Wednesday, November 30, 2011


Every year that I have participated in NaBloPoMo, I am surprised to realize that it's over. I never have any shortage of things to say. :) But I do have a shortage of time to connect my hands to the keyboard, so it's also a relief to be free of that (self-imposed) commitment...

...just in time for another self-imposed daily commitment - the Advent Calendar! We'll be repeating what we did last year, which is placing a piece of paper in each door that the kids open in the morning describing a Christmas activity that we'll be doing that day. I stole this idea from Wendy, and our activities range from doing a Christmas craft to visiting the train display to driving around to look at lights. The kids have already been counting the count down. Not kidding.

Last year I totally cheated a few mornings because of course, the kids could not read - so I just kept putting the same piece of paper in the next door and then "reading" it to them. But this year, Katy will be very excited to read what is written on the paper, so no more cheating - I need to be prepared each evening. I also remember a couple of mornings last year in which I had to distract them with something because I had completely forgotten to stuff the box the night before. I'm determined to be on my game this year! 

December will be busy with so many fun things - welcome, December!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The way they are

Luke: Even though it's frustrating and scary, his climbing also makes me laugh. The only place in the house that is completely out of his reach is the top of the refrigerator. He sees something on the counter that he wants? He pushes over a kitchen chair and climbs right up. (this is one of the scary ones - I cannot leave the stove unattended for even a second.) I will also find him in new places almost daily. Yesterday he was sitting on the back of the futon, legs dangling like Humpty Dumpty, ready to jump off. He's only been walking for three months!  I had to rig the straps of his booster seat with rubber bands because he figured out how to stand up and pull the straps right out of the chair.

He generally more interested in moving than talking, but he LOVES the book Gallop and tries to repeat animal noises from it. My favorite is the rooster, which is some form of "do-ah-do." I love that he picks up on cues when someone is leaving the house and brings me a pair of shoes (not necessarily his) and pokes me with them in desperation, as if to say, "You're taking me with you, right? Right? Right?"

David: The car obsession lives on. I realized that 3/4 of his ornaments are vehicles of some sort (the first one was a Baby's First Christmas ornament). He spends much of his play time moving cars and trains around various areas of the house. He is usually playing out very complicated car drama in his head, and he completely flips his lid if Luke grabs one of the cars and takes it out of the storyline.

He does get wild, especially in the company of other boys - they feed off of each other and he gets really excited. Excited = running, crashing, screeching, making lots of motor noises, and laughing a hysterically evil laugh. In those rare times that it's just him and me, he's a remarkably calm and sweet kiddo. He talks my ear off and makes impressive observations. I think he's going to be a charmer, he even knows to compliment girls that their outfit is "beautiful."

He's still my cuddler, and he's terrified of storms. Every single night, if I forget to tell him explicitly, he comes back out of his room and asks, "Mommy, will there be storms tonight?" If I hear a crack of thunder in the night, I can count to ten and plan on a three-year-old in the bed with me for at least an hour.

Katy: Considering the challenges the she has given me over the years, I am really enjoying age 5 with this girl. She is so sweet, so mature, and really seems to be coming into her own. (Does anyone really know what that means?) She's just pleasant to be around, which is really nice. I enjoy our conversations together - she asks a lot of questions, she likes non-fiction (yes, she calls it non-fiction), and she's really proud of herself for all of the accomplishments she has made this year.

She's still really competitive, which is the one area where we can still butt heads. If she feels that something isn't fair, or that she isn't winning or coming out on top - look out! Things can turn ugly pretty quickly. But at least now I can talk to her about it logically. She has shed many tears this year over PM kindergarten: "Mommy, ALL the other kids go to kindergarten all DAY. I'm just a BABY who only goes in the afternoon. I want to go in the MORNING, TOO." This comes up when she wants to make a play date with someone on a weekday morning, and I have to break the news that they are at school. This is not well received.

But her heart is really loving. She's helpful and kind to her brothers most of the time. We started a magnetic responsibility chart (I'd recommend this one as a gift idea!) and she is loving it. She constantly asks what she can do to get a magnet. (when she fills up the whole chart, which takes her a few weeks, we go out for frozen yogurt with mix-ins.) She's really growing up!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Thanksgiving Weekend: A pictorial (with captions, because I'm a talker)

My mom and sister were vital during the power hour (last hour before you sit down to eat.)

I was extra thankful for this special guest! My Granny is only one month post-op and I really wasn't sure if she'd be able to make the trip. I was so happy to see her up and about.

Lukey checking the progress on the turkey.

I love to see my Grandpa playing trains with the boys.

The spread (it looks the same every year).

The one day of the year that you are allowed to eat more dessert than dinner.

The fam, enjoying the warm temps we had all weekend!

Grammy and Papa John arrived and we quickly whisked them away to a lights parade, recommended by a friend. We parked the car and discovered Santa, cookie-icing, and a petting zoo in the parking lot. The kids were ecstatic.

She would've stayed for hours, even though the bunnies scratched her.

After walking through the drive-thru at Wendy's, we got free glow sticks and waited for the action to begin.

Everyone was impressed - very cool event.

An example of what the floats looked like.

The next day Grammy and Papa John helped us decorate for Christmas and we watched the Buckeyes try desperately to beat Michigan. Luke was wild, as usual. Teething much?

