Having "Giving" Christmas Instead Of A "Getting" Christmas

>> Tuesday, November 25, 2014

For awhile now, I've been feeling the pull to make our Christmas more simple, less about the materialism and more about the meaning.  But when you have a soon-to-be Tween and a 6-year old obsessed with Frozen, I began to doubt that it could even be possible.

As a parent, I'm guilty of spoiling my daughters.  Giving in to the impulse buys, fulfilling their Christmas wish lists at the expense of our bank account, wanting them to have the perfect Christmas with lots and lots of wrapped gifts under the tree.

What I've finally realized is that what usually happens is that 90% of the time, most of those gifts go unopened for days, weeks, often months at a time.  And even then, they usually end up in the "Gift Cabinet".....ready to be recycled for a last minute birthday gift or even donated to Toys for Tots the following year.

Realizing this triggered my own Christmas memory.  I honestly cannot remember sitting down to write a Christmas list.  (Maybe my mom or daddy can correct me here).  But I DO remember for about 2 Christmases, I begged and begged for Monopoly.  I told Santa, I told my Bubbe, I told my aunts and uncles, and I told my parents over and over.  But for two Christmases.....no Monopoly.  Until that one magical Christmas, Santa brought me the beloved Monopoly game.  (Picture me opening it a'la Ralphie on Christmas morning!)  I was thrilled.....I was ecstatic.....I promised Santa I would be the best behaved little girl ever.

I played that game maybe twice. 

You see my point?

But I digress. 

This fall has been a challenge for us financially.  We've had a few unexpected expenses which has made us tighten the belt a little more and rethink Christmas just a bit.  Could we really give our daughters a Christmas to remember without breaking the bank?

I recently met a friend for coffee and we had this very conversation.  We both talked and agreed that maybe, just maybe, God makes things a little tight around the holidays so that we can turn our focus to what truly matters -- the REAL gift -- Jesus Christ.

This year, this has been on my mind more than ever.  Especially when I sat down with the girls to ask them what they thought Christmas was about.  When they answered Santa and presents, I realized with a sinking heart that I have failed them as a mother.  I neglected teaching them the most important reason for Christmas.  My heart just broke.....but then made me more determined than ever to show them that a simple Christmas isn't all that bad.

We are a family of Santa believers, so I am not eliminating Santa from our family.....I can't do it.  The Christmas child inside of me would have a tantrum lasting until next Christmas.  But I believe that we CAN put a spin on Santa -- teaching the girls that he isn't just about bringing you everything on your list.  So, the first thing we're doing away with is the miles-long Christmas list.  I searched Pinterest, did Google searches and found a few Santa letters I liked.....but one thing was missing......thinking of others.  So I created my own.

Here, we are asking the girls to think about kind/nice things they've done throughout the year....whether it's helping a classmate or helping mommy/daddy/sissy.  We are also limiting them to list something they want, something they need, something to wear, and something to read.  But my extra addition, was encouraging them to think about others and think of a gift that we could purchase and donate.  Not sure how all this is going to go over with Nani, but I can only hope!

Instead of doing an Advent Calendar (because I can never remember to do the activities!), we'll be doing 25 Days of Kindness.  We sat down as a family and came up with ideas to show kindness and think of others.  We came up with some good ideas and I can't wait to get started!  (Stay tuned for future blog posts as I document some of our RAKs!)

I've thought about this a lot and prayed over it.  My Marine is in total agreement with me and even said that we can never talk too much about giving back to others.  My only prayer now is that the girls will understand and take this all with an open heart.

How do YOU keep the meaning of Christmas in your family?


2014 Kiddie Christmas Card Exchange

>> Saturday, October 25, 2014

Happy Fall everyone!

This will be the fourth year for the Kiddie Christmas Card Exchange! It's something that my kids now look forward too and have already asked when they can start making their cards! And so......we're back!

Here's how it works! The concept is very simple!

