Wednesday, October 31, 2012

31 Days Wrapup

Ok, ok I flaked out on the last couple of days. Still I am pretty impressed with myself for how long I was able to stick with it as I didn't plan ahead nearly enough. There were a few topics I wanted to cover that I never got around to so may just write those up as regular posts at some point. Still since I also posted things that weren't technically following my theme, I wrote 41 posts which is more than I have any other month.

I may try this again next year as I did enjoy the exercise, it forced me to think and write about a lot of things that have been buzzing around my brain for a while bugging me, and I feel like I did accomplish my original goal - working through some issues in order to head in to the holidays more at peace.

I only followed three other people's series and now look forward to going back to the nest and checking out some of the others. I think there were over 1200 different series.

Monday, October 29, 2012

I Need A Pass From the 31 Days Today

As most of you know, Sandy is wreaking havoc and destruction on her way up the East Coast. I spent much of the morning doing final Halloween prep and this afternoon and evening connecting with friends and family in the Northeast. I'd like to say they've all made it through but unfortunately my best friend's Dad had to abandon his business (which he inherited from his father). The business and their home will most likely be destroyed when high tide pours in about an hour. Makes this little blog seem insignificant.

Stay safe everyone.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Night Circus

I wasn't sure if I would like this book but after all the hype I had to give it a try.

It intrigued me from the beginning. The night circus is a circus like no other. It mysteriously arrives at night with no clear timetable. The circus is a vast array of tents, each with it's own performer. Unlike most circuses which are an onslaught of color this circus is all black and white truly allowing the focus being on the performers.The author does an excellent job describing the different acts that the performers do.  This is one of those movies that I hope they don't try to make in to a movie because I don't even think Cirque du Soleil caliber performers could pull off some of the things the author has imagined.

One of the main performers is an illusionist named Celia Brown, her father was also an illusionist. He has a longstanding rival who he has periodic long term challenges with. In this case Celia is pitted against Marco an orphan picked by A H. They both train for years, neither knowing what the challenge truly is or who their opponent is. Their talents are very mystical. While Celia performs at the circus, Marco works for the overseer of the circus.  Their paths cross a few times and they become friends.  As their friendship grows into love, they realize that they are in fact rivals, and the terms of the challenge are that only one can be left standing. 

Normally I am not that interested in fantasy or mystical writing like this, but there was enough reality in it to keep me interested.  The descriptions were so vivid I really felt like I was there watching the circus and a member at the lavish midnight dinners that are a frequent part of the story. 

The funny thing too is that I have never taken my kids to the circus, but it will be coming through here in a few weeks.  Even though they're at a good age to enjoy the circus, I have no interest in what Ringling Brothers has to offer.  I want to see Le Cirque des Reves.

 

4-5 on a Sunday Afternoon

is one of my favorite times of the week. Meal planning and grocery shopping for the week is done.
Soccer is done for the day (well actually the season now - Little Reader had her last game today).
Kids have had their snacks and are playing for a little while before taking care of homework and piano practicing.

Add all that up and it means I can sit and relax for a bit before starting dinner. If I get a good chunk of time I may even finally make the first (and very belated) apple pie of the season.

Enjoying the quiet moments is a big part of having a balanced life.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Call Weekends

My husband is on call this weekend which means he may or may not be home while the kids are awake.  He has a presentation to give this morning which means rounds and other call duties need to wait.  Best case scenario he'll be home for dinner.  Obviously after all these years I'm used to weekends like this and it's not a big deal - except I created a bit of a challenge for myself around lunch time today.  These are the days I wish I had family in town to just be an extra driver.  Here's the schedule for this afternoon

12:00 Everyone leaves for Little Hugger's dance class.  Little Reader to be in her soccer
          uniform
12:15 Little Hugger's dance class starts
12:25 Walk Little Reader over to her piano teacher's house (one block from the dance
          class and the only reason this will all work)
12:30 Piano lesson starts
1:00 Pick up Little Hugger from dance class and walk her over to piano teacher's house
1:15 Little Reader piano lesson done, Little Hugger starts piano lesson
        Drive Little Reader over to her soccer game, watch for a couple of minutes before
        driving back to piano teacher's house
1:45 Pick up Little Hugger from piano, drive back to the soccer field, and hope to catch
         the end of the game
2:00 Soccer game is over and we can all relax

Now I realize this is fairly typical for suburban parents and like I said I brought it on myself (well the soccer game was not part of the original plan, but I told the coach she could do it).

I think once we're all done we'll head to the library as I have a couple of books to pick up and they always like going there and then I'll have to take all 3 to the store with me to pick up stuff for dinner.

Part of what will keep me going through the crazy couple of hours is that next week I have scheduled a day off for myself.  I planned it awhile ago as I booked a long overdue haircut (it's been almost two years since I last got it cut and that was not by my favorite hairdresser - he had moved salons and I thought I had lost him).  He resurfaced and I am very much looking forward to a solo trip downtown to get my hair highlighted and cut, and then to top it off I just scored a Groupon to 1154 Lill.  If you're from Chicago you probably know of this store - they make custom handbags in a bunch of different styles and you can also design your own. I've always wanted one but have been too cheap to get one (and I don't often make it to Lincoln Park).  This morning I saw the Groupon and the fact that they also have a store at 900 Michigan which is very close to the hair salon.  It was meant to be.

 I've got my eye on the Gaby style and this is one of the options I came up with.  I usually carry a backpack as it's easier with holding little kids hands when we walk around, but I have been wanting something for those times when I don't need the big backpack.  I'm going to play around with the color options a bit more and try and make it more fun but since I wear jeans so much I think something blue would be good.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Our Visit to the Pumpkin Patch



As I mentioned before I am now contributing to the Chicagoland Moms Blog.  Check out my post about one of my favorite fall traditions - our visit to the pumpkin patch.

Back And Forth

At the beginning of this series I wrote about my new old fashioned time management system. Yesterday I had one of my most productive days yet, but still had lots of good time playing with Little Man.

We.....
dropped his sisters off at school and ran a quick errand
had a snack
dusted/vacuumed the basement
played superheros
sorted two loads of laundry
played with Legos
I posted a couple of things on here
We had lunch
tested all of last years' Christmas lights to see which still work
built a pile of leaves and jumped in it
changed the light bulb in the garage
played soccer
changed an exterior light bulb
cleaned leaves out of the pond
and a few more things that I now forget

The funny thing is even though I got a lot of things done, it didn't feel overwhelming because we went back and forth between chores and fun stuff.  Little Man has gotten so used to this back and forth system that now whenever the cuckoo cuckoos he'll ask me what that cuckoo means, and if I hadn't already planned on doing something, I'll say he's just saying hi.

I know some people are more efficient cranking out 3 hours worth of tasks and then enjoying the rest of their day with the fun stuff, but right now with a 3 year old in the house (all day on Tuesdays and Thursdays) that's just not going to happen, so I'm glad I finally found something that works.  I was still feeling good after the kids were in bed, so kept the momentum going tackling some of my crafting projects while watching Scandal (my guilty pleasure show).

Thursday, October 25, 2012

How I Start My Day

After reading lots of other Mom blogs I've often read the advice to get up and get dressed and take time to plan your day or enjoy a few minutes of quiet before your kids wake up. Makes sense. Do I do it? Hell no!

What's my morning routine? Most days, my husband gets up, gets himself ready, kisses me goodbye and leaves before the rest of us have even woken up.

650 - First alarm goes off - snooze
700 - Second alarm goes off - snooze
       - My daughters' alarms go off, they get dressed and shortly after they come in to my
         room and get under the covers and snuggle with me - one on either side
710 - Now it's time to get up and wake up Little Man if he hasn't joined us by this point,
         and then head down for breakfast.

