Friday, November 2, 2012

Growing up

Dear Inchie,

Last year passed and I never managed to write you a letter.  You were still so small and I didn't know you all that well yet.  I couldn't figure out what to say.  What I wanted to you know about this time in your life.  Or about this time in mine.

We've both grown up a lot this year.  Being in my 30s when you were born implies that I'd already done my growing up, but you'll come to learn that growing up can happen any time, any place.  It can take you by surprise.  Until you came along, I'm not sure I knew I had more growing up to do.

Bringing you into this world involved a leap of faith for me.  Faith in myself I didn't have before.  I took control of my health and owned it for the first time in my life.  Since then I've continued to grow stronger and more confident.  As I watch you explore the world, I push harder to keep up, to be ready.  Someday you are going to venture beyond my reach, but I want to support you with years of adventures before that day comes.

Singing and dancing occupy a large portion of your day.  Even before you learned to shape the words, you would babble along in tune to whatever you heard.  And now that the words come more easily, I'm often serenaded by Twinkle Twinkle or Frere Jacques.  Music seems to light you up and it's a joy to see.

You are also cuddle monster, giving amazing hugs with your whole body.  I love being greeted at pickup time by a smiling little girl, arms wide welcoming me home from work.  Then you wrap me up, head on my shoulder, hands patting my shoulders.  The whole world slides away and I'm left feeling content and cherished.  I pray you feel that same love pouring out of me. 

This year you've taken the Lego obsession in our house and made it your own.  Where we once built houses, you are making castles.  You build block towers as high as you can reach and then go to find a stool to you can make it even higher.  Once your masterpiece is complete, I love to hear your giggles as you tear it all down to start again another day.  When you're not building towers, you're taking care of your babies.  Feeding them, putting them to sleep, taking them on adventures around the living room.  It's seldom you aren't seen with a friend long for the fun.

While you are tucking in your dolls and building towers, I'm watching - hoping to learn and nurture what excites you in this world.  You mimic so closely everything your big sister does, I struggle to remember that you are your own person who has a unique future in front of you.  Please keep reminding me of that as you grow.  Don't ever let me send you down a path simply because your sister's feet carried her that way.

The coming year will bring many challenges, but I hope with you I can remember that every challenge is one more adventure we get to have together.  I plan to continue growing as I know that you will.  I love where we've been together so far.  Thank you for taking me along for the ride.

Love, Mommy

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Sandy's Gift

I haven't been at work for 4 days.  Torrential rains.  Flooding.  Falling trees.  Power outages.  Hurricane Sandy walloped the East coast.

Thankfully I watched most of it on TV from the warm comfort of my living room.  I can't say I've ever been so grateful to have a storm rage around me and leave me nothing more than a little wet.

With Ray taking over the menu prep, my load has lightened.  Versus feeling a weight grow day after day on my shoulders, I started making progress.  The road was long, but I felt I could walk it again.  That hopefulness was something I hadn't felt in a long time.  What a beautiful feeling!

As Sandy closed down the East Coast for the past two days, I relaxed.  Work allowed employees to take off time to made up over the next few months - no precious leave needed.  A windfall of time fed the hopefulness and the result was gloriously relaxing.

For the first time in months, I had unplanned time.  Time to use however I saw fit.  Time to gain a foothold in the chaos.  All the things I could plan to do...

The first of which was to sleep in Monday morning.  I slept.  And slept.  And slept.  Until 8:30 am!!!  Many might think this a insignificant feat.  But those people are not the parents of toddler morning birds.  I was so happy to sleep.

Upon waking Monday morning, I considered listing all the things I wanted to get done.  I could build a nice long list and check things off one by one.  It would be so satisfying.  But that isn't what I did.  I didn't plan at all.  I just lived in my space.  As a task popped up, I worked on it.  Or I didn't.  I dedicated myself to no task taking more than an hour.  ROWE - Results Only Work Environment.  I could have to go back to my real job at any moment.  All that mattered was the state I left behind.  Start nothing that can't be completed.

My first urge was to prepare for the hurricane.  A little shopping.  Extra water in the fridge.  Candles out.  Matches located.  Laundry dried.  Portable electronics charged.  Bigger electronics shutdown.  Children bathed.  Sweaters donned.

Feeling as in control of my fate as I could in the middle of a hurricane I began to search my house for the other items which were bothering me.

Boxes of recently acquired hand-me-downs - organized into sortable stacks.
My girls' puzzles and board games - organized onto a repurposed shleving unit in the closet.
Piles of thoroughly loved bath toys - sorted and separated into keep and toss.
Stack of dropped items inside the kitchen door - escorted to their respective homes.
Mountain of craft supplies supporting past projects - organized back into the craft boxes.