Finally, Grandpa and Grandma Sue came for one last meal. David was so exhausted at this point that he "covered" himself and Grandpa with pillows and requested to go to bed. Luke, on the other hand, is attempting to put on his shoe, which is a request to go outside. (you know, in his diaper, at bedtime)

You silly boy, we're all exhausted! Take your bottle and go to bed! Please?!? 
Thanks to all of our family for a really nice weekend.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

All Decked Out

Since so many of you have asked what happened with the Hallmark ornaments (8 comments on a post? That doesn't happen very often here.), I wanted to give an update. We had 3 coupons for $5 off a $10 purchase. They were from 3 different sources (so I wasn't cheating by replicating the same coupon), and we planned to buy the three ornaments separately to use all 3 coupons. None of them stated anything about exclusions. The original prices of the ornaments ranged from $13-$20 each.

After we were denied at our usual store, Brian went to the Hallmark near his work the next day and they took the coupon without question. He went back at a later time and a different cashier also took the coupon without question. So he called the manager at our original store to clarify that other stores were accepting them. The manager had him read the fine print over the phone, and then conceded that they should have accepted it. So I went back to that store and bought the third ornament, with no problems. That's a lot of drama to save $15, but what can I say? Fifteen bucks is fifteen bucks.

We also bought a new tree this year! We've been watching post-season clearance for a couple of years without much luck, so this year my mom, sister, and I went Thanksgiving evening and got a doorbuster tree. I'm happy with it, and my mom and I are now tree twins. :)

And keeping this tree out of Luke's hands? Nearly impossible. He constantly grabs the ornaments right off and puts them in his mouth - they are getting higher and higher, and I need to go make sure all the ones with hooks are out of his reach. It's been an interesting day chasing him away from the tree.

A new tree! With a strangely mature-looking child next to it?

David picked a firetruck that lights up. This is the third year in a row that he has picked a vehicle-themed ornament.

We couldn't decide which one to pick for Luke, until he was screeching to grab David's from him, which is an hourly occurrence these days. So it seemed appropriate to get him the toddler version of the firetruck, since he just wants whatever David has.

Katy picked the mailbox called "Letters for Santa." She is hoping that I'm going to leave treats for her in there each morning, There's a strategy to her decisions.

Brian got this handy device to easily hang outdoor lights, so we humored the kids with some extras this year. I think the tree in the window is my favorite part. Having kids this age makes Christmas so exciting.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Early morning meet-up

I had the most exciting reason to leave the house at 6am and meet my friend Cindy at a dairy farm this morning. I got to meet her most precious baby girl, Genevieve. I also got the rare chance to have some face-to-face girl talk with one of my dearest friends. And to get to see friends in the middle of a busy holiday weekend? We'll meet at whatever hour we can meet.

We were both cracking up as it was still dark in the parking lot when we arrived. I think we were the only ones who thought it was funny to be there that early.

It was a blast!

Sweetie baby and proud mama!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Good kind of busy

We've been overflowing with family, food, shopping, and holiday spirit. I hosted Thanksgiving dinner, and somehow, it wasn't stressful at all. My mom was here, which helped a bunch, but it was just a relaxed atmosphere.

And I did the most Black Friday shopping I have ever done. My mom, sister, and I went out chasing a doorbuster on Thanksgiving evening. Then Brian and I went out both this morning AND this evening - taking advantage of the grandparents to babysit. It was so fun! I love shopping, love a good deal, and it really wasn't that crowded at all. (We didn't line up at Wal-Mart at 6am or anything crazy like that).

I've taken lots of pictures, and we've got more fun planned for the remainder of the weekend. So I'll take the time to download them tomorrow. I hope you are enjoying your holiday!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

GR8FUL, still

Just over a year ago, I started a gratitude journal - every night before bed, I listed 5 things for which I was thankful, specific to that day. About halfway through the year, I added 2 daily prayer requests to the list, as a way to curb my anxious thoughts.

I just filled the notebook. It has definitely been a positive exercise for me. I think it has helped me to see that every single day, even the hard ones, there are lots of good things in my life for which to be grateful.  On a few occassions, I stared at the blank page, struggling through my attititude to find something positive from the day, but those were the exception and not the rule.

I'm going to take a break from the journal for now, mostly because I think too much repitition robs an exercise of effectiveness. But this Thanksgiving, I'm in a better place that last year - not just in circumstance, but in the heart.  We have SO much to be thankful for.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Questions from Mom

My mom had a few more questions...

1) What is the one thing you miss the most that you enjoyed before you had kids? (Mine was being in the bathroom by myself--at least sometimes.)

Time to myself, to do whatever I want. I feel like even when the kids are sleeping, I have things I need to do that are related to them somehow (clean up, laundry, plan meals, grocery shop, plan Girl Scout stuff, etc), so I miss having time that is really truly mine. But I know someday I'll have it again and wish the kids were around, so I try to keep that in perspective.

2) Of all the household chores you do, is there one (or more) that you kind of like in spite of the work? (I like laundry; the clean clothes smell good.)
I like cleaning up after meals, because it feels finite: there are a certain amount of plates that need to get rinsed and put in the dishwasher and foods that need to go back in the fridge and then you're done. And that meal is done. It's not like picking up toys while a trail of toys is falling behind you, or doing laundry while 5 people are wearing clothes and getting them dirty. It's done...for at least 2 hours until you start the process again.

