Thursday, December 30, 2010

Ten Favorite Things from 2010

Inspired by Stephanie over at The Creative Mama, I'm going to attempt to narrow down all the awesomeness of 2010 (a little sarcasm there, yes) into my top 10 favorite things. Not including my wonderful husband and adorable child, of course ;-)

[I'm actually sitting here stressing out about how to order these things, because I don't want you to think that number one is somehow much more amazing than number ten. Sigh. Let's just agree that these are in no particular order, okay???]


1) Dancer Kilts, the web site I researched and designed this year, which categorizes various Highland Dance outfits by color and tartan. Yes, it is a very particular niche of interest. Yes, I spent hours researching it and putting the site together. Yes, I predict I will continue to spend hours on it for years to come. And it feels goooood!




2) The unexpected road trip my husband and I took from Texas to Oregon and back again, in barely more than a week, this summer. I had a job interview, my flight was canceled, and the rest is history. Out of an eight day trip, we spent five in the car driving like our hair was on fire. Well, so to speak - husband doesn't have any hair ;-) You get the picture, though.

This was my view for most of the trip. When I wasn't driving, that is!



3) BurdaStyle, one of my favorite new web sites to turn to for sewing inspiration, project galleries, and free patterns. I even entered a sewing contest there this year! Nope, didn't win, but did make someone very happy with the finished product and enjoyed every minute of it.




4) Our new-ish toothbrush holder from The Container Store, the Grassy Toothbrush Organizer by Umbra. I think it's extravagant to spend $10 on a toothbrush holder, and I spent about six months debating the merits of this item before deciding to purchase it. Now I smile every time I walk into our bathroom. Totally worth it :-)



5) Facebook is not, obviously, a new phenomenon (although I'm old enough to remember when you had to have a university e-mail address to join!), but I appreciate how it lets me keep in touch with all of my friends easily. From Hawaii to Switzerland and all points in between, time zones, work schedules, and long distance bills are no match for the festive, picture-filled goodness that is my Facebook network. Our parents really appreciate that they can log on and view innumerable photos and videos of Monkey Boy, as well.




6) Speaking of Monkey Boy, have I mentioned how **ECSTATIC*** I am t
hat he took up Highland Dancing in 2010?!?! He has already done about a dozen shows and competed in three competitions and, I have to say, he is better at 5 1/2 with one year of dancing than I was after two or three years (I started at age 8). I love dancing myself, I love teaching dance and all of our students, but there is something really special about your child falling in love with something that you have spent most of your life adoring. Sigh of happiness...

Monkey warming up, pre-show, age 5 1/2

Me chugging some soda & burping, post-competition, age 8



7) I'm an Organizing Junkie, a great place to start if you're trying to organize your house, your family, your life. Laura is totally a friend in my head, as Wendy Williams would say. This web site encouraged us to start meal planning in 2010 and continually gives me inspiration to declutter, organize, and containerize our home. I also received Laura's new book for Christmas and am enjoying reading it slowly, savoring each tip and the gorgeous pictures!





8) (The Customer is) Not Always Right: Funny & Stupid Customer Quotes. This web site makes me miss working retail during grad school. It's just funny. It is. Sometimes you need something to laugh at that has nothing to do with your life, and this is where I go for that. Make sure to visit the restroom before you read it, and maybe save it for when your spouse isn't home, because otherwise he will get concerned (or irritated) when you periodically bust out laughing for what seems like no apparent reason.




9) My calendar and my planner. I literally could not function without them. My calendar for the past three years has been Sandra Boynton's Mom's Calendar. It's cute, it's funny, it's functional. It makes me happy and keeps us organized, and I can tell at a glance that I've remembered to pay the bills that month (ooh, speaking of - I know what I'm doing this afternoon!). My planner goes everywhere with me. I have been using the same one (with yearly refills) for eight years now and I will never give it up for a PDA. I'm just old school like that. I like my schedule safely in my hands, bound in leather and written in pencil so that everything can be rescheduled, if necessary. The pages outline each hour of each day of the week, perfect for keeping track of my clients, errands, appointments, activities, etc. Quo Vadis calls it the Academic Minister. I call it genius.




10) I know I have waxed poetic about Freecycle in the past, but it really can be part of a lifestyle change when you commit to keeping things out of the dump. Driving past the dump (or "Mt. Lewisville", as it is affectionately referred to by locals) each Sunday on the way to and from church reminds me of how many still-serviceable things are thrown away each day. Freecycle encourages each of us to go a step beyond the possible monetary value of items and focus on what's really important - lessening our environmental footprint so as to preserve the beauty of the Earth for our children. And yes, I was raised in Oregon!



So there you have it, ten of my favorite things from 2010. Make sure to visit The Creative Mama to read Stephanie's list and the lists linked up by other bloggers. And, if I don't make it back here tomorrow, enjoy a safe and festive New Year's Eve! See you in 2011!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Big Boy Kilt Time!

This has been an exciting week of firsts for Monkey Boy. Yesterday, December 28, was one of his grandma's birthday. Monkey chose to celebrate by losing his first tooth (at 5 1/2!!!) and his package from "Santa" (aka grandpa and grandma) arrived, containing the new-to-him kilt, which also happens to be his first "big boy" (i.e. full dancer's) kilt. I would be a little overwhelmed by the gravity of these events, but now he is dancing around the living room in his underpants with his Pillow Pet Bee, so all seems to be as usual on the homefront after all!