Monday became Tuesday and I kept gliding through the house.  Puttering.  Finding an object out of place, returning it to its home.  We moved some furniture.  Divested of more unsold items from our yard sale.  Planned to ridding our house of more things kept past their usefulness.

Tomorrow I return to work.  I can't say that I'm done, but I don't ever really want to be done.  I just want to feel at peace in my own space.  For the first time in quite a long time, I think I've achieved that.  Now I just have to work on keeping the peace.  :)

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

When something's got to give

This fall has been full of lessons for me.  Lessons about maintaining my health.  Lessons on making time for relaxation.  Lessons concerning how fast my children are growing.  The latest lesson I have yet to conquer is how to recognize, and subsequently respect, my own limits.

But I'm trying.

My baby sister got married this weekend.  The day after her wedding Bean turned 4.  Two weeks from now MY baby Inchie turns 2.  Given the craziness of the month, I combined their birthday celebrations into one happy party.  I took that as proof that I was finally getting the hang of not overextending myself.  Maybe I was learning my lesson.

Regrettably one less party didn't seem to lessen the load.  At we entered into wedding weekend, I felt out of control.  Work had been accomplished that week through force of will.  There was nothing organic or sustaining about the energy used.  I have a plaque in my office which reads "You will because you can."  It's meant to be empowering I think, but I've started reading it as a warning.  I can do a lot of things but maybe I shouldn't do them all at once.

I wasn't keeping up.  My head was full of unfinished tasks.  So I made a list.  Better out than in.
  • Make Dinner
  • Set tomorrow's clothes
  • Pack Lunches
  • Pack Snack (M,W)
  • Prep Dinner for tomorrow
  • Fold laundry and Put away clean clothes
  • Gather up dirty clothes and Swap loads
  • Sort mail
  • Wipe off table
  • Pick up living room
  • Pack gym bag for the morning
I showed the list to my husband.  He didn't like the list.  He said I had too many things on it and I was going to discourage myself.  He was right.  That list is too long.  But someone has to do the work.  I tried following the list each day  for a week and I made little progress.

I still wasn't accounting for all the things I need to do on a weekly basis.  They weren't on the list.  And I grew more and more discouraged and frustrated.   My head filled back up again and I pretty much threw in the towel.  I selected our clothes for the weekend from the dirty piles in my laundry room and washed them all at once.  They came out of the dryer, into the suitcase and we departed for the wedding.  I do not like living that way.  Whatever feeling exists beyond overwhelmed is where I was at.  And it started to show.

After numerous heated exchanges, I finally got to the heart of the matter with my husband.  I needed to divest of something.  Ignoring the list to start with we decided that my primary household responsibilities were Finances, Scheduling, Food and Clothing.  My husband took care of  Dishes, Trash, House Upkeep and Yard Work.

Strangely enough, my husband was extremely hesitant to take over any of my responsibilities.  My trend is to control everything to meet my expectations.  It keeps life stable.  It also keeps me very very busy; I'm learning - too busy.  Trying to take a task from me is possibly like trying to cook a nice meal for a gourmet chef.  It's just not fair.

But it was necessary.  As of this week, Food is no longer mainly my responsibility.  I still cook dinner in the evening because I'm the first one home.  My husband is in charge of menu planning, grocery shopping, packing lunches and nightly dinner prep.  I cook what he tells me to cook and make requests.

I haven't driven him to quit yet.  I hope I don't.  When we finally agreed on what our new delineation of duties was I felt like I could breathe for the first time in weeks.  When I turned the cleaning of my house over to professionals, it took me about 3 months to stop being stressed about it.  Hopefully I learned my lessons during that divesting.

We are three days in.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Foodie Pen Pals: Tasty Treats

Today is Foodie Pen Pal Reveal Day!!!

The Lean Green Bean

Second month in and I love this program. That said, this will be the last month I participate for a while, but more on that later.

This month, my name was selected by Lori.  She sent me a lovely box arriving just as expected.  Here's my box.  It was covered in pretty pink tissue with a very pretty card welcoming me to my box of goodies.

Inside I found two blueberry donuts, a jar of blueberry jam, whiskey stix, quinoa pasta, and dried kiwi.  I'm still working my way through the whiskey stix (swet and salty - my favorite!) and dried kiwi.  The blueberry jam and pasta have yet to be utilized, but I'm looking forward to both of them.  Yummy things I haven't tried before.