All you early birds can enjoy your worm, I prefer to stay in my nice warm nest.  My daughters are 8 and 6 I know the day is rapidly approaching that they won't want to snuggle with me any more. I'm going to enjoy these days as long as I can.

How Third Grade Girls Deal With Third Grade Boys

Yesterday Little Reader was telling me about one of her classmate's plans for his Halloween costume. He's going to be a salesman. He had gone into detail about the costume and she relayed that to me. When she was done I said I didn't get it and told her so.

Her response? "I know. He's doesn't always make sense. He's one of those boys that when they talk you just kind of smile and nod."

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Gone Girl

This is a tough review to write as part of the reason I enjoyed it was no one had spoiled it for me. I'll do my best not to spoil it for anyone else.

Nick and Amy move from Manhattan (her hometown) to Missouri (where he grew up) to help his sister care for his parents. Amy is initially portrayed as a diehard New York who is miserable in the Midwest but tries to make it work for his sake.

To outsiders, it seems like they have a good marriage but then Amy goes missing on their fifth anniversary. Nick is the primary suspect but he swears he's innocent. His attitude towards the police and the media make it seem like he's hiding something but we're not sure what.

The book goes back and forth between Nick's perspective and Amy's. Nick's being present time (and not dated), and Amy's dated and providing more of the backstory.

I almost gave up in the beginning as Nick's attitude was just bugging me, and I thought we would never learn anything substantial about the reason for it, then the author sucked me in. It was a very well planned out book, giving you little pieces of information along the way so everything is plausible even if there are some surprises.

I've Got My Eye on the Prize

As I've mentioned before I started running this summer and set goals for myself to stay motivated. It has definitely worked. I'm running the Hot Chocolate 15k next weekend, and feel ready. I'm really looking forward to the chocolate goodies at the end.

But more than that, I'm also ready to take a break from running or at least ratchet it down a bit. Right now I run three days a week - 2 days about 3.5 miles and then a long run the 3rd day. Today was my last pre-race long run and I ran 7.5.

Last Friday it was raining and I needed to run errands while the kids were in school. I had time to wander around Barnes & Noble by myself for a while and peek into other stores nearby - what a luxury. I know I could do stuff like that on the weekends, but I hardly ever do - that's family time. Also this time of year so many stores are selling creepy Halloween stuff which freaks me out, so right now it's all about power shopping and avoiding some of my favorite stores (like Michael's)

So as much as I am psyched for the race, I am just as excited to be done with training for a while and start using my kidless time to start getting ready for Christmas - my favorite holiday.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Love is a Given, Respect is Earned

That's a quote from Earl Woods (Tiger Woods' Dad).  I don't remember when I heard it first, but  it was before I had kids.  Still it stuck with me.  Once I had kids I realized how true it is.  Of course we love our kids.  And they love their parents. But respect is different.

When Earl was talking about it, he meant parents love their kids unconditionally but the respect has to be earned (not sure if he would respect the dog Tiger became after he died, but that's another topic).  Still lately I've been thinking more about kids respecting their parents (specifically me) and parents respecting their kids.  Yes, my kids love me, we start almost everyday with hugs and snuggles in my bed and heartfelt hugs throughout the day and before tucking them in at night.  But respect, well, some days I don't feel I have earned it, mostly because I haven't showed it to them. 

When I have to ask my kids repeatedly to do something that they know I expect of them.  When they disregard our longstanding rules, I feel like they are not respecting me.  I hate to be a nag, and I encourage my children's independence, but after a while certain rules/chores should be a given.  And yes them obeying rules is a sign of respect to me. 

What I've realized lately though is that when they don't respect me, part of it is, I am not respecting them and their feelings as much as I should.  Don't get me wrong, I'm not planning on giving them run of the house, but I do need to find an appropriate middle ground.  Taking the time to listen to them, and really engage them. I have to admit this is hardest with Little Hugger as she's at that longwinded age of story telling and I often end up finding my mind wandering and not really listening until I realize she's done and asked me a question about what she just said.  She is also the one that tests me the most and I understand enough to know those things are related.  I need to work harder to really listen, and earn her respect again. 




Lance

I'm not much of a fan of cycling, but unless you've been living under a rock, you've probably heard of Lance Armstrong. Doping is unfortunately rampant in cycling, but he always managed to stay clean - or so he had us fooled us to believe.

In recent weeks detailed reports about how he "passed" various tests have come to light, and honestly it's sickening. I put passed in quotes as he didn't actually pass the tests, he just outsmarted them in all sorts of sneaky ways.

I read today that he's been stripped of all his Tour de France titles and a company that gave him millions in performance bonuses wants their money back. I don't blame them. He doesn't deserve to keep any of it. At this point I think all his sponsors have dropped him, and he's stepped down from Livestrong.

When this most recent round of allegations came out one of my friends felt that people should leave him alone, he's a good guy who's done a lot for cancer research. Yes, he helped raise lots of money but now I wonder if that was another calculated move. I'm not saying there is anything wrong with the organization itself, just Lance. If he's portrayed as a cancer survivor who cares about other people, we'll see him as a guy who cares it'll make us like him and then we'll believe he's a victim whenever he's accused of doping.

Sorry Lance, your snowball of lies has melted. You're a fraud, and I feel bad for all those kids who saw you as a role model.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Don't Go Through Life Looking Through a Viewfinder

Our children's lives are extremely well documented.  Between regular cameras, video cameras, and camera phones, we could film every moment in our children's lives.  But that doesn't mean we should. 

Yesterday we went to a pumpkin farm and there were tons of families there with young kids.  Along with the pumpkins there were carnival style rides and other things for kids to do. The parents (my husband and I included) would give their kids tickets for the rides and then go find the perfect spot to get a picture of their kids reaction to the ride. 

Digital cameras obviously give you the freedom to snap as many pictures as you want and then delete later or edit them at home to create the perfect shot, but that doesn't mean you have to shoot constantly.

I do a pretty good job of putting our pictures in photo albums and enjoy looking through them with the kids later, but even more than that I enjoy the actual moments.  After we were done with the rides I tried to restrain myself from taking more pictures, and it was hard.  I wanted to get the perfect shot of all three in the middle of all the pumpkins on the good camera for the album, but then I also wanted a cute shot that I could post on Facebook while we were still there. Trying to get all three to smile gets tough and everyone ends up grumpy.

With the holidays fast approaching, I encourage you to put the camera down and enjoy the moment and create memories.  I'll do my best too.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Time to Start Dressing Like A Grownup

Mommy, why do you always wear jeans? - Little Reader

Quick answer - I'm lazy and don't feel like taking time to figure out my clothes (and yes that is what I told her, well I substituted busy in the mornings for lazy)

Long answer - I should but here's what's stopping me. Nice pants mean...
Nice shoes - I prefer sneakers as I don't have very many comfortable non sneakers
Thongs - aka butt floss. If you can find me a pair of nice pants I can wear without getting VPL, I'll buy 10 pairs
Taking time to plan - I do dress better on the days after I run because I have time to think about what I'm wearing, instead of dressing like a college guy and grabbing what's clean just to get out the door. My kids pick out their clothes the night before, I need to start doing this too.
Also I live under the delusion that if I am dressing in not so nice clothes I am more likely to clean my house.  If I'm wearing nice pants I'm not getting down on my hands and knees to scrub the floor.  I say delusion as there are many days that I dress in clothes I could clean in and then don't.

So...
I know I've said this before but since my birthday is coming up, here's the plan. Get myself some comfortable but cute everyday shoes - I'm thinking ballet flats. Colored jeans seem like a good compromise on the pants and seem to be in style right now.  Anyone have any good recommendations?  They both certainly fit the comfort quotient, and as I admitted last spring, yes I do feel better about myself when I dress well, so time to get rid of what doesn't work and get stuff that does, and wear more of all the great Lia Sophia jewelry I've bought in the last year or so.

