Wednesday, November 27, 2013
We're beginning our holiday with a much needed visit to see family, and I'm wishing everyone a very happy, healthy Thanksgiving.
This year has brought our family many ups and downs, and we've learned from every single experience. We've gained and identified true friends, made difficult decisions and worked day and night to adjust our family to our new life in Pennsylvania.
After seven months here, I can say we've been successful on that front. The kids are happy, and when the kids are happy I'm happy. Trust me there were days I wondered if we did the right thing moving our oldest. While the other kids were settling in and excited about all the "new-ness" around them, he was struggling to feel at home. He was missing friends and family. He wanted to be back in his old house, with his old routines and everything else he knew.
I can say with confidence he feels at home now. And for that I'm extremely thankful.
Remember to be thankful in all things; we grow and learn most in difficult times. Count your blessings, and not everything you wish you had. Even on trying days I can look around me and see how abundantly wonderful my life is. When Hubby came home several weeks ago with the news he was no longer employed, I saw myself in all those Oprah shows I watched over the years. This time, it wasn't someone else sharing their story. I wasn't watching it on television.
It was us.
But here we are, trucking along. I put my trust in God, and knew there was a reason. I looked around me and remembered what my dad said. You have everything you need. You and the kids are healthy. A job can be replaced. This CAN BE worse. He was right, and we made it through. I've learned more about my family and friends in these past few weeks than I have in a long time.
There is so much to be thankful for every day, and I'm wishing all of you a wonderful weekend.
Happy Thanksgiving, and happy official start of the holiday season!
Monday, November 25, 2013
Just a few years ago I was getting up on Friday morning after Thanksgiving at 3am to hit up all the sales at Kohls, Target and Barnes and Noble. I went to bed early Thursday with a tummy full of turkey and woke up in the dark of night on Friday morning to grab all my "must haves" at great prices.
Sadly, the world has gone mad. When I was at Best Buy this weekend the cashier informed us they were opening at 5pm on Thanksgiving. 5pm! I remember being disgusted a few years ago when stores were opening at 10pm. And then it was 8pm. And now, 5pm.
I am a HUGE Black Friday shopper. I love it. With four kids, I need the good prices. I also love the idea of waking up and having absolutely every reason to go shopping and have fun. I get coffee, listen to music and spend, spend, spend.
I'm a mom of four, its therapeutic, trust me.
I'm thinking it's about time there is a law passed that no one can open on Thanksgiving. Growing up in New Jersey there were Blue Laws, no stores opened on Sunday. All year long. How is it that not one state has thought to pass a law giving retail workers back their holiday? Workers and shoppers would breathe a HUGE sigh of relief. It would be called, "YES, I can be home on Thursday and deal with the madness Friday..." I'll be the first to inform anyone who doesn't know that if you work retail, you are most definitely required to work Black Friday.
Pick your shift, you have to be there. And now this means you'll have to work Thanksgiving one day because the world is going mad.
I know there are some people who don't mind the extra pay, and they don't mind working the hours because maybe they don't have a huge holiday planned.
Then they can be the ones opening the registers at 11:59pm on Thursday.
Give everyone working retail (managers and all) back Thanksgiving, and give Black Friday shoppers the ability to get up ON FRIDAY. The past few years I've shopped Black Friday at 6am and the stores are empty. By 8am? Everyone else has already gone home to sleep.
And truthfully, many of the deals are picked through.
I'm feeling my time honored tradition of turkey on Thursday and shopping on Friday slipping through the cracks. Trust me I'm still shopping, but it won't be Thursday afternoon into Friday. It will be (mostly) on Friday. I have to admit that this year, I'm going to one store Thursday night to score a HUGE item my daughter wants for Christmas.
It's awful, and if there wasn't such a great deal on it I would stay the heck home. I don't have the money to spend on big ticket items (x4), so I do what I can to make Christmas wishes possible. It angers me I'm being forced from my traditional Black Friday routine into a Thursday night line outside Target. Which, for the record, I would rather be doing ON FRIDAY. I think the rest of America feels the same. Stop offering the best deals on Thanksgiving.