  1. Simply respond in the comments section that you'd like to participate and please be sure to include an email address where you can be contacted. OR you can email me directly at kiddiexmascards@yahoo.com and include your children's names, ages, and address.
  2. For every name on the list, a card will be sent. (For example....if I get six children to sign up, the list will go out to all six children and they will send a card to each child on the list.) (Make sense?) You may also combine family members. If you have two children, ONE card will be sent to both -- unless you specifically indicate that each child would like to receive/send their OWN cards.
  3. The cards do NOT have to be hand-made. It would also be nice to include a little letter telling about themselves and where they're from.
  4. Deadline for participating will be Friday, November 21st.The list will be emailed to everyone on Monday, November 24th. Deadline for mailing cards will be Friday, December 8th.
So let's get those Christmas cards rolling!!

If you have any questions, please feel free to email me at kiddiexmascards@yahoo.com.


Mommy Magic.....Does It Ever End and Do You WANT It To End?

>> Wednesday, October 15, 2014

I pulled up my blog this morning and realized that I haven't written anything since July.  The ease and convenience of Facebook and Instagram has slowly stolen my joy for writing......and sometimes I wonder, should I continue?

But then I get a thought or an idea that is just way too long to post on Facebook and then I turn back to my trusty old blog......waiting patiently on the sidelines for me to come back and breathe life into it again.

Today's thoughts were born from Nudgie recently losing her first front tooth.  She's been waiting and waiting so patiently for that tooth to come out.  And sure enough, while eating her apple slices at dinner the other night, she lost the tooth.......and then promptly swallowed it.

She was devastated.

She came to show me....and then told me, with tear-stained cheeks, that she swallowed it and that the Tooth Fairy won't come because she didn't have her tooth.  I hugged her close and promised her that the Tooth Fairy would still come.

 As we were getting ready for bed, Nudgie showed me the letter she wrote to the Tooth Fairy.....she named her "Toothatina" (from the Pinkalicious books).  She rolled it up and put it in her Tooth Fairy pillow and whispered, "I hope she comes" before falling asleep.

The night went on.....the girls were sleeping and I was finishing up some chores before going to bed.  When I got upstairs, I remembered that I had to put money in the pillow and trudged back downstairs, digging through my wallet hoping I had a couple ones.

At that moment, it was an inconvenience.  Just one more thing I had to do.

Then I remembered Nudgie's letter......and I couldn't let it pass with just a couple bucks shoved in a pillow.  It was dark, I was tired, but I turned my laptop back on, searched for "Tooth Fairy" on Google, and wrote a reply that was worthy of Toothatina.

I rolled it up, tied it with a pink ribbon and nestled it in the pillow next to the $2 I dug out of my wallet.....and THEN I went to bed.

The next morning, the smile on her face and the excitement in her voice as she read Toothatina's letter just reinforced that I made the right choice.  A few extra moments from me made her entire day.

That night, when I peeked in on Nudgie before I went to bed, I saw her sleeping.....Toothatina's letter clutched in her tiny fist.  I immediately teared up......emotional sap that I am!  I lay in bed for awhile thinking......how much longer do I have?  How much longer can I keep the magic going before they both go, "Mooooommmmm.....enough!"......before I put out my last Easter basket, until we read our last story together, until I've used up the last of my Mommy Magic.  But laying there, I decided that I will keep going.......I will keep going until they tell me to stop.  And even if they tell me to stop, I will still keep going.

I will keep leaving letters from Toothatina
I will keep leaving little surprises from The Back to School Fairy.....even into the college days
I will keep doing Last Day of School surprises and First Day of Summer Vacation treats
I will keep the Christmas magic going with Chippy the Elf
I will keep doing Birthday Surprises and random "Just Because" surprises

And, God-willing, I will continue doing it even when I have grandchildren........

You are NEVER too old for Mommy Magic......


The Night Mommy Ran Away

>> Saturday, July 19, 2014

Well, not quite.....but I seriously wanted to.

I love my family.....I love my kids and my husband.....and I love being a mom.  But sometimes.....just sometimes.....I'd like to have ONE day where I'm not taken for granted.