3) What book would you read if you had time? :-) (I liked "The Help" and "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.")

I saw the movie "The Help" (first movie I've seen in the theatre in years) and it was awesome, so I'd love to read that book. Brian is reading "Heaven is for Real" and says it's really interesting. I've always got a stack of books that I'd like to read that people have recommended...

I'm such a night owl that I am writing this past midnight and counting it as tomorrow's post. :) I hope you all have a lovely Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Gripping the Wallet

Tonight we took the kids to Hallmark to continue our annual tradition from my childhood: letting them each pick a keepsake ornament for our tree. (I was excited to get this done before Thanksgiving so we can decorate this weekend!) The kids were high with anticipation this afternoon. They made their selections with great intensity.

But when we got to the register, the cashier told us that our coupons could not be used for keepsake ornaments. The coupon does not state that there are any exclusions. We used the exact same coupons at the same store last year to buy ornaments. But it's a store policy, she said. No coupons on ornaments. So what did we do with our bright eyed kiddos and their carefully selected ornaments in hand?

We walked out.

Those coupons would have saved us $15, and this is the third time in the past couple of weeks that this type of things has happened, in which a store doesn't honor a discount and I had to walk out without the merchandise. We're all tightening our purse strings, I understand, but this is starting to get frustrating.

The kids were great sports about it, bless their hearts. We told them we were going to try to find the ornaments at another place that would take our coupons. (Tried Kohl's, they didn't have the ones the kids picked, darn it). We were all disappointed.

So now I'm wondering if we should change the tradition so that it doesn't revolve around Hallmark keepsake, but any type of ornament. Without a discount, Hallmark would cost us $50-60 ever year, at least - is that worth it? We don't buy a real tree, so maybe it's a trade-off?

Basically I'm just sitting here bummed that a family tradition which I'd like to carry on is seeming too expensive... (if only I hadn't spent so much money on portraits!)

Monday, November 21, 2011


Only Giselle had any questions this time around, but she asked three, so let's address those.

How about 5 really good books you've read. Maybe some that aren't as well known?

I'm afraid I'm really going to disappoint here, because I am (sheepishly) not much of a reader. I read with my kids every day, but for me? I have tried, (I swear!) but I read too slowly and fall asleep and never finish anything before it's due back at the library. I know that this makes many of you fellow bloggers shudder (I'm looking at YOU, Kelsey, Pam, Kate B. & Giselle), but the only books I've read since becoming a parent have been...parenting books. I guess I could list those? Oh, and I read blogs, and occasionally magazines.

Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Marc Weissbluth - saved my sanity with a newborn.

Wild Things: The Art of Nurturing Boys  by James and Thomas - helped me when I was struggling with boy behavior - how much is just being a boy and what do I need to keep in mind. (although I have to admit that I only read half of it before it was due back at the library)

The Toddler's Busy Book by Trish Kuffner - great for easy and cheap entertainment for the 1-3 year old, especially in the winter when you're stuck inside.

This is pitiful, I can't even think of 5. There are others that pop in my head, but I wouldn't classify them as "great," so I wouldn't list them here. Oh, nevermind...

As a side note, I don't know if this is a pipe dream if I can't model it myself, but I'd love for any of my kids to be avid readers. It's such a healthy habit, but one that I haven't been able to develop in my own life.

What about habits you have that you think will embarrass your teenagers someday? (I think about this more now that Andrew's getting older and inviting friends over. Is my singing made up songs embarrassing? Smooching Jeff in the kitchen? etc etc...I'm totally going to mortify my kids).

The biggest one that comes to mind is that I'm constantly hugging and kissing my kids - it's kind of my love language - so I have a hard time imagining stopping that as they get older. So I'm sure I will embarrass them with that. I've thought of this recently as there has been this huge wave of 9-12 year old boys in our neighborhood lately. They are coming out of the woodwork and frequently playing hockey in the court in my front yard. My kids will run up and give me kisses and hugs and I wonder if they think it's lame. Whatever!!! (Don't you like my mature response?)

And I'm dying to know if you've decided to have a 4th child...but that's kind of personal, isn't it? Reading blogs really encourages the Nosy person inside me.

Well. I'm typically an open book and many of you have heard an earful from me in person on the topic. But I will share what I am comfortable saying here in this space.

And that is...that we have not decided. I am having a hard time deciding to be done - there is this place in my heart that really wants 4 kids. But I love my 3 and we are chugging along right now. Sleeping through the night (mostly) and we have a good schedule, etc. But every single day I think about a 4th. (And just as an aside, I have never once in my entire life entertained the thought of five. The dreaming stops at 4 in my mind, for some reason). Pregnancy and delivery and post-partum were no picnic, especially this last time around. But if we're going to go for it, we don't want to wait too long.

And Brian is in pretty much the same place on all of the above points. If one of us felt strongly in one direction or the other, we could probably persuade the other. But we're both just not sure. So there you have it.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Leftover #3

The portraits went as well as they could have. It was crazy busy at 10am on a Sunday morning. It was tough to get all 3 kids to be making attractive expressions on their faces at once, but we got some good shots. I spent WAY too much money. I can't believe I parted with that cash. But to get what I felt like we needed (to give to family), we could spend $20 more and get enough prints to wallpaper the bathroom. So would you like one? Because we've got PLENTY (including Christmas cards, so many of you will be seeing those).