And for everyone with the stance of "if no one shops on Thanksgiving the stores won't open" I completely agree. Unfortunately, society won't force that to happen. If the stores open, and offer phenomenal deals, people will go. Which forces me out of my jammies into line IF there is something I need at a deal I can afford. Ugh and ugh.
Save the horrible comments, I know it's awful to shop on Thanksgiving. I just won't lie to any of my readers because I'm a mom, I'm human and I do what I can for my kids when I can do it. My munchkins get "big items" twice a year, birthday and Christmas. It takes the pressure off the rest of the year but the pressure is on right about now.
Maybe one day I will tire of the madness, because there will never be a day I shop all day on Thanksgiving. The only reason the store is getting me this year is because my turkey will already be digesting.
At least there will always be pajama shopping.
Along with Black Friday deals, here are a few more tricks to my Christmas shopping trade....
1. Start shopping early. I emphasize early. This means before Thanksgiving. You'll be thanking me when you have the expensive purchases set aside by December. Money seems to fly out of the wallet after Thanksgiving.
Even better? You have time to shop around and find the best price. If the price drops you can get a price adjustment or return and re-buy.
2. Use your smartphone. Make lists and download shopping apps for your favorite stores. I downloaded Target Cartwheel two months ago and I've saved over $70.00 already. Saving 5% on a bag of apples adds up when you buy 20 bags of apples.
3. To take the edge off big ticket items, trade in older gadgets on sites such as Gazelle. You won't get a ton of money, but every little bit helps. And if you have gadgets laying around unused, trade them in for some cash.
4. Stick to a budget. Use cash only, or set money aside to pay the credit card. Avoid impulse buys and gag gifts. Gag gifts may seem fun, but once the laugh is over the item most likely won't get any use. This equals money wasted in the long run, and I hate money wasted.
5. Remember the season is about giving. Keep things in perspective. If you are spending on a special high tech gadget, save on other gifts by going the homemade route.
Friday, November 22, 2013
Unfortunately, truth be told, I could also be a little sh*thead. I had (and still have) a very good friend named Christina (name changed for privacy reasons, but you'll know who you are). Our families were friends, and we were together all the time. We were together after school, on weekends and in school. There was even a year she came to my house before school because of her mom's work schedule. I think it was overkill, and there days she copied much of what I did. We all know imitation is a form of flattery, but kids don't understand how that works.
I remember, on more than one occasion, sitting in the back of my mom's station wagon at the McDonald's drive-thru. My mom would turn around and ask what we wanted, and I would hesitate as long as possible before I answered. I knew if I ordered first, Christina would order the same thing. It drove me batty, but it's no excuse. And looking back, there were days I was very, very cruel.
I played this game called "Keep Away from Christina"....all it meant was that if she was around, I would walk away. She would literally walk up to me and I would just turn and leave. It's terrible. I can't even believe I did it, but I did. And I think of my kids now and if someone did that my heart would shatter into a million pieces.
I want punch my kid-self in the forehead. I want to say, "Seriously?! How would YOU feel?!"
For the record, I would lay down my life for this friend, and she is one of the people who knows me best. I had more laughs with her than anyone else growing up, and I can't remember any other friend that made my nostrils flare from laughing so hard. The memories are forever, and I'm forever thankful she kept me.
It makes me realize, especially looking at the world today, that nothing is black and white. Being a friend is a process, and while someone is close to you that doesn't mean you're always nice. Sometimes, you're an ass. A complete and total ass.
And it isn't right, but it happens.
Before we judge and give up friends, we need to talk. Parents need to teach kids why other kids might behave the way they do. There were days I needed to be alone, and I didn't get enough space to breathe. Given the chance to voice that, I may have. It would have saved me and my very dear friend from some very unfortunate behavior.
There are kids at school that are not so nice to my daughter, but I know they aren't happy kids. Or they're jealous. And it stinks because as easy as it is for me to see, kids have a much harder time understanding why someone would behave that way.
