It's Not "Happy Memorial Day"

>> Saturday, May 23, 2015

I'm sorry, but I find it very offensive when I see people all over Facebook wishing a "Happy Memorial Day"  There is nothing "Happy" at all about it.  Especially to those who have lost a loved one in the service of our Country.

The happy Mickey Mouse in the corner just pushed me over the edge.


THIS is Memorial Day......

And this.......
And this.........

This is Chief Warrant Officer 5 David R. Carter who was killed in action in Afghanistan on Aug. 6, 2011.

Carter was the copilot of a CH-47 Chinook and was one of 30 U.S. service members, including four other Army crewmembers, 22 Navy SEALs, three special operations Airmen, seven Afghan commandos, an interpreter and a dog, who died in Wardak province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when their helicopter crashed.  The loss of life aboard Extortion 17 was, to that date, the worst single-day loss of American life since the beginning of the Afghan war.
He was a member of our Battalion.  He was a friend.  He was someone we knew.  He is someone we miss every single day.
And every time I see the happy Mickey Mouse or Betty Boop in her bikini wishing everyone a Happy Memorial Day, I get more and more offended and upset.

Memorial Day has always been the traditional "kick off" for summer....and there is nothing wrong with gathering together for a cookout and enjoying your three-day weekend.

All I ask is that while you're doing that, take just a minute or two to think of all those who have sacrificed their lives to allow you to even have that freedom to BBQ.

And next time you want to say "Happy Memorial Day", please consider saying


Summertime "Fill A Bucket"

>> Friday, May 22, 2015

Have you heard of "Fill A Bucket"? 

The "Fill A Bucket" philosophy explains that children (and adults) carry an invisible bucket in which we keep our feelings.  There are "bucket fillers" and "bucket dippers".

Bucket Fillers do kind things for others -- give a smile, helps out without being asked...basically any act of kindness towards others.

Bucket Dippers are those who say unkind words, bully, and generally do an unkind act. 

When our buckets are full, we are happy and confident.  When the bucket is empty, we are sad and down on ourselves.

Nani and Nudgie's school has been using this concept ever since Nani was in Kindergarten.  I've seen how excited and happy they get when they come home with a "Bucket Filler" note from their teacher or fellow student.  Nudgie would tell me, "I played with a friend who didn't have anyone to play with" or Nani would tell me, "I helped the teacher put books away without being asked."

They loved the positive reinforcement.

And then I thought -- why couldn't I use that same concept here at home.  So I decided to try it over Summer Break -- the time when the kids would fight and bicker the most, when we would all start to get on each other's nerves.  Why not try a little positive reinforcement and see what happens?

So, I picked up some beach buckets at the Dollar Tree and had the girls decorate them.  I had some "jewels" stored away, so I pulled that box out to use as "Bucket Fillers".

The concept is simple.....

Whenever I catch them being nice to each other (playing nice, helping with chores, etc), they get a jewel. If there's fighting, name-calling etc., then they have to go outside, pick up a dirty rock from our pile by the garage and put it in their bucket. At the end of each month of Summer Break, I'll count the contents. If they have more jewels than dirty rocks, then they get a special treat. More dirty rocks than jewels? Then they get a dirty chore -- like cleaning up dog poop, cleaning the garage or Daddy may even take them to work at the Base and they can clean there!

The girls seem excited about it -- but who knows.  After a week or so, the novelty may just wear off, but I'm trying to be hopeful!

Stay tuned!


Staying Connected Through a Deployment

>> Thursday, May 21, 2015

When My Marine and I were first married, he was active duty and was often gone for months at a time.  Being newly married, I was desperate to try to stay connected to my husband in some way.  So one day, I spent an afternoon in a book store browsing the “Marriage and Relationship” section.  I found two books that sounded promising and was looking forward to spending an evening searching the pages for the keys to keeping the fires of this crazy military marriage alive.

My high hopes soon dissolved into hilarity.

“Have a candlelight dinner,” the list began. Yep—that candlelight dinner alone will really help me a lot. 

“Give each other fifteen-minute back rubs,”   Kind of hard when you’re alone.  I have trouble scratching my own back, let alone give myself a back rub! 

And the list went on and on…...“Go for a scenic drive together. Plan a romantic picnic. Have a pillow fight. Spend an evening in front of the fireplace.” 

I quickly realized that the miles and the months that routinely separated us make most marriage books and seminars pointless, even painful.

But over the years, I’ve had to get creative…..getting ideas from other spouses, articles, and websites.  So here are a few ideas that you can try as well!

· Set a clock ahead in your home to reflect your spouse's deployment time zone.

· Create a play list/CD to send.  Use songs that mean something to you or songs that your Soldier know that you miss him/her.  I made one for My Marine during our first big deployment and timed it so that it arrived close to our wedding anniversary.  (He was gone during our 10th anniversary).  The first two songs were our wedding songs followed by a list of “I miss you” songs.  I made a second copy for me to have so that I could know that we were both listening to the same songs.  He loved it and we still listen to it from time to time.