It seems like ages ago that we were spending 2 evenings a week at the soccer field.  It was a very busy, but rather short, season. The best part of soccer as a parent was watching how much Katy loved it. She's already asking about spring (we'll see). Even if she didn't score the most goals, she had a noticably strong spirit and passion for the game. Parents on opposing teams commented several times on "that spunky little Katy on the other team," etc. After the last game, she received a trophy for participation and a team photo. She has told me several times that if she ever has show and tell for school, she'll bring her soccer trophy.

Saturday, November 19, 2011


Last night Brian and I enjoyed a real bona fide DATE. We probably get about 5 or 6 date nights per year - and for most of them, we do two things: go out to eat at a place where you order your food at the counter, and then we go to Target.

But LAST night, we went out with our friends JT and Adrienne, went to a nice restaurant (waited 45 minutes for a table - haven't done that in years), and then went to the OSU basketball game. It was a great time - so nice to have a night out in which we had something fun to do. (Not that we don't love wandering around Target. We do.)

I spent part of the last few days getting ready for family portraits tomorrow. Cut Katy and David's hair again and went to the salon to cut mine.  Tried desperately to find coordinating outfits for the five of us out of our current closets. Went shopping for a couple of pieces to make it work. Researched prices and tried to strategize how much to buy to get the best value. Bathed the children and blew their hair dry. Hovered over Luke to try to make it to the session without a goose egg or scrape on his face. This is why I don't do this every year!!  (Not the preventing injury part, but the rest of it)

But is it just me, or does it kind of feel like Christmas season already? Lights are up, halls are decked, and I'm in the mood to start shopping. I guess posing in a red sweater in front of a Christmas tree will seal the deal.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Leftover #2

Back in October, Katy's class took a field trip to the pumpkin patch, which was a big deal in one sense because it was her first bus ride.

She thought she was big time.

It was also a big deal because I wasn't able to find a sitter for the boys, so I couldn't go on the trip. Lots of other parents went along, and a friend of mine was assigned to be with Katy the whole time, so I knew she was in good hands. But it was a bummer to miss it.

But I feel like I was there. First of all because it's the same farm where she went two years in a row for preschool field trips, so I feel like I could give the speech about the difference between a pumpkin and a gourd, and taste the apple cider. Also, my friend forgot her camera, so she borrowed mine on the trip and brought back lots of pictures of Katy and her daughter. So I got to see shots like this...

So she had a blast. On her own. *sniff*

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Leftover #1

I'm tired and I want to go sit so I'm going to share some pictures that I didn't get around to posting in October.

First, Brian ran a half marathon and got a personal record. Our friend Brandon and his lovely wife Melanie came to visit so the guys could race together. It was great to get to know Melanie since we only met her at their wedding last May.

They were running so fast we had a hard time catching them! We went to 2 spots and missed them both places...then barely made it to the finish line in time.

Cutie newlyweds. Gotta call them that for the short period of time that it fits, right? :)

We're suckers for kettle corn.


Wednesday, November 16, 2011


-Last week when I picked David up from preschool they told me that he had failed his vision screening. For some reason, unusual as it is, I didn't panic. I just know my son and if there were several other kids in the room while they were doing the test, he would say "I can't see it" just to be done. But I had to get glasses for lazy eye and farsightedness when I was in kindergarten, so it's also not a far jump to wonder if there could be a problem. So I took him to a pediatric eye doctor today and my intuition was correct. His vision is better than average for his age, including depth perception and color differentiation. So mark another one off the worry list.

- Right after I wrote yesterday's kindergarten post, completely unprompted, Katy said to me, "Mommy, remember when I used to complain about G all the time?" (G is the girl at her table who was "causing trouble" and Katy didn't like it). "Well now I like her, she's one of my friends." It was nice to have a little conversation about giving people a chance even if they do something to annoy you when you first meet them. You still might become good friends.

- Luke is SO WILD!! He can (and does) climb onto any and every surface in the house. He climbs onto the kitchen table chairs all day long and stands on the backs of them in very precarious positions. If he sees something on the counter that he can't reach, he pushes a chair up to it and helps himself. He can climb on the couches and even over the arms onto the floor. We had to put the high chair away because he was climbing into it (over the TRAY), and move him to a booster seat at the table. His new favorite game? Dumping his full plate of food on the ground almost immediately and then screaming because the table in front of him is empty. My one note of progress this week: he will actually follow the command "sit down" when I find him standing on various surfaces.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Kindergarten, 3 months in

I've been meaning to share my thoughts on how kindergarten is going. I spent so much time in this space fretting about it, I certainly owe you some follow-up.

My observations are based on being present for drop off and pick everyday - and we pick up at the (outside) classroom door. I have also been volunteering in the classroom twice a month, so I have a handful of days in the room. Some things are surprising to me - most are positive.

