went inside to get dressed to go for a run. And I couldn't find my headphones. I've already determined that running without music is a rare form of self-torture, so I opted to do 35 minutes on my exercise bike instead. Note to self: buy new headphones, asap!

We're die hard procrastinators, so Sunday was also spent catching up with homework. Do you know that older siblings are great at helping younger siblings with homework while mom is making dinner? Yep, they are. We sat down and had a real dinner together, and resigned ourselves to the fact that Spring Break was officially over. Sniff, sniff.

Throughout the weekend I also read a great compilation of short stories called Survival Skills, by Jean Ryan. It was a perfect book for my post-vacation attention span. I wrote a review for it that should be published on Luxury Reading soon. Short stories are great for when you just don't have it in you to commit to a whole complicated story line and hundreds of pages of keeping characters straight.

What did you do this weekend? If your kids are back to school today, are you relieved to be back in your routine? Or wishing for a few more days of Spring Break?

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Friday, April 5, 2013

For Your Viewing Pleasure: My First Shaklee 180™ Video Post

Gulp. Well, this is WAY outside my comfort zone, but here goes. My first video blog post, for the Shaklee 180 ™ blogger program. You can look forward to video posts every month for 6 months!

This is a sponsored post as part of the Shaklee Corporation blogger program. I have received free products, online support, and incentives for participating. My opinions are my own. People following the weight-loss portion of the Shaklee 180 ™ program can expect to lose 1-2 pounds per week.

(Remember, I'm an amateur.)

A new Shaklee post with further info and updates will be coming soon!