The donuts on the other hand didn't make it more than 2 minutes in my house.  Everyone had a little and they were sooo good!  I loved them!  There was a bit of gooiness, but they were quite tasty and everyone loved them.

Another month and another awesome Foodie Pen Pal box.  If you are considering joining in, please don't hesitate.  It's so much fun to get a surprise in the mail!

As for me, I'm out for the rest of the year.  If I love it so much why am I backing out?  Well,  September is our vacation month being I might not be here to receive my box.  October, we have a wedding and birthdays.  And you know what happens in November and December.  Given my time constraints I want to be sure the other penpals get someone who can definitely deliver.  I'm not so sure that I'll be able to.

But thank you Lindsey.  I've loved participating in this program.  And hopefully I'll be able to join in again in the new year!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Foodie Pen Pals: Inauguration

Today is Foodie Pen Pal Reveal Day!!!

The Lean Green Bean

This month marked my first in the Foodie Pen Pals.  Upon finding The Lean Green Bean about two months ago, I've been visiting daily to catch inspiring exercises and creative recipes.  It's a new love.  One of the programs she runs is Foodie Pen Pals where you are paired with another foodie to share local, ethnic, homemade or simply awesome food items.

Given that I'm always game to try new foods, I signed up for this program the first day I heard about it.  I was so excited to come up with a box, but also to see what my partner could come up with for me!  Shortly after the matches were revealed, Mac over at Wealth is Health emailed me to get my information and I eagerly awaited my first package.

As it turns out I didn't have long to wait.  Arriving home after mailing off my pen pal's package, there was a box waiting on my door step.  Here in MD over the past month our temperatures have been nuclear, so I immediately whisked it inside and hoped for the best.  I think I waited all of 15 seconds to open the box.  I debated waiting.  The anticipation was too great.  Here's what I found:

My initial fears were confirmed.  The contents were HOT!  Thankfully, the only thing heat sensitive was the Yogurt Almonds and 30 minutes in the fridge righted that situation.  Even melty they were delicious.  My other goodies in consumptions order Chike Iced Coffee, Larabar Uber Cherry Cobbler, Good N Natural Chocolate and Beanut Butter Bars and the June 2012 issue of Everyday Food.

I like the Chike Iced Coffee.  It has spurred a new Iced Coffee obsession.  The coffee habit hadn't firmly taken hold.  I can no longer claim such a thing.  I sampled the protein bars over the course of the following week.  They fueled by 5:30am workouts quite effectively.

The only thing that remains of the box is the Everyday Food issue and a few Yogurt Almonds.  Those I've been savoring for WEEKS now.  Mac told me they were a favorite and I complete understand why!

Mac, Thank you so much!  This was a great first package  I look forward to an introduction to even more new things int he coming months.  To check out other Foodie Pen Pal packages, check out the reveal post over at The Lean Green Been.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

CSA 2012

Five weeks ago we entered Maryland's CSA season.  Our farm this year is One Straw Farm out in White Hall, MD.  Until this week, I haven't managed to capture a single photo of our share.  Reason?  I was so overwhelmed with greens that I couldn't think.  Must less photograph.  If' you've joined a CSA in Maryland, possibly anywhere, the first month consists of:
  • lettuce (romaine, red leaf, green leaf, mizuno, arugula, spinach)
  • radishes (pink, purple, white)
  • kale (regular and italian)
  • chard (swiss and rainbow)
  • other greens (beet, turnip, collard)
  • cabbage
There were a few other items in there, but the sheer volume of fiberous leafy vegetables needing to be used up in my house was staggering!!!  All good but so very very much.  By week 3 I was using more than I was tossing.  Week 4 I found that I was able to use up all the items (except one head of cabbage which is being saved for golumpkis) before Week 5 veggies walked in the door.  Armed with greens recipes, this is what I found:

 Starting in the top left we have:
  • potates
  • red cabbage
  • beets (I think - they are sort of pink for beets)
  • lettuce (I don't know the variety - when you break the leaves off they bleed milky white - very strange)
  • scallions (I would call them green onions, but they are red)
  • garlic
  • yellow squash
  • peas
  • purple cauliflower
I'm excited.  There are lots of options this week.   The lettuce, peas, cauliflower and squash need to be used first.  They seem to head south quickly.  The bet green also go on that list and I like to eat them when they are as pretty as these ones.  Everything else will hold for a bit, but I don't think it is going to need to.

Except for the cabbage.  I never know quite what to do with all this cabbage.  Maybe I'll try making sauerkraut.  I've never had purple sauerkraut.  It could be fun!