But they do. I did it too.
The good news is that as me and my friend Christina grew up, we grew out of that "I'm sick of you" phase. Sure we had our moments, but the playing field was leveled immensely. We had more laughs and more great times. The very last line in my senior yearbook was a reference to her and all our wonderful memories.
Christina, thanks for keeping me. To all the parents out there dealing with kids who may not have the best attitude, or may be having trouble with other kids, don't freak out and jump to conclusions. Are they together too much? Is someone struggling at home? If your child is the offender, talk to them. And be open to the fact that yes, your kid may be a sh*t sometimes. That doesn't make them a BAD kid. It makes them a kid who is making poor choices. If your kid is the one having problems with someone, try and think of why. Communicate, always. It is truly the best line of defense. Education and understanding fix more than we think they do.
I've found that most of us are a lot more alike than we think.
Happy Friday, wishing you a wonderful weekend!
Thursday, November 21, 2013
Wednesday, November 20, 2013
I get an email every few weeks with the winning comment numbers for my current giveaways. So if you like one, enter. You never, ever know. :) Just heard my blog had a winner in the Monster Headphones giveaway...so check your emails this week or next because BlogHer will be contacting the winners.
On another note, I had my first physical in eight years last Friday. I figured I was a bit overdue and it felt nice to weigh in and only be two pounds heavier than I was at my physical eight years ago. Trust me, with all the Auntie Annie's I've been eating since moving to Pennsylvania I was ready for more than two pounds. If my pants didn't still fit I'd be thinking double digits.
I also got my flu shot and a tetanus booster. I will never tell my kids to quit whining about pain from shots again, because I had one shot in each arm and I couldn't lift my arms for two days. I'm being serious. I would giggle it hurt so bad.
And yes, I had four babies naturally. Go figure I can't handle two shots in my arms.
On Saturday, my little gymnast competed in her first competition of the season. It was small, but a great starter meet to get the nerves under control. She came down on her knee funny the last practice before the meet, and it made floor routine too painful, which didn't make her happy at all. We were bummed too because we sit for six hours and wait for those four routines. To say the least meet days involve several snack bar runs and text messages. But we were happy to leave with a gold on bars and a silver on beam.
That's all for now folks. Kids are sleeping and lunches need to be made. Happy Wednesday!
Monday, November 18, 2013
Growing up, I lived in a "boy dominant" household. Four athletic brothers are a powerful (literally) thing. Boys are tough, but they taught me to be tough as well. They (along with my parents) also taught me to be involved in and appreciate sports.
As a result, sports has long been a passion of mine. From softball to field hockey, I've always cherished my memories of playing on a team. I loved going to practice, accomplishing goals and staying in shape. I've envisioned the same lifestyle for my girls.
Friday, November 15, 2013
This is the face of determination.
Undeterred, my brother kept training for another year - and kept raising money to reach his goal. Two months before the race, he suffered a stress fracture in his foot. He rested it as long as he could but kept training, never giving up on his goal to run for the American Cancer Society.
To say the least, the ING New York City Marathon had a very devoted and determined runner this year. He crossed the finish line in 4:19:39. At the finish line? My sister, who ran a marathon three weeks earlier to raise money and awareness for individuals with mental and physical disabilities.
She has been a long time advocate for special needs youth and adults. She volunteers her time for a program in Chicago that assists special needs adults in living on their own. She has a "buddy," and they go to dinner and talk on the phone. Since college she has worked with adults with mental disorders and autistic kids.
Her face is one of compassion, energy and optimism.
While training for a marathon is a feat in itself, my sister started training not long after she gave her bone marrow to a dying mother of four. On the registry since college, she got a call in June of 2012 she was a match.
She didn't think twice.
One year later, that mother was in remission and a few weeks later my sister ran her marathon. Her "buddy" was there to cheer her on, as was my brother who flew in from New York City.