Here's what we're looking at, mouth-wise:


It's not a super-impressive hole, since the adult tooth has been pushing up under/behind it for about three weeks now, but Monkey seems to be enjoying it.


Now, for the kilt comparisons. First, the kilt that I made for Monkey almost exactly a year ago:

Already getting a little short in this picture, which was taken a few months ago. Beginner dancers mostly wear white socks (because matching kilt hose are expensive), but boys have the option of wearing plain hose "toning to kilt", while girls can only wear white. Of course, Monkey wanted red hose, but we were having a devil of a time finding them in his size! Shortly after this picture was taken, though, we finally found red socks, so he began wearing those with the kilt:


Now, thanks to "Santa", Monkey has a brand new kilt and matching hose to wear in 2011! The best part is that it has lots of room for growth and a second pair of longer hose to trade out for when he sprouts up again. Hooray! I haven't yet hemmed it, so please excuse the extra length in this photo:

Bit of a difference, no?

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Pillow Pet Palooza!

Have I mentioned lately that Monkey Boy is a 5-year-old child of somewhat unusual tastes? We celebrated Christmas with church last night, and this morning with a modest amount of presents under the tree and hidden around the house (Daddy created a Santa scavenger hunt - Monkey loved reading and solving the clues!). The top two presents he received? The Big Top Cupcake Silicone Bakeware and the Buzzy Bumble Bee Pillow Pet. The grin in the picture with the bakeware is ginormous - apparently he has inherited the culinary genes from both sides of the family (my father and my brother-in-law are both chefs by profession). We've been hearing about the Pillow Pets for weeks and kept telling him, "You don't need one of those!" so it was definitely a huge surprise. Other highlights included books and board games - What's Gnu, Chutes & Ladders, Operation, Candyland and Chess. Monkey is very into board games right now, and we'd much rather have them in the house than video games. It makes me laugh that both of the big presents were "As seen on TV!!!" Aah, commercialism...

I am so happy that we seem to have achieved some kind of balance with commercialism and religious celebration this year. I know it will get harder as Monkey gets older, but right now my son is sitting in the living room with his Pillow Pet, happily playing with the marble chute he received and asking when Daddy's homemade Christmas dinner will be ready. Merry Christmas to you and yours. I hope you are spending this holy day with loved ones and have seen the love of Christ reflected in the eyes of an innocent child.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. ~John 1:5



Friday, December 24, 2010

Let's Start With This...

I stayed up way too late last night sewing. I had the bright idea to make dresses for two of my nieces (I LOVE sewing little girl clothes!) and, while ruffles are absolutely adorable on, they can take some time to create. So at 1:00 am I gave up the fight for the night and headed to bed. Sometime around 8:00 am I rolled out of bed to use the bathroom, planning on immediately returning to bed. When I walked back into the bedroom, I found found Monkey Boy sitting on my side of the bed, bouncing impatiently as he waited for me. "Mommy!" he shared in a loud, urgent stage whisper, "It's Christmas Eve DAY!"

So apparently I'm up this morning. The husband, rolled up in his blanket, seemed oblivious to this episode, and is snoring soundly. Oh well, at least I can continue work on the ruffles :-)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

12 Hours of Togetherness

I have to start by saying, as I just sat down to write this, Monkey Boy approached me with something small and brown in his hand. "This is for you, Mommy!" he told me excitedly. It took me a few seconds to realize it was a piece of slightly melted chocolate. Part of his daily chocolate from the Advent calendar, which he'd just offered me unprompted. Aaaaw...yes, this is definitely one of those moments to remember :-)

Yesterday was one of those days that could have ended up very enjoyable or incredibly irritating. I had everything scheduled back-to-back: First, pop in play at our local Pump it Up with one of Monkey's friends from school; Second, Monkey accompanying me to a church in a neighboring city, where I am working at a holiday camp for kids with disabilities this week (or, as my husband enjoys saying, "therapizing"); Third, on to another neighboring city (I use this term loosely, as DFW is a BIG metroplex - this one is about 45 miles from home) where I had a dance practice for a special choreography some of the advanced dancers are doing at Burns' Night in January. Start time? We left the house at 10:00 am. End time? We returned home at 10:00 pm. Yes, that is 12 straight hours of togetherness, excluding only one 2 minute potty break by myself (the other 4 potty breaks were joint ventures).

Pump it up was a blast, of course. I mean, who wouldn't love a giant room full of inflatables? The hard part is letting the little people jump and staying off the fixtures yourself! Monkey and his friend played nicely, his mum and I had a nice little chat (she's British, so I feel wrong calling her a mom), and both boys got a lot of energy out - perfect! After saying goodbye, we hopped in the car and headed out to camp, Monkey happily eating string cheese, applesauce and carrot sticks in the backseat as I drove.

Camp went very well, which is always nice. I had five 30-minute sessions with groups of 8 to 11 campers in each, and the majority were having great days and made awesome behavioral choices during group. Monkey was a big help, helping me pass out instruments, assisting campers who had trouble grasping things, singing along. One thing I really like about working in special ed is the opportunities when I can bring my son to work with me and let him interact with my friends (as he calls them). While Monkey has a hearing impairment, most of the kids I
work with have much more severe disabilities and it is a great learning experience for him to play with my friends. Each time I bring him to work, I give him the little reminder beforehand: "Remember, mommy's friends are special in different ways that you and me. Some of them talk differently, some of them walk differently, some of them hear differently, etc. It's okay to have questions about my friend's differences, but when is an appropriate time to ask those questions?" Monkey always tells me the same thing, and he lives by these words: "I'll ask you questions in the car on the way home, mommy. If I ask you questions in front of your friends, they might feel sad."