- On half day vs. full day: first - I'd like to submit that half of 6.5 hours is not 2.5 hours. I understand this is busing and lunch and recess, but it's somewhat shocking how short their half day is. In this day of academic standards, I now believe that this is a disservice. They don't have time to do ANYTHING other than academics, because they have to accomplish the same standards as full day programs. They've had recess only a few times, they have 2 or 3 specials each week for 30 minutes, no snack or playtime. It's very structured from the moment they walk in until they leave. As a result, I worry that kids (especially ones how don't enjoy academics as much as Katy) might decide in the first year that school isn't fun. Which would be a shame.

- And speaking of academics, this has been my next surprise. I thought going in that Katy was pretty strong academically, so I was even wondering if she'd be challenged. (And a couple of people had told me their kids didn't learn anything in kindergarten? Oh my GOSH. They must have been way ahead.) She's challenged plenty - I feel that it's very strong academically. She has made SO much progress in reading. At the beginning of the year she could sound out short-vowel three letter words. Now she can read most of the level 1 early readers. And math, too. She really likes math - she asks Brian to write math problems out for her for fun. (Yep, she's a dork like her mom.)

- I'm also impressed at all the ways that they learn this stuff - it's minimal "table work" - they are moving around the room working in various sub groups and stations. Using music and dancing, etc. (I did raise my eyebrows three weeks into school when Katy said, "Mommy, why did they have us buy scissors? We haven't used them yet." But now they have.)

- I'm surprised that the teacher has a full time assistant in the room with her? That was not the case in the district where I worked. I'm pretty sure this is only kindergarten. I really like both the teacher and the assistant. They are kind and positive and exuberant. But also firm when they need to be. I was impressed that the teacher kept all 24 of them sitting on the floor quietly for 15 minutes while she gave verbal instructions.

- The second day of school, Katy came home and said, "I don't like my table. The other kids don't do good things. They do bad things and get us in trouble. The other tables don't get in trouble." I asked what kinds of bad things, and she said, "talking, scooting their chairs in and out, not doing their work." I panicked a bit for a couple days, just wanting so desperately for her to have a good experience. But once I got into the classroom, I got to see for myself what was going on. It's true that she's at the most rowdy table in the room. The assistant admitted to me that they put Katy there to encourage the rowdy ones. But in September, a new student was placed at the table, and Katy has seemed much happier since then. And in fact, the other kids have calmed down a bit and seem to be doing better. It's an adjustment for all of them. They don't spend that much time at the table anyway, so it's really fine. I'm glad I didn't overreact back in August.

- Because they don't have recess or much playtime, I think the social development is slower (they don't have time to form great friendships yet). This can be good and bad. I have a friend whose daughter in full day has had some social drama on the playground already, so we've delayed that. But that was also partly why I was motivated to do Girl Scouts. I want her to get to know the kids at school.

- I've enjoyed getting to know the families in the class. I think half-day supports this, because we drop off at 12:50 when no one else is outside, and we pick up at the classroom door so it's only kindergarten parents, there, too.

- Homework: Each Friday they receive a packet of homework that includes a poetry project (takes 20 minutes) and 3 worksheets (10 minutes total). Poetry is due Monday, the rest is due the following Friday, but we do it all over the weekend. Then for reading group they have early readers and a ring full of sight words that they are supposed to do every night. This takes anywhere from 3-10 minutes, depending on whether she writes her sight words or not. The homework feels like a good amount - not too much. But I can see how having three in school will start to get complicated, keeping track of it all.
- I LOVE walking to school. This fall we've been lucky with weather - it's mid-November and I am still walking everyday unless it's raining. It benefits all of us to be outside for a few minutes, it gives us some time to prep or debrief from the school day, and we often end up having conversations with neighbors along the way.

- Public school isn't perfect. We don't know what will happen next year because of the levy. And they are limited in what they can do because of state standards and class sizes and funding, etc. Of course there are kids whose families don't share the same values that we do, or the same cultural or socioeconomic background that we have. But for now, I see it as an opportunity to teach my kids that people are valuable and that God wants us to love them. All people. (They don't notice the differences as much as I do, anyway). And Katy enjoys school and she's learning and making friends. So it's working for us this year.

We'll see about next year.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Big Day

My Granny saw the surgeon today and her arm is healed well enough - no more surgery! This is a huge relief. Now we can start thinking about Thanksgiving.

And then Brian had an appointment that went well - we'll have more information in a couple of weeks, but we are both feeling better about things in that regard.

And Katy and I had our first Daisy Girl Scout meeting tonight! I have to admit that I was a little nervous. And even more so when one of the moms stayed and stared at us the whole time. Luckily I got a positive email from her this evening, so I'm breathing a little easier now.

Overall it went well. The girls were kind and pleasant and seemed to like the activities we did. About halfway through the meeting, one of the girls said, "Are we going to do anything FUN in Girl Scouts?" Ouch. This is the same girl who was at my house for a playdate on one of those 70-degree November days, and she wanted to play with the dollhouse in the basement. I said, "No, it's so nice outside, let's play outside today," and she replied, "When I have friends over to my house, my mom says we have to let THEM choose what we play." Ouch again. We brought the dollhouse outside.

But as for Girl Scouts, I think my biggest challenge is going to be worrying that the parents are satisfied. They aleady have different opinions and I'm all up in arms about wanting them to be happy with how it goes. How can I get OVER that?

But we're off and running. I'll let you know when I have cookies for sale. :)

Sunday, November 13, 2011

A Sunday with No Plans...