Advil® has been working with Habitat for Humanity® International and the Wounded Warrior Project as part of a campaign to celebrate the efforts of volunteers everywhere. The Advil® Relief in Action campaign honors and supports individuals who don't let pain get in the way of helping others. My siblings have proven that adversity and busy lifestyles are no excuse to ignore important causes that need attention. Whether it be training two years for a marathon because your first one is cancelled, or deciding to train after recovering from a bone marrow donation, if the cause sings to your heart, you can find a way to contribute.
My brother and sister did, and they are two of the most phenomenal examples of working towards your goal even when there are aches, pains and other obstacles. The reward of giving to others was worth the troubles they endured along the way.
On the left, a picture of my brother with my sister in Chicago after her marathon. On the right? The same picture, after my brother finished in New York City.
What can you do to support active volunteers? Join in the conversation and like Advil® on Facebook and follow@ReliefinAction on Twitter and Instagram. Share a photo of how you see Relief in Action with hashtag #ReliefinAction. Follow and join in; I'll be sharing mine!
Thursday, November 14, 2013
Life between the hours of 7 and 8:30am are interesting in my house. We have three "shifts"; junior high, elementary and preschool.
Junior high leaves the house at 7:25am. I get up just before 7am, make breakfast and his lunch and then wake my son. He stumbles down, eats, goes back upstairs to get ready for school and he's off at 7:25am. He doesn't mess around, which enables me to wake him with just 20 minutes to get ready for school. It's a beautiful system.
After he exits I make two more lunches and three more breakfasts. And then I wake the next three kids.
They eat, get dressed, and pack up for school. We make two stops. First elementary school, where the second shift exits the car. Next stop is preschool, where my baby exits the car.
Last year, when my youngest entered preschool, one of my mom friends told me we should do breakfast. It dawned on me that I could do breakfast. In peace. I hadn't thought about eating breakfast anywhere other than my kitchen or my car until my friend mentioned it. We discussed the perfect place to meet up and decided on Panera Bread.
It's cozy, but quick. But it's not too quick. The food is made fresh and the atmosphere is perfect for a mom meeting another mom to just catch up and enjoy a meal.
And so it began, our monthly breakfast (or lunch) date at Panera. For breakfast? Toasted french toast bagels. For lunch? Tomato and mozzarella panini. Every visit I leave feeling refreshed and thankful I took the time after my busy morning full of "shifts" to enjoy a good friend and good food. I especially appreciate that I don't feel like I needed a shower after I get in my car, because I don't smell like greasy fast food.
These "dates" were the beginning of me realizing it was time to take time for me. Busy mornings can take their toll, and it's therapy for me to sit and relax every once in a while. It's also nice to eat food I didn't prepare myself. Breakfast at Panera has become one of my favorite ways to start the day. The food is fresh, and I leave ready to tackle my day.
While I do enjoy the "adult time," my kids are never far from my mind. I usually leave with bakery treats for my munchkins, and when they open their lunches up the next day at school they appreciate them very much.
Panera lovers everywhere can now participate in Panera's Breakfast Backstory Challenge. MyPanera cardholders will be asked to complete three actions to win a badge. After you complete them, a prize is loaded onto your Panera card and you're entered to win a culinary experience trip to New York City for two!
Need a MyPanera card? Sign up at Panerabread.com.
So tell me, for your chance to win a $100 Panera Bread gift card, what's your favorite way to start the day?
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This giveaway is open to US Residents age 18 or older. Winner will be selected via random draw, and will be notified by e-mail. You have 72 hours to get back to me, otherwise a new winner will be selected.
The Official Rules are available here.
This sweepstakes runs from 11/13/13 – 12/8/13.
Be sure to visit the Panera Bread's page on BlogHer.com where you can read other bloggers’ reviews and find more chances to win!
Wednesday, November 13, 2013
Let me clarify that I'm not one of those nutty shoppers waiting for Walmart to open, risking my life as I run for one of the five laptops on sale for $99. I have a slightly different, safer approach to Black Friday.
Don't leave at 9pm on Thanksgiving. Don't leave at midnight. Leave at 4am.