Overall, I'd like to think I've done a good job of keeping everything running smoothly.  When you're a military family, you do the best you can.  I will give My Marine credit though.....because when he is home, he helps out.....he'll grill, he'll clean, he'll do laundry without me asking, and he'll do so much more.  After many years, I've finally learned that it's ok to let him help and that, just because I stay home, it doesn't mean that he's criticizing me or thinking that I'm not "doing my job" when he does chip in to help.

But I DO expect our girls to do their part.  They have assigned chores for each day and I expect those chore to be done.  I'm not a mean taskmaster....but I give them what they can handle......dusting, vacuuming, keeping their rooms clean, and cleaning the bathrooms.  Yep -- my 6 and 10 year old girls clean the bathrooms now.  My 10 year old has been doing her own laundry for a year now.

But yet there is still a disconnect.....a time where I feel like all I do is nag and remind and pick up and wipe up and throw away and the list goes on and on.  I was starting to feel taken for granted.

And on Thursday I was pushed me to my breaking point.  I had one too many:

*  Snack wrappers to pick up and throw away
*  Dirty dishes to put in the sink
*  Toys to pick up
*  Laundry baskets to fold
*  Fights to break up

And then came dinner time when I discovered that we were totally out of dog food and toilet paper...(the two things the girls are responsible for letting me know when we're running low.)  And silly Mommy didn't use her magic powers of premonition to keep that mental grocery list rolling in her head.

I felt my blood pressure rising and knew that I was close to a breaking point.  I grabbed my car keys, my purse, a book and went downstairs to tell My Marine that I was leaving.  He was startled and stunned and I just told him that I needed to leave or I was going to lose it.  The girls were like "Mommy are you going somewhere....Mommy where are you going."  I didn't even answer them.....I just left.

I pulled out of the driveway, put all the windows down, opened the sunroof and turned my iPod on to my "Mad Music"......the music group, Disturbed......and turned the volume up to 20.  As I let the music seep into my soul, I didn't care who around me could hear it.  At traffic lights, I would simply just sit and take deep breaths.

I drove to Barnes and Noble.  I ordered a venti green tea frappacino with extra whipped cream.  I sat in a back section of the store, in comfy chairs surrounded by a 40-yr. old man reading comic books and laughing out loud, a 60-yr. old grandma reading books on space and aliens, and a 70+ year old man reading cookbooks.

I stayed for almost 2 hours.

When I finally did get home, I talked to My Marine and told him that he HAD to talk to the girls again about them helping out.  We're facing two weeks of training, followed shortly by 4 weeks of school for him.  I NEED them to help me out.

They're at an age now where they have to understand that while they THINK I do it all.....I CAN NOT do it all.

Oh, and I know that this is a battle as old as time......and that I will probably be in this place again and again and again......and we'll be having these talks again and again and again.......

And Mommy will probably run away again and again and again.......

But maybe....just maybe.....Mommy needs to go on strike.

Have you gone on strike?  How have you dealt with feeling of being taken for granted?  How have you gotten your family to recognize that they, too, need to help out around the house?


"Frozen" Themed 6th Birthday Party - The Cake

>> Monday, July 14, 2014

Nudgie's 6th birthday is this month......and she really wanted a "Frozen" themed birthday.  I knew it would be hard to try to find anything Frozen-related since it's still so very popular, but who was I to deny my baby her birthday wish!  (I'll admit, too, that I started researching and planning for this party about 4 months ago!)

It was time to put my pre-children career of event planning back to use!

First up was the cake.  I've made most of my girls' birthday cakes in the past....but I also know my limitations.  For this birthday, I turned to my awesome friend Robin who has her own cake business and makes the best cakes EVER!  Unfortunately for me, she was going to be out of town during the big event and wouldn't be able to make the cake for me.

That left me with one option -- make it myself.

I researched.....I Googled.....I "pinned"........

I found a few cakes that I liked and thought that I could attempt to make.  I took those cakes and came up with my own idea.

Now in the past, my cake ideas often look fabulous in my head, but sometimes ended up lost in translation.  I was afraid that would be the case with this cake too.  I met my friend, Robin, for coffee one morning and talked to her about my ideas.  She gave me some tips & tricks to try and sent me on my merry way with a "call me if you have questions or problems".