Wordless Wednesdays

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

A Quilt for Inchie

A month ago I read a post over at KdBuggie Boutique on how to make a simple baby quilt.  Since then I've been obsessed with making Inchie a quilt.  As my second born she misses so many of my firsts.  She got the second baby blanket.  Most of her clothes, even the home-made ones, are hand-me-downs.  Her nursery was decorated for her sister first.  I determined that I wanted this little girl to have a first.  Turns out I'm going to attempt to give her my first quilt.

Look at this face!
I started out wanting to duplicate the design in the blog post.  But then I started looking at quilt designs and a fell in love with all the colors and options out there.  Before long I had a pin board full of ideas.

Much contemplation lead me to decide on a charm pack quilt.  In order to give Inchie my first quilt, I have to start and complete my first quilt.  I like the idea of having the materials already coordinated and cut for me.  Using a charm pack takes care of that.

Looking at a lot of charm packs, I found one that simply screamed Inchie to me.  The Twirl line by Me & My Sister Designs jumped out at me over and over.  I kept pinning and nothing spoke to me like the flowers in the pack.  Perfectly happy and crisp.

Last week, I finally determined the time had come to place my order.  I wasn't going to find anything I liked better.  I decided on with little orange flowers for the backing and orange dots for the binding.  Today they came in the mail.  I could barely wait to get Inchie to bed before pulling open my package.  What I found inside made me so happy.  I promised myself I would not start officially start this project until August, but looking at those colors...  How am I going to be able to restrain myself??!?!?!?

Just right.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Busy Busy BUSY

I'm coming off a deadline at work.  Yeah for transitions!

I did a service project with some women from my church.  We made 6 DOZEN dresses for children in Haiti.  It was an awesome experience.

I'm doing this whole get healthy thing.  It's working out well.

My girls got sick.  Real sick by our standards.  They managed to do it at the same time which was very courteous of them.  Recovery is happening and I look forward to achieving our normal by the end of the week.

Last week I finished up a seminar on dealing with clutter in a kinder and more soulful way.  I've got a lot of food for thought and, I think, some coping mechanisms.

Inspiration struck and I've begun researching how to make a quilt for Inchie and imagining what it might look like.  As my second born she gets so few of my firsts.  I want this one to be just for her.

And I want to write about all of it, but I haven't.  Life is wonderful and complicated and full to the brim these days.  I oscillate between reacting and interacting.  I need to interact a little more.  I enjoy the moments I spend hands-on doing projects and shaping my day.  Maybe that is why I've gotten so much more engaged with my sewing.  I've also been planning my days a bit more before they happen.  No plan is 100%, but I like operating with a plan better than in one's absence.

This morning when I sat and read a mom's post about transitioning from working to staying at home with her kids, I paused.  Would I want to stay at home?  Yes.  I could do so much if nine hours of each day did not belong to the company for which I work.  Sewing.  Crafting.  Reading.  Volunteer Work.  Writing.  I would never be idle.  Would I want to care for my children full-time?  Hrm.  I love my girls.  But I'm not sure I want to be home with them everyday.  Someday I hope I can form a different relationship with my work and my time.  But I'm happy with my relationship with my kids and the balance we've achieved there.

Do you take time on busy days to day dream about other ways?

Friday, May 11, 2012

I am Mom Enough

My three year old doesn't like to go to bed.  I've had an exceptionally hard time dealing with this.  I work hard to keep our lives running smoothly.  Having a little strong-headed Bean making a wreak out of my schedule on a daily...  sometimes hourly... basis...  *sigh*  I don't always handle it well.  It's humbling and frustrating and embarrassing.

It all started when Bean was about to turn two.  I was 8 months pregnant with Inchie and needed to clear out the Nursery.  Ray and I made a beautiful room for our little girl.  She got new paint and original artwork.  Her great granddad's bed was reconditioned.  I even found my old Mickey Mouse lamp to watch over her at night.  Anything to make up for all the change we were heaping on her life.

The first night in her new room, she climbed on her mattress and slept peacefully.  She was proud to be sleeping in her big girl bed.  She loved the new special space we'd made for her.  We'd succeeded.

That night marked the last peaceful night sleep she got for months.  At first I thought it was a phase.  I could wait it out.  But as the nights passed I grew weary.  Putting a 30 pound child back in bed 30 times a night was wearing on my already over-extended (literally) body.  I began to search for answers.  I read books.  I sat with my husband in the dark devising strategies.  I emailed friends begging to know how they did it.  I called my mom.  I prayed.  I began to doubt every choice I'd ever made as a mother.  Few solutions were offered and those that were sounded like criticisms.