Ever since stores have started the "open at midnight" madness (or even worse, they open on Thanksgiving), the serious deal seekers shop at midnight. By the time 4am rolls around they are already stopping for breakfast. The past two years I've arrived at Kohls at 5am, and waited in minimal lines.
I'm being serious.
I get all the same deals. Maybe the extreme "doorbusters" are sold out, but the toys, frames, socks, clothes and everything else I need are still there and still ON SALE.
Last year, I pulled into Target at 6am. It was a ghost town. Yes, the deeply discounted Christmas jammies were severely picked through, and it's possible all the flat screens were sold out. But the Disney toys? Check. The knock off UGGS? Check. And the best part? 50% off.
My best Black Friday tips for anyone who wants to brave the madness:
1. Plan to arrive at a store a few hours after it's opened. Don't stand in lines. If you are desperate for that one amazing deal, remember you have plenty of shopping weeks ahead and there will be another great deal.
Maybe not quite as cheap, but cheap enough that you can avoid being stuck in a person sandwich as you wait in line outside a store in the bitter cold.
This was Target at 7am last year. And I still bought all my goodies at deep discounts.
2. Bring a stroller, not a baby. Use this for your purchases at stores that will be low on carts (Kohls comes to mind).
3. Make it fun. Grab a buddy, get a coffee and take your time.
4. Research what stores will have the best deals on the items you need the most. Stay in one major area, don't spend your time trying to drive all over the county. Pick a few stores close together, write down what you need or want at each location, and you'll be shocked at what else you find.
5. If all else fails, or you don't have ANY desire to leave the house Black Friday, remember most deals can also be found online. And Cyber Monday is aimed at all the folks who sit at their desk Monday morning and think, "Oh crap, it's the holidays. I better start shopping!"
Happy almost Black Friday. Don't forget to hang those Christmas lights the first mild day you have...you'll thank me the day Thanksgiving when your house is happily lit and your neighbor is freezing their tush on the roof.
Best Black Friday Sites:
The Black Friday.com
Black Friday Ads.Net
Monday, November 11, 2013
I'm good with all of it, because I love Christmas and I think of Thanksgiving and Christmas as a giant, five week holiday. Throw in New Year's and it's six weeks. I love the season and everything about it; the music, the smells, the food, the REASON. I love the giving and the family, and just the LOVE that is more abundant this time of year.
With the six week holiday I love steadily approaching, this is what's been going on in this neck of the woods.
On one of my trail runs, these guys were peeking at me from behind the brush. Couldn't resist.
PS - My runs are over until the weather is back to above freezing. I'm thoroughly enjoying my hiatus.
Friday, November 8, 2013
Once I gathered the necessary supplies for the craft, I set aside an afternoon to sit with my daughter and prepare the turkey pins.
I can say with confidence cleaning up the scissor clippings and putting everything away when we were done was the most difficult part in the whole pin making process.
These pins are easy and fun. And they are super snazzy when worn to Thanksgiving dinner. My daughter charged $0.50/pin, whether or not you bleed your relatives dry of all their change is up to you.
But hey, kids need spending cash too ya know.
Wednesday, November 6, 2013
I've been waiting to write this blog for a long time, because I had to settle into what is and wrap my head around all the changes.
It's been a long three weeks.
Exactly three weeks ago, Hubby came home and told me he lost his job. With no real warnings or reprimanding-s, no decrease in business or poor performance reports, it was a shock. We both kind of sat there, stunned. It was a real "what do we do now?" scenario.
Four kids. We moved here for this job. This job was supposed to be the "the one," the great company everyone dreams of working for. Turns out the company wasn't so great to us. But that's okay, because not everything is meant to be. From the moment Hubby walked in the door white as a ghost with his awful news, I knew in my heart there was a reason. And after processing the situation for a few moments, I got up and updated his resume.
Tears and worry wouldn't fix it. Harping on why it happened wouldn't pay the bills.