When we left camp, Monkey pointed to the word on the sleeve of my staff long-sleeve t-shirt: HEROES (this acronym is the name of the camp). "Mommy, you were a hero today for those friends, just like your shirt says." Words cannot express the emotions that welled up inside me at that moment. I knelt down and gave him a big hug. "You were a hero for them today, too, sweetheart."

Monkey was so helpful at camp I told him he got to pick where we'd eat dinner on the way to the dance studio. I expected him to say Subway (his favorite restaurant), but instead found myself seated at a booth in an iHop that was in a less-than-desirable area of the city we were in. Oh well, we definitely overheard some interesting conversations! Monkey had "man-size chocolate chip pancakes", of course. We still got to the dance studio about an hour early (I'd decided to go straight on from camp to avoid the INSANE rush hour traffic on 635 as everyone flees downtown Dallas at the end of the workday). Monkey decided we should visit the "double ducks" at the park across the street from the studio. He was shocked to learn that I'd "forgotten" the bread. I admit, I don't remember to keep stale bread in my car for surprise "double duck" encounters. If that makes me a bad mommy, so be it!

Monkey amused himself during my dance rehearsal and even decided to show off his new skills in the Sword Dance (which he is currently learning) when we took a water break. He was so wound up by the time we left, I was expecting him to pass out pretty much as soon as the car started, and he didn't disappoint. The ride home was dark as peaceful, as I admired the lights of downtown Dallas and listened to Monkey's gentle snores.

It was a good day. He is a kind and considerate child, and I feel so blessed when his actions and words remind me of that.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Apparently, Trails of Lights Have an Age Requirement

The age requirement wasn't stated by the natural science museum that was hosting the event, actually. It may not even be an age requirement so much as an age/gender/temperament requirement. All I know is that last night I'd planned a relaxing stroll through a Holiday Trail of Lights, which Monkey Boy quickly turned into, "Mommy, hurry! We have to pass this family if we're going to win the race!" Really. Seriously. My son decided that the lights were not so much to inspire quiet reflection on the spirit of the season as they were markers for the Christmas Grand Prix 2010. Again, my sense of sympathy for his Kindergarten teacher is renewed.

Let me start by saying this: Any event that is held after dark out in the (relative) wilds of Texas really needs good directional markings on the roads leading in. It took us over an hour to make the 30 minute drive to the museum, simply because we unwittingly missed one turn and ended up in a different tiny town. Classic quotes when I stopped to ask for directions at a gas station:

Me: "We're trying to find the turn for 399 in McKinney."

Attendant: "This is Melissa."

Me: "Do you know where 399 is?"

Attendant: "No."

Um, yeah, thanks for that.

The event itself was pretty cool. As a local community band played in the open air amphitheater, resounding throughout the trail, strings of what looked like large red and green tree lights led us down the dark trail. Lanterns of various shapes and sizes lit the tree branches above us (such as the star on the left that I managed to get a decent shot of!). Young couples pushes strollers with their cooing infants and toddlers down the trail. Other couples held gloved hands and sipped hot chocolate as they meandered down the path, no doubt whisperings sweet nothings to each other as their heads came together and they laughed softly. And then there was us. I'd asked one of our young friends (15) from church to come with us, as I was worried about losing Monkey on a dark night if we went alone, and K is always fun to chat with. Little did we know that, as soon as we handed Monkey the safety flashlight, he'd become Cartman from Southpark, trying to flex his "authori-tah" and clearing the path for running the imaginary race.

When we came upon the little cabin where Father Christmas and Mother Nature were waiting to take pictures with small people, I had the most intense flashback to my own early childhood in Switzerland, walking out into the forest with my parents and my older sister to find Samichlaus and his scary sidekick, Schmutzli. It wasn't just a memory, I could actually see the candles twinkling through the forest, smell the pine and the tangy scent of freshly-opened oranges from the hands of other children who'd found Samichlaus and received their reward for the year's good behavior. I saw my sister hiding behind my father's legs when Schmutzli, with his coal-smudged face and bundle of twigs for spanking naughty children, appeared out of the dark. K seemed interested in this story. Monkey did not. He was far too busy stalking a double stroller and attempting to pass it on the right.

Oh well, at least I learned something: Monkey is too young for holiday trails of lights. Or he needs a Xanax before we go next year. Did I mention we got lost again on the way home? It was actually a pretty awesome night :-)

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Two Weeks of Monkey

My personal blogging goal for the next two weeks is to write a little something about Monkey Boy every day. I thought it would be the perfect time, since we are all home from school for the next two weeks, there are holidays & special events coming up, etc. Really, I just need a little list to read when we have those inevitable days when it seems like Monkey is doing everything he can to drive us crazy!

A word that's been coming up frequently in our household recently has been mivic. What's mivic, you say? You've never heard it used in conversation? That's probably because you haven't played Upwords with our 5-year-old yet. The game had been rolling right along, and I played the word "civic".