I've still got a few weeks until my birthday but am planning on taking a day off November 3rd and finally get my haircut after almost 2 years.   I also think the haircut will help me try a little harder.  Right now my hair is longer than it has been since college, so I put it in a ponytail or bun almost all the time.  I'm thinking if I actually have to take a few minutes to style my hair in the morning, I'll be more likely to dress nicely. 

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Weekends Are Family Time

I don't often find time to blog on the weekends as I prefer to spend the time doing fun things with my family. Today was no different.

We never made it to an apple orchard this year, but today went and got our pumpkins for Halloween. I'm planning a post about our excursion for Chicagoland Moms Blog this week so stay tuned for the link. We stayed fairly close to home as Little Reader had a birthday to go to midafternoon.

While she was at the party I helped Little Hugger work on her pumpkin project for school and helped Little Man make a mummy pumpkin.

Tonight's plan - leftovers or sandwiches for dinner as we had a late lunch followed by pie (pumpkin bought at the pumpkin farm or apple made with apples bought at the farm) Time to get baking and fill my home with smells of fall.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Police Department

Yesterday Little Reader had a Brownie field trip to our local police department. Since it was just going to be about an hour long, it wasn't worth going home and coming back so I stayed for the tour and brought Little Hugger and Little Man with me. They were all very excited about it.

We started in the roll call room where the officers start their shift being updated on anything that happened since they were last working.

Then, we saw different areas of the office - the main control of the building and computers that update them on any major events happening nearby or elsewhere in the country that could effect us. They are constantly monitoring the Weather Channel in order to be prepared for severe weather and related emergencies.  We had a tornado warning this past weekend and the girls all thought it was cool that the officer giving the tour was the one who had sounded the alarm we had all heard - but were a little disappointed that he wouldn't sound it while we were there.

We saw the evidence lockers, report writing area, sargeants desks (which also had the 10 most wanted pictures posted).

We went down to the garage and got to see the squad cars. There was an officer getting ready to go out on patrol so he turned on his lights for the kids and let them see his bullet proof vest (and a couple got to try it on).

The next to last stop was the holding area - aka the jail. It's down in the basement level and was a concrete walled room with 6 cells and one group holding area, a DUI processing area, and a room for interviews. There was a big desk in the middle for the officers. The kids all got to go in one of the cells, and after checking if they wanted him to, he closed the door to the cell, and turned off the lights so they could see what it felt like to be locked in. Lots of shrieking little girls.

He had been joking through a lot of the tour, but at this point sat them all down and very seriously said that today was the only day he wanted to see them there. If you break the law and get arrested you could get kicked out of college, lose your job, etc. At that point he answered questions

Little Reader had a couple
- what is the most common crime they see there? Retail theft
- are there more men who go to jail than women? Almost 50/50 but slight edge to the men
- could they meet the police dog? Nope, she was out on patrol.

He also made an important point that kids should never approach or try to pet a police dog, as they are extremely protective and on guard at almost all times.  He also mentioned that these dogs are so smart that one way that the K9 officer lets the dog know whether it's time to work or if they're off duty is how they let them out of the car.  If they are let out of the front passenger side door, it's time to go to work.  If they are let out the back door, their shift is over and they can relax.  I don't know if that's standard procedure but thought that was pretty cool. 

Other questions
- when was there last someone in jail? someone had been in there that morning
- how long do they stay? usually no more than 48-72 hours  If they aren't released at that point, they get sent to Cook County
- what do they get to eat?  Breakfast is a bagel and milk, hamburger and water for lunch and dinner

Little Hugger had brought her Book About Me and was very excited to get the officer's autograph, and he happily gave it.  I was surprised that a lot of the other kids and parents had never seen it before.  I had one growing up and gave them to each of my kids as pre-school graduation gifts.  If you have young grade schoolers check it out, they're fun books.

We ended the tour in their break room for a snack (leftover s'more fixings from our campout). Each of the kids got a goodie bag to bring home - a coloring book, pencil, police badge sticker, and a ring that says Texting Kills.  My kids didn't really understand what they meant as they didn't make the connection with texting and driving until I explained it.

One last thing that I hadn't realized is that if you are going out of town, you can notify the police and they will add a driveby of your house to their usual patrols for the duration of your absence.  We have an alarm system and always let our immediate neighbors know we're going to be gone so probably would never need it, but still that's a nice option I was never aware of.

All the kids had a great time, and all the officers we met were very friendly and eager to talk to the kids.  If you have a scout group or other group of kids that you're planning an outing for I'd definitely recommend checking with your local police department.  

Going from 2 to 3

When I was little my sister and I often asked my Mom for a little brother. She said no and when pressed for a reason she would say she only has two hands, how could she cross the street with more than 2 kids?

Fast forward 30 years, this time it was my husband trying to convince me to go from 2 to 3 kids. He's an only child, and while he had a great childhood and was able to reap the benefits of being an only child - like getting a brand new car when he was 15 (he got it for Christmas before he turned 16) he always kind of missed having other kids in the house.

So by the time we'd settled into our routine with 2 kids he started lobbying for #3. Meanwhile, I was starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Having 2 kids in school at the same time, having some time to myself to take care of projects around the house (or just take some time to do whatever I want to do). I used my Mom's line.

He didn't buy it. He started giving the big picture, more milestones, more college graduations, more weddings, more grandkids. The more I thought about it, I realized that yes the big stuff down the road is more important.  Come into the present, Little Man is 3 1/2 years old and brings me a lot of joy.  He's a happy little guy who really has made our family complete.  Sure there are tough days or times when I feel like one is not getting my full attention even though they deserve it, but the good ones far outnumber the tough ones.

Oh, and how do I cross the street? Holding two kids' hands and one holds another kid's hand. I call them my little ducklings, and sometimes they quack as they cross the street.



Thursday, October 18, 2012

Finding a Middle Ground

Little Reader has very definite opinions on things, and once she decides something, that's the way it is for a long time.  With her there is no in between, you don't kind of like something, you either love it or hate it. It's very black and white.  For a while I've been pushing her to find the middle ground.  Her favorite color is turquoise.  If I see her getting too obsessed with the negative side of something, I tell her to find her turquoise (since it's a mix of colors)

The other day I took the kids with me to a local mall to pick out a birthday present for their friend. We started at Target but didn't find anything we liked so walked through Sears to get to Claire's. We had barely entered the store when Little Reader asked, "why don't you like Sears?"
Me: When did I say I don't like Sears?
Her: Well, I don't know, but we never shop here.

First off I don't have anything against Sears. It's rarely my first choice when shopping, but since they started carrying Lands End I do shop there more frequently, and their toy department has saved Christmas on at least two occasions.

Second, and this is the bigger point, I realized that she's getting her very cut and dry opinions from me. For example, I loathe Walmart, but love Target. I know some people love Walmart the way I love Target and Costco, but around here Walmart sucks and I avoid Walmart at absolutely all costs

She's getting to the age where she takes other peoples opinions on things very seriously and how you feel about something affects how you fit in. I need to encourage her to have a more open mind.  I need to start adhering to the old adage of if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all. Little Ears hear everything, and they really tune in to the negative stuff.  While I do feel I should be honest with her about my views about the important stuff, I need to work on showing her that everything is not black and white, yes and no, good or bad - that there are many shades of gray.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

What's the Big Deal About Binders

So I was watching the debate last night, heard Romney's comment about binders and thought nothing of it.

Then this morning I saw lots of comments from my Obama supporting FB friends criticizing and mocking Romney's comment. I don't want to get into a whole political debate but am curious, what's the big deal about the binders?

I mean I use them all the time to help me stay organized. It doesn't seem at all strange that you would organize people's resumes and other info in a binder when hiring people.