Four weeks went by like this.  Inchie was days away from being welcomed into the work.  I was exhausted.  I second guessed every action I took.  I criticized my husband's actions.  My world was coming apart at the seams.  Something had to change.  With tears in my eyes and a heavy heart, I gave up.  We borrowed a second crib to set up in Bean's new room.  I had to do what was best for me and my family.  In one month, we had gone from happy-loving-laughing to sullen-sniping-yelling.  I felt as thought I failed my little girl.  I'd told her the wonders of being a big girl and then I'd demoted her to a cage when I couldn't handle it.

The crib stayed in her room for four months.  They were not peaceful months.  Bean still fought bed time and fought the cage we called a crib.  The damage had been done.  That crib bought us enough time to welcome Inchie into the world and get her sleeping through the night.  I settled back into work.  Life began to resemble something I could handle.  Then Bean climbed out of the crib.  It had outlived its usefulness.

Nothing helped me deal with this reality.   No book or piece of advice or blog post or restraint system showed me the magical formula to get my girl to sleep at night.  To this day I don't know how we manage it.  But we do manage it.  More often than not she sleeps.  Quite often we don't.  But over the past year and a half I have gained something.

There is a peace inside me I didn't have when this all started.  An assurance that I will grow and stretch myself to any length to raise these girls.  I will take risks and make awful decisions along the road all in hopes of raising these girls in a safe, loving, healthy environment.  I will reevaluate and modify my beliefs if necessary.  I will not give up on them.  I must not give up on me.  There exists no woman in any world who loves my girls to the extent that I do.  I am the first and best mother they will ever have.  I am Mom Enough.


This post was inspired by the reactions I've read to the cover of this week's TIME magazine.  A mother stands on the cover breastfeeding her 3 year old son in a non-conventional pose.  The title is "Are you Mom enough?"  My reaction, like so many others, to those 4 words is visceral.  There are as many ways to parent as there are children being parented.  I share my story to illustrate one daily struggle which defines me as a mother.  With experience, I am Mom Enough to answer that question without doubt.  However, there are moms out there whose hearts and minds are filled with doubt.  This Mother's Day we need to appreciate them for all that they do.  And support them however they choose to accomplish it.

Friday, May 4, 2012

My little Eye Opener

Me: "Here's your allowance."  Hands 4 quarters to my three year old.

Bean: "Mommy, I want to give this quarter to the children in Haiti."

Me: "What, honey?"

Bean: "I want to give money to the children in Haiti who don't have mommies and daddies."

When she turned 3, Bean started attending Sunday school.  At that time we started giving her an allowance.  She has two banks on her dresser, one for spending and one for saving.  Then she has an envelope in which to put her Sunday school offering.  We told her that she needs to put one quarter in each bank: Saving, Spending and Giving.  She can choose where she would like the 4th quarter to go.  Usually she puts it in her Sunday school envelope.

This Sunday, she gave it to the Haitian children she's heard us talk about.

I am humbled by the awesome heart in my little girl.  She hears the things we talk about and works out a way to help.  The quarter may not make a dent in the need, but her giving spirit is inspiring.  To be so open to help, and to give whatever she has to give, prompts me to find ways to give more.  I'm touched by her actions and pray that she holds onto that loving nature as long as she can.  I hope I can help her learn to protect it without stomping it out.  I pray that I can be more open and giving of myself.

Many years from now I hope to have retained this memory.  I hope to share it with her and let her know the effect she had on me.  I hope to teach her that we effect the world around us in good and bad ways.  If we work hard and are true to our hearts, the good ways will grow and multiply.  The world will be a better place simply because we gave our best to make it better.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

A Healthy Dose of Sunshine

Today was perfect.

Normally perfect is a word I avoid.  There's too much pressure there, but today...  Today really was perfect.  I want to remember today.

Day Care was closed today.  As my husband covered Good Friday, I got approval to be home today.  I can't say I was happy about it.  I don't always (some might say often) handle schedule disruptions with grace.  This was no exception.  But stay home I did.

This morning I woke up with the girls.  We wished Ray a happy work day and then set off to figure out our own plans.  Breakfast.  T-ball in the back yard.  Clean up the swing set.  Run a few errands.  Lunch at Chick-fil-A. Visit the library.  Run just one more errand.  Go to the park.  Nothing spectacular happened.  We went from thing to thing.  There was bickering and coercing.  I even drew attention at the library when I yelped after Inchie BIT me.  Apparently, they don't hear grown women yelp all that often.