"Hmmmm...." said Monkey, half thinking, half conversationally. "That is an interesting word, Mommy! I think I can make it better." With that, he placed an "M" on top of my first "C".

"Mivic?" queried Daddy. "What on Earth is mivic?"

Monkey looked up at his father with a surprised expression on his face. "You mean you've never heard of mivic?!?! Mivic," he said, his eyebrows starting to raise and lower repeatedly in that adorable way he does, "is when there is really dark water with sharks in it. Then there are mermaids swimming up at the top and they are spanking the sharks." The hand motions to go along with this story are truly indescribable, so please believe me when I say by this point my husband and I were both doubled over laughing with tears in our eyes.

When we finally stopped laughing, Daddy turned to me, wiping his eyes, and said, "He really had me until the spanking part!"

This is my impression of what mivic looks like, but Monkey just informed me that my mental picture is apparently incorrect, as mivic should be a dark gray color. Good to know!


Friday, December 17, 2010

Winter Break!

I can't say that I'm sorry to see the beginning of Winter Break this year. Two weeks of very little work and lots of family & cleaning time, plus hopefully a Messiah Sing-Along, a dance costume sewing party, outings with Monkey Boy, and who knows what else - woo hoo!

Yesterday marked five years of marriage for my husband and me, so I wanted to take a moment just say thank you to him for putting up with me for the past eight years. It takes a strong man to support a stubborn woman, and I am grateful to the commitment we have forged.


Check out 10 Reason Minimalism May Be Right For You over on Organizing Your Way - just in time for the Christmas clutter craziness!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

It's Been Hard

I have been struggling with anxiety and depression since I was about 10 years old. I was also treated for an eating disorder during college and grad school, which had been with me since age 13. I am also freaking out a little bit writing this all down right now, because if you write it down it becomes real. In my mind, anyway. This has been a rough year for me, harder than the past few, for some reason. It seems like every area of my life right now has something I'm choosing to be anxious about: my immediate family, my family of origin, my church, my job, my friends, etc.

I made the decision to ask for help a few months ago, consulting with my doctor about trying medication (which I've only done once before). Why is it so hard to ask for help, to admit that you're not a superwoman and you can't handle everything alone? The first drug was somewhat helpful, but I quickly learned my insurance company wouldn't cover it, as it's not "preferred" (aka - there's no generic alternative). The second drug, which I was asked to stay on for 90 days so my doctor could challenge my insurance company, was terrible. I made it to day 57 and then decided the side effects just weren't worth it. The side effects, for me, have included insomnia, suicidal ideation, and gaining 30 pounds. Yes, you read that correctly, 30. I now weigh the same amount as I did the day I gave birth to my son, which, you know, makes me feel a little anxious!

So on Monday I started Drug #3, which so far has not felt too bad. My doctor warned me that I'd be extremely nauseated the first week, but it's only been about 15 minutes a day of heavy nausea, which I can handle. I am sharing this because I am committed to recovery, to becoming a fully functioning woman who can handle the crap life throws at her with more grace and less uncontrollable weeping. I am also sharing this because I have felt alone, I have felt ashamed, and if sharing this can help one other woman realize that she is not alone, that other people deal with these issues, than it is worth it. It's been hard, but it will get better. I believe it, and I hope you do, too.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

My Advent Conspiracy

I've been giving this video a lot of thought lately:



The commercialization of Christmas is a lot easier to handle and avoid when you are single and childless. As a mom, I want my son to learn that Christmas is a time to celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, not to get presents and spend money like there's no tomorrow. But I also want to create the memories of family traditions for him that my sister and I reminisce about. So how can you find the appropriate line for your family? Here are some of the areas we've discussed:

1) Advent Wreath - Last year, our church offered a family event after first service one Sunday: making an Advent Wreath using a wire frame, artificial garland, candle holders and taper candles. So much fun, so durable, and so safely stored in our utility closet ready to come out and face another December with Monkey!

2) Advent Calendar - I grew up with a handmade Advent Calendar, crafted by my paternal grandmother for my older sister before she was even born (my sister is a Christmas baby). That same grandmother died in a gas accident 6 weeks before I was born. Even though there was a tinge of sadness to the family memory, using the Advent Calendar always made me feel that I had a connection to the grandma I never met. I picked up a Veggie Tales Advent Calendar on clearance at Family Christian last January and have had it tucked away all year, ready to pull out this weekend and fill with delicious chocolates for Monkey. He is so excited, I don't know if he will manage to wait until December 1st!

3) Christmas Tree - Just call me Scrooge, 'cause I have always been vehemently anti-Christmas tree. The first three Christmases of Monkey's life, he couldn't have cared less, of course. Last year, when he was four, we went home to visit all the grandparents for Christmas and he fell HARD for the Christmas trees. He would lay down under them, stroking the pine needles and the ornaments, gazing at the lights...so what's a mom who doesn't believe in giving Christmas presents, cutting down trees unnecessarily or wasting money to do? I got a second-hand faux tree off of Freecycle, along with some paint-them-yourself glass ornaments and picked up some Christmas lights and glass paint at a local crafts store. We spent most of Thanksgiving Day painting & hanging ornaments. An old, tropical tablecloth is covering the base of the tree. Monkey loves it!