· Keep your Soldier close.   By a couple of plain pillowcases and using an iron-on transfer, put a picture of your Soldier (and you/your family) on it and send in a care package.  (You keep one for yourself and spritz with cologne).  Or use fabric paint and write each other a little note on the pillowcase.

· Keep a box where you can put in fun items to send to your Soldier.  (My "box" was a giant, oversized laundry basket!)  Decks of card, footballs, Frisbees, etc.  When you are out doing errands and see something that your Soldier would enjoy, buy it and toss it in the box when you get home. Send your care packages every 2-3 weeks during the deployment.  (More on mailing care packages to come!)

· If your Soldier is a reader, pick a book to read together while he’s gone.  Start your own little personal book club and talk about the books.  You can do the same thing with movies too.  Send him a DVD of a movie that you want to see and pick a time to talk about it.

· Keep a phone journal. Jot down things that you want to tell your spouse when he/she calls. Rule of thumb: always say “I love you” FIRST and before anything else, just in case you lose connection.

· Choose something that happens occasionally in nature, i.e., a full moon, a brilliant rainbow, or a shooting star, and agree together that while you are apart, when one of you sees this, it will serve as quiet reminder of your committed love for one another.

· Celebrate missed birthdays and anniversaries anyway! Take photos of the cake you made for him/her, blow out the candles, videotape you and your family singing Happy Birthday and send them in your next care package. Your Soldier will never forget your thoughtfulness.

· While technology is an amazing thing, don’t rely on it 100%.  Email is handy and speedy, as is Skype, but nothing replaces a letter written by your own hand.  Spritz your letters with your perfume/cologne and seal it with a kiss.

· Set a goal together!  Plan a trip for after your soldier returns.  Plan a home project to work on together.  Having a goal that is decided on together will make your soldier feel like he/she is still a part of the planning process. 

Just remember — Communicate often through whatever means you have available to you whether it’s the mail, email, internet chat or packages. Let each other know you’re thinking of each other.

Something simple can mean a lot!


Summer Bucket List 2015

>> Tuesday, May 19, 2015

I love lists. I love color-coding. I love Summer Vacation. Put them all together and you have our Summer Bucket List!!!

Last year was the first time I used the calendar idea for us.  It worked pretty well and the girls asked for it again.  The only difference is that this year I opted for rainbow-colored post-it notes.  Looks pretty, doesn't it!


The calendar is broken down into categories:

"Snuggle Time" Sunday
"On the Move" Monday
"Time to Read" Tuesday
"What's Cooking" Wednesday
"That's Art" Thursday
"Finding Fun" Friday

I don't have a "theme" for Saturday.....because Nani will have gymnastics on Saturday mornings and then we'll make our weekly trip to the Farmer's Market.

For each theme day, I have a list of suggested activities that we can choose from as well.

Now, before I get any comments about being "strict" or "scheduling every second" or "allowing my kids to enjoy their summer break", I have to say that:

1) My kids ASKED if I was going to do this again for them. They love having ideas to pick and choose from and have fun adding ideas to the list;

2) This is a very LOOSE idea for the summer. They are free, every day to do as they choose and we are very flexible about our summer days.

3) The only thing I am strict about is their reading. They will read every day.....whether it's at bedtime or some time during the day, but they will read at least 30-minutes a day.

Do YOU have a Summer Bucket List? If so, share your ideas or blog post in the comments! I would love to see what some of you are doing!



My Own Trainer Called Me "Fatty"

>> Friday, May 8, 2015

My kids don't have school today and for once, they're sleeping in.  So I took advantage of the time to enjoy my coffee and browse some articles online.  And then I saw this.....

As I read more, I saw red.  It seems that a "fitness trainer" was at a baseball game and saw this woman in front of him.  So instead of enjoying the game, he spent his time taking her picture (without her consent) and watched everything she ate and then posted about it on his FB page.  What he didn't realize - had he taken the time to find out - was that this woman had a backstory and an amazing journey  -- starting at 400lbs and losing well over 150lbs....all on her own.  You can read her response here.

And then.....THEN....this so-called fitness trainer issued a statement saying that he was not going to apologize.  You can read the article here.

Yes -- I agree that there is an obesity problem in this country.  And you can have your opinion about what's your right to enjoy a game, a seat on an airplane, etc. while sitting next to an overweight person.  But that's not my point at the moment.

My point is this -- what gave that "trainer" the right to call her out at all?  Does he think that because he's an "expert" and a "trainer" that gives him the right to judge her?  What makes some trainers (and I KNOW there are amazingly AWESOME trainers out there) think that it's ok to shame & humiliate someone because they are overweight?  Do they think that's motivating?  Because let me tell you -- as someone who had a trainer's not.