So, I dove in.

The cake required (2) 13x9 cakes and (2) 6-inch rounds.  The party was on a Sunday, so I baked the cakes on Tuesday and put them in the freezer.  (A tip from Robin that I will use for ALL future cakes!)  I used a standard boxed white cake mix -- but I wanted to add a little flair, so I measured out about a cup of batter, added some blue food coloring and swirled the batter back in.  The cakes turned out great.  Step 1 - DONE!

Next up - I decided to make some fondant snowflakes to add around the cake.  I was nervous about this part since I've made fondant to cover cakes, but I've never made fondant decorations before.  I used this recipe from All Recipes and it turned out GREAT!  I recently purchased a Kitchen Aid mixer at a garage sale and used that to mix the fondant.  (I HIGHLY recommend using a KA if you have one.....it eliminates all the stickiness and cuts down on the kneading time!)  I used snowflake cookie cutters that I purchased at a garage sale for .50.  I made three large ones and put them on popsicle sticks and then made some medium and small ones too.  I used edible pearl dust to give them a slight blue shimmer, and mixed blue sprinkles into the white fondant.  I was pretty happy with how they turned out -- and then hardened very nicely over a 2.5 day period!

And finally - came the moment of truth -- decoration day!

I used a standard buttercream recipe and kept the icing white.  I used a small cheese spreader to "flip" the icing so that it looked like snow caps.  I used the fondant snowflakes all around the edges and the bigger ones added some "height" and provided a nice backdrop for Elsa.  (I purchased the figures about 2 months ago and they doubled as part of Nudgie's birthday gift too!)  I purchased some rock candy at a local candy store and crushed it up a little more to sprinkle on and around the cake to look like ice.  (I was going to make my own, but just ran out of time.  I had no idea that it was such a lengthy process!)  Top it off with some of Elsa's friends and viola -- it was done!

Was it wrong that I teared up a little over this cake?  I'm so incredibly happy with how it turned out!  We even gave Nudgie a sneak peek of the cake -- and her reaction alone made me tear up all over again!

Finally, birthday party day arrived......and as we lit the candles, I realized that I would have to cut up this beautiful piece of work.

But by the end of the night, this was all that remained......so I'd say it was a pretty good cake!

And last night.....Nani informed me that she wants a dragon themed cake for her birthday in December.  I guess I'd better get to Googling!


Cardio Vs. Weights? What Do You Think?

>> Saturday, June 21, 2014

I have a specific "list" on my Facebook feed for fitness/weight loss/healthy living groups & pages, and over the past few days, I've seen some articles about cardio vs. weight training.

One was about cardio vs. weight training and should you do more of one than the other.  You can find that article HERE

The other one was again about cardio vs. weight training...but was which one should you do first.  You can find that article HERE

I wanted to read more and as I googled the topic and found a bunch of different articles saying why one was better than the other....why you should do one first before the other.  I'd read one article by an "expert" only to find a contradicting one by another "expert" shortly after.  I found that there was one thing that even the "experts" could agree upon -- it all depends on what your goals are.  In the end, there is no "right" answer.

I am, by no means, a workout expert.  I am not certified or trained.  I'm just a mom trying to get healthy and in shape.  All I can tell you is what worked/works for me.......and it's doing both.

When I first got serious about this journey, I started off with cardio only.  Every day.  It was amazing....the pounds dropped.  But then I started with my trainer at Finding Fitness LLC,  While I was doing lots of cardio, he also added some weight training to the mix. 

I was immediately hooked.....especially when I started to see a difference in the shape of my body.  When I would meet my friend at the gym, we'd do cardio first (for me, it was the elliptical) and then we'd use the machines in the weight room.  (Cardio first/Weights second).  Again -- it worked for me.

When My Marine came home from deployment and we started to go to the gym together, my routine was flip-flopped.......we started with weights and then finished with cardio.....usually a 45min/45min split.  I will say that I found that I liked this much more.  I can't quite explain why.....I just felt that I was working & pushing harder when I did weights first.