4) Presents - We don't buy Monkey/ourselves/others gifts for
Christmas. His grandparents love to send him packages, of course, since they live 2000 miles away, and we would never begrudge him a gift. The point is not NO gifts, it's curbing the EXCESS we see around us. Still, all of the things start to pile up, Monkey gets tired of toys and they sit unused, and we still have to go through everything and pare down at least twice a year. So when one of the grandmas asked Monkey what he wanted for Christmas when they talked on Thanksgiving, we decided to be proactive this year. Monkey helped us make a Christmas wish list that targets activities, rather than things. His list (in order of preference) was soccer class, swimming lessons, cooking classes, and piano lessons. That's my boy!

I'm currently debating whether our teeny-tiny kitchen can stand a round of holiday cookie baking for Monkey to wrap up for his friends and our coworkers. Another great idea I heard recently was packaging up hot chocolate mix or cookie
mix in a really pretty (reusable) container. and then making a date to prepare the mix together. I love the idea of giving a friend a treat they may not necessarily take the time to prepare otherwise. A sampler of tasty teas would have the same effect.

How do you balance beliefs/budget in the midst of commercial Christmas madness?

Crafty Note: Like my hand-painted ornament, pictured above? Check out a super-easy tutorial for another way to use glass ornaments at Craftopotamus!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Meal Planning - November 8

Our apartment smells amazing this evening. This morning, Monkey Boy decided we should make raspberry/blueberry pancakes. This afternoon, I realized the two bananas on my counter were pretty much do or die today, so a batch of banana oatmeal muffins were in order (aaaand I'm set for breakfasts this morning, woo hoo!). This evening, my husband got a hankering for his mother's amazing gumbo, minus the seafood so I can eat it, as well. Food allergies can be a drag, but no more so than when your in-laws are consummate creators of food and also happen to be from Louisiana, home of some of the most amazing American cuisine to date. In my humble opinion, of course ;-)

Our menu plan is a little bit shorter than usual this week, as we will be taking off right after school on Friday to drive South for the Salado Highland Games in Salado, Texas. It's kind of amazing that I've been writing this blog for the better part of a year and have yet to go off on a tangent about Scottish Highland Dancing, actually, but let's save that for another day. On to the food!


LUNCHES

Monday - PB&J on wheat bread, orange slices, baby carrots


Tuesday - Leftover gumbo (mommy & daddy)/Lunchable (Monkey), applesauce, yogurt


Wednesday - Turkey sandwich, apple slices, broccoli


Thursday - Leftover spaghetti (mommy & daddy)/Lunchable (Monkey), orange slices, baby carrots

Friday - Hot lunch in cafeteria (making it easier to head out of town right after school)


DINNERS

Monday - Homemade gumbo

Tuesday - Cheeseburger soup, salad (made ahead & frozen)

Wednesday - Spaghetti with meat sauce & Alfredo sauce (meat sauce made ahead & frozen, Alfredo sauce crafted by my husband)


Thursday - n/a (Bowling league night)


Friday - n/a (Road trip!!!)


What are y'all eating this week? Need more meal planning ideas? Check out I'm an Organizing Junkie, home of Menu Plan Mondays, where I link up each week along with hundreds of other bloggers. Have a great week!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Teaching Greed or Good Planning?

As an Oregon expatriate who has moved through Washington, Virginia, and finally settled (for now) in Texas, I sometimes feel like a fish out of water. Less so now than I used to, but sometimes events occur that just smack me in the face with shock and confusion. You know, metaphorically-speaking. While these things can be disturbing, they reliably lead to self-examination, research, and eventual growth. Oh, and blogging...can't forget the blogging!

So here's the situation: Last week, Monkey Boy came home from after-school care with a birthday party invitation from one of the girls. Let's call her Amber, for the sake of protecting the innocent and their not-so-innocent parents. Monkey went to preschool with this girl, so they've known each other going on 3 years now, but this is the first time he's received in invite from her. Amber is turning 6. I reviewed the details on the card and was checking his calender when I noticed the last line: "Amber is registered at Toys-R-Us."

Um, what?

I re-read. Oh yes, "Amber is registered at Toys-R-Us." I got it right the first time. My initial response was shock, which quickly turned into more a feeling of oh-my-gosh-did-this-mother-seriously-write-this-on-this-invitation?!?!?! I texted my husband at work, "You are not going to BELIEVE what Monkey brought home!" I put the invitation down and turned to more pertinent matters of the evening, but that sentence continued to bother me.

When did it become socially acceptable to include a gift registry for you child with birthday party invitations? Did I miss something in the mommy rules? And what about the wording, the expectation of a specific present, the sense of entitlement? It wasn't, "If you don't know what to get Amber, she is registered at Toys-R-Us." There was no qualifier on that invitation, just a command to get thee to the store and don't forget your wallet. Yuck.

I posted a status update on Facebook about the invitation (naming no names, of course) and asking for input from my friends. Was I overreacting? Was I out of the mommy loop, as previously suspected? What would other parents do in this situations? Responses were overwhelmingly negative to the birthday gift registry, but some of my friends didn't hate the idea. Some select quotes, for your reading pleasure:

"I have never encountered this, and personally I don't consider it to be in good taste." ~ from a mother of 4 and grandmother of 6, music therapist

"We register for weddings and baby
showers...how is this any different...hmmm?" ~ newlywed with no children (to which I replied, "...as someone who didn't register for her baby showers or wedding, I was a little shocked!"