My trainer called me "fatty".  Yes -- you read that right.  My own personal trainer called me "fatty".  Texting me back when I told him that I couldn't make a session because the roads were too icy and I was not driving to the gym with my children in the car with me.

He replied.... "Boo Hoo -- get your ass to the gym, fatty"

I was stunned.  I was hurt.  And I was pissed.

I've been told my whole life that I was "overweight".  We call it "fat-shaming" now.  When I was a teen and even a young college-age adult, I was told by dance instructors, friends, and yes, even my own family that I was fat.  As I grew older, I knew it and took steps to fix it....hiring a trainer to help me.  I expected support from this trainer, encouragement, motivation.....and instead, I got name-calling.  The one person who was to help me through my journey turned on me.

I also heard a trainer say that he saw an overweight woman getting out of her car with a sticker on it that said "I don't run" and he replied, "Clearly she didn't"

Excuse me?  Do you know her?  Just because she doesn't run doesn't mean that she's not trying to get into shape.  You don't know what she does at home, at the gym, at the park.  Running is not the be-all, end-all of fitness.  I don't run -- but I busted my ass doing elliptical, kickboxing, and weight training.  And if anyone made that comment to me, their teeth would be meeting my right hook.

And the fitness industry wonders why more people don't go to the gym or hire trainers.

My trainer eventually did apologize, but only after I got in his face and let him have it.

To the "trainer" - You said that you never judged her or remarked about her character, but stated in your original post that she "clearly doesn't cares little about her health."  If that isn't judgment, then I don't know what is.  It's people like you, with attitudes like yours, that give good trainers a bad name.  You may be good at your job -- such as getting results for your clients -- but I believe you lack some serious empathy skills.  If I was your client, I would certainly take my business elsewhere.

To "B" - the woman at the baseball game - you GO GIRL!  Keep on doing what you're doing.  You are amazing and you are an inspiration.  Way to turn something around and make into something positive.  You are a role model!  Reach for that goal and don't let anyone.....not even Mr. Shark Fitness....stop you!


Spring Break - Puffy Sidewalk Paint

>> Sunday, March 29, 2015

This upcoming week is Spring Break for my girls.  I'm really looking forward to having them home with me!  We don't have much big vacations, no day trips.....but I do have some fun stuff planned for us here at home -- a mani/pedi day, taking them to get their haircut, taking them to see Cinderella. 

It's also Holy Week -- so I'll be having the girls help me out in the kitchen as I do a lot of preparation for Easter -- baking bread, making stuffed cabbage & more.

One fun thing I did yesterday to kick off Spring Break for Nudgie & her little friend was make some puffy sidewalk paint.  You can pretty much Google it and come up with all kinds of ideas/recipes.  Ours is pretty simple.

*  1/3 cup cornstarch
*  1/3 cup baking soda
*  1/3 cup water
*  coloring of your choice (food colors or washable liquid watercolors)
*  spray bottle with vinegar
*  condiment squeeze bottles

I used liquid water colors because they clean up easily with water and don't stain.  If you choose to use food coloring, just be aware that they may leave staining behind, so I'd recommend trying it first on a part of your sidewalk/driveway before going full out!

Mix all in a bowl and pour into squeezable condiment bottles.  (I picked up mine at The Dollar Tree).  Then I filled a plastic squeeze bottle with some vinegar, took everything outside and let them unleash their inner artists!


As they finished their creations, we'd take the vinegar bottle and lightly spray over it.  I'll admit, at first, I was a little disappointed that there wasn't more of a reaction.  The vinegar just made everything run together (check out the yellow sun in the photo above)  But trust me.....BE PATIENT!  You won't be disappointed!  Once it dries, it puffs up a little more and dries up with a chalky texture.


The bonus?  It all washes away with water so you can make more and create again another day!

I'll definitely be adding this to our Summer Bucket List!


Throwback Thursday - Nani's To Do List

>> Thursday, February 26, 2015

I love the concept of Throwback Thursday.  So instead of posting a picture today, I thought I'd share one of my favorite blog posts.  This one was originally posted in October 2009 when Nani was only 4.  Enjoy!


Ok, so my whole family knows that I am a compulsive list maker. I have lists that refer me to lists. I have a list for everything.....groceries, daily tasks, weekly tasks, monthly tasks, craft projects, books to read, blogs to write.....and the list (no pun intended) goes on.

And then I thought.....what if Nani had a to-do list? What would a 4-year old Disney-princess loving, preschool-going, ballet-dancing little girl possibly have on her list? I think, like mommy, she would have a couple of for mommy and one for daddy......and maybe even one for Nudgie.

But for fun, I think I'll start with Daddy's list.......

Nani's To-Do List for a day with Daddy....