If you think I'm an idiot for asking, keep your response civil and don't worry, I'm not a US citizen so can't vote anyway. My confusion has no impact on the future of the country.

Back To It

Yes, I guess I kind of cheated a little yesterday but that's because as much as I planned ahead I ran out of draft posts that I could just hit publish on, and I was having a good day with Little Man so didn't want to ruin it by spending time on the computer.

After dropping his sisters off at school, we ran a quick errand and then came home and played. He had decided that morning that he wanted to wear a bandana on his head so we played Jake and the Neverland pirates in our jungle gym for a while and then went into the playroom and played with Legos and then built a train track.

We had grilled cheeses for lunch (and amazingly he ate the whole thing - well minus the crust) and then headed off for his basketball class. It was the last day so the parents got to come in the gym, and the kids played with us so we could see what they learned. We practiced dribbling, passing, shooting, and finally had a game parents vs kids. The kids beat us 18-2. The coach helped the kids but admittedly none of us parents did that well shooting. I had one airball. Little Man got two baskets and legitimately stole the ball from me twice (and once I kind of let him take it). The kids all got ribbons to take home, which he is very excited about.

After basketball we stopped by the library for about an hour, and then to the playground while Little Reader has her dance class. It was a perfect fall day. Sun is out so even though it's breezy, not too cold.

Once we got home the kids made a big pile of leaves in the backyard and took turns jumping in it til it got dark and they had to come inside.  A good day.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Fall is Here!!

I'm a little behind, and don't have time to write a real post today - been busy playing with Little Man. Instead I give you a shot of the beauty of fall.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Homemade Halloween Costumes


Two years ago my oldest daughter decided she wanted to be Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz for Halloween.  Great.  Little Man was only 1 so too young to have much of an opinion so I got him a monkey costume from Old Navy - love those two piece fleece ones.  

Ok, then for the challenge - Little Hugger decided she wanted to be a tornado.  What??? How the hell am I going to pull that off?  I kept hoping she would change her mind, but she didn't so after a few trips to different fabric stores and phone calls to my Mom for guidance, here is our tornado.....


The fabric was something I lucked out finding at a fabric store - Hancock I think. I bent a couple of dry cleaning hangers to rest on her shoulders and hold the fabric up.  Then we tied on various farm animals, equipment and even a little barn to look like they were swept up on the tornado.  I found gray turtleneck onesie and gray tights for her to wear underneath and we messed up her hair to look more windswept.

She loved it and certainly got lots of points for originality when trick or treating. Oh and just to complete the theme, I sewed some wings on Little Man's monkey costume, so he became a flying monkey.   


Beauty

I started this post awhile ago and never finished it.  Since I think it fits with my theme of balance I decided to finish it this month.  A while back there was a post on the Huffington Post about about beauty and little girls and whether we should tell them they're beautiful or downplay it.  The links to the Huffington Post piece and the rebuttal after.


http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lisa-bloom/how-to-talk-to-little-gir_b_882510.html?ref=fb&src=sp

http://www.blogher.com/why-i-will-continue-tell-my-daughters-theyre-beautiful

I read these two articles, the rebuttal first then the Huffington Post piece, and I have to say I'm somewhere in the middle. Yes I agree part of our job as women (mothers, aunts, teachers, etc) is to help build the self esteem of our children. For girls some of self esteem is tied to appearance, for some girls too much. So I have this to say in response. I have 2 girls age 8 and 6 and a little boy who is 3.

Yes I compliment my children but not everyday and I compliment them more on behavior and intelligence/ hard work then appearance. I read some of the responses to both articles and was surprised by the people who tell their daughters that they are beautiful everyday. At that point I think it becomes just words. For a compliment of any kind to have an impact, it needs to be appropriately timed, not just routine.

For the same reason, I have to admit, I don't make a habit of telling my kids I love them. I don't have to, they know it. I think actions speak louder than words. I hear tons of parents drop their kids off at school and send them off with and I love you. Mine is "have fun, be good". I remember one day as I dropped my daughter off at preschool the teacher greeting her at the front door commented to my daughter on my send off, "What does she mean be good? You're always good."

Having said all that yes, I will tell my daughters if I think they look particularly pretty that day, but it's more focusing on the outfit they picked out,or the way their hair looks, not just a general you are beautiful. Yes, I would rather compliment them on their achievements at school - put the perfect spelling test on the fridge, make a point of telling my husband about their achievement in their presence.

While I don't think there is anything bad about commenting in a positive way on someone's appearance the first time you meet, kid or adult, as long as it's genuine. The rebuttal author mentioned that she had all these urges to compliment the little girl on her outfit but chose instead to ask her about books. Why not do both? Break the ice with the compliment and then followup with what is more important (the brains and emotions).

I admit my parents weren't overly complimentary but that just wasn't their style. I don't count it against them, just as I can probably count the times my parents said they love me on one hand whereas when I talk to my in laws every phone conversation ends with them telling me they love me, and so I say it in return. I know both sets of parents do love me, but when it comes to love actions speak louder than words, and to be fair by actions I am receiving it from both pairs.

I do remember though being fairly insecure about my looks as a kid but that was more due to barbs from my older sister. I do try as much as I can to squash any negative comments I hear my older daughter making to her little sister as I know how much those comments sting, and for me those were the ones that when you hear them enough you start to believe they are true.

So I say yes we need to love our little girls, empower them and let them know that brains and character stand for much more than beauty, but there is nothing wrong with feeling beautiful as well, as long as that is not your prime focus.






Sunday, October 14, 2012

Screen Time for children






I don't watch a lot of TV, but I am trying to really cut down my other screen time to set a better example for my kids. We don't have Wii or DSs and I don't have any real kid friendly apps on my phone or iPad. And yes, that's all on purpose. I'm a firm believer in the habits you gain as a kid (good or bad) stay with you forever. Or at least are very hard to break later.


I hardly ever watch TV during thr day. My iPod is always playing though as I do need some background noise. I let my kids watch one show a day (after homework is done and piano practiced). With after school activities 2 afternoons a week, it's not often that they actually get to watch a show.

Sometimes if my husband gets home early he'll turn the TV on and they may watch with him for a few minutes before dinner is ready. So what do my kids do when they have down time - they play, they read, they color. All thr things kids are supposed to be doing. Are there days I wish I had more time to focus on the things I need to do, of course but I would never give a 3 years old her own TV.
If so that's a little different. I mean don't you have different rules for an 11 year old than a 3 year old. You probably let your 11 year old walk home from school without an adult, would you let your 3 year old. Don't think anyone would say yes to that.


A while back a Facebook friend of mine posted that she was looking for a small TV and was hoping somebody had one they were willing to give away or sell cheap. Even though I dodn't have anything to offer up, I checked the comment section as I was curious why she wanted the TV. As I suspected it was to put in her daughter's room. Her daughter is 3 years old. WTF does she need a TV in her room for? Sure kids are more tech savvy these days. I'm sure she can figure out how to turn it on/off, change channels etc. But why? Yes, this particular kid does have a much older brother (I think he's 11), so maybe he has a TV in his room, and therefore she wants her own too?   You know what my response would be, too bad he's older, maybe when you're his age you can have your own.  Well actually, my 11 year old wouldn't have a TV in his room either.

A different friend recently posted asking for app recommendations for her 4 year old to use whole they were at activities for her 6 year old. Really? You know what I do with my younger ones (6 and 3)? If the weather is good, we go outside, if not I bring books, coloring stuff, paper to play games (dot game, hangman), if all else fails, we play ispy. I mean really most of these classes are 45-60 minutes. Are you telling me you can't interact with/entertain your kid for that amount of time?  Ridiculous.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Facebook - Why I love/hate it



As I've mentioned before I was a pretty early adopter of Facebook.  I started using it when we were getting most of our babysitters through a nanny service and I wanted to know a little bit more about the people who were taking care of my kids before they actually arrived.  In the days before all the privacy settings, I could see the persons full profile, and it always put me at ease.  I never delved too deep in their private stuff, I just liked to know basic stuff, age, primary occupation, stuff like that.  Ok, may did I did check out some of the photos but I never saw anything crazy.