"No like. Doesn't like it? Gift receipt." ~ mother of 1 and fellow ex-Oregonian

"I think it's a little ridiculous. Gift receipt or no gift...that's my 2 cents :-)" ~ my sister, a SAHM of 3, childbirth educator

"At that age, kids might benefit from a gift they didn't know they wanted. They mi
ght gain a new hobby or interest from a surprise gift. I think it's doing the kid a dis-service." ~ pregnant mother of a toddler, research scientist

"Really? Was there an RSVP also...because I would gracefully (which would be a pretty easy job to do...considering the level of grace already present) DECLINE!!! You know me. Why deliver reinforcement following behavior you don't want to be continued in the future?" ~ mother of a teenager and a behavior specialist (clearly, LOL)

"Registering your kid for bday gifts seems unbelieveable to me. When you're getting married and getting started, there are usually things you need. When your kid turns 6, really??? ANOTHER toy???" ~ mother of 2, music therapist

"No. That is odd. Maybe they could say cash or checks only if they don't trust you to pick a gift! :-P ~ mother of 1, speech therapist

"Definitely not something Martha would condone. I have seen people enclose a card with the child's current interests - which I thought was tasteful - but this is over the top. Though, I wouldn't be surprised if we start seeing it more and more." ~ newlywed, no children, who also happens to be a pastor

To me, this is an example of Everything's Bigger in Texas gone bad - is materialism something we really want to cultivate and model to our children? I'm tempted to attend this birthday party just to see what happens with the gift registry, but that would be ugly and, besides, we had already RSVP'd to another party that day by the time we received this invitation. I just hope I don't run into Amber's mother anytime soon, as I may not be able to keep my opinions to myself.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Meal Planning - October 24

I'm starting to think that I actually prefer ignoring my kitchen during the week and then staging a hostile takeover each weekend. It's gross, I know, but it's much more satisfying to take it from icky to pristine than to work on it each and every single freaking day. Okay, yes, I will not give in to this base instinct of living in periodic filth, but it sure felt good to say it to you!

In other news, Einstein's Bagels was doing a punch card promotion during the past couple months, so I was rewarded for my "bad morning" bribes (a bagel, schmear, and iced coffee sure makes it easier to drag my tired behind to work!) with a free baker's dozen of bagels this weekend. If you count, there aren't 13 - I've already eaten 2. It isn't worth being skinny if I have to give up carbs, in my humble opinion. Into the freezer with you, my little darlings!

Here's what we will be eating this week:

LUNCHES

Monday - PB&J on wheat bread, apple slices, broccoli with ranch dressing


Tuesday - Leftover spaghetti, baby carrots, applesauce


Wednesday - Turkey sandwich, apple slices, chips


Thursday - Leftover chicken spaghetti, apple slices, broccoli with ranch dressing


Friday - Turkey sandwich, string cheese, applesauce

DINNERS

Monday - Spaghetti & garlic bread

Tuesday - Friendship casserole

Wednesday - Chicken spaghetti

Thursday - n/a (we eat out on bowling league night)

Friday - Chicken taco soup


Need some more ideas for meals? Check out the Menu Plan Monday section on I'm an Organizing Junkie, where hundreds of other bloggers link up and share what their families will be eating each week.


Sunday, October 17, 2010

Meal Planning - October 18


We accidentally slept through church this morning, so I'm feeling a little out of sorts this morning. So much to do! So little time! So off the regular Sunday schedule! In the interested of breathing deeply and regrouping, I figured the best place to start was with this week's meal plan. My husband graciously volunteered to do the grocery shopping this morning, so I figure I'd better get busy and pounce on that!

LUNCHES

Monday - Chicken enchiladas for Mommy & Daddy/PB&J for Monkey, mango slices, broccoli & Ranch dressing


Tuesday - Turkey sandwich, chips, applesauce


Wednesday - Leftover chicken spaghetti for Mommy & Daddy/PB&J for Monkey, apple slices, baby carrots & Ranch dressing

Thursday - Leftover spaghetti, string cheese, applesauce


Friday - Turkey sandwich, apple slices, broccoli


DINNERS

Monday - Slow Cooker Veggie Beef Soup (made ahead & frozen)

Tuesday - Chicken Spaghetti (made ahead & frozen)

Wednesday - Spaghetti and meat sauce (sauce made ahead & frozen)

Thursday - n/a (we eat out on bowling league night)

Friday - Cheeseburger Soup (made ahead & frozen)

I'm going to wait on next weekend until later this week. October seems to have very busy weekends thus far - harvest festivals, dance shows, Halloween parties, etc. If you need more meal-planning inspiration, visit I'm an Organizing Junkie's Meal Plan Monday section, where hundreds of other meal-planners share their menus and recipes.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Change of Seasons, Change of Wardrobe

Every six months or so I sit down and try to wrassle Monkey Boy into various articles of clothing from his closet in order to see what fits and what is lacking. Then the wrassling progresses into full-strength restraint holds in order to try on the next season's clothing in the next size (most of it will fit, but why waste closet space with things he'll never wear?). Every six months my sweet Monkey becomes a crazy little banshee while participating (against his will) in this project, interspersed with moments of silliness, destructiveness, and just plain belligerence. Every six month, my dear, sweet husband comes home halfway through this task and within 10 minutes is cracking up at the sight of me tackling our child with a sweater and Monkey's silly walks. After the boys' part is complete, I go through the pile of old clothes, separating out the ones nice enough that the resale shop will take them and putting the rest aside for donations. Then I sort the pile of new (or new-to-Monkey) clothes, removing tags, checking for holes, etc. One massive load of laundry later, everything is clean, dry, folded and put away.