It's 10pm and I'm sitting down for the first time today, even though we had no plans. When I was in college I worked in a biology lab. One Monday morning my (adult) boss came in and we exchanged "how was your weekend?" We both said, "Great!" But she followed up with "I got so much done around the house," and I said, "I had so much fun!" We commented on the difference between being 19 and 30-something - our definitions of a great weekend.

It's true that these days I enjoy a weekend in which I accomplish many tasks. Of course it's great to throw a little fun in there, too (we had a bunch of friends over for dinner tonight - which is both fun and motivating to get the house clean).

So we cleaned, played outside, clipped coupons, practiced reading, ran an errand, and baked for our dinner. That's the day!

I cleaned out a closet that has been a dumping ground for the 2+ years that we've lived here. It was desperate for a re-org. (If you've stayed in our guest room lately, you may have noticed that the closet door wouldn't shut all the way - the situation has been remedied.)

Part of what is stored in that closet is "memory stuff" for the kids. You know - hospital bracelets and scrapbooks and baby curls. It's nostalgic, even though it wasn't all that long ago. But I want to publicly apologize to my sons: PLEASE know that the amount of baby memorabilia in your box does not correlate to how much I treasure your sweet faces! It is unbeLIEVABLE how much STUFF I have for Katy. It seems that not a week went by that I didn't document something. But each of the boys? I could store their stuff in a padded envelope. I'm so sorry, boys!! I'm thankful for this blog and the documentation that it provides.

Anyway, it was a good weekend.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

My new love

I've mentioned a few times about getting into deal hunting and couponing, especially in the past few years. When I started, I clipped TONS of coupons and played the drug store game and got lots of stuff for pennies on the dollar. But two things have changed:

1. I can't find the time to clip that many coupons and plan out scenarios anymore. I only clip the ones that I KNOW I will use.

2. The deals just aren't as good as they were two years ago. The economy has affected the manufacturers and they aren't as generous with deals.

So I've still been comparing prices and using some coupons and buying Manager's Specials (discounted food because it's about to expire), but now I'm excited about a new strategy.


I have been to Aldi a few times in the past, but I had the wrong idea about it. I thought it was crappy food for low prices in rough neighborhoods. But then I read this article and this one written by a frugal blogger who makes things from scratch and tries to buy local produce. This changed my mind about Aldi!

I realized that the reasons for their low prices weren't yucky food (lots of people LOVE their food), but cheaper real estate and fewer employees (you bring your cart back to the store, bag your own groceries in your own bags, things are packaged to be scanned quickly, items are displayed in their shipping cartons). And they treat their employees well.

So I went today and holy cow! I'm excited! Large canister of coffee? $5.49 ($8.99 at Kroger). Bag of mini bagels? 69 CENT (regular $1.99, $3.50 at Kroger). Shredded cheese? $1.99 ($2.99 at Kroger). I could go on.

The only downfall is that you probably can't find everything on your list there (no organic milk or Diet Coke - boo), so I had to go to Kroger to grab the leftovers.  But it was worth it. And no coupons! (Used some at Kroger so I'm not totally free from them, but still)

I'm curious since we're all living on tighter budgets these days - what's your favorite money saving strategy? Any thoughts on saving money for Christmas gifts this year?

Friday, November 11, 2011

Pleasant Surprise...and Questions?

Happy Veterans Day to my Dad and both of my Grandpas (one late). I'm so proud of the service that you given to our country!

Every November, Brian and I are surprised to discover that he has the day off for Veterans Day. I don't know why this day flies under my radar, but he's worked at the same place for 12 years and yet...every November we're shocked.

So we've had a really nice day today. We went to the indoor pool with some friends. We hadn't been swimming since August (Luke wasn't even walking then - what?!?), so the kids had some catching up to do in the water. It was great fun.

Then we came home and made a hot lunch and Brian walked Katy to school and went for a run. I put the boys down for nap and took a leisurely shower. I'm in the mood to clean and organize, so this weekend I'm hoping to: scrub, mop, empty closets, pull out gloves and hats, organize the garage so we can pull the van in, and maybe do some baking. November feels cozy, doesn't it? Especially when it goes from 70 degrees to 30 in 48 hours.

In past NaBloPoMos, I've asked if anyone has any questions for me to answer - to give me some new topics. Anyone got anything this year?

Thursday, November 10, 2011


I was all set in my mind to go off on a rant today about the Penn State stuff. We watched the students on the news last night protesting JoPa's firing and I felt sick to my stomach. I couldn't go to sleep because I was so upset about it. What has happened to our priorities when football is more important than protecting children?

But then I looked at my lists of posts from this past week and MAN. Have I been in a bad mood or WHAT? Some kind of funk. Katy is learning at church right now that no one likes whining and complaining. I should place my bottom in those little chairs and take a lesson myself.

So I'll be back tomorrow with something more positive. I've gotta figure out how to get out of this funk.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Mad. Sad. And Worried.

I'm feeling emotional about the election results this morning.

I'm mad that our school levy failed. (Remember that worst case scenario I mentioned? Yep.) Right or wrong, that's how I feel about it.