Little by little the privacy settings changed, and I couldn't get as much info but my friends started joining, so I stayed on it.  In many ways I love it.  I finished high school at an international school and after graduation lost touch with lots of people as they moved away or back to their home countries.  Many I have reconnected with over Facebook.  My cousins are all on and fairly active so I get to keep up with them and their kids (who at this point I haven't met yet).

Also it's the perfect social crutch for an introvert.  There is no doubt in my mind that Zuckerberg came up with the idea, not those Winklevoss twins.  I mean really, their social life was probably fine, but I would think the computer geek needed some help interacting with people. I hate small talk and now I can skip it with anyone I'm FB friends with.  If I see someone I haven't seen in a while, I already know about recent vacations, proud moments they shared, silly things their kids did, whatever.  Jumpstarts the conversation. I have noticed that after the initial fun wears off of posting constantly it really is the introverts who post more than the extroverts. 

So what's the problem?  I'm addicted.  I don't post that often (maybe once or twice a week these days). I don't get into long discussions on other peoples threads, but I do find myself checking it more than I should.  I keep my phone with me at all times, I use the app and check it at spare moments.  Do I need to?  No. I mean honestly my friends' lives aren't that exciting that I can't wait to get whatever status they post. It's an addiction, which is why I hate it.

Having said that, I do feel that using my phone less for other apps has definitely cut down my FB time, so that's a good thing.  I also like that now when I open it up, it tells me how many new stories there are since I last checked.  I've noticed as the days go by there are more stories as I tend to go longer between checking.  I check it in the morning when I first wake up - my morning "news" and then I try to ignore it til after kids are in school.  It's those little idle moments in the middle of the day that get me though.  I've started keeping my phone in my bag so I don't check it when I'm at red lights like I used to.  My main checking time is actually when I'm cooking, those brief moments when you're waiting for something to heat up, stir or whatever. Again just like reading blogs in one or two chunks a day if I don't check in as often, I end up spending less time on Facebook over the course of the day, leaving me more time to enjoy life instead of living it vicariously through my friends. 




Friday, October 12, 2012

Chicagoland Moms Blog

Hi there!  I recently signed up to be a contributor to the Chicagoland Moms Blog.  Here's a link to my first post introducing myself.  I'm excited to be part of the team.



Why I love Pinterest

When Pinterest first started I resisted joining.  I was an early Facebook adopter and have since become quite addicted.  I was afraid of a similar time suck from Pinterest.  Friends joined, offered me invites (back when that was still necessary) and I declined.  Finally one day curiosity got the better of me, and I requested an invite from a blogger I followed at the time.  At this point I never admit to my friends I'm on Pinterest.  I use my blogging name and keep it separate.

The first time I went on, I repinned a few things checked out my friends pins (but didn't follow anyone) and followed a few bloggers.  Over time I started using the bookmarklet and actually find that I use that more than repinning.

What it comes down to is that I know myself and my talents and limitations.  There are some beautiful things and delicious recipes on Pinterest that I will never pin because I will never actually attempt them.  It's like Gourmet magazine.  I am intimidated by it, have never bought a copy and would never attempt a recipe from it.  It just seems beyond my abilities and I'm ok with that, because I know there are enough things I am capable of that I don't need to reach for that level.  That's not laziness, that's just knowing myself. 

I like the simple stuff.  I pin recipes from magazines and websites I like, but I don't follow the actual publication.  I don't want to be inundated with ideas, but if I see a recipe that sounds good in my Better Homes and Gardens magazine, instead of ripping it out, I'll find it online and pin it for later.  I also am a little annoyed that corporations are trying to get in on all the social media.  I understand why they do it, they want to make money, but supposedly this was started by some computer geek whose not very techsavvy grandmother wanted to be able to share recipes and knitting patterns with her friends - and don't blame me if that's wrong, I didn't factcheck it, just heard it somewhere and it makes sense.  

When it comes to crafts I stick to easy things I can do with my kids (not for my kids).  If you check out my pins you'll see what I mean.  If I see a cute picture, I'll check out the tutorial.  If I only need to buy one easy inexpensive item to do it, I'll pin it.  If there's a long list of tools I need, forget it.

I have two separate boards for recipes.  One for recipes I want to try and one for recipes that I tried that worked.  When I try something new, I view the recipe on my iPad as I cook.  If it was successful, it gets repinned as a recipe that works and I print it out.  If it didn't work, I delete it. 

The other thing that Pinterest has a ton of is organizing tips.  When I first started reading blogs I found a lot of homemaking sites.  Some had helpful tips once in a while, some made me feel overwhelmed, and some made me feel like a failure.  I no longer follow the blogs but I have pinned a few of the things that I liked and maybe follow that pinner so I can quickly weed through their lastest posts.  As useful as I found one series a blogger did on the multitude of uses of vinegar (and I mean it, I use a bunch of the "recipes" now), it wasn't the type of stuff I wanted to read everyday. 

So to sum up, my Pinterest tips are
1. Follow selectively.  You don't need to follow your friends, if they tried a great new recipe or made a cool new craft they'll probably tell you about it.
2.  If you don't want to follow a blogger constantly but don't want to lose sight of them completely, follow them on Pinterest.  You'll get the highlights and can always check their blog for more stuff if you want. 
3.  Install the bookmarklet on all devices.  Like I said, I get emails from Real Simple and BHG with recipes, if I find one I like I pin it.
4.  Purge your pins on a regular basis. I love that Pinterest tells you when you originally pinned something.  I recently deleted a bunch that I had pinned 8 months ago.  If I haven't it done it by now it's not happening, away you go.  
5.  Have at least one board of things that make you smile.  For me it's cute pictures of animals, pictures of places I have been and have fond memories of, and pictures of places I want to go someday.  Sometimes you just need to go to your happy place, and visuals that I have pinned help me get there. 

And in case you're curious, here are my pins





Thursday, October 11, 2012

Pinning Success




Awhile back I found a pin for a gift wrap organizer using an upended stool and sewing an organizer for the outside. Didn't seem too hard, (here's the link if you want to try it) but I kept putting off the project. Now that we're getting closer to the holidays I started thinking about it again.




 Then I came across a link to a Martha Stewart pin that was much easier, cheaper, and to my son's delight required a trip to Home Depot :)

A paint bucket $3.98 plus a Husky tool caddy $6.98. Done. The pin suggests a tension rod for ribbons but I skipped that as we don't use a lot of ribbon. I am thinking of adding one though to help separate the wrapping paper. The rolls do flop around a little even though I put them on either side of the handle.  My tool caddy has a ton more pockets probably cause it's meant for regular hand tools and the Fiskars one on the left is meant for gardening tools.  I really like that it has lots of little pockets for different pens/pencils.




 Either way I like this so much better than my old tall Rubbermaid organizer. Stuff would get stuck at the bottom never to be seen again. Some rolls were to long to allow the lid to be on it. It has now been relegated to the garage as a new home for baseball bats and lacrosse sticks.

What are you doing to get ready for the holidays?

Fall

I love fall - definitely my favorite season. I love the colors of the leaves (as you've probably noticed from my recent photos), the sound of crunching leaves as we walk to/from school, the smells of fall in our house - baking pumpkin muffins, apple pies, bringing some of my heartier recipes into the dinner rotation.

Really the only thing I don't really like about fall is Halloween. Don't get me wrong, I love the candy, I like carving pumpkins but I never really liked dressing up, I don't enjoy scary/horror things, and have a severe phobia of spiders - even the fake ones. Put all that together and well, I'd just as well skip it altogether - or stay home eating fun size Hershey bars.