The timing of this blog is intentional, because I'm ready to share our story. I'm ready to advise against putting all your eggs in one basket. Company lifestyles aren't as grand as they seem. Company cars aren't great when you have to return them, and have one car. Company phones aren't all the rave when you have to hand them back in and start a new plan. Until we handed everything back I didn't even realize how much of our stuff wasn't even "ours."
I can't say I ever want anyone to own our "stuff" again. Big lesson learned.
Tomorrow Hubby starts a new job, and I'm ready for new beginnings. This past year has been a roller coaster of good news, bad news and very dramatic changes. Moving four kids was no easy feat, nor was adjusting to a new life away from friends and family.
The good news? I know we're meant to live here. I feel it. If that job was the only way to get us here than I'm still thankful. The rest we'll figure out as we continue down our road of life. We have what we need, and the rest if just fluff. Friends and family have rallied around us, and the support has been phenomenal. We're extremely thankful for the good people we have in our lives. They've taught us there is no shame in losing a job, it happens.
And this predicament is one we can deal with, and move forward. We can digest the changes and look ahead.
Tomorrow, it's all about new beginnings. Cheers to that.
Monday, November 4, 2013
I officially LOVE falling behind. I know parents of babies and toddlers everywhere are cursing me, I was there once too. But with my youngest being four, she just popped out of bed and went to wake her older sister.
This is what all parents need to teach toddlers. If it's not important, bother your older siblings. It will teach them to be helpful, and you get to sleep.
This weekend, we went to a pig roast, a party and enjoyed a full Sunday of football. My younger son had his last game yesterday afternoon, and while I will miss watching him play I won't miss freezing in the bleachers.
The team went 6-1-1, not too shabby at all.
For bleeps and giggles, I'm sharing this Instagram photo of my baby eating a cupcake on Saturday. I'll be so sad when she eats like a civilized person, because that will mean her baby days are over.
Please, please always eat a cupcake so that your face is covered in icing.
Have a fab week everyone!
Friday, November 1, 2013
I admit that for anything not completely necessary or of vital importance I fly by the seat of my pants.
Before December 1st, there are a few things I try to accomplish in order to enjoy my holiday season without undo stress. This is how I avoid waking up in a cold sweat because I have a thousand things to do with just a few days to do them.
I love my sleep too much to let that happen.
1. Take down the Halloween decor. Do this today.
2. The first mild, sunny day you have get out the holiday lights. This sounds crazy, but if you hang them now you won't have to worry about it when its 20 degrees outside. Set the timers, have everything up and ready. Thanksgiving night plug them in and watch the kids get super excited at the official start of the Christmas season.
And you can super excited the lights are up.
3. Make "the list." This includes every single person who you plan on buying for, even if it's just a small token of appreciation. I can't even begin to admit how many times I rummaged through the house for an unused candle or uneaten box of candies five minutes before the bus driver pulled up.
4. Start grabbing small items like giftcards. It stinks to buy three or four (or more) gift cards at once. You spend $100 and all you have are small four envelopes to show for it. I prefer to buy one every few weeks, starting now.
5. Make a Thanksgiving plan. Decide what you're bringing or making, and purchase all necessary supplies.
6. Start stockpiling magazines for kids to make holiday wishes. Sit the kids down at the end of November, near Thanksgiving time, and make wish lists. Make this an event, and have discussions with the kids regarding their wishes. If you just hand them five magazines and tell them to circle what they want you'll have five magazines full of circles.
7. Buy an elf. They are fabulous fun and useful in many, many ways. There is no better friend than one who flies to the North Pole every night to report to Santa himself.
9. On Thanksgiving, make "Thankful Lists." Everyone makes one, and stipulate how many blessings must be listed. You'll be amazed what kids write down, and it keeps everyone in a thankful mindset instead of a "I want, I want" mindset.
Perfect way to celebrate Thanksgiving, and even better way to start December.
10. Take time to smell the pumpkin pie. Or apple pie. This season is all about friends, family and remembering all of our blessings, big and small.
HAPPY NOVEMBER 1st!