I'm sad that this is just another effect of this economy. People are struggling, and I totally understand that some people literally could not afford the increase. I guess I shouldn't be surprised that public schools will have to make (huge) cuts, that our home values will continue to go down, and that a good education for "free" is not a realistic expectation in 2012.

I'm worried about the future for my kids. What programs will they cut? Will Katy have art and music next year? How big will they allow the class sizes to get? Will it get bad enough that we would consider other options? But we can't afford any other option?

Hopefully I'm being overly dramatic, but $20 million is a lot of money. We will feel it, I'm certain of that.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011


I read somewhere recently that stress is worrying about something that has not yet happened. For some reason that description really struck me. How much energy do I waste on a daily basis worrying about stuff that may or may not happen? It doesn't help any to worry about it upfront even if it ends up happening. Why not just wait and see if there's something to worry about?

Easier said than done, of course. But case in point: I went to the dermatologist this morning to get a mole examined that fit the description of "concerning" on the skin cancer website. I kept telling myself it was most likely fine, but was still worrying about it. I'm fair, I've had some severe sunburns in my day, and some members of my family have had cancerous moles.

But as it turns out, it wasn't even a mole. Not concerning at all, she said. That'll be a $35 co-pay, please.

So I'm thankful. I'm also thinking about how much energy I spent worrying about it. There are several other items on the worry plate right now: the election today, my Granny possibly needing another surgery, Brian's upcoming appointment with a specialist to address some concerns. But I'm trying to talk myself out of worrying about it.

Let's just wait and see if there's anything to worry about, shall we?

(And Happy Birthday to my wonderful husband. We are having Ghirardelli brownie sundaes tonight, at his request. Can't wait.)

Monday, November 07, 2011

What's changed in 5 years

I haven't been in a public school for 5 years since I left my full time job there when Katy was born. Now I've volunteered in her classroom a few times and I noticed a couple of things that have changed. (Disclaimer - I worked in a different district and I'm basing this on 10 hours of observation in kindergarten only).

1) It seems that nowadays it's acceptable for teachers to have their cell phones in their pockets, and to pull it out and check it if something occurs (call or text). Not that they are texting all through class, but they have it readily available. I think this is a societal norm now across many divides. Five years ago, I worked in many many classrooms in many different buildings, and I can't think of any teacher that kept his or her cell phone in his or her pocket. They usually had them in their purses, in the desks, to be checked when there was a natural break. Now I've seen three different teachers reach into their pocket in the middle of class to check. (Note: I'm not judging, just noticing. If I were a teacher today, there's a good chance that I would want to keep my phone close by, especially with my own small children.)

2) Wow! They have fancy copiers now. With the touch of a screen, those originals are collated, alphabetized, stapled, stacked, distributed and practically placed into backpacks. Impressive.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

In what's becoming an annual tradition

See last year's trip here...

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Question about boys

It's been a busy week, and I spent the better part of today at Girl Scout leader training. The laundry and the housework are calling my name, so i have a question for YOU tonight.

How wild is it ok for a boy to be?

David is a really sweet child. Such a sensitive spirit and he can melt your heart in certain moments. But lately, he also has a wild side. I know that I need to give him room to burn off energy (we try to spend as much time outside as possible), but there are times that the wild hair isn't appropriate. Throwing, for example. He'll be playing, excited, happy, and he'll throw a heavy toy across the room. Do I punish him for that? Maybe the first few times, redirection is a good idea - but when he's been told many times not to throw things? He's not mad,

Or another example...growling in another kid's face. HE thinks it's fun and he gets on these growling kicks where he's growling at everything he sees. I tell him not to do it too loud in someone else's face, it's scary/disturbing/rude. He'll correct the problem right then, but do it again later. In his mind, he's pretending to be a dragon or some other creature. Do I punish him for typical boy behaviors if I've told him it's not ok to do them in that manner?

Friday, November 04, 2011

Political Nervousness

I don't talk much about politics, mostly because I can usually see pros and cons of both sides of things and don't necessarily know the best answer. The political unrest in this country makes me very nervous right now. People are becoming so polarized and I fear that it is going to do great harm to our nation.

This week I am nervous about Tuesday's election. There are 2 local/state issues in particular that have me all worked up. For the first time in my life I've considered putting a sign in my yard.

The first is a school levy. It's a big one. The reason it's a big one is that the state has cut so much funding that they are going to be $20 million+ short if they don't get the levy. A LOT of people are against it. Which I understand: times are tight and they are asking for a significant amount of money. But we have strong schools. Not the best in the state, but strong. I want to keep it that way.

Second is this state issue that would severely decrease the power of the unions for teachers, police officers, fire fighters, etc. I do not think that the plan they have is perfect. But the unions have too much power. I worked for the public schools for 5 years and was considered a teacher in my contract. I was paid well - I made more money than my husband and I worked 9 months a year. Also, it was impossible to fire bad teachers. One woman would no-call-no-show on a regular basis and it took 2 years to fire her. She was making a good wage for that two years.

Honestly, I don't know the perfect answer: I want the levy to pass but I know some people literally cannot afford it. I think the unions have too much power now, but I'm not sure if the bill that is currently proposed is the right answer either.

But here's the worst case scenario in my mind, for our community: the levy fails and the senate bill is repealed. Then the school board has no money, yet cannot bargain for the cuts that it needs to make because the union is too strong. So they will have no choice but to cut extracurriculars, sports, art, music, bussing, and anything beyond the basics. Our kids will suffer, our home values will go down, and our community will pay the price.