But of course we have kids, so that's not going to happen. Lots of people in our neighborhood decorate their yards and our kids wanted to too.  I told them I wouldn't decorate the outside, but inside we hung up some Halloween crafts they've made at school through the years, and helped them make a few more. Compromise.

This year we were invited to a Halloween party which thankfully my husband is on call for so we're skipping that. This weekend we have a kids birthday party to go to. Since the birthday girl loves to dress up, she has asked that the guests dress up (parents encouraged too). Normally I would skip it, but then yesterday I was playing with Little Man and he had me put on a cape I had made for Little Hugger when she was a witch. I had also made her a matching skirt. I tried that on and since it had an elastic waistband it fit too. So I'll wear some black put on the cape, skirt and hat and for once not be a total stick in the mud ;).

But no, I won't be dressing up for Halloween.  I'll talk a quick walk around our block with the kids, and let my husband take them all beyond that, while I stay home and hand out candy. 

So in this case balance comes in compromising enough to not stick out like a sore thumb, but still not beyond what I am comfortable/willing to do.  

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Shoemakers Wife

This is the first book I've read by Adriana Trigiani. I really enjoyed it and will be looking for more by her.  It is the story of Ciro and Enza.  Two Italians born in the Alps at the turn of the century who go to New York to make a new life for themselves.  Ciro and his brother Eduardo were left at a convent after their father died and their mother could no longer care for them.  She had promised to return a few months later but time passes and the nuns become their new family.  Both boys are hardworking but while Eduardo embraces church life, Ciro wants more out of life - and freely admits he loves women too much to live a life of celibacy.

Enza is the oldest daughter of a large family.  Her father works hard to support their family by driving a carriage.  Enza is an excellent seamstress and helps out as much as she can.  When Enza's youngest sister dies, Ciro is sent to dig the grave for the little girl.  He and Enza have an immediate connection but shortly after their meeting Enza and her father leave for America.  She to work as a seamstress and her father to work in the mines. Ciro heads to America about the same time not knowing that Enza is there too.  There are a number of missed connections between the two over the course of the book, but they are believable and the lives the characters lead are well crafted. 

The only gripe I have about the book is I never really understood what happened to the boys' mother.  There is a brief explanation later on, but it didn't really clarify anything for me.   
A very satisfying read with excellent descriptions.  When I first started reading the descriptions were so detailed it distracted me a little bit, but then I realized the reason is that not many authors bother with detailed descriptions anymore, it's all dialogue and plot.  Once I got past that, I quickly got sucked in.  This book is full of ups and downs and there were times when things were going well for Ciro and Enza and I would stop reading for a while so they could exist in their happy little world in my mind for a while.

Apparently the story is partly inspired by events of the authors own family although it is a work of fiction.  I don't normally read too many reviews of books before I read them for fear of spoilers, but as I read some reviews now, I find it funny that a couple of people were glad to read a book about Italy and Italian immigrants in New York that did not include any mafioso.  I hadn't thought about that but it's true.  Then again, these are Northern Italians so maybe that's why.  I definitely recommend it, and will be looking for more books by this author.

Next up are the Night Circus and Gone Girl.  I've already started Night Circus and am enjoying it but just got Gone Girl from the library and it's a 14 day loan since it's a pretty popular book. 


Stop Making Excuses - Make New Friends But Keep the Old

As I've mentioned before I moved around a little growing up and my parents no longer live in what I consider my hometown (where I lived from age 3-15).

I have never made friends easily. Mostly I relied on people to approach me. I rarely take the first step. Once someone befriends me I do open up but I hate to admit the insecurities are there for a little while.

When we moved to our current town nine years ago I didn't know anyone but was often reassured that once I had kids, I'd meet lots of people. Three kids later, it's true I know lots of people in town and have common interests with some but don't have any I would call friends.

The other day one of my good friends from grade/high school facemailed me saying she was listening to the 80s station on the radio and thinking back to all the fun times we had together.  I replied with a quote from Stand By Me. "I never had any friends later like the ones I had when I was twelve." Which is definitely true but kind of bittersweet.

I joined a women's group shortly after Little Reader was born, and I've participated sporadically. The other night they had a wine tasting at a local boutique. Bring a bottle of wine for blind tasting, get 20% off women's clothing. It started at 6, by the time my husband came home and we had eaten it was almost seven, I started making excuses of why I should just skip it, then I realized I have to stop making excuses and just go. What's the worst that's going to happen? So I changed and went.

There were a lot of new faces but a couple of familiar. I talked to a few people, tried some wines and went home with a Vera Bradley iPad cover and a cool new LBD.  Not a bad night.  Still while there was no one there I really clicked with, I'm never any good at taking it to that next step.  Making new friends is kind of like dating. Since I met my husband so early in college, I never really dated much so don't really know how.  I guess some women go for coffee, I don't drink coffee.  I know making excuses again, but seriously, how do you progress from acquaintance to friend?

While I need to make an effort to make new friends, I also need to do a better job keeping up with the old. My 3 best friends are all spread out, and we keep up on each others lives mostly via FB. While that's good in some ways, it's not the same as a phone call and I need to start making the time to reconnect. I have all sorts of excuses there too. Two of them work full time and I don't want to disturb them at work (when I tend to not have kids around and actually can talk on the phone). While they could probably talk in the evenings that's my time to relax, and catch up with my husband. The other has 4 kids and is home. Again I need to stop making excuses.  



Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Hoarding vs Being Sentimental

Last weeks weekly project was organizing the kids' rooms. Not a really tough project for Little Reader and Little Man. First of all I don't let the kids keep toys in their rooms. Toys belong in the playroom and for the most part they do stay there. They really just have books, clothes and snuggle buddies and a few other special things in their rooms. Little Man was the easiest. In about 5 minutes I went through his room and got rid of some nursery items he no longer needs, and he let me throw out a couple of old or broken crafts.

Little Reader is extremely organized, she enjoys trips to the Container Store as much as I do.  I told her early in the week that their rooms were the weekly project, she glanced around and decided that her nightstand (overflowing with books) and a small pile of books on her bookshelf were her problem areas.  She easily tackled those on her own.

Little Hugger, however, is another story.  She is my hoarder.  As I've mentioned before she has numerous collections and saves anything sparkly that she finds.  She loves drawing and creating things and keeps her creations for a long time.  She also keeps half completed projects with the intention of finishing them someday (she's probably about 50/50 on whether she finishes them so it's not a complete waste.  However when I told her that I needed her to go through her stuff too, her big brown eyes started to well up.  I told her she didn't necessarily have to throw things out, just find appropriate places for them.  The only thing I want on the floor is furniture, not piles of papers, collections, etc.  Her dresser was covered with kid jewelry despite the fact that she has 3 jewelry boxes - yes she's my girlie girl.  Since she has recently gotten some nicer necklaces I recommend that she weed out the old stuff and make room for the new.  Often that doesn't end well as she'll find something that she forgot she had and fall in love with it all over again.  She surprised me by getting rid of a fair amount of stuff and now everything fits in the boxes she has.  While her room still borders on cluttered she did what I asked.  Nothing but furniture on the floor.  I gave her binders to save her favorite drawings that she still wants to keep, for the things that she didn't consider special enough to keep but still wanted to remember we took pictures of them and put them in a photo album, and I gave her an expandable file for some of those incomplete projects.   At least now I can get around to clean while she's at school without having to worry about vacuuming up some treasure. 

Now don't get me wrong, I am not a total minimalist  I keep some of their things myself, and Little Hugger thought it was hysterical the other day when she found my bin of special kid items and saw that I had all their first pairs of sneakers in there.  She asked why, and I said it was required of parents to keep their kids first real shoes.  I also have favorite drawings that they made, locks of hair from the first haircut (and the certificates from the salon), letters to Santa, and a few other odds and ends that would probably only make sense to me.  So I understand her sentimental side and don't want to squash it - I"m just trying to teach her the difference between saving something because it's useful or special and saving it just to save it. 