So, this afternoon it took four hours, but I can officially say Monkey will be warm, dry, and wearing clothes that fit for roughly the next six months. Still, there has got to be an easier way to do this. How do you deal with the seasonal/sizing changes for your children? Any advice to make this whole process easier?

Monkey running in the sprinklers outside our apartment this afternoon. Quickly followed by the protests, "Mommy, it is hot outside and I have sprinklers to play in! Why do I have to put on sweaters?" Good point, child :-)

Monday, October 11, 2010

Meal Planning - October 11

Today all three of us have the day off from school. My district is having a staff training day, Monkey Boy's district is having Fair Day, complete with free tickets (yes, the State Fair of Texas is a big deal in DFW!), and I'm not really sure why my husband's district is closed, but they are. Columbus Day, maybe? Who knows. The point is, I plan on getting a lot of paperwork and cleaning done! Husband's plans seem to include going to the movies and going bowling. Monkey just wants to talk all day, LOL. I also got quite a big of cooking done this weekend. My freezer, which was down to a scant 10 dinners, is now bursting with 21 meals, with 3-4 more to be added today. Makes me hungry just looking at it!

So here's what we'll be eating this week:

LUNCHES

Monday - Leftovers from the weekend (nice that we don't have to pack today!)

Tuesday - Turkey sandwiches, carrot sticks, applesauce

Wednesday - PB&J, string cheese, apple slices

Thursday - Leftover spaghetti for Mommy & Daddy/Mac & Cheese for Monkey, carrot sticks, frozen Gogurt

Friday - Chicken enchiladas for Mommy & Daddy/PB&J for Monkey, apple slices, chips

DINNERS

Monday - Sweet & Tangy Pot Roast in the slow cooker (I'll be preparing that as soon as I post this - I love it when my appliances work hard for me all day!)

Tuesday - Chicken Spaghetti (made ahead & frozen)

Wednesday - Spaghetti with meat sauce (sauce made ahead & frozen)

Thursday - n/a (we eat out on bowling league night)

Friday - Salsa Chicken in the slow cooker (made ahead & frozen)

Saturday - Potato Soup (made ahead & frozen)

Sunday - Baby Burgers

Need more meal planning inspiration? Visit I'm an Organizing Junkie, host of Meal Plan Mondays, for links to hundreds of other bloggers' meal plans for the week!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Welcome, October!

I don't know about you, but I am super-excited for October. Yes, it means cooler weather approaching, but after one of the hottest, and steamiest summers in recent memory in DFW, we are ready for the fall chill to arrive! Did I mention it is close to 90 degrees today? Plus, there's just something much more satisfying about October than September to me. August is a big month, school starting and all, but September just seems like a place marker until October arrives. To me, anyway :-)

Monkey Boy and I began our celebration of all things October with a visit to our local Calloway's Nursery, where they were hosting a free Fall Festival for local children. Monkey got to pick a pumpkin and decorate it using provided craft supplies (see picture above). Mr. Pumpkin (as he was named) is now sitting on our patio, scaring off potential intruders. That's right, Mr. Burgler, all eight eyes trained on you, and don't LET him twitch his feather mustache!

It was our first visit to a nursery, and Monkey was intrigued. After he completed the decorating, took a spin in the bounce house and got a cup of popcorn, Monkey decided it would be a good idea for us to take a walk around the nursery and look at all the plants. Perhaps he has managed not to inherit my or Daddy's gray thumbs! I figure it might be fun to take a trip back another day and ask about some hardy plants to live on our patio table. Currently, we are a plant-free family. Some days, it's hard enough keeping the child alive without worrying about things that can't ask for food or water if we forget to give it to them!

Now, off on an impromptu shopping/people watching trip with my boys. There are so many good areas for this in Dallas! Not sure if anything will be bought today, but I could use some cotton leggings to pair up with short dresses for work. Makes it much easier to work with the children when everything is decent, but I'm sooo tired of getting runs in the tight-like leggings. Bring on the cotton knits and, in a few weeks, sweaters!

How are you and your family celebrating the change in seasons?

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Meal Planning - September 27


Man, it's been a challenging week. The honeymoon is definitely over for Monkey Boy and his Kindergarten teacher. On the positive side, his reading and writing is "blowing me [the teacher] away." On the negative side, he can't seem to get through the day without disrupting the class during group instruction, being unsafe in his tiny chair, and/or misusing school supplies. My personal favorite incident was last Monday - "Mommy, I was just trying to eat a pencil. I wanted to see if it felt the same way in my tummy that it does in my hand when I write." Heaven help us!

In other news, my students are all amazing this year and my husband hasn't had a nervous breakdown over his students this year yet, so...perhaps it all straightens out in the grand educational wash?