That's what I fear.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

A Thursday

Thursdays are always busy for us, but today was one of those days where all of the once-a-months and once-in-a-whiles lined up so the schedule looked like this:

8:40am - leave the house.

9:00 - drop David off at school.

9:15 - arrive at church and check Katy and Luke into their classrooms, fingers crossed.

9:30 - my mom's group begins.

10:15 - childcare workers come and get me because Luke isn't happy today. I chase him around in the background of my meeting.

11:15 - meeting over, get Katy from her class.

11:30 - set up Luke and Katy with packed lunches while I help clean up the meeting.

12:15 - arrive at David's school and let Luke and Katy play on playground for a few minutes.

12:30 - pick David up (his school allows him to stay for lunch if needed. for a fee, of course).

12:40 - meet my sister Melanie in my driveway. She takes the boys in to nap and I leave to walk Katy to school.

12:50 - arrive at Katy's school and check in to volunteer in her classroom.

1:00-3:30 - help in Katy's class.

3:40 - arrive home. Mel leaves. I feed the kids a "snacky dinner" and they play outside.

5:30 - arrive at David's preschool for open house.

6:00 - Brian meets us at David's preschool.

6:45 - back home. Sit for a minute.

7:30 - Beth picks me up to go to Costco. (for 2 years I've shared a membership with 2 friends - we take turns going and sending lists, etc)

8:45 - arrive home. Deep breath.

These days are the exception, of course. I don't mind them once in awhile, but hopefully they won't become the norm.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Thought of the Day

I was thinking about posting everyday in November, and I had an idea. What if I just did more like a long-winded Facebook status - but here on the blog? That doesn't feel as overwhelming to me, but I think it would be fun. I really like blogging (and looking back at archives), so that would be better than the whopping 4 posts that I wrote in October. (And I tend to shy away from actual Facebook - the audience is too wide and there's so much judgement! And I realize that I shouldn't care whether I'm judged or not - but that's a lifelong struggle of mine.)

We're enjoying a stretch of beautiful weather this week (highs around 60, sunny), and the past 2 afternoons I've had a yard full of kids for a couple of hours. The kids are all older than mine (that's the way it lies on our street at the moment), but I love to be the party house, and I hope that continues into the teen years. Come on over! It's fun here!

I've also been bringing other kids from the neighborhood to our Wednesday night children's program at church. Some are kids who already attend our church, and some do not. But I just LOVE to be the church bus. The kids talk in the back seat and I get to be a fly on the wall. And there's something exhilarating to me about walking in the doors with 4 kids and getting all their bags and jackets settled and into their classrooms. I want to be that mom for my kids' friends. Speaking of which, I'm on my way to pick them up now and bring them home...

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Pick a costume, any costume...

It seems that the opportunities for the kids to wear costumes start in early October and continue all month. We are also fortunate enough to have several generous friends who share my love of borrowing and trading, so we had several costumes for the kids to choose from.

I tried to steer Katy toward some other options like Buckeye cheerleader, but she insisted for weeks that she wanted to be Ariel. We borrowed a costume from a friend and Katy was thrilled that the costume "looks like she doesn't have legs, like a real mermaid." She asked me today if maybe she could see the movie sometime. (I'd be happy to show her, but it was only 9 months ago that Ursula on Ice scared her into the lobby. So we'll see.)

David kept teetering between Thomas and a dinosaur, but every time he had to make the final call, Thomas it was. Brian spent hours transforming our wagon into a train for Thomas to pull around the neighborhood.

At first I was going to put Luke in the lamb costume that Katy and David have both worn. But after getting his picture taken in it early in the month, a friend handed us a lion costume that was so cute I couldn't pass it up. So the lion got to ride in the train - which he tolerated for about 30 seconds.

First up, the annual photo shoot at Brian's work for their calendar.

 photo courtesy Jodi Miller

 photo courtesy Jodi Miller

 photo courtesy Jodi Miller
Next, Boo at the Zoo when Oma and Opa were in town. (I didn't bother with a costume for Luke)

In search of treat stations.

Could've stayed in the hay maze for hours.

One of those girly salons had a booth with princesses - they took Katy over and sprayed glitter in her hair (which she loved, but I was surprised they didn't ask the parents?)

Then it was David's parade and party at school:

Anxiously awaiting Thomas (don't be fooled - the lion could not be contained!)

So proud!

Katy's parade and party:

Finally, trick or treat!! We love to go with friends - and this year we were joined by first-timers Frank and Maggie!

Katy and her girls. At the end of the night, she told me that she wished she had a sister. :(

Have you ever seen a cuter gnome?

David was thrilled that Frank came along.
Oh, babies in animal costumes!

See the train? The cage didn't contain the lion, who wanted to run free. The lion then did a face plant and bled down the front of his costume. Which Brian said made him look more authentic, as a lion.
The coolest thing that happened was right at the end - we were heading home and it was dark, and a fire truck with flashing lights pulled up right next to us. The firemen jumped out with bags of candy and made David's night!

So we made it through another Halloween! It's nice to pack up the costumes for now, but David's already asking how long until the next Halloween.