The funny thing about nothing spectacular happening?  We had a genuinely great day.  It snuck up on me.  I was sitting in the park eating snack with the girls.  The sun was warm on my neck, but I'd even remembered to bring and apply the sun screen.  Milk was being consumed through chocolate straws.  On this beautiful day, we sat together on a park bench without another soul around.

While this was my favorite moment, it took the whole day for me to appreciate it.  Time with the girls, doing things they love to do, together.  For about 45 minutes, I was completely at peace.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Bedtime Experiment

My kids are hilarious.  To me.  Our lives might be a bit more orderly if I didn't find them quite so funny.  It's very hard to discipline a child when you can't stop laughing over the way that they just deviated from your instruction.  One such moment happened last night.  Warning - this has to do with bodily functions.

Bean still wears pullups to bed.  She's only 3 so this isn't a big deal.  What is a big deal is that she is keeping the pullups dry each night.  I've promised her that when she stays dry for 7 nights in a row, she can go to bed in panties.  Woohoo milestone!  Double Woohoo no more buying $40 boxes of pullups!

Anyway, last night I put a waterproof sheet on Bean's bed, telling her it was in case she had an accident when she starts sleeping without her pullup.  She doesn't question this or even get excited.  I don't think again about it.  Until five minutes after she's tucked in.

Bean: "Mommy, that new sheet you put on my bed doesn't work."

Me: "What do you mean it doesn't work?" as I head into her room thinking the sheet had gotten loose and was folded and uncomfortable or something.

Bean: "It doesn't dry up pee pee."

Me: "Did you pee in your pullup?"

Bean: "I had an accident.  The sheet didn't dry it up."

Me: Shakes head in exasperation and wonders at my child's use of the scientific method.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The evils of Groupon

Looking at my goals this year, I realize that I left something of vital importance off the list:

Balance the Budget

This goal has been on my list since we bought our house in 2008.  It has been there so long that I think I've forgotten that it is still a goal.  Budgeting is just something that I do.

I've succeeded at budgeting as our house has changed and grown.  The first joint budget my husband and I operated under was 1/5th of what we work with now.  Our basic needs were cared for with just a little extra fun money on the side.  As we finished school, found salaried positions and earned promotions, our income went from adequate to generous.  And, in a lot of ways, that has made budgeting much harder.  Before we asked where our money NEEDED to go each month.  Now we ask where we WANT it to go.

Which brings me to the evil that is Groupon.  Why is it evil, you ask?  I'm getting to that.

Having lived on a tight budget for years, I was thrilled when I could find a sale on something we would use.  I'd buy up a bunch of it and save it for later.  It was a great way to protect us from unexpected expenses.  I knew that I could lean on my pantry when a big car repair came up and the grocery money needed to be reallocated.  And I always had extra shampoo, socks, toothbrushes and hand towels I'd scored at clearance sales.  Finding a good deal had the double positive of saving me money in the long run AND supporting me when the money got tight.  I love sales.

Bring in the Groupon.  This is a sale on an item that you don't really NEED.  Nothing that Groupon peddles is a necessity.  Coupon to a fancy dinner, discounted movie tickets, car detailing, weekend getaways.  All these are nice things.  And the deals are great!  I'd love to take a weekend getaway with my husband to a B&B down by the ocean for $99.  Sign me up!

Here's the evil part.  A deal is only a deal if you use it.  That's right.  In order for the money to be well spent you have to use the good or service that you picked up.  I dare say that you need to use it and enjoy it.  For me to take that weekend getaway, I have to find care for my children.  I have to navigate to the destination.  I have to pay to eat the whole time I'm there.  And I have to recover from the trip when I get home.

And I have to make room for it in my budget.  Gone are the days of purchasing because the deal is just that good.  I could go broke stocking up on things that I don't need at all.  The money for these not really cheap items could be used to pay off my car early, or save up for my yearly vacation, or fund my retirement.  Following my second maternity leave without pay, we broke our budget.  This year I have to get it back on track.  I want us comfortable.  I want us prepared to deal with the crazy things life throws us.  That is what I'm doing when I balance the budget.

Taking advantage of good deals is part of that.  There are so MANY good deals on Groupon (and the 5 other like sites that email me daily) it is overwhelming.  Which one is the best deal?  Will there be a better deal tomorrow?  And when will I use it?  I don't want to miss out on all the money saving.  But I can opt out.  I can opt out of the coupon fad.  I know you can save money by spending money.  You can also save money by saving money.  At some point, it is too much and that is what I feel about Groupon these days.  Too much.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Menu Plan Monday: Back on the Road Again

While I haven't been posting them here every week, I have continued to Menu Plan.  Over the past couple of months, I've leaned HEAVILY on my Top Ten Meals.  So heavily in fact that I'm sick and tired of eating them.