Monkey and I were supposed to perform with our dance group at the Texas State Fair on Saturday, but both performances were sadly rained out. One of my friends asked at church today why we weren't as brave as the country line dancers (who she saw on the news last night). Pretty sure their outfits are machine washable. Wool kilts, wool hose and velvet vests aren't! Scottish Highland Dancers are not as waterproof as we sometimes need to be :-/

Anyhow, on to the food! This week we've decided to only plan the weekday meals, and then reconvene Thursday or Friday evening to discuss weekend options. I'm enjoying these mini-food conferences with my man ;-)

Monday Lunch - Leftover spaghetti, carrots, apple slices

Monday Dinner - Beef tacos

Tuesday Lunch - BLT sandwiches, chips, applesauce

Tuesday Dinner - Salsa chicken & rice (made ahead & frozen), vegetables of some sort

Wednesday Lunch - Tamales & queso from Central Market, carrots, apple slices

Wednesday Dinner - Baby burgers, french fries

Thursday Lunch - Chicken enchiladas from Market Street, broccoli, apple slices

Thursday Dinner - Eat Out (bowling league)

Friday Lunch - Turkey sandwiches, carrots, string cheese

Friday Dinner - Chicken spaghetti (made ahead & frozen), vegetables of some sort

Man, it makes me hungry just typing all that! If you have the munchies, too, head on over to I'm an Organizing Junkie and check out Laura's Meal Plan Monday section, where literally hundreds of other bloggers link up their menus and recipes. Yum!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Meal Planning - September 20


I forgot to meal plan last week. Well, okay, I didn't really forget so much as threw a tiny hissy fit and refused to do it. My husband handled meals. It was a good week :-)

Now, back to business, though! Here is what we will be eating this week:

Monday Lunch - Pulled pork sandwiches, applesauce, steamed broccoli

Monday Dinner - Ravioli, garlic bread, some sort of vegetable

Tuesday Lunch - PB & J, apple slices, carrot chips

Tuesday Dinner - Chicken spaghetti (made ahead & frozen), some sort of vegetable

Wednesday Lunch - Turkey sandwiches, mango slices, carrot chips

Wednesday Dinner - Spaghetti with meat sauce, garlic bread

Thursday Lunch - Leftover spaghetti, string cheese, steamed broccoli

Thursday Dinner - Eat Out (bowling league)

Friday Lunch - Turkey sandwiches, applesauce, carrot chips

Friday Dinner - Potato Soup (made ahead & frozen), french bread, green salad w/dressing of choice

Saturday Dinner - Salsa Chicken (made ahead & frozen)

Sunday Dinner - Pot Roast

In other (funny, I think) news, I finally found out why Monkey Boy is always begging to buy his lunch at school, rather than bringing it: "Mommy, it's so awesome! I get to use a CREDIT CARD!!! And then...they GIVE me FOOD!!!" Man, it must be nice to be five ;-)

Need more menu ideas? Visit I'm an Organizing Junkie's Meal Plan Monday section, where hundreds of other bloggers link their menus for the week!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Everyday Cheapskate's Greatest Tips

I recently finished reading Everyday Cheapskate's Greatest Tips: 500 Simple Strategies for Smart Living (2005). The book's cover boasts that it is "bringing dignity to the art of living below your means." Mary Hunt, the author of this book, is the syndicated columnist of Everyday Cheapskate and publisher of The Cheapskate Monthly newsletter. You can visit her online here. Now that I have finished reading the book and recording some new ideas to try, I'll be listing the book on paperbackswap, where I'll be able to get a new-to-me book in exchange for mailing this one to someone else!

Here are seven of my favorite tips from the book:

1. CAR CLEAN-UP
Place an old bath towel, bath mat, pillowcase, or table cloth under your baby's car seat. Now when your precious little one tosses food or a bottle onto the seat, the spread will protect the upholstery. Just throw it into the laundry for a quick and easy cleanup.

2. FREECYCLE IT
There is a web site where you can recycle your clutter. Freecycle is giving away your clutter to someone else who wants it. Freecycle Yahoo Groups have sprung up all around the world. If there isn't one in your local area, you can start a group. It's easy. If you've got something to give away, you post it on your local Freecycle board. If a member wants it, he or she contacts you and the two of you make arrangements for pickup. Find out more about freecycling at www.freecycle.org. [Read about my Freecycle experiences here]

3. GET ORGANIZED
With the relatively low cost of computers, scanners, and CD burners, you can take personal record maintenance to a new level. Scan your personal documents into the computer as jpeg files [personally, I like to scan them as .pdf files]. Then burn two copies onto CDs. Keep one at home and the other as a back-up in a safe or deposit box. You can also do this for tax return documentation. You will save on space and also gain peace of mind from the knowledge that all of your important papers are safe and "filed" neatly.

4. JUST WHITES
Fine hotels everywhere feature all white linens. You should, too. When everything is white, you don't worry about fading, about matching up sets or if the linens match the room's decor. Every top sheet goes with every fitted sheet, so you don't have laundry hassles. Everything launders the same. White linens are classic and they're cheaper, too.

5. CHEAP CLIPS
Need a cheap but effective way to clamp shut your chip bags, etc.? Buy bags of clothespins at the dollar store. They make great chip clips!

6. INSIDE OUT
Wash your clothes inside out to keep them looking newer longer. The inside takes all of the abuse and fading cause by the agitation instead of the outside. Clothes get just as clean when washed inside out.

7. THE LAW
To keep your possessions from overtaking your life and your space, declare a new personal dictum: For every new thing that comes in, something old must go out. You must obey The Law. It'll work. In fact there will be times that you'll really want to bring home something new, but the thought of getting rid of something of equal size or value will help you distinguish between a true need and a passing desire.

What are some of your favorite time/money savers?