Scam daddy into feeding me chocolate cake for breakfast and then tell mommy that it was Zoja's idea.

Reassure daddy that I really do like to wear matching socks and coordinated clothes.

Teach daddy how to finally do my hair the way mommy does and show him that combing my hair does not involve scissors and the use of words that I'm never supposed to say.

Show daddy the channels for Sproutlets and Disney so that I don't have to watch the Military Channel ever again.

Tell daddy that teaching me the ABCs does not include learning to spell the entire starting lineup for the Pittsburgh Penguins.
(Stupid Russian names....what 4-yr. old knows how to spell Fedotenko & Evgeni??)

Apologize to daddy for calling one of his favorite players Satan, when his real name is pronounced Sha-tan

Tell daddy that when I ask him to play with me & my Legos, that I really don't need to have a full-scale reproduction of a Blackhawk helicopter....a simple little house for my dolls will do just fine.

Show daddy that I finally learned to "Rock On"

Let daddy know where my favorite books are so that I don't get another bedtime story from the Army Times newspaper. (Once upon a time there was a soldier.....)

Apologize to God when Daddy asks me to pray for free happy hour after work.

Give daddy the biggest hug ever and tell him that he's still my favoritest daddy ever!


Spending Less, Loving More - Spending Fast: Week 1

>> Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Lent started this week.  I shared on my Spending Less, Loving More FB page that in the past, I've given up a number of things....chocolate, alcohol, Starbucks. But this year, I'll be challenging myself to take it even further and fast from unnecessary spending. While I believe this will be one of the hardest things I've ever done, I believe that it will also challenge me to be more intentional and thoughtful about my spending and budgeting. I've created a wants/needs list which will help me along the way. Some things already cut out -- Starbuck, book stores, craft stores, thrift stores.  I will be doing a weekly blog post updating how I did during the week.'s Week #1!
Monday - 2/16:
Both My Marine and my girls were home today for President's Day.  We had some snow move in, so we didn't go anywhere......which worked to our benefit since we were thinking about taking the girls to a movie today.  In the end, we stayed home, got caught up with some DVR'd shows and watched movies with the girls. 

Tuesday - 2/17:
My Marine went back to work today, but the girls were still home because of an in-service day.  I used .99 cents from Amazon gift card to purchase a Lenten devotional on my Kindle.  Did some decluttering of my "unmentionables" drawer.  Nani got into trouble over the weekend for not doing her laundry, so her consequence was trifold....the clothes that were not finished were either 1) given to her sister; 2) given to the homeless shelter or 3) she had to select a few things she wanted to keep and had to earn them back doing extra chores.  This consequence made me both pretty angry and sad.  All that money that I wasted buying clothes for the girls -- stuff they really just didn't take care of and didn't care about.  They had too much.  My fault for indulging them.....with things.

Wednesday - 2/18:
Tomorrow is payday.  Checked my personal bank account and was happy to realize that for two pay periods in a row, I've been in the black.  For me, that's pretty good.  (Sad, I know!)  Checked our household account to make sure bills have cleared and see what's left.  Checked the calendar to see what bills were coming up and if I could make a little extra payments towards our debt.  Made a meal plan for the next two weeks and made my grocery list based on that and what was on the "we need" list.  Went through coupons and resisted adding extras just because I had a coupon.

Thursday - 2/19:
Payday always makes me twitchy.  The unfiltered side of my brain screams, "There's money!  There's money!  Let's go shopping!"  But this morning, instead, I grabbed my homebrewed coffee, my grocery binder with my list and coupons....and ran my errands.  I got all my grocery shopping done without throwing any extras in the cart.  Amazing!  What was even more amazing was how much less my grocery bill was without all those impulse buys!  Another amazing thing.....I had to go into JoAnn Fabric to get supplies for Nani's upcoming sewing class.  This was a planned expense that I knew was coming....BUT....I went into the store and came back out WITH ONLY WHAT I NEEDED!  No browsing, no impulse buys while waiting in the checkout line.  I needed only fabric and thread....and I came out with only fabric and thread!

Friday - 2/20:
Paid off 2 bills and paid monthly bills.  Marked upcoming bills in the checkbook.  I'm finding that if I deduct the upcoming bills already, when I see the end balance, it's less of a temptation to shop.  My Marine's extra military pay went directly into our joint savings account.  Proud of myself for seeing that cushion start to build up again.

Saturday - 2/21
No spending today at all.  Spent the morning running the girls to ballet and gymnastics and then stayed home waiting for the big snowstorm to come.

Sunday - 2/22
Big snowstorm hit overnight.  Had a foot of snow by morning.  No church today.  Nani's sewing class was cancelled -- to be rescheduled at another time.  No spending at all today.  Spent the day enjoying the snow!

Not bad for Week 1!!


What I'm Reading Now

Might As Well Laugh About It Now
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Plum Spooky
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Through the Grinder
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