Making the same meals so often makes dinner easy to get out, even on the days when cooking is just about the last thing I want to do.  The flip side of that is that cooking gets really boring.  Really. Boring.  Even when I have the energy to cook, I'm so uninspired that the first thought that comes to mind is whether I should call for Pizza or Chinese.  Being bored quickly defeated all of my good intentions behind menu planning.

My approach this week is a bit more ambitious than past weeks.  I'm trying out a few new recipes.  Prep each night will be required to make the next night's meal.  But to feel inspired  to cook each night is worth it.  Motivation will follow.  I hope.

This week's menu:
(Me & Hubby) Oatmeal, Bananas & OJ
Soup & Bread
Lettuce Salad/Veggie Sticks

Monday: Tortellini Soup with Beans and Chard
Tuesday: Teriyaki Chicken with Rice
Wednesday: Mini Meatloaf with Roasted Cauliflower & Green Beans
Thursday: Tuna Rollups with Spinach
Friday: Quesadillas with Guacamole and Salad
Saturday: Pork BBQ
Sunday: Shrimp Kabobs with Cous Cous
Do you ever find the same old recipes uninspiring? Where do you look for recipes to spice up the dinner routine?

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Analysis Paralysis Solution

In the past I've avoided making New Year's resolutions.  I tend to set high goals for myself, aspirations if you will, and then fail quickly leaving myself with a growing pile of discontent.  This only leads to more resolutions and more heart ache.  Vicious cycle of negativity.  I want no part of it.

But my life is full these days.  Full to the brim with kids and work and plans and projects.  So much is going on from day to day that I get overwhelmed with the sheer quantity of options in my life. It's a hard life I tell you.  So many options and so much support.  It's just awful...

In a really awesome kind of way.

Given the analysis paralysis I've been experiencing deciding between all these options, I decided this year to set three goals for myself.  They are simple, straight forward, broad and I'm working up a game plan for each.  These goals will help me focus.  When I flounder, I look to my goals/game plan and see what I can do now to accomplish them OR determine if I've gotten distracted again.

So here goes.  My goals for this year are (in order of importance):

Get Healthy


Simplify Craftiness

I told you they were simple.  *grin*

Goal Get Healthy is already in full swing over on You can do this!  I joined a gym last year.  I'm in PT getting some issues resolved to take full advantage of my gym time.  I have worked out a schedule with Ray and the girls to keep me going to the gym.  I'm working through what being healthy means to me and what mini goals and actions I can do to get there.  I'm definitely pleased with my progress on that goal.

Divest and Simplify Craftiness haven't gotten as much attention, but work in those areas has begun as well.  The biggest step towards meeting those goals has been joining the 29 day org challenge.  I'm tackling craft central this month which, I hope, will help me focus in on where I want to go with my hobbies and remove some of the noise (stuff) that surrounds me at home.

Do you have goals for this year?

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Money Talks

Without getting into a debate over abortion, I'd like to share an experience I am having today.  This morning as I perused Facebook (like I do every morning) I was inundated with articles about the Susan G. Komen Foundation's defunding of Planned Parenthood.  The Komen Foundation is a non-profit powerhouse.  People give money to the foundation all the time without even knowing it.  They are synonymous with breast cancer and beast cancer awareness.  To protect their ability to remain that way, they found a somewhat politically correct way to stop funding breast exams at a controversial clinic.

This makes me sad.

I know where I stand in the abortion debate and it has nothing to do with the majority of the work done by Planned Parenthood.  They provide low cost or free care to women who otherwise would be unable to get it.  That preventative health care saves lives.  That is why insurance companies pay for it.  It works.  And every one deserves access to it.  For women without insurance, Planned Parenthood helps close that gap.  To allow the abortion debate to limit a woman's accessibility to preventative health care is unacceptable.

This makes me mad.

Then I had a thought.  What if every time I got ticked about an injustice in the world I donate $5 to the victim?  Or an organization working to stop the injustice?  What would that do?  I don't know.  I know that I can afford $5.  With the internet I can also find and donate money to just about any organization on the planet.  I've boycotted organizations for practices that I don't like (Exxon for most of the 90s, for instance), but I've explicitly never put my money somewhere in response.  So I made a a donation to Planned Parenthood.  Moments later I read that donors had replaced the money denied them by the Komen Foundation.

This made me hopeful.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Org Challenge: Home Office

Back in September I posted about my office and the awful state it was in.  Since then, I've done a lot of work around the house.  Absolutely none of it was in my office.  If anything, my office has gotten worse.