And I LOVED the weights.  I wanted to learn more.  I wanted to perfect my technique.  I bought books on different weight training programs, read articles, watched YouTube videos.  I.....LOVE....WEIGHTS!

And let me address one myth out there.....unless you are training for body building competitions....lifting weights will NOT make you big and bulky.  Let me say this again......LIFTING WEIGHTS WILL NOT MAKE YOU BIG AND BULKY!

So, where do I come down on the cardio vs. weights? 

I do both.....and when I'm at the gym, I do weights first, then finish with cardio.  Right now, I'm doing a hybrid workout of Les Mills Combat and Les Mills Pump.  The workout combines the two programs so that I'm getting the best of both worlds.....and I haven't been this psyched to start a workout since I got my TurboJam over a year ago!

Bottom line -- it's YOUR choice!  Listen to your body and do what works for YOU!

What do you think?  Where do you stand on the debate?


"Why You Gotta Be So Mean?"

>> Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Yesterday, I was having a good day.  I was running errands with my girls.....we stopped at Starbucks, sang in the car, and for once, they weren't fighting.  One of my last stops was to the local mall where I wanted to exchange some stuff.  For the girls....as a reward for good behavior, I took them into the pet store to see the puppies and then let them run around in the play area for a little bit before heading home while I sat reading my book .

I was in a good mood......until "SHE" sat down.

Let me start off by saying "SHE" is an acquaintance from my old church.  "SHE" is not even someone I would call a friend because "SHE" was one of the reasons we left that church to begin with.  "SHE" was a "friend" on Facebook and followed me throughout my deployment journey last year -- including my fitness journey.  I had not seen her or talked to her since I left the church and unfriended her on Facebook.......until yesterday.

She called out to me and sat herself right down next to me.  I could feel myself tensing up, but was determined to be courteous and cordial.  We made small talk -- she asked about My Marine, complimented the girls on how big they're getting, and asked me how I was doing.  She told me how well her family was doing.....the business trips her husband was taking.....how well the Women's Ministry that she leads at the church was doing....etc. etc.

Then she stunned me when she looked at me and said....."You know....you looked so GREAT last summer......what happened?"

I was speechless.  What happened?  WHAT HAPPENED??????

I sat quiet for a moment.  Trying to figure out how to respond.  In the span of a few seconds, so many things ran through my mind.

What happened?  Real life happened. 

My Marine came home from deployment and I had to readjust everything.
I wasn't able to eat the way I wanted, whenever I wanted.  His beer, chips and salsa came back into the house.

I didn't have the extra deployment income anymore that allowed me to meet with a trainer a couple times a week.

I got busy.  I got lazy.  I got complacent.

And yes.....I did take some BIG steps backwards.....BUT I was doing everything I could to get back on track and regain that awesomeness.

But regardless of all of these poor excuses, the fact that "SHE" felt that "SHE" could sit there questioning ME, when clearly she has never sweat a day in her life, left me angry, humiliated, and yes.....still speechless.

Even though I've been working hard....trying to get back on track......I still allowed her comment to seep back into my soul and shatter my self-esteem.  One that I worked so hard to try to put back together.......and in the end, I just shrugged and said, "Well, I guess real life just happened", when I really wanted to say "At least I'm trying....what's YOUR excuse?"

I caught her smirk.......and I became more conscious of the little extra rolls that have crept back on over the past year.

I caught the toss of her hair......and inside I berated myself for having that extra cup of coffee instead of a shake that morning.

I mumbled something about having to get the girls home, told her to take care, and left..........head just a little lower.....smile just a little dimmer.....the joy of the morning gone.

When we got home, I set the girls up with lunch and their books....and then sat down to post a rant on my FB page.  I wasn't looking for a pat on the back or encouragement.....I was looking for a place to vent.....and place where I could let my friends be aware that in spite of what we tell our children.....WORDS DO HURT......no matter if they come from a friend or someone you haven't seen in over a year.