Monday, October 8, 2012

Time Management

When I first had Little Reader, a lot of experienced parents advised me to take time to enjoy the little moments.  Don't get so caught up in keeping the house clean, take time to play and engage with your child.  I totally agree with that (and unfortunately maybe took it to heart a little too much as the dust bunnies started to take over). 

I tried to get back on track, then Little Hugger was born.  I was starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel as she was reaching preschool age, and then we had Little Man.  With each kid, I just put off more and more things to enjoy them.  Now that they are all in school I have a bit more time to myself.  Little Man only goes 3 mornings a week while his sisters are in school all day.  

A while back I was in a bit of a funk. I wouldn't go as far as to say I was depressed but I wasn't happy. My husband listened to me vent and suggested that I start being more selfish about my time. Moms are often so busy taking care of everyone else's needs sometimes we forget to take care of our own needs.

Meaning, take time to do what I want. I started running again over the summer while the kids were in camp, and managed to continue some in August too. Now it's become a habit, I enjoy it and am happier overall. Most of the time I'm running I'm not really thinking about anything, I use it as time to not have to think about anything except where I'm running and focus on my goal for the day is (longer distance or faster time).  Only problem is the time that I'm running is part of the limited time I have kidless. 

If I want to continue to be able to have my me time, I need to use the rest of my time better. Many of this months posts will be helping me find the best way to manage my time and be more efficient to give me more time for the fun stuff. I will share what I have learned or what works for me in the hopes of passing on some tips.

I've gone through the various exercises of figuring out how I spend my time.  For the most part our days are pretty well scheduled and run smoothly as the kids even know the key times well.  But it's that time between 12-3 that gets me sidetracked.  Little Man is only in school Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings.  He comes home at lunchtime.  He's 3 1/2 so while he can play independently and look at books for a little while, he does prefer having company.

Tuesdays and Thursdays are even tougher as Little Man is home all day.   Wednesday my daughters both have piano lessons after school followed by Little Reader's soccer practice, so no free time there really.  Saturday is family time and occasionally projects I need my husband's help with.  Sunday is menu planning and grocery shopping day. 

With my daughters I always give them advance notice of times we need to leave to go somewhere, or finish one task to start another.  Since Little Man obviously can't tell time yet there's a limit to how I can explain when we need to stop or start something new.  Lately I've been using our cuckoo clock.  It's in our basement, near the playroom and cuckoos every half hour.  For example, I'll tell him, "Next time the cuckoo goes off I have to stop playing and start the laundry".  It works pretty well and since I set the expectation so he knows it's coming and I give him my full attention until the cuckoo goes off.  After I finish my task I come back to him play for a while and if necessary set another cuckoo deadline. I try not to do it too many times a day or spread it out with some good chunks of play time.  I know some people use timers and other devices and that can obviously work too, but I like relying less and less on my phone and the fact that we can hear it in most of the house.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

A Good Friday

Friday morning I dropped Little Man for his field trip to the pumpkin farm. He was so excited!! Maybe more excited to ride the big school bus than to actually go to the pumpkin farm. As we were waiting for everyone to arrive, I started to see that pretty much every kid was accompanied by their Mom. It wasn't required that parents chaperone but I was starting to feel a little bad that I hadn't volunteered. At the same time I knew that Little Man would be more independent and more likely to eat his lunch if I wasn't there. And this was going to be my only chance to go for a long run without any time pressure. He was perfectly happy to go off without me and soon enough has happily on his way.

I drove over to Busse Woods in Elk Grove Village planning to run their 7.7 mile trail. I had walked the whole thing years ago when Little Reader was still in a stroller. Today was much colder 48 when I arrived but with the leaves changing it was really pretty. At one point I misunderstood the trail markers and ended up going the wrong way. I thought the trail would join up with the main trail, but it never did so I had to turn around and go back the way I came. In the end I ran 9.3 miles (with .1 mi intervals of walking every .75 miles). I managed it in an hour an half. I checked the results from last year's Hot Chocolate and that's about average for my age group so I feel a lot more confident about the race, knowing I can do it.

I ran the whole thing in a sweatshirt and shorts and while I warmed up some as I ran I definitely need to get some cool weather running gear.

After stretching out and warming up I went to IKEA for lunch and to take advantage of being able to be there without kids. They already have their Christmas section set up and I saw the greatest little "why didn't anyone think of that before" item? Those silver ornament hangers have always bugged me, these green ones are great.  I don't know how well they work since I haven't used them yet - obviously - but I wanted to buy them now in case I don't make it back to IKEA before Christmas.  I love/hate that big blue box. 


I picked up Little Man and he had had a great time on his field trip. A lot of the kids had fallen asleep on the ride home and looked a little groggy. Little Man came off the bus with a huge smile on his face. He had a pumpkin and a caramel apple and was in a hurry to get home to eat his apple. He told me all about the different things they did, and proudly said that he ate his lunch. He managed to bite all the caramel off his apple and only eat a tiny bit of apple.


After school we took his sisters to drive around and Hobgoblin their friends. We've been doing it for about 3 years now and they love it. If you aren't familiar with the Hobgoblin it's kind of a Halloween Secret Santa. You drop off Halloween goodies at 6 friends houses and then they are supposed to pay it forward to six other people and the chain continues til Halloween. You post the sign in your window so people know you've been "booed". They had a lot of fun picking out goodies to put in our bags (vampire teeth, Halloween pencil and eraser, glow sticks, and a couple of pieces of candy). Since it's supposed to delivered secretly, I drove them around and they rang the bell and ran back to the car to try to get away before their friend saw them (which caused lots of giggles).

My husband made it home for dinner after having business dinners a couple of nights this week. Little Man enjoyed telling everyone about his field trip. He got the new iPhone and we were all having fun coming up with silly questions for Siri.

Ok, on the surface this may not seem like a post that would go with my theme, but really it was a good day of managing to provide fun times for each of the kids, a relaxing evening with my husband and still a good day for me. See? Balance.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Independence

As I have mentioned before Little Reader is in third grade and technically old enough to walk to school on her own (according to the school rules).  She is also allowed to escort her sister who is in first grade.  Some of her friends walk to and from no problem and she often asks me if she can too.  We only live 3 blocks from school and I will admit it would be nice to just say goodbye at the front door and send them on their way (instead of rushing to try and get everyone ready and me showered and out the door in time).   Still, I'm not ready to do it yet.  So far I've mostly used the reason that since I do stay home, there's really no reason why I can't walk them to school, so I just do it.  I tell my daughters that I trust them, but I don't trust the crazy people in the world.

Some mornings there is a police cruiser parked on a side street by my daughters school. I'm not sure if they are there for traffic safety assistance or what since the officer usual stays in their vehicle.

Thursday morning as I was turning the corner where the officer was parking his car, we saw a woman approach the car and ask to speak with him. I couldn't hear the conversation, but noticed the officer enter the school through a side door after he finished talking to the woman. I thought that was odd, but figured it was really none of my business.

That afternoon I was looking something up on the school website and noticed an alert regarding suspicious behavior. It mentioned that a student had been walking to school when a car pulled up next to him, asked if he attended the school. When the kid answered yes, the driver asked if the kid wanted a ride. The kid said no, kept walking then stopped into a friend's house that was between the car and school, and told his friend's Mom what had happened. I assume the woman I saw was the mom in that house.