I'm not sure there are words to describe how out of control this room has gotten.  I've completely stopped using the space for anything beyond storage/dumping grounds.  I had the handy excuse of Christmas which I leveraged fully through December, but Christmas is over!  It is time to reclaim this space!

As if reading my mind, Org Junkie posted a 29 Day Organizational Challenge starting today.  I'm thrilled!  The challenge is to reclaim a room in 29 days and blog about it sharing the process as you go.  She mentioned that you don't have to share your before photos, but I couldn't hide them.  So here they are.  No judgement, right?  29 days and I promise this will be a different room.

My first task in this room will be to take inventory of what all has collected in the room and decide what really BELONGS in the room.  See you in a few days!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Today's Fortune.

Your luck has been complete changed today.

I'm not sure if this is a good or bad fortune.  Does it just apply to today?  Was my luck good or bad before?  Maybe I should wear a crash helmet until I can be sure...

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Holy Guacamole!!!

Or should I say Wholly Guacamole?

I found something AMAZING at the grocery store this weekend.  Something LIFE CHANGING.  I swear.  (And I swear I was not paid to write this post.)

A box of guacamole packaged in individual serving sizes.

Why could this not have been invented decades ago?

I love guacamole.  I love it so much that I really don't care how many calories are in a serving.  I will eat it with chips.  On tacos.  With veggies.  On nachos.  As a chili topping.  With my fingers.  Really there is no bad way to eat guacamole.

With a love this intense there is always a flip side.  the dark side of my relationship with guacamole?  I hate when it turns brown.  I hear that it tastes the same.  I hear that you can still eat it.  I don't believe it.  I can't get over the change that has taken place in one of my most beloved foods.  It has forever changed and we can no longer be together.  *sigh*

Shopping on Sunday, I wanted to pick up some guacamole to go with a corn & bean casserole I planned to serve as football eats.  I stopped by the refrigerator case and grabbed my usual pack of Wholly Guacamole.  It is straight forward guacamole which comes in air tight pouches good for preserving the guacamole.  Even on my best day I have a little trouble polishing off the whole pouch.

LunchThan as I turned to find the items on the rest of my list I noticed a box of Guac I hadn't seen before.  Turns out it was Wholly Guacamole Snack Packs.  Really?  Could it be?  a generous serving of my favorite guacamole with air tight portection?

My life is now complete.  A guacamole to go everywhere.  With everything.  All of my dreams have come true!

What was that?  Queso, you say?  Uh oh...

Monday, January 16, 2012

Parenting is hard.

Yesterday Mommy put herself in timeout.  This is not the first time and I'm willing to bet it will not be the last time I spend 3 minutes in timeout.  Shortly before removing myself from the situation, I heard this shrill yelling, almost threatening, voice in my daughters room.  There was a little 3 year old girl on the floor rolling around with her underwear.  She was experiencing dressing amnesia.  It is a sickness often seen in young children once dressing themselves has stopped being a novelty and turned into a routine expectation.  It is particularly acute when parents are distracted by younger siblings or running late for an appointment.

After observing the 3 year old in her natural habitat.  I continued looking for the source of the awful noise.  There was no one else is the room.  No one that is except me.  I realized, as I shrilly threatened "Put your clothes on NOW or you WILL sit in timeout for THREE minutes", that I had yet again lost it.  I was sounding ridiculous.  I was giving into the frustration of parenting a toddler.  She was winning this battle because I was standing there yelling.  And worst of all?  The grin on her face showed me that she knew it.  I left the room to go sit in my room for a timeout.

Moments like that make me wonder if I made the wrong choice in my life.  I don't always love being a parent.  There are many sides to me and more than a couple of them see this whole parenting gig as not worth the effort.  So many people talk about being in the moment and treasuring your kids.  I constantly hear moms talk about how blessed they are and what a joy it is to stay home with their kids all the time.  They don't want the time to end.  They home school to keep the good times rolling.   I wonder what I'm doing wrong.

There are also moms on the other side of the fence.  And THANKFULLY some of them share their frustration.  I need that more than the air I breath at times.  Hearing that it isn't all rainbows and sunshine.  During my 3 minute timeout I pray for strength to keep my temper and a little detachment to not take her rebellion quite so personally.  As I cool off, I notice that my little 3 year old has recovered from her bout of amnesia and is now fully dressed.  It's magical.  She wonders where Mommy went.  I determine my timeout is over.

I scoop her up and tell her I'm sorry for yelling.  I also slip in a notice of how well she dressed herself. She tells she forgives me and she loves me.  I hope she knows I love her too.