But as comment after comment of support kept rolling in, I started to feel a little bit better.  Just enough to open up the Beachbody boxes that my mailman delivered in the midst of me typing my rant.  Inside were my new weights and my Les Mills Combat gloves.  Later on that day, I found out that a lady wanted to sell her punching bag to me......all signs that I AM back on that right track. 

After that brief pity party, I realized that I really have to thank "SHE" for making me feel like crap -- even if it was for a brief time.  Because her meanness, her cattiness, her "poor you" attitude just inspired me to be more determined.  She may have tried to win by tearing me down, but in end, she lost and I AM THE WINNER.....and I WILL get my awesomeness back!


That's Art Thursday - DIY Flip Flops & Superglued Fingers........

>> Friday, June 6, 2014

Yesterday on our Summer Calendar was "That's Art" Thursday.  This is the day where we do crafts, art projects and any other creative things that I come up with.  Yesterday, we decided to decorate our flip flops.

Before summer break started, I purchased some flip flops and the accompanying DIY bling to go along with it.  Pink for Nani, purple for Nudgie, and black for Mommy.

What I failed to notice at the time was that the little "bling" that came in the packets were not self-adhesive nor did the packet give any suggestion on how to attach them to said flip flops.  I didn't want to use hot glue because it would melt the plastic strap on the flip flops, so I decided to go with the trusty Super Glue idea.  If it can attach a man and his hard hat to a steel beam....SURELY it would attach little plastic butterflies to a sandal strap.

So we got to work.  The girls painstakingly decided the order of their bling.....changing it a few times before settling on a final design and are ready to begin gluing.


And this, my friends is where things started to go horribly wrong.  I told the girls that because the glue was super strong, they could hand me their bling and I would put a dab of glue on for them and then they could stick it on themselves.  This ended with an endless loop of:

"No, no Nudgie!!!  Don't touch your hair!!!"

"Nani!!!  Don't put your fingers near your eyes!"

"Nudgie.....I don't care if your face has an itchy.....your fingers will stick to your cheek and then you'll have to go to first grade like that!"

Too bad Mommy didn't take her own advice.

While the flip flops turned out adorable....I discovered they they are really only meant for picture purposes....and not for walking around.  Once the girls started wearing them around the house, bling started popping off like little Mexican jumping beans.  At least I knew where they were in the house.....all I had to do was follow the trail of sparkly flowers and butterflies......  I even found a flower stuck to the dog's nose.

I promised the girls after dinner that I would reattach their precious butterflies and flowers.  I soon discovered that even though the product gives you that cute little pin to stick in the top of the tube, it will still glue itself shut......forcing you to squeeze and squeeze until you hear a pop and Superglue spews forth like Old Faithful......all over your hands.....gluing not only the container to your fingers, but two flipflops as well.

While My Marine laughs hysterically watching me shake my hands rapidly trying to get this shit off my hands, the girls wander in and ask if they can wear their flipflops yet.  While giving them the "Evil Mommy Look of Death", I tell them with gritted teeth that they will have to wait until the morning to wear them.

In the meantime, we finally get the flipflops and the tube off my hands (along with a couple layers of skin).  The first two fingers of my left hand are stuck together and the middle finger of my right hand is coated in glue and I'm unable to bend it.  (Ironic, don't you think?!)  My fingers feel like they've been dipped in wax and left to harden. 

I try just washing my hands.  No joy.

I tried nail polish remover.  No luck.

I googled "fingers stuck together" and was treated to a slew of images that my brain just cannot unsee.  (Try typing with two fingers stuck together.....it's a fun challenge, I swear!)

I tried a "tried and true" remedy of making a salt paste to scrub my fingers.....basically a good old exfoliator that was anything but tried and true.

Finally, I resigned myself that I was just going to have to do this the old fashioned way.....pick it off little by little.

When I went up to bed, I looked on the table to see that once again, the little blings had popped off the flipflops.  I picked one up, threw it outside into the raging thunderstorm we had going on, and on my way upstairs, shouted down to My Marine that I was taking the girls shoe shopping the next day.


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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