So the good news is the kid is fine cause they did the right thing. We've gotten these kinds of alerts before but this is the first time I actually told my kids about it.  We have talked about strangers before and how to respond if approached.  I recently found this post on Pinterest and thought it did a good job of explaining how to talk to your kids, about strangers and "tricky people".  I've read the ten rules with my kids before but a refresher is always a good idea.  Even though we do live in a pretty safe area, a healthy dose of fear is a good thing.  It helps give you street smarts.

I'm all for raising confident and independent kids, but a parents number one job is keeping their kids safe, and for now and at least for this school year, I will be walking my kids to school.  We'll revisit it next year.

Friday, October 5, 2012

The ToDo List

I am a list fanatic.  Pre-smartphones I had lists everywhere.  I was a loyal FranklinCovey Planner user - remember those?  Then I got a smartphone and little by little the lists disappeared, and as I've realized little by little I had become less organized, and less productive but worst of all starting to get stressed out about the little free time I did have and how best to use it.

After I started using Pinterest, I found all sorts of organizational blogs, and while many had great ideas, none really worked for me.  So after a few different experiments, this is what I've come up with.


Yep, a good old fashioned one subject notebook.  Recycled no less.  The reason it says "Guided Reading" on it is that it's a leftover from my daughter last year.

Anyway, here's the system.  Starting in the middle of the book I fold a sheet of paper in half.  On the left side I write out my monthly and weekly goals.  On the right hand side of the page behind it, I write out the days to-dos but block them according to things to do during school hours, things to do after school and finally things to do when the kids are in bed.  Breaking up the timing of the tasks really helps, I used to look at my app to do list in the morning and see 10 things on it, feel overwhelmed and feel like I failed if I hadn't made it very far by lunch time.  Now I'm setting reasonable expectations based on when kids are around and when I have quiet time, and if I manage to work on something ahead of time, yay!!  Here's a shot of today's list.  I managed all my school time, most of my afterschool stuff (that Target trip took a little longer than I had hoped), and now I have a couple of hours of quiet to work on the bottom section before I call it a night.  Not too bad, if you ask me.


So far it's been great, I had never found an app that let me track everything at once.  On some days, I'll take notes on the left hand side of the daily page, and may fold it in to the folded page if I need to keep them, otherwise I rip it out and start fresh the next day.  That's why I start in the middle though, that way I can keep notes if I need to, and as the folded sheet gets crossed off I can rewrite it on a page in front. 

Ideally I write up the next day's list before I go to bed, but sometimes do it after dropping the kids off at school. 

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Apps

As I was thinking of things I would write about for this series, I was planning a post about apps and the ones that help me stay organized.  For what it's worth these are the apps I have.  I love Cozi for the calendar but don't use any of the other features.

Sunday when I was planning my menu and grocery shopping for the week, I decided to go old school and use paper and pen. Ironically at some point while I was out 3 apps were accidentally deleted from my phone. I don't know how since it's a few step process. The worst part was it took me a while to figure out which ones they were. I took it as a sign from Steve Jobs that while I rely a lot on my phone, it's really not helping me.

After about an hour I realized the missing apps were CNN, Our Groceries, and a ToDo app. I reloaded them and of course all my data is gone.  I came up with a new ToDo list system which is working really well (I'll share that tomorrow), and I'm working on a better system for my shopping list and just plan on using Our Groceries for the mid-week stuff. Once I get the new system nailed down I'll share that too.

The big difference I have noticed though is my phone addiction has gone down drastically in just a couple of days. Before if I needed to check my todo list or add something to my shopping list, I'd end up checking Facebook, email or some other time suck as well. Now I'm not doing that, and it feels good. I used to run through my to do list while walking my kids to school, the past couple of days I purposely left the phone at home and made my list when I got home. Instead I talk to my kids or listen to them talking and enjoy the walk. This could be the start of something good.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Blogging

I enjoy blogging but I probably spend a little too much time at it. I wouldn't call it wasted time as it is time I enjoy but I do need to manage my time better at it.

The writing is easy enough as I often do that on an app on my phone, although I can't type as fast as I do on a computer. The time consuming part is links, pictures and layout.  Also with the app I have a hard time adding pictures if there is more than one picture. And there have been a few times where I finished a post that I was happy with but not quite ready to publish and it disappear cause I forgot to save.

Lately I've learned a few tricks. I used to just click and drag and hope that the pictures would fit and line up the way I wanted to (which they usually did not). Now thanks to Picmonkey laying out pictures is so much easier and the captions look so much better.

I used to read most of the blogs I follow on an Feedler on my phone. The only problem is that it would only show the post title and would take a a whole to load especially if there were pictures or links. Also, commenting is really annoying (especially those with word verification).

I used to check it every morning when I wake up. Yesterday we were running late so I didn't get to. Later I got on my computer and despite the fact that my computer takes forever to load, reading the blogs I follow in Google Reader was so much easier. Since it shows the first few sentences of the post and at least one picture if applicable, I can quickly see if it's a post that I'm interested in, and skip the ones I'm not.

Also linking up to blog hops is much easier. Trying to copy and paste URLs from my blog to the link is a pain, and adding images when that's an option is tough too.

Bottom line, my new norm will be to do most of my blogging and blog reading on the computer. Much more efficient, and really the only thing I may be missing out on is being early on a blog hop, but I don't think that really matters that much.

As much as my phone helps me in other ways, it's become my go to device even when it isn't the most efficient. Time to revert to some of the full technology ways of doing things (even if that does mean I won't be quite as active).

Yes I realize this may seem ironic since I just signed up to do a 31 day series of posts, but I also think if I'm more disciplined with my time I'll be more focused and wrote better.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Personalities

Parenting is tough, no question, but for me the hardest part isn't the schedules, the homework, it's the challenge of being a family is existing and dealing with different personalities. I'm just talking about the people in your household, I'm not even going to get into extended family of parents/inlaws/aunts/uncles/cousins.  We  have 3 kids, Little Reader (8 years old), Little Hugger (6 years old), and Little Man (3 years old).

Little Reader is a smart kid, she obviously loves reading, enjoys school, is compassionate but also extremely hard on herself. She is generally a happy kid, but also a perfectionist. She knows she's smart and will beat herself up if she doesn't understand something, or makes a seemingly stupid mistake. She will brood about anything negative said about her. She relishes her role as the helpful big sister, but sometimes oversteps the boundaries and bosses her siblings around (which they do not appreciate). I try to be careful when I have to critique something she's doing, but at the same time not sugarcoat things so much that she never learns to accept criticism.

Little Hugger is a loving girl, enjoys more of the stereotypical girl stuff than her sister. She is extremely creative and finds the beauty in everything. She has numerous collections and is definitely more on the messy side.  Actually that's putting it mildly, she borders on hoarder tendencies.  When we go through her room to clean up she is often on the verge of tears as she gets rid of things.  This week's weekly project is cleaning up the kids' rooms.  Her's will not be easy or fun for either of us. She cries easily, but gets over it quickly. Having been the same way as a kid myself, I realize that most of the time she's probably bottling up some of the feelings and something seemingly little tips the scales and makes her cry. 

Little Man is a very happy guy. He does have a stubborn streak especially when it comes to food. He's doing much better with the eating and has basically progressed from being a problem eater to just a regular picky eater. I think we're close to finishing up with his feeding therapist.  He is getting to the independent stage of toddlerhood, which I do my best to encourage. He enjoys spending time with his sisters, and is always trying to keep up with the big kids. 

The hardest part is making sure they each get good one on one time with their Dad and I.  I had a great time with Little Reader on her Brownie campout last week and it's rare that we get to do something like that.  Little Hugger is now on the same school schedule as Little Reader so aside from when I take her to her dance class on Saturdays and the others stay home with Dad we don't get a lot of one on one time either.  I'm trying to expand that time to include other fun activities or errands so it's not just time spent in the car.  As far as Little Man, he's with me most of the time, and he is actually pretty good company and I try to balance our time together between fun stuff and getting the things done that I need to do.